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Quit Drinking

7 Benefits of Long-Term Alcohol Abstinence

Published:
June 25, 2023
·
18 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 25, 2023
·
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 25, 2023
·
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 25, 2023
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
June 25, 2023
·
18 min read

You’ve been curious about a sober lifestyle and have heard about how transformative it can be. But you can’t help but wonder: is it really true? What’s so miraculous about bidding alcohol adieu over the long haul?

Out of the following, which is a benefit related to abstaining from alcohol? Being more rested, losing weight, or thinking more clearly? That’s right — all of them. And there are many more!

In this post, we’ll explore seven benefits of long-term alcohol abstinence that might inspire us to reconsider our relationship with alcohol. We’ll also offer some tips for how we can work toward alcohol abstinence. Let’s dive in!

1. Well-Rested Nights and More Energy

Alcohol may seem to rock us to sleep, but drifting off is not the most important element of our night’s rest. Studies have shown that alcohol disrupts our REM cycle — one of the most important stages of sleep for physical and mental restoration. So while alcohol may help us fall asleep faster, it actually reduces the overall quality of our sleep. 

Long-term abstinence brings back our rightful peaceful slumber, rejuvenating us for a good tomorrow. In fact, after just one week of not drinking, we’ll probably notice that we’re getting more restful night sleeps and waking up more refreshed. As we continue to abstain from alcohol and get better sleep, we’re likely to feel more energized, alert, and motivated. We can enhance our quality of sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. For instance, perhaps we practice meditation, enjoy some aromatherapy, or relax with a good book.

2. A Healthier Liver

Why’s our liver important, anyway? Our liver is the largest internal organ in our body, and it plays a vital role in eliminating waste and toxic substances. Whenever we consume alcohol, most of it goes through the liver — which is why it takes such a big hit. 

Frequent alcohol consumption can lead to cirrhosis, the scarring of our liver. Prolonged alcohol consumption can also cause fatty liver disease and hepatitis. But our liver possesses an extraordinary capacity to heal and regenerate. When we remove alcohol from the picture, our liver can recover, reversing damage from cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, or hepatitis.

But one benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that our liver can be back up and running at full capacity after just six months of abstaining from alcohol.

3. Reduced Cravings and Weight Loss

Our favorite cocktails can sneakily add extra calories to our diet, contributing to weight gain. Plus, chances are, when we consume alcohol, we’re also prone to binging on unhealthy snacks (drunchies, anyone?). 

By removing alcohol from our diet, we save ourselves its empty calories and curb our unhealthy food cravings. In fact, a benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that many people start to notice a decrease in sugar cravings and some even start losing weight after quitting alcohol for just two weeks. Furthermore, our liver starts processing carbohydrates more efficiently, helping lower blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Over the long term, with alcohol out of the picture, we’ll likely find it easier to maintain our desired weight. Our metabolic processes will stabilize and those previously alcohol-induced munchies might no longer ambush our diet. The cumulative effect of all the positive changes can lead to more sustainable weight management practices. 

4. Enhanced Brain Power and Mental Health

Did you know that regular heavy drinking can cause brain damage? Chronic alcohol consumption can impair our cognitive functions and memory, and it can even increase the risk of dementia. But similar to our liver, our brain is remarkably adaptable. Even if someone has been a regular drinker, abstinence can help our brains recover, improving brain function over time. In fact, a benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that our brain will start engaging in neurogenesis — the birth of new neurons that enhance cognition, memory, and learning — after five months of abstaining from alcohol. In the long term, abstinence from alcohol even decreases dementia risk!

Moreover, although alcohol might initially make us feel happier and more relaxed, drinking can eventually lead to greater amounts of stress and worsen anxiety and depression. This is largely because alcohol alters our brain chemistry, throwing off the delicate balance of important neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

Abstaining from alcohol removes its influence over our brain chemistry, allowing our bodies to return to a normal baseline. Even just reducing our alcohol consumption can improve our mental health, leading to a better mood and better stress management. Interestingly, people have also reported experiencing “sober creativity” — a surge in artistic or intellectual pursuits after quitting alcohol.

5. A More Robust Immune System

Alcohol can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to disease. Chronic drinking impacts two significant components of our immune arsenal: cellular immunity (which involves our white blood cells like lymphocytes) and humoral immunity (which involves antibodies). Both are crucial to protect us from pathogens.

Abstaining from alcohol gives the body a break, helping reset the immune system. In fact, long-term alcohol abstinence leads to lymphocytes recovering their vitality and antibody production improving. A healthier immune system means less susceptibility to infections and a more effective response when we do encounter pathogens. So by kissing alcohol goodbye for good, we can strengthen our immunity and reduce our risk of infections.

