How To Become Sober: Climbing A Slippery Slope
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Alcohol is not associated with any significant benefits. Although alcohol may help individuals sleep, it can also cause restlessness and a lack of sleep quality, leading to difficulty waking up or grogginess during the night. Some people use alcohol to reduce focus on their worries. However, as a depressant, this substance can lead to further stress over time. Although alcohol can increase socialization abilities temporarily, it can also lead to social embarrassment and isolation.
Concerning health, career, relationships, and self-respect, there are a few reasons sobriety may be beneficial. Although there can be justifications for drinking, alcohol may cause more challenges than it helps, especially in the case of physical and mental dependency.
Social Drinking Vs. Alcohol Addiction: What's The Difference?
Some individuals may believe they're in control of their drinking to the point they realize how dependent they've become. Because of its prominence in social situations and daily life, dependence or addiction may occur without someone being aware of it.
If you suspect you have a substance use disorder, it may be beneficial to try quitting alcohol for a month to see how you react. If you "could but don't want to," consider examining what role alcohol plays in your life. As with other addictions, if a substance starts to impact your functioning at work, home, school, or daily tasks, you may be living with a mental health condition. If you've ever missed work, canceled social appointments, or developed excuses to drink alcohol, you may be using it unhealthily.
How To Choose Sobriety
Overcoming alcohol addiction may be similar to learning a foreign language. You can follow a program and attempt to understand the facts behind it. Still, your success or failure may rely more on your dedication to overcoming obstacles and progressing toward your goal. This dedication may not naturally occur from choosing to stop drinking once and expecting each day to be easy. You may have to choose not to drink multiple times a day.
When choosing sobriety, you may not benefit if you neglect your efforts for six days out of the week and choose to make a healthy choice on the seventh day. Daily work can be critical. For this reason, some people going through dependency may attend support groups daily to meet with peers who can keep them accountable for their goals. With consistent efforts and professional help, people who try to overcome their addiction experience success every day.
Tips To Make Sobriety Work For You
It could seem that quitting alcohol only involves willpower. However, the cravings you experience for this substance can have roots in your body's physiological responses. Physical symptoms may be overwhelming if you don't understand the implications. Below are a few tips to make sobriety work for you.
Improve Your Diet
Certain foods can increase alcohol cravings, while others reduce it. Your body is an integrated system, so what you put into it affects your physical symptoms. Maintaining a stable blood sugar level can be essential. With the strain alcohol can put on the liver, you can offset health challenges by eating whole grains and vegetables instead of sugary snacks. Natural foods digest more slowly, offering more consistent energy than instant relief, which may provoke a craving for a drink.
Additionally, it may be beneficial to eat foods that assist in leveling your brain chemistry. Raw spinach, sunflower seeds, bananas, peas, and oily fish can increase serotonin production in the brain, which may improve mood. If your drinking habit has been long-term, consult a primary care physician about additional supplements or foods that may benefit your health.
In addition, try to drink daily recommended amounts of water. Heavy drinkers are often chronically dehydrated, so drinking water may reduce toxins in your bloodstream in the weeks after you quit drinking alcohol.
Among the ways alcohol damages the body, its effect on circulation may be the most detrimental. People with a dependency on alcohol are at risk of strokes and heart ailments, and insufficient blood flow can cause a range of undesirable effects.
While running an ultramarathon might not be in your immediate future, walking for 30 minutes daily may strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, and improve your oxygenated blood flow to where it's needed. Exercise also aids in regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, improving your mood and lessening your desire for alcohol.
Try Not To Fear Failure
Some people recovering from addiction may make mistakes in the process, such as having a drink at a party or relapsing. Lapses can happen. Instead of being overly critical of yourself, take the process one step at a time. Going from sober-curious to sober can take time and patience.
Try not to allow one incident to destroy your willpower. Experiencing one lapse doesn't mean you've failed in your pursuit to get sober. Don't use it as an excuse to start drinking again or abandon sobriety altogether.
If you relapse, acknowledge you've made a mistake and try to figure out what led to it to avoid the same circumstances in the future. Talk to your counselor about what happened, frankly and openly, and try to get to the core. Addiction and its causes can be complex. Having support as you try sobriety can be a step in becoming sober permanently.
Avoiding Inciting Events: How To Speed Up Sobriety
Some people may neglect attending to the emotional aspects of addiction and focus on how to "logically" reach a goal. However, taking a 100% logical approach may not help you stop drinking, especially when emotional factors like stress, depression, and trauma cause drinking in the first place. Below are a few ways to speed up sobriety by focusing on your emotional needs.
