Alcohol is a particularly destructive drug, both physically and socially. However, a lot of the damage dealt through booze can be reversed, given time and proper care. You’ll find that if you tackle alcohol use disorder head-on and make progress in recovery, life will change fairly drastically.
Before we get into what to expect when you stop drinking, it’s important to take a quick look at how drinking changes life to begin with. Some people don’t remember what it was like to live without booze – a lot of addicts start young, and in many cases, drinking at a younger age contributes to the chance of getting addicted later down the road. But whenever the brain and body first come into contact with an addictive substance, small changes begin to occur. These compound, over time.
Reversing an addiction isn’t easy, but it’s best to start sooner rather than later. The sooner you get into recovery, the easier it is to maintain long-term sobriety and reverse the physical effects of alcohol abuse.
Things Can Get Rough
The first thing you can expect after quitting alcohol is the challenging experience of withdrawal. Alcohol and other depressants are the most dangerous drugs to quit abruptly, because the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes kill you if you go into withdrawal without medical help. Unlike other drugs, including opioids, depressants are prone to inducing a variety of complications during the withdrawal period.
Seizures, strokes, heart arrythmias and heart attacks are the biggest culprits and causes in alcohol withdrawal fatalities. While these are not exceptionally common – most withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, but not fatal – there is the chance that your body might react violently to quitting booze abruptly.
That does not mean you shouldn’t do it – it just means you should seek help, first. You have two options – quit ‘gently’ or go to a medical professional. Most cities in the US have addiction specialists and detox clinics, who will help you get through the worst of your symptoms and refer you to a rehab facility to continue the recovery process after you’re through the withdrawal phase. If you can afford to check straight into rehab, most rehab facilities are also equipped to help people safely go through the withdrawal period without fatalities. As long as you take that first step – looking for help – going into withdrawal is quite safe, and a much better alternative to staying addicted.
You’ll Want to Drink
After the most physically unpleasant part is over, the cravings become issue number one. Cravings begin during the withdrawal phase, but they often remain much longer than any other symptom. Your brain will want to drink because the alcohol has hijacked your survival mechanisms and is your primary source of pleasure. Your mind will want to drink because withdrawal sucks, sobriety is hard, and drinking becomes an attractive option to dull the pain. And your body will want to drink, because it too is likely still sore.
Thankfully, a lot of that resolves itself with time. Recovery facilities like rehabs and sober living homes are designed to help you work through everything that makes you want to drink, giving you plenty of reasons not to. It takes a while for the cravings to pass, but they do get weaker over time – not to mention the fact that you get better at handling them over time, as well. That’s when the positives begin rolling in.
You Will Make New Friends
As recovery goes on, you learn to forego and forget what used to be a main pastime – drinking and drinking heavily. Alcohol is not only a way to spend the time or cope with pain, but for many addicts, it’s also a way to meet more people. With alcohol, your inhibitions go away and you’re a lot more social. Places where alcohol is in abundance are also places where people typically go to meet. And it’s easier to get the conversational ball rolling when both parties are drunk. But if most of your current friendships are based on hanging out with booze, you might have trouble maintaining those connections while remaining true to your sobriety.
Real friends will work with you to avoid booze in your presence, or at least tone down the drinking and ensure you don’t drink at all. But some might laugh at the idea of sobriety and might encourage you to get back into drinking. Some might just not be all that interesting anymore while sober. Over time, you might realize you look for other qualities in your friends – including joint experiences, and an understanding of what it’s like to go through an addiction and work towards sobriety again. Friendships in recovery are very important as a way to motivate yourself and others to continue working towards a common goal.
You’ll Have More Time (and Money)
It’s often overlooked how time consuming and expensive an addiction is. There is a reason why addiction will often render someone bankrupt – drugs and booze are pricey. As the money dwindles, you learn how to score cheaper booze and stretch each penny, but it still takes time and money to be addicted. You now have more time and much more money to spend on anything other than alcohol (and other drugs), and that’s a very long list.
Staving off boredom is an important part of recovery, as you try to figure out what to do with the time you have when you aren’t at work, or otherwise preoccupied with life’s daily tasks. You might also be surprised to find that your mind just works better without the booze. Alcohol is not exactly a cognitive booster and going sober can do a lot to improve your time management, productivity, and general mood.
You’ll Feel Better
Alcohol doesn’t just get people addicted – it’s a primary factor in the death of thousands of Americans annually. Alcohol is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, and stroke, more than all the red meat and butter in the world.
While you shouldn’t trade one vice for another, cutting alcohol out of your life completely will do a lot to improve your health in the long-run, especially if you start incorporating healthier habits into your lifestyle instead. You can still enjoy the occasional steak and cook with butter, as long as you’re making sure to eat all your veggies and go for regular walks.
You’ll Develop New Interests
Or old ones. With more time and more money comes the opportunity to explore ways to spend both, either with your family and/or friends, or on yourself, investing in a new hobby or pursuing a new career. Without alcohol in your life, a lot of opportunities will present themselves to make use of all your sober time.
Recovery might have a rocky start, but it’s always going to be the better option. And with the right help, you can make an almost seamless transition into sober living.