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Alcohol Abstinence: What Happens When You Stop Drinking For a Year

alcohol abstinence

Stopping alcohol use for one whole year will benefit your health and well-being in numerous ways. Alcohol abstinence contributes to weight loss, helps you feel more energetic, and increases your mental clarity so you can be more productive in your everyday life. It also has the potential to improve medical problems such as high blood pressure and obesity that may have been triggered by alcohol use.

Suppose you’re considering practicing abstinence from alcohol. In that case, it helps to be familiar with the alcohol abstinence timeline, so you know what to expect when you stop—especially if your alcohol intake is on the heavier side. Thus, those who are physically dependent on alcohol may want to consider alcohol detox treatment to experience a safe withdrawal with a minimized risk for complications.

Here’s more about the alcohol abstinence timeline, and about what happens to your body when you stop drinking for a year.

What Is Alcohol Abstinence?

Alcohol abstinence is the practice of not drinking alcohol. There are many reasons a person may choose to practice alcohol abstinence, such as wanting to live a healthy life or avoid losing their inhibitions. Some choose to stay abstinent because they have a family history of alcohol addiction. On the other hand, it may also be a result of overcoming a drinking problem from a professional treatment at an alcohol rehab center.

Alcohol abstinence is often the ultimate goal of alcohol addiction treatment, including 12-step support group programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. Many addiction treatment programs teach patients how to stay sober by avoiding relapse triggers, and help them manage co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to their substance use disorders. Patients who do end up relapsing and resume alcohol use often receive additional or different treatments that aim to help them stay sober for a longer period, if not a lifetime.

What Is Alcohol Abstinence Syndrome?

Alcohol abstinence syndrome refers to the set of symptoms a person may experience when they suddenly stop drinking—especially if that person drinks high amounts regularly. Alcohol abstinence syndrome is more commonly known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

According to the National Library of Medicine, symptoms of alcohol abstinence syndrome include:

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares

These symptoms usually begin within eight hours after the last drink, peak by 24 to 72 hours, and last for several days. According to the World Health Organization, the average alcohol abstinence timeline in regards to withdrawal symptoms ranges between two and 10 days. Each person will experience a different alcohol withdrawal timeline based on factors including the severity of alcohol dependence, metabolism, and medical history.

What Are the Benefits Of Stopping Your Alcohol Intake?

Stopping your alcohol intake can trigger a wide range of positive health effects—some of which are immediate, and others which may take several weeks, months, or years, depending on your history with alcohol use.

Alcohol abstinence benefits include:

  • Healthier liver functioning: Regular, heavy alcohol use can overload the liver with toxins and fat to increase the risk of cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other forms of liver disease.
  • Healthier brain functioning: Alcohol use can contribute to poor cognition, cloudy thinking, and mood and mental health disorders.
  • Stronger immunity: Alcohol use can cause fatigue, decrease organ functioning, and deplete important nutrients that help the body ward off illness and disease.
  • Reduced risk of cancer: Alcohol use can drive inflammation throughout the body to increase the risk for a number of cancers including that of the liver, esophagus, breast, and colon, among many others.
  • Improved heart health: Heavy alcohol use can weaken and damage the heart to increase the risk for a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and many other heart problems.
  • Better digestion: Alcohol abuse may cause problems with nutrient absorption in the intestines to trigger diarrhea, nausea, and other unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Increased energy: Heavy drinking can make you feel tired, sluggish, and unmotivated to engage in normal daily activities, including exercise.

What Happens During a Year Of No Alcohol?

Your first year without alcohol can be completely life-changing, especially if you’ve been drinking heavily or regularly for a long time. Your physical health will gradually improve as days and weeks pass, and you’ll start feeling more energetic and less sluggish. You may also lose excess weight, given how most forms of alcohol are high in sugar and calories.

Those who may have been experiencing one or more health problems may notice that their conditions gradually improve. For instance, those with type 2 diabetes may see improvements in their weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels after abstaining from alcohol. Those who were experiencing mood disorders like depression may notice their overall moods begin to lift as their brain chemicals fluctuate to normal, healthier levels.

Alcohol abstinence will affect each person’s health and livelihood differently from the next, though any changes that do occur will likely be positive and highly beneficial.

How Long Does It Take To Start Feeling Better After You Stop Drinking?

The length of time it takes to start feeling better after you stop drinking will depend mainly on your level of alcohol use and personal health situation. For instance, the alcohol abstinence timeline for those who are physically dependent on alcohol may last several weeks as their bodies adjust to the presence of no alcohol. Alcohol dependence can be safely treated with alcohol detox, where patients can withdraw from alcohol while being closely monitored by nurses and doctors who can intervene to reduce symptoms.

For those who drink moderately, the alcohol abstinence timeline is often significantly shorter. These individuals may start feeling better within a few days or weeks without alcohol.

If you think you may be dependent on alcohol, consult with an addiction treatment center to learn more about your treatment options. A medical professional who specializes in alcohol detox can often give you a more accurate timeframe regarding how long it may take for you to start feeling better after you quit drinking.

Is Alcohol Abstinence More Effective Than Alcohol Moderation?

Anyone who has tried and failed to stay abstinent from alcohol may understand how difficult this can be—especially those who are physically dependent on alcohol or who simply enjoy drinking. Some of these people may question whether it’s better to attempt moderation or abstinence from alcohol.

According to Harvard Health, moderate or “controlled” drinking may be successful for those without a history of alcohol abuse, or who have experienced few negative consequences from drinking. Moderate drinking may not be ideal for individuals who are diagnosed with alcohol dependence or addiction.

However, researchers say alcohol moderation may motivate some patients to change their harmful drinking behaviors. For instance, those who try to drink in moderation and find they cannot do so may realize they have a problem with alcohol dependence, and seek treatment that can help them abstain.

Seeking Professional Guidance For Your Alcohol Abstinence Lifestyle

If your goal is to abstain from alcohol and lead a healthier lifestyle, consider receiving guidance from a medical professional at an alcohol rehab center. Alcohol rehab centers offer treatment programs that can effectively address all types of problem drinking, from binge drinking to occasional alcohol abuse, to severe alcohol addiction. Search for addiction treatment centers in your area and ask about services geared toward those who want to improve their lifestyles by abstaining from alcohol.

Summer House Detox Center in Miami, Florida offers alcohol detox programs to help people safely recover from alcohol abuse and dependence. Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our available alcohol detox programs.

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