The Health Benefits of Being Sober
From healthier-looking skin to increased mental stability, here are the health benefits of sobriety.
Robert Downey Jr. accepted the American Cinematheque award over the weekend, he chose his friend Mel Gibson to present the honor.
“When people get sober they sleep better, have more energy, and can think more clearly,” says Dr. Dr. Brian Wind, Ph.D “Best of all, sober people aren’t damaging nearly every part of their bodies on a daily basis and aren’t waking up with hangovers or withdrawals.”
Sobriety isn’t and won’t be easy. Some benefits will be noticeable immediately, while others take time. If you have a substance abuse problem you may initially go through physical symptoms of withdrawal, but the benefits of sobriety certainly outweigh any potentially negative effects of withdrawal.
- Increased general health
- Improved mental clarity (focus, critical thinking, memory)
- Longer and deeper sleep
- Increased energy
- Healthier skin and complexion
- Decreased risk of long-term health issues including cancer
- Better weight management and eating habits
“The before and after photos depicting recovery from substance use are very compelling,” says Dr. Lori Ryland”As substance use reduces, you begin taking better care of yourself by eating healthy instead of using, better activity, and often better healthcare adherence in comparison to periods of use.”
While sobriety will have a positive effect on your physical well-being, the benefits are equally as important to your emotional state. Emotional stability—which affects everything from your relationships, motivation, and general mood—will vastly improve.
“In general, an individual is significantly more emotionally stable and balanced when sober than during an active addiction,” says Dr. Dean Drosnes,
- Increased confidence
- Emotional stability
- Better overall well-being
- Improved relationships
- More motivation
- Depression relief
- Anxiety relief
the benefits of sobriety are manifested in several ways, including: mental(1) and physical health(2), markedly improved relationships with friends and family(3), as well as in your finances and career(4, 5).
Even if you are not experiencing these negative outcomes, heavy drinking can be detrimental both short and long-term. Getting sober may help to reverse or even eliminate the negative impact that alcohol may have on your mental and physical health, personal relationships, as well as your career or financial situation.
The Benefits of Being Sober
Heavy alcohol use has been linked with a vast amount of negative outcomes, including(6):
- Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver
- Alcohol induced acute/chronic pancreatitis
- Alcoholic myophathy and cardiomyophathy
- Increased rates of certain cancers like breast, stomach, oral, and colon
- Degeneration of the nervous system (decreased ability to fight infection)
Chronic alcohol use has also been attributed to erectile dysfunction as well as other sexual dysfunctions(7). Sexual dysfunction was significantly associated with duration and severity of alcohol dependence as well as the amount of alcohol consumed per day.
Upon stopping the intake of alcohol, these physical consequences may subside. However, when a heavy drinker stops they may experience(8):
- Weight loss
- Improved pancreatic function
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Lower blood pressure
Heavy alcohol consumption has been associated with negative impacts on mental health. This is primarily due to blocking chemical signals between brain cells (neurons)(9). For instance, alcohol consumption results in slurred speech, slowed reflexes, poor memory, and impulsive behavior.
Due to heavy alcohol consumption the brain can adapt to these blocked pathways. When alcohol leaves the system it will continue to over-activate neurotransmitters that can result in damage to brain cells(10, 11, 12).
Alcohol use can also negatively impact sleep patterns. Similar to other sleep medications, the sedative or sleep inducing effects of alcohol are quickly adapted to which only leads to further sleep related problems.
Wile it can be hard to say whether alcohol plays a significant role in mental health issues such as anxiety, psychosis, or depression. Through the transitive property, we know that if these issues subside when the person stops drinking, it’s logical to assume alcohol aggravates those conditions.
Relationships with Family and Friends
Alcoholism typically has a negative impact on personal relationships with friends and family.
Studies show that higher partner violence is associated with heavy alcohol consumption. Abstaining from alcohol has the opposite effect and may result in less conflicts and domestic violence.
Alcohol can also affect a person’s attachment to others (partner, spouse, children, friends, and family). People who have attachment issues typically are less trusting, show signs of fear, and will isolate and detach themselves.
Career and Financial Situation
Most people who drink alcohol do not think about the impact of alcohol on their financial well-being. People who abuse alcohol are more likely to miss work and have conflict amongst co-workers and management.
