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Alcohol and Mental Health

What One Year of Sobriety Has in Store for You

January 17, 2024
19 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.
January 17, 2024
19 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.
January 17, 2024
19 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.
January 17, 2024
19 min read
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Reframe Content Team
January 17, 2024
19 min read

Improve Your Health and Transform Your Life by Being Sober for a Year!

  • The benefits of leaving alcohol behind for a year include improved liver, brain, and heart health; clearer thinking; weight loss; money savings; and improved interpersonal relationships. 

  • You can start your sober year and keep it going by setting specific intentions, building a support team, filling your days with meaningful activities, staying active, nourishing your body and mind, and practicing mindfulness.

  • Reframe can help you count and celebrate your sober days with daily check-ins, a supportive community, and science-backed readings about the perks of sobriety.

How do you measure a year? It might be enough time to train for a marathon, learn a language, or have a baby. A year can be jam-packed, or it can fly by, and setting goals is a great way to keep our time on track. But most goals — though absolutely worth pursuing — take a lot of extra effort on our part.

What if you could lose weight, look years younger, fix your sleep schedule, lower your resting heart rate, boost your immune system, improve your memory and concentration, save enough money for a vacation, improve the relationships in your life, and possibly get ahead in your career — all simply by not doing one thing? Sounds pretty amazing! To change your life in all those ways all you have to do is avoid alcohol.

While this is not to say that going without booze is effortless — it requires some strategizing and support — it’s absolutely doable, and it might be easier than you think. Let’s see what the amazing benefits of being sober for an entire year can bring!

Part 1: The Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of going sober for a year are nothing short of amazing. Here’s a preview, with a timeline of what to expect.

1. The Liver Gets a Much-Needed Chance To Repair

The liver is a remarkable organ responsible for processing what we eat and separating the nutrients from the waste products. One of its most important jobs is to clear our blood of toxic chemicals, including alcohol — which, as far as the liver is concerned, is a poison. This process is taxing, and although the liver has the remarkable ability to repair itself, there’s a limit to its powers.

Excessive alcohol use is notoriously hard on the liver and can lead to a number of problems ranging from inflammation to fatty liver disease, and eventually to cirrhosis or liver cancer. However, a year can do wonders for this remarkable organ. Here’s a timeline of how the liver heals:

  • The first few weeks. Inflammation reduces starting from the first week.
  • Months 2-3. Liver fat continues to drop and bile flow improves.
  • Months 4-6. Liver enzymes get normalized, and the risk of liver fibrosis goes down by the half-year mark.
  • Months 7-9. Liver fat continues to decrease.
  • Months 10-12. Liver health is stabilized, and our risk of liver disease drops dramatically!

2. The Heart Gets Healthier

In addition to the liver, the heart is another organ that gets overwhelmed by excessive alcohol use. High blood pressure, an increased heart rate, and a risk of serious cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke have all been linked to having a few too many a few too many times. 

The first week. Right from the get-go, blood pressure decreases and the strain on our heart lifts. Instant relief!

  • The first three months. In the first 12 weeks or so without booze, our heart rate stabilizes, and blood circulation improves. Blood pressure continues to stabilize.
  • Months 4-6. By the half-year point, there’s a noticeable shift — our risk of arrhythmia decreases, and oxygenation levels improve. Another biggie? Lower cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of coronary artery disease.
  • Months 7-9. The benefits keep adding up! By this point, our cardiac fitness has improved, and our blood pressure and cholesterol levels continue to get better.
  • Months 10-12. At this point, we can celebrate the new year with a healthier, more stable heart and a significantly lower risk of heart disease.

3. Improved Digestion, Metabolism, and Weight Loss

Now, this is the one many of us have been waiting for. From the empty calories to midnight pizza runs, alcohol is notoriously bad for our waistline. Get ready for some major changes!

Part of the picture is also the way alcohol affects digestion

  • First week. Metabolic reset begins, and our blood sugar levels stabilize.
  • Weeks 2-4. Our appetite stabilizes, and we start to notice weight loss.
  • Months 4-6. Our energy levels increase as we continue to lose weight. Plus, our insulin sensitivity improves, leading to more efficient nutrient metabolism.
  • Months 7-12. In the second half of the year, our metabolic health continues to improve as our weight finds its way to a healthier point, whatever that may be. Get ready to greet the new year looking and feeling your best!

Part 2: The Brain Benefits

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about brain health. Alcohol disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters — chemical messengers in our brain. In addition to causing depressant effects by boosting GABA and lowering glutamate, it artificially increases our levels of dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter that allows us to find pleasure in certain activities. This is why it can be so hard to stop drinking: by artificially flooding our brain with dopamine, the brain gets used to getting its “reward” from the bottle instead of from other activities.

As a depressant, alcohol is also notorious for slowing down our thinking and clouding our mind in “brain fog.” Over time, our memory suffers and, if we really go overboard, we can even end up with alcohol-induced brain damage. Moreover, by disrupting our gut heath, alcohol interferes with the brain-gut connection, which, in turn, disrupts the levels of serotonin in our brain by affecting the bacteria in the gut, where some of our serotonin is produced. The result? Mood swings and emotional instability.

Luckily, thanks to neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to rewire itself and form new connections well into adulthood — much of this can be reversed or prevented by setting alcohol aside. And as the gut microbiome recovers, the gut-brain connection improves, and our mood stabilizes. Here’s what to expect:

  • First week. As the alcohol-induced brain fog lifts, our mind begins to clear, and the neurotransmitter levels start to stabilize. 
  • Weeks 2-4. Our concentration sharpens, focus and memory improve, and neuroplasticity really starts taking effect.
  • Months 2-3. Memory and attention get even better, and neuroplasticity continues to work its magic.
  • Months 4-6. Our emotions stabilize and, by the half-year point, our cognitive abilities are clearly on the mend. Our executive functioning improves, and we can see definite changes in how much sharper our thinking has become.
  • Months 7-9. Our cognitive abilities continue to improve and consolidate. This is our new normal!
  • Months 10-12. We feel more stable than ever, and the risk of alcohol-related neurological problems goes way down. Who knew a year could make such a difference?

