So you have decided to stop drinking alcohol? With so many reasons to quit, that is a wise decision. Whether you are tired of having a beer belly and bad hangovers or just can’t party like you used to – you are ready to kick the habit! You may just want to get things under control before it becomes a problem. Good thinking. Let’s have a look at what you can expect when you stop drinking alcohol.
1) The not so pretty detox period
You will probably find the first 48 hours to be the biggest hurdle when you stop drinking. How you feel during this time will depend on how much alcohol you were drinking. It can vary from the typical nausea and headache hangover symptoms or you may have withdrawal symptoms like and increase in blood pressure, tremors or shakiness, sweating and insomnia.
2) The alcohol craving
You probably expected this one! If you suddenly stop and have been drinking regularly for an extended period of time, your body will miss the alcohol and you will no longer have the equilibrium that was established by your body to accommodate the alcohol in your system. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that when you change your drinking habits, you can expect to have cravings for alcohol. If you have been drinking daily, you can expect to crave a drink, especially on the first day that you go without alcohol. Cravings can last for a lot longer (weeks, months, or even years) depending on how much and how often you drank.
3) Getting through the tough patch
The first 48-72 hours after you quit drinking can be particularly tough if you were a heavy drinker. This is when ‘delirium tremens’ or sudden confusion can occur and you may also experience shaking, possible hallucinations and an irregular heart rate. In some cases the body’s temperature can go so high that seizures can result. It is strongly recommended for people who drank heavily before quitting to be monitored by a medical professional and detoxify the body carefully as quitting ‘cold turkey’ can be fatal.
4) Physical symptoms eventually diminish
Even though symptoms from withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and may potentially be dangerous, you can expect symptoms to start to diminish after they peak approximately 72 hours after you last consumes any alcohol. This is when you can expect your body to establish a new equilibrium without alcohol causing adverse effects.
5) Longer lasting detox symptoms
After approximately a week of your body adjusting without alcohol, you may notice that you are still experiencing psychological effects of detoxing. This can include feelings of aggression, anger, anxiety, depression, insomnia and even a low sex drive. This is the result of neurotransmitters in the body being damaged by excessive alcohol consumption and affecting the body’s seratonin levels. This is often why people resort to alcohol as a way to self-medicate. There may also be underlying issues for which alcohol has been used to self-medicate. Often the experiences and emotions that were being avoided come to the surface once there is no more alcohol in the system. It is best to avail of one to one or group counseling during this time to help you deal with the issues and/or experiences that need to be healed for your long-term well-being.
6) Sound sleep
After approximately one or two weeks you will notice that your sleep has improved. Research shows that brain wave patterns in your waking state are heightened and the normal delta waves that occur in deep sleep change to alpha waves when you are under the influence of alcohol. Alpha waves are generally only seen in brain activity when we’re awake, but resting. This is why when we rest on the couch during the day it is never really as good as a proper night’s sleep. This is also why people who drink on a regular basis have a tendency to experience fatigue and tiredness throughout the day.
People who drink often say that they seem to fall asleep more quickly after they drink. This may be true but even though falling asleep may be easier, and the sleep may seem deeper, studies have shown that the quality of sleep is diminished and this is reflected in the lethargy felt the next day. When you stop drinking, even though getting to sleep may not be as easy, once you are in deep sleep, you will notice that over time that you feel much more rested and refreshed when you wake up.
7) Healthier skin
Since alcohol is a diuretic, the more you consume the more water is released from the body. Though it is not so much a “cause” as opposed to a “force”, the consumption of alcohol can result in severe dehydration. This is because it reduces the presence of a hormone that assists the body in absorbing and storing water in the body. This is the primary reason that water is required during a hangover. Once you stop consuming alcohol and your body has sufficient water for bodily processes and functions, your skin won’t be so dry and parched. You will also find that your skin will be healthier and you will experience fewer skin problems like eczema, dandruff and red cheeks.
8) You’ll drop the weight
Even without making any other changes in diet or exercise levels, if you stop consuming alcohol you will most likely lose weight. This can simply be attributed to the consumption of fewer calories since beer is high in calories. For example, a single serving of beer or a cocktail may have 200-300 calories, so by virtue of reducing or stopping alcohol consumption, there is a reduction of hundreds or thousands of calories consumed per day. Over time, this will result in weight loss and since you won’t have the heightened senses that you used to have when drinking alcohol, you won’t overeat. When you have more sensitivity to the smell and taste of food and less inhibitions thanks to the alcohol’s effects, a lot more food is consumed!
