Immer Note 1: I write this from real world, personal experience a number of years ago (1998) and it is, to this day, one of the most painful personal memories I have. If you are taking the time to read this then a) my heart goes out to you because you are almost certainly reading this from a position of need not idle curiosity and b) if you need someone to talk to, my contact info is public and you can reach out.
Note 2: I am not a doctor. I am not a biologist. You do this at your own risk and there are dedicated alcohol treatment facilities that do this professionally. Detoxing a serious drinker is risky to their health but it can be done at home and for a fraction of the cost of the alcohol treatment facilities. But you pay the cost in emotional energy, loss of sleep, etc.
Note 3: When I described what I was did, years later, to a professional, they told me: "Alcohol and benzo withdrawal is more deadly than heroin. They need medical supervision." I don't disagree - to this day - but you can't force someone into treatment. And sometimes you play the hand that life deals you.
I would argue that alcohol abuse is roughly as old as alcohol itself and, thus, roughly as old as civilization itself since we know that fermented beverages date back at least to Egyptian times. The process of removing the physical effects of alcohol from an individual who is drinking to much is referred to as detox (you are literally removing the toxic compound from their body). The term for this is generally "tapering" and consists of nothing more complex than drinking less and less per day until you are at a desired level.
You should really read every one of these – IN DETAIL – before you even think of attempting this.
- How to Taper Off Alcohol BEST DAMN THING TO READ; I wish this had been online back in 1998
- Alcohol Detox at Home
- Alcohol Poisoning SECOND BEST DAMN THING TO READ. Alcoholics have a lot of health issues and this taught me how many health issues I dealt with once upon a time were actually nothing more than drinking too much.
- When Someone Refuses Treatment
Who The People Are
- The person who needs to be detoxed – the detoxee
- The person or persons who is doing the detoxing – the detoxer or detoxers
The Basic Concept
Detoxing someone from alcohol basically is conceptually simple and the core idea is that of tapering the person's daily consumption down from their maximum dose down to some kind of viable daily amount. And the way you do this is you use an alcoholic beverage which has a lower amount of alcohol per serving than the detoxee is used to. The typical model is that you use beers / ciders / gluten free sparkling water alcoholic beverages.
Note: I personally don't believe in sobriety; I believe in moderation. If someone has an alcohol problem, my personal belief is the goal is to get them to a reasonable consumption amount NOT to get them to stop. Your belief may vary but the actual recidivism rates for AA are strikingly higher than the numbers they publicly report.
How Do You Measure Their Maximum Dose
This is what I did. I was sneaky:
- Any alcoholic tends to consume whatever is right in front of them, generally their favorite type of spirit
- Get rid of any partial bottles of said spirit type
- Buy a single new bottle
- After a 24 hour period you measure the amount that was consumed
- You then assess if during that 24 hour period she was basically about the same or if it was an outlier
How Do You Convince Someone They Have A Problem?
In the grand tradition of a 4th Grade Arts and Crafts project, I picked up a tray table from Good Will and mounted a set of shot glasses on it that correspond to the amount of alcohol consumed during that 24 hour period. I then presented it to the detoxee. And, lo and behold, math is kinda hard to refute:
Note: Shot glasses generally are 1.5 ounces. So take the maximum amount consumed in ounces and then divide by 1.5. That's the number of shot glasses you need to mount. Construction adhesive works particularly well for thais.
Here's What You Need to Pull This Off
- You need to know the maximum amount the person you are trying to detox drinks. This is measured in "standard drinks" (see the links below to understand that)
- You need to know the time period you are trying to do this in. You might be trying to detox someone in 7 days. Or you might be trying to do this in 14 days. Or whatever.
- You need to accept that all addicts are liars.
- Gatorade; lots of it. Dehydration is a very real risk.
- Blood pressure monitor. You need to watch the detoxee's blood pressure regularly and log it.
- You need a type of alcohol that detoxee likes to drink and that their dietary restrictions can handle and that has a lower amount of alcohol per serving than they are used to
- You need a printed out Google Spreadsheet that matches the number of standard drinks you are detoxing from with the time period you are detoxing over mapped to the detoxee's waking hours. Here's the old Excel Spreadsheet I used back in 1998 that I converted to Google Spreadsheet
- A block of time that is as uninterrupted as possible
- Daily doses of Vitamin B1 (thiamin); this helps with the diminished cognition that all alcoholics suffer from. It is dirt cheap and just Amazon it.
- Media / music that the detoxee can binge consume to distract themselves; this was a lot harder back in 1998 but is trivial nowadays with Netflix and Prime
- All alcohol in the house that isn't for detox purposes needs to be under lock and key. You need to check every stash place where the detoxee has booze. This includes home offices, briefcases, purses, etc.
You start the process by giving the detoxee a schedule of drinks and a cooler of the beverages they need to drink hourly. Each hour they consume something they check it off the schedule.
You just continue day 1, following the schedule, and, hopefully, the detoxee is drinking less each day. Each day you should see less of the physical symptoms of the alcohol abuse (less vomiting; less sweats; reduced rage; less paranoia, etc).
Surviving this Process as the Detoxer
My friend, you are in a shitty ride. I remember this process with searing intensity and my the lightest of the swear phrases I used to describe some of the days was "rat fucking bullshit". Given the amount of shame that the detoxee generally has about this, you are likely to be alone through the process as the detoxee doesn't want anyone else to see them at their literal worst (paranoid, vomiting, sweating rage monsters that accuse you of all kinds of ill intent). Here's what I recommend for you:
- Take the detox period off from work
- Send kids, if you have them, away to stay with relatives
- Buy your favorite food(s) in bulk and stockpile them so there are treats for you
- Nap whenever you can. You are effectively an unpaid nurse who has to clean up vomit buckets, prepare food, be an emotional punching bag, etc. Sleep helps.
- Realize that the detoxee isn't actually mad at you; they are mad at themselves and you are just a convenient target. The emotional abuse that will be leveled at you is beyond toxic and this is the single hardest part.
And you can survive this. I did and so have many, many others since the dawn of time.
Over the years I have spoken to a number of people about this particularly surreal and shitty life experience. If you are still in my life and you are reading this then thank you. Each and every one of you made a difference.