What happens to your mind and body when you quit booze?
Thinking of ditching the bottle for a while? Here’s what you can expect.
Giving up alcohol, either for a stretch of time or forever, can be extremely challenging.
However, Clean Slate Clinic Dr Chris Davis says the decision to go booze-free – or cut down, at least – has untold benefits.
“It affects our mental health and physical health, including memory, energy, sleep, blood pressure, liver function,” says Dr Davis.
“It’s amazing what just making that one change can do to every aspect of your life.”
Of course the results will depend on your drinking levels, but here’s what you can expect along the way.
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What to expect two days after quitting alcohol
For someone drinking a bottle of wine a night, for example, the initial days can be difficult, says Dr Davis.
He warns that anyone drinking beyond this level should seek medical advice before withdrawing from alcohol.
Dr Davis says in general, the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms tend to be at their worst in the first four days.
However, there are immediate benefits.
“As soon as you stop drinking your liver starts detoxing and your liver function will improve, your blood pressure slowly starts to improve,” says Dr Davis.
Your kidneys will also function better, and you’ll be more hydrated, he says.
What to expect one week after quitting alcohol
Dr Davis says after a week, sleep may begin to improve, but life can also be an emotional rollercoaster.
“People will find themselves crying at TV adverts, but then also feel quite manic at times because they’ve done this amazingly positive thing,” says Dr Davis.
“That can take a week or two to settle down.”
However the sugar cravings can be intense.
What to expect after two weeks of giving up alcohol
Dr Davis says by this point, skin and eyes are usually clearer and brighter, but thoughts of drinking are still taking up brain space.
Hello Sunday Morning consultant psychologist Briony Leo says you’ll probably be feeling more energetic and refreshed as your sleep continues to improve.
Giving up alcohol, a depressant, can also leave you feeling much calmer and less anxious, she says.
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What to expect one month after giving up alcohol
After four weeks, the benefits are more pronounced and you may have begun losing weight, says Briony.
“When people stop drinking, they are often reducing their daily calorie intake by around 500 calories (the equivalent of a Big Mac),” says Briony.
“This might not look like much in a week or so, but over time most people start to see a reduction in their weight simply from consuming less calories.”
What to expect three months after giving up alcohol
By this stage, your alcohol cravings will have largely disappeared, says Dr Davis.
For most people, the liver will have repaired itself, and bone density recovered.
Dr Davis says when we drink regularly, we get a dopamine hit from alcohol, and our brains need time to adjust once we give up.
By now, that should have settled down, and the dopamine release will come from more natural sources, such as exercise or chatting with friends.
What to expect after six months of quitting alcohol
Pressure from others to drink should have faded.
“By six months you’ve got those sorts of conversations down pat … it’s water off a duck’s back,” says Dr Davis.
Your bank balance will also thank you.
“Just like the calories, the financial effects are slow to show up, but after six months it is likely that you’ve saved a significant amount of money,” says Briony.
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What to expect a year after quitting alcohol
Many aspects of life will have changed for the better by this milestone, she says. However some relationships or friendships may have fallen away.
There will also have been plenty of personal growth, leading to increased resilience and self-confidence.
Dr Davis says when patients walk into his clinic after 12 months, sometimes they’re unrecognisable.
“They’ve lost weight, they look completely different – their skin is different, their eyes are brighter,” he says.
“Their whole demeanour is so much more confident and positive.”
Written by Larissa Ham.