We live in a drinking culture. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2015 found that about 56 percent of Americans drank alcohol in the past month and nearly 27 percent of Americans reported binge drinking in the past month, with binge drinking defined as four servings at a time for women and five for men. You don’t actually have to drink that much for alcohol to have a negative impact on your life. If you do drink a lot and develop an alcohol use disorder, it can diminish every part of your life, including your relationships, your job, your finances, and your health. The good news is that most people experience improvement quickly after they stop drinking. Here are some says your life improves when you quit drinking.
Your relationships improve.
Although alcohol is often called a social lubricant, a little can go a very long way. While it might make it easier to talk to strangers at a party, it’s not really helpful for creating deep and meaningful relationships. It’s especially bad if your drinking has gotten to the point where you prioritize alcohol over your friends and family. Many people feel a bit isolated when they first quit drinking because they discover many of their friends were really only drinking buddies. However, sobriety is the basis for stronger and longer-lasting relationships.
Your heart and liver start healing.
Alcohol does the most damage to your liver and cardiovascular system. It is especially hard on your liver, since that’s where alcohol is processed. Many people think liver disease is something that happens to older people, but that’s not always the case. Fatty liver disease can start relatively young, sometimes late thirties or early forties. Women are at especially high risk for developing liver disease early because they typically metabolize alcohol less efficiently. Alcohol also increases your triglyceride levels, a kind of fat correlated with heart disease.
The good news is that your liver and cardiovascular system can start healing as soon as you quit drinking. Fatty liver disease will typically resolve on its own and your cardiovascular health will improve. The longer you keep drinking, the more damage you will cause and the longer it will take to heal. However, unless you have progressed to the stage of liver cirrhosis or cardiomyopathy, your body can usually recover from the damage caused by alcohol.
You lose weight.
Alcohol has tons of empty calories. A glass of wine has about 100 calories, a vodka martini has about 130 calories, and a can of beer has about 150 calories. None of that seems like much compared to, say, a bacon cheeseburger, but even a few drinks a night can add up to thousands of extra calories a week. Alcohol also changes your hormones, particularly by lowering testosterone. The hops in beer are especially bad for this. Lower testosterone makes it harder to lose weight, even for women. People are often surprised how much weight they lose when they quit drinking. Often, they don’t even try to lose weight but their calorie intake is lower and their hormonal balance is better so the weight comes off.
It’s worth noting though, that some people gain weight instead. There are two main reasons for this. One is that people often replace alcohol with sweets. About 90 percent of people with alcohol use disorder have chronically low blood sugar, which they attempt to correct, often unconsciously, with sweets. This may become a transfer addiction but that’s less likely if you get proper addiction treatment. Second, alcohol often causes malnutrition, usually from either neglect or from poor absorption of nutrients through the intestines. If you had been drinking most of your calories, you may actually gain weight when you quit, which is often a good sign.
You save money.
Alcohol is much cheaper than some other addictive substances, but drinking a lot can still add up, especially if you frequently drink at bars, restaurants, and clubs. Alcohol has a high markup and a couple of drinks might end up costing as much as your dinner. Even if you just buy the cheapest bottom-shelf vodka at the liquor store, you can spend hundreds of dollars a month on alcohol. When you quit drinking, that stays in your pocket and it can add up quickly.
You sleep more deeply.
Alcohol changes your sleep patterns for the worse. Although alcohol may make you tired or even pass out, it also prevents you from entering restorative REM sleep. REM sleep is when your body fights infections, heals from injuries, and consolidates memories. It’s when your brain recharges, sharpening your attention and emotional regulation. Lack of sleep has been found to increase feelings of anxiety and depression.
Alcohol also tends to make you wake up in the middle of the night. This primarily happens for two reasons. One is that your brain changes its neurotransmitter levels to compensate for the effect of the alcohol. Your GABA drops and glutamate rises as your blood alcohol falls and you wake up feeling tense. Alcohol also causes an insulin reaction that keeps your blood sugar low. This often causes you to wake up in the middle of the night feeling sweaty, achy, and full of dread.
Heavy drinkers sometimes experience insomnia for a while after quitting, but typically quitting alcohol improves your sleep pretty quickly. And perhaps best of all, after your restful night’s sleep, you don’t wake up hungover. People who have been drinking for a long time sometimes forget what this even feels like. Better sleep at night leads to feeling better all day.
You reduce your risk of cancer.
While most people are aware that alcohol can cause liver disease and cardiovascular disease, fewer people are aware that alcohol increases your risk for some kinds of cancer, including cancer of the liver, stomach, esophagus, colon, and breast. The risk comes from hormonal imbalances and constant damage to cells that come into contact with alcohol and its byproducts. When you quit drinking, these problems stop and you reduce your risk of cancer.
Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Detox Center of Colorado offers “Expanded Recovery” to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Detox Center of Colorado fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463