What Happens when you First Quit Drinking? No matter what method you choose, when you first quit drinking you will experience a range of thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical stuff that you probably haven’t felt for a long time. Whether you do my program, another program or challenge, you will notice certain changes in your mind and body. They key to dealing with all of this is to be prepared, so below is a list of things to watch out for and what to do about them.
Everyone is different and I decided not to keep any alcohol in the house at all, but as we live in a pretty rural area, there wasn’t much choice of exciting alcohol-free beverages to choose from – I can’t even get coconut water. I stocked up on alcohol-free beers, water, lots of lovely teas and hot chocolate. Decide what you’re going to drink instead and get the shopping in!
Your body will be detoxing
Depending on how much alcohol you drank before you stop will depend on how your body reacts when you cut the supply. In my case, I was a bit all over the place in the beginning. I had loads of energy then suddenly felt really tired but couldn’t get to sleep at night. I couldn’t concentrate on very much, felt a bit spaced out and forgetful and just not with it. Other symptoms can be headaches, moodiness, getting emotional for no reason, anxiety or alcohol cravings. This is your body ridding itself of the liquid poison it has been dealing with for so long and although you might not think so, your body appreciates you for this, so be kind to yourself.
If you are seriously addicted to alcohol, then the withdrawal can be severe so please, don’t stop on your own – you must do so under medical supervision.
Cravings for alcohol will come
They might be slight and just a feeling of, ‘I want a beer’ or they might be stronger and feel overwhelming. In the program, we work on lots of different ways to beat these cravings but the thing to remember is that they will pass so try to do something else instead.
I found that if I ate regularly, I had fewer cravings but if I did get one, it was probably because my body wanted the sugar it was no longer getting from alcohol. I always kept something sweet with me, like chocolate or biscuits. I drank hot chocolate in the evening. Sober Mummy, Clare Pooley describes it as having healing properties and it does! Don’t feel guilty about having the odd sweet treat during the first few weeks.
Find something you like doing to take your mind off the craving. I love walking the dogs, so they had their legs ran off many times a day but you might want to do yoga, go for a run, listen to music – whatever it takes, do it.
You might be constantly thinking about drinking, in fact, you probably will and that’s okay. As long as you don’t turn thoughts into actions, you can think about it as much as you want.
I bought as many books as I could and read just as many blogs and websites, I was curious and spent my days reading about sobriety, the science stuff and other people’s stories which I like the best and still do. Some books I enjoyed and others I just didn’t get but I encourage you to read and watch as much as you can.
I was curious and spent my days reading about sobriety
My favourite films include When a Man Loves a Woman, 28 Days and Young Adult. Books I recommend are ‘Sober is the New Black’ by Rachel Black, ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray and of course the fabulous ‘Sober Diaries’by Clare Pooley. ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins, is a great non-fiction read with a boozy female lead.
Your toilet habits will change
When I first stopped drinking, I found I couldn’t do a number two – for days! I was used to free-flowing, black poos every day (maybe that was just me) But in the beginning, I just couldn’t go. No amount of water, cups of tea, apricots or green smoothies would work, until about four days in and I had the biggest sense of relief you could imagine! On the other hand, thanks to the water, cups of tea, and green smoothies I was peeing like, every 20 minutes or so. No-one told me that this is what happens when you first quit drinking and it was a total surprise. It will settle down, but be prepared for that one!
Your sleep will be affected
While you might find yourself needing nanna naps during the day (or siestas as we call them here in Spain) come bedtime you can spend hours staring at the ceiling until your eyeballs hurt. This is because we are used to anaesthetized sleep so when you take away the alcohol, you find going to sleep much harder. In the program, we look at alcohol and sleep in much more detail but try out lots of different bedtime routines.
I always, always meditate before bed and Buddhify has some lovely, lovely bedtime meditations. They also have some for you to do when you find you just can’t sleep to stop you tossing and turning all night.
Try a warm bath, or a book and hot chocolate, or journaling. The good news is that this too will pass and you’ll be sleeping like a baby again. And the best news is that right from the start, even if you struggle to sleep you won’t have the crippling guilt attacks at 3 am, there’s no more glugging water down every hour or the need to pee 25 times during the night.
What to do with yourself
I had many White Stripes moments when I just didn’t know what to do with myself! If this is you then my advice is just do something, anything (except drink of course)
Just move. Clean your house, have a bath, go for a walk, meditate, practice deep breathing, cook, do gardening, do grown-up colouring in, scream and shout or have a good cry. Just don’t sit there twiddling your thumbs wondering if you’ve made the right decision – you absolutely have.
Remember your Why
This is very, very helpful. Remember why you are doing this in the first place and keep a reminder of your why close to you. It might be a list of reasons why you wanted to stop in the first place, a list of what you will get back when you stop, a photo of you pissed as a fart and looking like death or your mood board or journal or post it notes all over the house.
Do whatever inspires and motivates you to keep going, this is your decision, your journey so do what you need to stay on your chosen path.
To sum up, these are some of the things you can expect in the beginning. Remember, it is just the beginning, you won’t be a jelly baby eating, constipated, loopy, tearful, moody, perpetual dog walker forever. Just watch and wait to discover the awesome things that will happen.
If you’re thinking about giving up drinking but you’re not sure what to do or where to start, or you know that you want to make a change but don’t know how, then sign up to the Sober Bliss newsletter to receive weekly doses of inspiration, motivation and a real insight into living a sober life.