Itching with Alcohol Withdrawal

Hi, I’m Sandy.

I am a 12 Step Addiction Counsellor at Aurora Recovery Centre, and a recovered alcoholic of over 10 years.

My Itch

When I think back to November 11, 2006, when I finally conceded to my innermost self that I was truly an alcoholic, I remember feeling alone, frightened, full of self-pity and not “normal”. The thought that I wasn’t normal was the itch from alcohol withdrawal that I desperately needed to scratch. When we refer to the itch, we are not always talking about the physical sensation, but rather a mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual pain that needs to be eradicated. Alcohol withdrawal presents itself in many forms. It is a painful process and often that pain is the reason we go back to the familiar numbness that drinking provides.

To give you an understanding of what an alcoholic may suffer from during withdrawal, here is a list of possible symptoms:


Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal:

-high blood pressure
-increased heart rate
-itchy skin


Mental Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal:

-visual hallucinations
-auditory hallucinations
-tactile hallucinations (feeling of itchy, burning skin)
-irrational thoughts
-extreme confusion


Emotional Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal:

-extreme agitation
-mood swings


Spiritual Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal:

-spiritually numb
-without knowledge of spiritual matters
-may have religious affiliations, but no spiritual connection


I was fortunate to not suffer from severe physical withdrawal symptoms as so many do when they initially stop drinking. I should have had many physical withdrawal symptoms, as I was drinking up to 160 oz of vodka every week for several years. I don’t know why I was spared this form of physical torture, but to me, it is a miracle. My itch from alcohol withdrawal did present itself very strongly when it came to the emotional, mental, and spiritual areas of my life.

Overcoming Challenges  

I was about a year into my sobriety when I also found out that I have bipolar disorder. Dealing with both my alcoholic mind and the emotions associated with a severe mental health disorder could have made for disaster for both myself and my family. The worst-case scenario for us would have been for me to relapse. It was tough for me at the beginning, not having the benefit of going to a treatment centre such as Aurora Recovery Centre, that can identify and treat co-occurring disorders such as mine. I was eventually able to piece out the areas of my life that needed to change because fortunately, I had found Alcoholics Anonymous early in sobriety. By reading the Big Book (AA’s primary publication), getting a sponsor, and going to meetings, I learned I needed to scratch the itch from alcohol withdrawal with spirituality. I discovered I needed a spiritual program of recovery, and would need to follow it for the rest of my life. AA led me back to the God of my childhood that I had left behind in my disease of addiction.

Scratching My Itch 

For this recovered alcoholic, doing the 12 Steps of Action suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous has been life-changing. I no longer believe or feel I am abnormal without alcohol in my life. My spiritual growth has helped me achieve well-being in all areas. Physically, I am no longer 40 lbs overweight; mentally and emotionally, I am willing and capable of treating my bipolar disorder without attaching stigma or shame to it; and spiritually, I feel connected to my Higher Power. He healed my itch from alcohol withdrawal, and for that, I am forever grateful. It’s now my job to take the steps needed to continue to recover, and help others achieve sobriety… one day at a time!

Sandy Sandulak
12 Step Addiction Counsellor
Aurora Recovery Centre

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