Detox-Emotional Aspects

Addiction researchers say the physical pain of withdrawal is relatively moderate and manageable (for more, click on Detox: Physical). But they usually discuss detox on average, while addicts feel it individually. It’s easy to categorize pain as relatively moderate — when it isn’t yours. When it is, it’s indescribably unbearable. Comparing your agony to another’s, though done constantly in rehab, is only useful in passing the time.

Most importantly, the physical pain of withdrawal is only part of the story and the easier part at that. As a serial self-detoxer and the survivor of an 11-day hospital withdrawal from hell, I can attest that the bodily discomfort, even when severe, pales beside the psychological panic an addict confronts while detoxing. When you’re convinced your drug of choice, your medicine, is more important than eating and sleeping and bathing, jobs and friends, and even your closest loved ones, contemplating giving it up forever is beyond disorienting, it’s unfathomable. The trepidation stems from the depth of the identity crisis impending sobriety provokes. Those who have built entire lives around obtaining and using drugs haven’t a clue what life will be like without them and it’s hard to overestimate the terror of that prospect. It isn’t easily quantifiable scientifically, but it’s so daunting, most addicts will do almost anything to avoid it.

This identity crisis causes panic, often taking the form, “How am I gonna live without (fill in drug of choice)?” To detoxing addicts who have failed over and over at quitting, that’s as baffling as anything gets.

Quitting forever feels like the death of your personality. It means undergoing a psychological transformation from believing that alcohol and drugs are the solution to accepting they’re the problem. Believe me, this takes some serious getting used to.

The best analogy I’ve heard for the combination of physical pain and emotional upheaval of detox is this: Imagine being dumped by your one-and-only true love while suffering from a flu that makes you feel so bad you want to die. Take your worst broken heart, add physical pain in every part of your body, and stir in an unhealthy dose of existential panic, and you can begin to comprehend the depth and breadth of the torment, anguish, dislocation, and bewilderment of detox.

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5 Responses to “ Detox: Emotional ”

  1. How can people begin the journey toward sobriety when they hear these frightening stories on how it feels to detox. How about you explain the “flip” side to not getting sober. The downward spiral to Hell. And lighten up on the graphics of the emotional and physical torment of detox. It only scares people more. Ya think?

  2. Thanks for your suggestions.

  3. God bless the people that have to go through that. Thank you for sharing all of this with us. I am learning about all this. I congratulate you on beating addiction and going through such pain. I’ve thought many times we choose our challenges in life to overcome them. I imagine there is a great advancement in the spiritual world (afterlife) when someone conquers something as serious as this. Hugs!!

  4. I just got out of a 10 day detox from alcohol yesterday, not my first time but hopefully my last ,I have been to many AA meetings and the best advice I have is find the right group cause there are a lot of dry drunks out there & some of the meetings were down right depressing so don’t let one post get u down ,Since Alcohol is a drug I may end up going to NA instead cause they seem like a more diverse group but I gotta do my part and try to make it to a meeting ed ,Good luck

  5. Thanks for commenting. I agree it’s important to “shop” for meetings to find ones that are right for you. Good luck with your new sobriety!

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