Sober October is upon us, meaning many will be consciously avoiding alcohol for the month.
Note: heavy drinkers and those struggling with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) should not attempt to quit drinking “cold turkey” during Sober October without professional supervision. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe and can even include seizures. Additionally, because AUD is a chronic condition that impacts the brain’s reward system, quitting drinking for one month would be insufficient for those with AUD, who should strive for long-term sobriety. While Sober October is most beneficial for moderate drinkers, anyone can reap the advantages of sustained sobriety. Here are five ways sobriety can enhance overall well-being:
1. Improved internal health
First, there’s no question that alcohol affects our internal organs. It is known to impact our liver’s functioning and, with enough use, can cause long-term health effects, such as cirrhosis and liver failure. All drugs and alcohol affect the brain and its functioning. Sobriety allows for healing and prevention of any additional damage to our internal organs and, as a result, reduces a person’s chances of experiencing heart failure, diabetes, kidney and liver diseases, and other negative health outcomes.
2. Improved sleep and energy
Some may be under the impression that alcohol can help with sleep, but in reality, the reverse is true. Alcohol keeps us in REM sleep instead of allowing us to enter deep sleep. As a result, we may feel fatigued and have little energy the next morning. Drugs and alcohol may help us fall asleep, but when we’re under the influence, our sleep is often disrupted. Sobriety allows us to get more quality sleep, leaving us more well-rested and energized.
3. Improved decision making
Most of us can relate to making some bad decisions when we’re drinking. Alcohol is a disinhibitor, which means that many impulses we normally manage, we no longer care about or are able to control. Additionally, substance use can hijack the reward pathway in our brains. When this happens, the part of our brain responsible for tasks such as decision making, planning, reasoning, and problem solving is compromised or bypassed completely. As we become sober and maintain sobriety, the reward pathway in the brain returns to functioning as it should. This has positive implications for improved performance at work, at home, and in other social situations.
4. Improved connection and relationships with others
Prolonged drinking or drug use often means that our substance of choice has become more important than food, our physical health, and our relationships. Thus, our tolerance to the substance increases, requiring more and more of it to feel good. When we’re sober and our neuropathways are healing, our pleasure baseline starts to return to normal. This means that those things we did find pleasurable can become so again. As the part of our brain responsible for personality development, social development, and decision making starts to reintegrate, we can find that we’re able to connect with others again and enjoy it. Whereas before we may have been constantly preoccupied with how and when we were going to drink, now we can be more present with others.
5. Improved mood
We often associate alcohol with improved mood; isn’t that why we drink in the first place? For those who drink to manage anxiety, sadness, and/or anger, they may find that they get short-term relief, but eventually those emotions return tenfold. Sobriety can intensify some of these emotions, as we’re suddenly left feeling very raw and vulnerable. But sobriety also provides the opportunity to stop self-medicating and learn how to manage emotions in a healthy and sustainable way, thus improving overall mood in the long-term.
Those who suspect they have a drinking problem can heal, and medically monitored detoxification is often the first step to ensure safety and comfort. Mountainside treatment center assists people by not only removing toxins from the body but also by offering counseling to help people recognize the underlying issues that may be causing them to drink, capitalize on their strengths for sobriety, and develop recovery maintenance skills moving forward. Learn more about what Mountainside does by calling 888-200-5802.
Written by Erin O’Neil, LCSW