The Benefits Of Cutting Out Alcohol
At the start of 2024, the most common New Year’s resolution was to improve fitness, followed closely by improving finances and mental health. Other popular resolutions included losing weight, improving diet, spending more time with loved ones, quitting smoking, and learning a new skill. Around 3% of survey respondents reported that their New Year’s resolution was to drink less alcohol. Quitting, or cutting back on alcohol, has numerous health benefits, both physically and mentally.
Of this year’s most popular New Year’s resolutions, quitting or cutting back on alcohol could help you achieve nearly every goal. Many people are using Dry January (a social challenge to cut back or quit alcohol consumption during the month of January) as a way to kickstart their resolutions. Those looking to get in shape may find that kicking alcohol to the curb helps them get to the gym more frequently. Additionally, losing the excess calories can help those looking to lose weight achieve their weight loss goals.
Looking to improve your finances? Quitting drinking can be more financially beneficial than you think. For example, if you have 3 drinks a day, 5 days a week, at an average of $10 a drink, you’re spending roughly $650 a month just on alcohol.
For those who want to improve their mental health, spend more time with loved ones, or learn a new skill, Dry January can be an eye-opening experience into just how much time alcohol can take up in your life. Instead of going to the bars or drinking at home, use your newfound free time to see family, learn a new skill, or focus on improving your mental health.
What Happens When You Stop Drinking?
Depending on your relationship with alcohol, your body will go through various stages of recovery when you give up drinking. While the benefits and effects of removing alcohol from your life will vary from person–to–person, there are some broad assumptions that can be made about what you can expect.
Below are some of the physical, mental, and lifestyle benefits you can expect when you stop drinking.
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Alcohol can have seriously damaging effects on the body. From your brain to your bones, alcohol can have an impact on just about every part of your body.
Alcohol can also cause serious damage to the heart, and excess consumption can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Those who are frequent drinkers, especially frequent heavy drinkers, can cause severe damage to the liver, which is responsible for processing alcohol. Over time, repeated heavy drinking can lead to fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
When you quit drinking, there are a number of noticeable health effects you can see within just the first month. By the 2-week mark, you may start to notice weight loss due to removing calories from alcohol. Those whose livers have not been badly damaged by drinking but have become ‘fatty’ can start showing signs of recovery. Around three weeks, blood pressure levels, for most, return back to normal levels, and after 4, your skin may begin to look healthier.
Other physical benefits of not drinking include:
- Improved nutrition
- Improved immunity
- Lower cancer risk
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Improved liver health
Drinking regularly can interfere with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. If your New Year’s resolution was to improve your mental health, cutting back on alcohol could be a great place to start.
When you stop drinking, some of the first noticeable effects are those on your mental health. Within 48 to 72 hours, cravings and withdrawal symptoms begin to fade, and most people begin to feel less anxiety, restlessness, and irritability. After about three days, sleep patterns are likely to improve, though it can take up to a month or longer for some people. After the 1 month mark, most people report more energy and a general sense of better mental health.
Other mental health benefits of not drinking include:
- Improved memory
- Reduced brain fog
- Easier time focusing on tasks
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced anxiety
Perhaps some of the most profound benefits of giving up alcohol are those that affect your lifestyle. No alcohol means less time recovering from hangovers on Sunday and more time with your loved ones, outdoors, with friends, or learning new skills or hobbies. It also means more money in your pocket, which is this year’s second-most popular resolution.
People who drink frequently may find it difficult to socialize with others when not drinking. This is because many people use alcohol as a sort of “social lubricant,” a way to relax and unwind. However, drinking excessively can do much more harm to relationships than we think.
Alcohol has the potential to impair communication, resulting in misunderstandings that may escalate into arguments and conflicts. Additionally, it can contribute to emotional and physical abuse, as well as infidelity. When alcohol takes precedence over spending meaningful time with loved ones, it can generate sentiments of neglect and foster resentment.
Other lifestyle benefits of an alcohol-free life include:
- Improved sex life
- Improved productivity
- Better hydration
- Improved concentration
- Fewer sick days due to alcohol or hangovers
Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal?
It should be noted that for those who are heavy drinkers and are suffering from an alcohol use disorder, it’s always recommended to detox from alcohol under medical supervision at an inpatient facility to avoid adverse or potentially life-threatening symptoms.
Typically, people who experience alcohol withdrawal are those who have an alcohol use disorder, as their body has developed an increased tolerance and has become physically dependent on alcohol. For these individuals, removing alcohol cold turkey can cause severe levels of discomfort, known as withdrawal.
While symptoms of alcohol withdrawal differ based on the severity of the addiction, the most common symptoms include:
- Alcohol cravings
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
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Need Help Quitting Drinking?
Alcohol is a drug, and just like other drugs, it has a powerful effect on the brain, producing pleasurable feelings and blunting negative feelings. These feelings can quickly become addicting and are what cause many people to drink alcohol again.
Over time, this cycle of drinking and developing pleasurable feelings becomes harder to achieve as the body develops a tolerance. When this happens, quitting becomes much more difficult and may require professional help.
If you or your loved one made their New Year’s resolution to quit drinking and are having difficulty doing so, know that it’s not a sign of failure. To get help with an alcohol addiction, contact a treatment provider today for free to learn more about your alcohol treatment options.
Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.
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