Going to and from work may end up resulting in a DUI only adding more financial burden (bail, court fines, attorney, public transportation cost, etc).
Apart from the purported “holistic” benefits of being sober, there are fact-based reasons for why sobriety is beneficial. Including for your mental and physical health, personal relationships, and for your career/financial situation.
- Your life becomes less chaotic You don’t have to live in constant turmoil anymore because you’re not worried about getting money, getting drugs or alcohol, and then lying or manipulating to cover up your behaviors. You finally get a chance to sit still and relax.
- You sleep better When you suffer from Alcohol abuse is disruptive to sleeping patterns because it suppresses sleep, not permitting a restorative, good nights rest. Though you may have trouble falling asleep when you first get sober, you will soon sleep peacefully through the night and feel more rested the next day.
- You feel healthier Substance abuse has profound effects on the body. In sobriety, you aren’t putting toxic chemicals in your body, so you will actually have more energy and feel more alert and focused! Not to mention the fact that your internal organs get to take a break from working overtime to process the drugs and alcohol. More Energy, Alcohol is a depressant, which makes you feel tired and slow. Without the constant effect of alcohol on your body, you have a lot more energy to work with. This energy can lead to healthier choices.
- You look better Do you have sunken in cheeks, red patches, or bad acne? Good news – in sobriety, your skin actually improves! Without nasty, toxic chemicals in your body, your complexion will improve tremendously and you will gain weight back to your face, making you look beautiful and healthy again! Better Skin, When it comes to improving physical health, better skin is one of the most noticeable changes in most people. People in recovery have a more radiant complexion than before. Their skin becomes clearer — and, in many cases, cleaner due to improved hygiene. Within the first six months of sobriety, most people undergo observable and positive changes in their skin.
- Your memory improves We all have nights we don’t remember while in addiction, but shortly after detox, your memory will rapidly begin to improve. No more worrying about what you did last night – your memory will become sharp and as good as new!
- Your mental health improves (no more brain fog) Sleep, diet, and overall health are directly correlated with the status of your mental health. As your lifestyle improves, you will find your emotions more stable and manageable. You will find yourself having less mood swings along with increased happiness. Alcohol is incredibly inflammatory. The long and short-term impact of alcohol on your brain is extensive. I won’t go into detail here because I’ve written about it before, but if you can’t engage intellectually with the world like you used to, you’re forgetting more things or struggling to focus, there is good news for you, my friend! Your brain can heal. You can get your mental faculties back! This one happened for me relatively early on, and that’s WITH pregnancy brain. It is an incredible feeling to have that fog lift. You quite literally feel like a brand new person. The ability to think, read a book, engage in an intelligent conversation, actually have IDEAS again, and not just loop terrible thoughts on autopilot in your brain is liberating. It’s one of the best benefits of sobriety I’ve experienced.
- You worry less When you are sober and doing the right thing, the worry of getting in trouble with others or getting caught by the cops disappears. You’re sober, you have a job, you are being honest with others, you have a roof over your head, you aren’t worried about going into withdrawals – what’s there to worry about anymore?
- You actually have money When you aren’t spending every penny earned on drugs or alcohol, you will be surprised how quickly your savings adds up! It is a wonderful feeling not to worry about living paycheck to paycheck and being able to have savings for emergencies.
- You get to be a part of your family Regardless of the harms you have done, your family loves you and will forgive you in time. It is a great feeling to be with family on holidays and special occasions without causing them to worry about your drug or alcohol use. They will be able to rely on you and trust you, and since you have money, you can even buy them gifts for their birthdays!
- You form deep connections with others Friendships made in sobriety are like no other. These friends understand exactly what you are going through because they have been there too. They will love and support you unconditionally. There is something about friendships in recovery that is magical.
- You gain long term rewards Hard work pays off. If you put in the work to be sober and happy, you will be sober and happy. You will be able to go to class and study for school in order to further your education. You will be capable of holding a job, allowing you to move up in your career. You will develop a profound appreciation for people, places, and things.
- You get to embark on new adventures You have the ability to try new things, travel to new places, and develop a passion for life after addiction. Since you will no longer rely on substances to survive each day, you will finally have the opportunity to thrive in life. There is nothing holding you back. Go climb that mountain, go snorkeling at a coral reef, go visit a foreign country! What are you waiting for?
