There are more than a few reasons to never touch a glass of alcohol again. Ranging from your health and happiness to your relationships and financial health, there’s probably nothing in your life that stays unaffected by the adverse effects of alcohol.
Maybe you have already realized this, and want to do something about your alcohol habit. Maybe you’re even prepared to pull the trigger and quit alcohol for good, but want to know what happens when you stop drinking.
This may be because you’re worried of any undesirable effects of quitting that you may not be aware of. But don’t let that stop you from taking what may very likely turn out to be the best decision of your life.
As far as being worried is concerned, we will take care of that below by walking you through 10 things that alcoholics quitting drinking tend to come across. Most of them are very positive so if you take the necessary precautions (that you will get to know about below), you will be more than fine.
1. Withdrawal symptoms
If you have been a heavy and very regular drinker, you’re more likely to come across withdrawal symptoms. Some of them will be the usual ones that you experience during a hangover such as nausea and headache.
However, the detoxification process isn’t exactly easy on your body. It tends to trigger some unpleasant changes in your body that are typically known as withdrawal symptoms. They may include an increase in your blood pressure, difficulty in sleeping, shakiness and unusually high sweating.
People who have been heavy drinkers and physically dependent on alcohol may experience a more severe form of these symptoms. When they refuse to drink their usual first drink, they may feel shaky.
People suffering from severe alcohol dependence are advised to go for the detoxification process in a hospital setting as against their home or on their own.
Then there are also people that are psychologically dependent on alcohol. They may be able to quit fairly easily if they really tried, but they think they just won’t be able to do it. Such alcoholics may turn irritable for a couple days or so after quitting drinking, but they aren’t going to encounter anything major that can be a cause of concern.
People quitting drinking usually experience the said symptoms in the first 48 hours of quitting, after which things usually start getting better.
2. Your body may demand alcohol
This one should actually go without saying. If you have been drinking regularly, your body won’t forget it easily. The balance that your body may have created to accommodate alcohol into the system would suddenly disappear.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that an alcoholic is likely to experience cravings for alcohol following a change in his drinking pattern or behavior, and quitting drinking obviously means taking it a step or two further.
If you have been drinking every day, you will experience intense cravings to gulp in a glass of that toxic substance you call alcohol. The time period for which this craving may last tends to vary greatly, depending on the amount and frequency of your alcohol consumption.
However, if you decide to take it one day at a time and follow the things discussed in detail in our post on how to stop drinking, you should be able to overcome that craving way sooner than you may have thought.
3. The worst may come before the better and best show up
The “quitting drinking” journey is usually one of quite a few twists and turns, especially for a heavy drinker. If you have been a type of drinker that drinks alcohol even when they should be drinking water, then the worse may not be over for you after 48 hours.
The 24 hours following the first 48 hours period of quitting is going to be crucial for you, and how you handle things during this time may very well make or break how you come out of it.
This is precisely the time when something known as delirium tremens sets in. It’s basically a kind of sudden confusion that’s often linked with hallucinations, irregularities in heart rate, extreme shaking and an unusually high body temperature that can lead to a seizure.
This is the reason heavy drinkers are often recommended to seek the help of a medical professional when it comes to detoxing from alcohol.
4. The symptoms will start to fade away
As mentioned above, the first 72 hours of having your last drink may turn out to be a difficult time to get through. However, once you successfully manage to come out of it, things will likely take a turn for the better.
The symptoms we discussed above may have peaked at about 72 hours, and will now start going away for good. Even your body will start getting used to not having to deal with alcohol, and create a new equilibrium that doesn’t involve alcohol.
That said, it’s important to note that the symptoms of detoxification may still be there. While you may no longer have to deal with most symptoms after about a week of quitting, some psychological effects of detoxification tend to last longer.
They may include depression, anger, anxiety, feeling frustrated and irritated, as well as having nightmares and difficulty in sleeping. Similarly, the emotions and thoughts that may have led you to resort to drinking may start surfacing again.
A good way to deal with these issues is to seek counseling help, either as an individual or by joining groups of alcoholics that have quit drinking and are now (successfully) fighting the after-effects of it.
5. Your sleep quality will improve tremendously
The difficulty in sleeping may trouble you for a week or two, but your quality of sleep will eventually get better than it has been since you started drinking. Research shows that alcohol consumption makes your brain function in a way that it does while being awake.
A non-alcoholic person’s brain will function in delta waves when they are in deep sleep. However, when it comes to alcoholics, their alcohol makes their brain work in alpha waves, which are usually experienced when you’re just resting, not sleeping.
