While enjoying a casual alcoholic beverage on the weekend is unlikely to cause any harm to your health, drinking in excess can substantially negatively affect your body and mental well-being. In fact, in 2020, excessive alcohol use led to 8,974 deaths in the UK alone.
Whether you drink alcohol regularly or only occasionally, giving up drinking ultimately can have several body and mind benefits.
What happens to your body when you stop drinking?
What are the benefits of giving up alcohol?
Cutting alcohol can help keep the calories down, and recovering from alcohol dependence will experience significant weight loss from stopping drinking.
For some people for whom alcohol addiction causes them to become overweight, this can be a positive and motivating side effect.
Although, it is essential to remember to keep a balanced and healthy diet even as you experience weight loss. A thinning body does not always equate to perfect health, and many people with an alcohol dependency can become severely underweight.
Even if you do not have an alcohol dependency, you may find that reducing your alcohol intake or cutting it out positively impacts your weight. There are the same calories in six pints of lager as in five large chocolate bars, so quitting drinking can be a significant first step if you try to lose weight.
Quitting alcohol can also make you better hydrated since alcohol is dehydrating. Drinking six glasses of wine is the equivalent of losing 20–24 glasses of water. Staying hydrated will give you more energy, physical ability to perform tasks and less susceptibility to migraines and headaches.
Your routine may also be improved due to removing alcohol from your life. For example, your sleeping patterns may improve, and you may find that your brain is more creative and better at making decisions. Being alcohol-free can also help you sustain better eating patterns and habits.
Knowing you can save a lot of money by quitting drinking is also peace of mind. It is thought that the average UK household spends approximately £17.60 on alcoholic drinks per week, which adds up to £915 per year. The money saved from quitting drinking can be spent on anything that makes you feel good – whatever that may be.
What happens to you when you quit drinking?
Delamere outlines the kind of recovery timeline that you can expect to experience if you are quitting drinking from the position of having an alcohol dependency.
It is worth noting that this is only a broad estimate and that each person’s experience will vary depending on their circumstances.
- Within the first two to 12 hours, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, including excessive sweating, hand tremors, and feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
- When you have gone 24 hours without drinking, withdrawal symptoms are likely to kick in completely. On top of the earlier symptoms, you may experience depression and a general sense of lethargy. In addition, you may have started to crave alcohol, and you may experience disturbances in your sleep.
- The first three days of quitting drinking are often the hardest, and within the first 72 hours, your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be at their most severe. After that, these symptoms can become even more intense, including a dangerously raised heart rate, increased blood pressure and even seizures.
- After three to seven days, most people will cease withdrawal symptoms. At the very least, withdrawal symptoms should have begun to recede and become more manageable.
- In rare cases, symptoms may worsen after this period and develop into delirium tremens (DTs), considered a medical emergency. For this reason, dependent drinkers must be kept under medical supervision when they quit drinking.
- After one week, your sleep pattern should have improved, although this can vary depending on the individual. However, it should never take more than a month after quitting drinking for sleeping patterns to return to normal entirely.
- The two-week mark is usually when a clinical detox period closes. You may have noticed weight loss due to removing alcohol calories. Individuals whose livers have not been severely damaged by alcohol can also begin to show signs of recovery around this time.
- Once a month has passed, you may also find that your blood pressure has returned to healthier levels, while you may also have more energy and better overall health.
- One whole year after quitting drinking, most people will have left behind any feelings of low energy, sleeping problems or alcohol cravings and can enjoy all the benefits of leading a drink-free life.
How long does it take to feel better?
The physical effects and symptoms of quitting drinking are usually at their worst during the first 24-72 hours of withdrawal. Fortunately, they are likely to improve after a couple of weeks, and after a month, some people can find their way back to good health.
Sadly, the emotional issues caused by quitting drinking and, more importantly, the alcohol dependency that preceded it may remain for much longer.
There are many stages of recovery during an individual’s journey to quit drinking, and where they fall on the timeline can depend entirely on the individual.
There are many emotional milestones that a person must overcome on their journey to sobriety; they are each hugely important, and knowing that they are working towards those milestones can play a massive part in motivating those dependent on alcohol along the path of recovery.
These milestones can include things that may sound simple but are enormous steps for someone with an alcohol dependency, such as being honest with loved ones about their alcohol dependency, re-discovering how not to obsess over alcohol and simply asking for help.
Reaching these milestones can help to boost feelings of joy, hope and positive self-esteem. In addition, those recovering may find it easier to benefit from establishing new circles of stable friendships and reviving and rebuilding any relationships affected by their alcohol dependency.
Recovery is not a linear path; there will be many moments of feeling low or utterly exhausted along the way before you feel better. Still, with the right help, every person can overcome alcohol dependency and move forward.
Can the effects of drinking be reversed?
While quitting drinking altogether can reverse some of the physical damages caused by alcohol overconsumption, such as issues with your liver, skin, weight, fertility or blood pressure, a history of alcohol dependency can increase the risk of other more severe conditions developing such as cancers.
Some medical professionals believe alcohol consumption can increase the risk of mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, and breast cancer.
Furthermore, if you drink in the region of three or more drinks every day, this can increase your risk of developing stomach, liver, and colorectal cancer.
Since cancer can, in many cases, be fatal, it is essential to be aware of these risks, even if you only consider yourself a casual drinker.