Wanting to know a timeline for what might happen and when — and when you can expect to return to a new normal for your life — is completely understandable when entering rehab or addiction treatment. But there aren’t hard-and-fast rules for this because addiction is a personal issue unique to every person. That means the timeline of alcohol recovery and treatment is also unique. But there are some commonalities many people dealing with alcohol recovery share and some best practices related to treatment that can help you understand what type of timeline to expect.

Find out more below about the stages of alcohol recovery and what type of schedule you might expect. If you’re ready to enter this journey and seek a new, sober lifestyle, contact Changing Tides today via phone at (252) 715-3905 or through our online form to get started.


Group of men smiling during a group therapy session which is a part of the timeline of alcohol recovery.


What Is the Alcohol Recovery Timeline?

For many people, the timeline for quitting alcohol abuse begins when they decide to seek professional help. They reach out to a facility, therapist or doctor and, within a few hours or days, have a referral to get started on treatment for alcohol addiction. When you call Changing Tides, we can help you get into treatment within the next 24 hours if necessary.

Alcohol Detox: Typically the First Stage of Treatment

The first stage of the rehab process is usually detox. Your body has become used to having alcohol in its system and may be physically dependent on the substance. When you stop taking it, your body reacts to the fact that alcohol is leaving your system and not being replenished. That reaction comes in the form of alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can include:

  • Digestive issues such as nausea or vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety, mood swings or restlessness
  • Confusion or irritability
  • Sweating, fever or tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of appetite

Healing from the effects of alcohol dependence involves addressing severe withdrawal symptoms, which can also include delirium and seizures. The severity of your symptoms and how long they last depend on factors that include how much alcohol you’re using, how long you’ve been abusing alcohol and your own age, health and gender.

Withdrawals can start in as little as eight hours and typically peak in one to three days. By the end of the first week of rehab, the worst of these symptoms usually taper off.

During these first few days or weeks of recovery, it’s common to go through medically assisted detox. If you’re in a long-term rehab program, this can mean supervision by clinical staff who can provide medical interventions to reduce the discomfort and danger of certain withdrawal symptoms so you can get through the first phase more comfortably.


Young girl experiencing nausea and vomiting, common symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal


Inpatient or Long-term Rehab Program

Following detox, most people continue to complete an inpatient or long-term rehab program, which can include various therapies and other activities designed to help them stop drinking alcohol:

  • Identify root causes for excessive alcohol use
  • Develop new, healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors and triggers
  • Learn about the addiction cycle and how to manage an addiction
  • Build confidence and knowledge to facilitate a long-term recovery

Total time spent in inpatient or long-term rehab can range from a few weeks to a few months or even as long as a year. Your treatment plan and timeline are worked out with your therapy team because the goal of rehab should always be to meet your individual recovery needs.

Outpatient Treatment and Step-Down

Many people don’t immediately enter a new normal from a long-term program. Instead, they take a path that goes through step-down treatment, moving from a long-term program where they live 24 hours a day to an outpatient program where they participate during the day or a few hours every week.

This step-down approach can last for a few weeks or months, depending on your needs and goals with recovery. Again, this is generally something you work with your treatment team to determine.


Young adult male engaging in individual therapy with a therapist for excessive alcohol consumption


Aftercare and Ongoing Support for Recovery

Addiction is a chronic illness like diabetes. It doesn’t come with a cure, which means you will always be in recovery. That means the final stage of the alcoholism treatment timeline is the rest of your life. During that time, it’s important to continue to follow up with aftercare and support resources. Someone who is diabetic follows up regularly with his or her physician to manage the disease process. Someone who is a recovering alcoholic might follow up with AA meetings, a sponsor or individual therapy.

This lifelong final stage doesn’t have to impede your life. In fact, when you follow up with recovery resources, you usually enhance your ability to lead a sober, healthier lifestyle long-term.

Whether you’re entering the cycle of addiction for the first time or you’ve relapsed and want to get back to the final stage of sobriety and manage your addiction, contact Changing Tides, the leading North Carolina rehab center, today. We can help you get started with our alcohol rehab treatment.

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