What is White-Knuckle Sobriety And How to Tackle It?

an image of someone learning how to stop white knuckle sobriety

In the alcoholism context, white-knuckling refers to getting sober on your own. This attempt to get rid of substance involves nothing but your willpower.

It takes an enormous amount of self-control to get or stay sober. However, in most cases, the severe withdrawal symptoms of alcohol make it extremely hard and often a distant dream.

Some people try to keep themselves busy to avoid their cravings for alcohol while some hire a personal trainer and work out intensively. But withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol are worse than several other substances. They refer to significant changes (visible and hidden) in the body when someone suddenly stops consuming alcohol after prolonged abuse. 

In layman’s terms, alcohol abuse means heavy drinking on a regular basis — for men, it’s more than four drinks per day or more than fourteen drinks per week and for women, it’s over three drinks per day or seven drinks per week.

Causes of White Knuckle Sobriety

The following are the major cause of white-knuckling sobriety:

  • Lack of support around them
  • No knowledge about serious withdrawal symptoms of alcohol
  • A belief that self-control is enough for resisting alcohol
  • A belief that withdrawal symptoms won’t harm them
  • Assuming that they can quit alcohol without a treatment
  • Thinking that their problems are not serious enough
  • No knowledge of how to get the necessary support
  • Thinking that alcohol withdrawal symptoms won’t happen to them

Dangers of White Knuckling

People who are white-knuckling are at great risk of relapsing, especially those who are attempting it without making significant life changes. Addiction brings emotional baggage and most of the people trying to achieve white knuckling sobriety are not aware of it. 

Additionally, willpower is the only weapon they have to avoid drinking. However, willpower can easily break when they believe that they are not enjoying life without liquor. In such scenarios, it becomes very hard for people to remain normal and happy, and ultimately they get miserable and difficult to be around.

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are deadly and thus white-knuckling can be dangerous. Getting alcohol-free with just willpower is closely linked to relapse. It involves the following risks:

  • Failure to quit drinking which may cause heart and liver diseases
  • Personal, social, and family issues
  • Worsening of withdrawal symptoms
  • Relapse
  • Death

Self-constraint is not enough for achieving sobriety for the most. Even though you find it achievable, it is not safe.

What Does White-Knuckle Sobriety Look Like?

The process of white-knuckling revolves around withdrawal symptoms for obvious reasons. And, they can be from mild to fatal. The following are the most common withdrawal symptoms related to alcohol addiction:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Trembling
  • Severe confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucination
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Severe confusion
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Most typically, the initial symptoms of withdrawal begin a few hours after your last drink. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, know that you are not alone. It’s wise to seek professional help in such cases. Suffering from this issue behind closed doors may make things worse.

Ways to Stop White-Knuckle Sobriety

You have several options to stop white knuckle sobriety. However, it’s necessary to seek professional help. You can consider the following steps:

  • Join the communities like Alcohol Anonymous (AA) so you don’t face all the consequences alone. 
  • Consult with mental health experts who can train you on adapting healthier coping mechanisms to combat triggers.
  • Take certain medications (of course, after having a word with a medical professional) that can help you quit alcohol.

To add more, you can count on inpatient and outpatient rehabs that can provide you with mental health professionals and medical doctors who can assist you with every step you take towards recovery. Else, you can undergo family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and several other treatments to identify and tackle the triggers that drive you to consume alcohol.

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