6. A Stronger and Healthier Heart

Alcohol can stress our heart, leading to various heart problems, such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and stroke. Plus, consistent alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain which, in turn, places added strain on the heart. Over time, excessing drinking can lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition that weakens the heart muscle and makes it harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. This can then lead to heart failure — a serious condition that undermines the heart’s ability to meet our body’s need for blood and oxygen. 

Alcohol abstinence does wonders for our heart health, keeping it strong and healthy and reducing our risk of developing these diseases. Our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight will thank us!

7. A Boon to Our Wallets

Finally, here’s one more bonus: remember worrying about skyrocketing credit card bills after a night out? Or buying all those expensive rounds during happy hour? Alcohol isn't just costly for our health — it can be a real drain on our wallets. Giving it up can have tangible financial benefits. You’ll start saving money as soon as you stop drinking — and continue to save as you continue to abstain. You’ll have more money and a lot more time to spend on the things that you love doing. 

7 Benefits of Long-Term Alcohol Abstinence

Tips for Cutting Back on Alcohol

Now that we’ve learned more about the benefits of alcohol abstinence, it’s time to get practical: how can we actually get there? Quitting alcohol can seem daunting, particularly if drinking has become a big part of our life. This is why it’s important to start small. Changing our relationship with alcohol is a process, and it usually starts by cutting back. As challenging as it might be, it is possible!

With that in mind, here are seven tips for working our way toward alcohol abstinence: 

  1. Assess alcohol’s negative effects on your life and well-being. One of the most effective ways to quit drinking is to acknowledge alcohol’s negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Try taking stock of these negative changes. For instance, do you have terrible hangxiety after a night of drinking? Do you get into arguments more often with your partner? Has your sleep been suffering? Being honest and acknowledging how alcohol is affecting all aspects of our life can be a powerful motivator to make a change — and stick with it. 

  2. Build a support system. Having a support system in place can make a world of difference. In fact, research has shown that social support is a key factor in helping individuals quit drinking. This can include family members, friends, support groups, or a therapist. They can help hold us accountable and provide encouragement and motivation to continue. It’s okay to lean on people — we weren’t meant to journey through life alone!
  3. Identify your triggers. It’s vitally important to identify our triggers — the emotions and situations that cause us to reach for a drink. Is it stress, boredom, loneliness, social pressure,or something else? When we understand our triggers, we begin to exercise greater power over them. Over time, we can instead turn to healthier behaviors — like taking a few deep breaths, finding a replacement beverage, or calling a friend — when triggers arise. Spend some time thinking and writing about your triggers. Consider people, places, emotions and situations.
  4. Start building new habits. People often drink to cope with stress or other difficult emotions. One challenge of quitting drinking is finding new, healthier coping mechanisms. This is where trying new things and building new habits comes into play. Perhaps we start turning to exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling, or a hobby. These activities reduce stress and improve our mood, providing a positive outlet for our energy and emotions.
  5. Practice mindfulness. There’s a reason mindfulness has been hyped up so much: it actually works! Research shows that people struggling with substance misuse who incorporated mindfulness had higher success rates than those who received standard treatment. We can practice mindfulness by sitting in a quiet space and focusing on our breath, while — without judgment! — accepting any thoughts or feelings that arise. For beginners, it’s often beneficial to try a guided meditation (we have several on our app that you can choose from).

  6. Opt for non-alcoholic beverages. Because drinking is so ingrained in our culture, it can be difficult to face social situations without alcohol. Thankfully, a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks on the market mimic the taste of alcoholic beverages. This can help ease the transition as we work to eliminate alcohol from our life. If you’re going to a party, consider bringing your own mocktail ingredients or non-alcoholic drinks.
  7. Seek professional help. Quitting drinking can be a difficult process, and professional help may be necessary for some of us. We’re not broken, and we’re not weak! In fact, it’s a sign of great personal strength to reach out for help. This might look like therapy, medication, or other treatments that are tailored to our specific needs. Consulting a medical professional can help us determine the best course of action.

The Bottom Line

Embracing a life free from alcohol can seem challenging, but the rewards are undeniable. From improved sleep and brain function to better heart and liver health, alcohol abstinence can do wonders for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These changes don’t happen overnight, but with time and patience, we will undoubtedly experience them. At the end of the day, as we wave goodbye to alcohol, we’re actually welcoming a healthier, happier, and more authentic version of ourselves. And remember: there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help along the way!

If you want to abstain from alcohol, but don’t know where or how to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people quit drinking and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

You’ve been curious about a sober lifestyle and have heard about how transformative it can be. But you can’t help but wonder: is it really true? What’s so miraculous about bidding alcohol adieu over the long haul?

