The Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

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When you quit drinking after years of misusing alcohol, not only will your body begin to reverse the effects of excessive alcohol, you will simply feel better, too.

One of the symptoms of an alcohol use disorder is giving up the social activities and hobbies you once enjoyed to focus on drinking. A sober life means having more time to rediscover yourself and your passions and build a new, exciting alcohol-free life.

Health Risks of Heavy Drinking

Heavy drinking can take a heavy toll on your physical and mental health, upping your risk of the following conditions: 

  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Anxiety
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Fibrosis
  • Hearing loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Stroke

Research shows that some of the damage caused to your brain, liver, cardiovascular system, and gut will begin to slowly heal as you stop drinking and enter recovery from an alcohol use disorder.

As the alcohol leaves your system and you begin to establish some healthy habits, you will begin to feel better—perhaps better than you have in years. Especially after you get past the temporary discomfort of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you'll notice increasing improvements in your physical and mental health.

Health Benefits of Recovery

The good news is there are many benefits of recovery from alcohol use disorder that will help you move forward with a healthier lifestyle.

Better-Looking Skin

Did you ever hear the term "alcoholic face?" This is the phrase used to describe the negative effects alcohol abuse can have on your skin, including:

  • Broken capillaries on your face and nose
  • Dehydration
  • Inflammation
  • Jaundice (with chronic, long-term abuse)
  • Reduced collagen levels (which results in loose, saggy skin)

Heavy alcohol consumption has also been linked to the inflammatory skin disease, psoriasis. When you stop drinking, you gradually restore elasticity to the skin, and redness and yellowing of the skin and around the eyes slowly disappears.

Improved Sleep

Alcohol abuse and poor sleep are closely linked. This is because alcohol interferes with your sleep-wake cycles, making it more difficult to fall asleep (and stay asleep) throughout the night. It also relaxes the muscles in the throat, making you more prone to sleep apnea and snoring.

While you can expect some sleep troubles in early recovery, the longer you abstain from alcohol (and relearn good sleep hygiene), the greater improvements in your sleep quality. 

Healthier Weight

Alcohol robs your body of essential nutrients and it also derails your metabolism. In addition, alcohol is filled with sugars and empty calories. If you binge drink, you can easily consume 600 calories or more in just one night.

The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dLi—in a short period of time (about 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 quit drinking but learning to live a healthier lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition and exercise. While everybody differs, regaining a healthy weight is a realistic goal for many people who stay sober for the long-term.

Better Mental Health

There is a high rate of comorbidity between addiction and other mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018. Yet nearly 60% receive no treatment at all.

While scientists have yet to determine the exact link, we do know that many people turn to alcohol and other illicit substances in an attempt to self-medicate symptoms of mental illness. We also know that alcohol actually exacerbates mental illness, so when you stop drinking, you'll reduce these symptoms.

Developing an alcohol-free lifestyle and achieving long-term sobriety takes a lot more effort than merely not drinking anymore. If you've stopped drinking and began on the road to recovery, congratulate yourself.

As you achieve your sobriety goals (small and big) and work toward a healthier you, you will begin to notice an improvement in your mental health. This may include increased self-confidence and self-respect as well as decreased anxiety and depression, especially if you are struggling with a co-occurring mental health issue.

Improved Immunity

Alcohol interferes with your immune system, preventing it from producing enough white blood cells to fend off germs and bacteria. This is why many long-term, heavy drinkers tend to struggle with bouts of pneumonia and tuberculosis.

When you give up drinking, you will also be giving up the many colds and flu and illnesses that you may have been unable to ward off due to chronic drinking in the past.

Enhanced Nutrition

Drinking can deplete your body of vital nutrients. Many people with alcohol use disorder tend to "drink" their meals, eating less than the amount of food needed to provide sufficient carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

Alcohol itself can also interfere with the nutrition process, affecting digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients. As a result, many chronic drinkers become malnourished. As you stop drinking and begin focusing on a healthier way of life, your body will begin to better absorb nutrients.

Lower Risk of Cancer

Alcohol is a known carcinogen. According to the CDC, the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk of developing some types of cancer, including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Throat cancer

Reduced Cardiovascular Risk

If you quit alcohol, your heart is sure to thank you. Heavy drinkers are about twice as likely to have a cardiovascular event within 24 hours and up to six times more likely within a week than those who don't drink alcohol. A significant amount of scientific research has linked alcohol misuse with an increased risk for the following heart problems, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart failure
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Myocardial infarction

Better Memory and Thinking

Heavy drinking can cause the hippocampus, which is critical to memory and learning, to shrink.

Abstaining from alcohol over several months to a year may allow structural brain changes to partially correct. Quitting drinking can also help reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem­ solving, memory, and attention.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see 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 will include for-the-better changes in your overall health, relationships, job or schoolwork, finances, and more.

Try your best to have patience as your mind and body heals and you relearn a life without alcohol—and take pride in how far you've already come.

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10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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