What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol

What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol

Giving up alcohol is tough, and if you’re anything like me, it could take you several years to stop drinking alcohol after you’ve actually made the decision to quit. The reason I decided to quit drinking alcohol was because I was sick of it. I’d literally had enough of feeling sick for a day or two after a big night out. I was sick of spending money on something I no longer really enjoyed, and I was really sick of feeling unhealthy. I don’t know about you, but after 20 years of drinking, the thought of poisoning my body again and again held absolutely no appeal to me any more.

In the long term, consistent drinking over many years causes over 60 different diseases, including many different cancers, particularly of the heart, liver and pancreas. In the short term, even just a few drinks can cause sleeping problems, weight gain and increases in blood pressure. When I stopped drinking for good, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling much healthier, and I didn’t drink that often anyway. I’d have a big night out with friends once a month, or maybe twice if I was feeling particularly festive, but even then the effects were telling. The good news is any damage caused by drinking alcohol can be reversed, with most repairs actually taking place very quickly.

So what does happen to your body from the moment you stop drinking alcohol?

You will sleep better

When you stop drinking alcohol, you sleep much better
When you stop drinking alcohol, you sleep much better

When you’re awake, but at rest, your brain has a certain wave pattern going on. When you’ve had a few drinks, this wave pattern continues into your sleep, causing you to have a night of disrupted sleep. It’s true alcohol may make you fall asleep quicker than you might normally, but the quality of your sleep will be seriously compromised. By getting a good quality night’s sleep, you’ll experience better concentration, an improved mood, and optimal mental performance.

You will decrease your risk of getting cancer

The big C is nasty and deadly. Behind cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption is the next biggest cause of cancer. Quitting alcohol decreases your likelihood of getting cancers of the mouth, liver, breast, colon and rectum. Not only that, but you’ll also decrease your chances of having a stroke and contracting diabetes, while also increasing your life expectancy. Given my fear of death, and dream of living forever, if there’s way I can give myself the best chance of living longer, I’ll grab it with both hands.

You will lose weight when you stop drinking alcohol

Losing fat will give you more energy to exercise
Losing fat will give you more energy to exercise

Drinking alcohol will considerably increase your calorie intake. That may sound obvious, but when we think about the amount of calories we consume, we often ‘forget’ about the empty calories we add to our daily intake from the liquids we consume. Most alcoholic drinks are high in sugars and carbohydrates, and when just a few are consumed at any one time, insulin levels spike prompting the body to start producing and storing fat immediately. If you stop drinking, you won’t consume those additional nasty calories that cause you to put on weight, and you’ll notice your waistline starts to shrink.

The problem with alcohol and weight is not just confined to its direct link with producing fat. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol leads to excessive consumption of food. The study found women who consumed two standard drinks ate 30% more food than those who didn’t. If you stop drinking alcohol, you won’t be inclined to eat more than you need at meal times. Again, this will be of great assistance to your waistline.

Your liver will be under less stress

While your liver is working overtime to process all of that alcohol coursing through your system, it isn’t doing it’s regular jobs as well as it should be. These include cleaning your blood of potentially poisonous toxins, helping the digestion process by producing bile to absorb fat into the bloodstream, and breaking down glycogen for your body to use as energy. Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body, and any obstacles that get in its way have serious effects on your inner systems. The issue with abusing your liver is when you find out you have a problem, it’s generally already very serious.

You will have clearer skin

You'll have clearer skin within days when you stop drinking alcohol
You’ll have clearer skin within days when you stop drinking alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic which means you go to the toilet more, leaving you dehydrated. Alcohol also decreases the body’s production of your antidiuretic hormone, inhibiting your ability to rehydrate. It’s a real double whammy!!! Serious dehydration effects almost every part of your body, but it’s your skin where the visible evidence, such as parched skin and ruddiness in your cheeks and nose caused by swollen capillaries, can be seen. Within days of giving up alcohol you’ll notice your skin clearing, and may also improve other problems such as rosacea, eczema and dandruff.

Whether the clear health benefits of not drinking alcohol anymore outweigh any benefits you believe you get from drinking is completely up to you. If you’re undecided about whether you should quit drinking, doing a cost-benefit analysis may help with your decision. By writing down both the costs and benefits of drinking, and comparing the two sides of the analysis, you’ll have a clearer picture of whether you want to continue drinking, or if the time is right to live an alcohol free life. Either way, the decision is up to you and only you can make it.