Out of the following, which is a benefit related to abstaining from alcohol? Being more rested, losing weight, or thinking more clearly? That’s right — all of them. And there are many more!

In this post, we’ll explore seven benefits of long-term alcohol abstinence that might inspire us to reconsider our relationship with alcohol. We’ll also offer some tips for how we can work toward alcohol abstinence. Let’s dive in!

1. Well-Rested Nights and More Energy

Alcohol may seem to rock us to sleep, but drifting off is not the most important element of our night’s rest. Studies have shown that alcohol disrupts our REM cycle — one of the most important stages of sleep for physical and mental restoration. So while alcohol may help us fall asleep faster, it actually reduces the overall quality of our sleep. 

Long-term abstinence brings back our rightful peaceful slumber, rejuvenating us for a good tomorrow. In fact, after just one week of not drinking, we’ll probably notice that we’re getting more restful night sleeps and waking up more refreshed. As we continue to abstain from alcohol and get better sleep, we’re likely to feel more energized, alert, and motivated. We can enhance our quality of sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. For instance, perhaps we practice meditation, enjoy some aromatherapy, or relax with a good book.

2. A Healthier Liver

Why’s our liver important, anyway? Our liver is the largest internal organ in our body, and it plays a vital role in eliminating waste and toxic substances. Whenever we consume alcohol, most of it goes through the liver — which is why it takes such a big hit. 

Frequent alcohol consumption can lead to cirrhosis, the scarring of our liver. Prolonged alcohol consumption can also cause fatty liver disease and hepatitis. But our liver possesses an extraordinary capacity to heal and regenerate. When we remove alcohol from the picture, our liver can recover, reversing damage from cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, or hepatitis.

But one benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that our liver can be back up and running at full capacity after just six months of abstaining from alcohol.

3. Reduced Cravings and Weight Loss

Our favorite cocktails can sneakily add extra calories to our diet, contributing to weight gain. Plus, chances are, when we consume alcohol, we’re also prone to binging on unhealthy snacks (drunchies, anyone?). 

By removing alcohol from our diet, we save ourselves its empty calories and curb our unhealthy food cravings. In fact, a benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that many people start to notice a decrease in sugar cravings and some even start losing weight after quitting alcohol for just two weeks. Furthermore, our liver starts processing carbohydrates more efficiently, helping lower blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Over the long term, with alcohol out of the picture, we’ll likely find it easier to maintain our desired weight. Our metabolic processes will stabilize and those previously alcohol-induced munchies might no longer ambush our diet. The cumulative effect of all the positive changes can lead to more sustainable weight management practices. 

4. Enhanced Brain Power and Mental Health

Did you know that regular heavy drinking can cause brain damage? Chronic alcohol consumption can impair our cognitive functions and memory, and it can even increase the risk of dementia. But similar to our liver, our brain is remarkably adaptable. Even if someone has been a regular drinker, abstinence can help our brains recover, improving brain function over time. In fact, a benefit of long-term alcohol abstinence is that our brain will start engaging in neurogenesis — the birth of new neurons that enhance cognition, memory, and learning — after five months of abstaining from alcohol. In the long term, abstinence from alcohol even decreases dementia risk!

Moreover, although alcohol might initially make us feel happier and more relaxed, drinking can eventually lead to greater amounts of stress and worsen anxiety and depression. This is largely because alcohol alters our brain chemistry, throwing off the delicate balance of important neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

Abstaining from alcohol removes its influence over our brain chemistry, allowing our bodies to return to a normal baseline. Even just reducing our alcohol consumption can improve our mental health, leading to a better mood and better stress management. Interestingly, people have also reported experiencing “sober creativity” — a surge in artistic or intellectual pursuits after quitting alcohol.

5. A More Robust Immune System

Alcohol can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to disease. Chronic drinking impacts two significant components of our immune arsenal: cellular immunity (which involves our white blood cells like lymphocytes) and humoral immunity (which involves antibodies). Both are crucial to protect us from pathogens.

Abstaining from alcohol gives the body a break, helping reset the immune system. In fact, long-term alcohol abstinence leads to lymphocytes recovering their vitality and antibody production improving. A healthier immune system means less susceptibility to infections and a more effective response when we do encounter pathogens. So by kissing alcohol goodbye for good, we can strengthen our immunity and reduce our risk of infections.

6. A Stronger and Healthier Heart

Alcohol can stress our heart, leading to various heart problems, such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and stroke. Plus, consistent alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain which, in turn, places added strain on the heart. Over time, excessing drinking can lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition that weakens the heart muscle and makes it harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. This can then lead to heart failure — a serious condition that undermines the heart’s ability to meet our body’s need for blood and oxygen. 

