Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol – just shakes?

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol

Now when I started writing this I decided I was a bit of a fraud as when I got admitted with symptoms of liver disease I had not had a drink in a few days. At best, I was a social drinker with wine and a long lunches with friends so that was my guilty or not so guilty pleasure.

Before we get to the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, how did I get here?

So when I was rushed into hospital all yellow with jaundice and a massive stomach like a balloon had it been inserted inside of me they thought it was cancer.

Yet all the signs said liver disease related to drinking but they were not happy with that so I got tested for everything. It turns out I am very healthy apart from my liver which struggles on the best it can.

My point is you don’t have to be a massive drinker in the usual perceived way to become very ill from alcohol. So are there symptoms when you give up, for me personally no but for others it can be tough.

Let’s look at the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and a world that is not very sympathetic to giving up, the treatment of it, and of course the judgment flies in thick and fast.

Although I have to say my medical intervention in the hospital was nothing but first class but of course they deal with the body not the brain.

Moderation or Cutting Out – The choice is yours

I don’t say that with glee either. I have not drunk a drop of alcohol apart from the natural fermentation in bread and organic juice for at least 18 months. Did I go on a programme, no? Did I get coaching or therapy, no, so what happened?

My consultant told me I would die if I did not give up! It was such a hypnotic suggestion that my brain had rewired before he had finished speaking.

It reminded me of the scene in the film “Jerry Maquire” where Tom goes back to Zene to get her and he starts speaking and she just says “you had me at hello”.

Mine was hardly a Tom Cruise moment but I think the logistics of the brain work the same.

I don’t give advice no-one likes it and it can be very preachy, but here is the thing, if you are worried about it then part of you knows its a problem but you dismiss then go on as before.

However, when I was lying on my liver ward watching the film “Argo” for the 5th time as it was the only one I had downloaded on my tablet and the WiFi was less than good, the one thing that kept coming up for me was “I wish I had trusted my instincts that alcohol was causing me a health issue”.

So what does that mean?

  • Are you drinking more than 14 units a week and it’s becoming a regular thing?
  • Are you getting health issues that you think could be related to alcohol?
  • Are there days when you cannot function as normal?
  • Is your gut telling you that something is wrong? I mean metaphorically as well as in reality.

Now of course, we are all different but there is one thing I do know, that if you get rid of alcohol completely the benefits you will see are greater and in my case it saved my life.

In reality, it might be more realistic way to go for a gradual approach which leads to a completely different lifestyle. I know it’s one of the reasons I am passionate about having no alcohol options available in bars.

In terms of zero drinks the availability is not there yet but the quality has gone up massively. I know I have tried many and it’s not an issue for me although I know for some people it is.

For me from personal experience alcohol is “no go area” after being given 48 hours to live. The red lights are:

  • you have liver damage, such as liver disease or cirrhosis

This can get to the stage where you cannot reverse the damage. I live with it successfully but trust me it’s not a pleasant option and contrary to belief no-one will hand you a liver transplant on a plate.

Sounds gory I know but there can be major complications with transplants and of course you can never drink before or after, if you do it won’t happen even before you get on any waiting list. I am lucky as I don’t need one but I have heard people say it as an option, that its just a given. It isn’t.

Giving up a drink, yes it might halt the decline in your liver even if it can’t reverse it!

  • Heart disease

That can be affected by alcohol so it’s worth getting checked. Again its talked about more than liver disease but often overlooked.

  • Some Medications

Have alcohol in them, which I have written about much to the surprise of my blog followers. Some medications can react very badly with alcohol and if you have liver disease don’t go there! Talk to your pharmacists, generally they are great and I have had only one that was judgmental.

  • Pregnant or planning to become pregnant

The evidence is well documented and now breweries are adding pregnancy safe labels to alcohol free drinks. Smart move!

If you have tried cutting back before and it has not worked maybe you need to go for the full cutting out.

Help with alcohol is sparse.

There are a few choices but in my experience try and avoid interventions that label you as an alcoholic. Once you develop an identity about your drinking it becomes harder to shift. So see it has a habit or behaviour rather than who you are.

