Alcohol Recovery Timeline: What to Expect When You Stop Drinking August 3rd, 2021 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Alcohol Recovery Timeline: What to Expect When You Stop Drinking

Alcohol Recovery Timeline:
What to Expect When You Stop Drinking

“What can alcohol addiction lead to why? Any addiction can ultimately lead to death if it’s not treated properly. In short, early addiction of alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, cognitive and brain impairment and of course legal charges. If you’re drinking and driving because you’re impaired, it can lead to legal arrest, DUIs, etc.”Dr. Kevin Wandler, Chief Medical Director for The Recovery Village

Article Overview:

  • Quitting drinking can lead to physical benefits like a better immune system and overall health.
  • Acute alcohol withdrawal can start as soon as six hours after your last drink.
  • Alcohol withdrawal and recovery occur in phases. The hardest phase, detox, may pass within a week or so, followed by a long-term recovery period. 
  • Making sure you have a support system in place after you stop drinking is key to preventing relapses.

Table of Contents

Deciding to Quit Drinking Alcohol

Quitting drinking once and for all is a big decision. In 2019, an estimated 14.1 million Americans had an alcohol addiction and needed to stop drinking. In Colorado, where we’re located, the prevalence of past-year alcohol use disorder was 14.6% (or 86,000 people) in 2019, higher than both the regional average (11.7%) and the national average (9.8%). Still, many do not seek help. In a 2021 survey by The Recovery Village, not knowing what to expect in alcohol recovery was in the top three biggest reasons people kept drinking despite reporting negative consequences to their health, relationships and more.

Stopping your alcohol use may not be easy, but it can lead to significant benefits. We’ll highlight some of the benefits you’ll see when you quit drinking and the general timeline of experiences as you withdraw and detox from alcohol, so you know what to expect.

Benefits of Quitting Drinking

Consuming high quantities of alcohol regularly can lead to changes in both your body and brain. Luckily, by quitting drinking, you can reverse a lot of these symptoms and restore your health.

Some of the benefits you’ll see when you stop drinking include:

Quitting alcohol also gives you the chance to improve other areas of your life that may have been negatively impacted by alcohol. In a recent study by The Recovery Village surveying more than 2,000 respondents who wanted to quit:

  • 53.5% reported alcohol affected their physical health
  • 44.5% reported alcohol affected their mental health
  • 41.9% reported alcohol affected their relationships with loved ones
  • 21.7% reported alcohol affected their abilities as a parent
  • 25.3% reported alcohol affected their career or job
  • 29.5% reported alcohol affected their hygiene
  • 34.0% reported alcohol affected their finances
  • 13.2% reported alcohol affected their legal status (incarceration, fines, etc.)

Ending your relationship with alcohol can start you on a path towards improving your physical and mental health, mending your relationships and career, and rebuilding your finances.

I'm Possible: Michael G. From Alcohol to Recovery. [Addiction Story]

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When in the grips of addiction, returning to a normal life in recovery may seem IMPOSSIBLE but Michael is here to show you that it is far from that. Through his struggles with Alcohol addiction Michael learned about himself and now helps others do the same turning Impossible into I’m Possible .

The Alcohol Recovery Timeline

The alcohol recovery timeline you experience will be based on how severe your level of alcohol use disorder is and how long you’ve been drinking. The alcohol withdrawal and recovery process is broken down into a few distinct phases:

1. Acute Withdrawal

The acute withdrawal stage is the first challenge you’re going to go through. Some of the early withdrawal symptoms will kick in as soon as six hours after your last drink. These include:

  • Increased sweating and body temperature
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In some cases, these early withdrawal symptoms can lead to seizures and a sometimes fatal condition called delirium tremens (DT). Recent research has found heavy drinkers (those who binge drink at least five times in a month) are 90% more likely to experience DT than moderate or light drinkers. If you drink heavily or have more severe alcoholism, it’s recommended to seek out a treatment center that can help you detox safely and effectively.

2. Post-Acute Withdrawal

A full detox often takes an average of five days, with most people experiencing peak symptoms between 2–8 days. After the initial alcohol detox withdrawal, you’ve gotten past one of the hardest phases of the detox. During this phase, it’s common for the psychological effects of not drinking to become more pronounced. Some of the common symptoms felt during this time include:

  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems concentrating and thinking
  • Reduced libido
  • Pain

You may also feel cravings for alcohol. During this time, it can be helpful to seek out counseling to help ease your transition and treat any underlying mental health conditions that may be causing your alcoholism.

3. One Month Onwards

Once you’ve made it a month without drinking, you may experience a newfound sense of life. You’ll have made it through most of the unpleasantness of detox and will start to see your energy levels rise and a lot of the negative effects start to dissipate.

During this stage, experts recommended starting up new healthy habits, like: 

  • Eating nutritious foods
  • Getting physical activity and enough sleep
  • Reducing caffeine 
  • Quitting smoking
  • Regularly seeking help from counselors or support groups 
  • Taking vitamin and mineral supplements if your doctor recommends them.

During this stage, take advantage of aftercare resources and build a support system for maintaining your sobriety. Life is full of challenges, and it is important to make sure you do not fall back into drinking as a coping mechanism. Support groups can help you stay focused on your sobriety. This includes aftercare groups from your rehab center as well as non-professional groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

4. Life Without Alcohol

Transition into a life without alcohol can be tough. When you’re recovering from a prolonged period of drinking, your body goes through a process of recovery and regeneration. This can be a long-term process: data show that brain damage from drinking can continue to repair itself long-term, as long as you stay abstinent. Organs like the liver can start to repair themselves within weeks after you quit drinking, although the time frame varies from person to person.

The road to lifelong recovery has many twists and turns, but by working with a treatment center that provides counseling, you’ll be able to instill healthy habits and lifestyle support that’ll help prevent you from relapsing.

You’ll be able to see that the long-term benefits of not drinking will greatly outweigh the costs of consuming alcohol. Get in touch with our team today if you have any questions about the alcohol recovery timeline or would like to begin treatment.

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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.