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Alcohol dependency can impact all areas of your life – for example, your relationships, finances, career, and of course, your mental health and physical health. Alcohol dependency is the more severe form of alcohol use disorder and refers to physical dependency on the substance.

Not only does alcohol dependence cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, but it increases the urge and the desire to drink alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol addiction is a common issue in the UK, with around 602,400 people in England dependent on alcohol.

Overcoming addiction takes time, effort, and a lot of patience. It’s completely natural that you feel worried about relapsing after completing rehab or a detox program. After all, you put in so much effort to become sober that you’re bound to feel anxious about breaking your sobriety.

But how can you overcome the fear of relapsing when recovering from alcohol addiction? And why do you feel anxious after stopping drinking?

That’s what we’re going to explore today. Read on to learn more about what happens when you stop drinking alcohol, and how to overcome the fear of relapsing.

What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, regularly abuse alcohol, or have an alcohol dependence, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol.

Withdrawal symptoms often involve a combination of physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and behavioural symptoms.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant – it affects your brain chemistry. It increases the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel relaxed and euphoric.

In addition to this, as your blood alcohol levels increase, the production of the chemical compound glutamate decreases, which in essence, decreases your excitability levels.

Drinking large quantities of alcohol over time can make it difficult for your body to regulate these levels – it can be hard for your body to increase GABA and decrease glutamate.

This means you’ll feel the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects. As your body gets used to these changes, your body will begin producing less GABA and more glutamate.

If you suddenly stop drinking alcohol or drastically lower the amount of alcohol that your body is used to, your body will continue to produce more glutamate and less GABA.

This can leave you feeling a range of symptoms and sensations – for example, you may feel anxious, hyper, shaky, and restless – along with other symptoms.

If you previously drank heavily, then the symptoms you experience will likely be more prominent. Some physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

And some psychological withdrawal symptoms that you may experience after quitting alcohol may include:

Some people experience severe withdrawal symptoms – or delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and is considered a medical emergency. If you experience hallucinations after stopping drinking, seek medical attention immediately.

Typically, when you stop drinking, these symptoms will appear gradually and increase in severity as time goes on.

The length of time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to ease can vary depending on a range of factors – however, the general rule of thumb is that the longer you’ve been dependent on alcohol, the longer the withdrawal symptoms will persist.

Other factors such as your age, height, weight, and history with alcohol can affect your experience of alcohol withdrawal.

If you wish to stop drinking alcohol safely, contact our team at Help4Addiction – see ‘How Help4Addiction Can Help You’ to learn more about alcohol rehab and alcohol detoxification. Continue reading to learn more about symptoms of anxiety during alcohol withdrawal.

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Anxiety Symptoms and Alcohol

Alcohol is linked to a range of mental health issues, and alcohol use disorder can be considered a mental illness in itself.

Alcohol has been linked to depression, eating disorders such as anorexia, as well as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and of course, anxiety.

Anxiety is much more than having a panic attack – it is your body’s fight or flight response in action. It is a feeling of unease and worry, and when it persists, it could be a sign of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). If you have GAD, you may feel anxious more often than not, and you may have trouble relaxing.

Alcohol can not only worsen pre-existing symptoms of anxiety but be a cause of anxiety. Many people will drink alcohol to relieve symptoms of anxiety, which can lead to alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder.

Abusing alcohol frequently can affect your ability to respond to stressors in a healthy way, which can contribute to anxious feelings.

It’s important to note that drinking alcohol does not cure anxiety – and it often makes anxiety worse in the long term. Alcohol affects the amygdala – the part of your brain that regulates negative emotions. Studies have found abnormalities in the amygdala in those with alcohol use disorder.

It’s not just consuming alcohol that can impact your health – withdrawing from alcohol can impact your mental health too.

You may feel on edge and experience intense anxiety symptoms throughout your recovery journey. You may also experience changes in mood – mood swings and feelings of depression.

In most cases, these feelings will begin to subside over time – however, some of these symptoms can persist for longer. Often, this depends on the severity of your addiction.

Tips To Overcome The Fear of Relapsing

The thought of breaking your sobriety can be scary, especially during the early stages of recovery. It’s natural to feel anxious about relapsing – after all, you have worked hard towards your sobriety, and you don’t want all the work to be for nothing.

However, there are some methods that can help to minimise this fear. From attending therapy to joining support groups, read on for some helpful tips on how you can overcome the fear of relapsing.

Attend Addiction Therapy

Addiction therapy is an integral part of addiction recovery. Whether you’re recovering from alcohol addiction in an inpatient rehab facility or as an outpatient, it’s important that you explore the therapy options available to you.

There are numerous benefits of alcohol addiction therapy. For example, therapy can improve your mental health if you have dual diagnosis.

Dual diagnosis is when you have a mental health condition – for example, depression, bipolar disorder, or generalised anxiety disorder – and addiction, coexisting.

