20 surefire ways of coping with alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from slightly uncomfortable to an extreme nuisance. If you have an alcohol dependency, then you’ve likely been numbing your feelings of pain with alcohol for some time. This dynamic of numbing the pain is what makes it so difficult to go through the detox process. You will be tempted to turn back to alcohol in order to ease the pain of withdrawal.
The key is to just get through it. Remember, it gets easier and the pain is only temporary. Here are twenty things that you can do when beating alcohol withdrawal.
1 – Drink lots of fluids that contain electrolytes
Many alcoholics suffer from dehydration and nausea during withdrawals. Drinking lots of fluids, especially fluids with electrolytes will help to combat this.
2 – Don’t do it alone
Tell your close friends and family before you begin your detox and ask them to support you during the process. The more support you have the better. Consider creating a visiting schedule so that you are never alone during the first week of detox. A supportive friend or family member can help you in many ways during withdrawals.
3 – Remembering that you are not alone
Many addicts will convince themselves that they are alone and are the only ones going through this pain. It can be very comforting to know that millions have gone through the exact same thing that you are. Consider yourself as part of a strong and brave community. And stand in solidarity with everyone else who has decided to kick alcoholism to the curb.
4 – Ride out the craving wave
One thing that is guaranteed during alcohol withdrawal are substance cravings. There will be multiple points throughout the process where you will be tempted to have a drink. It’s helpful to think of your craving as a wave. It starts slowly, builds, peaks, then crashes and dissipates. The point is that eventually your craving will go away – the wave will crash. Instead of trying to fight the craving, picture yourself riding it out like you would a surfboard.
Also, don’t get caught off guard in thinking that since one craving stopped, another one won’t come quickly. Often, cravings can come quickly and in succession of each other. Don’t ride one wave successfully only to get knocked down by the next one a few minutes later.
5 – Write yourself a letter
Before you decide to go through your alcohol withdrawal, it’s a good idea to write yourself a letter and keep it nearby for quick reference. The content of the letter should be encouraging and it should remind you why you are going through the pain of detox in the first place. When you are feeling tempted, pull the letter out and read it to yourself. It’s even helpful to read it out loud as this has been shown to help you retain the information more effectively. Read it as many times as you need during the process.
6 – Create a “first aid kit”
Get a small container and put some meaningful items in that container. These items should be representative of things that keep you grounded and stable. Put whatever you like in the container. It’s purpose is to remind you of life without alcohol and why you entered recovery in the first place. During your withdrawal, you will often feel like it’s not worth the pain. Your first aid kit will help you stay grounded and determined to succeed.
7 – Fast forward
An effective coping technique is to fast forward your relapse fantasy. You may find yourself daydreaming about having another drink. Instead of thinking about the momentary relief that will come with the drink, think beyond that to the inevitable pain that will come after. Think about all of the work you have done this far and how much of a setback that would be. Consider how drinking again will only prolong your addiction and create more pain as you enter detox again.
Try to mentally connect your alcohol consumption to pain, not pleasure or relief.
8 – Take a cold shower
A cold shower can help you physically reset if you are experiencing strong urges to relapse. It can help clear your mind and has a number of other great benefits.
9 – Remember the pain is only temporary
One thing to remember is that the pain is only temporary. It will go away. It won’t last forever. This can be an impacting mental tool for you when the physical pain of withdrawal is at its most severe.
10 – Eat healthy fruits and veggies
When alcohol metabolizes in your body, it turns into sugar. Because of this, your body is used to lots of sugar. Eating healthy fruits and vegetables can help you balance the sugar levels that your body is used to. Plus, they are just good for you.
11 – Avoid your drinking buddies
One of the most important things to do when beating alcohol withdrawal is distance yourself away from enablers and any drinking advocates that are in your life. These are the people that don’t want you to get sober. They often will minimize your addiction by telling you it’s not that big of a deal. They may even try to offer you alcohol during your detox. It’s best to simply cut these people out of your life during this time.
12 – Use intentional breathing techniques
Deep breathing can help you re-engage your prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that handles critical thinking and reasoning. Have you ever been startled, scared, or very excited? If so, chances are that your prefrontal cortex was not very active. You were more likely being controlled by your limbic system – the old part of your brain that all mammals have in common. It’s the part that tells you to fight or run away. When we are stressed, we often forget to breathe. So, if you are feeling a craving, it’s helpful to take a deep breath following these guidelines:
Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds.
Breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds.
Doing this will help maintain crucial critical thinking ability during your withdrawals.
13 – Meditate
Like deep breathing, meditation can help you stay balanced and relaxed during your withdrawal period. At times, it’s easy to forget why you entered recovery in the first place. Meditation can help clear your mind in order to focus on what really matters. It pulls you out of a reactive state of mind and into a proactive state.
14 – Exercise
While you may not feel like it, an appropriate amount of exercise is one of the best tools for coping with alcohol withdrawals. Exercise releases endorphins into your brain creating natural happy feelings within a person. Plus, you will begin to feel stronger and more powerful as you work out. It’s good for your self confidence and for your recovery.
15 – Listen to music
Distraction can be a powerful ally during your detox. It’s much better to focus on something that you enjoy than to focus on the pain of your withdrawals symptoms. Addiction has the tendency to make everything else in life seem less enjoyable. Music that you used to love no longer has the same draw. This is because your addiction becomes all-consuming, dulling the vibrancy of life.
You may find a renewed interest in music during your detox. Take advantage of this and listen to some good tunes.
16 – Go for a walk
Getting outside and simply going for a walk can do wonders if you are having a particularly rough time. Yes, it can certainly be difficult to pull yourself off of the couch or out of bed, but a good walk can completely recharge your mental and emotional state.
Combine walking with deep breathing and focus on being present. Notice the little things in your surroundings. Don’t worry about the future or the past.
17 – Read a book
When was the last time you actually read a book? Books can offer a fantastic escape and can help distract you if you are feeling the urge to relapse. Like taking a walk or listening to music, book reading is another distraction technique. Pick up a book purely for pleasure. What have you always wanted to read? What sounds like fun to read?
18 – Rekindle an old hobby or start a new one
When you stop drinking, you will find that you have a lot more time on your hands. You might be shocked at how much time you spent drinking, thinking about drinking, driving to go drink, and obtaining alcohol. It’s always good to sink your time and energy into something that is fulfilling and productive. Do you have an old hobby that you would like to start up again? Or, is there a new hobby that you would have always wanted to delve into?
19 – Create injunctions
An injunction is something that you put in place to prevent you from relapsing. For instance, you could talk with your local liquor store and tell them not to sell you any liquor, even if you ask for it. Perhaps you drive by a grocery store where you purchase your liquor every day. An injunction would be creating and following a different route. You could even write yourself a note and put it on your door every day for when you leave the home. Whatever it is, an injunction is something that you put in place to prevent you from relapsing. It’s simply one extra barrier that you need to overcome if you are feeling weak.
20 – Get medical assistance if you are progressing toward Delirium Tremens
Delirium Tremens is a serious condition that some people coping with alcohol withdrawal go through. It is characterized by severe nausea, seizures, and hallucination. If you begin to experience DTs, you need to get immediate medical attention as it can be life threatening.
The One Key to Beating Alcohol Withdrawal
If there is one thing to remember when going through withdrawal it is this: lean in. When pain presents itself, don’t allow yourself to numb the pain and make it go away. Lean in, and take a stand against your addiction. Getting sober is never easy or comfortable. Own the pain of withdrawal like a badge of honor and overcome what’s been holding you back.