And of course, as resting is not the same as sleeping, an alcoholic usually doesn’t get a good night’s sleep, which is the reason they often feel tired and much less energetic than non-alcoholics during the day.
We know some may argue that drinking actually makes them fall asleep faster. Well, while that may be true, falling asleep quickly doesn’t translate to a better quality of sleep.
Studies have revealed that while alcohol may make you fall asleep faster and even get in your deep sleep mode as soon as you fall asleep, the overall quality of your sleep will be significantly affected in an adverse way. On the other hand, when you quit drinking, you may have some trouble falling asleep, but once you do, you will sleep much better. This will allow you to wake up considerably more refreshed the next day than you would when drinking alcohol.
6. Lose a lot of weight
You didn’t really expect to be able to lose weight when wondering what happens when you stop drinking, did you? Well, the thing is, when you consume alcohol, you actually load your body with hundreds of useless, harmful calories.
Alcohol, and beer in particular, contains a lot of calories that your body can really do without. Talking some specific numbers, a single IPA is believed to contain 200 calories, with a margarita coming with a staggering 300 calories.
Needless to say, when you stop drinking, this massive calorie intake will suddenly stop, making you lose a good bit of weight surprisingly quickly. Furthermore, you will also have much less “urges” to eat due to the fact that alcohol consumption is also linked to an increased craving for food.
Research has found that alcohol makes the hypothalamus in your brain to become more active than you would want it to, and that leads to you being more sensitive to food smells. Oh, and there’s also the alcohol’s famous ability to make you feel relaxed that tricks you into thinking that it’s okay to eat more than you should.
7. Your skin will thank you
One of the lesser known things about alcohol is that it’s a diuretic. This means that it makes your body flush out water, even when it shouldn’t be. In fact, it kind of “forces” your body to do this, which is often the cause of severe dehydration.
Similarly, it also interferes with your body’s ability to produce a hormone that it needs to absorb and hold the water it gets, meaning an even worsened level of dehydration. Wonder why water is needed to deal with a hangover? It’s precisely for this reason.
However, over time, the effects of alcohol on the water levels of your body take a toll on your skin’s health, making it dry and parched, as well as result in dandruff, eczema and redness of your cheeks. With alcohol no longer being there to be a constant trouble to your skin, it will probably grow into something much better than it has ever been since you started drinking regularly.
8. Reduced risk to type II diabetes
When you force your body to process alcohol, its ability to maintain blood sugar levels is affected big time. It also leads to two other things that make matters worse with respect to your blood sugar levels; they are:
- Preventing your body from properly using the glucose stores in your body
- Making the insulin in your body less effective at its job, which is to regulate blood sugar levels
These things obviously lead to your blood sugar levels being well out of control, which significantly increases the risk of falling prey to type II diabetes. Research shows that when you quit alcohol, your blood sugar levels go down by as much as 16% within a fairly short period of time, meaning a lowered risk of the said disease.
Apart from that, quitting alcohol also offers many other health benefits, such as:
- Reduced risk of many different types of cancers
- Decreased levels of liver fat and thus also a significantly lower risk of liver damage and liver disease
- Damage caused by alcohol to critical areas of your brain may be partially reversed
- Reduced cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease or a stroke
9. Your immune system will get stronger
Alcohol is also responsible for a wide range of health issues that are usually a result of a poor immune system. These include respiratory disorders like pneumonia, an increased risk of different types of cancers, slower healing and many more.
Alcohol damages your immune system by overexerting it. Some studies have concluded that even a single episode of binge alcohol can leave your immune system with too much to handle; in other words, alcohol causes exertion on your immune system.
However, don’t let that scare you. If you have made the wise decision and kicked your alcohol habit out of your life for good, the damage caused to your immune system will be reversed and it will regain its strength over time.
10. Your bank balance will surprise you
Alcoholics apparently fail to realize how much they actually end up spending on alcohol. This may be because they usually don’t buy a lot of alcohol in bulk, but rather in small quantities, which means they may never be spending a large amount of money on a single purchase.
However, you would probably be flabbergasted if you try to figure out how much those “small” amounts add up to over a few months, or perhaps even a month if you’re a regular or heavy drinker. You can actually do this by putting aside the money you would otherwise spend on alcohol after you quit drinking.
The amount you manage to save over a period of a month or two will probably make you realize that you might as well have spent a small fortune while destroying your health at the same time.