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First Month Of Sobriety: What To Expect

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It is said that the first 30 days of sobriety are the hardest of all and if you can make it through it, you’re on the right track! You’re not expected to be sober immediately but in your first month of sobriety, the first thing is to get rid of all the alcohol/drugs in the body gradually and then dealing with the withdrawal symptoms. The first month is the most challenging time and the risk of relapse is higher in this duration. This is a really important decision and will need a good deal of willpower and dedication.

What Does Sobriety Look Like:

Early sobriety will be overwhelming and flooded with emotions and sensory overload. It is a step towards a bigger and brighter future. Sobriety will not be a very straight forward journey but an emotional roller coaster. One day might feel energetic and bright and the next will be gloomy and depressive. There will be a lot of physical and emotional changes going on and it will be the best decision you have made in the end.

Leaving substance abuse is not only challenging for a person but also for their friends and family. And it is absolutely important to have the support of your closed ones during this time in order to achieve long term results with success.

How Long Does It Take To Get Used To Being Sober:

The thing about sobriety is that it is relative. There are a lot of factors that effect people and their drinking habits differently. All people experience it in their own way. It can take from a month to an year to quit drinking completely. Mostly it takes 16 months to an year for habitual drinkers and people who haven’t been long term addicts, and three years or more for long term addicts. These and some factors determine the time it will take for someone to get sober.

After getting rid of substance use, you will experience many changes throughout the first 20 days of sobriety and these first 30 days of sobriety are also the most important ones.

Following are some things that might experience during your first month of sobriety:

First Three Days of Sobriety:

The first 2-3 days of sobriety are known to more of an emotional rollercoaster. Early sobriety will have you be energetic and fresh at the start of the day but as the day goes along you might start to feel the anxiety that you drank to appease. This is where the urge to drink for the time being and restart sobriety the next day, will be the strongest. And if manage to get through it sober, this is where the real sobriety will start and you will have positive things to look forward to.

The first three days are when the withdrawal symptoms are the highest. They are characterized by following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Paranoia
  • Tiredness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Repulsion to food
  • Excessive sweating

Substance abuse symptoms differ for everyone depending upon the level of addiction a person has, their physical and mental health and other factors.

Symptoms might also so get very square and a person might need to be hospitalized. These symptoms are treated with different medications like benzodiazepines, neuroleptics all nutritional support. They are good for reducing the chances of of seizures and help managing restlessness and anxiety, Neuroleptics can also so dull the nervous activity, and nutritional support helps with managing the amount of nutrition a person receives during their food repulsion or loss of appetite due to their withdrawal symptoms. Different medications are administrated by the medical staff depending upon the range of symptoms and a person’s health and level of alcohol abuse.

The First two Weeks of Sobriety:

 Leading up to first week of being sober you might start to get mild headaches, followed by insomnia and occasional dreams that might lure you back into drinking. This goes on for the second week as well and it happens because the toxins are leaving your body during this time. Anxiety, restlessness, irregular speech and feeling a little antsy, is common during the first and second week of sobriety but nothing that can be helped! You can use things like stress balls, silly putties, slap bracelets or quick breath exercises to help you deal with restlessness and anxiety. Breathe exercises are also great for keeping the mind fresh and getting more oxygen to the brain. This helps induce sleep as well!

The best way to deal with the urges is during the first 2 weeks is to get help. You can make a mini goals list for yourself to remember why you got sober and why is it important to stay sober. Having something to look forward to is always a great way to help fight alcohol abuse. You can start seeing a therapist in early sobriety or just talk to a loved one. There are sobriety support groups as well that can be of great help. As for the sleep issues during the first week, anything that helps you relax is great to induce sleep. Take a hot bath with Epsom salt to help the detox process. Meditate or go for an evening walk. Some physical activity is definitely great to tackle to restlessness and induce sleep!

Week Three to Four of Sobriety:

Week three is where the mind games start. With this decision, your body is ready to quit drinking and go sober but your mind is going to trick you into thinking the whole thing might not even be worth it. There will be noticeable changes in your mood and you might get angry too often during week 3 and 4. This will be a little more intense than the restlessness you faced in the first two weeks. By this time the body and mind have completely detoxed and you might notice physical changes as well but the emotional need for alcohol will get stronger. You might also feel agitated and off balance.

This is also accompanied by more severe “Drunk Dreams”. It’s not a very pleasant phase and it leaves behind a feeling of being drunk in your sleep. These dreams are known to be really vivid and a common cause of relapse. During the fourth week of sobriety, you might also feel a bit of sensory and information overload. It is because alcohol addiction and substance use not only causes emotional distress, it significantly damages the brain and nervous system. One might get overwhelmed, develop noise sensitivity and overall restlessness and migraine in some cases. So during this time you have to prepare your body for a flood of senses. It happens because alcohol damages the brain’s capability to retain and save information, and once the toxins are out of the body and mind, all the information starts to flood in and the body isn’t ready to handle that yet. But it is nothing to worry about as it goes away after a while once the body and brain pick up the same pace.

