For some, the idea of giving up alcohol completely may make them feel like they are giving up the ability to enjoy life or that they’ll be seen differently by friends and family when no longer drinking at important events and gatherings. Some may wonder if quitting drinking is even worth it—especially if they’ve never experienced a serious consequence from drinking—such as a DUI, a major health crisis, or the breakdown of a personal relationship.
However, even if you are not experiencing these types of negative outcomes from alcohol use, heavy drinking can affect your life in a number of detrimental ways in both the short- and long-term. If you’re concerned that your patterns of drinking or those of a loved one may be problematic, getting sober may reverse or eliminate the negative effects alcohol may be having on your physical and mental health, personal relationships, career and/or financial situation.
Below are some of the many benefits of sobriety that are worth considering when choosing whether to work toward sobriety and maintain a life of abstinence.
Benefits of Being Sober
Sometimes people think alcohol use is “heavy” or excessive only when the person consuming alcohol is passing out or becoming aggressive with others. However, what many people consider to be “social levels” of drinking are actually defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as heavy drinking.
For men, this is an excess of 15 drinks a week and 8 drinks per week for women.1 Therefore, if you are a woman who drinks 2-3 glasses of wine per night, 5-6 times per week, you would be considered a heavy user of alcohol. Whether you feel you may be abusing alcohol, or you consider yourself a social drinker, you may be displaying signs of alcohol abuse such as binge drinking which can lead to more serious issues in the future.
Binge drinking is considered greater than 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men on a single occasion—a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 g/dl or higher.1 According to the CDC, 1 in 6 adults binge drinks at least once a week in the U.S.1 Yet, while 9 out of 10 binge drinkers might not otherwise meet criteria for having an alcohol use disorder (AUD), binge drinking can still have serious consequences for a person’s health and well-being.
In addition, heavy alcohol use has many negative health outcomes and has been linked with:2
- Impaired brain functioning.
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Increased rates of liver disease.
- Increased rates of several types of cancers, such as breast, stomach, colon, and oral.
- Decreased ability to fight infections.
Chronic alcohol use and dependence have been further associated with erectile dysfunction as well as other forms of sexual dysfunction.3 Furthermore, in many people, alcohol use can trigger migraines and other forms of headaches.4
When a person stops using alcohol, even for a short period of time, these negative consequences may subside. When a moderate to heavy alcohol user stops drinking, they may experience:5
- Reduced risk of cancer.
- Better processing of insulin.
- Weight loss.
- Lowered blood pressure.
A 2019 study indicates that quitting drinking can lead to significant improvements in mental health, especially for women. Further, after 4 years of abstinence, the mental well-being of the former drinkers was nearly equivalent to people who never used at all.6
Heavy alcohol use is associated with significant negative impact on a person’s mental health, in part because of disruptions in brain communication pathways that otherwise work to keep a person’s brain functioning well.2 While it can be difficult to determine if a person’s alcohol use contributes to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis, it can be presumed that there is a link if these issues are no longer present after a person stops drinking. Even if alcohol doesn’t cause the mental health disorder, these disorders can be aggravated or made worse by the use of alcohol.7
Alcohol use can also negatively affect sleep patterns. While some people who have trouble falling asleep may attempt to use alcohol to help them sleep better, tolerance to any sedative or sleep-inducing effects develops quickly, and alcohol can cause more sleep problems.8 Impaired sleep, as well as daytime sleepiness, can occur in people who use large amounts of alcohol.8 This may lead to impaired cognition or the inability to perform normal, everyday tasks. Therefore, when a person suffering from sleep issues related to their alcohol use is able to quit drinking, it may reverse these negative effects and may lead to improved sleep.
Relationships with Family and Friends
In addition to the potential harm that heavy alcohol use has on your physical and mental health, it can also negatively impact your relationships with family and friends.
When a person in a marriage or domestic partnership is abusing alcohol, it can have detrimental outcomes for the relationship. Couples may argue over the use of alcohol, the impact it has on the family, or experience increased rates of domestic violence.9
In addition, alcohol dependence can interfere with a person’s attachment with others, which can impact their relationships to a spouse, children, or other people in their lives.10 A person with an unhealthy, insecure attachment style is more likely to lack trust of others, exhibit signs of fear, and isolate and detach from others, all of which are behaviors that are not likely to result in happy, loving relationships.10
Studies indicate that, across numerous groups and cultures, intimate partner violence is associated with heavier consumption of alcohol, though other factors are often involved.9 The decreased use of alcohol is likely to have the opposite effect of heavy drinking, and may result in fewer conflicts over drinking and decreased rates of domestic violence.9
Finances and Career
The cost of healthcare, as well as motor vehicle accidents, expenses incurred on various law enforcement departments, and lost workplace productivity due to excessive alcohol use are estimated to be over $223 billion in the United States alone.11
However, most people do not think about the impact of alcohol use on their financial well-being. One area where heavy alcohol use can impact you is related to your job. People who misuse alcohol are more likely to miss work, get fired, or have increased conflict with their boss and/or coworkers.12 And, if you misuse alcohol, you may be less likely to be promoted, which can negatively affect your earning potential.
Further, if you’re caught drinking and driving, you may be charged with a DUI which can result in additional financial burdens. A DUI typically includes fees for bail, attorneys, court fines, court-mandated classes, and public transportation costs due to the loss of a license or vehicle, though fees vary state-by-state. When all is said and done, a first-time DUI offense could potentially cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.
With what is spent on DUI fees alone, you could potentially save for a family vacation, a new car, or have an emergency savings should any issues arise in the future.
Learn about how we approach addiction treatment:
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If you’re ready to start on your path toward sobriety, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. Alcohol.org is a subsidiary of AAC, a nationwide provider of addiction treatment centers offering a combination of proven therapies and services to meet your individual needs.
Learn more about our approach to alcoholism treatment or call our admissions navigators 24/7 to discuss your options today. All calls are 100% confidential and we are committed to making treatment accessible to everyone in need.
. Centers for Disease Control. (2019). Excessive alcohol use.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s effects on the body.
. Prabhakaran, D. K., Nisha, A., & Varghese, P. J. (2018). Prevalence and correlates of sexual dysfunction in male patients with alcohol dependence syndrome: A cross-sectional study. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(1), 71–77.
. Panconesi A. (2016). Alcohol-induced headaches: Evidence for a central mechanism? Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, 7(2), 269–275.
. Mehta, G., Macdonald, S., Cronberg, A., Rosselli, M., Khera-Butler, T., Sumpter, C., … & Gander, A. (2018). Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open, 8(5).
. Yao, X. I., Ni, M. Y., Cheung, F., Wu, J. T., Schooling, C. M., Leung, G. M., & Pang, H. (2019). Change in moderate alcohol consumption and quality of life: evidence from 2 population-based cohorts. CMAJ, 191(27), E753-E760.
. National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism. Alcohol use and psychiatric disorders: Diagnostic challenges.
. National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism. Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use.
. AAMFT. (2020). Substance abuse and intimate relationships.
. Wyrzykowska, E., Głogowska, K., & Mickiewicz, K. (2014). Attachment relationships among alcohol dependent persons. Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, 27(2), 145-161.
. Centers for Disease Control. (2018). Excessive drinking is draining the US economy.
. French, M. T., Maclean, J. C., Sindelar, J. L., & Fang, H. (2011). The morning after: Alcohol misuse and employment problems. Applied Economics, 43(21), 2705–2720.