It might be slightly controversial, but there are a lot of reasons why giving up alcohol might actually be harder than giving up smoking.
Both of these vices are addictive, but there is one major difference between the two; smoking is a habit that is becoming less and less socially acceptable.
The implementation of public smoking laws in 2007 along with the numerous public health campaigns and the highly stressed link between lighting up and cancer risks have all played a large role in the rapidly growing numbers of smokers deciding to kick the habit.
Alcohol is a different beast. While there are health campaigns assigned to drunk driving and the dangers of binge drinking, the emphasis is on careful consumption and sensible decision making rather than encouraging us to go completely cold turkey.
The fact of the matter is that drinking alcohol is an integral part of our culture. The likelihood is that if you’re thinking about giving up the drink, a lot of the dilemmas you will encounter along the way are much more to do with what other people think about your choice. It is a sad truth that the non-drinker among us often experiences criticism and ostracism for their healthy choices.
Is it Really That Bad for Me?
A second issue is that people often don’t realize how detrimental their nightly tipple or Friday night blow-out is to their health.
Alcohol has numerous short and long-term health impacts that can include everything from urinary tract infections to chronic liver disease and memory loss. Studies have shown that alcohol is, in fact, more harmful in most cases than class A drugs such as heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.
A large catalog of chronic, and often fatal, health conditions have been demonstrated to either be caused or exacerbated by alcohol combustion, and trends show a conclusive correlation between drinking and non-cardiac mortality rates[2,3].
What Happens if I Stop Drinking?
There is a large research-backed case for making the decision to give up your drinking habit. Whether you are prone to a couple of glasses of wine in an evening or regular big weekends with your friends and family, ditching or reducing the quantity of alcohol you consume is well worth your while.
Trust us – you’ll notice the difference!
The Health Benefits
- You’ll feel better: You might not believe it now, but try it and you’ll quickly see – ditching the drink will make you feel so much better within yourself. This isn’t just about the morning after a “heavy night” either. Drinking less will leave you feeling more energized, fresh and vibrant on a daily basis.
- You’ll look better: Less alcohol means healthier skin , hair, teeth, and nails! Your body is going to be better hydrated and under less strain to remove excess toxins from your system, which leads to a healthy, glowing you.
- You’ll sleep better : Alcohol disturbs sleep. This is something you’ve probably noticed when you’ve woken up feeling exhausted after one too many at the bar. Taking alcohol out of the equation will allow you to start getting more high-quality sleep on a regular basis.
- You’ll lose weight : Liquid calories are a key aspect of our day-to-day nutrition that is often forgotten about. Alcohol can get very calorific very quickly, and most of us are too busy to count calories when there are drinks involved. Skipping the cocktails and opting for a diet soda when you go out will save you from consuming large amounts of excess energy that will go on to become stores of fat. Lose the drink and you may well find yourself losing the pounds too!
- Your internal health will improve : Your heart, your kidneys, and your liver will be incredibly grateful for the break from the all the toxins they’ve been dealing with each time you’ve sat down for an alcoholic beverage.
- No hangovers: It seems obvious but it’s surprisingly miraculous when you get to spend your whole weekend bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and getting in some quality time with the people you care about, rather than being curled up on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself and your aching head.
The Financial Benefits: You’ll Save Money
Something else you might be feeling sorry for while you’re curled up on that sofa is your wallet!
Alcohol can be expensive, especially if you’ve gone out to a bar for the evening. Removing this expense from your outgoings will save you a surprising volume of cash, and it’s guaranteed that you won’t even miss those drinks.
The Social Benefits
At the moment, you might feel like quitting drinking will be detrimental to your social life, but you’ll probably end up proving yourself wrong.
Many of us do have friends who we don’t see unless everyone has a drink in hand. While there’s nothing wrong with catching up over a pint every once in a while, you’ll gain far greater social stability when you start exploring other activity options.
Sober time with friends and family will often lead to closer, healthier and more open relationships, not to mention more intelligent and interesting conversations. Next time you want a catch-up, try doing it over a coffee or a walk in the park instead of a glass of wine.
The Mental and Emotional Benefits
Alcohol can have a huge negative impact on not only your physical wellbeing but your mental wellbeing too[8,9].
High levels of alcohol consumption have been shown to correlate with depression and anxiety, and many individuals report feeling worse after drinking than before they began.
