For an alcoholic, making the decision to give up alcohol might be the hardest part, but actually stopping is pretty rough too. Anyone who has been drinking for a long time on a daily, habitual basis will have developed a physical addiction and stopping is definitely going to have both a physical and mental and emotional effect.
Giving up at home is how most people quit. With the right attitude, support from friends and family and determination it can be fine, but it's as well to be prepared.
If you have been the kind of drinker who cannot function each day until you've had a couple of hairs of the dog, then quitting is going to be rough for a couple of days, no doubt about it. The morning shakes, the feelings of anxiety, the sensitive stomach, the aches and pains - all those things which have normally been chased away with the first drink of the day are going to come at you in a bit of a rush now.
Going 'cold turkey' is the quickest way to sorting things out though, and once you're through the first tough few days things start to settle down quite quickly.
Everyone will experience different symptoms of course but as a general rule, milder effects are anxiety, headaches and sweating, nausea or vomiting and loss of appetite. As well as the physical side, other symptoms include feeling irritable or overemotional and depressed, and sleeping patterns will be affected, leading to bad dreams, insomnia and tiredness.
If the addiction is longer term or more severe, symptoms can be quite harsh, and if this is the case, perhaps giving up at home might not be the answer. The withdrawal from serious alcoholism can include hallucinations, fever, ranting and confusion and even convulsions so if you think this might be the case then seek medical support rather than trying this at home.
Many people try cutting back before they stop. This can help with alleviating some of the symptoms as the physical reliance on alcohol is reduced. Cutting down though takes some commitment and clear deadlines, as the temptation is to think that actually, the drinking is in control and now I don't need to give up at all. Problem solved! Then of course it starts to creep up again and this form of 'yo-yo' solution can go on for years.
Cutting back can be really effective but it's important to keep in mind that the end result is to stop completely, and to set a time limit on the cutting down period. Start by reducing the daily quantity slowly, spread out the gaps between drinks, drink lower alcohol drinks or add more mixers. It's often a good idea to see your doctor about this when cutting back as he or she can often prescribe medication that will make this easier - things to take the edge off such as beta blockers for anxiety, or sleeping tablets to help you rest.
Giving Up at Home
Giving up at home is usually fine, but the biggest danger comes from the temptation to fall off the wagon. Nobody but the alcoholic can understand that absolutely burning desire to drink and as soon as the withdrawal symptoms kick in, it will be hard to resist. However with determination and by taking a few safety measures it can work easily.
First port of call is the doctor. Explain your plan and ask for help and advice. Depending on your circumstances, your GP can assist with medication, treatment or therapy and counselling.
Take time off work to focus on what you're doing. Empty the house of any kind of alcohol at all. Even mouthwash. And stock up on sugary soft drinks such as fruit juice. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar and when giving up, the shakes are partly due to the sugar crash, so sweet drinks can really help.
The first three of four days will be the worst, so be assured, it doesn't last long. Anxiety, irritability, restlessness and insomnia are going to be the biggest issues once past the initial shock to the system, so try and rest as much as possible, and cat nap if necessary. Basically, grab some sleep whenever you can.
Tuck up on the sofa, rent some great DVDs and rest. Once you're feeling a bit better, start to make some plans. Maybe list the things you would like to do - visiting friends, taking a holiday, spending time with the children - whatever you have shelved during the time when alcohol has taken over your life is yours again for the taking. So enjoy thinking about your future.
How I agree. Alcoholics only think of themselves so how is this a disease. Like th comment before I have suffered years of emotional abuse at the hands of an alcoholic and he wants sympathy. Well not any more he's about to find out the worm has turnedand let him try surviving on his own .yes I am bitter but now I am ready to set myself free and let him do the suffering. If you alcoholics could just feel for one minute what we your carers go through over years you would soon stop
Suffering wife of an - 23-Sep-15 @ 12:50 PM
I am married to an alcoholic and get very angry with alcoholics who say how difficult it is to stop drinking and want support. Never do they think of their family who like in my case have suffered for years and never received support when I needed it. Alcoholism is not a disease it is utter self obsession and a lack of love for others.Sorry for being brutal but you alcoholics are just selfish self obsessed individuals who need to wake up to the real world.
