4 Tips to Stay Sober and Ease Withdrawal

I feel like every family, including mine, has someone who is an alcoholic that wants to stop drinking. One of my relatives has struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction since he was 14. Now, at over 60 years of age, he’s still suffering. The actual part of “quitting” is not as hard as staying sober thereafter. Most people who quit, start drinking again pretty soon after (or during) withdrawal. I hope to change that by educating you today. Whether it’s you or a close friend or family member who struggles with alcoholism or other drug addiction, one of my tips could very well change your life forever.
I’m sure of it.

Once you start taking sedatives or drinking alcohol, you activate certain receptors in your brain that create the physical addiction in your body and then it becomes difficult to stop. After 3 weeks of routine use, it’s no longer easy to stop. You’re hooked. I used to work in addiction and rehab centers, and I’d also see alcoholics and addicts in the hospital. Alcoholism recovery is difficult, and the withdrawal phase is downright awful. I mean A.W.F.U.L! I bet some of you want to die when you’re in the middle of withdrawal, but I’m telling you that if you choose to hold on and prove your courage, YOU WILL be well. I promise you.

The first of January offers a clean slate, and people often feel like it’s a good time to quit drinking, but within weeks they are back at it. There’s a reason why, and a way to maintain sobriety.  So if you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to stop drinking, or stop taking sedatives, sleeping pills or tranquilizers, read on. I’ve classified the sedative/hypnotics and benzodiazepine drugs along with alcohol because they impact similar receptors and brain chemicals.

I want to get you well.

I love receiving your emails with your positive stories. If I can help you, it will positively affect your entire family. You may feel like your relationships are broken forever due to your past behavior and moods, but most relationships are mendable in time if both parties want to mend it. Your family and friends still love you, even if they are hurt by your behavior. They need you to get well and stop this nonsense. If you want to be helped and get sober once and for all, here are some tips:

1. You must have patience. This is #1 on my list because it’s the most important. Failure occurs when people give up instead of bearing with it, and holding on. Those receptors in your brain can and do heal. You see, if you drink or take benzodiazepine sedatives, the GABA receptors on your cells are atrophied. This means the little areas on your cells that hug GABA and pull it into your cell are essentially dead. It’s called “downregulation.”  Time is the only thing that will allow those receptors to regrow and heal. This is why you have to be patient and have faith. The receptor sites will upregulate. When they do, the awful symptoms of withdrawal, which may include anxiety, restlessness, gloom, insomnia, internal buzzing, cravings, torture in your brain and akathisias, will lessen. There are other symptoms that go hand in hand with GABA receptor downregulation, I’ve only mentioned a few. It could take up to two years for you to feel well, but you must hold on. You can do it.

2. Supplements and medications can backfire. Your brain has about one hundred billion neurons (cells) and there is a small space between them. The neurons don’t touch. The space between them is called a synapse. That’s where your “happy” brain chemicals hang around. The chemistry of addiction is such that these feel-good endorphins are needed constantly. So when you suddenly stop receiving your endorphins (in the form of alcohol, antidepressants, benzodiazepines,  or opiates like hydrocodone or heroin), your synapses starve. The “happy” brain chemicals aren’t there any more. This is how cravings set in. This is in part why drug-seeking behavior occurs and why depression can be so profound if you don’t taper slowly enough.

Conventional medicine’s answer to this is to prescribe medications quickly… because they restore some feel-good endorphins. So physicians who are not knowledgeable in addiction and withdrawal will then increase neurotransmitters by prescribing a drug for it. They are trying to push production of a neurotransmitter, but if it’s done prematurely, you will suffer. I’ll explain why: if your receptors are downregulated, the new medication will backfire since there’s no receptor to hug it in.  You have taken a medication or supplement to ease withdrawal, yet you feel worse on it. The key is to re-sensitize your receptors, not push production of endorphins… there’s nowhere for them to go, their levels spike in the space (the synapse) and build up, causing terrible side effects. I’m not completely against supplements (or medications for that matter), but I feel like timing and proper dosage is everything. Which leads me to my next tip.

3. Use microdoses of any supplement you want to try. There are dozens of options that have the possibility to help you raise GABA, but if you keep in mind what I just taught you above, then it’s obvious you need to begin with microdoses. Let’s use our example of alcohol, which mimics GABA’s function in the body in that it’s calming. Supplements that may help raise GABA include lemon balm, magnolia bark, passionflower, valerian root and more. I don’t recommend any of them early on, but maybe after a few months of sobriety. This is highly individual, so please don’t take my word as gospel. But whatever you and your doctor decide, microdosing is key to using any of those supplements and others not listed here.

