Overcoming drug addiction is never easy, and everyone has entirely different experiences and struggles. It’s safe to argue, however, that for many reasons, alcohol is one of the most difficult substances to stop using. The withdrawal symptoms are severe, but many people find that the worst part about quitting alcohol is how tough it is to avoid it. Alcohol is readily available in stores, restaurants, and sporting arenas, and it’s likely that most of your friends and family will drink alcohol at least on occasion. Like it or not, alcohol is everywhere.
Every individual will have different experiences when they try to quit alcohol, and the symptoms can range from very mild to dangerously severe. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, shaking, sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. Withdrawal symptoms can last for approximately up to five days.
Alcohol withdrawal is a process that can actually be fatal if it’s not handled properly. If you drink heavily and consistently, you are at risk for the most severe withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit alcohol. Withdrawal can cause fatal heart dysrhythmias, and kidney or liver failure. It can also cause seizures, some of which cause a person to stop breathing, and a medical condition called delirium tremens (DTs).
DTs is a serious form of severe alcohol withdrawal, and it can last for up to 10 days. Delirium tremens involves sudden, serious changes in a person’s nervous system or mental state. Symptoms of DTs include severe vomiting, fever, seizures, convulsions, confusion, disorientation, extreme agitation, hallucinations, sudden changes in mood, heart palpitations, and chest pain. If a person tries to quit alcohol and shows signs of DTs, medical attention is critical.
Deciding that you want to quit alcohol is a huge step for anyone. If you are dependent on alcohol, the best and most encouraged method is to quit alcohol with a detox center. Medical supervision during the detox process can help ensure that you survive any serious withdrawal symptoms. Professionals may also prescribe medications to help ease your withdrawal symptoms.
Once you’ve detoxed from alcohol, it’s also recommended that you continue with rehab or other treatment. In-patient rehab is great for anyone who wants to quit alcohol, especially people who use most heavily. Out-patient programs also exist. At the very least, you should always consult your doctor before you attempt to quit alcohol, and they can help you come up with a plan.
Some people decide to quit alcohol on their own, and this method is generally not recommended. It can be possible to gradually reduce the amount of alcohol you consume until you cut out all use, but this method is risky and often does not lead to long-term recovery.
No matter how you quit alcohol, maintaining a support system is essential to sobriety. Counseling, and support groups like AA or SMART Recovery, can help a lot. It’s also important to set boundaries for yourself after you’ve quit alcohol, such as avoiding past drinking haunts, drinking buddies, and asking your friends and family to support you by not offering you drinks.