How to Stop Drinking: Practical Withdrawal & Recovery Guide
When I was trying to get sober, I really didn’t have the mental capacity (or patience) to wade through personal stories and cute anecdotes. I just wanted the down and dirty, so that’s what I’m giving you here today.
Practical Steps to Coming Off of Alcohol:
Recognize the need to stop drinking.
Yep. This might sound pretty elementary, but until you really look within yourself and make the decision that alcohol is not enhancing your life, but is, in fact, destroying your relationships, your credibility and your ability to function productively, you will not break free. It is that little bit of reservation, that tiny bit of “what if I just drank this way or that way, or standing on my head, or only when Jupiter is aligned with Mars….” Sympathy for the devil sounds nice when it’s a song title, but it’s counterproductive and deadly to recovery.
Getting through alcohol withdrawal.
I don’t believe in tapering your alcohol consumption down in order to wean yourself off. This is yet another lie, like it or not. A sex addict doesn’t go from 17 sexual encounters per day down to 14, 12, etc. Our addicted brains lie to us and tell us that all kind of things sound practical, but they are just an attempt to keep us in bondage.
The word addicted actually means “enslaved.”
Withdrawal from alcohol is no joke. You can die. You can have seizures. When I decided to get clean, I went to the emergency room, told the doctor I was an alcoholic who was in need of detox. They prescribed medication that would help keep my anxiety and heart rate from skyrocketing and I took them responsibly. I also went to an inpatient treatment facility right after a three day home-detox. Withdrawal from alcohol will be the worst during these first three days. You’ll feel like crap and mental fog and anxiety will be pretty close to unbearable. Don’t get scared. It will get better. I got through it by continuing to tell myself, “You’ll NEVER have to feel like this again. You’ll NEVER have to repeat this moment.” It worked. I have been sober for over two years and never relapsed. Never even came close.
Some people will be discouraging. Prepare yourself for that. I was 48 when I got sober and people told me I’d have wet brain and would probably not be able to function mentally as a normal human. I decided not to entertain those thoughts and focused on getting better. Today I’m a writer. My thoughts easily flow into words and I feel like I make sense. I was a binge-blackout-drinker and opiate addict for ten years.
If I can recover, anyone can.
This is key to your recovery. You don’t want to just white-knuckle it through sobriety or you’re going to relapse. So, in order to minimize cravings in early recovery, I have a few solid suggestions:
First, understand that addiction is connected to your brain’s reward center. Participating in your addiction can release two to ten times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards (like sex or food) do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. As a result of addiction, the “dopamine factory” in your brain produces less dopamine on it’s own since you’ve been busy flooding the receptors with your drug of choice for x number of years now. This is why we have cravings. Those empty receptors are longing to be filled, but you’ve suddenly cut off the supply. So, in order to greatly reduce cravings, what you need to do is partake in activities that cause a dopamine release in your brain. Here are the five that were most beneficial to my recovery:
- Chiropractic adjustments: I went to my chiropractor 2–3 times per week for my first two months of sobriety. A chiropractic adjustment immediately releases dopamine. I honestly felt lighter and more peaceful after every adjustment. Even if you have to pay out of pocket for this service, I highly recommend it.
- Massage therapy: Same as the chiropractic adjustment, a deep tissue massage floods your brain with “feel good” dopamine and other neurotransmitters.
- Sunshine: Yep. Sunshine makes you feel good for a reason. Just twenty minutes of unfiltered sun reduces anxiety and gets those “neurotransmitters up” as my chiropractor friend, Dr. Gable always says!
- Amino Acids: Often, in early recovery, we immediately trade our alcohol addiction for food, especially sugar and chocolate. There is a lot of evidence that shows that sugar puts your brain in relapse mode, so try to stay away from overindulging. On the other hand, amino acids are your brain’s building blocks and they help balance your moods and restore proper brain function. Aminos can get you out of “brain fog.” Liquid aminos were part of my early recovery and relapse prevention toolkit.
I was fortunate to receive the best amino acid replacement therapy available, because it was provided to us at the treatment center I went to for recovery. These aminos were so important to me that I sought them out after treatment and still swear by them today.
The amino profile necessary to squash cravings and greatly decrease relapse risk looks like this:
5-HTP (regulates serotonin levels in the brain)
DLPA (fights depression)
L-Tyrosine (building block for neurotransmitters)
L-Glutamine (nourishes brain cells)
If you want to order the same aminos I took, I highly recommend it. Just click on the word aminos and you’ll go right to the website.
- Prayer and Meditation: Without God, my recovery would be meaningless. My spiritual connection to the Creator of the universe and the lover of my soul is the most profound and necessary part of my recovery. There were many nights when I would lay in bed and pray for peace, direction and deliverance. I believe that I am set free because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. He paid the price for addiction and took it from me when I surrendered. I don’t know what my recovery would look like without God, but I also don’t want to know.
There are other tools and resources for recovery and I believe everyone has their own journey, but these insights will help you get started.
For more information on creating a new, kinder life for yourself and building an inner refuge where your life is joyful, peaceful and vice-free, please check out my website, ThatSoberLife.com.
I look forward to meeting you there.