9) More normal blood sugar levels
When you drink alcohol the body is required to process it and normal blood sugar levels are disrupted. The body is not able to access stores of glucose and also makes insulin less effective in the regulation of blood sugar levels. The result is blood sugar levels that are severely out of control, which with time can lead to type II diabetes. The good news is that once you stop consuming alcohol studies have shown blood sugar levels drop by as much as 16%. This is a very promising statistic.
10) Better immunity
Studies have shown that health issues that are related to immunity increase with the excessive consumption of alcohol. For example, the likelihood of health conditions such respiratory disorders and pneumonia as well as certain cancers become higher. Also, the ability for the body to heal when it comes to wounds is reduced and complications related to surgery have been shown to be higher.
Research has shown that the immune system has to over exert itself to deal with the excessive alcohol in the system. Even one episode of binge alcohol intoxication can tax the immune system so much that it results in inflammation. Fortunately, these negative effects can be reversed and the immune system will strengthen with time once you stop drinking.
11) Risk of getting many types of cancer goes down
According to The National Cancer Institute there is a link between heavy alcohol consumption and a variety of cancers including cancer of the breast, colon, rectum, liver and mouth. By stopping alcohol consumption you will have less risk for these diseases afflicting you. Another very good reason to quit!
12) A less fatty liver
According to a study conducted by the New Scientist and the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School, just one month without alcohol consumption resulted in a decrease of 15% (and in some cases 20%) of fat in the liver. This statistic is very noteworthy since the accumulation of fat in the liver results in liver damage and this can potentially lead to liver disease.
13) Conceiving will be easier
If you and your partner would like to have children, your chances of conceiving will increase once you stop drinking since drinking reduces fertility. One study showed the effects on fertility very clearly. When women had over 10 drinks in a week, they reduced their chances of conceiving to 34%. Surprisingly, even having less than one drink per day reduced fertility to 61%. So, even moderate drinking reduces fertility significantly and this statistic should be kept in mind if you wish to have children.
14) Possibly reversing brain damage
If you have been drinking for a long time, there can be a negative impact on your brain. In fact, studies show that the most significant areas that are affected are the parts of the brain that control impulses and learning. Some of the damage can be permanent but there is still hope that in some instances it can be reversed.
The National Institutes of Health have found that not consuming alcohol for a few months and also for up to a year can result in at least a partial correction of some of the changes in brain structure that were caused by excessive drinking. Some negative effects on attention span, memory and problem solving may also be reversed.
15) Save money
Drinking alcohol is an expensive habit and simply cutting out alcohol and switching to seltzer and lime might make you a boring or cheap date but in the long run you will be able to save significant amounts of money that you can use for the things that you really care about and enjoy.
16) More time for you to enjoy things
Now that you are not spending time drinking, you will have a lot more free time to do meaningful things that will bring you peace or enjoyment. You will finally have the time to clean out your closet, or make time for your favorite hobbies. So whether it is rebuilding your old car, or taking a yoga class or salsa lesson, you finally have the time to enjoy it.
17) A new social life
Since having a few drinks can help some people reduce their nervousness and lower inhibitions, this might have made socializing a little easier for you in the past. Drinking on the long term can actually cause more anxiety though and when you are sober you will slowly become used to spending time with others without a crutch. You will be able to stand proud and be yourself instead of being under the influence of alcohol.
18) Processing your emotions
Now that you do not have alcohol to drown your sorrows, you can deal with the ups and downs and process your emotions instead of running away from them. This will help you to grow by tackling the things that come your way in life by learning from them.
19) No more hangovers!
Life will be so much better when you can wake up for work and not have a hangover. Starting your day with a clear mind instead of a headache will be one of the great benefits of leading a sober life. This is an instant effect that you will grow to love. Even if you did not drink heavily, you will notice that you feel lighter and fresher, and whether it was a heavy head or a throbbing headache- you won’t miss it!!
Instead, you might now be able to find what you were really looking for at the bottom of every glass. Life will be very different- and without alcohol blurring your life, you will be able to truly feel and enjoy life more fully. It will be a chance to live a life with wisdom and character where you are free to be yourself and dance or make love without being influenced by alcohol. It will be a new, and far more enjoyable way to live.
20) It may not be too easy
For people who drink moderately, quitting may not be too hard. If however, you are a heavy drinker it may be more challenging and determining your internal and external triggers will make things a little easier. If you know what might encourage you to start drinking again you can stay away from these triggers or do things to make them less effective.
The good thing is that no matter how much you drink, there are resources available that can help make it possible to stop drinking. From support groups (online or in person) to counseling, there is something for everyone who wants to quit drinking.