We all know that heavy drinking is bad for us and that quitting alcohol or drinking less is better for our overall health. There are the beer guts and the days lost to hangovers. I’m sure we all have a cringeworthy story or two involving alcohol, and memories of things we shouldn’t have said.
Who among us hasn’t had a particularly rough night and then woken up the next day and thought, “Never again!”
If you want to change your relationship with alcohol or quit drinking altogether, you’re about to embark on a rollercoaster of a journey. Why not start with some healthy inspiration to get started? Let’s dive into the benefits of quitting alcohol.
- 7 Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
- 1. Your Brain Will Start To Heal Itself
- 2. Your mental health will improve.
- 3. You will sleep better.
- 4. You’ll have way more free time.
- 5. You won’t embarrass yourself with drunk antics.
- 6. You will look better.
- 7. You will smell better.
7 Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
People quit drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some do it temporarily for health reasons or to participate in a challenge like Dry January. Others question the role alcohol is playing in their life and want to make some serious changes.
Whether you’re here for a little bit, for good, or somewhere in between, you will still see some important benefits as you step away from drinking.
- For a comprehensive breakdown of what happens to your body, check out our guide: What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Drinking Alcohol.
A Note For Heavier Drinkers Who Are Quitting Alcohol
We’d also like to note that heavy drinkers or those with a history of alcoholism should not quit without the supervision of their doctor.
You could experience a medical emergency like delirium tremens, which can be fatal. Speak with your doctor openly and honestly before quitting alcohol. It is possible you may require a medical detox to safely remove alcohol from your life.
1. Your Brain Will Start To Heal Itself
Wait, my brain????
I’ve written about the negative effects of alcohol on the brain before, but it bears repeating. Drinking alcohol regularly negatively impacts your cognitive function, and these effects can be particularly damaging in the long term if you don’t get it under control.
As a reminder, for women 4-5 drinks in a single session and 5-6 for men, are considered HEAVY drinking. If that sounds like you several days per week, then I’m extra glad you’re here.
Why Alcohol Impacts Your Brain
Heavy drinking shrinks the size of the hippocampus in your brain. This is the region responsible for embedded memories. If you drink too much in one sitting, your hippocampus could shut off temporarily causing what is commonly referred to as a blackout.
Ladies, there’s even worse news for us. Our brains are particularly susceptible to alcohol-related memory loss and shrinkage.
The only way to reverse this damage is to quit or severely cut back on alcohol. After seven days of abstinence from alcohol, you’ll begin to see new cell growth in the hippocampus which really starts to take off around week four or five.
Continuing to drink heavily will lead to further damage and make you susceptible to more serious neurological disorders like depression, anxiety, dementia, or Alzheimer’s.
How your brain heals when you quit drinking
Alcohol can change the structure of your brain. That’s not great! But after a period of abstinence, the volume of brain tissue begins to increase in areas of the brain responsible for craving and decision-making. Translation? This increased volume helps you make better decisions and strengthens your ability to reject cravings for alcohol.
As mentioned previously, ditching alcohol promotes new cell growth and volume in the hippocampus. When that happens, you may notice an improvement in the following areas:
- short-term memory
- long-term memory
- verbal IQ
- verbal fluency
Quitting alcohol has the potential to make you sharper, smarter, and more clear-headed. What’s not to love?
Reality and Limitations of Brain Recovery for Heavy Drinkers
To be clear, the extent to which alcohol has damaged and changed a person’s brain matters. Quitting alcohol is not a miracle cure that automatically returns all brains back to a healthy baseline.
More long-term, extensive damage will require more long-term, intensive interventions. That’s the nature of recovery.
People with more than two detoxification attempts, a family history of alcohol abuse disorder, and a history of heavy cigarette smoking may experience less recovery. Additionally, problems with neurocognitive functions from heavy drinking may persist even after you quit drinking, which will require additional therapies to overcome.
However, despite some limitations on recovery, it’s still important to quit drinking alcohol if you are a heavy drinker experiencing brain damage from alcohol use. This is a degenerative process that can lead to irreversible conditions like “wet brain.”
2. Your mental health will improve.
Since we’re talking about the brain, let’s dive into what quitting alcohol can do for your mental health.
Consuming alcohol is like pouring gasoline on an anxious brain. There is a staggering correlation between heavy alcohol consumption and high levels of depression and other mental illnesses.
Despite the different ways it makes you feel, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant.
That means it disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain, effectively reducing the amount we need to maintain a healthy brain capable of warding off anxiety and depression.
Studies out of Hong Kong showed that people who never consume alcohol have an overall higher quality of mental health. Additionally, individuals who quit drinking alcohol, especially women, reported an increase in mental health wellness.
If you struggle with anxiety and depression, quitting alcohol can provide you with a major boost to your mental health. It’s not a magic solution, as mental health is complex, but continuing to drink will only do further harm.
3. You will sleep better.
You may have noticed, but passing out after a night of drinks does not a restful sleep make.
Sure, you have been unconscious for nine hours, but you feel like you’ve barely slept a wink. That’s because alcohol disrupts your REM cycle and messes with your internal clock (circadian rhythms).
When you ditch the alcohol, your body is able to return to healthier sleep patterns.
I’m going to keep it real with you so you aren’t thrown for a loop. Much in the same way you are not likely to drop thirty pounds after one month of clean eating, such is the case for improved REM sleep.
