When you take an honest examination of how alcohol shows up in your life, it can be revealing. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that alcohol is the source of your discontentment. For many of us, the longer we ignored our drinking, the more obvious it became that alcohol was the cause of our distress.
Honesty is empowering. So if you’re unsure of where you stand with drinking, a good place to begin is by asking yourself some questions:
- Is this a true source of joy and fulfillment for me?
- Do I enjoy who I am when I drink?
- What impact does drinking have on me physically and mentally?
- Does alcohol give me the freedom to be the best version of myself?
There’s no shame in admitting that maybe alcohol doesn’t do it for you anymore. That’s okay. You’re not alone.
Life improves when we put down the drink, even if it’s hard to imagine at first.
“Taking control over your life in an autonomous way is a very powerful thing. Life gets better [when you quit drinking] because you have decided to prioritize yourself,” says Micia Harris, LPC.
When we make an effort to stick with something to improve our lives, even when it’s challenging, we act in a way that reminds us that we are worth caring for. We are worth compassion. Both drinking, and learning how to live without alcohol, are uncomfortable. The discomfort of not drinking paves the way for growth and healing, whereas continuing to drink can be harmful to us.
Whether you’re sober curious, a few months into recovery, or even several years into not drinking, it’s important to remember why you came to a crossroads with alcohol in the first place.
We’ve compiled a list of ways that quitting alcohol can elevate your life; some are immediate improvements and others are hard-earned milestones that come with time. Either way, the common thread is that life gets better when alcohol leaves the picture.
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Developing Deeper and More Sincere Connections
From an early age, most of us are shown that drinking is the way to bond with others. It’s easy to connect over bottles of wine and cocktails (probably too easy). So naturally, you may wonder how quitting alcohol will affect your social life.
Sobriety helps us connect authentically. So yes, you may lose surface-level relationships that were based on drinking, but getting more specific about who you spend time with could be the best thing for your overall health.
Loneliness is often associated with alcohol use disorder.
As Harris explains, “Alcohol is a depressant so consistent use can lead to developing a negative thought pattern that can affect how you view yourself and others and subsequently impact relationships.”
Feeling alone in a room full of people is devastating for one’s mental health and for their ability to connect with others. But quitting alcohol can be the jumping-off point for new healthy relationships. Recovery spaces (online and in-person) are popping up all over the place. Finding a community of like-minded sober people to laugh with, go to brunch with, take a hike with, or even set up Zoom rooms with are all totally within reach. Your social circle will look different when you quit drinking, but the exchange is worth it.
For Tempest member Gina Galloway Wood, removing alcohol allowed relationships to truly flourish.
“I have friendships I never could have nurtured if I was drinking. I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt. I am (usually) less judgmental, which makes me a better confidante,” they say.
Removing alcohol even leaves room for Galloway Wood to slow down and hand-write postcards with legible (sober) handwriting—something they would not have considered if they were drinking.
Walking Through Each Day with Clarity
Waking up with integrity and a full evening’s worth of memories is just one of the ways life gets clearer after quitting alcohol. Sobriety is often compared to getting a new pair of glasses because things finally start to make sense. Life comes into focus.
It’s hard to know just how clouded your experience and world view can get until you step out of the booze-driven haze. As Harris explains, removing alcohol clears the mind and can lead to more sound decision-making, which means individuals gain back control over their lives. When we walk with clarity, our life gets better because we are fully present in our choices.
Living Life in High Definition
If you stop by the sobriety scene on Instagram, you’ll see phrases like Life gets turned all the way on in sobriety in every font and brightly colored graphic imaginable. And it’s not wrong. Clarity is its own high for a lot of people in recovery. Because removing alcohol enhances the world around you in almost every way.
After Tempest member Jen quit drinking, everything got bigger and brighter.
“Colors are so much brighter. Music is on a whole other level of MAGIC. Food tastes and smells so much more flavor[ful]. Feelings feel SO MUCH BIGGER.”
Experiencing life to the fullest is one of the greatest parts of sobriety. Imagine eating dinner at a restaurant where the Bolognese and good company shine rather than the wine menu. Or envision a sleek outdoor venue carved into the mountains where you arrive early, find your seat and enjoy hours of life-changing music without worrying about where you’ll get your next watered-down drink. Life in sobriety is captivating when we pause.
Even simple pleasures like morning rain and crickets at dusk seem to shimmer. The details that often go unnoticed fill our cup when alcohol isn’t there to muddle down our experience.
