Have you recently made the decision to stop drinking? Perhaps you've already detoxed from alcohol and are ready for recovery.
In either case, the road to recovery isn't easy. 40% of alcoholics eventually abstain from alcohol completely or become low-risk drinkers.
Relapse is common in the first year of recovery. It also occurs in some individuals after the first year and even after the third or fifth years.
There are, however, ways you can avoid relapse and make long-term recovery a reality. By understanding the alcohol recovery timeline, you can prepare yourself to defy the odds.
In this article, we'll explore 7 things that happen to your body during alcohol recovery. That way, you know what to expect in the days, months, and years ahead!
1. Acute Withdrawal
The time it takes for your body to flush away the last of the alcohol generally takes about a week to 10 days. The first 72 hours after your last drink, however, are crucial.
The first 72 hours is often the most difficult period. As the alcohol leaves your system, you may develop adverse physical side effects caused by acute alcohol withdrawal. Acute alcohol withdrawal is often the first thing that happens along the alcohol recovery timeline.
The symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal include:
- Appetite loss
These symptoms are most prevalent in the first 72 hours. They can last anywhere from a week to a month depending on the severity of a person's alcoholism. Those who drank heavily for months and years are more likely to develop acute alcohol withdrawal.
How to Cope with Withdrawal
It's important to stay hydrated during this time. Drinking lots of water and electrolyte beverages, such as Pedialyte, will prevent dehydration. They can also soothe some of the symptoms of withdrawal, like nausea and sweating.
Reaching out for support also helps. You need a support system of positive people who will encourage you to keep going. These should be people who will help you cope with withdrawal, not enable you.
In serious acute alcohol withdrawal, rapid heart rate, seizures, and hallucinations can occur. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
2. Post-Acute Withdrawal
For some people, detox starts the first hour since their last drink. Acute alcohol withdrawal can last up to two weeks. It's often this amount of time it takes for your body to detox from alcohol completely.
If you've made it through detox, you've overcome the hardest part. Next in the alcohol recovery timeline are the psychological effects of post-acute withdrawal.
During post-acute withdrawal, you may experience some (or all) of the following symptoms:
- Lower energy
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and depression
- Decreased libido
- Memory problems
You may also experience alcohol cravings as your brain and the central nervous system adjusts to the changes.
How to Cope with Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
During this time, it's imperative that you seek counseling and medical attention. Not only so you cope better with the symptoms of post-acute alcohol withdrawal. Therapy can also help you develop coping mechanisms to deal with alcohol cravings.
In the first month after quitting drinking, your liver function starts to improve as the liver fat decreases. You'll start to feel better physically and will likely start to lose belly fat.
Don't disrupt the progress you've already made once you get through acute withdrawal. Reach out to help so you can conquer post-acute withdrawal, as well.
You may also experience something known as anhedonia. Anhedonia is a loss of interest and pleasure. It often develops during the first weeks and months of the alcohol recovery timeline.
Anhedonia often develops during the transition from frequent alcohol usage to abstinence. They'll often withdraw socially or experience general malice and difficulty socializing.
Someone is likely to develop anhedonia if they have depression or anxiety. They're also more prone to anhedonia if they've recently experienced trauma or have a history of abuse or neglect.
How to Cope with Anhedonia
Here are some ideas on how to deal with anhedonia:
- Joining a gym or a sports team
- Practicing yoga or meditation
- Cooking new and healthier meals
- Taking up a new hobby, like knitting or painting
Some doctors may prescribe antidepressants to recovering alcoholics who are experiencing anhedonia.
It's important that you stay busy and find new activities you can enjoy that don't revolve around drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is not only helpful for staying sober. It can give you an opportunity to socialize and connect with others who know what you're going through.
The first weeks and months of recovery are physically the hardest.
After about a month or so, your body will no longer go through withdrawal. However, the road to recovery doesn't end there. The coming months and years are often the most difficult - emotionally and mentally.
Social events or certain people or places can trigger cravings. Stressful events or trauma can also trigger one's desire to start drinking again. Often times, these kinds of cravings can feel more physical than they do mental.
For as long as you stay sober, it's important that you keep working on your coping mechanisms. That way, should you experience triggering events, you'll be able to abstain from alcohol rather than giving in.
It's also good to keep reminding yourself of why you wanted to get sober. You can write reminders down in the form of inspiring quotes or as a list of goals or reasons.
Understanding the Alcohol Recovery Timeline
Recovering from alcohol addiction is a big accomplishment. It's physically and emotionally challenging, and you've made the decision to recover, you should feel proud of yourself.
You'll need reminders along the road of recovery to keep you moving forward. AA coins can mark each milestone you accomplish in recovery and can keep track of your progress.
Keep reminding yourself of why you wanted to get sober. For ideas, contact us at The Token Shop today!