In the first month that you quit drinking alcohol, your sleep might feel all over the place. It’s possible you see an instant improvement. However, if you find yourself experiencing the opposite, you may be wrestling with some sobriety insomnia.
This too shall pass.
The important thing is to keep your eye on the long-term prize. If you’re not experiencing improved sleep now, you will in the near future. Your body is used to passing out every night. It’s going to take some time after quitting alcohol to learn how to fall asleep more naturally again.
You got this!
4. You’ll have way more free time.
The typical person spends approximately two years of their life with a hangover. TWO. YEARS. That’s 17,520 hours of your life gone to hangover recovery.
Think of all the wonderful things you could do with that time. How many well-intentioned Sunday morning plans never happened because you were too hungover to function? How many fitness classes, playdates, and opportunities were missed?
You will be amazed at how much you can get out of your weekends when you eliminate alcohol from the equation.
5. You won’t embarrass yourself with drunk antics.
We’ve all been there.
You went out and the night started off well enough, but then somehow the fun, out-going, charismatic YOU turned into a sniveling, what-does-it-all-mean, I think I’ll text my ex, drunk monster.
You wake up the next day, head pounding, checking your phone in horror as the memories of what you did and said come flooding back.
No more Saturday morning shame fests, hiding under a blanket on the couch.
You don’t have to feel physically, emotionally, or morally like shit. You’ll finally get to experience the magic of a sunny Saturday morning at 8 AM.
6. You will look better.
Drinking too much makes you look horrible.
Before I quit alcohol, I had given up on my appearance in a lot of ways. I’d packed on about twenty-five pounds in under two years. My face and stomach were bloated, my hair hung limp and lifeless from my head, and my complexion was dull and sad.
Despite being naturally thin, my metabolism had waved a white flag and all the additional calories I was consuming through ciders or whiskey and sprites packed on rapidly.
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it dehydrates your skin. I’d drank so much that I managed to develop rosacea and was plagued by redness and little, broken capillaries around my nose.
Once you quit drinking alcohol, you should see improvements in the appearance of your skin within one week and significant improvement after one month.
7. You will smell better.
If you’re a heavy drinker, I have some bad news for you. You stink. Has anyone ever told you that?
When you’re drinking, you reek of booze and smell positively flammable to everyone around you. Because your body can only process about 12 ounces of beer an hour, anything beyond that is harder for your body to get rid of. It starts to build up.
Where do those toxins escape from?
Well, your skin, your breath, and your pee – none of which smell particularly great.
If you smoked, ate horrible food, and/or puked after drinking, chances are they don’t make a toothpaste strong enough to get rid of the stench escaping your mouth.
Have you ever woken up after a night of drinking drenched in sweat that smells like pure ethanol? That is how you smell to everyone around you, even after you’ve showered.
It’s just now, you smell like ethanol with a dash of Irish Spring.
Whether you’re quitting alcohol for good or just a while, you no longer have to worry about being the stinky one dragging their hungover self to the coffee shop around the corner. You will, however, probably notice just HOW stinky people are when they drink once you’re the sober gal or guy out.
It will have you saying, “Oh my god, did I smell like THAT?”
Yes. Yes, you did.
FAQs: Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
The answer to this question varies. Some benefits are felt much sooner than others. There are a number of factors to consider as well like how long you’ve been drinking, how much you drank, pre-existing conditions, and underlying health problems.
You may experience some benefits within a few days. For other benefits, it can take several months. The important thing is to be patient with your progress and stay the course.
For light to moderate drinkers, alcohol withdrawal symptoms should start to disappear at the one-week mark. At this point, you might start to notice clearer, brighter skin. This is because alcohol dehydrates your skin and gives you a bloated appearance. Once you remove alcohol, that puffy, alcohol look should start to fade.
Additionally, your attention span might show signs of improvement. After seven days, you might notice improved focus and concentration. You might see reduced stress levels, as well
After you quit drinking alcohol for thirty days, you may see an improvement in energy levels, better sleep, and overall alertness.
At the one-month mark, you can see a noticeable reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. Digestive issues start to improve and your body will appear less bloated. You may also find your wallet is a little fuller as bar tabs certainly add up.
A University of Sussex study followed 800 participants in Dry January 2018. They found that nine in ten participants saved money, seven in ten reported better sleep, and three in five lost some weight. What’s especially interesting is that by August, the average number of drinking days and drinks consumed were lower than before they participated in Dry January. This indicates a healthy mindset shift regarding alcohol.
I think so! To be frank, it is a long journey to get to “yes” on this question. Quitting alcohol exposes a lot of areas for improvement in one’s life. Things we liked to cover up with our drinking are now exposed and in need of attention.
In the early days, people struggle with boredom in sobriety, regret, shame, and feeling like they are missing out on their social life. However, the longer you stay away from alcohol, the clearer the benefits become.
If you tend to your recovery and personal healing, you will hopefully reach a point where you cannot imagine ever drinking again because your life is significantly improved without it.
Final Thoughts on Quitting Alcohol
In the weeks ahead, you’re going to be doing a lot of introspection and figuring out how to navigate different social situations without drinking. You might feel the grips of temptation and start doubting your decision to ditch alcohol. That’s completely normal.
However, with a strong support system and some dedication, you can get there and fundamentally change your relationship with alcohol for good.
Access should not be a barrier to help.
Looking For Further Inspiration?
Check out this post, where I share five books that helped me get through my first thirty days of sobriety. Reading helped me a lot in the early days, and I hope you’ll find some inspiration in these books as well.