If you have decided to give up drinking, whether for your physical or mental health, there are a couple of symptoms and changes to expect over the course of your experience. However, with reasonable expectations and dedication, you can successfully walk the fulfilling road of becoming alcohol-free.
Like any brain-altering drug, alcohol is associated with a number of withdrawal symptoms for those who drink heavily for a long period of time. Because alcohol suppresses your neurotransmitters, suddenly stopping all consumption will cause hyperexcitability. This leads to some unpleasant side-effects: anxiety, headaches, and vomiting can all occur within hours of the last drink. For more serious cases, fever, hallucinations, and seizures can occur a couple of days after quitting. Not everyone experiences severe symptoms, but because alcohol withdrawal is so serious, consider going through detox with professional help to ease the onslaught of symptoms associated with quitting cold-turkey.
Aside from medical issues that arise from alcohol consumption, social issues can also play a large role in derailing your alcohol-free journey. We often drink as a way to loosen up around new people and friends, and the urge to drink is increased ten-fold when people around us are also drinking. When you stop consuming alcohol, for whatever reason, be prepared to field questions from friends, deny offered drinks at the bar, and stay strong against peer pressure.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers some tips to avoid the pressure of social drinking: recognize-avoid-cope. Recognize the kind of situation you will be in, and whether people will be offering you drinks, or if you will feel tempted to drink because a majority of people on the outing are consuming. Next, see if you can avoid the scene; remember that you are turning your life around for the better, and denying a couple of invitations is not the end of the world. Finally, come up with your script on how to cope with offered alcohol. Practice how you will say no and rehearse your reason if people ask. Remember that you are in control of your consumption, and social events don’t have to be painful.
In many cases, the negative side effects of dropping or reducing alcohol require professional assistance. No matter your situation, finding the right professional to guide you through quitting can improve your experience dramatically. Medical professionals have experience, knowledge, and resources that you do not, so asking for help is a great way to make your journey easier.
In addition to seeking professional help, consider finding a support group as well. A support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Moderation Management, will give you access to peers experience similar situations. Finding a group of people who are in your boat makes the process much easier, and establishing strong connections with your peers offers you a constant support network while you deal with the social and physical symptoms of leaving alcohol behind.
Finally, you can expect a great deal of freedom after you’ve dropped the habit for good. Of course, the physical symptoms, like nausea, weight gain, and organ damage will be obsolete after quitting, but you will experience a number of other benefits as well. Emotionally, alcohol is tied to an increase in depression and anxiety, so reducing or eliminating your consumption can stabilize your daily mood. Relationships will likely improve due to increased quality time spent with friends and family: instead of hazy memories and hangovers, you will be fully aware of your interactions, leading to a deeper relationship. In addition, your financials will improve, since the income wasted on alcohol per month is now safely within your pocket.
There are numerous benefits, too many to list here, so be confident in your decision to drop alcohol. Consult with your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes to find the right options for you and reap the benefits of an alcohol-free life.