By Elizabeth Ossip, LCSW, CAP, ICADC
Do you need to figure out how to quit drinking alcohol or have a loved with a drinking problem you desperately want to help?
Maybe you’ve gone through a divorce or lost a parent recently. Perhaps you’ve been under a lot of stress at work or suffered through a breakup. Whatever your struggles, you might have been tempted to ease your pain at the end of the day with a glass of beer or liquor. Or maybe two or three.
Take the First Step to Quit Drinking
If you’ve chosen now as the time to stop drinking, congratulations. While the journey to sobriety is not an easy one, the physical, psychological, and social benefits are profound. Once people move past the denial and self-deception to a place of truth and acceptance, they can truly begin to heal.
Of course, leaving alcohol behind permanently is easier said than done. But if you are wondering how to quit drinking alcohol for good, you should realize that you’re not alone. According to a 2015 National Institute of Health survey, 26.9 percent of people ages 18 and up said they engaged in binge drinking within the last 30 days. Even more troubling, a shocking 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year.
The good news is with professional help through our alcohol rehabilitation program you don’t have to be just another statistic. Alcohol-related deaths are largely preventable, provided that you take steps now to preserve your health. Read on to discover how to quit drinking alcohol and all the ways your life can be made better after embarking on the path to addiction recovery.
Effects of Drinking Alcohol
Binge drinking refers to the consumption of a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, drinking five or more beverages on the same occasion as a male or four or more as a female qualifies as binge drinking.
Here are some of the many ways in which regular binge drinking affects both the body and the mind:
1. Effects on Weight
Struggling to lose those last few pounds? If so, the culprit might not be what’s on your dinner plate but what’s in your after-dinner glass.
Doctors and nutritionists agree that alcohol affects weight gain by slowing an individual’s metabolism. When you drink, your body breaks down alcohol first, so sugar and fat stick around longer. Additionally, the number of calories in alcohol can hinder weight loss.
Fortunately, you can reverse this trend when you figure out how to quit drinking alcohol. When you stop, weight loss is one of the first things you’ll notice, with recovering addicts noticing a particular improvement around the waist. This is important because abdominal fat affects the health of nearby organs. Because waist circumference is known to significantly increase a patient’s risk of heart disease, changing your drinking habits can have a positive effect on overall wellness.
2. Effects on the Skin
Of course, it’s not just your waistline that will show improvements after you give up alcohol. If you’re wondering how to quit drinking alcohol and what to expect when you stop, consider the impact on your complexion. Overindulging in alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the skin, resulting in redness and textural inconsistencies. In the long run, alcoholics tend to look much older than their counterparts who do not binge drink.
On the other hand, stopping drinking gives your skin time to recover. Not only does properly hydrated skin look fresher and more youthful, but you will also have better cell turnover as your skin can absorb more Vitamin A. When you drink water and avoid alcohol, you can save money on both liquor and moisturizer.
3. Effects on Sleep
Those drinks you have to unwind at the end of the day might actually be keeping you awake at night. According to Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, 45 percent of people use alcohol to help themselves sleep but ultimately suffer from reduced sleep quality and quantity. Since alcohol limits REM sleep, which is crucial to both learning and memory, heavy drinkers often suffer consequences beyond exhaustion.
4. Effects on the Liver
It’s no secret that alcoholism has a serious effect on liver health. Over time, binge drinking can lead to a condition called alcoholic hepatitis, in which the liver becomes inflamed. While mild in the early stages, alcoholic hepatitis can eventually lead to cirrhosis, which is permanent.
Alcoholism also results in something called fatty liver. Caused by a buildup of fat in this crucial organ, fatty liver can cause symptoms ranging from a poor appetite to severe weight loss, abdominal pain, and fatigue. In the long run, fatty liver can lead to liver failure, jaundice, and even death. Believe it or not, this serious condition can result from drinking just a couple glasses of wine a day for a period of mere weeks.
Luckily, it’s not too late for most binge drinkers to reverse their bad habits. Once you stop drinking, your liver will begin to shed built-up fat. In some cases, an alcohol-damaged liver can heal in just four to eight week.
On the other hand, if you persist in binge drinking, you could become one of the 78,529 liver disease deaths each year that result from overindulging in alcohol.
5. Effects on Disease
Liver disease and liver cancer are only some of the possible fatal effects of alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute of Health, alcohol use also increases your risk of suffering from cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, and even breast, with more than 100 epidemiologic studies showing an increased risk of breast cancer in patients who abuse alcohol.
6. Psychological Effects
Of course, it’s not just your body that suffers as a result of binge drinking. The psychological effects of drinking – as well as what happens when you quit drinking alcohol – can be profound.
