Benefits of Quitting Alcohol and How to Stop Drinking


Published On: December 27, 2022

Alcohol is a physically addictive substance, meaning that it can have a serious impact on withdrawal from the drug as the body becomes dependent on alcohol for the everyday processes that it becomes a part of.

During withdrawal, the body no longer has alcohol in the system, meaning that processes that became dependent on alcohol, such as the production and regulation of serotonin, become disrupted, potentially having serious physical and mental health risks.

However, alcohol in itself has many harmful effects on the body, especially after long periods of regular heavy drinking, often leading to an increased risk of liver disease and heart complications.

This suggests that withdrawing from the substance, especially if the individual has a long history of consuming the substance regularly, would be beneficial to the individual – both for the well-being of their mental health, but also for the long-term risks to their body and its everyday functioning.

Health Risks of Heavy Drinking

Wine

As mentioned above, drinking large quantities of alcohol over a long period of time can have a serious impact on multiple areas of the individual’s health.

Although not directly proven to have been caused by alcohol, issues such as increased violence struggles with mental health e.g., anxiety, and depression, as well as physical health issues such as risk to the liver, are all effects that are often related to high alcohol consumption.

Over time, these effects may begin to affect the individual more strongly, having serious impacts on their life amongst friends and family, their career, as well as their financial situation, leading to further struggles and consequences.

This is known as an alcohol use disorder.

Individuals who find themselves in a situation where they feel as though their alcohol consumption is beginning to affect their everyday lives should seek help as soon as possible. The following paragraphs outline how individuals may go about this.

Alcohol support services

Two people holding hands

Alcohol support services are numerous across the UK. From private rehabilitation to local council-led programmes, there is something to help all individuals.

Most individuals, as well as going through a safe detox process, are also encouraged to continue with therapeutic care. Partaking in therapy has been shown to be the most effective way to overcome an addiction or to reduce alcohol abuse within individuals.

Most popularly, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) may also assist individuals in withholding sobriety (1). By joining a group such as AA, individuals will become part of a community, set up to support one another in sobriety and quitting alcohol.

Groups such as this offer individuals a chance to share their stories and learn from others’ suggestions, as well as listen to the experiences of others, perhaps drawing inspiration from them to gain a new perspective on their sobriety journey.

Step 1: work out how much you consume

Before beginning to make any form of plan on how best to reduce alcohol intake, it is productive for individuals to first have an idea of how much alcohol they consume i.e., drinks per day, units of alcohol.

By understanding how much alcohol the individual consumes across an average day, they will be able to have a far better idea about what is a realistic expectation for their plan to cut down.

For example, if an individual drinks a large quantity of alcohol over an average day, then they should reduce this by far smaller increments than someone who consumes a smaller amount of alcohol over the day.

From here, individuals will be able to more safely plan their cutting-down, as well as having a better idea of how to report this to a medical professional in order to get further support and/or advice.

Step 2: make a plan

To make a plan, individuals should consider the amount of alcohol that they currently consume and how much they are aiming to drink as part of their plan, the effects of alcohol on their everyday life considered, too.

Some individuals may only aim to cut down the amount of alcohol they are consuming, whereas others may be working towards complete sobriety, therefore completely cutting alcohol out of their routine.

Individuals should ensure to check with a medical professional before proceeding with their plan – this will ensure it is safe for the individual to progress safely, as well as having a source of support if needed.

With their plan, individuals should slowly reduce the amount of alcohol they are consuming each day, matching the amount that they previously planned to.

By sticking to their plan, individuals will follow their journey towards drinking the pre-decided amount of alcohol, making an effective and motivational, yet challenging, a process in doing so.

Step 3: cut down gradually at your own pace

Every individual will be different, so making a plan that is realistic for each individual to achieve is paramount in the individual’s expectations and motivation during the process.

If the individual is unrealistic about their plan, or if they set goals that they are unlikely to achieve, then they may become demotivated when faced with potential hurdles in their withdrawal journey.

This can hinder their overall progress, as they may fall behind schedule, drink increased amounts of alcohol to make up for any potential disappointments or give up all together when faced with situations resulting from poor planning.

As mentioned previously, these plans should always be approved by medical professionals, supported by additional medical and/or therapeutic methods, as well as supervised regularly in order to support the individual’s health and well-being.

What to expect when you stop drinking

Woman depression

Alcohol is a physically addictive substance, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, meaning that it can have serious effects when the individual chooses to begin withdrawal.

In some cases, going ‘cold turkey‘ can be fatal, meaning that a medically supervised and supported detox is essential for the individual’s health – both in the short and long term.

Common withdrawal symptoms include increased sweating, increased heart rate, insomnia, problems with the liver (such as an increased risk of liver cancer and other types of cancer), and heart complications.

However, it is possible for some of the more negative physical health risks to be alleviated with withdrawal drugs such as Librium. This has been shown to be especially effective for alcohol withdrawals.

