When you stop drinking, you will face some challenges, but it only takes one to two weeks for things to start getting easier.
Once you’ve made the decision that you want to stop drinking you are on your first tentative steps to a new life. Now the real hard work starts. The physical withdrawal symptoms aside, you will miss alcohol, it’s almost like parting with a friend, but, as we know, not all friends are good for us.
As ever, what I am sharing here are my own personal experiences, mixed in with some of the professional advice that I was given. Everyone is different though and they must tackle the addiction in their own way. For some, all the talk of finding a higher power, admitting that you are powerless and so on, is off putting but, you don’t need to do the ‘God stuff’ if you don’t want to. What you do need to do is find the determination to succeed. Find your own reasons to stop drinking. It could well be a higher power, but it could equally be your own inner strength, it could be that you’re doing it for your children or your spouse, or you could just be sick to death of being sick. Whatever your reason is though, hang on to it and keep reminding yourself about it, each and every time that you feel like giving up.
If you drink a lot of alcohol, then coming straight of it can be dangerous. Don’t let this put you off though, the process just needs to be managed. Before you do stop drinking, you should always see a doctor first and be honest with your doctor about how much you drink. Don’t be shy about this, believe me, doctors are not unused to dealing with alcoholism, it’s just another illness to them and everything is confidential, so no one else will know why you are there. Depending on your circumstances, your doctor may prescribe drugs, to help you with the withdrawal symptoms and your doctor will most likely be able to suggest some local support groups that you might like to attend.
Your doctor will advise you if you will need to undergo a medically supervised detox when you stop drinking. If you have been drinking very heavily over a long period of time, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe, but for most people, detox does not mean being locked in a secure detox facility, it could just mean regular outpatient visits to a hospital for monitoring.
Withdrawal symptoms occur when you stop drinking, because your body has become so used to having alcohol in the system; it comes to depend on it being there. Depending on your degree of alcoholism, when you stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms can vary between mild or, very occasionally, severe.
Most likely, you will experience, to some degree or another, the following symptoms:
Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Increased blood pressure
Don’t be put off by the list. You may not experience every one of these symptoms and they don’t last for very long. What’s more, you are probably experiencing some of these symptoms first thing in the mornings anyway, so what’s new!
These symptoms normally peak in about two days and begin to recede after about five and for most people; they are not debilitating, just a bit uncomfortable. It has to be said, though, that for some alcoholics, withdrawal can be life threatening, which is why you should consult with a doctor first. In rare cases, the severe symptoms can include:
Severe Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Severe vomiting
- Extreme agitation
Now let’s get on with it!
OK, now that’s got the necessary health warnings out the way, let’s look at some ways to help you get through this. The initial withdrawal symptoms shouldn’t be made light of, because they can be severe, but it really is short lived and it’s a small price to pay to regain the rest of your life. Personally, I did suffer the milder list of symptoms, but, to be honest, the most life threatening for me was the likelihood of my poking my eye out with my fork at mealtimes, because of the shakes that I developed! Once you’re through that first week after you’ve stopped drinking, we then get on to the business of not going back, so what follows are a few tips on keeping up your resolve.
Stating the bleeding obvious here, but get rid of all bottles and cans from around the house and no pretending that you’ll keep some alcohol around, just for emergencies! Stay out of pubs and bars and avoid contact with people that used to drink with. Basically, stay away from alcohol altogether or you will be tempted to have one ‘last’ drink. This can be as simple as changing your route when you go out, so that you don’t pass the shop that you used to buy alcohol from, or the bar that always popped into on the way home. It’s not just the addiction you’ve got to beat, it’s the habits too.
Build a support network
Some people can stop drinking on their own, but most need help. This isn’t because you are weak or useless, it’ just that it can be very helpful to have people around you that understand what you are going through. The most widely available support groups are probably AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) who hold meetings in most towns and cities. There are also (in the UK), government funded agencies that you can contact as well, which you can find by searching on the internet. You may not like the idea of having an AA sponsor and attending regular meetings, but I would suggest that, however strong willed you may be, support can be essential to keeping you on track. Personally, I don’t and never did attend regular meetings of any support organisation, I do, however, have my own network of recovering alcoholic friends to call on, and so I still use a support network. At the very least, confide in a few close friends and you might even be surprised by how much support you will receive.
The longer you stay off the booze, the easier it will become, but don’t beat yourself up if you do have a slip, because it happens. If you do relapse, then learn from it. Spot the - where’s, the why’s and when’s, and be ready for them next time, but don’t give up, or you will have to go through all this again.
Another observation that I would make from personal experience, is that your body soon normalises again and you simply can’t take the volume of alcohol that you used to. If you do slip, be careful, you are going to get drunk quickly and you’ll get one humdinger of a hangover too! Since I stopped drinking, I have experimented a few times and I found that:
I got drunk quickly.
I still have the propensity to be an alcoholic.
I felt like crap the next day.
In other words, it simply isn’t any fun to drink anymore. I have also developed new hobbies and interests, such as writing, and I just can’t do that either drunk or hung over, but I’ve learnt that lesson now, so now I don’t want to drink.
Starting out on a new life
Slowly but surely, things do get easier. You’ve only got to get through that first week or two and your nearly there, so go for it. As they say, take it one day at a time, and you will get through. It’s not plain sailing after that, but then you are into willpower, commitment and managing the cravings and temptation, my thoughts on which, I shall cover in another article.
Just try and remind yourself, how much better things will be once you've stopped drinking. It's just a few days of discomfort in exchange for a whole new life without alcohol. A Cliché, I know, but it really will be worth all the effort.
A bit of motivation for you
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