- You grow spiritually Spiritual growth consists of removing obsolete or negative habits and thoughts from your life. Mindful meditation is a great way to grow spiritually because it relaxes your mind and aids in coping with feelings of anxiety and stress. It is a free, easy to do activity that promotes healing and spiritual growth by connecting your mind, body, and spirit. Sobriety brings so much peace into your life. It allows you to become more aware and present. You understand and connect with yourself better. When you’re sober, the entirety of who you are improves. Happiness is easy to come by when you’re doing good for yourself, looking better, feeling better, and functioning on a higher physical level.
- You find your purpose in life There is somebody out there who is hopeless and feels like they cannot stay sober. You may not know it at the time, but your story is the only story they will hear. Your experience, strength, and hope, is going to help somebody stay sober. You have the ability to change lives.
- You learn to love yourself By staying healthy, having new experiences, building relationships, and helping others, you will begin to truly love yourself. You will treat your body and mind with a gentle respect, as you have been blessed with a new, sober life. For many of us, we have spent too much time hating ourselves. Being able to love who we are, for all of our imperfections, is nothing short of a miraculous gift in sobriety.
- Less Stress People who abuse alcohol get to a point in their drinking where they cannot manage any emotion in a healthy way. Drinking is the solution to boredom, frustration, sadness, and extreme happiness. Additionally, research has shown that drinking any amount of alcohol chronically (including one drink per day) changes your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA), which Maintains your physiological balance between what you do and don’t perceive as stressful. This leads to more cortisol released at baseline when you’re not drinking. Translation: alcohol increases your anxiety and stress levels even when not drinking. It was a horrible cycle of self-medicating my anxiety with alcohol which, in turn, only made my anxiety levels worse. I was stressed out all of the time and had no healthy coping mechanisms for that stress. Sobriety changed that. As a fair warning, sometimes alcohol withdrawal can have the opposite effect and make anxiety significantly worse, but it is temporary. It goes away, and you feel much more stable and clear-headed after the initial withdrawal period.
- Less Physical Pain Alcohol is incredibly inflammatory. it causes joint problems eventually speeding up arthritis and generally causing more pain in the joints. It wreaks havoc with your gastrointestinal system and digestive system. It will destroy your liver, heart, kidneys and pancreas! It will cause your blood pressure to be high and rapid pulse can develop. PERMANENT HEART DAMAGE CAN OCCUR.
- Self Esteem will rise overtime When you finally get over those first months of early sobriety, you’ll see that you’re not so bad after all. People who are successful with their sobriety find ways to keep themselves busy. It’s through that process that many people start to forgive themselves and see the value they can bring to the world. Every day you go without drinking boosts your self-esteem, even if you don’t notice. When you choose to go to the gym or take a cooking class, you’re signaling that you are open to seeing what else this life has to offer. The cumulative effects of all these new experiences and choices add up.
- Healthier realationships A lot of people feel lonely when they give up alcohol. When your entire social life has revolved around getting wasted, it’s normal to feel like there’s nothing to do. Re-evaluating your relationships with other people is part of the process. We all have to go through it, but the AMAZING thing is that you’ll end up with really powerful connections with the people you choose to keep around. You might think that emotionally unloading with your friends over wine and cookies makes you close or that your buddy holding your hair while you puked means something.
- Better Sleep Pattern Sobriety is your body at its most natural state, so when you’re sober, your body goes back into a more regular rhythm. Instead of drinking until the early morning hours, you now give yourself a chance to rest earlier and get quality sleep. The peace of mind that sobriety comes with also makes you less stressed and more able to get enough restful sleep at normal hours.
- Better Eating habbits Some people in recovery consider getting over addiction as their first step to living a much healthier lifestyle. Post-treatment, you may develop a consistent exercise routine to get your mind off drinking. Following a healthy diet is similar to this. They’re both excellent ways to improve your health and also things you can focus on to fill in the gaps left by addiction in your life. When you stop drinking, your body also becomes much less dehydrated. This lessens the chances of developing unhealthy food cravings. While eating healthier can help you stay sober, it’s also true that staying sober can help you eat healthier. For example, you can eat healthier because you have the energy to cook dishes instead of ordering fast food.source source source source