Now that we have established what should one expect from the first 30 days of sobriety, let’s take a look at resources that can help fight the emotional distress, drunk dreams, withdrawal and other symptoms leading you to the path of long term sobriety. To conclude, the first 30 days will be filled with physical distress and uncertainty. Most of the time people start to feel extremely depressed but that’s nothing to panic about. When the toxins leave the body, there are a lot of things that you will perceive that the alcohol has previously blocked out and since the brain is addicted to the dopamine from the alcohol, it might lead to depression initially. What you can do is trade it with something more healthy and useful like indulging in a hobby. Long term plans are needed and an overall checkup should also be conducted.

Advanced Recovery Systems:

Advanced recovery systems include addiction treatment programs, local and online support groups, therapists, reading up on sober guides etc. Here’s how you can get help dealing with the first 30 days of sobriety:

1. Drug Addiction Treatment Program:

Addiction treatment programs and rehab centers are an excellent way to get help with alcohol addiction . For long term addicts the first month can be the hardest and enrolling in a rehab center or a sober house will be really helpful for them in fighting the withdrawal and relapse. If enrolling in rehab isn’t an option, outpatient rehab is also a possible choice. They are a huge success with people who can’t directly enrol in a rehab and will provide a personalized plan for the person tailored around their needs.

2. Sober Support Groups:

The first month of sobriety can take a toll on a person’s mental health and having someone to talk to like a friend, is a huge help. But support groups also help by learning from the experience of other people and sharing your struggles. Alcoholics anonymous is also a great resource for this purpose. Mental health plays a great role in addiction treatment and you should never be afraid to ask for help!

3. Behavioral Treatment Program:

Counseling is really crucial in achieving long term sobriety. Behavioral therapy helps with “drunk dreams” as well and deal with problems that led to the addiction in the first place. Eliminating alcohol won’t be alone enough. Plans have to made to remove the cause of this addiction which is why you need to see mental health professionals to help you get through this phase.

A primary care doctor will first evaluate the person’s drinking pattern and create a treatment plan for them. The overall health is also taken into consideration and medications are recommended. Then come psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists. They are mainly involved in behavioral treatment of the addict. Once a person in sober, they can still get alcohol counseling in order to maintain their sobriety without a risk of a relapse in the future. The path to staying sober is not an easy one, but that does means you have to do it alone!

4. The 12-Step Program:

The 12 step program is a diverse program used to treat various kinds of addictions and behavioral problems, including alcohol addiction and are mainly based on spiritual principles. The steps include:

  • The first step is honesty, Admitting that the habitual alcohol consumption has reached a level of addiction
  • The second step is faith. It revolves around believing that you can fight your addiction and making it your mission to recover with success.
  • The third step is surrender to a higher power.
  • Fourth step is soul searching finding a spiritual meaning in your life.
  • The fifth step is integrity and one of the most difficult steps and provides an opportunity for growth.
  • Next comes acceptance.
  • Humility is really important in fighting addiction and generally any problem.
  • The last but not the least steps are willingness, forgiveness, maintenance and making contact. It also requires you to guide others once you are done with your recovery. The 12 step program is really popular all over the world and provides great opportunities of growth and healthy coping mechanisms for people dealing with alcohol addiction and helps them in staying sober.

5. Medications:

Administered drugs used for alcohol addiction treatment are Naltrexone, Acamprostate or Disulfiram. These medications are used to maintain abstinence, reduce heavy drinking and detox. They also reduce withdrawal symptoms like nausea and headaches. Sometimes drugs like xanax and other anxiety reducing medications are also paired up to help fight depression that comes within the first few weeks of sobriety and can only be recommended by a doctor.

Bottom Line:

The first month and the following few months of sobriety will be filled with dramatic change, and challenges but it is important to remember why do you need to get sober and experience those struggles. It will not be something easy but neither it is impossible. Alcohol addiction controls a person’s life drastically by taking control of their mind and most of the times something they say or decide will not even be coming from but from the effect of alcohol. This effects a person’s relations, with family and friends, their work and social life and everything else that matters. The first month might also be leading to a constant sense of guilt or shame once the toxins start to leave the mind. But it is important to remember that there is nothing to feel bad about. The anxiety will be bad for the first month but it should not take control over their senses. This will not be an overall pleasant experience but worth the positive change and satisfaction it will bring into your life.



Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.