If you are thinking about engaging with addiction treatment, you might be wondering how your sobriety timeline will unfold.
Addiction is a growing concern in the United States. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health administered by SAMHSA (NSDUH 2020) shows that both alcoholism and drug addiction dramatically increased. 28 million adults in the US have alcohol use disorder and 40 million have substance use disorder.
Even more disturbingly, there is a significant treatment gap with only 10% of those with substance use disorder getting the treatment they need.
If you are at the point where your alcohol intake is causing problems in all areas of your life and you’re ready to start making some sweeping changes, how will sobriety look?
Alcohol Sobriety Timeline
The first week of the alcohol sobriety timeline involves transitioning from active alcohol use to detox and abstinence.
Sustained alcohol abuse leads to structural and functional brain changes, as well as physical dependence. Alcohol withdrawal triggers adverse withdrawal symptoms as your body and brain struggle to adjust to the absence of alcohol.
Withdrawal can sometimes begin within a few hours of completing a drinking session. Not everyone will experience alcohol withdrawal in the same way, though. You are more likely to go through severe alcohol withdrawal in any of the following scenarios:
- If you drink heavily
- If you have been drinking long-term
- If you have previously experienced alcohol withdrawal
- If there are underlying physical health conditions
The following factors all influence the length of time it takes for alcohol to leave your bloodstream:
- Overall health status
- History of alcohol abuse
The physical withdrawal symptoms from alcohol usually peak after 2 or 3 days, lasting for between 7 and 10 days.
While the alcohol detox process varies from person to person, there are 4 main stages:
- First stage: The first day of alcohol detox is characterized by vomiting, nausea, headaches, stomach pain, appetite loss, anxiety, and insomnia.
- Second stage: Over the following 2 days, severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can sometimes develop, including hallucinations and seizures. All those at risk of developing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms should detox in a medical detox center to mitigate the risk associated with delirium tremens (severe alcohol withdrawal). Delirium tremens can be fatal if untreated.
- Third stage: Over the following 48 to 72 hours, fever, high blood pressure, sweating, and confusion are commonplace.
- Fourth stage: Over the next few days, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will start dissipating as your body is detoxified.
The following variables will all impact the alcohol detox and withdrawal timeline:
- How much alcohol you typically consumed.
- How frequently you had been drinking alcohol abusively.
- Your weight.
- Your age.
- Whether you were combining alcohol with other substances (prescription medications or illicit drugs).
- If you have any co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Any additional medical conditions.
If you detox in a medically-supervised environment, you will have access to a variety of medications to streamline the 7 to 10 days of alcohol detox. You will also have all the clinical and emotional care you need around the clock.
With your system now alcohol-free, you will be into the second week of sobriety. From here, what can you expect from sober living?
Timeline of Sobriety
The sobriety timeline can be considered in the following chunks:
- First two weeks of sobriety: from detox into treatment
- First month of sobriety: treatment and recovery
- Three months of sobriety and beyond: ongoing recovery
1) First two weeks of sobriety: from detox into treatment
After the first two weeks without alcohol in your system, the worst is behind you. With your body purged of toxins, your body is becoming accustomed to life without alcohol.
Your physical and mental health are interconnected, though, and alcohol use disorder is characterized as a chronic brain disorder, so you will still need to address the psychological aspect of alcoholism. During this period of sobriety, you are likely to still be engaged in some form of inpatient or outpatient rehab, helping you to resist cravings for alcohol and move forward in your recovery.
This vulnerable phase of sobriety is often marked by feelings of depression and anxiety. Mood swings are commonplace. You may also find you lack energy, and you are likely to experience disrupted sleep patterns. Take reassurance from the fact all these changes stem from your body and mind healing from the toxic effects of alcohol abuse.
When you stop drinking, your body undergoes many changes as it recalibrates to an alcohol-free state. If you are feeling sad and lethargic during this phase of recovery, this is the result of your body learning how to produce chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in normal levels.
Ongoing therapy, counseling, and possibly attendance at 12-step meetings like AA can help you to consolidate your sobriety while resisting relapse.
Always reach out to your support network if you feel you are struggling to cope during these early and challenging days of sobriety.
2) First month of sobriety: treatment and recovery
After one month of sobriety, you should be feeling physical and emotional improvements.
Here are some of the most immediate health benefits of sobriety:
- Improved quality and quantity of sleep
- Reduced levels of bad cholesterol
- Decreased fat in the liver
- Improved ability to concentrate
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Clearer skin and eyes
- Corrections to weight loss or weight gain
Beyond this, you should be starting to notice an improvement in mood, with reduced incidences of anxiety and depression. These benefits, compounded with the above physical health benefits delivered by a month of abstinence from alcohol may also coincide with you completing your treatment program.
Some people choose to gradually transition back into daily living – by moving from an inpatient program to an IOP (intensive outpatient program), for instance, or from a PHP (partial hospitalization program) to an OP (outpatient program).
3) Three months of sobriety and beyond: ongoing recovery
While it is worthwhile exploring how a typical sobriety timeline pans out, it is also essential to keep this in mind: recovery is a lifelong process, not a time limited event.
As you move beyond formal treatment and transition back into day-to-day life, you should find the physical and emotional benefits of sobriety continue to build.
By eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and staying sober, you’ll find yourself becoming fitter, stronger, and happier.
You should continue to attend any therapy sessions or support groups you find beneficial. Many people in long-term recovery find great solace in 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, while others prefer to pursue their sustained sobriety independently.
The choice is yours and you only need to take that first crucial step to kickstart your lifelong sobriety.
Getting Sober at The District Recovery Community
If you or a loved one are looking to start your sobriety journey, we can help here at The District Recovery Community. We specialize in the outpatient treatment of both alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. We can also help you if you’re struggling with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. Our dual-diagnosis treatment program is ideal for anyone with a co-occurring addiction and mental health condition.
For all those requiring more support in their recovery, we provide both intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) here at TDRC. Through a combination of research-backed therapies and holistic rehab, you can build the firmest foundation in long-term rehab, maximizing your chances of lifelong recovery. Call us at 844.437.9413 to get started today.