If you’re struggling with your drinking and thinking about trying to stop, the thought of how to relax without alcohol can seem daunting. You might worry that you’ll never be able to find a way to chill out without alcohol or having a few drinks, or that social events will now seem unbearable.
However, the good news is that with the right mental attitude, preparation, and support network, it’s absolutely possible to find new ways to unwind without drinking. You’ll feel fresher, your life will be easier, and you’ll definitely save money! Read on for our guide to relaxing without alcohol.
The Myth: Drinking Alcohol is A Method of Relaxation
Ethyl alcohol is a recreational drug that is made by fermenting fruit. Many people drink because they feel it helps them relax – especially in stressful situations. However, the side effects of excessive alcohol consumption can exacerbate stress and anxiety.
Alcohol lowers glutamate which is responsible for memory and learning while increasing the production of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibits neural activity which makes a person feel relaxed short-term. The central nervous system is also depressed, slowing the brain down.
Furthermore, intoxication may produce a state of emotional numbness. This might be confused for relaxation as stress levels will be perceived as temporarily lower than they are.
Alcohol is a depressant. This means the drug suppresses neural activity in the brain, sedating the individual. Consequently, people struggle to concentrate, speak, or move normally when they are “drunk.”
The legal drinking age for alcoholic beverages is twenty-one in all American states. Although legal, this substance is highly addictive. Alcohol misuse could result in dependency, addiction, or even an overdose death via alcohol poisoning.
The Truth: Excessive Alcohol Consumption Hinders Relaxation
Alcohol affects people differently; intoxication may not be a relaxing experience for everyone. Side effects that may make it difficult to relax include:
- An increase in erratic or dangerous behavior due to lowered inhibitions
- Increased health risks due to the lowered immune system
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of coordination
- Slurring speech
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Alcohol dependency
If you regularly drink alcohol to the point of blackout, you might spend the next day wondering if you’ve offended someone, made a fool of yourself, or otherwise upset those around you. Questioning whether you’ve got multiple people who you need to apologize to is certainly not a nice relaxing way to spend your weekend!
What is Stress?
Stress is a panicky feeling which occurs in response to challenging circumstances or worries. It is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. The stimuli which cause stress varies from person to person.
Examples of situations that may cause stress include:
- Work, school, parental, or domestic responsibilities
- High-pressure environments or expectations
- Life changes
- Financial issues
- Sickness or injury
- Relationship difficulties
- Everyday life
Too much stress can be dangerous and have negative health consequences like:
- Weight change
- Vulnerability to illness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin problems
Stress can even cause long-term issues like:
- Mental illnesses
- Eating disorders
- Heart attacks
- Menstrual and fertility issues
How Stress Works
Stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline are produced in the central nervous system when the “flight or fight” response is triggered. The body responds to the perceived danger by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
Excessive stress can manifest in a variety of mental and physical side effects. Some of these can be life-threatening such as heart attacks.
Therefore, it is important to manage stress. There are many sober ways to relax. Early recovery is a fantasitc time for you to try out different techniques in order to discover which one best suits you.
New Frontiers – Bringing About the Change
In order to relax without alcohol consumption, new habits must be formed to replace destructive behaviors. This will vary from person to person, and it could involve any combination of the following relaxation techniques:
- Professional development
- Dietary changes
- Contributing to the community
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation
- Strengthening and building support systems
- Fostering healthy relationships
- Discovering and practicing hobbies
Please note this is not an exhaustive list and recovering from any addiction is a unique and personal experience. Every healthy coping mechanism is valid – what may not be useful to you may be essential to someone else.
Look After Your Physical Well Being
Staying active by engaging in exercise is extremely beneficial for lowering stress and enjoying alcohol-free activities. There are many different types of exercise such as:
- Going on a walk
- Going on a bike ride
- Participating in sports
- Working out
Aerobic exercise is sustained movement at low to high intensity. Examples of this exercise type are:
- Walking briskly
Maintaining a consistent sleep cycle with sufficient hours of rest also reduces stress. Having a break from screens for half an hour before bed can improve the quality of your sleep; spending time asleep lets the brain fully rest and allows time to recover from a stressful day.
Exercising relieves stress as it increases the production of endorphins which are a “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Achieving sufficient rest boosts your mood as your ability to reason and resolve issues is improved. These are both important physical lifestyle choices which contribute to mental wellness and help relieve stress – don’t neglect them!
Mental Health and Well Being
There are steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing, keep stress low, and vent when you need to get things off your chest. Some examples include:
- Practicing hobbies
- Discovering new passions
- Gratitude journaling
- Participating in therapy
- Positive self-speak
- Increasing free time
- Guided meditation
An especially effective exercise that reduces stress by grounding you is breathing techniques. Taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on the present rather than dwelling on problems calms the nervous system and brings us out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest” – the optimum state to face life head on.
