What to Expect When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

You’ve probably heard, met or know of people in your personal or social life who don’t drink. For whatever reason, they’ve decided to live an alcohol-free lifestyle, and may have even discussed some of the benefits with you. If you’ve ever considered cutting alcohol out of your routine, you may have wondered a few questions about the process. What health benefits can you experience by not drinking alcohol? How is your social life influenced without alcohol? What should you expect when you stop drinking?

If you’re thinking about going alcohol-free, there are lots of personal, health and social benefits to consider in the process. Whether you want to stop drinking for good, or just to have some time off, being prepared for the changes is a great way to move forward. Here are some examples of what to expect when you stop drinking.

It’s important to recognize that depending on your drinking habits, giving up alcohol might not be a very pretty sight in the beginning. Chances are, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. For most people, the first 48 hours after you stop drinking are the biggest detox hurdle. Depending on how much you drank before, this can feel like an extreme hangover, and include symptoms such as sweating, a rise in blood pressure, shakiness or tremors, insomnia, headache and nausea (AAFP).

If you were a severely heavy drinker, you may even experience the onset of delirium tremens between 48-72 hours. The List states, “Delirium tremens is sudden confusion that may be paired with hallucinations, shaking, irregular heart rate and an increase in body temperature so high that it can sometimes lead to seizures.” Whether you were a heavy drinker or not, chances are you’ll experience some form of alcohol cravings. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, cravings are a normal experience when changing your drinking behavior. However, once your body adjusts to the “new normal” without alcohol, you can truly start to experience the benefits of living alcohol-free.

First and foremost are the short term benefits you’ll experience when you stop drinking. Oftentimes, the earliest benefit people notice is better sleep in the night and higher energy levels throughout the day. Drinkaware states, “Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish. This is because drinking disrupts your sleep cycle.” While some people claim drinking alcohol before bed helps them to fall asleep faster, it can actually have harmful effects later on in the sleep cycle. As the night goes on, you spend less time in deep sleep and more time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. REM is a less restful sleep stage, resulting in you feeling more tired the next day. By going without alcohol—especially alcohol close to bedtime—you can get better rest during the night and feel more energetic the following morning.

As you go longer without alcohol, you’ll notice your appearance start to change as well. Chances are you’ll lose a few pounds and even clear up your skin’s complexion. Alcohol has a sneaky way of creeping into your daily calories and adding some inches on to the waistline. A study published in theAmerican Journal of Epidemiology found that, on average, men consume an additional 433 calories on days they drink a “moderate” amount of alcohol; women consume 300 calories. When you cut alcohol from your diet, you help save on those extra calories. And don’t worry about adding food into make up for it, chances are you’ll also eat less food overall. One study published in the American Journal of Nutritionstates alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of excess food intake. Because alcohol heightens our senses, even mild intoxication can increase the activity in the brain’s hypothalamus—which controls hunger and thirst—making you more sensitive to the smell and taste of food, causing you to eat more. Without alcohol, this sensation isn’t as drastic, resulting in less food consumption and fewer pounds.

As you go without alcohol, you may also notice your skin beginning to clear up. Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes you to urinate more. It also decreases the body’s production of antidiuretic hormone, which helps the body reabsorb water. These factors combine to dehydration within your body, and can affect issues such as acne, dandruff, eczema and even rosacea. However, without alcohol, your body is able to retain more water and stay hydrated longer, literally clearing your skin from the inside out.

Of course, as you move on throughout life, going alcohol-free has significant long-term benefits, as well. For instance, it greatly reduces your chances of certain types of cancer such as breast or mouth cancer. Giving up alcohol can also reduce your risk of developing liver disease, which can lead to a fatty liver. The fact is alcohol can have severely negative health risks, and overtime, these add up to serious conditions. Giving up alcohol can improve your health and help you live a longer, healthier life.

When you stop drinking, you also improve your chances of building sustainable, genuine relationships with your social circle. Alcohol can have harmful effects on relationships, especially when it becomes a serious issue. By giving up alcohol, you can feel confident that the relationships you build are positive, impactful and intentional. Not to mention, you also save a significant amount of money by not spending it on alcoholic beverages every week.

Although the transition to going alcohol-free might be a challenge, it can have serious benefits both short-term and long-term. When you stop drinking, expect for things to change, your health to improve and your life to expand with a new awareness. Give a try and see how things change for the better around you.