Alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable. Learn 18 ways to keep your mind occupied while facing alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from being a slight nuisance to extremely uncomfortable. In turn, it can be challenging to learn what helps with alcohol withdrawal. If you have an alcohol dependency, then you’ve likely been using alcohol for some time. Long-term alcohol abuse is commonly caused by an underlying condition or physical pain in which alcohol was used to self-medicate those issues. Often, people are tempted to turn back to alcohol to ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

The key to successful withdrawal is to consult with an addiction treatment professional ahead of detox to understand the alcohol withdrawal timeline and detox strategies, like how to taper off alcohol. People can partake in some natural remedies and activities to keep their minds occupied and help pass the time as withdrawal symptoms fade.  Some of these remedies can be useful during withdrawal itself, and some are more helpful as you cope with cravings. Here are 18 ways to cope with alcohol withdrawal.

Article at a Glance:

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe, yet there are many ways to cope with them.
  • It helps to have people to support you through detox and remember you are not alone.
  • Drinking fluids and following a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables can help with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Try deep breathing techniques, meditating, exercising or listening to music to ride out the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
  • If you begin experiencing anything beyond mild symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

How To Deal With Alcohol Withdrawal

Learning what helps with alcohol withdrawal can be a process. Here are 18 effective ways to help get you started.

1 – Drink lots of fluids containing electrolytes.

Many people with alcohol use disorder struggle with dehydration and nausea during withdrawal. Drinking lots of fluids, especially fluids with electrolytes, will help address dehydration and nausea and improve your overall health and ability to undergo withdrawal. Sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium are common electrolytes in sports drinks. Ensuring you’re consuming electrolytes helps your body avoid imbalances in these important chemicals while better hydrating itself, which can help you get over alcohol withdrawal symptoms quicker and more comfortably.

2 – Don’t go through withdrawal alone.

Tell your close friends and family before you begin your detox, and ask them to support you. The more support you have, the better. Consider creating a visiting schedule so you are never alone during the first week of detox. A supportive friend or family member can help you in many ways during withdrawal.

3 – Remember that you are not alone.

Many people with addictions convince themselves that they are alone and are the only ones going through their experiences. It can be very comforting to know that many people have gone through withdrawal before. We recommend reaching out to others who are also going through withdrawal or joining group therapy. Professional detox is highly recommended for those likely to experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms and will support you during detox.

4 – Ride out the cravings.

The craving for alcohol may be a persistent challenge during and after withdrawal. There will be multiple points throughout the process where you will be tempted to drink. It’s helpful to think of your craving as a wave; Cravings build, peak, crash and dissipate. The point is that eventually, your craving will go away — the wave will crash.

Also, don’t get caught off guard thinking that since one craving has stopped, another one won’t come quickly. Often, cravings can come quickly and in succession of each other.

5 – Write yourself a letter.

Before you decide to go through alcohol withdrawal, write yourself a letter and keep it nearby for quick reference. The letter’s content should be encouraging and remind you why you are going through the challenge of detox in the first place. Pull the letter out and read it to yourself when you feel tempted. 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 often as needed during the process.

6 – 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 your work thus 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.

7 – 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 many other great benefits beyond helping you deal with alcohol withdrawal. It may also help with hot flashes that can occur during alcohol withdrawal.

8 – Remember that the pain is only temporary.

One factor to remember is that the discomfort of withdrawal is only temporary. It will go away. It won’t last forever. This thought process can be a useful mental tool when the physical pain of withdrawal is most severe.

9 – Eat a balanced diet that includes healthy fruits and vegetables.

A healthy, balanced diet can help equip your body with the necessary nutrients. Eating fruits and vegetables is important, as they can provide healthy sugars. People often crave sugar during withdrawal; using healthy sugars from fruit can help offset these cravings. 

10 – Avoid your drinking buddies.

One important thing to do when addressing alcohol withdrawal is to distance yourself 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 avoid these people during and following withdrawal.

11 – 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. When stressed, we often forget to breathe correctly or take shallow breaths. So, if you feel a craving, it’s helpful to take a deep breath following these guidelines:

  • Breathe deeply through your nose, slowly and completely. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  • Exhale slowly and completely out through your mouth. Pause, then repeat.

Doing this will help maintain your critical thinking ability during withdrawal.

12 – Meditate.

Like deep breathing, meditation can help you stay balanced and relaxed during your withdrawal. At times, it’s easy to forget why you entered recovery in the first place. Meditation can help clear your mind to focus on what really matters. It pulls you out of a reactive state of mind and into a proactive state, which can be a powerful tool in helping treat alcohol withdrawal.

13 – Exercise.

