When you stop drinking after years of alcohol abuse, not only does your body begin to reverse the effects of excessive alcohol, but you simply feel better too.
One of the symptoms of an alcohol use disorder is giving up the social activities and hobbies you once enjoyed in order to focus on drinking. Living a sober life means having more time to rediscover yourself and your passions and build a new, exciting non-alcoholic life.
Health risks from heavy drinking
Heavy drinking can seriously affect your physical and mental health and increase your risk of the following diseases:..
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Digestive problems
- Hearing loss
- high blood pressure
- Venereal disease
Research shows that when you stop drinking and recover from an alcohol use disorder, some of the damage to the brain, liver, cardiovascular system, and intestines will heal slowly.
As the alcohol leaves your system and you start developing healthy habits, you will feel better – maybe better than you have in years. Especially once you have overcome the temporary discomfort of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you will see progressive improvements in your physical and mental health.
Health benefits of recovery
The good news is that there are many benefits of recovering from alcohol use disorders that can help you move forward with a healthier lifestyle.
Better looking skin
Have you ever heard the term “alcoholic face”? This is the term used to describe the negative effects of alcohol abuse on your skin, including:
- Broken capillaries on the face and nose
- Jaundice (with chronic, long-term abuse)
- Decreased collagen levels (which leads to loose, sagging skin)
Heavy alcohol consumption has also been linked to the inflammatory skin disease psoriasis..When you stop drinking, you gradually restore the skin’s elasticity, and the redness and yellowing of the skin and eyes slowly go away.
Alcohol abuse and sleep disorders are closely related. This is because alcohol disrupts your sleep-wake cycles and makes it harder to fall asleep (and fall asleep) all night..It also relaxes the muscles in your throat, making you more prone to sleep apnea and snoring.
While you can expect insomnia in early recovery, the longer you stay without alcohol (and learn good sleep hygiene again), the greater the improvement in your sleep quality.
Alcohol robs your body of essential nutrients and derails your metabolism as well. In addition, alcohol is filled with sugar and empty calories. If you have excessive drinking, you can easily ingest 600 calories or more in just one night.
The National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse defines excessive alcohol as a pattern of alcohol consumption that increases the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g / dLi in a short period of time (approx. 2 hours). This typically occurs after five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women...
A big part of alcohol recovery is not only learning to stop drinking, but also learning to lead a healthier lifestyle that includes eating right and exercise. While they are all different, regaining a healthy weight is a realistic goal for many people who stay sober over the long term.
Better mental health
There is a high rate of comorbidities between addiction and other mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the National Drug Use and Health Survey, 9.2 million adults in the US had both mental illness and substance use disorder in 2018. Still, almost 60% receive no treatment at all...
Although scientists have not yet established the exact link, we know that many people turn to alcohol and other illegal substances to self-manage symptoms of mental illness. We also know that alcohol actually makes mental illness worse. So when you stop drinking you will reduce these symptoms.
Developing an alcohol-free lifestyle and achieving long-term sobriety requires a lot more effort than just not drinking. If you stopped drinking and made your way to recovery, congratulate yourself.
As you hit your sobriety goals (small and big) and work towards a healthier yourself, you will see improvements in your mental health. This can include increased self-confidence and self-esteem, and decreased anxiety and depression, especially if you are dealing with a co-occurring mental health problem.
Alcohol affects your immune system and prevents it from producing enough white blood cells to fight off germs and bacteria..Because of this, many long-term, heavy drinkers have problems with pneumonia and tuberculosis.
When you give up drinking, you also give up the many colds, flu, and illnesses that you may not have been able to fight off in the past due to chronic alcohol use.
Drinking can deplete your body of vital nutrients. Many people with alcohol use disorder tend to “drink” their meals and eat less than is necessary to provide adequate carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Alcohol itself can also interfere with the nutritional process and affect the digestion, storage, use and excretion of nutrients. As a result, many chronic drinkers become malnourished..When you stop drinking and focus on a healthier lifestyle, your body will begin to absorb nutrients better.
Lower cancer risk
Alcohol is a known carcinogen. According to the CDC, the more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including:..
- Breast cancer
- Colon and rectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Throat cancer
- Liver cancer
- Oral cancer
- Throat cancer
Reduced cardiovascular risk
When you stop drinking, your heart will surely thank you. Heavy drinkers are roughly twice as likely to have a cardiovascular event within 24 hours and up to six times more often than those who do not drink alcohol within a week..A significant amount of scientific research has linked alcohol abuse to an increased risk of the following heart problems, including:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart failure
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- Ischemic Stroke
- Heart attack
Better memory and thinking
Heavy drinking can cause the hippocampus, which is vital to memory and learning, to shrink...
If you abstain from alcohol for several months to a year, structural changes in the brain can be partially corrected. Quitting drinking can also help reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem solving, memory, and attention.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.
A word from Verywell
These benefits are just beginning. The longer you go without alcohol, the more health improvements you will experience. This includes making changes to your general health, relationships, job or schoolwork, finances, and more for the better.
Do your best to be patient as your mind and body heal, and relearn a life without alcohol – and be proud of how far you have come.