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Quit Drinking

What To Expect When You Quit Drinking: A Timeline

November 14, 2022
15 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.
November 14, 2022
15 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.
November 14, 2022
15 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.
November 14, 2022
15 min read
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Reframe Content Team
November 14, 2022
15 min read

It's a familiar scene — you're out with friends having a fabulous time, and the drinks are flowing. But the consequences of indulging in alcohol can be undesirable: money lost, weight gained, and judgment impaired, just to name a few of the short-term effects of drinking. That’s not even considering the long-term effects like increased risk of at least seven types of cancer! It's no wonder that a growing number of people consider abstaining from alcohol to lead a healthier life. But what exactly happens when you stop drinking? Read on to explore the various stages of alcohol withdrawal and the general alcohol withdrawal timeline, and discover the unexpected benefits you may experience along your timeline.

The First 12 Hours — Acute Withdrawal

The alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline starts within the first 12 hours after your last drink. Your body begins to process and eliminate alcohol from your system. As your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) decreases, you may start to experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Anxiety. As your body adjusts to the absence of alcohol, you may feel anxious or restless.
  • Tremors. You might experience shaking or trembling, particularly in your hands.
  • Sweating. Your body may try to regulate its temperature by producing more sweat.
  • Nausea. As your digestive system processes the remaining alcohol, you may feel nauseous or even vomit.
  • Headaches. Dehydration and changes in blood flow can cause headaches during the initial withdrawal period.
  • Insomnia. Difficulty falling or staying asleep is common during the first few hours after stopping drinking.

It's essential to stay hydrated during this time, as dehydration can exacerbate these symptoms.

12-24 Hours: Initial Recovery

As you approach the 24-hour mark, your body continues to stabilize and it starts to recover from the effects of alcohol. During this time, you may notice the following changes:

  • Improved hydration. As you drink more water and your body processes the remaining alcohol, your hydration levels will improve, helping to alleviate headaches and other withdrawal symptoms.
  • Decreased inflammation. Alcohol can cause inflammation in the body, and as it leaves your system, you may notice a reduction in inflammation-related symptoms, such as joint pain or skin redness.
  • Improved digestion. Your digestive system will start to recover from the effects of alcohol, leading to a decrease in nausea and a potential improvement in appetite.
  • Increased energy levels. As your body begins to recover, you may start to feel more energetic and less fatigued.
  • Mood stabilization. As your brain chemistry adjusts to the absence of alcohol, you may experience improvements in mood and a decrease in anxiety levels.

It's important to note that the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption, individual body chemistry, and overall health.

48-72 Hours: Deeper Detox

Between 48 and 72 hours after your last drink, your body continues to detoxify and if you have been continuing to have withdrawal symptoms, they may peak during this period. You may experience intense cravings for alcohol, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating.

In some cases, individuals who have been heavily dependent on alcohol may experience severe withdrawal symptoms known as delirium tremens (DTs). Delirium tremens typically occurs within 48 to 72 hours after the last drink but can appear up to 10 days after stopping alcohol consumption. Symptoms of DTs include severe confusion, hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation. This condition can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional when deciding to quit drinking, especially for those with a history of heavy alcohol use, to ensure a safe and monitored withdrawal process.

On the positive side, your body is working hard to repair itself. Your liver function begins to improve, and your blood sugar levels start to stabilize. Your sleep patterns may also start to return to normal, allowing you to feel more rested and alert during the day.

4-6 Days: Stabilization

By days 4 to 6 after quitting alcohol, most of the major physical withdrawal symptoms of the early alcohol withdrawal stages should start to subside. Your cravings for alcohol may still be present, but they should be less intense. Your mood should begin to stabilize, and your anxiety levels may decrease.

During this time, your body continues to repair itself. Your liver function should continue to improve, and your immune system may start to strengthen. This can help your body fight off infections and illnesses more effectively.

Additionally, your brain begins to recover from the effects of alcohol. Your cognitive function, memory, and concentration should start to improve. You may also notice an increase in your energy levels and a decrease in fatigue.

One Week In: Improved Sleep and Energy Levels

Alcohol consumption often affects the quality of our sleep. While it may have been helping us to fall asleep, it basically wrecked the quality of our rest after we lost consciousness. After a week of not drinking, you will probably notice that your sleep pattern is beginning to normalize. This improved sleep — both in terms of quality and duration — will have a domino effect on other areas of your life. As your body undergoes restorative processes during sleep, you will start to feel more energized throughout the day. Better energy levels result in increased productivity and an overall sense of well-being.