While you may not feel like exercising during withdrawal, a small amount of exercise is a great tool for coping with alcohol withdrawal. Exercise releases endorphins into your brain, creating natural happy feelings within a person. Additionally, you will feel stronger as you work out. Not only is exercise one of the most effective natural remedies for alcohol withdrawal, but it’s also good for your self-confidence and recovery.

14 – Listen to music.

Distraction can be a powerful ally during detox. It’s much better to focus on something you enjoy than to focus on the discomfort of your withdrawal symptoms. Addiction tends to make everything else in life seem less enjoyable. Music you used to love may no longer have the same draw while you are using alcohol. You may find a renewed interest in music during your detox and should pursue the distraction it offers from cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

15 – Go for a walk outside.

Going outside and walking can do wonders if you are having a particularly rough time. You may not feel like being physically active or going outside, 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.

16 – Read a book.

When was the last time you read a book? Books can offer a fantastic escape and help distract you if you want to drink. Like taking a walk or listening to music, reading a book is another distraction technique. Pick up a book purely for pleasure. What have you always wanted to learn about? What sounds like fun to read?

17 – 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, obtaining alcohol and recovering from drinking too much. It’s a good idea to sink your newfound extra time and energy into something fulfilling and productive. Do you have an old hobby that you would like to start up again? Or, is there a new hobby you have always wanted to dive into?

18 – Get medical assistance if you experience anything beyond mild withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal can get serious quickly. If you are detoxing at home, anything beyond mild symptoms should trigger you to seek medical help. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if complications occur. Delirium tremens (DTs) is a serious condition that some people struggling with alcohol withdrawal go through. It is characterized by severe nausea, seizures and hallucinations. If you begin to experience DT, you always need to get immediate medical attention, as it can be life-threatening.

Frequently Asked Questions on Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can be a challenging and potentially dangerous process, requiring careful management and support. It often raises many questions, especially regarding effective strategies for managing symptoms and ensuring safety. Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about alcohol withdrawal, providing insight into different aspects such as medication, home remedies, dietary considerations and more.

What medication helps with alcohol withdrawal?

Medications are often used to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal safely. Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan), are commonly prescribed to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications like seizures. Other medications might include anticonvulsants, anti-nausea drugs and sleep aids, depending on individual symptoms and medical history. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a tailored treatment plan.

What helps with alcohol withdrawal at home?

Managing alcohol withdrawal at home requires caution. Mild withdrawal symptoms can be managed with hydration, rest and a quiet environment. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation or gentle exercise might help alleviate stress. However, it’s important to seek medical advice, as withdrawal can quickly escalate to severe symptoms. Continuous monitoring and access to medical care are essential. In general, going through withdrawal at home should be avoided unless your doctor recommends it.

What food helps with alcohol withdrawal?

A balanced diet is important during alcohol withdrawal. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, can support the body’s recovery. Hydration is also important, so drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine is advised. Some people find that smaller, more frequent meals help if nausea is an issue. A good diet won’t lessen withdrawal effects but will support your body’s ability to deal with them. 

What helps with shakes from alcohol withdrawal?

Tremors or “shakes” are common during alcohol withdrawal. They can be managed with prescribed medications such as benzodiazepines. Maintaining a calm and comfortable environment, staying hydrated and avoiding stimulants like caffeine is also helpful. If you have the shakes, medical intervention is typically necessary, as shakes can be a sign of more serious withdrawal complications.

What vitamins and supplements help with alcohol withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal can deplete the body of essential nutrients. Vitamins B1 (thiamine), B9 (folate), B12 and C are often recommended to aid recovery. Magnesium and zinc supplements can also be beneficial. These vitamins and minerals help support nerve function and overall health, which can be compromised due to long-term alcohol use. However, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplements, as they can advise on the most appropriate regimen based on individual health needs.

The One Key To Addressing Alcohol Withdrawal

If there is one thing to remember when going through alcohol withdrawal, it is this: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous for those experiencing moderate or severe symptoms. Getting help can not only help you stay safe, but it can also make withdrawal more comfortable and successful.

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    Editor – Theresa Valenzky
    Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
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    Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
    Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

    Sachdeva, Ankur; Choudhary, Mona; & Chandra, Mina. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazep[…]es and Beyond.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, September 1, 2015. Accessed December 1, 2023.

    Berger, Fred K. “Substance use recovery and diet”>.” MedlinePlus, April 30, 2022. Accessed December 1, 2023.

    Zgierska, Aleksandra; Rabago, David; Zuelsdorff, Megan; & et al. “Mindfulness Meditation for Alcohol Relap[…]y Pilot Study.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, September 2008. Accessed December 1, 2023.

    Medical Disclaimer

    The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.