Can you imagine a whole week without alcohol? If the very idea of it feels daunting, you’re not alone. But 7 days without alcohol can give you a fresh perspective on drinking habits, and it can help you kickstart long-term change.
Taking a week off could be the start of something new.
Time away from drinking can be the starting point for changing your drinking for good, whether you are thinking about cutting down or stopping completely. Even if you plan to moderate your alcohol consumption in the longer term, taking regular breaks from drinking is good for you. And the longer the break, the better you will feel.
However, if you think you might be dependent on alcohol, you should not stop drinking suddenly. If you are worried about alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s safest to cut down gradually over time and talk to your doctor about stopping drinking safely.
But if you’re ready to dive in, here’s what to expect if you have an alcohol-free week.
Physical changes in 7 days without alcohol
If you’ve been a regular drinker for some time, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop. That’s because you’ve got used to having a certain level of alcohol in your system, and your body takes some time to catch up when you stop.
So the first 3 or 4 days without drinking might be pretty uncomfortable. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary, but symptoms will typically appear about six to twelve hours after your last drink. And they will tend to be worst after day 2 or 3. Milder withdrawal symptoms include sweating, shakes, headaches, and nausea, and you might have problems eating or sleeping. You may also feel anxious, irritable or agitated.
While these symptoms are bothersome and even unpleasant, you’ll be able to manage most of them by yourself. Basic self-care will go a long way to support your wellbeing in the early days. Stay hydrated, eat well, take painkillers, and get some sleep. But if you are worried, your symptoms don’t improve, or you experience seizures, fits, hallucinations, confusion or poor coordination, you must talk to your doctor. More severe withdrawal symptoms are relatively rare, but they can be serious.
So let’s be honest. You might not have an easy start to your 7 days without alcohol. But it is definitely worth pressing on.
Day 4 is the crunch point for many people. You might feel suddenly better, decide you were over-reacting and have a drink. Or your withdrawal symptoms might be peaking, so you reach for a drink to control them. If you need to reach out for support, for example, to the Club Soda community, do what you need to get through it.
The end of the first week is worth waiting for.
Feeling better by the end of the week
Many people find that their sleep improves after 7 days without alcohol. Alcohol can send you to sleep, but it wakes you up early. So after a week without booze, you may find yourself sleeping more deeply and dreaming more.
But if sleep is a struggle, don’t worry. Keep a regular bedtime, and practise good sleep hygiene. Here are some simple tips for improving your sleep.
You may find your eating patterns change as well. Sugar cravings are common in the early days, and you are likely to notice that you feel hungry at different times of the day. Alcohol comes with a lot of empty calories, and your body will notice the difference. You’re unlikely to lose weight in just a week, but you are going to feel good about yourself.
After a week without alcohol, you may find that you have a lot more energy. After the sluggishness and discomfort at the beginning of the week, suddenly, you wake up full of beans. You may notice your face is less puffy too, and your eyes might seem brighter.
But the big thing is that you are likely to feel really proud of yourself. Going through 7 days without alcohol can be a major achievement. Maybe you tried some new alcohol-free drinks in situations you’d normally drink alcohol. Or perhaps you tried a new activity alcohol-free. Or possibly you have just surprised yourself that a week without drinking was easier than you thought.
If you’re feeling celebratory, it’s worth knowing that your instinct to reach for celebratory booze will be strong. So be careful of unconsciously cracking open the bubbly.
But do mark this moment in some way. You’ve done a good thing for yourself, and you deserve to celebrate your week without alcohol. You will have saved some money too, so maybe treat yourself to a bunch of flowers or a nice meal.
Pinpointing problems with your drinking habits
Most people can grin and bear it through 7 days without alcohol. So it can be tempting to get through your week by simply hitting the pause button on life.
Honestly, this is a mistake. In a week, you will encounter many of the situations in which you’d normally drink. So you can use your 7 days without alcohol to notice your triggers for drinking.
Although some situations can feel awkward the first time you do them alcohol-free, keeping up your normal routine will help pinpoint problem areas in your drinking habits. Don’t change anything else, except what you drink. There is an incredible range of alcohol-free drinks (anything 0.5% ABV or below) available in pubs, supermarkets and online, including alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits. So you can find something better than a children’s soft drink.
If you take this approach, you can use your alcohol-free week to notice when it’s easy not to drink and when it feels hard. How does not drinking affect your relationships, your moods and your routine?
Club Soda’s courses teach you to pay attention to what’s happening around you when you drink. If there are any difficult moments in your week, think about what you could do differently. You’ll likely face the same triggers again, but you can be better prepared next time. If you approach it as a learning experience, 7 days without alcohol can teach you so much about the part alcohol plays in your life. Check out other articles on getting started with changing your drinking.
And it could be the start of a whole new relationship with alcohol. If you decide you want to go further, Club Soda’s courses can help. Learn How to Drink Mindfully if you want to include alcohol in your life. Or discover How to Stop Drinking if you want to continue alcohol-free.