The most important thing to do to help an alcoholic go through withdrawal is to learn about withdrawal symptoms and what the body is going through. Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous – and even fatal – so for a severely addicted alcoholic, the best thing to do is go to a treatment center that can provide medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and monitor the person to make sure they are safe while detoxing from alcohol.
Going through detox for an alcoholic (and for friends or family) might seem intimidating at first. Detox can take anywhere from 2-5 days depending on the treatment and is usually done under supervision of medical care. (We cannot stress the importance of doing alcohol detox under medical supervision enough – it makes the entire process more manageable and uncomfortable, not to mention safer!)
If you are looking to learn how to help an alcoholic go through withdrawal and the detox period, here are some things you can do:
Bring Entertainment: If the person will be detoxing in a hospital or other treatment facility, bringing something to help pass the time can be a huge relief: magazines, books, crossword puzzles, movies, etc. can all make the stay more comfortable. They may enjoy learning how to play Sudoku. Be sure to check with the medical center to make sure before you bring anything that it is allowed.
Let the Person Get Rest: Going through detox can be mentally and physically exhausting. The person may feel weak or unsteady. Make sure you allow them plenty of time for naps and sleeping. The supervising medical staff will be bothering them enough!
Don’t Bring Everything Up: Now is not the time to talk about the past or current problems. As you move into the later parts of recovery you can deal with how things made you feel etc. But for now, act like it doesn’t matter or exist unless the person during withdrawal brings it up. If the person in withdrawal brings it up, just listen and show that you are glad they are going through this.
Show Your Support: Saying things like “You’re being so strong right now” are great ways to show your support and offer encouragement.
Don’t Enable or Tease: This may seem like a no-brainer, but you will not want to give an alcoholic going through withdrawal alcohol or anything that reminds them of alcohol. Don’t talk about going out, getting drunk, or anything that may have triggered the drinking in the first place.
You may also be interested in our article How to Help an Alcoholic in Treatment.