Being dependent on drugs or alcohol means experiencing distasteful physical or mental symptoms when you stop taking the substance. The greater your dependence, the worse price you’ll pay to stop abusing it. But the cost of continuing to abuse a substance would be even greater.
Making the decision to quit isn’t an easy one. You might have read about, witnessed, or experienced the rocky road to recovery. But for most people looking to improve their health and their lives, it’s a road they must travel.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, there are ways you might be able to minimize the withdrawal symptoms. Here are four tips to get you started on your journey.
1. Address Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring mental health disorders are common among substance abusers. These include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among others. The relationship between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders can be complicated.
Some mental health disorders make people more susceptible to abusing drugs or alcohol. On the flip side, ending substance abuse can dramatically worsen symptoms of a disorder, such as increasing thoughts of suicide or manic behaviors. Dealing appropriately with a co-occurring disorder will help withdrawal when you’re ready to quit abusing substances.
Getting proper physical and mental healthcare is critical, especially since your mental health disorder can be exacerbated during withdrawal. You may need to participate in a dual-diagnosis program that includes both mental health rehab and detox. The relationship between your addiction and mental health disorder is too entwined not to treat both.
If you have decided to improve the health of your body, don’t forget your mind as well. A healthier mental status will help you deal with those symptoms of withdrawal you fear. You’ll need to address both to achieve a successful outcome.
2. Find a Healthy Distraction
Restlessness, mood swings, cravings, and difficulty concentrating are a few common symptoms of withdrawal. To help lessen their impact, you might want to find a distraction that will swing your focus elsewhere.
For example, alcohol dependence can be a matter of habit, a chemical addiction, or both. But particularly if it’s habitual or “psychological,” you’ll need to break those habits of pouring and drinking you’ve developed. The symptoms you may experience when you stop drinking may benefit from a diversion.
Distracting yourself may be as easy as finding something else to do with your now-empty hands. Knitting, woodworking, jigsaw puzzles, baking, or reading keeps your hands too busy to constantly pick up a glass. They also keep you focused on the task rather than the act of drinking and the symptoms of withdrawal.
Distractions can divert your attention from what you’re going through, but don’t go overboard with them either. Even new hobbies shouldn’t consume your life. Moderation is the difference between developing a beneficial distraction or just another form of addiction.
3. Develop a Healthy Lifestyle
It seems that regardless of the type of physical or mental health issue, changes to your routine are a recommended therapy. Treating addiction is no exception. Lifestyle changes are among the most effective things you can do to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.
Proper hydration is vital to health because your body is made up of roughly 78% water. Water is what helps keep the chemicals in your body in balance. Moreover, increased heart rate, dizziness, fatigue, headache, and difficulty breathing are all common withdrawal symptoms. They’re also symptoms of dehydration. So keeping sufficiently hydrated should help reduce their impact.
Eating a balanced diet is also crucial since substances rob you of nutrients. And getting quality sleep and adequate exercise helps address blood pressure, mood, restlessness, and fatigue. Getting needed nutrients and restorative sleep can help you reinstate the balance lost during addiction and withdrawal.
Fighting an addiction is tough. So is making sometimes drastic lifestyle changes under any circumstances. Putting your sleep, nutrition, exercise, and hydration on a healthy path may not keep you from experiencing withdrawal symptoms. But you will be giving your body what it needs to emerge triumphant.
4. Surround Yourself With Support
The ability to cease addictive behavior takes courage. But you don’t have to do it without help. There are many places to look for support for your journey. If you do, the path may be an easier one to navigate.
Family, friends, and co-workers are the people you probably spend most of your time with. So it’s important that you have their support throughout the withdrawal period and beyond. Be willing to ask for their help, and if they volunteer, tell them what they can do for you. It may be exercising together, just spending time with you, or having them answer questions during times you feel confused.
It’s always wise to have your progress and withdrawal symptoms monitored by a physician or mental health professional. And reach out to a support group for people with your addiction. Members of such groups understand the attraction of addiction as well as the struggle to beat it.
If you’re trying to get clean on your own, at least find and use helplines, if necessary. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration number — 1-800-662-HELP (4357) — is a good one to have in your pocket. Sometimes a stranger on the other end of the line is the best support you can have.
Cushioning the Blow
If quitting an addiction were easy, everyone would do it. Although you’ll have to fight the desire to re-abuse throughout your life, your first fight will be withdrawal. No one and nothing can entirely eliminate the symptoms you may experience. Just use these tips to help minimize the unpleasantness. You have a better, healthier life just over that hill.