Have A Healthy Social System In Place
One way to resolve emotional connections to alcohol is to have someone you can freely talk to without shame or pretense. Group sessions with people in similar situations can be helpful, although a counselor you can contact at any time has distinct advantages. Expressing yourself in words may help you release the emotional power behind them. In addition, knowing someone is listening can give you the strength to stay sober one more day.
Set Boundaries At Work
One common source of stress for individuals is their careers. While you may not get by without a job, you may be able to ask to temporarily reduce your hours, delegate responsibilities, and take on fewer new responsibilities. In a healthy work environment, your employer may be willing to work with you as you attempt to better your life. Addressing a problem head-on and setting healthy boundaries often shows responsibility and fortitude.
Avoid Unhealthy Relationships
Some people who stop drinking may notice that their friends are unsupportive and try to convince them to resume drinking. Having toxic relationships may increase your risk of returning to your alcohol habits and may also worsen your emotional state after drinking. Cutting these individuals out of your life and focusing on building connections with people who respect your sobriety can be essential.
Identify Harmful Routines And Habits
Identifying the routines and habits that often lead you to drink may also be valuable. Consider which inciting events make you want to binge drink. Habits like going out after work, having a beer while you watch TV, or spending time with your parents may lead you to want to drink more than in other situations. As a person living with an addiction, you may subconsciously resist awareness of what leads to excessive drinking, so it may be helpful to have a therapist to talk to about these challenges.
What To Expect When Withdrawing From Alcohol
Alcohol addiction changes the chemistry of your brain and can physically impact you, including after you stop drinking.
There are two stages of withdrawal. The first stage of alcohol withdrawal occurs almost immediately after ceasing to drink alcohol. This stage may involve physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, and tremors. Having someone to talk to may help you better endure this stage. If you have been drinking significant amounts for a long time, consider going through this stage with medical supervision in a detox facility to ensure your physical safety, as alcohol withdrawal may sometimes be dangerous.
After the "acute" stage of withdrawal has passed, your physical and mental health may improve. Between one and two months after quitting, however, long-term heavy drinkers may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can persist for several months. In this period, recovering drinkers may experience relapse, as the symptoms of this syndrome are often more emotional than physical and may bring up memories of inciting events that caused one to start drinking in the first place.
Your brain may rewire itself for sobriety. Insomnia, low energy, anxiety, and mood swings are standard features of this period. These symptoms may lead to wanting to drink again. Having a counselor experienced in addiction or a support group sponsor may be beneficial during this stage, as they can help you stay strong during the most trying times.
Some people going through the sobriety process may choose to work with a mental health professional. In working with an in-person or online therapist, you may discover that excessive drinking is only a surface phenomenon reflecting more profound challenges. These challenges may be internal or external but can often be solved through treatment planning and problem-solving techniques.
If you're curious about seeing an online therapist through a platform like BetterHelp, it can be helpful to know that online therapy has been proven effective in delivering high-quality treatment to people living with substance use disorders. In studies, participants could get support more effectively than with in-person providers. Participants could use videoconferencing regardless of where they lived, benefiting those living in remote areas. Participants also reported a high level of satisfaction with this method.
In addition to having the flexibility to meet with a therapist regardless of geographic location, online therapy users can schedule appointments at convenient times. If you anticipate a future moment where you might benefit from support, you can reserve an appointment in advance. Alternatively, if you are going through a challenging moment, you can message your therapist and receive a response as soon as they're available.
Riky is so insightful and helpful. Each step in therapy, she has been so kind and understanding. She makes you feel like you're on a team working towards recovery, rather than feeling alone.
I’ve been in recovery for four months now. My weekly conversations with Annalicia have been critical in maintaining my sobriety and in living a healthier, more organized lifestyle. She treats me with kindness and respect while providing invaluable advice and perspective concerning both my sober journey and dealing with feelings of anxiety. Whenever I sit down for a session with Annalicia, I know I can look forward to an open mind, an empathetic ear, and a meaningful exchange. In taking the initial steps to live soberly, I was stripped of my coping mechanisms; Annalicia, however, has provided me with useful tools to deal with stress and anxiety while helping me build a new system of healthier coping skills conducive to a sober lifestyle. I look forward to our continued relationship, as she has been a crucial asset to my mental health and my positive lifestyle.
What is the best way to get sober?
