Changes you can expect to your body and mind when stopping drinking alcohol
I’ve been AF (alcohol-free) several times in my life, but never for this long, and I have no inclination to go back to my old lifestyle. When I started this journey, I was at a pretty low point in my life, the picture above on the left shows me when I was drinking heavily, night after night. It's probably after midday in the photo as well, and I'm still not dressed or showered. I would binge drink for several nights in a row, and then my body would crash. I have massive feelings of anxiety and paranoia, I was not able to leave my apartment for 24 hours. The feelings of paranoia and anxiety took days to alleviate, and then once I was feeling better, id go and get drunk again for several days in a row.
If you are looking for some extra motivation for stopping drinking, you have come to the right place. The main thing I'm excited about is all the health benefits that come packaged with not drinking alcohol anymore. I think it's plain to see that, as vain as it sounds, your looks are going to improve when you stop drinking.
My face was always bloated when I was on these drinking binges, and the binge is not a non-stop drinking session lasting 24+ hours. The binge I'm talking about can just be over a weekend, even this is enough to completely change your appearance. All it takes is a few hours of nightly drinking to make your face blow up, give you hamster cheeks and generally look 10 times worse than you would do if you were not drinking.
You know the feeling, you are feeling great after having not drank any alcohol for several days, and what is going to make this feeling even better you ask yourself? How about a nice cool refreshing pint! Yes! This is the answer to make your life greater than what it is, get down to the pub and have a few beers. This was how I felt as well each time I had a substantial break from alcohol, and I could not see the pattern forming for decade after decade.
If you want to see how much peoples appearances change when they have been drinking for some months or years, just have a walk into your local bar that you used to frequent when you were younger and see if you can spot any old familiar faces. You will see that, yes, they look older, but you will also see that they will be fatter and look significantly less healthy than they used to.
My friend recently went to watch England play against Germany in a bowling club with a bar attached (England won 2-0 by the way) and he said that everybody who used to go in there was still in there. But what he said was that they all looked older than before. Alcohol has a massive effect on your ageing.
Not only does it have a massive effect on your physical body, from gaining weight to killing your liver, it also has lasting effects on your mental health. Heavy drinking can make you dehydrated, and as we age, there is also less and less water in our bodies for some unknown reason. So the dehydration that alcohol causes can make you lose even more water in your body, making your chances of dehydration even higher.
Our skin gets thinner the older we get, it’s a natural process called intrinsic ageing, I'm afraid it's something that you have no control of as well. But you can control the amount of alcohol you intake, which also leads to premature skin ageing, as it dehydrates the skin, so the less you drink, the better your skin will look.
It's going to deteriorate your internal organs as well as your skin, making your internal organs less efficient, and possibly causing a fatty liver and making your kidneys weaker.
Alcohol can shrink your brain
Do you know that feeling that you are getting more stupid the more you drink? I used to say I need to make a decision now before my brain becomes muddled by alcohol. This is why people say a drink can go ‘straight to your head’. Heavy drinking over time can cause your brain cells to shrink, causing ‘Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD). This type of illness can create certain types of dementia, and for me, it creates dangerous situations such as lack of judgement, risk-taking and anger issues. Now I prefer to steer clear of people who are drinking.
Immune system weakened
With all the world problems today regarding various transmitted infections, it's probably a good idea to try and keep your immune system in the best shape possible. This can be especially important for older people, research shows that an alcoholic liver might be caused by your immune system attacking healthy body parts.
It can affect your heart
It's true to say that drinking a glass of red wine a day can help your cholesterol levels and protect your blood vessels. This is true only if you drink it in moderation, but I have trouble with moderation!
I don’t remember when I have ever drunk alcohol just for the taste alone, it's always for the effect of alcohol consumption, never just the taste alone. I hate just having one drink and finishing it there, I always need to get to a certain level before I stop drinking, which normally passed out. Often I don’t even get tired when I'm drinking, I can kind of battle my way through to the next drink until my body is completely out of sync with its body clock.
The older you get, the faster it will hit you
As we get older, our bodies will lose muscle and gain fat, our surrounding organs will be enveloped in fat, and alcohol will affect us quicker. Alcohol will not get broken down as quickly in our senior years, so it will take longer to recover from a hangover and also, you will find you will get drunk quicker as you age.
It makes your pre-existing medical symptoms worse
Alcohol may not make you get sick in moderation, but it can cause existing illnesses to worsen. Some studies have shown that illnesses such as diabetes, memory loss, high blood pressure, (this is true for me, my blood pressure goes through the roof if I've been drinking the night before) and mood disorders can be worsened if you are a heavy drinker.
It can change how your medication works
If you are prescribed medication, you need to read what it says on the bottle if you are going to be drinking. Mixing a suppressant such as Valium with alcohol can have life-threatening consequences and is not recommended. Mixing alcohol with illegal drugs can also cause problems as many people will already know. If you are mixing cannabis with alcohol, you can intensify either one of the drugs by using this cocktail, and it's not a nice feeling.
Make you more likely to fall over
I'm sure a lot of us who have had a few too many drinks have stumbled, or even fallen over. Hand up those of us who have a few scars from drinking alcohol? It might be reminiscent of the scene in the movie Jaws where they are comparing shark bites when you show off your drunken injuries between friends.
Falling over is just one consequence of heavy drinking that many people will be able to relate to, and it's just going to get worse the older your get. My next-door neighbour in the UK is a heavy Whiskey drinker. He has to wear a bracelet with an alarm if falls over, which has happened on numerous occasions.
Insomnia will become more prevalent the longer you drink
My mum suffers from insomnia, and I think she has passed it on to me. However, I have since learned how to combat it, and this is by quitting drinking. Providing I work hard during the day, I am able to keep to a regular body clock much more than I was when I was drinking alcohol and staying out late at night. I often felt the need to stay in the bar until the closing time just so I could have one more drink.
These days I am getting up at about 7 am, and working throughout the day on various businesses or studying. In the past, I would have great trouble falling asleep as somewhere inside my body, there was some alcohol working its way through my system.
This one benefit of not drinking is enough on its own to make me not want to restart drinking, a great nights sleep is worth its weight in gold (although it does not weigh anything!). If I can keep up with this sleep pattern, then I never want to go back to drinking ever again, there is nothing worse than feeling tired all day and lethargic.
OK, as hopefully, you can see by my before and after pictures, I look better than I did when I was drinking alcohol. Now if you don’t agree with me, I’ll accept that, but I'm still not going to restart drinking because you think I look better when I had a bloated face. The other health benefits outweigh any vanity I have as a non-drinker, so I'm not about to start drinking again for the following reasons.
1) better sleep, this has to be at the top of my list, I love getting a good nights sleep, and with the increased motivation I get each day to do more productive things, I'm actually tired at the end of the day rather than just sat on the sofa binge-watching episodes on Netflix.
2) Immune system weakened. There is no way I'm going to be taking any chance these days by having a weak immune system thanks very much! I want the best chance possible to stay alive right now, so anything I can do to increase this, I'm going to take it.
3) Heart conditions. I do have a medical condition with my heart, I have a heart murmur which was diagnosed when I was in my 20s. For this reason, I don’t want alcohol to accelerate my murmur. As well as this, I get high blood pressure and I don’t want to accelerate this either by drinking alcohol. My blood pressure always goes up the day after I've been drinking.
4) Falling over. Yes, I will admit it, I've fallen over a few times when I've been drunk, and I don’t want to do it again. I'm sure it's not the last time in my life that I’m going to fall over, especially as I get older. But I want to give myself every chance I can to avoid it.