Freedom Through Altruism
Giving back to the community is surprisingly a great stress reliever as it can help you feel productive and generate goals for your life. Multiple studies have linked altruism with wellbeing. Activities like the ones below can also fill time, help you meet new people, and tire you out:
- Helping the community
Spending time and energy on others also has the benefit of distracting you from cravings, lets you positively impact the lives around you, and give you goals and routines – all essential factors for long-term recovery.
Reach Out for Help
Accepting help and positive emotions from people around you can be extremely beneficial in lowering stress levels. You must acknowledge that you deserve happiness and begin to accept positivity from others.
Whether this means seeking help via support groups and therapy with a clinical psychologist or allowing your friends to assist emotionally, you must be kind to yourself and actively seek kindness from life.
Foster Your Relationships
Nourishing and establishing meaningful connections with people, especially people not involved in your addiction, can be extremely beneficial in lowering stress. Spending time with friends and family helps combat loneliness.
Having fun sober is easier with friends than alone. As well as sharing worries, you can distract one another from your problems too. It might be useful to discuss your sobriety with people you are close to.
You may find it useful to find an accountability partner. This is a person or group of people you share your sobriety journey with. You develop a supportive relationship founded on trust and honesty – this network would be useful to talk to if you fear relapsing.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change
Change is essential to recovery. Alcohol abuse is a habit; therefore, it must be replaced with a different habit, self-care. Altering your behavior can be difficult but it is an important step on the road to recovery.
In the Rat Park studies by Bruce K. Alexander, it was found that rats which suffered from addiction were less likely to self-administer drugs when housed in social and enriched habitats.
This is true for people as well. When people recovering from alcohol use disorder have enriched lives with opportunities to engage in enjoyable activities within a community, they are likely to remain sober. Therefore, altering the world around you as well as yourself is an important step towards recovery.
Change is an essential element of recovering from alcohol misuse. If alcohol is abused long term it can lead to catastrophic and even terminal effects. It is important to acknowledge the potential side effects of alcohol use so yourself or a loved one can recognise when to seek help.
A dependency develops when the brain has become used to the altered levels of neurotransmitters present when alcohol is in a person’s system. This “new normal” makes a person feel “low” when experiencing sober baseline emotion.
Signs that a dependency may be developing include:
- Obsessive thinking about alcohol use
- Excessive drinking
- Inability to withstand stressful situations without alcohol
When a person attempts to quit drinking alcohol, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These are physical and psychological side effects that occur in response to the absence of a drug.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from alcohol may cause:
- Tremors in hands
- Increased blood pressure and pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Excessive sweating
Withdrawal symptoms are can be very severe and in rare instances can result in death if untreated. Difficulty coping with withdrawal symptoms is a major factor that makes quitting alcohol a challenge.
It is recommended to seek professional assistance from a qualified healthcare professional if you are attempting to quit alcohol. They provide a safe environment to manage withdrawal symptoms such as nausea.
Withdrawal symptoms may occur as soon as two hours since your last drink and usually last a few weeks but can be longer. This timescale varies from person to person. A healthcare professional may offer medicines such as Naltrexone, Acamprosate, or Disulfiram to manage withdrawal effects.
The other major factor contributing to addiction is cravings. These are intense urges or desires to consume a drug. These feelings can be overwhelming and lead to dysfunctional behavior such as neglect of other areas of life in favor of the addiction.
For example, someone with an addiction to drinking may:
- Neglect relationships with family and friends
- Become socially withdrawn
- Stop practicing hobbies or exploring their passions
- Be depressed when not drinking
- Talk exclusively about drinking
- Become dysfunctional professionally
Alcohol poisoning describes high blood toxicity as a consequence of alcohol abuse – drinking too much or too often. The risk of alcohol poisoning can be affected by individual differences like:
- Pre-existing health conditions
The risk of alcohol poisoning is also increased if an individual falls into one of the following categories:
- You have or are developing a physical or psychological dependency
- You abuse other substances
- You are a heavier drinker
- You suffer mental health problems
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be life-threatening. If you or someone you know are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, you should seek professional medical advice immediately:
- Skin discoloration
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting and nausea
- Changes in breathing
- Unresponsive but conscious
- Being unconscious
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
This is a medical emergency and 911 should be contacted immediately.
While waiting for help, encourage the person to drink water, try to keep them awake, and keep them warm to avoid hypothermia. If they have passed out, place them in the recovery position.
The risk of alcohol poisoning can be eliminated by substituting alcoholic beverages with alcohol-free options like tea or soft drinks. Lifestyle changes are also an important step in managing sober life. Making changes is important to maintain sobriety and keep stress levels low.
Addiction Recovery at Crossroads Center Antigua
At Crossroads Antigua, we recognize that addiction is a disease. We believe positive lifestyle changes and abstinence are the main keys to recovery success. Our services will help you heal in a holistic manner that best suits you, offering a range of services such as medical detox, acupuncture, twelve-step support, and experiential therapy.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, there is a way out. Contact us today to find out how to begin your new life in recovery.