People often drink alcohol because they seek the feelings of relaxation and euphoria that the substance produces. Drinking alcohol increases levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. The substance also mimics GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel relaxed. Unfortunately, alcohol's impact goes far beyond this. Excessive drinking poses substantial risks to physical and mental health. One result of heavy drinking is alcohol use disorder (AUD), where a person is dependent or addicted to alcohol.
If you want to quit drinking, you may wonder about what will happen afterward. This blog post examines what happens when you stop drinking and highlights the many advantages of living a sober life.
Before we look at the challenges stopping drinking can cause, let’s see the benefits. After all, when we know the prize, it’s easier to tackle any bumps on the track to better health. And, if we are one of the 18 million or more Americans with an AUD, stopping drinking is vital.
When you stop drinking, your sleep quality improves. While sleeping, your brain moves through several sleep cycles each night. Rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep are the most important for our well-being. While alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, it also interferes with the quality of your sleep by disrupting those sleep cycles. So stopping gives you a better chance of waking up brighter and more refreshed.
As a result of sleeping better, your mood may improve, as may your ability to focus and concentrate. You could have increased energy levels, too, and experience less fatigue. You’ll feel more productive in your work, and be able to do more of what you want.
Alcohol is a known contributory factor in the development of mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Alcohol also has a negative impact on anti-depressant medications.
Alcohol affects your memory in several ways. Short-term intoxication impairs memory formation by disrupting the consolidation of new information in the brain. This is why we sometimes have difficulty remembering things that we did under the influence of alcohol.
Long-term alcohol abuse leads to more significant memory issues. Heavy or prolonged alcohol abuse can damage the brain, including the hippocampus — the part responsible for forming new memories. The damage can lead you to develop a condition called alcohol-related dementia (ARD). This causes further memory loss and other cognitive problems.
Alcohol causes dehydration because it acts as a diuretic and increases urine production. When you drink alcohol, your body tries to eliminate it as quickly as possible, intensifying the need to visit the restroom. Excess urination causes your body to lose fluids and become dehydrated.
In addition, alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to regulate fluid balance. When you drink, it affects the release of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone. Vasopressin helps your body retain water. Without enough in your system, your body may expel more water than it should, leading to dehydration.
When you quit drinking, you'll avoid alcohol-induced dehydration and feel better as a result. Dehydration causes headaches, dry mouth, and skin problems.
So, by stopping drinking, you’ll be better hydrated, leading to many benefits such as better skin. As your skin health improves, alcohol-induced patches of puffy, blotchy, red skin will reduce, and so too will itchy, dry patches caused by dehydration. Dark circles around your eyes may also become a thing of the past.
With alcohol out of the equation, you’ll find it easier to control your energy intake. This will help if your doctor says you need to lose weight. Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to process sugars and fats by affecting the speed of your metabolism. It contains a lot of calories too. Drinking a single glass of red wine boosts your calorie intake by an unneeded 160.
Getting drunk is associated with unhealthy food choices too. Many of us are more likely to buy a high-calorie takeout or make another harmful food decision when drinking alcohol.
Quitting alcohol may improve the health of your digestive system. Heavy drinking causes indigestion, acid reflux, and other alcohol-induced gut irritations. It also damages your body’s natural nutrient-absorption abilities. Giving up alcohol gives your body a better chance to take in vital vitamins and minerals.
As high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, quitting alcohol can boost heart health. Alcohol use causes increased blood pressure in three ways. It increases our production of adrenaline and other stress hormones, reduces our body’s ability to process salt, and constricts our blood vessels.
Also, alcohol is known to cause arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms) and can contribute to obesity, a significant risk factor for heart disease.
Alcohol can be harmful to the liver in several ways. Your liver metabolizes (breaks down) alcohol and other toxins. Excessive alcohol consumption strains the liver, leading to many health problems.
One of the most common liver ailments associated with alcohol abuse is alcoholic hepatitis. This condition causes liver inflammation that, in severe cases, leads to cirrhosis (liver scarring). Cirrhosis can be life-threatening.
Alcohol misuse can also increase the risk of liver cancer and other liver-related health problems, such as fatty liver disease, fibrosis, and liver failure.
So, by stopping drinking, your liver will be healthier, and gradually, liver fat levels and other alcohol-induced symptoms of liver damage will lessen. Improved liver health may also further enhance your already rehydrated skin.
By quitting alcohol, you’ll open the door to better communication with the important people in your life. Alcohol consumption affects our behavior, and by cutting it back or out, we can exercise better judgment in social situations.
For people who have not developed alcohol dependence or addiction, giving up alcohol may be as simple as changing an unhealthy habit and enlisting the support of friends and family. Stopping drinking is more challenging for people who have AUD. However, with medical support, giving up alcohol is possible for any person who wants to stop drinking.
If you want to reduce your alcohol intake or stop drinking but can't, it is possible that you have an AUD. This is a medically diagnosable condition. Its symptoms include:
If you think you might be dependent on alcohol, it is vital that you seek support from a healthcare professional or treatment center. People who drink heavily may be at higher risk of experiencing health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and a lowered immune system.
If you have an AUD, giving up alcohol may result in intense symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that last for a week or more.
Symptoms often begin less than half a day after you stop drinking. When two days have passed, some individuals experience delirium tremens, a condition that requires urgent medical help. Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
It is not possible to give a precise timeline of alcohol withdrawal because each person's symptoms vary depending on personal factors such as health, age, whether other substances have been abused alongside alcohol, and the severity of the AUD.
Detoxing from alcohol under medical supervision is the best way to ease severe withdrawal symptoms. If you attempt to stop drinking without medical support, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal could last for much longer than the times given here.
However, with the right support, you should find it easier to manage your withdrawal symptoms and feel better. Eventually, and typically after the first week, the withdrawal symptoms will stop.
In all cases, medical supervision is recommended when an alcohol-dependent person gives up drinking.
If alcohol consumption is causing problems in the life of a loved one or you yourself drink heavily, you can do something about it. Recovery is possible with detox treatment and therapy.
At Cirque Lodge, our exclusive and discreet treatment center, we can help you or your loved one to recover from dependency and addiction to alcohol.
Our state-of-the-art facilities are located in the serenely beautiful setting of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. When you stay here, you'll be able to take advantage of our location. Outdoor activities such as hiking, gardening, horse riding, and snowshoeing are among the many experiential therapy options here.
Treatment for drug or alcohol addiction needs to be holistic to be successful. We tailor our treatments to your unique circumstances to help you to achieve recovery.
We can offer you dual diagnosis treatment to help with a mental health disorder that you have alongside your substance abuse problem. If you have been drinking to self-medicate a condition such as depression or anxiety, you may benefit from dual diagnosis support.
To help you to understand the causes of your AUD and to give you the tools for alcohol abstinence, we offer cognitive behavioral therapy, a 12-step recovery program, and family and couples therapy.
After your time at the center, you can also benefit from an individualized aftercare plan and Cirque Lodge's alumni program.
To discover more about our holistic approach and how it can help you to achieve long-term, enduring sobriety, get in touch with us today. At Cirque Lodge, you’ll discover a deep healing process and the knowledge, tools, and support that will empower you to live a happy, healthy, and alcohol-free life.