Though changing your relationship with alcohol comes with challenges, the journey can be an incredibly rewarding one. As you continue on your path of sobriety or moderation, enriching benefits of abstaining from alcohol or moderating your drinking will come to fruition.
Throughout my many years of working with patients, I’ve noticed clear patterns in the areas of their lives that change for the better as they cut back or cut off alcohol. It feels like my own personal gift to witness their health and perspectives transform. This is no accident; medical studies can also affirm that when folks change their drinking habits, they change their lives. And the benefits of sobriety are quite bountiful. Here are 11 ways drinking less can give you so much more.
For making the most of each day
1. Better Sleep
Alcohol affects how your body cycles through the four stages of sleep. Disturbances to these patterns diminish sleep quality as alcohol metabolizes overnight. Our REM cycle is disrupted, which makes us sleep less, and with more interruptions. According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 68% of Americans frequently lose sleep to alcohol. Many form a dependency on alcohol to combat insomnia, which often develops from unhealthy drinking habits in the first place. Drinking less can have powerful effects on your circadian rhythms. Lastly, there’s a connection between alcohol and night sweats, which can be reduced or eliminated when you stop drinking.
Now here’s the gift: quitting alcohol or cutting back on drinking can pretty immediately improve our sleep quality. Really, sleep affects all dimensions of our wellness, from our physical health to mental health. The impact of more restful nights is an act of self-care and self-love.
2. More Productivity
Frequently asked questions from my patients include ‘is alcohol a stimulant or depressant?’ and ‘why do I feel so tired when I stop drinking?’ Remember that alcohol is a sedative (and a depressant): it decreases energy levels. Alcohol literally “depresses” our central nervous system, slowing down activity in the brain. Consuming alcohol chips away at a portion of the productivity we could have had the following day. Not only are there hangovers and fatigue to combat, but alcohol can also impair our memory, coordination, and reaction times. Eliminating or even limiting your alcohol intake can lead to a significant rise in energy, and therefore, productivity. Once people stop drinking or cut back, they often report functioning better in their workplace, getting through to-do lists more efficiently and effectively, and more. Who says you can’t add hours in the day?
3. Better Mornings
With better sleep, you naturally have better mornings. Your body and mind are far more prepared to take on the day ahead. You can plan your day and tackle it — with energy! You can get to the workout you’ve been neglecting, or take your dog for an early walk with a cup of joe. Wake up with your young kids, and feel good. Maybe consider a hike! Let’s just say, the possibilities are endless.
Increased productivity is infectious, and hangover-free mornings are invaluable. I assure you, you will want to do it all over again.
For feeling great in your own skin
4. Physical Fitness
There are several reasons that abstaining from alcohol or drinking in moderation can improve our physical activity and fitness. Alcohol has a significant amount of calories, which is easy to lose track of or overlook. And as mentioned, heavy drinking can take a big toll on our sleep. Poor sleep can lead to increased cortisol levels, which work against weight loss. Not to mention, waking up tired or with a hangover can impact our motivation to be active in the first place. Of course, every body is unique, and we come to sobriety on our own path. For example, “fitness” goals during the recovery process may look different for those navigating an eating disorder, body trauma, or other challenges in their relationship with their body. The ultimate goal is for us to feel good in our own bodies, and drinking less helps us get there. Without alcohol, our bodies can recover and heal, improving both mental health and physical health.
5. Refreshed Skin
Alcohol dehydrates us, which can have vast effects on how our skin looks and feels. Drinking alcohol lowers antioxidant defenses in our skin, which makes it more sensitive to our environments. Stopping or cutting back on drinking can welcome a healthy glow to our face. And while not scientific, having calmer nights and energized mornings is a big help for keeping up with our skin-care routines.
