Following December’s excesses, drinking less – or giving up alcohol altogether – is a common new year’s resolution. As such, Dry January, during which people voluntarily stop drinking alcohol for a month, has become somewhat of a post-holiday tradition.
Launched in 2012 by Alcohol Change UK, the purpose of Dry January is to make people aware of the role and impact of alcohol in their lives. Over the years, millions of people around the world have participated in the annual abstinence challenge with the aim of reaping the significant benefits.
What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol?
There are many reasons why quitting drinking can improve your life, but here are seven ways in which your body benefits to get you motivated to take part in Dry January:
1. Healthier liver: Most people know that alcohol wreaks havoc on the liver, creating damaging fatty changes and leading to an increased risk of cirrhosis. If you stop drinking, these negative effects are reversed, with positive changes occurring in as little as a few weeks.
2. Better skin: Consuming alcohol significantly dehydrates your body, which can lead to dull, dry, and flaky skin. Cutting out alcohol allows your body to better absorb water, resulting in dewy, brighter skin in as little as a week.
3. Weight loss: Alcohol is high in both calories and sugar and can spur cravings for fatty or sweet foods that further contribute to weight gain. Cutting alcohol from your diet will reduce stomach fat and improve your metabolism.
4. Improved sleep: While alcohol can make you feel sleepy initially, it actually disrupts sleep in several ways, from interfering with the restorative REM stage of sleep, to worsening symptoms of sleep apnoea and causing frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Quitting drinking will make you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
5. Reduced cancer risk: Regular drinking is associated with an increased risk for a variety of cancers, including of the oesophagus, mouth, throat, liver and breasts. Studies suggest that quitting drinking has the potential to lower these risks.
6. Improved brain function: Ever notice how foggy you feel after a night of drinking? The impacts of alcohol on the brain are numerous, well-documented, and potentially life-altering. When you stop drinking, your ability to retain information and remember events, regulate your mood, and solve problems improves, sometimes quite quickly.
7. Better heart health: Regular drinking is linked to high blood pressure and an increased level of LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’, which can cause arterial blockages. Stopping drinking allows levels of HDL or ‘good cholesterol’ to rise and can reduce your risk of alcohol-related heart failure or stroke.
How to stop drinking safely
If you decide to stop drinking, it is important to remember that it will take some time for your body to physically wean itself from alcohol. This is because over time, the central nervous system adjusts to the depressive effects of alcohol, which causes the brain to ramp up its response for the body to stay functional. In the absence of alcohol, this altered state causes a range of physical responses that make up what we know as withdrawal.
For those with a moderate dependency on alcohol, the first 24 hours of sobriety may be uncomfortable as their bodies detoxify, but after three days they will begin to feel better. Most people will have completely recovered from the physical symptoms of withdrawal after a month and will notice their health returning at this time.
For heavier drinkers, symptoms of withdrawal may be more severe and require medically supervised detox. As with moderate drinkers, their symptoms will begin within 24 hours of stopping alcohol use but will generally continue for a longer period.
Symptoms of withdrawal can differ based on the severity of the body’s dependency on alcohol, as well as what stage of withdrawal you are in. Generally, symptoms can occur as follows:
• 6 hours after your last drink: Symptoms can feel a lot like a hangover and may include headaches, nausea, sweating, vomiting, shaky hands, anxiety, and insomnia.
• 12-48 hours after your last drink: During this time, more serious problems can develop, including seizures and hallucinations.
• 48-72 hours after your last drink: A small percentage of people will experience deliriums tremens, or DTs, a severe symptom of withdrawal marked by delusions and lifelike hallucinations. This can be accompanied by heavy sweating, fever, elevated blood pressure, confusion, and a racing heartbeat.
If you are unsure of how your body will react to quitting drinking, consider reaching out to addiction specialists, like the team at The Dawn Rehab, to talk through different detox options.
Steps to make Dry January a success
Here are a few tips to keep you motivated during Dry January:
• Find a substitute: When you are craving a drink, fill your glass with fruit-infused or flavoured sparkling water, or another delicious non-alcoholic alternative.
• Avoid temptation: Don’t keep alcohol in the house and when visiting others, take your own non-alcoholic drinks with you.
• Seek support: Let friends and family know about your intentions so they can encourage you, keep you accountable, and even do the challenge with you.
• Change your thinking: Instead of focusing on what you’re giving up during the month, think about what you are gaining. It may be helpful to keep a journal.
• Don’t give up: While the goal is a month of sobriety, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you slip up, forgive yourself and start again.
If you find that you are struggling to cope without having a drink, or you realise that you may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol as Dry January progresses, you may need professional help.
Getting help for alcohol addiction
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab is an alcohol rehab in Thailand that offers personalised treatment plans that focus on the underlying mental health issues that cause people to develop substance use disorders. It offers the ideal opportunity to remove yourself from your triggers by choosing to go to rehab abroad, which is especially beneficial for people serious about overcoming addiction issues.
Its highly effective addiction programme is designed to help you get to the root of your addiction and develop healthy, lifelong coping skills. The Dawn takes a holistic approach to addressing mental health and addiction issues, using proven psychotherapeutic methods together with wellness practices to strengthen the mind and body.
To learn more about how The Dawn can help you successfully quit drinking, visit https://thedawnrehab.com/