For those battling the disease of addiction, getting sober may seem to be the ultimate goal. Lots of great things happen when you get sober. But starting on the road to recovery unveils a new perspective in the journey of healing. Sure, the negative feelings — both mental and physical — that you experience when you first quit alcohol can lead to relapse. Understanding what happens when you get sober is undoubtedly unclear until you’re experiencing it. Some moments incite feelings of accomplishment, hope, and relief. In other ways, it may trigger guilt or shame. Knowing how to cope with these ups and downs is fundamental, if not inevitable, to long-term recovery.
AspenRidge Recovery offers programs that support individuals and families as they move toward sobriety. We understand the hardships and processes involved in finding recovery. Our compassionate team can guide you during a critical time. Contact us directly at 855-281-5588.
Alcohol Abuse Impacts The Body & Mind
Alcohol is an intoxicating substance that millions of Americans enjoy regularly. It’s easy to inhabit a drunk culture as it consumes our everyday lives. For many, it’s a treat, a cause for celebration, or just a casual pastime. The trouble is that alcohol use carries many risks that impact the body and mind in drastic ways.
According to Fox Business, today, each person in the United States drinks about 2.3 gallons of alcohol per year. More than 88,000 Americans die as a result of excessive drinking, a figure that is higher than opioid-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If drinking becomes habitual, the body begins adapting to its effects. As the body shifts to accommodate toxic levels of ethanol in the system, the mind also experiences a flood of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters. The problem is that once a person seizes drinking, those neurotransmitters plummet, leaving a person feeling miserable and desiring more alcohol to feel better. As the cycle continues, mood, cognition, and even motor skills become significantly impaired. If this occurs during alcohol dependence, what happens when you get sober?
Process of Getting Sober
The physical and emotional effects of getting sober vary from person to person. However, most people can expect to experience at least some of the following factors. It’s important to understand that recovery and sobriety is not an easy process. It takes time to address alcohol abuse and possible underlying factors that can cause continued abuse or relapse.
Knowing what happens when you get sober in the early stages is crucial to approach it safely and effectively. Most Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) sufferers experience alcohol withdrawal when they stop drinking. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are unpleasant but short-lived.
Physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Shaking hands
- Nausea or vomiting
In extreme cases, symptoms can also include:
Whether mild or severe, these symptoms usually begin with eight hours of your last drink and peak within 72 hours. You will usually start to feel much better within five to seven days. That said, in extreme cases, withdrawal can be life-threatening. Depending on where a person is on the spectrum of Alcohol Use Disorder, it’s important to consult with an experienced addiction specialist or medical doctor to ensure appropriate measures to avoid quitting cold turkey.
Mental & Emotional Challenges
The physical symptoms you experience when you stop drinking don’t last long. However, the way you — and the people close to you — feel about your addiction will take longer to process.
The mental health and emotional challenges you may face include:
- Mood swings as your body and brain adjust to the lack of alcohol
- Being confronted with the impact your addiction has on relationships and work
- Working to rebuild relationships and life in general
- Losing or letting go of friendships with people who don’t support your sobriety
- Coping with feelings of shame, guilt, and depression
- Dealing with everyday stresses as well as any pre-existing mental health problems without the help of alcohol
- Worrying about relapse.
All of these issues put a strain on your mental well-being.
Nevertheless, each time you overcome a mental or emotional challenge without using alcohol, you get more skilled and more confident — ready for the next challenge that comes along.
Sobriety Brings Positive Changes
It may be hard to believe in the depth of those first few days, but the longer you stay sober, the better you’ll feel. That’s because:
- You’ll feel more stable in your emotions, your relationships, and life in general
- Your memory will improve
- You’ll sleep better and have more energy
- You’ll look and feel healthier as your brain and body begin to recover from the effects of too much alcohol.
How To Get Sober — and Stay Sober
Dealing with the initial side effects of sobriety is undoubtedly tricky. When faced with so many challenges all at once, it’s not surprising that a high number of people relapse within the first year of recovery.
That’s why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the behaviors and habits that will help you get sober and avoid relapse.
Try to identify the people, places, and situations that encourage you to drink. When you’re just starting on your sobriety journey, avoiding these things all together is your best bet.
This might mean staying away from certain friends or family members. It might mean saying no to social occasions where you’ll find it hard to resist alcohol.
It could even be something as simple as changing your route home from work, so you don’t walk by the liquor store.
Avoiding your triggers will help you keep away from alcohol today, tomorrow, and every day after.
Find A Support Network
Overcoming alcohol addiction is so much easier when you have a supportive network of friends, family, and peers around you.
Rebuilding relationships with those closest to you, leaning on your sponsor, and making the most of dedicated support groups — either in person or online — will help keep you on track. Colorado resources can be found here.
You will experience powerful urges to pick up a drink. During these times, it’s good to have a distraction strategy at the ready.
Think about what you can do when alcohol cravings strike. You might like to chew gum, go out for a jog, or write down your thoughts in a journal.
Just make sure that your distraction technique is a healthy one. Turning to junk food, for example, may create new problems further down the line.
Embrace New Activities
Chances are, pre-sobriety, a fair amount of your time was given over to alcohol. Now that you’re not drinking, it’s time to embrace alternative activities.
Learn something new. Join an exercise class. Volunteer in your local community. These are all great ways to develop new hobbies, meet new people, and get the distraction you need.
Focus On Your Mental Health
If you drink to cope with stress or negative feelings, the times when these feelings resurface will often prove challenging.
Ongoing mental health support may be helpful. You should also be alert to feelings of stress and have strategies you can employ to cope with them. You might like to try meditation, yoga, or exercise as a way to reduce stress. You may also want to reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support.
Don’t Treat Relapse As A Failure
You’ll try your best to avoid it, sure, but relapse is an inevitable part of your recovery. So when it happens, try to forgive yourself. You mustn’t give up on sobriety.
Try to put aside any feelings of regret or self-loathing. Instead, refocus your efforts on staying sober — revisiting the strategies that helped you the first time round if necessary.
Every day you spend sober is a step in the right direction. Find a way to congratulate yourself — without using drugs or alcohol — at each milestone on your sobriety journey.
AspenRidge: Discovering Sobriety
As one of Colorado’s leading addiction recovery centers, we provide support through individually tailored programs. We specialize in dual diagnosis care for people suffering from alcohol addiction.
Through in-person and online programs, we address both AUD and any underlying mental health problems. We also offer support to the entire family throughout those difficult early stages of recovery. In our experience, this is the best possible approach for ensuring long-lasting sobriety.
If you’re suffering from AUD or are worried about a loved one, call our addiction specialists to learn more about our Alcohol Addiction Program. They’re available any time, day or night, at 855-281-5588.