6. Money Savings
While sobriety and moderation bring gifts in health and wellness, they can also have a significant financial bonus. Most people are often unaware of how much money they are spending per month and are astounded when they sit down to crunch the numbers. For example, if you are drinking four $10 drinks twice a week, that amounts to $4,160 spent on alcohol each year! Reducing the role alcohol consumption plays in your life (and budget), can allow for more financial freedom, increased investment opportunities, better retirement planning, or simply more time to invest in whatever it is that brings you closer to your ideal self. Check out this calculator to calculate the savings of sobriety.
For finding self-harmony
We have limited energy. Obligations like work and errands often consume our lives, and we neglect even the fundamentals of caring for ourselves. A healthy relationship with alcohol encourages us to establish a wellness practice. Our time and mental space is opened up for acts of self-care in recovery, and we start to discover just how rewarding a regular practice of TLC is for our self-esteem, relationships, and happiness. Changing your drinking is in itself an act of self-care and self-love, and it can proliferate into other incredible healthy habits.
8. Emotional Wellness
Heavy drinking and other unhealthy alcohol habits can worsen depression and increase anxiety. In turn, many people continue to drink alcohol to seek relief from that intensified discomfort. This, of course, can become a vicious cycle of destructive behavior. However, you can break the cycle. Decreasing alcohol intake while simultaneously treating underlying mental health conditions leads to a more sustainable emotional wellbeing. Alcohol therapy can help people address their drinking behaviors, depression, and anxiety, holistically. Changing your drinking habits can be an incredibly powerful driver of improved mental health, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Managing your drinking through quarantine
Taking the initiative to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol can be incredibly empowering. Oftentimes, we become preoccupied by our drinking habits. Alcohol becomes important to us, and thus, other things take a back seat. As we begin to diminish the role alcohol plays in our life, we have more time to nurture who we really are, and get closer to our ideal selves. Navigating the early recovery identity crisis can be challenging, but it also brings about an opportunity for immense self-exploration. Throughout the recovery journey, changing your drinking behaviors to better align with your character will empower you to be the best version of yourself. And, our commitment in getting there becomes a major point of pride. What gift does all of this bring? The recovery and development of your confidence.
For building deeper connections
10. Better Relationships
Our relationships with others can be significantly impacted by alcohol. Not only does alcohol affect behavior, but it often causes lapses in clarity. I often hear from patients who, after a night of drinking, wake up feeling anxious, embarrassed, and disoriented. Family and friends may have been hurt by their actions, and have to remind their loved one of their behavior. This stressful loop is broken when we meaningfully reduce our alcohol consumption or take alcohol out of the equation altogether. We’re more present, mentally, emotionally, and physically, for the people around us. Our relationships are able to mend (and grow!) in beautiful ways. (Alcohol use can also impact an individual’s sex drive, too!).
Changing your relationship with alcohol can introduce you to new, authentic, and rich communities where you are able to connect in genuine and meaningful ways. At Monument, we have a completely anonymous online community forum for our members to engage, offer support, and be heard. We also have virtual therapist-moderated alcohol support groups catered to different identities and interests. Join with your camera on and off. That is always enough. There are so many enriching things to do instead of drinking, and you deserve to connect with people who will encourage your healthy habits and self care.
The best part about the benefits of sobriety is that they’re vast and multifaceted. The more sleep, time, and energy you have, the better you can dedicate yourself to self-care, relationships, and life pursuits. Living sober or meaningfully reducing your alcohol consumption illuminates the path to finding your ideal-self. Over time, the benefits of sobriety accumulate and reinforce the courageous decision to work toward getting from where you are to where you want to be. If you’re wondering how to stop drinking or want to change your relationship with alcohol, learn more about how Monument’s online alcohol treatment program can help you make this change possible. When it comes to leading a sober life or changing your relationship with alcohol, you don’t have to do it alone. There are resources to help you get there, and many gifts to be discovered. Looking for more expert guidance? Check out our resources about how to stay sober or drink in moderation, and get personalized support through a virtual treatment plan. You can do this.