So, I Read About Alcohol Withdrawal Stories…
What to expect when you quit alcohol.
You are thinking of finally kicking the booze out of your life, but you are concerned about what to expect. You have read about alcohol withdrawal stories, heard so many things about the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal but are worried about what you might experience?
I mean, there are so many stories that you can read about online, or all around us when it comes to quitting drinking. You can read of success stories and how wonderful some people’s lives have been or you can read horror stories of what people have experienced when giving up drinking.
Let’s will discuss what to expect when you quit drinking alcohol.
We are all different, we drink to various degrees, our own favourite brands of drink and different amounts of alcohol.
As humans, we are made up of a mixed bag – bodies, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. So it is just not possible to say what one person will experience with absolute confidence.
But one thing that constant that we, as drinkers, all have, is that we consume alcohol.
Alcohol is a drug and a poison to our bodies and minds. That is the only thing we can guarantee that has been the same for all reading this, regardless of background, ethnicity, age and all other variables is the poison that we have been consuming is exactly the same. Ethanol to be exact. A strong, addictive and poisonous drugs that lace our cocktails, wines, beers or whatever choice of tipple we have.
Our body gets used to drinking this substance – a substance that I (and many others) agree that, if it were discovered today, would not have a hope in hell of being legal and made available – let alone the most available drug in the world.
When we decide to stop taking in such a substance, our body and mind needs to re-learn how to function without alcohol. When we stop drinking a strong drug such as alcohol, we may experience something called ‘alcohol withdrawal’. You have probably heard some alcohol withdrawal stories, read about people who have gone or are going through withdrawals from alcohol. You may have witnessed first-hand of someone going through such a thing, or even been through withdrawals yourself before.
If you have been drinking for any length of time, and now want to kick the booze, then there is a chance that you will experience alcohol withdrawal. They vary between people, in symptoms and strength of such symptoms….so what might we expect to happen to ourselves when we stop drinking? Should we be worried? Enough to consider NOT stopping drinking? Let’s take a look at what alcohol withdrawal is, its causes, symptoms and treaments.
Let’s discuss what to expect as part of your own sober journey.
What causes Alcohol Withdrawal?
When we drink alcohol, we are throwing very strong chemicals into our body. Alcohol is a depressant – this means that each drink is attacking your brain and slowing it down. This happens in real-time during the space of the time you drink. Think about when you go out and as you drink more and more, your reactions slow down.
Your brain is clouded by the effects of drinking. It is ‘depressing’ your senses and slowing down your natural stimulants. Our brain counteracts the depressant and creates it’s own stimulation to compensate for the depressed state of your brain.
When you stop drinking, the brain will not be aware of this and continues to create stimulation – leaving your body and mind ‘over-stimulated. Your body and brain need to readjust, but immediately after stopping drinking then you will experience all of these extra stimulations without the dampening effect of alcohol.
Although there are not exact expectations that we can pinpoint, there are common experiences that people do go through when stopping drinking alcohol.
Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
We can split these further down into common psychological experiences when giving up the booze, and common physical symptoms.
Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- High Blood Pressure
Physical withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe – and during severe phases may require medical intervention. Indeed, seizures can happen. This is dependent on a number of variables, as mentioned earlier. We are all different, with different levels of alcohol intake and tolerance. If you have been drinking heavy and believe that you may be physically dependent on alcohol then I would absolutely encourage you to do this with medical input.
Depending on the levels of withdrawal that you experience, you may require medical intervention at the time of withdrawal. For more information on this, please read the NHS Alcohol Guidelines.
Even if you are not physically dependent, it would be a good idea to speak to a doctor in the first instance just to rule out anything like this. If you are serious about stopping drinking, then having support and a plan in place is an absolute must.
VeryWellMind have provided a really good guide here on How To Gauge The Severity Of Your Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms. This might offer you further guidance and reassurance.
Psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Anhedonia – difficulty experiencing pleasure
These symptoms can affect one another and are often intertwined. Anxiety, for example, can impact sleeping patterns. Lack of sleep can then cause exhaustion and develop into depressive symptoms. With this can come irritability….I think you get the idea.
Mental withdrawals are reported to be the toughest aspect of giving up alcohol, and the key to success at this stage is to have firm plans in place on how to move your life forward.
How Long does alcohol withdrawal last?
Physical alcohol can last a few days depending on your levels of alcohol intake.
Psychological withdrawal can last days, weeks, months or even longer depending on multiple factors mentioned earlier.
Personally I found that the psychological alcohol withdrawals lasted a couple of months, although as I progressed through my alcohol recovery the symptoms lessened. Sleep was one of the most difficult aspect for me, struggling to get or stay asleep, and this impacting on my overall well-being.
The road to recovery
Alcohol withdrawal may sound quite scary, and honestly, before I decided to live an alcohol-free life, the thought of going through withdrawal scared me…a lot. I had heard quite a few alcohol withdrawal stories, read much online and also nursed people through withdrawal within a previous professional capacity. As a nurse, I remember seeing people in acute alcohol withdrawal as hospital patients – and some of those experiences stuck with me.
There are some out there that will tell you that the journey is ‘easy’. Do not get me wrong, once you change your mindset about alcohol and it all becomes clear to you about what alcohol is and what it is not…then your journey has far less friction along the way. But as a person who has battled with the booze for in excess of 20 years, I can tell you that in my experience, alcohol is a very strong drug that does change your psyche. It changes you physically and it changes you mentally.
But, is it worth the journey? Absolutely, 100% worth it. I would say that in a heartbeat. Taking your first steps towards sobriety is taking the first steps towards gaining your life back. Your first steps towards giving you and anyone around you the best gift that you could possibly give them. The gift of the best version of you.
So, if you have read any alcohol withdrawal stories and they have in any way made you doubt your choices, please do not let them do that. Put things in place, and get ready for the journey of your life. The journey back to your life!