What Happens When You Stop Drinking [Timeline + Benefits] – Surely
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What Happens When You Stop Drinking [Timeline + Benefits]

What Happens When You Stop Drinking [Timeline + Benefits]

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When you stop drinking, you may experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome. But stick with it, and your overall physical health will improve, along with a host of other benefits like weight loss and saving money (especially if your habits included binge drinking).

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.

What happens to my body when I stop drinking? You get better sleep, your skin looks younger, your heart health improves, your immune function improves, and your risk of cancer even decreases.

Whether you’re sober curious, wanting to learn about the health benefits of sobriety, or looking join a challenge like Sober October, let’s dive into what happens when you stop drinking.

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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. There’s a lot of good news here! Alcohol affects many parts of your body, and letting go of it altogether can make a big difference for your risk of multiple health conditions and overall wellness.

How long does it take alcohol to leave your system? Alcohol will generally leave your system in 6-72 hours, depending on the amount consumed and the type of test you take.

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 lives.

If the carbs in alcoholic beverages were the culprit for your elevated blood glucose levels, your blood sugar may normalize by the end of the next day.

If you are a dependent drinker who struggles with alcohol use disorder, be prepared that alcohol withdrawal symptoms may begin within the first few hours of quitting drinking. Make sure you have professional health care supervision, particularly over this short-term period.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms within the first 24 hours may include:

  • Alcohol cravings
  • Hand tremors
  • Retching
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The timeline of quitting drinking generally starts when you stop drinking altogether. However, if you choose not to quit cold turkey and first eliminate some (but not all) of your alcohol consumption, you may experience both withdrawal and improved health, especially if you were a very heavy drinker.

24-48 Hours

For many drinkers, the novelty of sobriety has worn off after the first 24 hours. By the end of 48 hours, a lot of people get discouraged if they don’t see any immediate benefits of not drinking.

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
  • Seizures

48-72 Hours

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 more time and 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.

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 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 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.

Can you die from alcohol withdrawal? Dying from alcohol withdrawal is rare but can happen. If you struggle with addiction and have other health problems, please contact a medical professional to assist your recovery process.

1-2 Weeks

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.

3-4 Weeks

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 vision may improve.

For dependent drinkers, blood pressure may reduce to normal levels by the 3rd or 4th week.

1 Month 

When you’re not drinking, your liver is able to devote more time to its other 500 vital functions. After you stop drinking for a month, 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 

3 months of not drinking reduces your risk of cancer. Because alcohol is a known human carcinogen, abstaining from alcohol will eventually decrease your risk of getting cancer.

Types of cancer that alcohol is known to contribute to include:

  • Liver
  • Oral
  • Breast
  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Colorectal
  • Ovarian

Dependent drinkers will often feel more energy and a sense of well-being at the 3-month mark.

1 Year

By now, 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 alcohol with carb-heavy foods).

One reason for the improved moods 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 take 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 autoimmune diseases you had before.

Almost all dependent drinkers will no longer experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Though you may crave a drink, you shouldn’t experience other physical side effects of alcohol withdrawal anymore.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are linked to those who stop drinking alcohol after a long time of heavy drinking. If you are a light to moderate drinker, it is unlikely you will experience these symptoms.

Important: For anyone who is dealing with alcohol addiction, it is wise to quit drinking only with clinical supervision. 

Healthcare professionals can offer support during severe withdrawal symptoms, as well as offer addiction treatment and emergency services to help you on your journey to recovery.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaky hands
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Fever

Health Benefits of Eliminating Alcohol

When alcohol intake is reduced, most drinkers-gone-teetotal report younger looking skin, improved heart health, stronger immune systems, and better sleep. Cutting out alcohol also reduces cancer risks. 

Some of the most major benefits of not drinking alcohol include:

  • Weight lossA single serving of beer, wine, or hard liquor equates to 125 calories on average. It also leads to mindless eating when intoxicated. For these reasons, eliminating alcohol can lead to weight loss, especially if combined with a balanced diet and exercise.
  • Heart healthCutting back to one glass of wine per day, or quitting drinking altogether, lowers your blood pressure, decreases fats called triglycerides, and reduces your risks of heart failure. In general, not drinking is excellent for your cardiovascular health.
  • Mental clarity: Intoxication can make your memory blurry at best and black-out at worst. Long-term drinking can negatively impact your memory, nervous system, vision, and hearing. Eliminating alcohol may reverse the damage and restore overall mental clarity.
  • Liver health: Your liver’s job is to filter toxins, and alcohol is a toxin. Binge drinking can damage your liver, even causing fatty liver and cirrhosis. Eliminating alcohol improves liver function, giving it time to heal and work normally again.
  • Improved skin: Alcohol dehydrates the skin and can trigger skin conditions like acne and eczema. Eliminating alcohol will lead to clearer, more hydrated-looking skin.
  • Better sleepAlcohol may help you fall asleep, but once you do, it interrupts the REM stage of sleep, as well as normal breathing patterns, and leads to less quality sleep. 
  • Improved mood: Drinking alcohol may offer temporary relief from anxiety and depression, but often, it leads to worsened emotional states and lower self-esteem the next day. Eliminating alcohol creates the space needed to address hard feelings and ask for help.
  • Improved sexual function: Excessive drinking may lead to sexual dysfunction, including low libido and dryness in women and erectile dysfunction in men. Eliminating alcohol may improve the quality of your sex life for you and your loved one. 
  • Reduced cancer risksAlcohol consumption has been linked to esophageal, mouth, throat, breast cancers, and more. Eliminating alcohol may reduce those cancer risks. 
  • Stronger immune systemExcessive drinking lowers your immune system for up to 24 hours. Long-term drinking can damage your immune system as a whole. Eliminating alcohol gives your immune system the chance to recover and function properly. 
  • Less accident prone: Alcohol substance use plays a huge role in the number of accidents (including car accidents) involving serious injury and death every year. Eliminating alcohol lowers your risk of alcohol-related accidents. 

Live Sober Curious

Read about all the sober celebrities who have modified their drinking habits and chosen a sober lifestyle for the many health and wellness reasons listed above.

How long after you quit drinking does your body return to normal? The time it takes your body to detox and return to normal depends on the amount of alcohol you drank in the first place. For those who consumed fewer than one drink a day, the health benefits will not be as noticeable. 

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

Contact these support groups if you need support recovering from alcohol dependence:

If you are ready to stop drinking, we’ve got your back with plenty of delicious non-alcoholic beverages! Try Surely’s non-alcoholic rosé. It starts out as a crisp rosé, then we remove the alcohol. So you still get the unique, refreshing taste of rosé without the alcohol!

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