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14 Comments

  1. I’d like to get the newsletter, please.

  2. i want to stop drinking alcohol because i lose a weight ,change a skin.so it hard because most of my friends they drinking .i need your help

    • Hi Botya, thanks for your email. It’s very brave of you to make that first step. There are two questions you need to ask yourself, 1. Are your friends not supportive of your decision to stop drinking? Or 2. Is it you that just can’t say no when alcohol is around? True friends would support you in your decision. Explain to them why you want to quit and how important it is to have their support. If it’s not forthcoming, you might want to cut back on the time you spend with those who don’t respect your decision. If you just can’t say no when alcohol is around, then I suggest you go and seek professional help. The best way to get from where you are to where you want to be is by getting help from professionals in their field. That’s the best advice I can offer. Good luck…

  3. 6 days sober today. Didn’t realize how much I was in denial until I quit. I have been trying to quit all summer but ended up with an even worse drinking problem. Now I’m 6 days sober and still not feeling that great. I’m hoping after two weeks or so I can be somewhat of the person I remember being . Thanks for the article. Reading on the internet has taken over my life these 6 days and that’s ok because it’s kept my temptation away.

    • Well done Lori. Realising you have an issue and then doing something about it are two huge steps and you should be proud of yourself for that. Now you have to remain strong and stay off the booze. It gets easier with time, so keep yourself occupied and if need be, seek professional help. Good luck.

  4. Thank you Chris…. I know I had to change. I’m doing it for ME and my family. I genuinely believe one has to WANT it for themselves or it won’t happen. I didn’t quit at my family nagging me I only stopped for a day or two or three then thought “I’ll just hide it better this time” silly thinking. I just turned 36 and 20 years if drinking is more than enough. I’m tired of wasting the money, the time… saying and doing stupid things, being ashamed, living a lie, being a sneak and feeling lik sh**. My new life has began. Thank God

  5. Hi…I really enjoyed reading this.
    I have been sober for 7 years. Some days are better than others.
    Like you I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Good luck to all who give up. Stay strong 🙂

    • Congrats Maeve, I’m sure giving the booze away has been one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, just like it was for me. You’re absolutely right, I just got sick of it. For me, I’m better of without it.

  6. to those that these changes would apply, and whose long term consumption has affected them from physiological, psychological and relational: Yes. I’m 100% behind you in support of cessation, to have a ‘life outside of the glass’..
    What’s not mentioned or clarified is the capacity for self control, or the amounts of and frequency of drinking alcohol, and at which point it becomes problematic. My critique is w/ poor authorship and data on an article, not with the substance in the bottle nor w/ those for whom it has become an issue.
    No, alcohol is not ‘necessary’ for life; but occasional enjoyment of 1 serving is negligible in regards to health, > as long as there is no problem at stopping at one’s own limit, or going without alcohol.
    I know my limit, and observe it. Alcohol is not an ‘excuse’ to behavior, or a door latch to ‘lighten up’.
    when I’m experiencing a depressive period, I abstain for weeks or months.
    I do enjoy a flavor, or pairing with a meal, but it doesn’t go past self-control.
    At one instance: a roommate had a problem where he could not stop after one drink; it opened the door to bad choices for him. Prayerfully: I dumped all my liquor down the drain, so my behavior (occasional, or while hosting) did not influence; I didn’t impose me going ‘dry’ on him; a few months later, he addressed his inner issues and he has been alcohol-free for well over a decade. Two years later, prayerfullly, it was ok for me to keep some items on hand; a bottle of liquor for me can last a couple of years.
    Being honest with yourself, and acting in care towards those around you, should be more priority than an alcoholic beverage; the control should be yours, not the bottle, over you..
    To all who abstain and start that journey, I truly commend & encourage you to be real w/ yourself and empowered for changes.

    • Hi A.C., thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you read the article and got something from it. The article is only about what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol. I didn’t neglect to mention “the capacity for self control, or the amounts of and frequency of drinking alcohol, and at which point it becomes problematic”, because that wasn’t the purpose of the article. Also, as you can tell from this article and all other articles I’ve written, I’m actually all for people enjoying a drink if they so choose. Like you, if people have control of their drinking and they enjoy a drink, I say go for it. As such I take exception to your comment regarding “poor authorship and data on (an) article”. But each to their own, I’m just happy your drinking is under control and you have respect for those around you who can’t control their own drinking. Keep up the good work…

  7. Great articles! Giving up tomorrow. Cannot endure another day of this crap 🙂

    • That’s great news Lisa. Be strong, get help if you need it (either from friends or a professional), and stick at it even if you have a hiccup or two along the way. Good luck.