Have you questioned your relationship with alcohol? Perhaps you have decided to cut back on your intake or take some time away from drinking in an effort to improve your health. Or maybe you are considering giving up alcohol entirely. Regardless of your plan, knowing the benefits of sobriety can help you to stay motivated to reach your goals.
For some people, alcohol becomes an active member of their social circle. Meeting at a bar or having drinks with friends can easily become the default activity when you make social plans. For others, winding down at the end of the day with a cocktail or a glass of wine is part of a regular routine. If drinking has become engrained in your daily rituals, changing the habit can be difficult. But understanding the health benefits of sobriety from month to month can help you navigate those challenges so that you develop the relationship with alcohol that works best for you.
Benefits of Sobriety at 1 Month
"Abstaining alcohol for a month is the beginning of significant health benefits for the mind, body, and soul," says Dr. Vanessa Kennedy, Ph.D., Director of Psychology for Driftwood Recovery. She notes that alcohol can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. When you get better sleep, more health benefits follow.
For example, Dr. Kennedy notes that getting a better night's rest can help improve a person's mental clarity, energy levels, and even their mood. "Most individuals find that they experience more consistency in their mood and less anxiety," says Dr. Kennedy. Which, she points out, can improve relationships and help people to discover that they can have fun without alcohol.
But that's not all that going booze-free for a month has to offer. Additional health benefits include:
- Clearer skin due to decreased inflammation
- Decreased amount of fat in the liver
- Improved digestion, better regulated digestive processes, and reduced bloating
- Increased bone density
- Lower blood pressure
- Potential weight loss due to consuming fewer calories from alcohol and making healthier eating choices
- Reduced cholesterol and lower glucose levels.
"Depending on the level of intake, individuals can begin experiencing health benefits as soon as a few weeks into their abstinence from alcohol," says Dr. Kennedy.
Benefits of Sobriety at 2 Months
In month two of sobriety, you are likely to experience even more benefits. "Many individuals begin to develop greater health benefits that are more sustained," says Dr. Kennedy. You can experience even greater improvements to your skin, quality of sleep, immune system, and even liver function. "People also tend to develop longer-term strategies at this point," notes Dr. Kennedy. You might find the motivation to make other healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise or cutting out excess sugar.
According to Dr. Kennedy, staying sober can even help you gain more confidence. At month two, it is likely that you've learned to navigate social events, pressures, and drinking triggers. Perhaps you are learning to enjoy mocktails instead of alcoholic drinks. "(People) tend to learn that others won't care or judge their behavior as they may have previously worried," says Dr. Kennedy. And that acceptance can go a long way.
Benefits of Sobriety at 3 Months
It may not come as a surprise, but the health and wellness benefits of sobriety will continue to grow in your third month without alcohol. You might continue to see positive changes in your mood and physical health.
"Alcohol increases cortisol, a stress hormone that can inhibit weight loss," notes Dr. Kennedy. She points out that when cortisol becomes regulated after abstaining from alcohol, the body is better able to manage the effects of stress and even regulate weight. But the internal benefits don't stop here.
"White blood cells increase, which helps to improve the body's ability to fight off illness," says Dr. Kennedy. She also points out that improved liver function helps the body better filter out toxins that can improve skin. And, she notes that many people find themselves staying more hydrated because they drink beverages other than alcohol.
Benefits of Sobriety at 6 Months
A half year of sobriety is a huge milestone. Six months of commitment takes a lot of resilience, mindfulness, and support. And, you might find that you have grown and changed as a whole.
"While many of the physical benefits of abstinence from drinking alcohol begin earlier than 6 months, the more enduring emotional and psychological benefits tend to kick in at 6 months of sobriety," notes Dr. Kennedy. She points out that these health benefits can take a bit longer to develop because it gives people enough time to learn how to navigate a sober lifestyle.
"Some individuals find that they have changed their lifestyle quite dramatically in a relatively short period of time," she says. For example, people might have to cut out friends or relationships that aren't supportive of their sober lifestyle. She also notes that adjusting to these changes can lead to increased self-esteem and self-awareness.
Benefits of Sobriety at 12 Months
According to Dr. Kennedy, it can take up to a year or more of sobriety for the body to fully return to equilibrium. "A person can absolutely continue to feel the benefits of staying sober as long as they abstain," she notes. Also, she says that after a year without alcohol a person can reduce their risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, a landmark study measuring the long-term effects of sobriety published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly found that sobriety can actually make a person more helpful. The study was limited to 11 participants that had at least 10 years of sobriety in a 12-step program under their belts.
The study measured their self-reported scores for helping behaviors at home, work, and in their 12-step program at one month before they become sober, at one year of sobriety, and in the present. The results showed that all participants increased their helping behaviors since the start of their sobriety.
If you're curious about how you will feel or what changes may come about in your life if you go booze-free, it might be a good time to embrace a sober month. Listen to your body. Practice mindfulness. And do what feels right for you.
Sobriety Benefits FAQs
I've heard about charity sober months, like Dry January or Sober October. Can anyone participate in a sober month?
Sober months are best for people who are low-risk drinkers. Low risk drinking for women means consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and no more than seven per week. For men it means consuming no more than two alcoholic beverages per day or 14 per week. These widely-promoted sober month challenges are not meant for people with alcohol dependency, as it could pose a serious health risk.
What are some common sober month challenges?
There are many sober month challenges to choose from. Start the year off with a Dry January. Or, give yourself a break during the summer months with a Sober September or Dry July. You can even start your fall off booze-free with Sober October. Or, choose any month that works for you, and stick to your goal.
What are some tips for staying sober?
There are many ways to help yourself meet your sobriety goals. Go sober with friends and family to gain community support, make the switch to mocktails, and always bring an alcohol-free drink with you when you attend social gatherings.
What are some resources for alcohol dependency?
If you are struggling with alcohol dependency, there are resources available. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357. You can also explore the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's website to find treatment options that work for you. You can also sign up for a support group with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or find an addiction therapist that fits your needs.