Detoxing from alcohol isn’t the same as detoxing from other substances. If not done carefully and under the care of a professional, an unsuccessful attempt to quit alcohol could have serious consequences. If you or someone you love is considering getting alcohol out of their lives for good, here are eight tips you probably didn’t know, but should.
1. Not Everyone Can Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey
Depending on how much you drank and for how long, quitting alcohol cold turkey may not be possible. Whenever a habitual drinker stops drinking, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. For those who have been battling with alcohol abuse for an extended period of time, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be quite serious. In some cases, even life-threatening.
Serious symptoms include vivid hallucinations, delusions, high blood pressure, seizures, and cardiac problems. If not treated immediately, these symptoms can be fatal. It’s important to know how to identify serious withdrawal symptoms. But these symptoms shouldn’t prevent you or a loved one from trying to quit alcohol. An experienced care professional can help you kick the habit safely.
2. The Brain Causes Withdrawal Symptoms
Many people who don’t suffer from alcohol use disorder may think an abuser needs to simply quit drinking. It isn’t that simple. Overconsumption of alcohol on a regular basis alters the composition of the brain. Your brain will become accustomed to alcohol and come to depend on it to perform. Your brain will crave alcohol. This goes far beyond willpower.
The effects of alcohol on the brain are, in a way, out of your hands. Once your brain develops this dependency, it can be next to impossible to quit. No matter how badly you may want to stop drinking, your brain does not allow for it. Your central nervous system becomes used to alcohol. Once the alcohol stops, the effects on the nervous system and the brain cause withdrawal symptoms. To help someone suffering from alcohol use disorder, it’s important to understand this. Alcoholism is not a choice. It is a disease.
3. Medications May Be Necessary to Help Wean off Alcohol
Some of the effects of quitting cold turkey could be dangerous for very heavy drinkers. There are options to help you quit alcohol without compromising your health. The best way to treat alcohol use disorder is to meet with a physician. He or she can prescribe medications to help you begin the process of quitting alcohol. Drugs like disulfiram may help discourage drinking. The effects of this medication can make you very ill when mixed with alcohol.
Other options are acamprosate or naltrexone. These can reduce your brain’s cravings for alcohol. These FDA-approved medications work in combination with a counseling program. There are medications to curb your cravings. There are also medications to help with withdrawal symptoms. But, you still need to get to the root of your drinking problem through counseling to begin on the path to sobriety.
4. You Need Professional Help to Battle Withdrawal
For your safety, you should be under the care of a licensed practitioner. Quitting alone can be dangerous. Even if you do manage to quit alcohol on your own without any serious side effects, you may be extremely vulnerable to relapse. A relapse can be devastating to both you and those around you. If you feel like you cannot control your urge to drink, that you need it, or that you can’t control how much you drink, you may be suffering from alcohol use disorder. The problem is bigger than you. Professional help may be the best way for you to manage the effects of withdrawal and get sober.
5. Alcohol Withdrawal Is Only a First Step
Getting over the initial hump is the first step. Alcohol abuse can affect every facet of your life — your family, your relationships, your job, and even your finances. Putting the bottle down is a crucial first step on the path to recovery. However, staying sober will be a continued effort. The key is to get the counseling you need to get to the root of your alcohol use disorder. Why did you start abusing alcohol? How can you treat that problem? How can you continue to stay sober every day for the rest of your life? Actively making the effort to seek counseling can make all the difference in your success.
6. Alcohol Withdrawal Can Cause Anxiety
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from sweating to seizures. But emotional complications are also a possibility. Anxiety is a common side effect of alcohol withdrawal. It can be very scary for a patient and, in some cases, may even lead them to drink again. It’s important to understand the effect is temporary. Professional treatment centers can help you get through the anxiety you’re facing and encourage you to stay on the path to sobriety.
7. You Need to Make Lifestyle Changes to Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal and to Stay Sober
It is best to join a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to meet with individuals who understand the challenges you are facing. Other recovering addicts may better understand the difficulties you are facing as your body deals with alcohol withdrawal. These meetings can also help keep you sober. In fact, you should prioritize AA meetings over almost everything else. Prioritizing your sobriety is the most effective way to stay sober long-term.
It’s equally important to develop a strong network of sober friends and family. This means staying away from people who may have a drinking problem. Surrounding yourself with loved ones who care about your sobriety is key. Distance yourself from any “trigger” people — that is, anyone who makes you want to drink. Your strong network of support can help you stay sober.
8. Alcohol Use Disorder Often Stems From Mental Illness
Often, those who abuse alcohol are silently — or unknowingly — suffering from mental health issues. Much like alcohol use disorder is a disease that is out of your control, so are mental health problems. You are not to blame for either. The best way to ensure sobriety is not only to quit drinking but to deal with the mental health issues that led to it. Untreated mental health issues can make it much more difficult to deal with the physical trauma of alcohol withdrawal. It can also be the cause of relapse.
Meeting with a licensed therapist or physician can help you. The misconception is that alcohol abusers create their drinking problem and are responsible for it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Alcohol withdrawal can be a long and grueling process. It’s important to build up a network of support around you to help you achieve success. You can quit alcohol and you can piece your life back together again. Alcohol use disorder is a disease. The side effects of withdrawal may be difficult to bear at times, but quitting alcohol abuse can only better your health long-term.