Drinking alcohol is fun for a few years until the constant hangovers take hold. The benefits of quitting FAR outweigh the benefits of drinking.
Quitting alcohol can feel impossible. It’s especially difficult for those who are addicted to it.
Oftentimes, alcoholics feel as if, for them, there is no life without booze. Despite all of the negative side effects it has on their life, they continue to drink.
Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in the prison of alcoholism. As the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tells us, more than 15 million Americans are hooked on the drug.
Luckily, however, quitting is possible. Despite the fact that sobriety seems a million miles away, it only takes a few steps.
And, the benefits are amazing. By not drinking alcohol, people are able to improve their lives in all kinds of ways.
Here are just some of the benefits of quitting.
#1 When You Quit Drinking Alcohol, You Feel Much Better
Alcohol isn’t a healthy substance. People tend to forget that. Sure, there is evidence that one or two drinks can prevent certain illnesses. However, chronic and binge drinking is downright dangerous.
When someone drinks excessively, their body is required to work overtime to process the drug. The liver goes into overdrive to metabolize it. The brain goes haywire as it tries to calibrate itself. The heart and lungs pump at irregular speeds.
It’s not how the body is intended to work.
People who don’t drink, on the other hand, tend to be much healthier. They aren’t prone to alcohol’s effects on the body. Because the body is freed from processing toxic chemicals, it can focus its energy on other things. As a result, the mind and body are able to function at optimum levels.
The Mental Health Benefits of Giving Up Drinking
Drinking isn’t always good for mental health. In moderation, it can help to relieve stress. In excess, however, it often causes people to make choices they regret.
One side effect of these choices is the “moral hangover”. As Theo Brenner-Roach recently wrote for The Observer, “Alcohol inhibits the ability to make decisions, often leading to undesirable and regrettable behavior.”
So, drinking is often accompanied by shame and guilt. Describing moral hangovers, the author writes, “You find yourself analyzing the events of the night before with your emotions swinging from discomfort to shame and remorse.”
Over time, this can take a toll on a person’s mental health. One of the greatest benefits to quitting drinking, therefore, is the elimination of guilt. Of course, even sober people do things that they regret. But, without alcohol in the picture, those events are likely to happen less and less.
I Just Quit Drinking…How Long Does It Take to Feel Better?
The timeline varies from person-to-person. Physically, people should start to feel better within the first few weeks after they quit. Alcohol doesn’t stay in the body for very long. Even long-term alcoholics can detox within a week or so. If they eat healthily and exercise, they should start to feel better quite quickly.
But, drinking also has emotional side effects. These aren’t always easy to fix. If an alcoholic has a co-occurring disorder like anxiety, for example, their condition will still be there after they quit drinking. However, the elimination of booze can help them get to a place of stability. If they consult a doctor for help and commit to sobriety, their mental state should improve.
#2 You’ll Look Younger If You Quit
Alcohol tends to make people look older. It’s quite bad for the skin. It’s a diuretic, which means that it dehydrates the body. Without proper hydration, the skin dries out and becomes less elastic.
It also causes body tissue inflammation. This is why we see some people get flush in the face when they drink. That red flushness is their skin becoming inflamed. Of course, the redness usually goes away once they alcohol leaves their system. But over time, constant inflammation will damage their skin.
Additionally, research suggests that drinking actually ages the body’s cells. It reduces the lifespan of the cells in the heart, liver, skin, and other organs. If someone’s body is too unhealthy to produce new cells, the aging process becomes apparent. Their skin and other organs will start to deteriorate much faster.
What Does an Alcoholic Face Look Like?
Every drinker is different. Some are lucky enough to have good genes, so booze might not have drastic effects on their skin.
In most people, however, alcohol lowers collagen levels. Collagen is a protein that connects the skin cells and strengthens the tissue. When it breaks down, the skin becomes loose and saggy.
Additionally, alcoholism may cause jaundice. The symptoms of jaundice include yellow skin and yellowish eyes.
This condition occurs when the liver is too weak to process toxins adequately. If the liver can’t filter out toxins, some toxins are sent into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body. When these toxins make it to the skin and eyes, both start to take on a yellowish color.
All in all, those who want the healthiest skin possible should avoid alcohol.
