If you’re in the early stages of recovery, it can be helpful to remind yourself of all you stand to gain by staying sober.
The benefits of quitting drinking can touch nearly every aspect of your life.
1. You’ll Look Better
Alcohol dehydrates the body and causes inflammation. This can cause skin to look dry, wrinkled, and discolored. You may also struggle with dandruff and eczema. When you’re sober, your skin will go back to looking healthy and vibrant.
Rosacea is also linked to drinking alcohol. This skin disorder is characterized by extreme redness in the face when something causes the blood vessels to expand and is often accompanied by bumps that look like acne. In addition to vigorous exercise, hot weather, stress, and spicy foods, drinking is a common trigger for flares.
2. You’ll Feel Smarter
Alcohol has a significant effect on cognitive functioning. When you’re sober, your focus, memory, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills will improve. This can lead to greater success at work or school, as well as improved confidence and self-esteem.
The International Center for Addiction Policies provides an interesting look at how alcohol affects cognitive function. The group found chronic heavy drinking can result in brain damage, including atrophy of nerve cells and brain shrinkage in the cortical and subcortical regions and the hippocampus. However, they also discovered brain atrophy among heavy chronic drinkers can be partially reversed once drinking has ceased.
3. You’ll Be Sick Less Often
You’ll be less likely to get sick once you’re sober. Alcohol can damage your natural immune system. This effect is compounded by the fact that people actively abusing substances are less likely to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get the rest they need.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has an extensive guide to how alcohol affects your immune system, including the relationship between drinking and pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and autoimmune diseases.
4. Your Risk of Cancer Decreases
Quitting alcohol lowers your risk of developing a number of different cancers, including breast cancer, liver cancer, mouth cancer, esophagus cancer, and pharynx cancer. Genetic factors still play a role, but your odds of staying healthy dramatically increase when you stop drinking.
To learn more about the relationship between alcohol and cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute website. Their online fact sheet outlines the specific ways in which drinking affects cancer risk, the role of genetics in alcohol-related cancers, and how ex-drinkers lower their risk.
5. Your Blood Sugar Levels Will Improve
When your body is processing large quantities of alcohol, it becomes difficult to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Alcohol gets in the way of your body accessing glucose stores and decreases the effectiveness of insulin. Over time, this can lead to type II diabetes.
According to a study by Samuel Preston, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, diabetes is the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Diabetes causes 12 percent of deaths in the United States.
Individual results vary, but blood sugar levels often stabilize when alcohol is no longer a factor. Some studies have shown a decrease of as much as 16 percent. If your diabetes was poorly controlled before, you should feel much better once you are sober.
6. Your Mood Will Stabilize
People who suffer from mental health disorders often use alcohol to self-medicate the unpleasant symptoms of their condition. However, heavy drinking can actually trigger symptoms for many people. When you’re sober and withdrawal symptoms are under control, your mood will stabilize.
HelpGuide.org outlines some of the ways in which alcohol can affect a person’s mental health, as well as how drinking is linked to depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
7. Your Diet Will Improve
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is nearly double the 4 calories per gram from carbohydrates and protein and almost as much as the 9 calories per from fat. Mixers such as soda or sugary syrups only increase the caloric effect of alcohol consumption.
Since someone who is abusing alcohol is consuming lots of empty calories, this decreases the desire to eat nutritious foods. When you’re in recovery, you’ll learn about the importance of proper nutrition and discover how much better you feel when you’re consuming lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies.
Often, sobriety-related improvements to your diet are accompanied by weight loss. It’s impossible to predict how much weight you might lose, since this depends on factors such as your current weight, level of alcohol consumption, past diet, current diet, and physical activity level. However, if you’ve always been hoping to lose a few extra pounds, you may get your wish.
Livestrong has an article that explores the link between quitting drinking and losing weight in greater detail.
Getting the Treatment You Need
If you’ve been unsuccessful in regulating your drinking on your own, residential treatment can provide you with a solid foundation for recovery. St. Joseph Institute for Addiction provides a full continuum of care for men and women with alcohol use disorders, including detox, counseling, holistic therapies, family support, and aftercare planning.