Alcohol abstinence does wonders for our heart health, keeping it strong and healthy and reducing our risk of developing these diseases. Our blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight will thank us!

7. A Boon to Our Wallets

Finally, here’s one more bonus: remember worrying about skyrocketing credit card bills after a night out? Or buying all those expensive rounds during happy hour? Alcohol isn't just costly for our health — it can be a real drain on our wallets. Giving it up can have tangible financial benefits. You’ll start saving money as soon as you stop drinking — and continue to save as you continue to abstain. You’ll have more money and a lot more time to spend on the things that you love doing. 

7 Benefits of Long-Term Alcohol Abstinence

Tips for Cutting Back on Alcohol

Now that we’ve learned more about the benefits of alcohol abstinence, it’s time to get practical: how can we actually get there? Quitting alcohol can seem daunting, particularly if drinking has become a big part of our life. This is why it’s important to start small. Changing our relationship with alcohol is a process, and it usually starts by cutting back. As challenging as it might be, it is possible!

With that in mind, here are seven tips for working our way toward alcohol abstinence: 

  1. Assess alcohol’s negative effects on your life and well-being. One of the most effective ways to quit drinking is to acknowledge alcohol’s negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Try taking stock of these negative changes. For instance, do you have terrible hangxiety after a night of drinking? Do you get into arguments more often with your partner? Has your sleep been suffering? Being honest and acknowledging how alcohol is affecting all aspects of our life can be a powerful motivator to make a change — and stick with it. 

  2. Build a support system. Having a support system in place can make a world of difference. In fact, research has shown that social support is a key factor in helping individuals quit drinking. This can include family members, friends, support groups, or a therapist. They can help hold us accountable and provide encouragement and motivation to continue. It’s okay to lean on people — we weren’t meant to journey through life alone!
  3. Identify your triggers. It’s vitally important to identify our triggers — the emotions and situations that cause us to reach for a drink. Is it stress, boredom, loneliness, social pressure,or something else? When we understand our triggers, we begin to exercise greater power over them. Over time, we can instead turn to healthier behaviors — like taking a few deep breaths, finding a replacement beverage, or calling a friend — when triggers arise. Spend some time thinking and writing about your triggers. Consider people, places, emotions and situations.
  4. Start building new habits. People often drink to cope with stress or other difficult emotions. One challenge of quitting drinking is finding new, healthier coping mechanisms. This is where trying new things and building new habits comes into play. Perhaps we start turning to exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling, or a hobby. These activities reduce stress and improve our mood, providing a positive outlet for our energy and emotions.
  5. Practice mindfulness. There’s a reason mindfulness has been hyped up so much: it actually works! Research shows that people struggling with substance misuse who incorporated mindfulness had higher success rates than those who received standard treatment. We can practice mindfulness by sitting in a quiet space and focusing on our breath, while — without judgment! — accepting any thoughts or feelings that arise. For beginners, it’s often beneficial to try a guided meditation (we have several on our app that you can choose from).

  6. Opt for non-alcoholic beverages. Because drinking is so ingrained in our culture, it can be difficult to face social situations without alcohol. Thankfully, a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks on the market mimic the taste of alcoholic beverages. This can help ease the transition as we work to eliminate alcohol from our life. If you’re going to a party, consider bringing your own mocktail ingredients or non-alcoholic drinks.
  7. Seek professional help. Quitting drinking can be a difficult process, and professional help may be necessary for some of us. We’re not broken, and we’re not weak! In fact, it’s a sign of great personal strength to reach out for help. This might look like therapy, medication, or other treatments that are tailored to our specific needs. Consulting a medical professional can help us determine the best course of action.

The Bottom Line

Embracing a life free from alcohol can seem challenging, but the rewards are undeniable. From improved sleep and brain function to better heart and liver health, alcohol abstinence can do wonders for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These changes don’t happen overnight, but with time and patience, we will undoubtedly experience them. At the end of the day, as we wave goodbye to alcohol, we’re actually welcoming a healthier, happier, and more authentic version of ourselves. And remember: there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help along the way!

If you want to abstain from alcohol, but don’t know where or how to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people quit drinking and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Summary FAQs

1. What are the benefits of long-term alcohol abstinence?

There are many benefits of long-term alcohol abstinence, including better sleep and energy, a stronger heart and liver, healthier weight, and a more robust immune system, not to mention all the money you’ll save!

2. What are some tips for cutting back on alcohol?

We can work toward long-term alcohol abstinence by cutting back on our alcohol consumption. To do this, it can be helpful to assess alcohol’s negative effect on your life, build a support system, identify your triggers, build new habits, practice mindfulness, opt for non-alcoholic beverages, and seek professional help.

Transform Your Drinking Habits With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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