Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Withdrawal Symptoms, Pt 1

It is usually recommended that those who wish to stop drinking consult their medical professional and proceed under medical care.  Withdrawal from alcohol can kill you.  However, that doesn't mean that everyone must undergo a medical detox in order to stop drinking.  

Generally, the more you drank and the more often you drank, the more important it is to have a doctor involved in the withdrawal process.  This topic could run to several pages, and I will likely have more than one post on it.  Today I will list the basic symptoms you may experience during the first few days of sobriety.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

Mild to moderate psychological symptoms:

  •     Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness
  •     Feeling of shakiness
  •     Anxiety
  •     Irritability or easily excited
  •     Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes
  •     Depression
  •     Fatigue
  •     Difficulty with thinking clearly
  •     Bad dreams

Mild to moderate physical symptoms:

  •     Headache - general, pulsating
  •     Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face
  •     Nausea and Vomiting
  •     Loss of appetite
  •     Insomnia, sleeping difficulty
  •     Paleness
  •     Rapid heart rate (palpitations)
  •     Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils)
  •     Skin, clammy
  •     Abnormal movements
  •     Tremor of the hands
  •     Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids

The symptoms below are dangerous. If you begin to feel anything like them, you should get help immediately.  Also, if you have ever had one of these symptoms during a prior attempt at sobriety, it is imperative that you seek medical help before proceeding. 

Severe symptoms:

  •     A state of confusion and visual hallucinations (delirium tremens)
  •     Agitation
  •     Fever
  •     Convulsions and seizures

Friday, July 29, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Triggers

Triggers are often discussed in early sobriety, and sometimes cause confusion.  What is a trigger?  Why is it that a trigger causes me to crave or to use?  Triggers are simply things (people, places, emotions, or times) that cause cravings based on past use.  For example, if you went out every Friday after getting paid, your triggers might be:

  • Friday night
  • Money
  • Friends who drink
  • After work
  • Being in a club

The repetition of drinking in the same situation over and over creates an association in your brain, just as your brain associates a stop sign with pressing on the brake.  This association can cause you to start the thought process that leads to drinking when a trigger occurs.  This trigger-thought-craving-use cycle can feel automatic and overwhelming.

There are three steps to take in dealing with triggers:

  1. Identify - Make a list of things that you know trigger you to drink.
  2. Analyze - What it is about each trigger that makes drinking important.
  3. Adapt - List different ways of handling each trigger that do not involve drinking.

Once you have come up with different ways of handling a trigger, you must implement your new plan when that trigger occurs.  If, for example, you have a trigger of stopping for a drink after you cash your paycheck, you could choose to deposit it instead or select a different location for cashing your check that isn't near a bar.

Trigger Exercise: External

Make a list of places, people, things, and situations that might trigger you to drink.  Rank each trigger from 1 to 5 with 1 being certain to drink and 5 being not likely to drink.  For each 1, list ways you could prevent that trigger from occurring.  If you like, you may repeat for the rest of your list.  This list can go in your toolkit for reference.  The shorter list should go in your wallet or purse.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Knowing Your "No"

I've been wanting to do more with this blog for a while, but life keeps interfering and it isn't as easy as it may look to writing these essays.  One of my interests has always been early sobriety, and so I've decided to add a slightly different type of post.  This hint series will consist of short posts on things of particular interest to the woman just starting her recovery journey.  I will try to do one every day.

Knowing Your "No"

One of the biggest hurdles we face in early sobriety is handling that moment when someone offers us a drink.  It is vital that we learn that "No" is a complete sentence.  When refusing a drink, we don't want long explanations or drawn-out conversation, as these offer more opportunities for us to change our minds.  We want a short, simple refusal that we can pull out immediately.  When someone offers you a drink, here are some pointers:

  • Do not hesitate in your response.  The longer it takes you to respond, the more likely your brain will try to talk you into saying yes.
  • Make eye contact with the person.
  • Keep your answer short and sweet, polite but not vague.
You may wish to plan a series of replies, for handling the person who persists in asking you to drink.  You may start with the simple and proceed to more assertive statements.

  • No, thank you.
  • No, thanks, I don't want to.
  • I am not drinking now (for whatever reason you choose to give, weight loss and medication often work).  I'd appreciate you helping me out.

Having a non-alcoholic drink handy may help in keeping someone else from asking repeatedly that you "join in".  It may even prevent them from asking in the first place, as they may assume you are already drinking.  Be prepared to walk away if the situation continues and you feel your sobriety threatened.

You must remember that YOU are in charge.  WFS Statement 13: I am responsible for myself and my actions.  Do not allow someone's badgering to meld with the idea that an external force is keeping you from drinking.  You are not drinking because YOU choose not to.  Someone who is pressuring you to drink is trying to tell you what to do.  Do not give in!

Further information may be found at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Teas

Here are two more iced tea recipes from my collection:

Black Cherry Iced Tea

  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 pound fresh black cherries, pitted, or two 10-ounce bags frozen pitted black cherries, thawed
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 16 green-tea bags
  • Mint sprigs, for serving

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the black cherries, sugar, lemon juice, star anise and the vanilla bean with its seeds. Simmer the cherries over low heat for 15 minutes, crushing them against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the cherries from the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.

Strain the cherry juice through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids. Bring the cherry juice to a boil over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the cherry tea to a large pitcher and refrigerate until chilled or for up to 2 days. Serve the tea over ice, garnished with mint sprigs.

Tangy Hibiscus-Lime Iced Tea

  • 1 cup each of sugar and warm water
  • Zest of 4 limes, removed in strips
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers (see Note)
  • Ice cubes

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, warm water and lime zest to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a measuring cup.

In a large saucepan, bring the cold water and hibiscus flowers to a boil. Remove from the heat; let steep for 20 minutes. Refrigerate until chilled.

Strain the tea into a pitcher. Stir in 1/2 cup of the lime syrup, or more to taste. Serve the tea in tall glasses over ice.

NOTES Dried hibiscus is available at health food stores, Latin markets and tea shops. If you can't find hibiscus flowers, you can substitute dried rose hips or Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea (which contains hibiscus, rose hips and other herbs).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Clearing the Garden Video Posted

My second video is now available on Youtube.  The response to the first was great, so I hope you will enjoy this as well.