When taking on any journey, the first steps are often the hardest. 

And when you are trying to fight an addiction to alcohol or drugs, the first 30 days of sobriety are usually the most challenging. You have made a commitment to change, but it is hard. 

The first month without the substance that has controlled your life can be the toughest; it can feel worse before it feels better. Your body and mind need time to adjust to the change and this change brings both physical and emotional struggles.

The important thing to remember is that this is a challenge you can accept, these struggles can be overcome.

Knowing what to expect can empower you- and your network of family and friends- to get you through your first 30 days of sobriety from alcohol or drugs.

The first days sober from alcohol

Before you reach your first 30 days sober, you need to get through your first day, your first week. 

What you experience in the first few days of detox will depend on the nature of your drinking. People who have been drinking heavily on a daily basis are going to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms compared to someone who tops up or who is more of a short-term binge drinker. 

The bad news? Your first three days will be the hardest!

The good news is that you may be past the worst after those first 72 hours. 

At the Recovery Lodge these first few days are medically managed by our team of psychologists, doctors and counsellors who will support you in these first few days of your recovery. 

Alcohol withdrawal Symptoms 

When you first give up alcohol, you will experience significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which, can in some cases, be extremely dangerous.

The more you drink on a regular basis, the more you’re likely to be affected by withdrawal symptoms.

People that are habitual heavy drinkers, those that have struggled with alcohol dependency, who decrease the amount they drink or stop drinking altogether, may experience more significant withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal symptoms are part of a condition called ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’, which is a reaction caused when someone who has become dependent on alcohol is deprived of it.

What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological in nature, and range in severity from mild to severe.

Typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can start within a few hours, up to a day, from the last alcoholic drink. They can include:

  • Hand tremors (‘the shakes’)
  • Sweating
  • A raised pulse rate (above 100 beats per minute)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Nightmares

More severe symptoms can also include psychosis or psychotic episodes, hallucinations that are either visual or auditory, as well as seizures or delirium tremens (‘DTs’). Delirium tremens is one of the more severe symptoms and can include severe disorientation, increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing problems or uncontrollable restless behaviour.

How to relieve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

If you experience any of these withdrawal symptoms, you should seek expert medical support to help you reduce and stop your drinking. This support can include specific prescription medication for people with a severe alcohol dependency, to avoid the danger seizures, which can in some cases result in permanent injury or death.

But there are some steps you can take too: 

  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of non-alcoholic drinks (but avoid caffeine)
  • Try to eat regularly a good balance of vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Find ways to relax, like reading, going for a walk, or listening to music, mindfulness exercise or meditation
  • Seek support and company from other people in recovery or non-dependent friends and family

What to expect from your first weeks sober 

Week one sober

During your first week of sobriety, the concentration of alcohol in your body is rapidly decreasing, which can lead to some of the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. An emotional roller coaster ride is normal.

In this first week, the main goal is to handle your symptoms in productive ways. Have a plan to learn new coping strategies and create new daily routines. 

Week two sober

Typically, in week two the physical effects of withdrawal start to fade. The challenge this week becomes more mental and emotional. To resist urges, it’s important to remember why you started this journey two weeks ago. Make mini goals to start working toward. Give yourself something to accomplish each day to keep moving forward on a healthy path.

Week three sober

In week three, the challenges are less physical and more mental. As your body makes the adjustments to sobriety, your mind needs to catch up. You may experience intense moods and mood swings. Anger and agitation are common.

Week four sober

As your body is cleansed of alcohol, which has to date clouded your sensations and information gathering, you may begin to experience sensory overload. Information from the outside world can begin to flood all of your senses. For some this can be overwhelming and it is quite normal to experience noise sensitivity, migraines, increased restlessness, and depression.

What happens to your body after 30 days sober?

If this all sounds like too much, there is some good news! From the first few days of sobriety, your body – and mind- WILL undergo some very positive changes, once the alcohol leaves your system. 

Your immune system improves

Alcohol suppresses your body’s immune system, so when you’re free and clear of it, even in the first few weeks you’ll notice that you are less likely to succumb to all the little colds and viruses that hit the office, and even if you do come down with something, your recovery time will be reduced. 

Better sleep

After the initial insomnia, after a month of not drinking and doing regular exercise, you will find that you begin to sleep better.  

Stay More hydrated

When you drink alcohol, you lose around four times as much liquid as what you actually drank. Dehydration can cause headaches, while your salt and potassium levels also reduce, which can impact nerve and proper muscle function while also causing headaches, fatigue and nausea.

Lose weight more easily

If you were to give up drinking six 175 ml glasses of wine a week, you would save around 960 calories, which is the equivalent to three burgers or five and a half bags of crisps.

Improve your digestive function

Too much alcohol can irritate your digestive system, causing indigestion and acid reflux. Without it you can better absorb essential nutrients and vitamins. 

Improved skin health

Alcohol can cause red and blotchy or puffy skin. Alcohol-free skin is better hydrated, reducing dry patches that can inflame conditions like eczema.

Reduced blood pressure

Alcohol consumption is directly linked to high blood pressure, which is known to be one of the main causes of heart disease.

A healthier liver

Removing the toxins like alcohol from the blood is a major function of the liver. Too much alcohol can cause severe damage but the liver can repair itself from the moment you stop drinking. 

Seek support to stay sober 

If you want to get sober, but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us today.

Whether you’re in treatment, detoxing on your own or attending regular AA meetings, it’s a really good idea to find someone who has been sober longer than you have to support your road to recovery. 

Remember, some people will experience the benefits of going dry at different times, or not at all. This can be down to how much you were drinking before, other lifestyle changes or just the quirks of your particular body. 

That doesn’t mean that in the first 30 days it won’t feel extremely hard or that your body and mind aren’t reaping the benefits. You will feel better over the longer term – so don’t give up! There are plenty of good things happening internally which you might not notice at first.

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