Benefits of Quitting Alcohol: Timeline + What Happens When You Stop Drinking
Last Updated: November 3, 2023
Withdrawal symptoms from not drinking can be uncomfortable at first, but many short and long-term benefits of not drinking alcohol exist.
Quitting alcohol can seem scary; however, it may be the first step to a new life. The temporary unpleasantness of withdrawal will quickly end, providing you with better health, improved relationships and more money.
What Happens When You Stop Drinking? A Withdrawal Timeline
When you stop drinking after a prolonged period of heavy alcohol use, you will go through withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur as your body readjusts to the absence of alcohol. They begin once you stop drinking and last for about a week to a week and a half. Once withdrawal is over, you will start to see the benefits of quitting.
Withdrawal symptoms will begin within one day of stopping alcohol use, often within 12 hours of your last drink. Initial symptoms will be mild but will rapidly increase in intensity. Symptoms like headaches, tremors and jumpiness will appear first.
A day and a half after stopping, symptoms will intensify towards their peak. Existing symptoms will worsen, and new side effects will develop. These symptoms may include:
- Sweaty and clammy skin
- Clouded thinking
The peak of withdrawal symptoms will occur two to three days after your last drink. It is during this time that the most dangerous symptoms can occur. Seizures may develop, and an uncommon but deadly symptom of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens may develop.
During the period following the peak of withdrawal, symptoms will gradually lessen in intensity. As symptoms improve, they will slowly disappear until all physical symptoms are gone. This part of withdrawal may be characterized by fatigue as your body is relieved of the stress it has just undergone.
By two weeks after your last drink, all physical symptoms will typically be gone. Some very severe cases of withdrawal may last more than two weeks; however, this is quite uncommon. Some cravings and emotional stresses may still be present. These psychological symptoms can last several weeks or months but gradually fade.
First Week Benefits
By the end of the first week of withdrawal, you will begin to see some of the long-term benefits of stopping alcohol.
While alcohol may help you get to sleep more quickly, it actually inhibits deep, restorative sleep. As you finish withdrawal, you will be tired from the experience but will also find that your sleep is more restorative when you sleep.
Alcohol causes dehydration by increasing urine production beyond normal. Dehydration has many potential impacts on your health, affecting your skin quality, kidney health, circulation and cognition. As dehydration improves, you may see improvements in several areas of your health.
Second Week Benefits
By your second week of quitting alcohol, your calorie intake will have been about 6,000 calories less, depending on how much you drink. If nothing else has changed, you will have lost about two pounds. Not buying alcohol will have saved you about $300–$400 or even more by your second week. New health benefits will also become evident, and the tiredness caused by withdrawal will be about over.
Alcohol causes inflammation in the lining of your stomach and intestines. By your second week of recovery, your gastrointestinal system will be well on its way to healing this inflammation. You will likely notice that you feel less bloated and have less gas and heartburn. You may also notice that your constipation or diarrhea has improved.
Third Week Benefits
By your third week, you will have ingested about 9,000 calories less than you would have if you had continued drinking. Your savings from not buying alcohol will be about $450–$600, or even more. You will have more energy, feel more clear-headed and feel good about quitting alcohol.
Decreased Blood Pressure
While blood pressure is not something you typically notice, it profoundly impacts your health, especially your heart attack and stroke risk. Alcohol causes increased blood pressure, especially when used consistently and heavily. By three weeks after stopping alcohol, your blood pressure will be lower, and your doctor may even allow you to reduce blood pressure medications if you take them.
Fourth Week Benefits
After about a month of sobriety, the benefits of better sleep, diet and health will become more noticeable. Your reduced alcohol intake will have resulted in your avoiding about 12,000 calories or more, allowing you to lose four or more pounds. By this point, you may have saved over $800 and will find that your financial position has improved.
Better Looking Skin and Hair
A month of abstinence will result in improved hydration for a prolonged time, coupled with removing the inflammatory effects of alcohol. This will create noticeable improvements in your skin and hair quality. Your skin will likely appear smoother and have fewer flaws. Your hair may appear healthier and will continue to improve as new hair growth occurs.
Improved Liver Function
Alcohol can severely impact your liver, causing inflammation and scarring. Any scarring that develops will be permanent; however, liver inflammation (called hepatitis) will generally be mostly gone within four weeks of stopping alcohol. This will lead to improved liver function and reduce liver impairment as much as possible.
Other Long-Term Benefits
There are many other benefits to stopping alcohol. Some can occur immediately, while others may take several months or more.
Fewer Calories Consumed
Alcoholic beverages tend to be quite high in calories. Stopping alcohol will result in consuming fewer calories and result in you getting your energy from more healthy sources. Using fewer calories can help you lose weight, improving your body image and how you feel.
Alcohol can be expensive, especially if you are using a high quantity of alcohol each day. When you stop drinking alcohol, you will immediately notice you have more money than usual. Someone still drinking alcohol can accurately estimate how much they could save by keeping track of their weekly spending for a few weeks. Many people who heavily use alcohol are surprised to learn that they spend $150–$200 or more each week on their habit.
Alcohol increases the risk of many deadly conditions, such as heart attacks, stroke, cancer and cirrhosis. Stopping alcohol may add up to 28 years to your life expectancy, a huge difference in longevity. Not only does stopping alcohol increase your life expectancy, but it also leads to improved quality of life, especially in your later years, by reducing the diseases you have to deal with.
Heavy alcohol use can harm your relationships. People around you can feel like your alcohol addiction has replaced them. Because alcohol is difficult to stop, people often feel you are choosing this substance over your relationship with them. Alcohol can also cause you to act in ways likely to harm relationships. When you stop using alcohol, it allows you to repair these relationships without the disruptive effects that alcohol brings.
Improved Mental Health
There is a close relationship between alcohol use and mental health conditions. Alcohol also provides a temporary escape, and many people use it to avoid facing problems, keeping them from becoming resilient in the face of stress or difficulty. When you stop using alcohol, it allows you to handle life more healthily, improving your mental health and reducing the negative effects that alcohol brings to your emotional well-being.
Better Memory and Cognitive Function
Alcohol inhibits cognitive function, learning ability and memory. Stopping alcohol will make you feel more clear-headed and improve your overall memory. You may feel like a constant fog or haze holding your mind back is lifted, enabling you to perform better at work or school and feel better about yourself.
How To Quit Drinking Safely
Alcohol can be quite addictive, and quitting alcohol can be dangerous. Anyone likely to have withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol use should check with their doctor before stopping alcohol to see what risks they face and learn how to quit safely.
The safest and most comfortable way to stop using alcohol is to undergo a medically-supervised detox. Medical detox offers professional monitoring and help during your entire detox. It will also provide support following your detox, helping you maintain your newly-achieved sobriety.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Missouri
At The Recovery Village Kansas City, we offer state-of-the-art alcohol addiction treatment options. From your first day of quitting alcohol to long-term rehabilitation and support, we are committed to helping you succeed in your journey toward sobriety. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn how you can quit alcohol safely and effectively.
Explore Our Levels of Care
Our full continuum of customizable treatment plans ensure each patient gets professional care that meets their needs.
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