When you decide to quit drinking, there might be one big reason: something important that made you decide something has to change. Maybe you lost your job because of drinking, maybe your spouse threatened to leave, or maybe you got arrested for drunk driving. It often takes a major shock to see how much of a problem alcohol has become.
On the other hand, you may fall into the category of just drinking a bit too much. It’s not a problem yet but it may become a problem. Whatever your situation, quitting drinking can significantly improve the quality of your life. The following are some of the bonuses you get when you quit drinking.
People often don’t realize how much alcohol makes you gain weight. First, alcohol is loaded with calories. On average, one serving of vodka has about 65 calories, a glass of red wine has about 125 calories, and a can of beer has about 150 calories. That might not seem like much, but how often do you only have one serving? Even just two beers a day can add up to about 2,000 extra calories every week.
And it’s not just the calories. Alcohol impairs sleep, which has been linked to weight gain and it changes your hormonal balance, making it harder to lose fat. Obesity isn’t only about vanity either. Obesity increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, and other health problems.
People are often surprised by how easily they lose weight once they stop drinking. Often, people don’t even have to try. They just naturally consume fewer calories, they sleep better, they’re more active, and they have a healthier hormone balance. The only caveat is that some people replace alcohol with sweets, so you have to be careful about that.
Although alcohol helps you fall asleep more quickly, it makes your sleep worse overall. You experience less restorative deep sleep—which, as noted above, can contribute to weight gain—and you spend more time in shallow REM sleep. Your sleep is also more often interrupted after the first few hours. As the alcohol is metabolized and leaves your system, your anxiety shoots up and you sleep fitfully for the rest of the night. This has many negative consequences, including increased alcohol use, next day tiredness, more frequent illnesses, poor concentration, and increased anxiety.
One of the most noticeable effects of a chronic sleep deficit from drinking is muddled thinking. Studies show that sleep deprivation and sleep deficit have a number of cognitive effects, including poor concentration, poor working memory and long-term memory, diminished self-control and emotional regulation, and poor decision making. As a depressant, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders, which can impair concentration, diminish motivation, and increase worry and rumination.
None of these things are compatible with clear thinking or good decisions. Depending on how heavily you drink, you should find your head clearing up pretty quickly after you quit. If you’re a heavy drinker, you might go through a rough patch of anxiety, insomnia, and irritability as you detox. Detoxing in a facility can help minimize these symptoms.
People who have been drinking a lot for a long time often forget what it’s like to wake up without a hangover. For these people, the first time they wake up after a solid night’s sleep with no hangover feels like a revelation. Ethanol and dehydration are two major factors that contribute to hangover symptoms. Tannins also appear to play a role in hangovers as well as alcohol metabolism, which varies significantly among people.
Poor sleep and crashing blood sugar probably enter into it as well. Whatever the underlying causes and the specific misery of your own hangovers, it’s not something anyone misses. Waking up feeling refreshed changes your whole orientation to the day.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to dry out. This reduces the elasticity of your skin, making it look more wrinkled. However, at a certain point, after losing water, your body starts retaining water, so you become bloated. That means, after a night of heavy drinking, you can wake up looking both wrinkled and puffy. Poor sleep also contributes to your appearance. No one looks too good after a night of little sleep and that takes place every night that you drink.
In the long term, the effects are even worse. Lack of sleep impairs your ability to recover from injuries and leads to more frequent illnesses. Alcohol also impairs the absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract, meaning heavy drinkers are often malnourished, which also affects your appearance. When you quit drinking, you start looking better pretty quickly. You’re not sleep deprived or dehydrated. Your liver is able to function more effectively. As time goes on, you get healthier and look better.
As addictions go, alcohol is relatively cheap but an alcohol use disorder can be very expensive. If you drink a lot, the price of alcohol itself can add up, especially if you often drink at bars and clubs. However, the real costs come from the secondary effects: needing to catch a cab or Uber when you’re too drunk to drive home, losing your job, or failing to advance in your career because of your drinking. Other expenses such as legal fees for alcohol-related incidents can really drain your bank account.
Just as with weight loss, people are often surprised by how much extra money they seem to have once they quit drinking. That 20 dollar bill stays in their pocket a lot longer and they have the opportunity to make more money at work.
Nothing on the above list is likely to be your main reason for giving up alcohol. Addiction has deep and complex roots and the desire to lose a few pounds will never compete with the desire to feel loved or the desire to stop feeling tormented by traumatic memories. However, losing weight, sleeping better, thinking more clearly, not having hangovers, looking younger, and having extra money are nice bonuses that assure you that you made a good decision.
At Enlightened Solutions, we know that addiction is complex and we treat the whole person: mental, physical, and spiritual. We know that to overcome addiction, you have to treat the underlying causes and we also believe that treatment should be an experience that improves your quality of life overall. To learn more, call us today at (833) 801-5483.