Binge drinking has been known to cause problems ranging from alcohol-induced depression and anxiety to blackouts and memory loss. Additionally, alcoholics may experience mood swings, angry outbursts, and thoughts of suicide. In the long run, some chronic alcohol users even suffer brain damage.
Moreover, when you stop drinking, it might take time for you to feel like yourself again. The psychological effects of detox include anxiety and depression, sleeping problems, nightmares, and unexpected aggression. Patients also suffer low libidos and general unhappiness in the early stages of sobriety. For this reason, it can be helpful to seek out counseling or treatment from a medical professional when attempting to quit alcohol.
7. Interpersonal Effects
It’s not just ourselves we hurt when we engage in binge drinking and other harmful activities. Sadly, alcoholics also tend to jeopardize their relationships with friends and loved ones. If you’re wondering whether your drinking has started to take a toll on your relationships, you might want to take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
• Has your drinking prevented you from attending school or work?
• Do you sometimes cancel professional or social engagements due to your drinking?
• Have your friends or family members voiced concerns about your drinking?
• Have your coworkers or supervisors commented on your drinking?
• Do you tend to fight with your partner more when you drink?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, you might want to consider whether you could have a problem with drinking.
What Happens When You Quit Drinking Alcohol?
Stopping drinking can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health, along with your relationships with others. However, in the short term, quitting alcohol means going through a period known as detox.
Beginning within hours of getting off alcohol and lasting up to a few weeks, alcohol detox is no laughing matter. And symptoms are particularly severe for heavy drinkers who use regularly. Without treatment, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening.
When a binge drinker stops using suddenly, his or her body goes into shock. Without the alcohol you’ve grown accustomed to imbibing, brain neurotransmitters and blood levels rebound rapidly. These are just a few of the many side effects of alcohol withdrawal:
• Depression and anxiety
• Irritability, anger, and mood swings
• Severe perspiration and dehydration
• Vomiting and nausea
• Rapid heart rate
• Alcoholic tremors
Additionally, recovering alcoholics may suffer from something known as Delirium Tremens, or DTs. Beginning within two to five days of quitting alcohol, DTs include symptoms such as shaking, confusion, high blood pressure, fever, and hallucinations. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, DTs may actually be fatal in up to up to 5 percent of patients. For this reason, alcohol detox is not something to be undertaken lightly. Undergoing detox at a rehab or mental health facility can help mitigate some of these effects and protect you throughout the process.
Giving up alcohol and starting down the path toward sobriety isn’t easy. However, in the long run, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens when you quit drinking alcohol. Some long-term side effects of living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle include:
• Improved ability to absorb vitamins and minerals
• Higher metabolism and overall reduction in body fat
• Improved energy in daily life
• Lessened risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses
• Lower stress levels and reduced anxiety
• Superior immune response
• Reduced risk of stroke and heart attack
• Improved liver health
The Importance of Seeking Help
If you’re thinking of quitting alcohol cold turkey, you might want to check yourself into a mental health facility or alcohol rehab center. Not only can these experts help you stop drinking safety, getting you through the detox process with a minimum of negative side effects, but they can also protect you from relapses as you start down the road to recovery. Because alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, patients are advised not to quit suddenly unless they are under the supervision of a doctor or other medical professional. In some cases, tapering off drinking over time might be better than stopping all at once.
It’s important to note that a comprehensive rehab program does more than protect alcohol users from physical side effects. Getting off alcohol for good means dealing with the mental and emotional factors that might have led you to overindulge. Many alcoholics find solace in joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, entering into group therapy, talking to a pastor or priest, or meeting one on one with a counselor on a regular basis. The important thing to know is that there are multiple programs available, so you can find one that works for you and your family.
Quitting Alcohol for Good
If you’re trying to quit alcohol for good, you need to accept the fact that setbacks aren’t uncommon. Recovering from addiction isn’t easy, and you might have to try a few times before achieving your goal of lifelong sobriety.
If you do fall off the wagon and indulge in drinking, it’s important to start over without getting down on yourself. The worst thing you can do is allow a single moment of weakness to destroy your resolve to live clean, healthy, and happy. With hard work and determination, you can and will achieve your goal of sobriety through alcohol rehab.
Find Help Today
Do you find it hard to get through the day without drinking? Has one drink at the end of a long day turned into two or three or even four? If you or someone you love is struggling, know that help is out there.
Based in Boynton Beach, Beachway Therapy Center recognizes that alcohol addiction isn’t a simple problem with a clear-cut solution. To that end, we offer multiple forms of holistic treatment including therapy, nutritional counseling, yoga, and massage. We provide comprehensive services to deal with all the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that accompany the process of quitting alcohol with a goal of helping our patients find hope again.