Typically, when people decide to quit drinking, it’s because of one big thing or perhaps a final straw. Maybe your doctor has told you that you’re showing signs of heart or liver disease. Maybe you got a DUI or your spouse said they were leaving if you didn’t get sober. It often takes a shock to get through to someone that their drinking is a real problem. One reason people often have trouble getting sober is that they only think of sobriety in terms of what they give up. They feel like alcohol is a source of comfort, perhaps their only way of coping with difficult emotions. However, recovery is about more than just abstinence; it’s also about teaching you healthy ways to cope with challenging emotions and feeling better in general. It may help to think about recovery as what you’re getting instead of what you’re giving up. What you get may from sobriety includes the following.
You sleep better
You’ve probably had the experience of falling asleep after drinking only to awaken around four in the morning sweatily and anxious. You probably slept fitfully the rest of the night and woke up in the morning–or afternoon–feeling terrible. This is the rebound effect and it may even be your normal experience.
We’ve known for decades that alcohol is bad for your sleep and that excessive drinking can cause a chronic sleep deficit. Drinking results in less restorative deep sleep and more shallow REM sleep. This means you don’t recover from injuries and illnesses as efficiently. In fact, poor sleep has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more frequent illnesses. Poor sleep has also been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as more immediate effects like next-day sleepiness, poor concentration, and poor memory.
Getting better sleep isn’t just refreshing; it also improves your mental and physical health. People are often amazed at how much better they sleep after they quit drinking. They don’t even realize how poorly they have been sleeping–perhaps for years–until they get a good, restful night’s sleep.
You’re not hungover
After a good, restful night’s sleep, the next thing you will notice is how much better it feels not to wake up hungover. Just as many people have forgotten what it was like to get a good night’s sleep, many people forget what it’s like to wake up without a hangover. You get up, feeling rested and refreshed, without a headache or nausea to deal with. You have more energy and it completely changes your perspective.
You think more clearly
You will also notice that you can now think much more clearly. There are several reasons for this. Two have to do with having gotten adequate sleep and not having a hangover, as noted above. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation harms cognitive performance by impairing attention, working memory, self-control, and emotional regulation. Basically, everything involved in making smart decisions is blunted when you don’t get enough sleep. And perhaps it’s obvious that when you wake up aching and nauseous that you’re not going to be at your best mentally.
In addition to these factors, constant drinking muddles your thinking. Either you have been drinking and alcohol has basically shut down your prefrontal cortex or you are temporarily sober and anxious and irritable, perhaps distracted by thoughts of when you can drink again. When you finally get free of this cycle, you will be amazed at how much clearer your head is and how much it changes your perspective.
You look better
There are two primary ways that alcohol ruins your looks. First, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dries you out, including your skin. When your skin is dehydrated, it becomes less elastic and more prone to wrinkles. Drinking and smoking are the worst habits for your skin and they age you prematurely, inside and out. When you quit drinking, your skin will probably look much better in a short time.
Alcohol is also a prime suspect in weight gain. Alcohol has a lot of calories. A glass of whisky has just under 100 calories, a glass of wine has about 130, and a glass of beer has about 150 or so. That’s not much for one drink but how often do you only have one drink? Those calories add up fast. Not only that, alcohol disrupts your body’s hormone levels, making it harder to lose weight. People are often surprised at how fast they lose weight without even trying after they quit drinking.
You have more free time
Drinking is a surprisingly effective way to waste time. You may set aside dedicated time to drink, during which time, you probably don’t do much else besides watching TV or hanging out with friends. Alcohol also has a mysterious way of making time disappear, either through blackouts or just lack of attention. When you quit drinking, you will probably find you suddenly have a lot of free time. This is even a liability for some people because they aren’t sure what to do with all their extra hours. However, it can also be a huge asset because it’s more time you can spend with your family or pursue other interests. Even just an extra hour a day is plenty of time to play with your kids, learn a new language or musical instrument, or make a little more money.
Your health improves
Depending on how bad your health is, you may or may not notice improvements right away, but your health is improving. You are most likely to notice fewer aches, fewer stomach problems, and more energy, as your sleep improves and your digestive tract absorbs nutrients more efficiently. However, the less noticeable effects are even more important. Your liver begins to heal, as does your cardiovascular system. Your risk for several types of cancer begins to drop too. While you may not feel these improvements from day to day, you can feel good about making a long-term investment in your health.
Nothing on this list will likely be enough to convince you to quit drinking if you haven’t already realized you have a problem but some of them might give you something to look forward to. It’s exhausting to always be motivated by fear; it’s inspiring to have something to work toward as well. At Hired Power, we understand the importance of having systems in place for long-term success. We will help you develop a recovery plan and follow through. To learn more about our addiction recovery services, call us today at 800.910.9299 or explore our website.