Quitting Alcohol Timeline: What to Expect in Weeks 1-3
Last Updated: November 15, 2023
Quitting alcohol can be challenging, but the benefits of abstaining can improve your overall health and happiness.
Stopping alcohol can seem daunting, especially if you use it frequently or if it is a central part of your social life. Quitting alcohol, however, can offer many different benefits. You can feel better, decrease your risk of diseases, think more clearly, save money and even improve your relationships. While there are some short-term withdrawal effects, the long-term benefits are well worth the effort.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Alcohol?
When you quit alcohol after using it consistently, your body spends about a week to a week and a half adjusting to its absence. This can create dangerous withdrawal symptoms but will typically fully resolve within two weeks.
The First 24 Hours
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally begin within 12–24 hours after your last drink. They will initially be milder, with a headache, tremors and mild anxiety being the first symptoms. While mild at first, they will begin to intensify as withdrawal progresses.
A day and a half after quitting alcohol, withdrawal symptoms will intensify. New symptoms will develop, including clammy skin, nausea, jumpiness, insomnia, depression and loss of appetite. As new symptoms develop, they will become more and more intense as withdrawal progresses.
The peak of withdrawal often occurs after about 48–72 hours after your last drink. This is the hardest part of withdrawal. At this point, all symptoms that are going to happen will be present and will be at their worst. The most dangerous symptoms that can develop will do so as symptoms peak. Seizures can occur, and an uncommon but dangerous condition called delirium tremens can happen at this point in withdrawal. Delirium tremens has a fatality rate of 37% if untreated and is considered a medical emergency.
After the peak of withdrawal, symptoms will start to subside. They will become less intense, and symptoms will disappear one by one. Physical symptoms will be much better by a week after stopping for most people.
If physical symptoms last beyond seven days, they will generally be over sometime in the middle of week two. After the intense physical strain of withdrawal, people will often be fatigued. Non-physical symptoms, like cravings and desire for the comfort alcohol provides, may become more noticeable as the distraction of physical symptoms subsides.
Week One Benefits
As early as one week after stopping alcohol, you will likely begin to see benefits. The physical symptoms of withdrawal will be past their worst for most people, and the benefits of quitting alcohol will start to be noticeable.
You’ll Sleep Better
Alcohol might help you get to sleep faster, but it keeps you from reaching the deepest, most restorative stages of sleep. As you experience fatigue from the strain of withdrawal, you will likely begin to notice that the sleep you get is far more restorative and that you feel much better when you wake up in the morning. The effects of high-quality sleep will continue to build each day.
You’ll Be Less Dehydrated
Alcohol causes you to produce excessive amounts of urine, leading to dehydration. If you’ve been drinking for a while, you will probably be surprised by how much being sufficiently hydrated improves your health. Chronic dehydration can affect how you feel, how your skin looks, your hair quality and your overall well-being. By the first week after stopping alcohol, you will be more hydrated. The effects of being well-hydrated will continue to build, having more positive results as you continue sobriety.
Week Two Benefits
After two weeks without alcohol, the benefits will start to compound. You will probably be well out of withdrawal and mostly recovered from the ordeal. By this point, you will have had about 6,000 fewer calories than you would have previously during a two-week period. This means that you will probably have lost about two pounds. Saving the money you would have spent on alcohol will provide you $300–$400 or more by this second week. New benefits will also become noticeable as you put withdrawal behind you.
Your Gut Will Begin Healing
Alcohol causes inflammation in the lining of your stomach, causing bloat and other digestive issues. By your second week, your gut will begin to heal, and many of these issues will start to subside. You may notice less heartburn, gassiness, bloating and stomach pain, and your bowel movements may become more normal.
Week Three Benefits
By week three, you will have saved about $450–$600 from not buying alcohol. Your calorie intake will be about 9,000 calories less, leading to a potential drop in weight of about three pounds. Withdrawal will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory. While you will still likely have some alcohol cravings, you will probably feel pretty good about quitting alcohol.
Your Blood Pressure Will Decrease
While it may not be something you perceptibly notice, one huge health benefit from stopping alcohol will occur by your third week of not drinking. Using alcohol frequently or consistently increases your blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. By your third week of abstinence, your blood pressure levels will become more healthy, potentially allowing you to discuss with your doctor the possibility of decreasing or even stopping blood pressure medications.