The best way to get sober often involves a combination of factors and typically requires professional help. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol consumption can have serious adverse health effects, so it's crucial to address alcohol dependence and seek treatment as quickly as possible.
Here are some ways you can start on the road to sobriety:
- Seeking professional help: A trained addiction counselor or therapist can provide personalized treatment and support, including creating a recovery plan tailored to your needs. By assessing your situation, they can determine the best course of action for you to achieve and maintain sobriety.
- Attending support groups: (AA) or other support groups offer a safe and supportive space to talk experiences, gain insight and tools from others in recovery, and find accountability partners.
- Find alternative coping mechanisms: Instead of turning to alcohol, there are healthier ways to cope with stress, boredom, or other triggers. Some examples include exercise, mindfulness practices, spending time in nature, or engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
- Creating a strong support network: Surrounding yourself with people who have your best interests at heart and who support your decision to get sober is crucial. Your support network can include friends, family members, or others in recovery.
- Addressing underlying issues: Often, alcohol dependence is a symptom of deeper emotional or psychological challenges. Working to identify triggers and underlying issues can help you address them and prevent relapse.
Sobriety is a journey, and there may be bumps along the way. It's essential to remember that setbacks do not mean failure. Recovery is possible when you stay committed to seeking help and making positive changes. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself during the process.
How can I motivate myself to get sober?
Motivating yourself to get sober can be a challenging but crucial decision for your health and well-being. Here are some strategies to help you find the motivation for seeking addiction treatment:
- Acknowledging the problem: The first step is recognizing and accepting that there is a problem with substance abuse. Understanding the negative impact it has on your life and the lives of those around you can be a powerful motivator for change.
- Setting clear goals: Setting achievable, specific, and realistic goals for yourself can help keep you accountable and focused on your recovery journey. For example, you may want to set a goal of attending a support group meeting at least once a week.
- Visualizing the benefits: When you imagine your life without the impact of alcohol, what does it look like? Visualizing the positive changes and benefits of sobriety can help motivate you to act.
- Educating Yourself: Learning about the risks and consequences of addiction or drug abuse can provide you with a better understanding of its impact on your health and life. This knowledge can serve as a motivator to seek help.
- Taking small steps: Recovery can be overwhelming, so it's essential to break it down into smaller, manageable steps. You should celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, as it can motivate and encourage you to keep going.
- Staying accountable: Establishing a system of accountability can help keep you on track. Checking in with a supportive friend, therapist, or sponsor can give you the necessary support and encouragement to stay motivated.
Seeking substance abuse treatment is a courageous step towards a healthier and more fulfilling life. While motivation may ebb and flow, a desire for positive change can help you remain committed to recovery.
How long will it take me to sober up?
The time it takes to sober up can vary significantly from person to person. The process depends on several factors, including the level of addiction, individual physiology, and the individual's commitment to recovery. There is no fixed timeline for achieving long-term sobriety; it is a lifelong journey.
For someone with a mild or moderate alcohol use disorder who is highly motivated, it may be possible to start the journey to long-term sobriety within a matter of weeks or months. However, it can take longer for individuals with severe addiction, often involving several months or even years of treatment, therapy, and ongoing support.
Long-term sobriety requires ongoing commitment and a willingness to address the underlying factors contributing to alcohol dependence. While high-quality behavioral healthcare and certain treatment practices can set the foundation for recovery, it's up to the individual to maintain sobriety and make positive changes in their life.
The key is not to focus solely on the duration but to prioritize the steps needed to maintain sobriety. Seeking professional help, engaging in therapy, joining mutual support groups, and making necessary lifestyle changes are crucial components of the process.
Does coffee sober you up?
Coffee does not sober you up. Coffee can create a sense of alertness but doesn't reverse the effects of alcohol. When people consume alcoholic drinks, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, leading to impaired judgment, coordination, and reaction times. While caffeine in coffee can make you feel more awake and alert, it does not lower your BAC or eliminate the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
The perception that coffee sobers you up might come from the fact that it can temporarily counteract alcohol-induced drowsiness. However, it doesn't reduce the impairment caused by alcohol, such as impaired motor skills and decision-making. Therefore, someone who has had too much to drink should not rely on coffee to make it safe to drive or make sound judgments.
Time is the only effective way to sober up, as your body metabolizes alcohol at a relatively constant rate. The best course of action after consuming alcoholic drinks is to wait until you are completely sober before engaging in any activities that require full cognitive and motor skills.
What happens when you get sober?
