Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance use issue–except, perhaps for smoking–in the US. While more than 70,000 people died of overdoses from all drugs in 2017, with nearly 50,000 of those being opioid-related, more than 88,000 people die every year of alcohol-related causes. Alcohol is actually the third leading cause of death in America, behind smoking and obesity. About 15 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder. What’s more, one in six American adults binge-drinks at least four times per month. Whether you have an alcohol use disorder or you’re just beginning to be concerned about your drinking patterns, it may be a good idea to quit drinking for a while. When you do quit drinking, here are some of the good things you can expect to happen.
You feel better.
Since many people drink to feel better, it may sound counterintuitive to say you’ll feel better when you quit drinking, but you will. In the short term, alcohol helps you relax by changing your balance of neurotransmitters but it doesn’t take long before your brain overcompensates, causing you to feel even more irritable and anxious as the alcohol leaves your system. Alcohol also causes your blood sugar to fall and stay low for hours, which is one reason you sleep so badly and feel so awful the next day–that and the tannins that give alcohol its color and much of its flavor. Many people forget how nice it is to get a restful night’s sleep and wake up without a hangover.
Depending on how serious your alcohol use is, you may feel worse before you feel better. Alcohol withdrawal can be both miserable and dangerous and it may be a good idea to look into a medical detox so you can get sober safely. In the long run, though, you will feel much better.
You look better.
Alcohol is bad for your appearance in several ways. For one, it dries out your skin, reduces its elasticity, and makes you look older. Alcohol can also aggravate rosacea, those red blotches on your face. When you quit drinking and hydrate properly, your skin becomes more elastic and less inflamed, reducing the look of sagginess and rosacea.
Alcohol also tends to make you gain weight. A serving of liquor has about 100 calories, a glass of wine has about 120 calories, and a glass of beer has about 150 calories. That’s not much if you only have one drink, but the calories add up quickly. If you only had three drinks a day, that adds up to at least 2100 extra calories per week. What’s more, alcohol changes your hormonal environment, lowering your testosterone and increasing estrogen, making it harder to lose weight. People who quit drinking are often surprised that they lose weight without even really trying.
Your health starts to improve.
Excessive drinking has many negative long-term health effects. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Excessive drinking also increases your risk for several types of cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast cancer. The good news is that your risk of all these diseases begins to drop once you stop drinking. The body has a remarkable ability to heal. Even if you’ve already developed early signs of liver disease or cardiovascular disease, you can start healing by stopping drinking. Since alcohol impairs your sleep, which damages your immune system, you may also find you get sick less often after you quit drinking.
Your relationships improve.
One of the most common reasons people decide to get help for their alcohol use is that they see how much it has damaged their relationships with friends and family. Alcohol makes you volatile, irritable, defensive, angry, sleepy, and unreliable. People with alcohol use disorder may become deceptive, secretive, or evasive. They may behave in ways they might have otherwise considered unethical. Once you quit drinking, you can get back to being you. You can pay attention to your family and friends and be there for them instead of sneaking away for a drink.
You save money.
As addictions go, alcohol is one of the cheapest, but money you spend on alcohol does add up. You can easily spend thousands of dollars a year on alcohol, more if you drink a lot in clubs, restaurants, and bars. Perhaps even more expensive are the consequences of excessive drinking. If your drinking causes you to get in accidents, damage property, injure yourself or others, or get a DUI, you might find yourself in a deep hole pretty quickly. Alcohol use may also cost you a lot in lost income, either from losing your job or failing to advance. Avoiding major liabilities, being sharper at work, and just having a few extra bucks in your pocket at the end of the week can add up pretty quickly.
You sleep better.
As noted above, alcohol interferes with your sleep. Although it does help you fall asleep easily, it also prevents you from reaching the restorative levels of REM sleep. This is called the rebound effect and while you may sleep soundly for a few hours after drinking, you will spend the rest of the night paying for it. Alcohol changes your balance of hormones and neurotransmitters and reduces your blood sugar level, leading you to sleep less deeply and wake up more frequently. You may also have a headache or digestive problems that further disrupt sleep. Better sleep is one of the things people typically notice right away when they stop drinking. Not only do they feel rested and not hungover when they wake up but they are more alert during the day.
At Fort, we offer a safe and nurturing space for clients to recover from the complex disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring clients to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lifes. Our programs are designed to treat the underlying causes of addiction and help each client create a plan for lifelong recovery. Contact us today at 817-382-2894 or by email, via our contact page.