What Happens When You Stop Drinking?

Table of Contents

Choosing to give up alcohol is the start of a challenging journey, but it’s incredibly worthwhile.

Long-term, excessive drinking changes the brain and can cause intense cravings, reduced impulse control, and impaired decision-making. That’s why quitting can be difficult at first. But if you stick with it, there are significant, measurable benefits of quitting alcohol.

In this post, we’ll share a timeline of what happens when you stop drinking, plus information about the positive changes you’ll ultimately experience.

A quick disclaimer: If you drink heavily, it is best to seek a doctor’s advice before quitting alcohol. Depending on your level of consumption, withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and even life-threatening. This post should not substitute for medical advice.

What To Expect When You Quit Drinking: A Timeline

Week 1

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When you first stop drinking, especially if you quit “cold turkey,” you’ll likely experience unpleasant symptoms known as withdrawal. Symptoms range from mild (anxiety, fatigue, sweating, headaches) to severe (tremors, seizures, hallucinations).

If you experience any severe withdrawal symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately. Otherwise, withdrawal typically lasts 3-7 days, depending on how much you’ve been drinking and your personal body chemistry. If you taper off gradually, you may avoid or reduce many of these symptoms. While this approach takes longer, once you’ve cut back to zero drinks per day you may quickly progress to the second step on the timeline (2-4 weeks).

Learn more about alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the withdrawal timeline.

2-4 Weeks

After just one week without alcohol, your risk of cardiovascular disease begins to decrease.1 Your liver will also start repairing itself during this first month. At the same time, you may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). As your brain adjusts to the absence of alcohol, you may struggle with irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, and sleep disturbances. Remember that these symptoms are temporary, while the improvements to your life and health are lasting.  

1-3 Months

At one month without alcohol, your risk of alcohol-related illnesses is further reduced. In addition to cardiovascular and liver disease, common illnesses linked to alcohol include several types of cancer, pancreatitis, and diabetes. You’ll also have better immunity, sleep, mood, digestion, and even skin. As you continue establishing new habits, you’ll begin feeling less anxious, and more energized and positive. 

6 Months

After quitting alcohol for half a year, it may be easier to say no to alcohol. You’ll likely notice improvements in your relationships and find yourself settling into your new lifestyle. Your body will continue healing from the effects of alcohol, and you’ll feel much healthier overall.

1 Year

Making it to a year without alcohol is a major milestone! Your chances of returning to previous drinking patterns are greatly reduced at this point. Now that you’ve stopped drinking for a year, your health improvements may be permanent. Ria Health supports members for up to a full year, so they have the tools and guidance to achieve this level of stability.

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Schedule a private call with a Ria Health team member and we can help you get started.

Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

Giving up alcohol isn’t an easy process, but it’s certainly worth it. Let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of quitting alcohol.

Physical Health

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What happens to your body when you stop drinking? It heals, becoming stronger and healthier. You have a lower risk of disease, fewer accidents, and better overall wellness

For example, your risks for heart disease, liver disease, and cancer decrease. You will experience improved immunity and digestion, along with better sleep, skin, and energy. You’re less likely to engage in risky behavior that can lead to DUIs, STIs, slips and falls, and experiencing or committing violence.2

Excessive alcohol use is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, shortening the lives of those who die by 26 years on average.3 When you quit drinking, your chances of living a longer, better quality life significantly increase.

Mental Health

Quitting alcohol improves not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. Heavy alcohol use tends to worsen existing mental health issues, and it even create issues where there were none before.

When you stop drinking, you’ll experience improvements in anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress response. Cognition, or thinking, also improves as the brain fog caused by heavy alcohol use starts to clear. You’ll be more focused and more capable of solving problems and making good decisions.

It’s hard at first, but you’ll eventually be happier and healthier, with a greater sense of capability and confidence.

Read more: Alcohol and Mental Health 

Relationships

Many problems you might experience with friends, family, and partners can have their roots in alcohol use. Alcohol use disorder is often associated with issues like detachment, emotional unavailability, unreliability and irresponsibility, codependence, infidelity, and intimate partner violence. It can lead to frequent disagreements and a lack of trust. 

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If alcohol is hurting your relationships, quitting allows you to begin mending and improving them. You’ll have a greater capacity to show up for what’s important, and you’ll likely have fewer arguments with loved ones. As your happiness, health, and energy increase, you can be the best version of yourself for the people who matter the most.

Read more: 6 Signs Alcohol Is Hurting Your Relationship

Finances

Quitting or cutting back on alcohol saves you money. You won’t be spending on alcohol, and you won’t have to worry about medical expenses or legal fees related to alcohol use. 

Many people drink to cope with financial stress. But drinking tends to worsen financial problems, causing a harmful cycle. Alcohol abuse can result in missing work, making mistakes at work, and ultimately unemployment (which can then result in even more drinking).

When you give up drinking, you won’t have to take time off work because you’re drunk or hungover, and you’ll perform better on the job overall—potentially leading to promotions or raises.

Read more: How Much Money Will I Save If I Quit Drinking? 

The Takeaway: How Life Changes When You Stop Drinking

So, what happens when you stop drinking? It’s challenging at first, but the payoff is huge. The benefits of quitting alcohol extend to every area of your life: physical health, mental health, relationships, and finances. Any challenge that improves every area of your life is worthwhile. 

And you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re ready to make a change, Ria Health is here to support you through the hard part. We offer recovery coaching, support groups, medication to reduce cravings, and digital tools to track your progress—all through an app on your smartphone. Our compassionate team of experts is there for you anytime, anywhere, for as long as you need.

Get in touch with a member of our team today, or learn more about how it works.

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Written By:
Ashley Cullins
Freelance writer with contributions to numerous addiction blogs and a passion for relatable content.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
NYC-based content strategist with over 3 years editing and writing in the recovery space. Strong believer in accessible, empathic, and fact-based communication.
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