#3 Sobriety Saves You Money
The benefits of alcohol detox aren’t just physical. It can have financial benefits, as well.
After all, as anyone who drinks knows, the cost of alcohol can add up. By themselves, a few beers or a bottle of wine is only a few bucks. But, when someone drinks daily, or even weekly, the costs compound over time.
Not to mention, poor financial decisions often accompany drinking. If any legal issues, such as a DUI, occur, they’re going to cost a lot.
Best Alcohol for Your Money? None!
The National Institute of Health has a great alcohol spending calculator on their website. This tool is designed to help drinkers calculate the amount of money they spend on booze. Just plug in the average cost of each drink, the average number of drinks consumed, and the number of days.
Anyone who drinks regularly will be shocked at the amount of cash they spend on alcohol. Those $5 mixed drinks at the bar, for example, can add up over time. Even if someone goes to the bar once just a week and has only two of them, they end up spending more than $500 per year! That $500 could go toward much better things!
Former alcoholics usually find that their wallets are much thicker once they quit. Even casual drinkers, however, can reap the benefits of quitting, too!
#4 When You’re Not Drunk, You Can Connect with People
Many people become isolated by their drinking problem. The condition causes folks to feel guilty, ashamed, and alone. Blinded by the booze, they often forget that there are people in the world who love them and want to connect with them.
In his article “Addiction as a Disease of Isolation”, published on PsychologyToday.com, Dr. Shahram Heshmat suggests that addiction stems from a lack of connection. Drugs and alcohol, he writes, give addicts a sense of stability. Whenever they want to feel connected, they can use their favorite drug. Booze, after all, can’t judge anyone. It offers a kind of safety to alcoholics.”
“Avoidant individuals, who attempt to detach themselves from psychological distress, can use alcohol and drugs as a means of avoiding painful emotions and self-awareness,” Dr. Heshmat says.
Of course, the connection between an addict and their drug of choice is not real. It’s not healthy, either. Everyone craves personal, human connection. Sobriety offers that. One of the biggest benefits of not drinking alcohol is that the safety of drunkenness is removed, forcing people to form real connections with those around them.
Alcoholics Anonymous: A Place for Addicts to Connect
Because alcoholism is so isolating, many former addicts have a hard time during the early days of sobriety. With their crutch pulled out from underneath them, former alcoholics are forced to confront their reality. This can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources for newly sober people. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the best. This organization was formed to give alcoholics a place to connect with each other. The group holds meetings in nearly every town in America on a daily basis.
AA is based around the idea that compassion is the key to sobriety. In order to avoid a relapse, alcoholics must learn to accept themselves and others. In “The Program”, addicts spend time connecting with others and interacting without judgment. For that reason, it helps a lot of people get sober.
Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t right for everyone. For whatever reason, some alcoholics find that they do better without it. However, for those folks who benefit from it, AA opens up a world of friendship and gives them a new lease on life.
#5 You Can Lose Weight When You Give Up the Drinking
Alcohol is very high in calories. And, the calories in alcohol are empty. The body processes and stores alcohol as sugar, which eventually converts to fat. People who drink excessively usually carry more weight around than those who abstain.
In fact, research shows that excessive alcohol consumption is closely tied to obesity. The more a person drinks, the more likely it is that they’ll gain extra weight.
Of course, some folks have faster metabolisms than other people. So, there is no direct correlation between someone’s weight and the amount of alcohol they consume. A person’s drink of choice can affect their weight, as well, because some drinks have higher sugar content.
But, if a person is looking to lose some weight, they should start by not drinking. Weight loss is a great benefit of giving up alcohol.
How Long After I Quit Drinking Alcohol will I Lose Weight?
The exact weight loss timeline varies from person to person. Some people process sugar and burn calories faster than others.
Quitting beer, wine or liquor can be a great way to shed some pounds. However, if someone really wants to lose weight, they should adopt a healthy diet and get some exercise, too. After putting the booze aside, this is the best way to lose weight rapidly.
One of the best benefits of quitting drinking is that the desire for carbohydrates diminishes. It’s common, after all, for people to reach out for high-carb foods to cure a hangover. This is because the comedown from a carb-rush causes blood sugar to drop, which triggers the brain to crave more carbohydrates.
So, if a person is able to avoid high-carb foods in addition to abstaining from alcohol, they’ll see faster weight loss results.
