Maintaining abstinence from alcohol after going through withdrawal requires great discipline and dedication. Many people in recovery from alcohol addiction need ongoing therapy to stay sober, as well as unwavering support from their friends and loved ones.
If your loved one has recently gone through alcohol detox or completed an alcohol rehab program, there are several things you can do at home to help them achieve total abstinence from alcohol and stay sober.
Here’s a closer look at what your loved one may experience following alcohol withdrawal, and how you can help them get rid of their alcoholism.
What Are Symptoms Of Alcohol Abstinence?
Your loved one may already have experienced symptoms of alcohol abstinence—also known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome—if they went to an alcohol detox center. However, some alcohol abstinence symptoms such as anxiety and depression can last long beyond the acute stage of withdrawal.
Symptoms of alcohol abstinence include:
- Shaking and tremors.
- Loss of appetite.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Irritability and mood swings.
The National Library of Medicine reports that these symptoms usually begin within eight hours after the last drink and can go on for weeks. Though these symptoms may be uncomfortable for your loved one, it’s important to remember that they won’t last forever, and that an addiction treatment center will often use talk therapy and medications to help them manage any long-lasting psychological symptoms and co-occurring mental health disorders.
When Do Moods Become Normal After Alcohol Abstinence?
Mood and psychiatric disorders are among the most common alcohol abstinence side effects that linger following the acute withdrawal stage. The most common psychiatric disorders associated with alcohol addiction are major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH adds that these mood and psychiatric disorders usually disappear after several days or weeks of alcohol abstinence.
Alcohol interferes with a number of brain chemicals that regulate mood—including dopamine and serotonin. Fluctuations in these neurotransmitters can often lead to mood imbalances, which is why mental health disorders often co-occur with alcohol addiction. Many addiction treatment centers offer dual diagnosis therapy to treat patients with co-occurring disorders.
How Much Does a Liver Heal After 7 Days Of Alcohol Abstinence?
The liver of a person who suffers from alcohol addiction will begin to heal the moment that person stops drinking. However, the extent to which the liver heals will vary from one patient to the next based on several factors. The severity of the alcohol addiction, the amount of alcohol consumed on a daily basis, genetics, and lifestyle choices are some of the many factors that play a role in how the liver heals when maintaining abstinence from alcohol.
According to an article in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the full benefits of alcohol abstinence on the liver are usually not achieved for several weeks or longer. Many times, your loved one’s doctor can suggest lifestyle behaviors that accelerate the healing of their liver. For instance, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, managing stress, and eating healthy foods may all help boost liver health and speed up the healing process.
The Pros and Cons Of Alcohol Abstinence
There are far more pros than cons to maintaining abstinence from alcohol. If your loved one has been drinking for most of their life, abstaining completely may seem extremely challenging and off-putting. However, the positive effects of alcohol abstinence can help your loved ones feel better physically and mentally as time passes, and help them become more productive.
Pros Of Abstinence
- Better sleep quality: Any level of alcohol use can disrupt your sleep cycle and cause insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disturbances. Abstaining from alcohol will allow your loved one to sleep more deeply throughout the night so they can wake up feeling more alert and energetic.
- Mental clarity: Alcohol use can cause mental cloudiness, but sobriety can enhance your loved one’s mental clarity to improve their daily functioning, especially at work or school.
- Improved overall health: Heavy alcohol use can increase inflammation throughout the body and damage major organs to cause heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic conditions. Your loved one’s body will gradually heal itself with every day that passes after becoming sober.
- Increased energy: Alcohol use can make you feel sluggish, tired, lazy, and unproductive, but abstaining from alcohol can increase your loved one’s energy levels so they can take part in more activities.
- More money: Alcohol addiction is often a costly habit, but abstaining from alcohol will allow your loved one to save up to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.
- Enhanced relationships: Alcohol can often lead to erratic and unpredictable behavior that puts strain on personal relationships. Your loved one may be calmer and able to communicate more effectively after becoming sober.
- Weight loss: Alcohol contains lots of calories, and often contributes to weight gain. Maintaining abstinence from alcohol will allow your loved one to lose excess weight and feel lighter and healthier.
Cons Of Abstinence
- Having to say no: Your loved one may have to get used to telling people no and declining alcohol, which can be frustrating during the early weeks and months after becoming sober. However, many alcohol rehab centers will help patients develop strong skills that allow them to decline alcohol and avoid situations where alcohol is available.
- Relying on other outlets: If your loved one relied on alcohol to reduce stress or to handle difficult emotions and situations, they will need to find other outlets to replace alcohol. Discovering other outlets isn’t necessarily bad—it just means your loved one may have to experiment with a wide range of outlets before finding those that work best for them.
- Exclusion from social settings: Sporting events, bars, restaurants, and parties are places where alcohol is usually easily accessible—meaning your loved one may need to avoid these places for some time until they learn how to manage triggers and stay sober. Alternatively, your loved one can stick to attending sober events and still have lots of fun without having to worry about alcohol being accessible.
Is Alcohol Moderation Effective?
At some point in their recovery, your loved one may feel confident enough to think they can resume drinking and drink in moderation without falling back into the cycle of addiction. While this is possible for some people, it is usually not recommended.
If your loved one drinks again after months or years of maintaining abstinence from alcohol, it’s possible they may resume old habits and once again start drinking frequently. Your loved one may also lose track of the amount they’re drinking and become unexpectedly intoxicated.
Encourage your loved one to stay sober, and recommend that they consult with their therapist or Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor to discuss the benefits of alcohol moderation vs abstinence if they want to start drinking in moderation.
Ways To Support Your Loved One’s Sobriety
Providing your loved one with support throughout their journey to achieving lifelong sobriety will go a long way toward helping them stay motivated and positive about their recovery. Follow the below steps to support your loved one’s sobriety.
Involve Them In Fun, Sober Activities
Sober activities can often be far more fun and enjoyable than those that involve alcohol. Make plans to do activities with your loved one that promotes health and physical activity, or other fun activities that do not involve alcohol. Hiking, going on long drives, and taking dance classes together are examples of fun activities that do not involve alcohol.
Encourage Their Participation In Support Group Meetings
Support group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous can keep your loved one connected to peers who are also in recovery from alcohol addiction. Attending these meetings can help your loved one stay sober and expose them to new, unique coping skills that motivate them to stay abstinent. Encourage your loved one to stay active in support group meetings, and make the necessary arrangements to ensure they can regularly attend meetings.
Lend An Ear Without Judgment
There may be times when your loved one becomes frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed, and feels inclined to relapse or have a drink. There may also be times your loved one wants to talk about their past experiences involving alcohol, or about their struggles with staying abstinent. Be there for your loved one when they want to talk, and lend an ear without passing judgment. You may also want to consider family behavior therapy at an addiction treatment center, which helps patients and their relatives improve family dynamics and work together to promote sobriety.
Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in sunny Florida to help people safely recover from alcohol dependence and addiction. Call us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our many customizable addiction treatment programs.