Now if you are totally dependent at a serious level seek medical advice as coming off it straight away ( going cold turkey) can cause fatal death in some cases where the body goes into shock. You might be offered medication to keep you off the drink or there are numerous counseling sessions you could attend. However, make sure in my view:

  • They don’t treat it at an identity level
  • They don’t judge you.
  • Even as a trained therapist and coach I have received a lot of judgment from other therapists once I mentioned my liver and I was not even there for therapy but in a professional capacity. It did not play well with me being told to sit in a corner and drink fizzy water rather than alcohol free drinks.

Detox support can be dependent on the level of drinking you are at. For me there was not any I just stopped however for some it can be treated with drugs and social observations either at home or in hospital.

The problem of course is what defines a heavy drinker is often misconstrued at so many levels including labeling people as alcoholic and you don’t actually have to drink much over the recommended allowance to be called one, even if your doctor drinks more than you!

What I have learned is that alcohol is a loaded word and a “discriminatory” one as well even before you get liver disease. There are lots of people in glass houses out there!

So what are the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol?

48 hours

This can be a crucial time as you feel at your worst. You get better the longer you refrain and your body adjusts, this can take anything up to 7 days from the last glass of vino! Of course, we are human so everyone is different.

Sleep

If you sleep well which is not always the case with alcohol you may not find that you don’t sleep well at all. Frequent waking is common as well as feeling anxious and even depressed. Over time this will hopefully turn back to normal .

Shakes and anxiety

  • This is very similar to panic attacks as your body is reacting to coming off alcohol.
  • Disorientation
  • Shakes
  • Temperature changes
  • Feeling sick
  • Wanting to escape somewhere.
  • Moody
  • Angry

Flight of fight

Remember you body is in the middle of fight or flight which it has learned since the beginning of time and is natural. Plus there are lots of chemicals in your body swelling around before they are excreted and that takes time. Alcohol is a poison!

Water, water

You can feel very dehydrated but you need more water not alcohol. 3 liters a day is often the recommended amount.

When I was in hospital even though I had what they call “ascites” which is fluid on the legs and stomach they monitored my fluid intake three times a day. However, many people think coffee sounds like all healing drink.

There is evidence that says coffee can help with your liver but its caffeine so it could worsen your sleep patterns. Avoid it if you can and stick to low sugar drinks and water. Remember the body is made mostly out of water.

Eat

Try to eat regular meals, even if you’re not feeling hungry. Your appetite will return gradually.

Avoid driving

This is especially true if you have been given medication but never a good idea if you are in an agitated state.

This will all pass

Remember it only takes a few glasses of wine over the limit to start getting these symptoms especially if it is becoming a daily occurrence. It will go, so the more stress management you can do the better:

  • Talk about it ( to people who don’t judge)
  • Music is a great healer
  • Walk
  • Take a long bath
  • Do self hypnosis

( I have highlighted a great hypnosis course below from my affiliate partner), it is an issue for you. I highly recommend them having trained with them and doing many of their courses. I get a small fee for referring but you pay the same price on any of their courses.

Detox

Detox can be a stressful time but imagine the pain you won’t prevent if you do nothing. I know the people in the liver ward said exactly the same thing to me. Once you know it is the worst of two evils it helps you think “no more for me”.

The other benefits moving forward:

  • Think of the money you will save ( a holiday maybe)
  • No more hangovers
  • Enjoy food more
  • Do different social activities rather than drinking wine over lunch
  • Enjoy a range of now alcoholic drinks that are getting better and better in terms of taste.
  • Oh and save your life! Did I mention that one?

Drugs

Only take drugs that you think can help after consultation with your doctor, that are prescribed otherwise you are replacing one issue for another. I have never used drugs as I didn’t need to but for some I know it can be a lifeline.

Watch your triggers!

Now for some people certain situations can trigger you to start drinking again. A trigger is something that fires off a connection in your head to restart an action or memory.

It’s one of the reasons people love the top ten at 10 features on the radio, it can take them back to happy or a sad memory.