The point is this: you make GABA in your body out of the precursor amino acid called glutamate. When glutamate builds up you feel anxiety, internal restlessness, panic, pain and possibly digestive problems, especially in your pancreas.  You need to make sure that conversion of glutamate into GABA is happening properly. This is a huge tip, please remember it. The conversion of glutamate into GABA is what keeps you calm and helps to reduce cravings. It’s not the actual level of glutamate or GABA, it’s how efficiently you convert glutamate into GABA. You need both of those, neither is a bad guy.

Converting glutamate into calming GABA requires an enzyme called GAD (glutamate decarboxylase) which is generated in your pancreas. What if you don’t make enough GAD? Many of you don’t. What if you have a genetic SNP against this enzyme, or antibodies against this enzyme? It’s going to spark a lot of intestinal disturbances that will confuse you and probably your gastroenterologist (because nothing shows up but you hurt like heck). This is called “visceral hypersensitivity” and it’s quite common in alcoholics and those recovering from benzo and opiate misuse and abuse.  This is why I told you that you might have digestive problems, either in the middle or side of your abdomen. Glutamate builds up in the nerves surrounding your digestive organs, especially your pancreas which creates GAD and if GAD is not working well, glutamate builds up. Remember, glutamate is painful in excess.

This next piece is very important in order for you to get well. Your GAD enzyme doesn’t work well without several natural nutrients including P5P (pyridoxal 5 phosphate) the biologically active form of B6. This P5P can be purchased online.  Don’t depend on your body to convert the B6 to P5P, it isn’t going to happen. Also, don’t buy anything I mention without first asking your doctor, as I don’t know what’s right for you individually. I write to millions of you at once. So please, check to be sure if something I mention is right for you before you drive over to the health food store or buy online.

Now, you may be inclined to take 20 or 30 milligrams of P5P but I’m warning you, this will probably end badly. Microdoses along the lines of 5 or 8 mg taken two or three times a day is much better because this keeps GABA production steady and slow (remember, your GABA receptors are downregulated). Just dump out the capsules in the sink and guesstimate a dose. Lysine is also needed in order for P5P to work well. The two together help support GAD enzyme which then functions as the catalyst to turn glutamate into GABA. Probiotics can be helpful as well, but do not introduce all three supplements at once.

4. Find a great support network that includes professionals.  There are many qualified, experienced, caring physicians and addiction/withdrawal counselors available. Social workers are also in a unique position to help you achieve sobriety.  Having the “help” of a physician untrained in addiction can set you back at the least, and at the worst be catastrophic for your recovery.

I’ll have more on this topic again soon. I think millions of people worldwide can benefit.  Excessive drinking numbs you from the pain of past abuse or current emotional or physical trauma or stress. It’s an outlet for some, a way to decompress. It usually starts innocently with a glass or two of wine with dinner, and then slowly, alcohol takes over your life.  I know functional alcoholics personally.  Many are sweet, some are professionally successful, some are open about their drinking, others keep it a secret due to fear of judgement. Wherever you are in this, I hope today’s tips are useful.

I hope I’ve given you some insight today, as well as faith to be patience and know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang on please, because in time you will be well. It might be hard to see this right now but you can do it. I’m rooting for you!


Related Articles:

How to curb cravings for alcohol and drugs

Milk thistle can liven up your liver

Akathisias make you want to jump out of your skin



  1. Aya January 21, 2017 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Hello, has this approach helped your family member who’s been struggling since the age of 14? Thanks

    • Suzy Cohen January 22, 2017 at 2:41 am - Reply

      No Aya, unfortunately no luck there, my relative doesn’t seem to truly want help, not in my humble opinion. He doesn’t stay compliant with any nutrients that I recommend that could help ease the crave, nor does he listen to videos or audios from men who have recovered, who can advise now ‘from the other side.’ He won’t go to AA and he doesn’t ask me for help, he constantly relapses, there’s nothing anyone can do. I get a call once in a while to just to bail him out when he’s in trouble or homeless. I can only help those who truly want help, and are willing to make changes, such as those of you here today.

  2. Aerowenn January 21, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Valuable information, I understand that you want folks to check with their doctors, etc. but still a protocol would be helpful. Trying to extract the vital information from the avalanche of text surrounding it is daunting. A simple
    protocol outlined at the end would alleviate confusion.

  3. miriam January 21, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great article. When you say, people don’t taper slowly enough do you mean cut back a drink or two every day? Any more info on this subject would be greatly appreciated. It can save someone’s life as you know.

  4. Todd January 21, 2017 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Interesting article. I have suffered with pain under my right rib and digestive issues ever since I went through a nasty benzo WD (was on benzo’s for 7 years) back in 2000. Yes, 16 years later I still suffer. Had my gall bladder removed- no change and the docs can’t find a cause. I’m going to give the P5P with Lysine a try. You say it can take up to 2 years to recover from withdrawal issues. It took much longer for me and I’m still not out of the woods. Just having one alcoholic drink will bring back all the original WD symptoms for several days. The stomach issues occur regardless.

