All addicts who want to break the cycle of dependence on their drug of choice, whether it be alcohol, heroin, cocaine or whatever, have to begin by going through a process of detoxification. In this article we will cover what that means for the alcohol addict.
Alcohol addiction has physical and mental components and usually, before a rehabilitation programme can begin, the physical aspect must be addressed. The physical dependence must be overcome and this is done through alcohol detox, often a painful and difficult process that causes, inter alia, bodily aches and pains, anxiety, chills. It means complete abstinence from alcohol.
Addicts to all substances have to go through detox, but alcohol detox is one of the most difficult and dangerous. The surest and safest way to get through the process is with medical help in a properly supervised programme.
When should you seek help?
Alcohol abuse is dangerous and destructive. If you have a drink problem you should seek help as early as you can. You may have a drink problem if:
- You need an increasing amount of alcohol to become intoxicated.
- You wake up with the shakes and need a drink to calm yourself down.
- Alcohol is beginning to take charge of your life – you sacrifice other activities for a drink.
- You continue to drink despite knowing the problems that it is causing.
- You drink secretly or alone and keep alcohol secreted in unusual places.
- Alcohol is causing you to neglect your responsibilities – family, work etc.
- You deny you have a problem.
The more serious your drinking problem, the harder it becomes to detox. Even if you try to get help there may be delays outside your control. Alcohol detox should always be carried out under medical supervision at a specialised facility.
Also, if you are a woman and are pregnant then you should seek urgent help through your doctor or midwife, as alcohol can harm your unborn baby.
How to detox?
The decision to detox is the first step along your road to recovery, but do not try to go it alone. Alcohol detox can be a dangerous process and is best done under qualified medical supervision. Even trying to wean yourself off alcohol gradually is not a good idea. Get to a rehab clinic for detox – they will be able to give you the right advice and support and will help you through.
The withdrawal process is different for everyone and depends on factors such as general physical and mental health and length of time of abuse; everyone therefore responds differently. Usually, there are two to four days of acute withdrawal – the most severe being on the second or third day after the last drink – and the whole process generally takes about a week.
Detox is only the first step
You need to understand that alcohol detox is not rehabilitation; it is only the first step. Recovery requires a full programme of counselling and continued strong support. It is a tough and challenging road – the chance of experiencing a relapse in the first months after detox is high – but it will be a life changer.