Alcoholic free drinks are not recommended for everyone. Although I personally don’t have an issue and find them great for social activity as it takes away the pressure from friends and work colleagues.

Some triggers that should be avoided for some people include:

Aftershave and perfume : Now I have stopped using it because of my liver issue but people can find the waft of alcohol smell triggers the desire to drink.

Mouthwash : Many mouthwashes contain alcohol as a lovely hygienist wrote on the 00abv blog it’s not needed! So I now use zero alcohol mouthwash again for health reasons but if this is a trigger for you avoid.

Some types of food

I was shocked when I started this blog that some foods contain alcohol including bread rolls and orange juice. Now of course it’s a trace of alcohol by and large but I find it slightly ironic that people say stay away from alcohol free beer that may have traces when juice may have even more!

Its all down to natural fermentation. Now this may be a health issue as it is for me or a trigger, only you will know.

Be aware of all the alcohol in desserts and main courses when eating out. I just take the view I have an allergy to eating it and they remove straight away and offer an alternative. If I say I have liver disease they stare at me blankly.

Alcohol Fumes

This has never been so true since covid, now there is alcohol sanitizer everywhere including in restaurants. Now you can ask for it to be removed and again I say I have an allergy before being forced into using it.

There are non-alcoholic ones available so carry one with you and for me it’s just a health thing but if it’s a trigger best be safe. The same can be true of paint believe it or not!

The golden rules are clear, know what works or does not work for you whether that is because of a trigger, a preference or avoidance on health grounds.

The powerful diary technique

Now as a coach with clients I have used this well for various things including drinking, moods, goals and anxiety. In fact highly stressed executives who drink do this all the time and it really helps. The key of course is awareness.:

  • Write down all the alcoholic drinks you have consumed if you are wanting to cut back
  • What time you had them
  • Where you were
  • How many units you drank- for the sake of simplicity just say 1 unit is 1 standard drink, it’s far too complicated otherwise!

In true coaching style you need to know where you are before you decide where you want to go, As that great quote from the best business book ever “Alice in Wonderland” says via the lovely cat :

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Comments and good luck

Whatever your reason for giving up good luck, it requires action but it can be done. If it’s your health or dependency just think what could happen if you don’t change, think about what you want and seek help, it is out there.

Never be shamed and remember it may be an addiction, a behavior but it is certainly not who you are.

What’s been your experience of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol ? How were your symptoms? Did you find it hard or are you planning to give up soon? I would love to hear your views. I always respond.

4 thoughts on “Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol – just shakes?”

  1. I am sorry that happened to you. Fatty Liver Disease is no joke so pay attention to our intake is very important. Our liver is basically doing a lot of work. It is basically just freaking out and do not what to do with the energy from alcohol. Anyways, I think moderation will be my answer. I feel that when I restrict myself from something that I enjoy here and there, I tend to binge. That is just for me though.

    What juices has alcohol? But I think it is again all about the tax regulation that is why we have no idea. I am glad I never really experienced all the withdrawal symptoms, maybe I did when I was in my partying prime lol but not anymore. 

    I think taking it one day at a time and focus on activities that doesn’t involve drinking is definitely a perfect place to start. 

    Reply
    • Hey Nuttanee, thanks so much for your very thoughtful and kind reply. It is reallly appreciated. I think most people underestimate the work the liver has to do including helping our immune system. Moderation is a great place to be! To answer your question about juice, anything that involves fermentation will have a trace including orange juice but for most people it is harmless. I love the fact you like the activities idea. It certainly can help people. Once again much appreciated, all the best, Phil

      Reply
  2. This is very good to have and it was very thoughtful of you to share it, many people are suffering from alcohol and it’s effects, they’re not able to abstain from it and som e are so addicted that it affects their whole life. It’s good to site yourself as an example and it’s good to learn from that, these symptoms are very practical and can be easily noticed. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • My pleasure and thanks for a great summary. There are a wide range of withdrawl symptoms some severe and some not so but awareness is key. I really appreciate you taking time out to comment. All the best, Phil

      Reply

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