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Alcohol Detoxing

The Essential Tools For a Safe Detox

Have you ever done a detox? I mean any kind of detox. Maybe like a body detox by juicing or trying to give up caffeine? How do you usually feel while going through it? With anything that we are physically or mentally addicted to, when we decide to stop "using" that thing, it usually comes with some detoxing side effects. 

Think of giving up cigarettes. I'm sure we all know someone who's tried it. Ask them what their symptoms were. It was probably cravings, headaches, irritability, boredom, restlessness, and maybe even things like an upset stomach. Those are definitely signs of your body physically detoxing from the lack of nicotine. When we talk mentally detoxing, say from such things as a shopping addiction, gambling problem, or just trying to use your phone less, we may have some similar symptoms. None of these are life threatening. Just mostly uncomfortable. But detoxing from some things can be down right dangerous and deadly. You're not gonna die from quitting your video game addiction (I guess you could if you play for 40 hours straight, as some stories I've heard). In my case, the life threatening withdrawals I'm talking about are from my old friend alcohol.

As I mentioned in one of my other writings, long time alcohol abusers can have some serious withdrawal symptoms when they decide to finally quit, including such things as shakes, the sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness, pain, and on the more severe scale, delirium tremens that can lead to heart palpitations, psychosis, and seizures and on average, without proper medical treatment, 5 percent of these severe cases tend to lead to death. I've gone through them enough times to know the symptoms and when to head to the hospital for treatment. But this piece isn't about some random quick little hospital detox. It's more about knowing the signs and what you can do when medical professionals don't give you proper treatment, or in my case, deny you treatment at all.

Now let me start by saying, I'm not knocking hospital staff in any way, shape, or form. I've had a lot of great professionals who have taken outstanding care of me during my withdrawals. I've also had some not so great ones who basically brushed me off, gave me some ginger ale for my "upset tummy," and told me to go home and sleep it off. I guess my shaking, chest pain, and pouring sweat wasn't enough proof for them. I can't totally blame them. The general medical community isn't fully trained in depth on addressing addiction withdrawals. Most doctors are taught that withdrawal symptoms don't typically happen for 72 hours from the alcoholic's last drink. That's the standard textbook answer. They figure if they take a blood test and you still have a very high percentage of ethanol in your body, then theoretically you shouldn't be going through withdrawals. None of this takes into account the patient's age, size, gender, frequency, history, and amount of alcohol they have consumed. This recently happened to myself. As I lay on an ER bed, pouring sweat, shaking myself outta my shoes, and slowly starting to see what looked like fruit flies everywhere, the doctor flat out denied I was going through withdrawals because my body alcohol content was too high and I should just go home. Thank the Lord almighty I had an old stash of medication in my bag from a previous hospital visit, which I promptly took and proceeded to head to a detox centre.

That experience led me to write this piece. I must say, for your safety, the following information is just a general guideline and should never replace real medical advice. I'm just sharing it with the public in the hopes of educating some people and hopefully helping some to lessen their own withdrawal symptoms they may be having and getting them on the road to recovery much quicker. If you can catch your symptoms early enough you may even save yourself a trip to the emergency room. Without further ado, here they are:

Detox Tool Box

Here's my recovery and detox tool box essentials:

#1 Diazepam or Ativan

These are the first things desperately needed to slow down those shakes and prevent any seizures. They belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines that act on the nervous system to calm things down. If you go to your family doctor early enough, you can get these before you'll really need them. Some people who fly even get these from their doctor to help with the pre flight jitters. You may even have some and not know it. Take as prescribed 'cause they can be habit forming and DO NOT mix these with alcohol because that could slow your breathing and lead to death.

#2 Hydration

Throwing up or not, you need to be hydrated as alcohol is a great dehydrator. Water is awesome but sports drinks are another great option as they contain electrolytes which will help replenish your fluids faster. If you are throwing up non stop or have blood in your vomit, head to the ER ASAP.

#3 Potassium

It's a vital mineral needed in proper nerve and muscle function and to add in hydration. Sports drinks have some potassium already but I'd aim for foods rich in it, like bananas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. If you can't keep solid food down, a great source of Potassium are vegetable juices like V8.

#4 Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Another essential nutrient in most body functions. Alcohol consumption destroys this vital vitamin and makes it hard to absorb any more. Extremely low levels of thiamine can lead to wet brain (we'll save that one for another time). I usually take this in supplement form.

#5 Sodium

Extremely low sodium levels can lead to all kinds of complications such as heart palpitations, and it's a complement to Potassium for regulating hydration. Again, you'll get some of this from those sports drinks but another option to keep it simple is to just drink some chicken broth.

#6 Tylenol

I know it's not the best thing for your liver but if you cared about your liver at all you wouldn't have drank yourself into a stupor in the first place, right? This will help with those pounding headaches and body pains.

#7 Gravol

There's a great chance you're gonna feel pretty nauseous, especially if you've been throwing up. This will do wonders. But be careful 'cause it can cause drowsiness, especially if you're also taking Diazepam. If you do end up taking those two, though, you may not need the next item.

#8 Sleeping Pills

Not everyone needs them but I know for myself my sleep gets thrown all outta wack—another one to be careful of 'cause of its habit forming abilities.

#9 Tea and Crackers

Calming teas such as chamomile are great and green teas are high in antioxidants. Get caffeine free, if possible. And, of course, some saltines or bread to help absorb any of that alcohol left in your stomach.

Some notable additions to mention before my final one: multivitamins to cover any other missing nutrients, Anti Diarrhea medication (nuff said), extra sheets to sweat through, light clothes, and damp clothes, which brings me to my last detoxing tool.

#10 Support

Make sure you tell a trusted friend or family member what you're going through or plan on going through and get them to check up on you or you can check in with them from time to time. Always be safe.

Again, I reiterate that this list is not a substitution for actual medical intervention. This is just what I've learned from my many, many, many times going through this. Some of this stuff they give you in hospital that I continued to use at home once discharged to speed my recovery. What used to take me over a week to recover, I can now get down to days. This truly isn't something to brag about or that I'm particularly proud of but hopefully it can help someone get better quicker, without causing any long term damage and give them the time they need to seek out professional addiction treatment and not end up down the same path as myself.

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