You withdraw from alcohol only after you have become dependent on alcohol. In other words, once your body and mind have become used to the presence of alcohol in your system, you are liable to suffer physical and emotional distress when the alcohol is removed.
Typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include exaggerated trembling, sweating, shivering, blurred vision, short-term confusion, hyperventilation and panic.
However, the clearest indication of alcohol withdrawal is that the other symptoms are quickly eliminated when you take another drink. Putting alcohol back into your system makes you stop panicking, restores your composure, and soon the trembling and sweating passes.
Having experienced withdrawal a first time, you may become anxious just at the thought of being without alcohol. As a result, the need to obtain more alcohol is likely to be in your mind throughout the day. Likewise, your first thought after waking up (because you’ve had a few hours without alcohol) is likely to be about drink.
Alcohol withdrawal is NOT a bad hangover, although it shares symptoms in common with a hangover. A hangover is a sign that you have drunk too much, and the effects soon pass. Withdrawal is a sign that you need more alcohol in order just to function, and the symptoms will get worse and worse as the hours pass.
If you are alcohol dependent, then withdrawal may be a devastating – and potentially fatal – experience. Neither you nor anybody with you should underestimate the impact of withdrawal. When you suddenly remove alcohol from your system, then you run many risks, including the possibility of a seizure, as well as becoming unable to negotiate stairs, or use cars, kitchens or bathrooms safely. You are also liable to panic, and eventually will probably be driven to obtain more alcohol ‘at any cost’.
If you suffer alcohol withdrawal, the clear advice is that you should not suddenly stop drinking alcohol except under medical supervision. Instead you must moderate your alcohol intake, then seek help and support immediately to enable you to quit safely and effectively.