7 Effects Of Quitting Drinking No One Tells You
Deciding to cut alcohol out of your life is a deeply personal choice. Any reason or no reason is a valid reason to quit drinking, or to think about adjusting your relationship with alcohol. But no matter where you are in your relationship with alcohol, the effects of quitting drinking may surprise you — just because we never talk about it. Some of the changes you'll see in your life and body when you give up alcohol are surprising and wonderful, while other things might get worse before they get better, but they're all part of the process.
If you quit drinking, you're likely going to feel better physically — bye bye hangovers — and you'll wake up every morning with a clear head. But, this also means confronting emotions you've suppressed with alcohol, and learning to socialize and date sober.
"The first year after you stop drinking, everything is going to make you cry," Los Angeles-based writer Amanda Fletcher, who has been sober seven years, tells Bustle. And when this happens, it's important to find healthy ways to deal with your emotions.
"A big part of recovery ... is realizing that there are other ways to cope with mental [health] issues. Developing affirming and healthy outlets for stress and negative emotions enable people to become more resilient and live more productive lives without drinking," an article reviewed by Dr. Jaun Harris noted on the website Quit Alcohol. If you're thinking about quitting drinking, or you're newly sober, here are some things no one tells you about quitting drinking.
1. You May Need New Hobbies
When you quit drinking, you might find yourself with a lot of time on your hands. "Something else has to fill that space that drinking used to take up. A lot of people who quit drinking knit because they need something to do with their hands," Fletcher says. "You have to consciously choose something healthy to occupy the time you used to spend with alcohol." For her, that's reading, writing, and exercising.
2. Your Skin May Change
"One of the first things people who quit drinking notice is how different they look. The liver breaks down alcohol and releases a toxic by-product called acetaldehyde that dries out your skin and dehydrates other body tissues," Quit Alcohol explained. "Alcohol also causes inflammation, so your enlarged blood capillaries can give way to more blackheads, whiteheads, and general breakouts." This means that, after quitting drinking, you might notice physical changes in your skin.
3. You Might Develop A Sweet Tooth
There's a lot of sugar in alcohol, and when you stop drinking, you might notice that you reach for sweeter foods than you did previously. This is true even for people who previously never ate sweets.
Part of the reason for this is that your body craves sugar, since it's no longer getting it from alcohol. "Research suggests that drug use in associated with increased sugar intake, which directly alters blood sugar and the body’s ability to properly manage blood sugar levels," Matthew Lovitt wrote for Sober Nation. Sugar has its role in your body just like any other nutrient, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying sweet food — but this may come as a surprising change as you cut out alcohol.
4. You Might Be More Emotional
As Fletcher says, there could be a lot of crying after you stop drinking. This happens because many people who depend on alcohol do so to avoid experiencing emotions, as Psychology Today wrote. Letting yourself feel may be difficult at first, but it's also worth it.
"The thing is, people think sobriety fixes everything, but in reality it's just the beginning of a long road of self-help books, crying for no reason, going to meetings, and dealing with confusion and fear," Katherine Arati Maas wrote for Mind Body Green. "But it’s also the start to living in an honest and truthful way that’s better than my best drunk day."
5. Your Relationships May Change
One thing that can be scary when you first quit drinking is the realization that many of your relationships may change. You might realize that the people you've been spending time with aren't true friends. Other people will be uncomfortable with the new you, which has everything to do with them.
"People might be threatened by [your quitting drinking], say totally insensitive things, and be completely unsupportive of your choice," Holly Whitaker, founder and CEO of Tempest, a virtual sobriety school, tells Bustle. "Or you have people who pretend that it’s not happening, or refuse to listen to you — 'You’re still doing that [not] drinking thing? You can probably just have one, right?'" This isn't just invalidating of your choices; it also reveals who among your friends can handle these big changes. "Then you’ll have the sliver of people who are totally supportive."
Even though this can be scary, it can ultimately be a good thing. Quitting drinking "forces you to pressure test your relationships; it forces you to really examine what kind of relationships you want to foster and encourage in your life," Whitaker says. "Developing true, authentic, supportive relationships is phenomenal. It takes time, and for some people, your whole social life could just fall apart before it starts to accumulate in a great way. Now, I have the closest, the best friends I’ve ever had."
6. You Might Find Yourself Spending Less
Drinking is expensive. In fact, you might not even realize how much money you're spending until you stop. "I got RICH, y'all. Seriously. I had a 'hit rock bottom' type experience, stopped cold turkey, and six months later, almost without my realizing it, I had thousands of dollars in my bank account," Reddit user Message_10 said. "So I bought a plane ticket from Newark, N.J., to Paris, France, and backpacked all through Europe for six weeks. Funnest, most adventurous, most rewarding six weeks of my life."
7. As Hard As Things Seem, They Will Change For The Better
Quitting drinking is not going to be easy. In fact, it might be the most difficult thing you've ever done. But even if it doesn't feel like it now, you'll eventually get on the other side of that and your life will get better as you learn to identify and fully experience your emotions.
"Before, life was full of incredible highs, but really low lows," Fletcher told Bustle for a previous article about sobriety. "Now, I get glimpses of joy and I don't have to work so hard to dig myself out of the bottoms because they are manageable."
Remember: even when you're in a tunnel, there is light at the end, and you'll eventually reach it. It won't be easy, it won't be quick, but it will be worth it.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).