When you dig in and learn about alcohol, it becomes harder and harder to fathom that it’s legal. Of course, everything in moderation isn’t a problem, but with alcohol, even consuming it on occasion in small amounts can be fatal. One aspect of alcohol that’s often overlooked is that for someone who doesn’t drink a lot, small amounts can lead to them getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and getting into a fatal accident.
If it’s not themselves they hurt, it could be someone else, which leads to a life sentence in prison. For that reason, not drinking or stopping alcohol can be lifesaving. If you do, it’s important to know what to expect from your body when you stop drinking.
We understand that millions of people drink daily without issue, and many are not inclined to stop. You might think, I don’t have a problem with alcohol; I don’t need to stop. Others might be enjoying great success in their lives, and alcohol has no effect on them. While that might be the case, the statistics aren’t in your favor – between 2015 and 2019, more than 380 deaths took place each day as a result of alcohol. Deaths from excessive drinking shortened the lives of those by an average of 26 years, equating to nearly 3.6 million years of potential life lost. Most alcohol-related deaths were caused by drinking too much over prolonged periods, which led to cancer, heart disease, or liver disease.
So, yes, you’re probably right; alcohol isn’t adversely affecting you in the short term. If you’re responsible, don’t drive under the influence, or save your drinking until the weekend, you’re less likely to become a statistic. However, that doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t wreaking havoc on your body. After all, alcohol is a drug that can dramatically impact your body. Those who stop drinking describe how much better they feel and appreciate the health benefits that follow.
If you’re at a stage where you’ve considered stopping but you’re unsure of what to expect, we’ll break it all down below so that you can make the best decision for yourself.
What to Expect the First Week After You Stop Drinking
First and foremost, if you drink enough alcohol to become dependent on it to get through life, you’re likely to endure withdrawal symptoms. The severity of those can range from one person to the next, but it could warrant professional care. Alcohol withdrawal is among the most dangerous of any drug in existence and can be fatal. For that reason, before quitting alcohol, speak to a medical professional to determine if you can do this from the comfort of your own home or if you need additional care in a medical detox facility.
If your doctor determines you can stop in the safety of your own home, you can expect the following from your body when you stop drinking:
- 12-24 Hours: Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms are imminent, even if you don’t drink in excess. Alcohol has a half-life of four to five hours, which refers to how long it takes for your body to remove half of it from your system, and the first set of symptoms can show up in as little as 12 hours. You can expect to feel anxious, nauseous, irritable, and unable to sleep. Try eating and staying hydrated. If possible, exercise.
- One to Five Days: Even someone who doesn’t drink too much should take caution during this stage. For most, they’ll start feeling better. However, for others, it could be when seizures or delirium tremens (DTs) occur. The symptoms of anxiety, depression, and nausea will slowly start to subside. You might be craving alcohol at this stage, but it won’t be anything too severe. You might experience food cravings during this span, which is a craving for carbohydrate-rich food to cope with the symptoms.
Even after a week, you’ll experience the benefits of stopping alcohol. Your liver, kidneys, brain, and other vital organs will thank you as they begin healing from being drowned in poison. After a few weeks of not drinking, you’ll notice changes in your waistline and skin improvements. What else happens when you stop drinking?
The Benefits of Not Drinking
The thought of a glass of wine after a long week at work or a cold beer to watch on game day is nice, but have you ever thought about the damage it’s doing to your body? Below, we’ll explain the benefits of not drinking and how much it’ll improve your life.
You’ll Lose Weight
Not only does losing weight look good but it’s rooted in health benefits. Many of us show great discipline by avoiding dessert or not eating that last cookie on the plate, but did you know alcohol is filled with empty carbs? If you stop drinking, you can eat that extra cookie and not feel guilty. Alcohol consists of seven calories per gram, so avoiding it can help you reduce weight. Alcohol also reduces our ability to feel satisfied and reduces our motivation to exercise, which all contribute to weight gain. Without alcohol in your life, you’ll immediately start losing weight.
You’ll Sleep Better
Nothing compares to crawling into your warm, soft bed after a long day – not even alcohol. When you drink, you might believe that it’s helping you sleep. While you might “knock out” because of its effects, the quality of your sleep is not what you think.
Alcohol adversely impacts sleep, and excessive drinking can lead to short sleep duration and snoring. This happens because alcohol reduces melatonin secretion into the brain. Although it might be a challenge to catch some z’s in the first week or two after you stop, you’ll shortly realize how much more rested you feel when you wake up in the morning, translating to more energy to complete your daily tasks. You’ll even have more energy to finally make time for the gym!
You’ll Get Sick Less
Remember when you used to brag about how you never got sick, but as you got older, catching a cold increased in frequency? Unfortunately, alcohol consumption directly impacts our immune system, and it’s likely why you get sick more often than before drinking. Fortunately, there’s a secret to improving your immune system and getting sick less often – stop drinking.
When you stop drinking, start exercising, lose weight, sleep better, and add vitamin C to your regimen, you’ll automatically improve your immune system and experience immediate benefits. According to data published by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, alcohol negatively impacts the balance of gut microbiota, which can suppress the immune system and weaken how our body protects us from illness.
Not only will you get sick less, but when you stop drinking alcohol, your risk of cancer will also decrease. Prolonged misuse of alcohol can lead to larynx, oropharynx, liver, esophageal, colon, rectal, and breast cancers. By altering your habits, you can control what happens to your body.
You’ll Improve Your Mental Health
Last but not least, one aspect of our lives we take for granted is a healthy mind. Even if your body is healthy, your mental health can hold you back. When you stop drinking, you’ll notice an immediate increase in mood, lowered anxiety and stress levels, and feel more like yourself. Anxiety and depression are challenging and are some of the top reasons people drink, but alcohol might only be worsening these symptoms.
While most people drink just to let loose on the weekend and don’t abuse it, others drink to self-medicate their mental health conditions. This can lead to poor choices, which can cause them to end up in a hospital, prison, or morgue. Alcohol is a dangerous drug and not worth your life. When you take care of yourself, exercise, lose weight, sleep better, and have a better immune system, you’ll also improve the overall quality of your life. You’ll get to be here for the moments that matter the most.
If you’re struggling with your alcohol use and can’t stop alone, help is available. The sooner you stop, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits we’ve listed above. Alcohol isn’t worth sacrificing your health, looks, or family for, so it’s time to seek help that can bring about lasting change.