Two Weeks In: Decreased Sugar Cravings and Weight Loss

Alcoholic beverages are notorious for being high in calories and sugar content. Chances are, when you consume alcohol, you are also prone to binging on unhealthy snacks. In removing alcohol from your diet, you can save yourself so many empty calories and you can also curb unhealthy food cravings. Two weeks after quitting alcohol, many people start to notice a decrease in sugar cravings and some even start experiencing weight loss. Additionally, the liver starts to process carbohydrates more effectively, helping lower blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

One Month In: Improved Liver Health and Reduced Health Risks

After quitting alcohol for a month, one of the most striking benefits is the healing that occurs within the liver. The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, and heavy drinking can result in fatty liver, inflammation, or worse — potentially cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver tissue, or even liver cancer. A month's break from alcohol allows the liver to start repairing itself, thereby improving liver enzyme levels and reducing inflammation.

During the one-month mark, you will also notice a significant decrease in various health risks associated with alcohol consumption. For example, the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and liver disease reduces as the body starts to heal itself.

Liver Functions That Improve After an Alcohol-Free Month

Three Months In: Healthier Skin and Strengthened Immune System

As you continue your journey of abstinence, your skin's appearance will improve. This is due to several factors: your body rehydrates, there's better blood circulation, and alcohol no longer hinders nutrient absorption. Given time and patience, you may be pleasantly surprised at your newfound radiant complexion.

A robust immune system is critical for fighting infections and staying healthy. Chronic alcohol use has been known to weaken the immune system, making you susceptible to illnesses. After three months of not drinking, your immune system starts to strengthen as the impact of alcohol on white blood cells diminishes.

Six Months In: Mental Health Improvements

Quitting alcohol has profound effects on your mental health, too. After six months without alcohol, many people report an increase in clarity, focus, and memory function. Moreover, studies have shown that continuous alcohol consumption may increase the risk of anxiety and depression. As you take control of your alcohol intake and refrain from drinking, mood improvements and stress management become more manageable, leading to better overall mental health.

One Year In: Reduced Inflammation and Healthier Heart

Inflammation in the body can cause various health issues, including chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, and even some cancers. After a year of not drinking, the body's inflammation markers significantly reduce, helping bolster your overall health.

Lastly, a healthier heart is something to celebrate one year into your alcohol-free journey. Drinking alcohol excessively can increase blood pressure, weaken heart muscles, and increase the risk of heart diseases. A year without alcohol does wonders in reducing these risks, providing a healthier you for years to come.

Additional Impacts in the Year: Relationships and Finances

When you stop drinking, it’s not just about the benefits for you — your relationships can also get a much-needed boost from the fresh attention and energy you can start investing in them again. Whether it’s reconnecting with a loved one like a spouse or significant other, spending more quality time with your kids, or reestablishing meaningful contact with friends and family, quitting drinking can have some great benefits for our relationships.

If you find yourself struggling with relationships after you stop drinking, then you may want to seek out the support of a professional counselor or therapist. They can help you figure out how to handle the personal and relational issues that you’re experiencing. We know this can be a scary step, but the benefits can really outweigh the initial discomfort of reaching out!

As you consider quitting alcohol, we also encourage you to think about all the money you’ve spent on alcohol in the past week, month, and year. It’s probably a lot more than you realize, or than you want to admit. You’re not alone in this! The good news is that you’ll start saving money as soon as you stop drinking. 

Not only will you have more money, but you’ll also have a lot more time to spend on the things that you love doing. This newfound free time can be disorienting for some people after they quit drinking because they might actually feel bored, and this can be challenging if cravings come back. Take some time now to think about and write down what you’ll use your extra money and time for when you stop drinking, and this will help set you up for success later.

Your body, mind, relationships, and bank account all stand to gain so much by quitting alcohol, so we commend you for thinking about taking this important step!

How Can Reframe Help You Quit Drinking Alcohol?

Choosing to quit or limit alcohol consumption is a personal decision that comes with so many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. As the days, weeks, and months progress in your timeline after making this change, you’ll learn how to embrace this journey and enjoy the improvement in your overall well-being. Remember that it is crucial to listen to your body and seek professional support if necessary, especially if you are struggling with alcohol addiction.

The Reframe app is not a treatment method for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), so consult with a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if heavy drinking is causing a significant impact on your life. What Reframe can offer, however, is an opportunity to start cutting back on your alcohol intake with the goal of eliminating it altogether in the long run.

What do you get with a subscription to the Reframe app? We provide you with daily readings on the neuroscience of alcohol along with helpful activities like mindfulness exercises and journal prompts. You also gain access to a 24/7 Forum chat where you can connect with your peers from around the world. There are also daily Zoom check-in meetings where people just like you are sharing their stories for mutual encouragement and support.

If you want to take your learning to the next level, we also have a comprehensive suite of courses on dozens of wellness-related topics. Finally, you can track your drinks, emotions, mood, and appetite with our helpful tracking tools. 

The best part is that the Reframe app is free for 7 days, so there’s no risk to try it out! Download the Reframe app today and get started on your journey towards better living. We want you to discover life beyond drinking and start thriving again. We’ve helped millions of people drink less or stop drinking alcohol and we would love to help you do the same!

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