When people with an alcohol use disorder decide to quit drinking, there’s usually one big reason. Maybe they lost their job because of their drinking, their spouse threatened to leave and take the kids, or they ended up in a drug court with a choice between getting help or going to prison.
Even if you do have one big reason for quitting, there are many less important — but still pretty nice — benefits that come with it. Whether you have a serious problem with alcohol or you feel like you could just use a break from alcohol, the following are some of the good things that happen once you quit.
You sleep better.
A lot of people assume alcohol helps you sleep better, but really the opposite is true. Alcohol helps you fall asleep more easily, but it also prevents you from reaching deep, restorative sleep.
When you’ve been drinking, you spend more time in the shallow parts of the sleep cycle, especially REM sleep, which is why you tend to remember your dreams more. After the first few hours, your sleep becomes disrupted as the alcohol is metabolized and your body starts to experience the rebound effect, which typically results in increased anxiety.
Typically, people find they sleep better pretty quickly after they stop drinking. They feel more rested because they sleep more deeply and sleep all night instead of waking up frequently in the early morning hours. If you’re getting sober after a serious addiction, it may take weeks or months for your sleep patterns to return to normal, but it will happen eventually.
You feel better.
If you drink a lot, it might be that you only feel good or even normal for a short period when you’ve had a certain amount to drink. The rest of the time, you may be hungover, sleep deprived, or in the early stages of withdrawal.
If you’re a very heavy drinker, you may be feeling some health effects such as lack of energy from malnutrition, frequent illnesses, or even problems resulting from heart or liver disease.
When you quit drinking, you may temporarily feel worse while you’re going through withdrawal, but then you’ll start to feel much better in general. You won’t be hungover or starting withdrawal and you’ll have more energy because you’re digesting your food better and sleeping more deeply.
You think better.
Obviously, no one is mentally sharp while drunk but the cognitive effects of drinking tend to persist even when you’re not drinking. One reason is alcohol’s effect on sleep.
When you’re not sleeping deeply and running a chronic sleep deficit, your brain doesn’t work as well. Research shows that sleep deprivation and sleep deficit lead to cognitive impairments, including poorer working memory, poorer concentration, poorer long-term memory, and worse decision making.
Poor sleep also interferes with memory consolidation, so if you’re in school or trying to learn new skills, drinking will make it harder. When you quit drinking, you will probably notice your head feels clearer even if it takes a while for your sleep to get back to normal.
You lose weight.
Most people find they lose weight pretty quickly once they stop drinking. Alcohol has a lot of empty calories, which add up fast, even if you’re only having a few drinks a night.
For example, a can of beer has about 150 calories, so you could easily drink an extra 600 calories a night — about a quarter of the daily caloric needs for an average male — without even reaching the threshold for binge drinking. Not only that, but alcohol boosts estrogen production in both men and women, making it harder to metabolize fat.
As a result, many people are surprised to find that they lose weight when they stop drinking, even if they aren’t trying. It should be noted though, that some people actually gain weight. It’s not uncommon for people to start eating a lot of sweets when they quit drinking, which quickly leads to weight gain.
You look younger.
You’re probably aware that alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it extracts water from your body. That’s why you pee so much when you drink — you actually discharge more liquid than you consume. This has a number of effects, but the most apparent is its effect on your skin.
When your skin dries out, it becomes less elastic. As a result, you might look older and more wrinkled after just one night of heavy drinking.
If you drink often, the effect is compounded. However, once you quit drinking, you start looking younger pretty quickly. Your body wants to be adequately hydrated, so it will hold on to that water once you stop messing with your system.
You have more free time.
Most people are not aware of how much time drinking consumes until they quit. Heavy drinkers often block off time specifically to drink, which means they aren’t doing other things with that time.
Alcohol also distorts your perception of time, especially when you start missing chunks due to blacking out. What’s more, alcohol often makes people and activities seem more interesting than they really are. When people quit drinking, they suddenly find they have a lot of free time on their hands they can use to spend time with people they care about, engage in new hobbies, read, get things done, or whatever else they want to do.
A lot of good things happen when you quit drinking. The benefits described above are only the ones you might notice pretty quickly and don’t even include many of the health or relationship benefits that will become apparent with time. At The Foundry, we know that recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is about far more than just abstinence; it’s about becoming free to live the life you want to live. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at 1-844-955-1066 or explore our website.