But feeling it all in sobriety really means feeling. it. all. When you step into reality, you step into all of it: joy, love, pain, and sorrow. So when unfavorable emotions arise, they can seem unbearable at their new, higher volume and intensity. In these moments, try to remember that feelings are part of the human experience.
During an interview on the Insights at the Edge podcast, Pema Chödrön said, “Think of sadness as a connection to humanity.”
You’re not alone in feeling intense emotions, and they can all be expressed in a healthy way. Remember that a full life is always worth it.
A Starting Point for Mental Health and Healing
The joy alcohol brings is temporary. Even though that glowing bottle of wine may appear to improve your mood, it’s just a fast, momentary fix. Over time, alcohol actually reduces levels of serotonin in your brain according to Tempest’s Director of Clinical Operations, Ruby Mehta, LCSW.
Removing alcohol gives your body a chance to increase serotonin without depletion, so you may actually feel happier over time. Still, improved mental health doesn’t always happen immediately or seamlessly once we remove alcohol (and that’s okay). Sobriety can be the starting point for confronting mental health issues. For some, removing alcohol means seeing a change in mental health right away; for others, removing alcohol may reveal deeper issues, which can take more time to heal.
As Yolanda Renteria, BSW, MA explains, “The impact of quitting alcohol tends to be different for everyone since there are people whose excessive alcohol consumption impacts them in different ways, but it inevitably improves the way they see themselves and their overall mental health. Oftentimes when people do the work to improve their mental health and resolve their triggers, it helps them with their sobriety.”
It’s important to get sober AND do the work to heal. Instead of fearing this confrontation with ourselves, sobriety can be the basis for a lifetime of self-work and growth.
Embracing True Identity and Authenticity
Learning who you really are is a deep and personal journey that often unfolds when we remove alcohol. For Tempest member Jade, being transgender and learning about gender identity went right along with their relationship to drinking.
“It's why I talk about my identity and learning about myself so much. Being able to remove alcohol in my life has given me the mental space to allow myself to really listen to myself, and my body,” they said.
Quitting alcohol makes it hard to ignore our most authentic selves, so life gets better because we can tune into our truth and align our lives accordingly.
Improved Physical Health
Each person will heal differently based on their drinking history. Renteria says that since each person’s level of alcohol consumption varies, the physical benefits of stopping will vary. Some will notice physical improvement right away, while for others it may take more time.
“Research tells us that drinking increases the risk for cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, dementia, high blood pressure, stroke, digestive issues, pancreatitis, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Those risk factors decrease when people stop drinking,” she explains.
Renteria continues, “The other physical benefits of quitting alcohol include better sleep, better gut health, better concentration and memory, and even better skin!"
Time and Space to Nurture Creative Outlets
Sobriety is about discovery—and even rediscovery (in some cases). One of the first things people notice when they quit drinking, is how much extra time they have in a single day. This empty space can be the motivation you need to connect with passions and interests—all of which are deeply healing and fulfilling. Jen found peace with a younger version of themself through writing.
“I have returned to one of my greatest loves—writing. The 13-year-old girl nestled deep inside of me, whispers often, Welcome Home.”
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The quality of your life improves when you take drinking out of the picture, as Harris describes.
“Your life gets better because you have made a personal decision for yourself by yourself.”
The raw beginning of a sober life can be a launching point for self-improvement. But it’s important to recognize the difference between discomfort in sobriety and discomfort in active alcohol consumption; one is based on growth and the other on stagnation.
As you mull over the role alcohol plays in your life, it’s good to know the difference. Sure, drinking seems like the easy option because it’s familiar, but is it better?
Removing alcohol means walking side by side with clarity. It’s an opportunity to live intentionally and purposefully. We can’t predict how the quality of your life will improve after quitting alcohol--it’s different for everyone. But if you’ve already tried drinking with little success, maybe sobriety is the next step for you.
Maybe your physical health will improve. Maybe you’ll find real friends you didn’t know were missing, or maybe you’ll just have great skin and healthy organs (because that’s enough of a reason). Life does get better when you quit drinking. But there’s only one way to find out what that looks like for you.
- Why Does it Take So Long to Quit Drinking?
- How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?
- How Getting Sober Makes You More Resilient
Author bio: Jacqui Hathaway Levin is a freelance writer and new mom based in Orlando, FL. You can find her words in Real Simple, Parents, She Knows, and The Temper. Get to know her journey by following her on Instagram @jacqui.hathaway.