What happens when you stop drinking? First, your overall health improves — especially if you were a former frequent binge drinker.
Most drinkers-gone-teetotal share that their skin looks younger, their heart health improves, their immune function gets better, their sleep is deeper. Plus, their risk of cancer decreases. As long as your diet is healthy, you could even shed a few pounds by reducing your alcohol intake.
Read about all the sober celebrities who have chosen a sober lifestyle for their health and wellness — not due to alcohol abuse.
To reap the health benefits and reduce your risk of life-threatening diseases, how big a change you see in your health after going sober all depends on the amount of alcohol you drank in the first place.
For those who drink fewer than 1 drink a day, these health benefits will not be very noticeable. In fact, drinking 1 glass of wine a day or fewer can lead to improved heart health.
These health benefits are more pronounced if you give up heavy drinking or binge drinking.
Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, which means:
- For women, up to 1 drink a day
- For men, up to 2 drinks a day
In this article, we will talk about what happens when you stop drinking alcohol — for heavy drinkers, binge drinkers, and those who struggle with alcohol abuse — separated into easy-to-understand sections.
Important: For anyone who is dealing with alcohol addiction, it is wise to quit drinking only with clinical supervision. Healthcare professionals can offer detox, support, and emergency services to help you on your journey to recovery.
Whether you’re sober curious, worried about alcohol withdrawal, or looking into Dry January, this is the right place for you to learn what happens to you (including health benefits) when you stop drinking.
And don’t forget about Surely’s non-alcoholic rosé. It starts out as a crisp rosé, then we remove the alcohol. You get the unique, refreshing taste of rosé without the alcohol!
Timeline of What Happens When You Stop Drinking
Let’s go through the timeline of what happens when you stop drinking, sectioned into simple, bite-sized chunks.
What happens to my body when I stop drinking? When you stop drinking, a lot of good things happen to your body: You get better sleep, your skin looks younger, your heart health improves, your immune function improves, and your risk of cancer even decreases.
However, if you struggle with alcohol use disorder, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when quitting cold turkey. In this case, seek medical supervision when you quit drinking.
The First Day (12-24 Hours)
For most heavy drinkers, the first day of not drinking represents a sense of accomplishment and control over their own life.
Unless your diet is unhealthy, your blood sugar may normalize by the end of the next day, if the carbs in alcoholic beverages were messing with your blood glucose levels.
For those who struggle with alcohol use disorder — AKA dependent drinkers — the first few hours mean alcohol withdrawal symptoms will begin.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Alcohol cravings
- Hand tremors
For many drinkers, the novelty of sobriety has worn off. At the end of 48 hours, a lot of people may get discouraged because they don’t see any results of not drinking — besides no hangovers and remembering what happened the night before.
For dependent drinkers, the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms may occur between 24-48 hours after the last drink. These include:
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
You should no longer feel any hangover side effects by the 2nd or 3rd day.
Now that you don’t have to deal with hangovers, and you no longer spend time drinking, you should have both more time and more capacity to exercise! Fitness is important to your overall health and sense of well-being.
For dependent drinkers, between 48-72 hours is when withdrawal symptoms subside or become more manageable.
What happens after 4 days of not drinking? Heavy drinkers or binge drinkers should feel more hydrated and less fatigued after 4 days of not drinking. Those who struggle with alcoholism may feel their alcohol withdrawal symptoms start to go away by the 4th day.
Within 1 Week (7 Days)
Most drinkers start to sleep better after a week of no alcohol consumption. This better sleep is caused by more REM sleep, the deepest stage of sleep where dreaming and memory occur. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster because it’s a depressant, but it prevents this all-important REM stage of sleep.
Alcohol dehydrates you because it is a diuretic — meaning it flushes out fluids. Many drinkers are surprised to find they stay hydrated for a lot longer when they don’t drink. A week after your last drink, you will feel more hydrated, which could improve your oral health and even your skin health.
After 7 days, most drinkers will notice their skin hydration improve. If alcohol was triggering skin conditions, like rosacea, dandruff, or eczema, you could see them begin to improve by the end of the week.
Within 3-7 days, withdrawal symptoms will stop for most dependent drinkers. In rare cases, symptoms can develop into delirium tremens (DTs), which is a medical emergency.
The average drinker spends around $11-27 a week on alcohol. (The $11 average includes non-drinkers in America.) Once you stop drinking, you can put that extra $20 a week towards a college fund, a gym membership, paying off a credit card, or buying that new laptop you’ve always wanted.
Many former drinkers will continue to see improvements in their sleep patterns, their hydration, and their skin health.
