Alcohol detoxification is the process of ridding the body of excessive amounts of alcohol (toxins). It can be different for everyone depending on the individuals drinking habits and history. This information is from my experience as a recovering alcoholic. I do not claim to have medical knowledge of the detoxification process. From years of drinking I have been through many different stages of detoxification. Some worse than others. I will share a few of them with you here and what I learned from the process.
Detox basically means to rid the body of toxins. Depending on how much and for how long one has been drinking, the length of time it takes to entirely rid the body of alcohol can vary. From a few days to several months. From experience as an alcoholic and due to the progression of the disease of alcoholism, the period of time increases as the disease progresses. This has been my experience. Meaning, over the years, each time I detoxed from alcohol the period it took to rid my body of the toxins increased. There may be a medical reason for this, such as liver damage, but I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I do not know the reason.
There are really several parts to alcohol detox. First, one must stop adding more alcohol to their body. If you want to stop drinking, you’re going to have to stop drinking. If you’re anything like me, that was a lot easier said then done. “I’ll quit tomorrow” was a common theme in my life, yet tomorrow never came. It’s been said there are two things an alcoholic does not like; the way things are and change. What a dilemma. How you stop drinking is a whole different topic, but basically it’s quite simple; you stop. For me, wanting to stop meant the pain of the way things were finally outweighed the fear of trying something different (i.e. living without alcohol). I realized I could not not live with or without alcohol. Again, getting past that point was not easy and could fill numerous more articles.
So you have stopped drinking, now what? Again, this depends on the amount and how long you have been drinking. As an experienced drinker, I knew that once I reached around 1 liter of vodka consumption in a 24 hour period for more than a few consecutive days, the detox process would be… well, hell. Meaning I was in for some pretty discomforting withdraw symptoms like cold sweats, nausea, and headaches. These may not sound bad, but if you’ve ever experienced them you know it’s horrible. Withdraw symptoms, depending on the individuals drinking history, can and usually are part of the detoxing process. If you or anyone you know is experiencing withdraw symptoms from alcohol, it is highly recommended you consult a physician. Alcohol detox and withdraw can be extremely serious resulting in seizures and hallucinations. At my first attempt at sobriety in 1997, I was drinking roughly 2 liters of vodka a day for several months. When I abruptly quit, I ended up in the hospital for a week going through severe detox and withdraw. I experienced hallucinations and had to be strapped to the bed to prevent me from pulling out my IV’s.
The actual detox process can last from a few days to a week or more. The longest I have ever spent in a detox specific facility was seven days. And that was prior to entering an in-patient treatment program, also known as “rehab.” On a few occasions I detoxed myself or had a family member help me reduce the consumption of alcohol over a few days. This I would not recommend. From experience it does not work very well. If you are an alcoholic, and only you know if you are or not, the last thing you want to do is control your drinking. I can either control it, or enjoy it, not both. It’s sort of like placing a kid in a room with a big red button and telling them not to push it. The best thing is finding a facility dedicated to alcohol detox. Plus, they often have medication such as Librium that helps with the detox and withdraw symptoms making it less painful.