When you decide to get sober from alcohol, several significant changes occur in your body and life. Initially, you may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the absence of alcohol. These symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and physical discomfort. However, a treatment provider can help you manage these symptoms through various therapeutic approaches and, if necessary, medications.
As you continue on your journey to sobriety, your body will undergo several positive changes. These may include improved sleep, increased energy, better digestion, and reduced risk of various health problems, such as liver disease and certain cancers. Your mental and emotional well-being can also improve, with reduced anxiety and depression, improved cognitive function, and enhanced relationships with friends and family.
Getting sober isn't just about eliminating alcohol from your life. Sobriety is a transformative process that can lead to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. Mental health services and support groups can provide the necessary tools, resources, and guidance to maintain long-term sobriety and achieve your goals.
How long does alcohol stay in the blood?
Alcohol in the bloodstream can be detected through various tests, and its duration can vary. According to the American Addiction Centers, different alcohol detection tests have different detection windows. In the blood, alcohol can be measured for up to 12 hours, while on the breath, it can be detected for 12 to 24 hours. Urine tests can detect alcohol for 12 to 24 hours and sometimes up to 72 hours after heavier use. Saliva tests can typically detect alcohol for up to 12 hours. Hair tests have the longest detection window, spanning up to 90 days.
It's important to note that the half-life of alcohol, which is the time it takes for half of the alcohol to be eliminated from the body, is between 4 and 5 hours. While alcohol levels decrease over time, factors like metabolism, hydration, and the amount of alcohol consumed can influence how long it stays in the body.
Why can't I go sober?
Achieving and maintaining sobriety can be a complex process influenced by many variables.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), individual-level risk factors may make it challenging for some individuals to go sober. These factors can include a person's genetic predisposition to addiction, which means some individuals may be more genetically vulnerable to developing substance dependence. Additionally, exposure to alcohol prenatally, during fetal development, can increase the risk of addiction later in life.
On the other hand, individual-level protective factors can play a crucial role in supporting sobriety. These factors may include a positive self-image, self-control, and social competence. Cultivating these protective factors, seeking support from professionals and support networks, and availing addiction treatment services can all be part of the journey toward achieving and maintaining sobriety. It's important to recognize that each person's experience with addiction and recovery is unique, and a personalized approach is often needed to address the specific challenges they face.
Does it get easier to be sober?
Understanding how to get sober is often the most challenging part of the journey. As you progress through treatment and recovery, you may find it easier to maintain sobriety. However, this doesn't mean that becoming sober is an easy process.
Many people in recovery experience cravings and may face temptations or triggers throughout their journey. Learning how to cope with these challenges and developing healthy coping mechanisms can make staying sober more manageable. The behavioral health industry is continuously evolving, and new treatments and therapies are being developed to help individuals on their path to recovery.
As a convenient solution, online therapy can offer support and guidance for those seeking sobriety. Working with a licensed therapist, individually or in group settings, can provide an additional layer of accountability and help you develop the necessary skills to successfully continue your sober journey. So, while getting and staying sober may not be easy, it can be possible with the right resources and support.
What happens if you're never sober?
Continually consuming alcohol without any periods of sobriety can severely affect one's physical and mental health. Alcohol use and addiction can lead to numerous health problems, but you may also face social, financial, and legal issues.
Chronic alcohol use can cause damage to vital organs like the liver, brain, and heart. It can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain cancers. Prolonged alcohol abuse can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment.
In addition to these health effects, alcohol addiction can strain relationships with loved ones and lead to financial struggles and legal consequences. For example, driving under the influence can result in DUI charges and potentially serious legal consequences, including fines, jail time, and even loss of driver's license.
Continually consuming alcohol without periods of sobriety is not sustainable for a healthy life. Seeking help and support for alcohol addiction and working towards sobriety can improve your overall well-being and set you on a path toward a happier, healthier future.
Why do I feel weird when I'm sober?
When people consume alcohol regularly, their body and brain become accustomed to its effects. So when they stop drinking, their system goes through an adjustment period as it readjusts to functioning without alcohol.
During this adjustment period, some individuals may experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Common physical symptoms may include headaches, nausea, tremors, and sweating. Psychological symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.
These withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. While it may feel strange to experience these symptoms while sober, it's important to remember that they are temporary and typically part of the recovery process.
Medical guidance and support should be sought for those who experience severe withdrawal symptoms to ensure their safety and well-being. With time, the body will stabilize, and these symptoms will subside, allowing individuals to continue their sobriety journey.
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