Week Four Benefits
By the end of your first month of sobriety, the benefits of better sleep, improved hydration, spending less and decreased calorie intake will be growing. You will likely have saved over $800 and avoided about 12,000 calories or more, allowing you to lose at least four pounds. By the end of this first month, your recovery will be well underway, and your struggle with alcohol will begin to become more of a distant memory than a recent struggle.
Your Skin and Hair Will Look Better
The dehydrating effect of alcohol affects your skin and your hair significantly. As you have four weeks of better hydration, improved sleep and better overall health, it will noticeably affect your skin and hair. Your skin may appear fuller and healthier in consistency and quality. Skin problems, like acne, may begin to improve. If your alcohol use distracted you from skin and hair hygiene, then the effects of sobriety can be even greater. After four weeks of hair growth without the effects of alcohol, your hair may appear fuller and more supple.
Your Liver Function Will Begin To Improve
Alcohol can cause inflammation and damage to your liver when used heavily over prolonged periods. After stopping alcohol, inflammation in your liver caused by alcohol will subside. Most of this inflammation will be gone by your fourth week of abstinence. While any scarring caused by liver inflammation (called cirrhosis) will be permanent, the effects of inflammation itself will be almost completely resolved by week four.
Long-Term Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
While there are many potential benefits that you should expect to see in your first month of sobriety, the positive effects of stopping alcohol will continue to follow you and grow throughout your life.
You’ll Consume Fewer Calories
Stopping alcohol will reduce the number of empty calories that you consume. This can have a tremendous impact on your weight and health. Not only will you reduce your overall calorie intake, but you will also likely replace some of these calories from healthier sources. This will lead to improved nutrition, which can profoundly impact your overall health, especially over time.
You’ll Spend Less Money
Heavy alcohol use is expensive, potentially costing you $800 each month or even more. Over a year, this is close to $10,000. Stopping alcohol won’t just put a bit of extra change in your pocket; it has the potential to have a sizable impact on your income and the lifestyle you can live.
You May Live a Longer Life
Serious alcohol misuse can decrease your lifespan by as much as 28 years compared to those who don’t drink. This huge change in lifespan is due to the numerous medical problems that alcohol can cause. Heavy alcohol use can affect the health of your heart, brain, kidneys, liver, pancreas and digestive tract. It can also increase your risk for many different types of cancers. Stopping alcohol can reduce many of these risks, potentially adding decades to your life expectancy.
You May Grow Closer to Your Loved Ones
Alcohol can strain or destroy relationships. It can make your family and friends feel as if you are choosing an addiction over them and cause you to act in ways that are destructive to relationships. The effects of alcohol can even make you abusive or cause you to harm others emotionally.
Stopping alcohol can help you to heal broken relationships. Even deciding to become sober and following through on it can be a powerful catalyst for repairing relationships, demonstrating how serious you are about focusing on others. Relationships are complicated, and each one will develop and heal in different ways and timeframes. Stopping alcohol, however, can make healing possible that would not be otherwise.
You May Feel Happier
Alcohol can worsen depression and be an emotional crutch, making it difficult to experience true happiness outside of drinking. Stopping alcohol can make you feel happier by allowing you to experience positive emotions without alcohol. Quitting alcohol can help reduce the depression and anxiety that alcohol can bring and significantly improve your situation in life, increasing your overall happiness.
You’ll Think More Clearly
Alcohol suppresses brain activity. When you constantly have some alcohol in your bloodstream, you will not think as clearly. Many people who use alcohol heavily for a prolonged period often don’t even recognize the perpetual fog that alcohol creates. When you stop drinking, it can feel like entering a whole new world and like a fog that you didn’t even know was there has suddenly lifted.
How To Stop Drinking Alcohol Safely
Stopping alcohol is worth it, but it can be an uncomfortable and even dangerous experience. Anyone stopping alcohol should discuss their plan with a doctor and seriously consider undergoing a medically-supervised detox. Medical detox ensures you will be as safe as possible by providing 24/7 monitoring that helps recognize and treat complications effectively and as rapidly as possible.
Beyond the safety considerations, medical detox is a more comfortable, pleasant experience. Your healthcare team will help treat each symptom as soon as it develops and equip you for success. This can help you avoid much of the unpleasantness that can occur as withdrawal symptoms develop.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Georgia
At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we are committed to helping people like you or your loved one recover completely from alcohol addiction as safely and comfortably as possible. We aim to help you stop using alcohol and empower you to maintain lifelong sobriety.
Quitting alcohol may seem daunting; however, you can do it! You don’t have to take this journey alone; we are here to help you through each step of the way. Contact us today to learn how you can gain lasting freedom from alcohol.
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