Although stopping alcohol abuse is a great decision, it’s not as simple as quitting cold turkey. During alcohol detox, you may experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can put your health at risk and make it difficult to get through the detox process to start addressing the roots of your alcohol addiction. Keep reading to learn 10 effective ways to cope with alcohol withdrawal if you have an alcohol use disorder and want to stop drinking for good.
1. Tell a friend or family member before you start the detox process.
About six hours after your last drink, you may start to feel some of the earliest alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, fast heart rate and vomiting. Within 12 to 48 hours, you may experience more serious symptoms, including hallucinations or even seizures. Therefore, it’s important to have someone you trust with you during the detox period.
If you don’t feel well enough to care for yourself, a trusted friend or family member can bring you cold drinks, make sure you get enough to eat and talk you through some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms. If you experience signs of delirium tremens (DTs), your loved one can also call for medical attention or take you to the nearest hospital for treatment.
2. Have medical supplies and comfort items on hand.
It may take 24 to 72 hours to eliminate all the alcohol from your body. During detoxification, you may not feel well enough to go to the grocery store or visit your local pharmacy, so be sure to stock up on any needed supplies before you have your last drink. Have acetaminophen, anti-nausea medication and other over-the-counter medications on hand to control symptoms like headaches, nausea and vomiting. You may want to get a heating pad, a warm pair of slippers and comfortable clothing to wear while you go through the detox process.
3. Talk to your doctor.
Before you stop drinking on your own, ask your doctor if anything can be prescribed to control your alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Depending on your age and history of medical conditions, your doctor may recommend blood pressure medications, benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health or anticonvulsants to prevent seizures and relieve other symptoms of the nervous system. Your health care provider may also prescribe diazepam, a sedative that reduces anxiety and relaxes the muscles. It’s important to seek medical advice before taking any of these medications.
4. Adjust your lifestyle.
During the withdrawal process, it’s important to avoid triggers that may cause you to relapse and start drinking again. Avoid attending parties or other events if you know alcohol will be available. Let your friends and family members know that you can’t be around them if they’re going to be drinking alcohol. For best results, stay away from high-risk places, including bars, nightclubs and sporting venues that serve alcoholic beverages. This advice applies to anyone with a drinking problem.
5. Stay active.
Another great way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to stay active. Your first instinct may be to snuggle up in bed and wait for the symptoms to pass, but exercise can help improve your mood and help you sleep better as you go through alcohol detox. You don’t need to run several miles or hit the gym — just go for a walk each day or do some calisthenics in your home.
6. Use relaxation techniques to stay calm.
Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Several relaxation techniques can help reduce your anxiety and keep you calm as you finish detoxification and prepare for the next stage of addiction treatment. Meditation, yoga, aromatherapy and deep breathing are all things you can do at home to increase your comfort. Another good way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to have a massage therapist come to your house and give you a professional massage.
7. Consume nutritious foods.
Anyone with alcohol use disorder should focus on eating nutritious foods during the withdrawal process. Fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry, eggs and lean meats contain the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients you need to stay as healthy as possible during the detox process and prevent health problems in the future.
8. Stock up on sports drinks.
A smart way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to keep your fridge stocked with sports drinks. When you vomit, which often happens during the withdrawal process, the fluid contains sodium, potassium and other electrolytes. If you lose too much of this fluid, you may develop an electrolyte imbalance, resulting in dehydration and low blood volume. Sports drinks are made to replace electrolytes lost through sweating, so drinking them during the withdrawal process can help you avoid a serious electrolyte imbalance.
9. Pick up a new hobby.
When you’re ready for substance abuse treatment, it’s wise to develop a hobby that can take your focus off severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and help you pass the time until all the alcohol has been eliminated from your body. Try doing crossword puzzles, reading, playing online games or practicing your drawing skills.
10. Clear your schedule as much as possible.
Before your last drink, clear your schedule as much as possible. Arrange to take time off from work, ask for help with childcare and do whatever else is needed to ensure you have plenty of time to focus on your sobriety.
It’s important to have support during the alcohol detox process. Recovery at the Crossroads has experienced, compassionate staff on hand to monitor your health and keep you as comfortable as possible during withdrawal. For more information on treatment options, contact us at 888-342-3881. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and overall approach to substance abuse treatment.