I gave up alcohol for the entire year in 2023 and there are obvious health benefits and some lessons that I learned that might not be as clear cut.
For starters, I decided to quit drinking alcohol for my brain and my budget.
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I’ve had two concussions (one when I fell at a bowling alley for my kindergarten birthday party and the other during a soccer game in high school under the lights) and last year I got into some credit card debt (paging Dave Ramsey – don’t worry, I enrolled in Financial Peace University and I’m going through the Baby Steps).
I was a social drinker. I never drank on my own, but I took a trip to Europe with some friends from college and I drank too much. The nail in the coffin for me was when I chugged wine (don’t recommend it) and ended up throwing up in my bathroom and knocking down my towel rack. I told myself something I’d repeated many times: “I’m never drinking again.”
With the high cost of mixed drinks (I don’t like beer) and wine, it wasn’t too difficult for me to decide to stop drinking and with the amount of debt I racked up, a year seemed like a good start.
I opted for “alcohol free” mouthwash and for the grape juice during communion.
While those can be tempting, I wanted to see how choosing no alcohol would impact my body.
Health Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol Anymore
Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain specialist, has explained there are no health benefits to drinking alcohol, even in small doses.
The “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” author recommends giving up alcohol altogether because even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of dying early and disrupt brain function.
“For decades studies have suggested that moderate drinking is good for your health. Ever since I’ve been looking at the brain for 32 years I’m like no it’s not,” Amen said in a video on TikTok, adding the studies were funded by, guess who, the alcohol industry themselves.
@docamen Research was published in JAMA "Association between daily alcohol intake and risk" #fyp ♬ original sound – Daniel G. Amen, MD
Five scary ways alcohol damages the brain
1. Shrinks brain volume People who drink just 1-7 drinks per week have smaller brains than nondrinkers, according to a 2008 study at Johns Hopkins that appeared in This same research found that people who have two or more drinks per day have even more brain shrinkage.
2. Lowers blood flow to the brain The brain scans of heavy drinkers show reduced overall blood flow to the brain. The brain uses 20 per cent of the blood flow in your body and it is critical for healthy brain function. When levels are low it can lead to a laundry list of problems— brain fog, poor decision-making, trouble concentrating, impulsivity, and more.
3. Causes atrophy of the hippocampus Drinking 1-2 glasses of wine a day, which is considered ‘moderate’ drinking, leads to atrophy in the hippocampus – a critical brain region for learning and memory.
4. Reduces the number of new brain cells Excessive alcohol consumption lowers the generation of new brain cells, especially in the hippocampus, according to animal research presented at Neuroscience in 2009. In the study, monkeys that consumed alcohol experienced a 58 per cent decline in the number of new brain cells formed and a 63 per cent reduction in the survival rate of new brain cells.
5. Increases the risk of dementia Compared with non-drinkers and light drinkers, moderate to heavy drinkers have a 57 per cent higher risk of dementia, according to research in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A. Drinking can literally make you lose your mind. Source: Amen Clinics
Health benefits from ceasing alcohol consumption:
There are several benefits of quitting alcohol. ClearLife Recovery made some great graphics to help show them.
Some benefits include better:
- vitamin retention
- physical hydration
- immune system
- energy levels
It also lowers:
- blood pressure
- inflammation and more
Check them out
You can also improve your mental health:
- increased and balanced serotonin levels
- reduced neurotoxicity
- better concentration
- improved memory
- overall mental health
Check ’em out:
It doesn’t stop there.
You can also improve your body image:
- better sleep
- improved hair quality
- reverses ‘over-aging’ skin effect from alcohol
- aids in weight loss
- prevents excessive bloating
Check them out:
Personal Benefits from Quitting Alcohol
Now, I’ll share the benefits I’ve noticed over the last year from no longer consuming alcohol.
Benefits for my Budget
I saved money when I went out with friends. You don’t spend as much money when you don’t drink alcoholic drinks – which have a large margin.
I would opt for water or a lemonade or soft drink instead when I went out with friends. I typically only had to pay for one drink instead of several.
Some places serve “mocktails” and you have to be careful because they can definitely upcharge them. The other concern is sugar consumption.
I also started budgeting my time and money better without alcohol.
Benefits for my Brain and Body
This year I’ve taken a mental health life consulting class, started cold plunging, moved cities, started a new job, and recently became an uncle – so they may or may not be related to no longer consuming alcohol.
In the last few months, I’ve noticed a lot more clarity throughout the day. I don’t have mental fogginess in the afternoon and I show up to work alert.
And while I’d like to improve my physical health, I’ve been consistently hitting the gym this year.
It’s been easier to stick to my routine and schedule.
Just quitting alcohol isn’t necessarily a good thing. You have to have a reason and purpose. If you’re trying to do it, I encourage you to set a start and end date to lower the stakes and give yourself a goal. Tell those around you so you don’t have to second guess yourself. You can do it!