#6 Put Down the Bottle, Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack
Drinking can be very bad for the heart and the pulmonary system. Particularly in people who are prone to pulmonary conditions, habitual drinking can increase the risk of heart disease. One of the best health benefits of not drinking is the reduction of this risk.
There are 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. According to Dr. Luc Djoussee and Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, more than 500,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. In their review entitled “Alcohol Consumption and Heart Failure”, the two doctors state that the risk of heart failure was nearly twice as high in heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week).
One of the greatest benefits of quitting alcohol, therefore, is a healthier heart and a longer life.
Why is Alcohol so Bad for the Heart?
The problem with drinking is that it increases the amount of fat in the bloodstream. Specifically, it raises the number of triglycerides. This can result in higher cholesterol levels.
Fatty blood is bad for the heart. Essentially, it slows down the speed at which blood moves through the body. This requires the heart to work extra hard to pump blood. Over time, high cholesterol may result in heart failure and a number of other conditions.
The American Heart Association says that, in order to maintain a healthy heart, men should drink no more than two drinks per day. They say that women should have no more than one.
#7 You Can Pick Up an Old Hobby (Or Take Up a New One)
Drinking takes up a lot of time. Partying, of course, is time-consuming by itself. But, add on all the time it takes to get alcohol and tack on recovery time and, well, it adds up.
In fact, it’s so time-consuming that a lot of newly sober people have difficulty occupying their time. They just don’t know what to do when they don’t have to think about drinking.
But, finding a new hobby is important for staying sober. Some former alcoholics turn to exercise. Others focus on music. Some people prefer to fish, read, or garden. It’s not important what the hobby is, as long as it gives the addict something to occupy their mind. As one anonymous author writes, “Boredom is counterproductive to sobriety.”
Those who already love an activity, of course, will be thrilled to reap the benefits of not drinking. They’ll have much more time and energy to focus on doing the thing they love without being interrupted by booze and hangovers.
Whoever said “Quitters never win” didn’t have the chance to enjoy the benefits of giving up alcohol.
#8 If You Abstain from Alcohol, You Can Heal Your Liver
Drinking beer, wine, or liquor is bad for the liver. After all, the human body isn’t built to process alcohol. When someone consumes large amounts of booze, even just a few times, their liver must work extra hard to process it all. Over time, the liver gets exhausted.
In extreme cases, alcoholics may develop liver disorders such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or fatty liver syndrome. As was pointed out above, these conditions can result in both internal and external damage to the body.
Fortunately, the liver is a regenerative organ. This means that it can repair itself when it’s given the time to do so. In order to prevent it from getting worse, then, heavy drinkers should stop drinking and give their liver some time to recover.
What Happens to Your Liver When You Stop Drinking?
The liver constantly works to regenerate itself. It generates new cells with the intention of fixing any problems that pop up. It’s one of the human body’s most important organs, after all, so it’s crucial that it stays in good shape.
Alcohol, however, throws a wrench into the regeneration system. When the liver is soaked in booze, it has a more difficult time producing new cells. Over time, it may start to deteriorate.
When someone gives up alcohol, their liver starts to flush out all of the leftover byproducts that were produced over time. This process can take several weeks under normal circumstances. In extreme cases, it can take a few years. After the byproducts have been flushed out, it returns to its normal functions.
Unfortunately, some liver damage is irreparable. In most cases, though, people who quit drinking will feel the benefits within a few months.
#9 When You’re Sober, You Can Right the Wrongs of the Past
Everyone on Earth has done things that they regret. But, hard drinkers tend to do more regrettable things. One of the greatest benefits of quitting is having the chance to apologize and to make up for those things.
In many cases, an alcoholic may have acted in a way that caused their family or friends to distance themselves. But, once the person quits drinking, they have tangible proof that they’re taking steps toward being a better person. As long as they stay sober, at least some of the people around them will grant forgiveness.
Making Amends: The Notorious Ninth Step
An important part of the 12 Steps is making amends. During Step 8, alcoholics are required to make a list of all the people who they’ve harmed or done wrong in some way. For Step 9, they’re expected to make amends with the people on their list.
