Tapering Off to Sobriety: How Much Cutback is Too Much Too Soon?
Overcoming alcoholism is an experience like no other. It is the most challenging and courageous journey you will ever undertake. But it is a journey worth it for the hundreds of thousands of people who are alive today because of it.
However, achieving sobriety is a process that can take quite some time. To speed up the processes, many choose to try going “cold turkey,” aka, stop drinking and never pick up a glass again.
While this is a valiant effort and it can work for some people, an abrupt cessation of alcohol can be dangerous for those who have a long history of alcohol abuse and addiction.
The Potential Harms of Going Cold Turkey
Going cold turkey can lead to acute alcohol withdrawal for those who have a history of long-term and/or heavy alcohol use.
The symptoms associated with acute alcohol withdrawal can be severe and even fatal. These symptoms include:
- Seizures: Sudden, involuntary twitches or convulsions
- Delirium Tremens: A severe form of alcohol withdrawal characterized by confusion, disorientation, fever, and hallucinations
One study showed that delirium tremens had a mortality rate of approximately 25%. This, among other reasons, is why it’s important that you reconsider the idea of going “cold turkey” as part of your journey to sobriety.
Tapering Off Alcohol is Key to Overcoming Alcoholism
Tapering off alcohol is one of the safest ways to overcome alcoholism. Instead of complete cessation of alcohol, you begin to slowly taper down on your consumption over a period of time.
This allows your body to break its dependency without causing alcohol withdrawal. This process can last several days, weeks, or months depending on your tolerance level, history of use, and other factors.
While many may choose to attempt the process alone, it’s highly advised that you undergo the process under the supervision of a trained medical team via either inpatient or outpatient treatment. That way, you can rest assured that your vitals are being monitored and you are taking the necessary steps to achieve a full recovery with very minor, if any, medical complications.
5 Steps to Properly Taper Off Alcohol
Once you’ve begun tapering off alcohol and you’ve learned how to monitor your body for adverse reactions properly, you can implement the following five tips to help you properly taper off alcohol:
1. Put it in Writing
The act of writing your goals down on paper has been proven to help you stay focused and on task. By creating a written plan of action, you will be less likely to stray from the path, which will only jeopardize your progress.
These goals can be only drinking socially, limiting yourself to so many cocktails a week, etc.
2. Don’t Keep Alcohol in Your Home
While tapering off alcohol means you can still drink to some extent, it’s still important that you eliminate as much temptation as you can. By removing all alcohol from your home, you are significantly reducing the temptation to drink in excess.
Should you choose to have a drink at home, that’s fine. However, instead of buying large quantities, buy just enough for a single occasion.
3. Set Your Social Limit
Part of the process of learning how to taper off alcohol properly is knowing your limits. While you may crave a few drinks here and there, it’s important to remember that you are working towards complete sobriety.
By setting a social limit for yourself, you are creating a safe zone. This is where you can still have a drink, but not to the point of compromising your sobriety.
4. Avoid Peer Pressure
When you’re learning how to taper off alcohol properly, you will have to make a lot of decisions. One of those decisions will be what you will do when friends or family pressure you to drink.
It can be difficult to say no to people, especially when they care about you. However, it’s crucial that you stand your ground. This is why it’s essential to surround yourself with the right support system, such as a 12-step community that can help you maintain your progress.
5. Define Your Alcohol-Free Days
The final step of tapering off alcohol is to define your alcohol-free days. By setting a specific day or time for a ‘beer-free’ day, you create a reminder of your commitment to sobriety.
More Tips from Ethos Recovery
At Ethos Recovery, we know that overcoming alcoholism is a life-long journey. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and support you need to become a thriving recovering alcoholic.
If you’re looking for more tips to help you on your recovery journey, then make sure to check out our blog for more!
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.