Most people who decide to quit drinking make that decision for one or two very good reasons. Maybe your job is in danger, maybe your spouse is threatening to leave, maybe you just had an alarming visit to the doctor, or maybe you face jail time for driving while intoxicated. Most people don’t make a serious effort to fight their addictions until they see something they value is threatened. Quitting is the only reasonable thing to do in that case. However, most people are also pleasantly surprised by the unexpected benefits of quitting alcohol. Here are some of the big ones.
Most people don’t realize how many calories there are in alcohol. A vodka martini, for example, has about 130 calories. That might not seem like much, but if you have three every night, that comes to about 2730 extra calories a week, which is more than a whole day’s worth of calories for most people. That can put on weight pretty quickly, especially since more drinking usually correlates with less exercise.
And it’s not just the calories you have to watch out for. Excessive drinking, especially drinking beer, reduces the ratio of testosterone to estrogen in the body. That hormonal change makes it harder to lose fat and gain muscle. People are often surprised how easily they achieve a healthier weight after they quit drinking.
Lower cancer risk
We typically think of cancer as a remote possibility, something that mostly happens to other people. It’s not usually scary enough to motivate someone to stop drinking. However, if you do stop drinking, you will also reduce your risk of cancer. Alcohol has been linked to cancers of the digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon. It has also been linked to liver cancer, where alcohol is processed into toxic intermediate products. Because of the hormonal imbalance mentioned above, heavy drinking can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer too.
Among the problems alcohol causes in the digestive tract, it prevents your intestines from properly absorbing nutrients, especially the B vitamins that help convert food into energy. When your intestines heal and your normal vitamin levels have been restored, you should have more energy.
Alcohol suppresses the body’s production of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone. That’s why you lose a lot of water when you drink. Your body gets rid of a lot of water that it actually needs to function properly. That includes dehydrating your skin, which makes you look older. For some people, drinking also causes acne, red splotches, and worsens eczema. The skin usually clears up pretty quickly after you stop drinking.
Having more money
As addictions go, alcohol isn’t the most expensive, but it can add up, especially if you drink in bars or clubs, and especially if you buy drinks for friends, or people who you would like as friends. Regular heavy drinking might cost as little as 100 dollars a week, depending on what you’re willing to drink, or it may cost many times that. Whatever you spend on alcohol now could certainly be put to much better use elsewhere.
This one seems obvious, but many people don’t realize until they quit how long it’s been since they woke up without a hangover. They had been so used to waking up feeling terrible they forgot the feeling wasn’t normal.
Waking up without a hangover, because you didn’t drink, has the added benefit of allowing you to sleep better. Alcohol makes sleep more shallow and less restful. Again, most people are aware of this because they wake up sweating, nauseated, or having to go to the bathroom, but actually experiencing a few nights of restful sleep has almost immediate effects on mood, willpower, focus, and memory.
Trying new things
For many people addicted to alcohol, drinking becomes the main thing they do in their spare time. It passes the hours when there is nothing better to do. Another way to put this is that drinking wastes a lot of time. It’s a way of avoiding boredom, but boredom is good when it inspires us to try new things. If drinking is always your solution to boredom, you never have a reason to try something new. Many people pick up new hobbies, or renew old hobbies once they quit drinking.
Perhaps the most important benefit of quitting alcohol is increased self-awareness. Most people develop an addiction to alcohol as a way of avoiding certain thoughts and feelings. Maybe you don’t want to feel the anxiety of talking to people at a party, or maybe you don’t want the intrusive memories from some traumatic event. Alcohol will certainly suppress those, but it also suppresses everything else. It makes it harder to be aware of your needs, thoughts, and desires. You go through life on autopilot, feeling less pain, but also less pleasure. The pain is what makes quitting hard. It usually requires therapy and time to learn to manage those painful thoughts and emotions, but in exchange, you get to feel alive again. You get to feel like you’re participating in your own life.
Perhaps none of these benefits are enough on their own to convince you to quit drinking, but together, they make life much better. Whatever your reasons for quitting, you can expect some unexpected benefits.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or mental illness, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness center can help. We are one of Thailand’s most respected addiction treatment and wellness centers. We use cutting-edge treatment modalities to provide personalized care to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, PTSD, and executive burnout. See our contact page to reach us by phone or email.