Giving Up Alcohol: What To Really Expect

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 30th May 2022

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem in the UK, and alcohol dependence has many long term consequences for both the alcoholic and their family, friends and work colleagues but it is possible to give up alcohol and get your life back on track.

Giving up alcohol is not easy if you suffer from alcohol use disorder, the correct medical term for a drinking problem, and you may need to consult a medical professional or visit a treatment centre to help you stop drinking. But if handled correctly, the benefits of giving up alcohol will far outweigh the negative side effects of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms that you may experience. Whether you wish to give up drinking permanently or just want to take a break from alcohol, you need to know what to expect and how to prepare yourself for the possible side effects of alcohol withdrawal.


What is Alcohol Dependence?

There are various types of alcohol dependence and some are more serious than others. The symptoms can be both physical and psychological and you do not need to drink copious amounts of alcohol on a regular basis to be suffering from alcohol dependence. Signs of alcohol dependence can include, anxiety about where your next drink is coming from, a compulsive need to drink, the inability to limit your alcohol intake to one or two drinks and not being able to stop once you have started, craving a drink in the morning when you wake up, alcohol-related depression and anxiety as well as physical withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Addiction

If you drink alcohol regularly and find it hard to break that pattern, then this can be an indicator that you are becoming dependant on alcohol and you need to take steps to address the situation. The first step is to take a break from alcohol and have a few alcohol free days to see if you experience any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and how severe they are.

More serious alcohol dependence can have a negative impact on every aspect of your life, including your relationships with your family, friends and work colleagues and it is important to seek medical advice to help you break the habit and prevent you from destroying your relationships with the ones you love.


The Benefits Of Giving Up Alcohol

Giving up alcohol has many long term and short term benefits and as soon as you stop drinking alcohol you will begin to experience some of those benefits. You will find that you sleep better, are less lethargic and have improved energy levels.

A glass of wine before bedtime might help you fall asleep quicker but alcohol consumption disrupts your sleep cycles and affects your quality of sleep as you spend less time in a deep sleep and more time in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, making you tired and listless during the day. But as soon as you have alcohol free days(and nights) you will experience better sleep patterns and find it easier to get up in the morning and stay awake and focused all day.

Taking a break from alcohol can also improve your physical appearance. Alcohol is a diuretic and excessive alcohol consumption can cause you to become dehydrated, making your skin and eyes look dull. Reducing your drinking will make your skin glow and you will look healthier. Many people do not realise that a lot of drinks are high in calories and sugar and heavy drinking can make it difficult to lose weight.

The amount of alcohol that you drink can also have a negative impact on your social life and long term consequences for your health. Medical researchers have found links between alcohol and seven different cancers, including mouth and breast cancer. Giving up alcohol can immediately reduce your risk of getting cancer. Drinking alcohol also has a huge impact on your liver and quitting can help prevent liver diseases like cirrhosis and fatty liver. The liver metabolises glucose into fat and drinking 14 units or more of alcohol a week can impair liver function and cause the liver to become swollen. Fortunately giving up alcohol, even for four to six weeks will enable the liver to recover and return to normal.

However. the health risks associated with long term excessive alcohol consumption can be far more serious and you could develop cirrhosis of the liver and require extensive medical treatment. Excessive drinking can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, mental health issues, and a stroke. Fortunately, the less you drink the lower your long term health risks become.


Withdrawal Symptoms: What To Expect

If you suffer from alcohol addiction or dependence you may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal if you suddenly stop drinking and it is important to know what to expect and seek medical advice before you go cold turkey.

Since alcohol has a physical effect on the body, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are due to the changes that your body experiences when you suddenly stop drinking after long term alcohol abuse. Alcohol has a sedating or depressant effect on brain function and when exposed to long-term alcohol abuse the body adjusts its own chemistry to deal with the effects of the alcohol, producing an excessive amount of serotonin or norepinephrine. When the alcohol is suddenly not available, the brain becomes overstimulated.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms commonly occur within eight to ten hours of giving up drinking and usually are at their worst after 24 to 72-hours but withdrawal can last weeks. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe and you need to be prepared for what you will experience. Common psychological symptoms can include, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and nightmares.

Physical symptoms often include shaking, clammy skin, sweating, dilated pupils, headaches, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, increased heart rate and tremors. The most dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal occurs in severe alcoholics and is known as delirium tremens. This condition causes fevers, hallucinations, seizures, agitation, and confusion as the brain battles to readjust its chemical levels.

Giving up alcohol can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Contact us today and we can help you kick the habit.

John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 30th May 2022

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.