When you stop drinking alcohol, you’re likely to notice an overall improvement in your mood, alongside the additional benefits of improved concentration and productivity.
Tips to quit drinking
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and give up alcohol, it’s probably going to feel a bit strange, to begin with. Everyone's experience stopping alcohol will be different depending on who they are and what sort of drinker they used to be. [10,11]
That being said, our quick collection of tips are likely to help you out no matter who you are:
1. Avoid ‘triggers’
Your ‘cravings’ are going to be at their worst when you place yourself in situations that you would usually associate with drinking, so it might be a good idea to avoid these situations, especially in the first couple of days or weeks of your mission to quit.
2. The weekend will be harder
The weekend will probably be harder. If you can last the weekend, treat yourself in a non-alcoholic manner.
Getting through your weekend alcohol-free will likely remain the most difficult part of your week for a while since we usually wind down after a tough week with a drink or two.
3. Go to the gym on Friday and/or Saturday nights
By getting your workout in on Friday and Saturday evenings, you’ll be more tired and less keen to go out. There’s also the potential that you won’t feel like going out drinking as it counteracts the hard work that you just put into your workout.
4. Don’t avoid social gatherings altogether
Avoiding social gatherings completely is a sure fire way to end up lonely and feeling like alcohol is a necessary part of the fun in your life. You might want to pick and choose the events you go to a little more carefully, but there is no reason you can’t go out with your friends just as regularly as you did before.
5. Find someone to hold you accountable
Find someone to quit with you. Doing things with a friend is always more fun and motivating. You can help by keeping each other on track, making the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
6. Set a fixed goal
Start small by setting an achievable goal (e.g. I won’t drink for 30 days) to make your task seem more manageable and to improve your chances of succeeding.
Before you go…
Stopping alcohol is not likely to be an easy process for even the most committed individuals. It’s important to remember all the positives you’re achieving and the reasons why you made your decision in the first place.
Along the way, it is likely you’ll be met with temptation and barricades, with many people seeing the refusal to join in with drinking activities as anti-social or rude – keep in mind this is their problem, not yours.
This article has only scratched the surface of the many benefits of quitting drinking. There is, of course, nothing wrong with indulging every so often, but if you decide to make alcohol a thing of your past you will soon discover a life without drinking is an improved one.
 Asher, Marilyn K., et al. “Perceived barriers to quitting smoking among alcohol dependent patients in treatment.” Journal of substance abuse treatment 24.2 (2003): 169-174.
 Shaper, A. G., and S. G. Wannamethee. “Alcohol intake and mortality in middle-aged men with diagnosed coronary heart disease.” Heart 83.4 (2000): 394-399.
 Shaper, A. Gerald, Goya Wannamethee, and Mary Walker. “Alcohol and mortality in British men: explaining the U-shaped curve.” The Lancet 332.8623 (1988): 1267-1273.
 Shellow, William VR. “The skin in alcoholism.” International journal of dermatology 22.9 (1983): 506-510.
 Morita, Emi, Soichiro Miyazaki, and Masako Okawa. “Pilot study on the effects of a 1-day sleep education program: influence on sleep of stopping alcohol intake at bedtime.” Nagoya journal of medical science 74.3-4 (2012): 359.
 Wannamethee, S. Goya, and A. Gerald Shaper. “Alcohol, body weight, and weight gain in middle-aged men.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 77.5 (2003): 1312-1317.
 Potter, J. F., and D. G. Beevers. “Pressor effect of alcohol in hypertension.” The Lancet 323.8369 (1984): 119-122.
 Regier, Darrel A., et al. “Comorbidity of mental disorders with alcohol and other drug abuse.” Jama 264.19 (1990): 2511-2518.
 Loranger, Armand W., et al. “The international personality disorder examination: The World Health Organization/Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration international pilot study of personality disorders.” Archives of General Psychiatry 51.3 (1994): 215-224.
 Dorsman, Jerry. How to quit drinking without AA: A complete self-help guide. Prima Pub., 1997.
 Sanchez-Craig, Martha. Saying when: How to quit drinking or cut down. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2015.
John has been a fitness enthusiast for over 10 years, starting out while struggling with obesity as a teenager. Over the years he has advised numerous clients on how to transform their physiques and their lives. As a writer on Nutrition Inspector he aims to help others achieve real results by staying clear of the common hype and false claims in the supplement industry!