What happens to your skin when you stop drinking? When you stop drinking, your skin hydration improves, especially after 7+ days. You’ll notice it looks dewier and more youthful.
At 2 weeks, most drinkers should no longer experience acid reflux. The lining in your stomach has had time to heal from constant inflammation and returns to normal.
Unless you’ve replaced the empty calories of alcoholic drinks with another indulgent food, you’ve probably cut 2000 calories by the second week’s end. You may find your scale reading a pound or two lighter than before.
(Giving up alcohol is often just the starting point of weight loss. Exercise and a healthy diet are also required.)
For dependent drinkers, in some cases, you may experience nightmares, anxiety, and insomnia due to long-term withdrawal symptoms.
At 3 weeks of not drinking, most drinkers have successfully reduced their risk of heart disease, including stroke, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Their kidney health and even their vision may improve.
For dependent drinkers, blood pressure may reduce to normal levels by the 3rd or 4th week.
When you stop drinking, your liver is able to devote more time to its other 500 vital functions. After 1 month of not drinking, your liver fat may be reduced by up to 20%, significantly reducing your risk of cirrhosis of the liver or fatty liver disease.
This also means the liver is more able to help your body detox.
How long does it take for your skin to clear up after quitting drinking? According to experts, your skin should completely clear up within a month after quitting drinking — except in the heaviest of former drinkers. Your skin should look younger and more hydrated.
Alcohol may cause certain skin conditions (possibly since alcohol can trigger autoimmunity). Not drinking can resolve these unsightly skin conditions, such as eczema, hives, psoriasis, or simply itchy skin.
Anyone who successfully stops drinking for a whole month is more likely to abstain from alcohol for 6 months.
3 months of not drinking reduces your risk of cancer. Because alcohol is a known human carcinogen (not enough people know that, btw), abstaining from alcohol will eventually decrease your risk of getting cancer.
Types of cancer that alcohol is known to contribute to include:
Dependent drinkers will often feel more energy and a sense of well-being at the 3-month mark.
By now, all your friends and family should have noticed your healthier skin, improved energy, better moods, and maybe even your weight loss (as long as you didn’t replace alcoholic beverages with other carbohydrate-heavy foods).
One reason for this is that your dopamine levels normalize after going sober. When you abuse alcohol, your brain's dopamine receptors get overloaded and numbed, leading to feelings of sadness and even hopelessness that takes more and more alcohol to "fix."
When your dopamine levels go back to normal, you'll be able to respond more normally to experiences, people, and situations. You'll probably find a lot more joy than you remember when alcohol was in the driver's seat!
More likely than not, your relationships will have improved in this year of not drinking.
Your work productivity will probably be much better.
You should have saved upwards of $1,000-$2,000 that you can spend on any number of purchases to celebrate your year of sobriety.
Though you can’t tell by looking in a mirror, your risk of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease have all dropped dramatically. Your immune function will have improved, which may have even addressed symptoms of autoimmunity you had before.
Almost all dependent drinkers will no longer experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Though you may crave a drink, you shouldn’t experience other side effects of alcohol withdrawal anymore.
Benefits of Not Drinking
Because alcohol affects most of your organs, there are so many benefits of not drinking, many with decades of research to back them up:
- Weight loss
- Healthier skin
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Liver relief (liver damage repairs itself)
- Improved liver function
- Less anxiety
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced risk of cancer (especially oral, colorectal, and breast cancer)
- Better immune system function
- Reduced diabetes symptoms
- Better sexual function
- Improved mental health and self-esteem
- Better mood
- Money saved
How Long Will It Take To Feel Better?
It may take a full month of not drinking alcohol to feel better. Although positive changes may appear earlier, 3 months of not drinking can not only improve your mood, energy, sleep, weight, skin health, immune health, and heart health. It can even reduce your risk of cancer.
For heavy drinkers, binge drinkers, or people who rely on alcohol dependence, not drinking alcohol may be enough to improve their health. But regular exercise and a healthy diet are very important to maintain a healthful lifestyle.
There are a lot of reasons not to drink. Whether it is short-term or for the rest of your life, you can start your alcohol-free life today.
Not drinking is a valid wellness choice with various proven health benefits. Whether it’s just for Dry January, or if it’s more permanent, there are a lot of people out there eager to support you going sober.
Surely’s non-alcoholic rosé is the perfect way to maintain that sober lifestyle without forfeiting the unique, refreshing taste of rosé.
Contact these support groups if you need support recovering from alcohol abuse:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 800-662-4357
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Various local wellness centers that may work with your insurance