Part 3: Other Perks

The health benefits of going sober for a year are astounding, but that’s not even all! There is so much more to look forward to.

1. Financial Savings

Without the money spent on cocktails on the weekend or bottles of wine for dinners at home, the savings really add up. Just imagine the possibilities and new opportunities that open up. What will it be? A dream vacation to see the Mayan temples in Mexico? A new Peloton bike to continue the fitness journey that going booze-free has made easier? A romantic weekend getaway? The sky's the limit!

2. More Authentic Relationships

While we sometimes see alcohol as a way to be more “social,” much of that effect is actually an illusion. For one thing, our senses and minds are dulled by its depressant effects, preventing us from truly engaging with others, paying attention to what they are saying, and then remembering the interactions the following day. Without alcohol clouding our true personality, relationships become more authentic and interactions get more rewarding. And conversations are more meaningful if we can remember them the next day!

3. Career Growth

Anyone who has gone to work on Monday after partying a bit too hard on the weekend knows what a drag it can be. But it’s more than that — alcohol can really hold us back when it comes to advancing in our career. It’s the little things: a missed day here and there, an important meeting during which we find ourselves spacing out or (worse) dozing off — it adds up. Without booze in the picture and our full brain power at our disposal, it’s easier to reach our full potential.

Your Sober Year: How To Do It

Now that you know some of the benefits, why not try it for yourself? Here are some tips to start your sober year and keep it going as you watch the amazing changes happen.

  1. Think about your current relationship with alcohol. What would you like to change about it, and why? When do you tend to drink? How can you approach those situations when they come up? Don’t judge your current patterns — just note them and set an intention for the year. Pay special attention to what triggers you to drink and think about realistic ways to get around those triggers. It might mean scheduling alcohol-free activities for weekends when you know you used to drink in the past (such as holidays or specific times of year). The idea is to set yourself up for success from the start as much as possible.

  2. Share your plan with people who support you. Having a “tribe” of people you can lean on can make all the difference. If a lot of your friends or family members currently drink, find an online community (such as Reframe!) of people who are on the same path as you. These days, a support team is just a click away, and it’s right there with you whenever you need it.

  3. Nourish your body. As far as the body is concerned, make sure you’re nourishing it with good food, plenty of water, and regular sleep. All of these elements are essential as it rebuilds itself!

  4. Nourish your mind. At the same time, make sure that you nourish your mind as well. To help the neurotransmitter levels in the brain get back to normal, try some activities that naturally boost dopamine levels. Socialize with authentic, fulfilling connections, heart-to-heart conversations, or even by catching up over Zoom. Engage in activities that get your creative juices flowing — painting, coloring, gardening, creating a dance routine — anything that gets you in that dopamine-boosting “flow state.”

  5. Stay active. Exercise is a powerful tool to have at your side. Exercise will make the changes that are happening even more pronounced and longer-lasting. Plus, exercise releases endorphins and lowers cortisol levels, which helps with any cravings that come up, reduces depression, and lowers stress. Aerobic exercise has been found to be particularly useful in alcohol recovery. 

  6. Develop a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is all about watching your thoughts without judgment, which works wonders for getting and staying sober. It’s a science-backed way to dismiss cravings effectively, and it can significantly boost your overall emotional and mental stability. There are many types of meditation practices out there, as well as deep breathing exercises, yoga, and sound healing .

  7. Keep track of your progress. It can be incredibly gratifying to see the changes on paper (or on your screen), so keep track of your progress! If you take pictures of yourself at regular intervals (say, every week or month), you’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll see as you transform into a new healthier version of yourself. 

It Doesn’t End There

While a year can bring amazing changes, why stop there? After all, there’s so much to gain and really nothing to lose when you ditch alcohol for good. It might seem like a stretch right now, but leave the door open for the possibility of continuing this journey if you feel like it’s right for you. Rethinking your relationship with alcohol is, in the end, all about adding things to your life — not depriving yourself of anything or taking anything away. Who knows where it can take you in the months or years to come?

Summary FAQs

1. What are the physical benefits of one year of sobriety?

In a year of sobriety, your liver gets a chance to repair itself, reducing inflammation and liver fat, and decreasing the risk of liver disease. Heart health improves significantly with stabilized blood pressure and heart rate, reduced risk of arrhythmia, and improved cardiac fitness. Metabolism and digestion stabilize, leading to noticeable weight loss.

2. Does a year of sobriety impact mental and emotional health?

Yes! A year without alcohol can work wonders for mental and emotional health. The brain recovers from the effects of alcohol, enhancing memory, focus, and cognitive abilities. Emotional stability improves as the gut-brain connection strengthens.

3. Are there other benefits?

Definitely! Sobriety can lead to substantial financial savings, as money previously spent on alcohol can be redirected towards fulfilling experiences like travel or hobbies. Relationships also become more authentic and rewarding, as interactions are no longer clouded by alcohol, leading to deeper and more meaningful connections. Even your work and professional life can get better as your cognitive functions and overall performance improves.

4. What are some practical tips and strategies for starting and maintaining a year of sobriety?

To start a sober year, reflect on your current relationship with alcohol and set clear intentions. Make sure you have a supportive environment by sharing your plan with friends or joining online communities. Nourish your body with healthy food and regular exercise, engage in activities that boost dopamine naturally, and develop a mindfulness practice to manage cravings and stress.

Ready for a Year of Sobriety 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 millions 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 today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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