Whether you have an alcohol use disorder or you just feel like it might be a good idea to cut back, you may feel conflicted about quitting alcohol. The costs of drinking might be apparent to you, but no one drinks without getting something out of it. It might help you relax, cope with emotional pain, or maybe you just really enjoy it. It’s hard to commit to quitting when you think of it as giving something up, but it’s a little easier when you think of what you get in return. Here are some good things--and some not so good things to prepare yourself for--that happen when you quit drinking.
Your liver starts to heal.
Your liver takes a beating when you drink. While most people don’t develop liver disease until they reach their 40s or 50s, fatty liver can start developing pretty quickly, impairing liver function. The good news is that your liver is a resilient organ and it can recover quickly once you stop drinking. The only exception is if you’ve already developed cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, in which case you need a transplant. However, even conditions like alcoholic hepatitis will start to improve when you quit drinking.
You lose weight.
Alcohol has loads of empty calories. One glass of wine, for example, has more than 100 calories, a vodka martini has about 130 calories, and your average can of beer has about 150 calories. That’s not so much if you only have one drink, but if you’re drinking even three drinks a night, that’s more than 2000 extra calories a week. And it’s not only the calories that make you gain weight; excessive drinking also changes your balance of hormones, making fat more stubborn. Most people find they lose weight pretty easily once they stop drinking. Often, they don’t even have to try to lose weight; it’s just a natural consequence of cutting a huge source of empty calories and letting their bodies rebalance their hormones. There are also studies that suggest you eat less when you quit drinking. It could be that alcohol stimulates the hypothalamus, increasing your appetite.
You might gain weight.
Although most people lose weight after they quit drinking, some people gain weight. There are two main reasons for this. First, the vast majority of people with alcohol use disorders have chronically low blood sugar. Alcohol triggers an insulin response just like sugar, and the increased insulin levels keep your blood sugar low. This persists even after you quit drinking, which means people recovering from alcohol use disorders often crave sweets. Eating too much sugary food is an easy way to gain weight. Also, some people experience post-acute-withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, which is emotional numbness resulting from low dopamine levels. Excessive eating is one way to temporarily boost those dopamine levels and make you feel better, but it can easily become a transfer addiction. It’s definitely something to watch out for after you quit drinking.
You have more money.
As addictions go, alcohol is certainly cheaper than cocaine or heroin, but heavy drinking can add up, especially if you frequently drink in clubs or bars. Drinking can also compound your financial troubles in other ways, especially if you lose your job or get a DUI. Many people who quit drinking are pleased to discover they suddenly have more money in their pockets. As with calories, the daily expenditure might not be that much, but it’s nice to have an extra 100 dollars or so at the end of the week. Over the course of a few months, that can make a significant contribution to a nest egg or travel fund. Or you could just spend it on more nice dinners.
You might lose some friends.
Drinking changes your perceptions of many things, and that’s true of people as well. When you’re drinking, some of your friends aren’t really friends so much as drinking buddies. This becomes obvious when you quit and find you suddenly have very little to talk about. Sometimes, when you drink heavily, you’re drawn to people who drink even more because it makes you feel better about your own drinking. These dynamics become more apparent when you’re sober. You might lose some friends, but chances are they weren’t good friends anyway. And it’s an opportunity to make new friends who share more of your interests.
Your interests change.
Just as sobriety may make you realize some of your friends were really just drinking buddies, you may also realize that some activities are only fun when you drink. For example, if you spent a sober evening at the corner bar, you would probably get bored pretty fast and find something else to do. For many people, drinking is a way of making boring things interesting. It’s much better to find things that are actually interesting to do instead.
You sleep better.
Alcohol wrecks your sleep. Many people feel like alcohol helps them sleep better because it relaxes them and makes them drowsy, but it actually keeps you from reaching the restful, restorative levels of REM sleep. You are more likely to wake up feeling sweaty and sick. As noted above, alcohol crashes your blood sugar, which can stay low for hours while you sleep, causing restlessness and anxiety. Some people experience insomnia when they first quit drinking, but before long, sobriety leads to much deeper sleep. You wake up feeling more rested and less anxious and generally have more energy for living.
No more hangovers.
Perhaps even better than a restful night’s sleep is waking up without a hangover. Many heavy drinkers have forgotten what that’s even like.
Your cancer risk drops.
Heavy drinking is a risk factor for several kinds of cancer, including mouth, liver, colon, rectal, and breast cancers. When alcohol is processed in your liver and by bacteria in your intestines and colon, it produces a byproduct called acetaldehyde, which is toxic and carcinogenic. If you drink and smoke, the combination significantly increases your risk of mouth cancer than either by itself. The good news is that you can immediately reduce your risk of cancer when you quit drinking. This also allows your intestinal walls to heal, allowing your body to better absorb nutrients and antioxidants, which can further reduce your cancer risk.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.