Chris115 - 17-Sep-15 @ 9:51 AM
@have not got one. You've done it before, so you know you can do it again. Good luck
AlcoholIssues - 18-Mar-15 @ 1:44 PM
I was a very heavy drinker and then gave up after a stay in hospital for a non drink related illness.I gave up for 2 and a half years but started (not as heavily) 7 days ago finding it hard to stop already.Cant get a home detox where I live so I am going to try do it at home.Wish me luck
have not got one - 16-Mar-15 @ 12:27 PM
I have been binge drinking weekends since 1970s and now its time to hang me boots or I will not wake up one day. so on my birthday at 55 I made the strong decision to stop. its going to be tough as clubs and pubs were my life
but now I want to live the rest of my years sober and to make up for lost time doing the normal things like hobbies and gardening. I don't want the rest of my years as a drunk. I have to learn to be strong around people or I will be led to drink again.
brush - 26-Apr-14 @ 2:46 PM
ive been a heavy drinker for years tried rehab but didnt work for me, i went and stayed with family for 6 months and thought i had cracked it, as soon as i was on my own the cravings started and i tried to fight it but started drinking. im so scared now that i will never stop, the cravings are with me everyday, i have to give up somhow i need to work soon . i crave it as soon as i wake up, i went to the docs he gave me some tablets but i still drank, is there any hope for me to give up completly, its depressing thinking about it makes me panic and very scared, i dont know what to try next
debs500 - 7-Jan-14 @ 9:48 PM
You seem to be saying that anyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Surely that can't be true. People drink for many reasons. Sometimes it is just a part of a normal social life.
I was a drinker of alcohol for most of my adult life, about 40 years. I enjoyed drinking and enjoyed the social life that often goes with it.
However, a while ago I decided to stop drinking. there were many reasons for this, one was that I wanted to lose weight, another was monetary, as I am now retired.
So I just stopped drinking, it wasn't difficult, I didn't have any of the withdrawal or cravings that you speak of, I just stopped doing it. I didn't do any of the things that you mention. But now I don't drink at all, I don't think about it, I don't miss it.
I am sure your advice may be helpful for genuine alcoholics that need help to give up drinking. But I think assuming that this includes everyone who picks up a wine glass, is not that helpful.
I think I found it easy because I never was any alcoholic. I never thought that I was, no one ever suggested to me that I was.
So please don't tar everyone with the same brush.
Tony - 14-Nov-12 @ 2:34 PM
im disappointed with the above article.A week to start feeling better?Total and utter nonsense, when youve abused for a long time.I gave up heavy drinking nearly a year ago and feel im only really getting over it now
spence - 3-Sep-12 @ 8:46 AM
Hi i am a binge drinker, I drink 14 units of alcohol 4/5 timesa week.
I have been told by my Doctor to stop drinking as i have a scarred
Liver. I was drinking 1/4 bot vodka + 4cans lager in under 2 hours.
I have to stop NOW!! I am going cold turkey. Wish me luck!!!
shorty - 27-Aug-12 @ 1:33 AM
the article was helpful but im feelin quite scared about it all
jd plz - 14-Jun-11 @ 7:27 AM
i drink must weekends and when i do i am always angry towards my wife ( who i love to bits) for no reason i start a fight for no reason i have a 7 year old who nos what is going nobut i also have a 5 month old baby and i dont want to put him through what his brother did any feed back
smee - 11-Jun-11 @ 9:43 PM
This article has made me feel that it time to address my drinking problem in a serious way and to start enjoying life again . Thank you
lager - 12-May-11 @ 1:17 PM
This article was very helpful. I have brought my intake down but now suffer panic attacks and major anxiety. Am hoping this will pass in time though and I am seeing my doctor about that today.