Therapy in rehab can also help to ease anxiety symptoms. For example, counselling can give you a safe space to discuss your fear of alcohol relapse and can support you if you do relapse.

CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can teach you effective coping strategies that can equip you during your recovery, minimising the risk of relapse. This can put your mind at ease, knowing that you have strategies in place that can help to prevent you from relapsing.

Talking therapies can teach you more about yourself and your addiction – you may gain a further understanding of your addiction triggers as well as any root causes of your addiction. Ultimately, this can help to minimise the fear of relapsing.

Seek Secondary Treatment

Secondary treatment refers to ongoing support after you have completed primary treatment – for example, rehab. It’s essential that you have support when recovering from addiction, whether it be in the form of friends, family, addiction specialists or medical professionals.

Some forms of secondary care can include telephone support, online support, or attending classes or support groups.

Also known as aftercare, secondary treatment can ease the transition from rehab to recovery – which ultimately, can help to prevent relapse. You may be more likely to relapse shortly after leaving rehab, which is why this time is crucial.

You may wish to speak to an independent alcohol advice charity – they can provide you with support in times of crisis, and support you if you are struggling.

Consider The 12 Steps

The 12-step program has helped those in alcohol addiction recovery since 1935 when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded.

There are over two million members of AA around the world, and the group is open to anyone that wishes to overcome their alcohol addiction, or simply gain control over their alcohol consumption.

Unlike some other support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous promotes total abstinence from alcohol. You may have a preconception that AA is a cult – however, it has been shown to help countless people in addiction recovery.

Although there are religious overtones to the group, you don’t have to believe in one ‘God’ to be a member. You simply have to understand or believe that there is a ‘higher power’.

There are 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program as well as 12 traditions. The 12 traditions represent certain values that you should have when you join AA – and values that you should implement in your day-to-day life as well as your recovery journey. They are:

The 12 traditions of AA are:

  1. Unity
  2. Leadership
  3. Eligibility
  4. Autonomy
  5. Spread the Message
  6. Outside Enterprises
  7. Support Yourself
  8. Support Others
  9. Organise yourself
  10. Ignore outside opinion
  11. Speak well of the program
  12. Preserve the anonymity of the members

To learn more about the twelve steps, check out this informative page about the 12-step rehab program in the UK. The 12-step program is not for everybody, and there are other support groups out there that you can join. Contact our team at Help4Addiction to learn more about the resources available to you.

Understand That Relapsing Isn’t The End Of Your Recovery Journey

Relapsing doesn’t mean that you have failed your recovery journey – it is simply a part of your journey. Recovery is not linear, and you may have slip-ups and relapse along the way.

Relapse is pretty common – and once you understand that you’re not alone, and that relapsing is often a part of your recovery journey, then you may have some peace of mind. Short-term remission rates can vary between 20% and 50%. This can vary depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder.

Having a solid support system in place can also prepare you for relapse, and help you get back on track. Read on to learn more about getting back on track after an alcohol relapse.

Getting Back On Track If You Relapse and Drink Alcohol

Addiction recovery is very rarely a straightforward process and is not linear. It’s also important to note that your alcohol addiction recovery journey may last the rest of your life – and along the way, you may relapse.

Whether you have been sober for a week, a year, or ten years, you are never completely ‘cured’ of alcoholism. It’s something that you have to work on every day – however, it will likely get easier as time goes on.

However, if you relapse and return to alcohol, it isn’t the end of the world. With the right support and treatment, it’s entirely possible to get back on track. There are three main stages of relapses – emotional, mental, and physical. Secondary treatment, self-care and therapy can all help to break the cycle.

Relapsing doesn’t always mean that you start drinking alcohol again – you may transfer your alcohol addiction to another addiction, such as gambling or drugs.

If you notice that you are struggling with a different kind of addiction, or you have begun abusing alcohol again, the first step is recognising the problem. The second step is reaching out for help.

Continue reading to learn more about how our friendly team at Help4Addiction can help you in the event of a relapse.

How Help4Addiction Can Help You

If you’re worried about relapsing, it’s important that you have a solid support network in place – whether it be friends, family, or medical professionals and addiction specialists.

At Help4Addicition, we understand that it can feel scary admitting you have a problem – and even scarier taking the first steps toward recovery. This is why we aim to take some of the weight off your shoulders by sourcing the right treatment plan for you.

Likewise, if you have relapsed and need to return to primary treatment, we can source the best rehab for you in your local area.

We are in contact with alcohol services around the whole of England and Wales and can find the best local alcohol service in your area, whether it be a rehab centre, an alcohol detox, or a support program.

We’ll listen to your story, requirements and preferences to find the right treatment plan at the right rehab clinic, regardless of whether you’re looking for inpatient rehab/ residential rehab or you’re looking for outpatient treatment.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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