The decision to stop drinking alcohol can be a huge step in your life, especially if you have an addiction to it. Most people suffering from alcoholism need professional help to stop, and it’s a tough thing to do.
But once you have made the decision to abstain from drinking, you’ll see some pretty amazing things happen – not only in your mind, spirit, and relationships, but also in your body.
Alcoholism takes a toll on a person’s body, but the sooner you quit drinking, the better your chances of regaining good health, says the alcohol addiction experts at Summit Behavioral Health. Below are some of the benefits you will experience when you quit drinking and the timeline they typically follow.
Benefits of Abstaining from Drinking Alcohol
Long-term or heavy drinking can cause serious changes to your body and your brain. Some of the risks of alcohol abuse include:
Increased risk of cancer
Heart and cardiovascular issues
Increase risk of stroke
Increased risk of depression and anxiety
Increased risk of liver problems including cirrhosis
Dementia and other degenerative disorders (also known as “wet brain”)
However, by quitting drinking, you can reverse many of those symptoms and reestablish good health. The following are just some of the positive outcomes you may see by abstaining from alcohol:
The body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals increases
Metabolism is restored, leading to fat loss
Reduced risk of cancer and decreased stress levels
Lower blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke and heart attack
Quicker immune response
Reversal of alcohol-related liver damage
Alcohol Recovery Timeline
How long and how much alcohol you drank will have an effect on the timeline that you experience when you stop drinking. First, let’s take a look at the phases of alcohol withdrawal.
The first challenge you will face when you stop drinking is acute withdrawal. The symptoms will start as soon as six hours after your last drink.
Sweating and rise in body temperature
Raised blood pressure and heart rate
Shaking or tremors
Withdrawing from alcohol isn’t something to be taken lightly. Depending on a person’s history of drinking, this stage can cause delirium tremens, seizures, and even death. If your alcoholism is severe, it’s essential that you find help in a medically-supervised detox facility.
Completely detoxing from alcohol can take up to two weeks. Once that is done, you have made it through the most physically challenging part of withdrawal. During post-acute withdrawal phase, you will likely begin to experience the psychological effects of not drinking. Some of the symptoms of this phase include:
Decrease in energy
Emotions such as anger and aggression
Increased anxiety and depression
Insomnia or nightmares
This may also be the time where cravings for alcohol set in. Each person’s experience with post-acute alcohol withdrawal is different – for some it may only last a few weeks, for some it may be up to a year. Seeking help from an alcohol addiction rehab will help ease your transition into recovery and treat any underlying conditions you may have.
What is Going on In Your Body? A Timeline
The following is a timeline of how your body is reacting to the absence of alcohol. Again, not everyone experiences the same thing, this is a general timeline.
12-24 Hours After Quitting
During the first day of not drinking, your blood sugar normalizes. You will be feeling the effects of withdrawal at this point, so drink plenty of water and stay away from refined sugars. Try to eat healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.
48 Hours After Quitting
Your biggest alcohol detox hurdle is over; however, you are still likely feeling withdrawal symptoms. You probably still feel tired, nauseated, and have a headache lingering. Depending on the severity of your alcohol abuse, you make be shaky and dizzy. Your blood pressure is becoming more stable and your body temperature should have returned to normal.
72 Hours After Quitting
You may be feeling better physically at this point. But, if you were a heavy drinker or maintenance drinker (someone who drinks around the clock, never allowing the body to be free of alcohol), then you may feel worse and still have shaking and dizziness.
One Week After Quitting
You should start sleeping better – more deeply – which will increase your energy during the day. Your skin will be looking better as hydration restores. Conditions you may have had like dandruff, eczema, and rosacea will improve as your skin does.
One Month After Quitting
Your liver function should be improving. Liver fat is reduced by about 15% at this point and that increases its ability to filter toxins out of the body. You may notice a reduced amount of belly fat, and the most improvement in your skin happens around this time. Your energy level will continue to rise and you likely feel renewed physically.
If you haven’t already, you should be looking for emotional support from a 12-step group, addiction therapist, or other addiction professional. Most relapses occur within the first six months of sobriety. You don’t want that to happen to you.
One Year After Quitting
After a year of not drinking alcohol, you lose a significant amount of belly fat. The average is about 13 pounds. More importantly, your risk of mouth, liver, and breast cancers is drastically reduced, and your liver is likely to be functioning normally again.
Life Without Alcohol
Making the change to sobriety isn’t easy, even though the physical improvements are well worth it and you may need the help of alcohol addiction experts. The path to long-lasting recovery is full of twists and turns, making it a good idea to seek help and support to establish healthy coping skills and treat underlying issues. You don’t want to lose the sobriety that you fought so hard for.
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