Members of The Program are quick to differentiate between apologizing and making amends. Amends, after all, are not always words. In certain cases, like when an alcoholic has stolen money to buy drinks or crashed someone else’s car, they are supposed to compensate the person for the damage. Even if the alcoholic can’t pay in full, making amends is about taking steps to repair the relationship.
“Anyone can make a mistake and run. It takes a special kind of person to make a mistake, admit to it, and face the pain and trouble that comes with making amends.”
~ Anonymous AA member
One of the greatest benefits of quitting drinking is being able to start fresh. However, if there are still ghosts in the past, it’s hard to move toward the future. Sobriety gives people the opportunity to right their wrongs in order to start over.
#10 No Alcohol Means Better Sleep
Most people don’t realize how much drinking affects their sleep habits. But, it does.
According to the Sleep Foundation, alcohol triggers activity in the brain referred to as “delta activity”. Delta activity is a type of deep sleep that helps with learning and memory restoration.
But, alcohol also triggers another type of activity at the same time. This type, called “alpha activity”, is one that usually only occurs when someone is awake. So, these two types of brain activity have opposite effects. When they both happen at the same time, the individual is unable to enter into a deep sleep cycle. Thus, they don’t rest very well.
This may seem strange due to the fact that alcohol makes people sleepy. After all, it is a depressant. However, a drunk person’s sleep quality is not as good as that of a sober person. Once someone quits alcohol, they’ll reap far more benefits from their sleep.
But I Quit Drinking and I Can’t Sleep At All…Why?
Some folks find that they’re unable to sleep once they get sober. Certain people have trouble getting to sleep for the first few days. Others experience long-term insomnia that lasts months.
Well, alcohol withdrawal has a lot of side effects. One of these side effects is anxiety. Usually, anxious thoughts are at the heart of insomnia. The alcoholic, nervous about their future as a sober person, stays up late and allows their mind to race. If they’re committed to sobriety, they won’t drink even if it might help them sleep.
There aren’t too many solutions to this problem aside from therapy and natural supplements. Or, as Dr. Rubin Naiman suggests, quitting caffeine. Eventually, however, the individual will settle into their post-alcoholic life and get some sleep.
#11 When You Quit Alcohol, You Can Make Your Dreams Come True
It may sound corny, but it’s true: sobriety offers alcoholics a second chance at life. Without the constant burdens of exhaustion, hangovers, and illness, recovered drinkers have much more time to focus on their goals.
Of course, these goals are different for everyone. Certain people want to go to college. Others want to write books. Some alcoholics simply dream of being decent parents.
Whatever a person’s goals are, the best way to achieve them is to eliminate alcohol. It opens up all kinds of physical, emotional, and financial doors that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
And, at the very least, those who quit drinking reap the benefit of living a longer life.
No Alcohol for a Year: You Don’t Have to Be a Drunk to Quit Drinking
Sobriety isn’t just for alcoholics. Nearly everyone could benefit from quitting alcohol. The physical, emotional, and financial upsides apply to all.
It doesn’t have to be permanent, either. If someone with a healthy relationship to alcohol feels that the drug makes them tired or sick when they drink it, they could probably benefit from stopping.
A number of therapists and health experts have promoted the idea of quitting alcohol for a year. This time period allows the body to regenerate itself and for the mind to straighten itself out. It’s likely, at the end of the year, that the individual won’t want to drink anymore, anyway.
If you feel like you have an unhealthy relationship to booze, it could be time to get help.
Some people are lucky enough to have the ability to drink in moderation. However, other people are unable to do this. If someone experiences negative consequences from drinking, it’s a sign that they may have a problem. These people should not just quit for a year. They should quit permanently. Failure to get sober could end badly.
Are You Struggling with Alcoholism? We Want to Help!
“I quit drinking and I feel great.”
~ Anonymous Ashwood Resident
There are so many benefits to giving up alcohol, especially if it’s causing problems in a person’s life. Here at Ashwood Recovery, we’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of alcoholics get sober. If you’re currently suffering from alcohol addiction, please give us a call. We want to help you get your drinking habits under control.
Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint is a professional addiction treatment center located in Idaho. We have campuses in both Boise and Nampa. We offer detox, rehabilitation, and a number of other services. Our staff is comprised of professional doctors, counselors, therapists, and addiction experts. All of us are eager to help you turn your life around.