    • Suzy Cohen January 22, 2017 at 2:50 am - Reply

      Look up “Visceral Hypersensitivity” and also “hyperalgesia” the GABA receptors are more prominent in the gut than in the brain. Glutamate could be building up, causing excessive amounts of excitotoxins (maybe pain?)
      Sorry you are going through this. I’m not sure how to help other than give you an e-hug from here. This must be so difficult. Good for you to be so strong and courageous. In time it does heal.

  5. Jess January 21, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you Suzy for this article and your kindness. I have been dependent on benzodiazepines for 18 yrs. The problem is I have debilitating insomnia which then causes migraines, even with a slow taper. I decided this year I am going to find someone who knows how to do titration. Can you suggest how to find a doctor or therapist who is knowledgeable in titration? Any suggestions for the insomnia and migraines? Thank you so much, you are a blessing to this earth!

    • Suzy Cohen January 22, 2017 at 2:48 am - Reply

      Thank you Jess. http://www.benzo.org.uk/manual/bzcha02.htm
      That’s where Heather Ashton’s work is on benzo’s, I’m sure you have heard of her.
      It takes time to repair the GABAa receptors, months to years. Have you seen my “Headache Free” book? Look on Amazon for that.
      I would suggest 10% less each month if possible.

  6. Sue January 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    Thanks Suzy! Great information.

  7. Gaylon McCoy January 21, 2017 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you, I help others in addiction and have suffered myself. Recently I took a brave chance after fa failing everything else, on Chantix. Oh my, breathe, please take some breath ….still suffering.
    Tried Calcium D Glucarate. GLUTATHIONE isn’t made properly in me, so this did no good. My sister had great intentions, but now I’m taking drugs for really bad nausea and panic attacks and insomnia. I want to drink, after 7 years of sobriety, which took 14 years, and some I will NEVER get back. Your advice is going to help, and help me help others. Single for 23 years and don’t want to be anymore! I found you 3 years ago and have learned SO MUCH. Thank you

  8. Buki Fagbenle January 22, 2017 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Thanks for this Suzy. I have also found that multi-digestive enzymes help with WD. Daily use of milk thistle will also help to regenerate and protect the liver. You are an inspiration.

  9. Chuck January 22, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Suzy……Am surprised !!! Why no mention of Meditation??? Surely it’s our thoughts that drive addiction Being in the moment as much as you can avoids those troublesome involuntary thoughts for booze this is so easily available thru controlled breathing and awareness

    I Enjoy your Books and Emails…..Hoping for results from 1/day Thyroid Script

  10. Don January 24, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Hi Suzy. I read this a few days ago and immediately felt the urge to respond to it. My first thought was “I could write a book, or several books, about this.” Sadly, I am an “expert” on certain aspects of both alcoholism and dependence on benzodiazepines – and on the withdrawal from both – not because I am so smart, but because I lived (and survived) the hell of both. I will uncharacteristically “spend” as few words as possible here.

    I believe it is important to make a bit of a distinction between tranquilizers (primarily benzodiazepines) and alcohol when addressing “craving” and “tapering” from them. Craving does play an enormous role in alcohol addiction. In the last eleven months of my alcohol addiction, I thought constantly about taking that next drink. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing. Even though the last few months of my drinking produced no “buzz” or “high,” I still craved the alcohol. I desperately wanted that next drink, and I desperately wanted to not take that next drink. It was hell.

    My experience with benzodiazepines was much different. I became dependent on Xanax very rapidly. The first two weeks were heavenly. The Xanax gave me an extreme sense of calm and a type of “high.” Looking back, there was a craving for those two weeks. But, it was short-lived. The heaven that Xanax provided turned into hell by week three or four. The craving was over that rapidly. The next thirteen years were simply years of being dependent on Klonopin (which I was switched to after the Xanax stopped “helping”). There was no craving – no high, just dependence and tolerance.

    Although proper, safe tapering is very important when discontinuing benzodiazepines, I have never seen it work for an alcoholic (and I have been in the AA rooms with many). It certainly didn’t work for me. I recall writing “drinking rules” for myself in those last eleven months. I was trying to limit my intake for each drinking episode. They were very well thought out, but I didn’t follow them for even one night. There is a saying in AA that “one drink is too many, and ten is not enough.” With only one drink, an alcoholic is usually once again “off to the races.” It is true though that, if one drinks an enormous amount of alcohol on a daily basis, he or she may need to do a fairly rapid “taper” to prevent delirium tremens (DTs).

    Thank you for writing this article. I find the biochemistry discussion very interesting.

    As usual, I must apologize for the length of my response.

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