Set goals and prepare for change

Rehab friends

Using the steps mentioned above, and any tools and coping mechanisms that the individual may have developed through further therapy and/or addiction treatment programmes, the individual should hopefully progress with their plan, leading to a lifestyle of reduced alcohol consumption or complete sobriety.

This big change can cause many individuals to struggle in the first few months. However, the positive health effects that a reduced alcohol lifestyle can have are numerous.

The following paragraphs outline some of the most common positive health changes that result from a reduced alcohol lifestyle, highlighting the ways in which this differs from a life of high alcohol consumption and addiction.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

Alcohol is known to increase blood pressure, both in the short term and the long term (2). By reducing alcohol consumption, individuals are therefore likely to decrease their blood pressure over time when combined with other activities.

Reducing blood pressure greatly reduces the risk of a stroke – something which is common among individuals consuming large quantities of alcohol.

This is a very positive health effect and will significantly improve the quality of life for the individual.

Some foods have also been known to reduce blood pressure, something that individuals who struggle with high blood pressure through alcohol consumption may also consider.

Clear Your Brain

When individuals consume large amounts of alcohol, the neural connections in the brain are often disrupted, leading to difficulties in creating and recalling memories, as well as a risk to the development and/or worsening of mental health issues.

In severe cases, some individuals may lose consciousness due to excessive alcohol consumption – something also heavily associated with memory loss and cognitive disruption.

By reducing alcohol consumption or cutting it completely, these neural connections are far more likely to be successful in the formation and consolidation of new memories, also improving recollection and general memory skills.

This will effectively ‘clear the brain’ – leading to an additional benefit to reducing alcohol usage and the ability for the individual to go about their day more effectively and complete their regular routines, including any further rehabilitation.

Improved Sleep

Studies have long linked alcohol consumption to sleep – in both quality and length (3). In general, alcohol can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms (the patterns in which individuals sleep), leading to a lack of restorative processes that happen during sleep.

With less alcohol in the system, these rhythms will be less affected, leading to a decreased effect on the individual’s quality and length of sleep.

There will not be any overnight changes when it comes to the benefits of quitting drinking. However, when alcohol abstains from overtime, sleep will gradually improve, even if, in the start, this initially becomes worse.

Sleep is essential for recovery, making this one of the most beneficial factors in reducing alcohol consumption and working toward long-term sobriety.

Better Mental Health

As previously mentioned, alcohol is known to seriously impact an individual’s mental health and lead to a greater risk of developing or worsening mental health conditions.

This is because alcohol is generally recognised as a depressant – something that can worsen over time and quickly lead to a vicious cycle of high alcohol consumption and further drinking.

Addiction and mental health disorders often co-occur – an effect known as dual diagnosis, meaning that the two are strongly linked.

Without alcohol, individuals remove this link, leading to an improvement in mental health over time when combined with other treatment programmes such as therapy.

This is something to discuss with a healthcare provider before beginning any treatment.

Improved Immunity

The immune system is also something that is heavily affected by alcohol. With increased consumption of alcohol, the immune system weakens.

This means that individuals are more susceptible to contracting diseases and other medical conditions. This may be something as common as a cold but may also include more serious diseases.

However, to someone who may have a compromised immune system anyway, these diseases can be far more life-threatening.

By reducing the effect that alcohol has on the immune system, i.e., by reducing the amount of alcohol that individuals consume, the individual has a far better chance of strengthening their immune system, something that can also be supported by other treatments such as diet and supplements.

Reduced Cardiovascular Risk

As a more serious health risk, individuals who drink large quantities of alcohol over long periods of time are at a far greater risk of damage to the cardiovascular system.

This is a vital organ system within the body, responsible for the heart, lungs, and blood pressure.

Any failure within this system could be fatal: heart complications, struggles to breathe, and high blood pressure can all be life-threatening, more so if the individual consumes large quantities of alcohol.

By reducing alcohol intake over time, individuals reduce the risk of these complications, assisting in their long-term well-being and healthy lifestyle.

All of these benefits are not overnight changes, as mentioned before. This is something that will take a few practices before the individual notices any changes but is worth the motivation.

Finding Alcohol Rehab and Treatment

Therapy

Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a referral service offering services for individuals who need help and suggestions for substance-related issues through verified and established healthcare providers.

Whether you feel as though your issue is mild or severe, a member of our friendly and professional team will deal with your questions and queries in a confidential manner, so please do not hesitate to give us a call on X today.

From suggestions for local AA groups or help finding a suitable residential rehab centre, we’ll be happy to help.

To find out how we can help you or someone close to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today and start your journey towards an alcohol-free or reduced-alcohol lifestyle.

References

[1] Emrick, C.D., Tonigan, J.S., Montgomery, H. and Little, L., 1993. Alcoholics Anonymous: What is currently known?.

[2] Tasnim, S., Tang, C., Musini, V.M. and Wright, J.M., 2020. Effect of alcohol on blood pressure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7).

[3] He, S., Hasler, B.P. and Chakravorty, S., 2019. Alcohol and sleep-related problems. Current opinion in psychology, 30, pp.117-122.

 

 

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