Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms – What To Expect

Posted by Tony Cooper on

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms – What To Expect

If your past drinking pattern has been to stop for a few days before going on another bender or even managing to keep your alcohol consumption to weekends only you'll have built up a lot of unresolved health issues. Those of you that have been consistently drinking on a daily basis will experience the worst withdrawal symptoms.

All the time that your body spends dealing with getting rid of the alcohol in its system means less time to deal with day to day routine cleanup tasks. Slowly you work your way down the ladder of ill health, much of the time without even realising you are making yourself sick because your alcohol consumption masks your true feelings.

At five or six days sober your body will just be getting used to the shock of having alcohol removed from its daily routine, and you will face similar withdrawal symptoms to someone who has started a fast. Headaches, sleeplessness, and exhaustion are familiar to everyone. 

Understanding why you are suffering will go a long way to helping you overcome your addiction. If you pick up again to make these uncomfortable feelings go away, then you break the cycle of recovery. Obvious I know, but this is why you find it difficult to stay sober. Alcohol masks emotion so do not be surprised if you break out in floods of tears for no reason at all.


When you stop drinking you will go through cycles of feeling better or feeling worse as your body begins to repair the damage done over many years. Lack of sleep is one of the hardest symptoms to deal with because when you don't get it, it will make you miserable and tetchy.

By the time I'd reached the end of my drinking career, I had found sleep very hard to come by. Unless I was comatose through alcohol, then I was wired, wide awake and unable to sleep. My mind would race with thoughts, and I'd be playing the same song in my head over and over again.

After three months sober you'll sleep like a baby, and it's beautiful. Those dark black circles under your eyes will disappear. But to get there, you'll experience periods of sleeplessness as your body recovers from the abuse you put it through.

Most likely if you can sleep, you'll be waking up very early in the morning. 4 or 5 AM is common. Instead of lying there cursing it's best to get up and do something. Starting a recovery journal is an excellent idea as it will reinforce your sobriety commitment. Consider using the extra time to begin practising meditation or even going out for an early morning walk.

You'll start to feel exhausted and go to bed early. I was often in bed by 9.30PM both because I felt tired and it was a release from the daily mental battle I was fighting with the AV. At this stage of your recovery going to bed early and watching a bit of TV is standard. Swapping this activity for reading a book, later on, will help you get to sleep much more quickly.


Headaches are an indication that your body is detoxing. Try not to take tablets like paracetamol to deal with them. Instead, accept that headaches are part of your recovery and the process of toxins leaving your body. That's a good thing.


It's normal to be constipated as your body tries to take back as much water as it can to replenish your constantly dehydrated state. If you drank a bottle of beer now, you'd be straight on the toilet. That's how potent drug alcohol is.

This situation will resolve itself naturally, but it could be many days before you next empty your bowels.


You won't be able to concentrate on anything at all and most of the time you'll be staring vacantly into space unable to focus on anything in particular.

For the first month of getting sober, I felt like I was walking around with a wet towel on my head blocking any thoughts travelling in or out to the brain. Your thought process will be shot to pieces, and it's going to take several weeks until it begins to get better.

It's going to take several months for you to recover from the pounding you've dished out to your body. After three months you'll be feeling much better and four months will see you feeling closer to “normal” again. You'll notice improvements in your health every day you stay sober.

Whatever you do, don't drink again. It will press the reset button on your recovery, and you'll wake in the morning with all that self-hatred and self-loathing wondering why you did it.