7 Surprising Things That Happen When You Stop Drinking

7 Surprising Things That Happen When You Stop Drinking

If there’s one thing I can guarantee you about sobriety, it’s that it will continually surprise you. When you stop drinking, you never really know what’s around the corner. Changing this one part of your life will lead to things you would never have predicted, or considered possible, or thought you were capable of.

Here are seven unexpected things that happen when you ditch alcohol:


1 – Little treats give you a big boost.

There will come a time when, after a bad day, you find yourself cheered up by a bubble bath and an early night. You – the person who used to need an entire bottle of wine to switch off – are happy with a cup of tea and a good book. Even though you sometimes worry that it sounds a bit sad and nerdy, you don’t really care because you feel so fan-bloody-tastic in the morning.

2 – Your productivity levels go through the roof.

When you’re trying to function through the fog of a hangover, it’s so hard to feel driven or motivated. Frankly, unloading the dishwasher and getting to work on time feels like an achievement. When you’re sober, you acquire a new superpower: the ability to get stuff done. You feel energetic, clear-headed and focused. There will come a point where you genuinely wonder how on earth you ever managed before.

3 – Your tastebuds change.

Herbal tea? Infused water? That flowery, namby-pamby stuff you used to hate? Well, you will probably start drinking that. (I used to have one type of tea at home: builders. Now I have a whole shelf dedicated to fruit tea.) A lot of people find their sense of smell and taste improves. Alcoholic drinks have a lot of sugar in them – developing a sweet tooth is also pretty common.

4- You lose weight easily.

Even if your newly discovered sweet tooth sees you inhaling pints of ice cream, or stealing sweets from children, somehow, you still manage to lose weight without trying too hard. Afterall, a bottle of wine contains around 600 calories – that’s the equivalent of 3 doughnuts. And the fact that you’re not hungover all the time means you eat better and are more likely to get some exercise.

5 – Your friendships change.

There’s no avoiding this one: you will have friends who feel unsettled by your decision to quit. Maybe they feel you’re overreacting, or they miss their drinking buddy or perhaps they feel their drinking is under attack. Some people will drift away, but your real friends will stick around, or move in closer. Sobriety is like a filter for your life – it helps you get clear on who and what should be in your world.

6 – You realise you’re not quite who you thought you were.

Alcohol is closely tied to our identity and sense of self. When you take booze away, you might find you’re no longer the one closing down bars and dancing on tables. It’s not that you can’t do those things, it might just be that you don’t want to anymore. Or you might find you’re a lot braver than you thought. Alcohol-free living forces you to go against the grain and stop following the crowd. If you’ve spent a lifetime trying to ‘fit in’ you might find that suddenly, you’re not so bothered about that anymore.

7 – You discover you’re capable of far more than you knew.

Sobriety brings its fair share of curve balls. When you remove the numbing shield that is booze, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s intense, challenging and exhilarating. But what you’ll discover is that you ARE capable of meeting these challenges head on. Step by step, little win by little win, you plough your way through the fog, because after all, this is not some dress rehearsal. Life is in session. And you are part of an extraordinary minority who are on the court, in the arena, and playing the game full out.


What unexpected side effects have you noticed about alcohol-free living?

No matter what stage of the game you’re at, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!



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  1. I used to struggle with crippling anxiety. Since I have stopped drinking it has almost gone completely ( apart from at that time of the month) I also have so much more energy and I am more optimistic than before.

    • I’m so scared, but thank you to whoever posted this because it’s really helpful to me and it makes me feel like I’m not alone in this battle.

    • After the initial shock that the body went into, which played out as a grumpy old man who cried during health insurance commercials, my organised self has entered the world and I now approach my university assignments with a calm, collected and focused mind. All of that wasted energy, funnelled into friendships and relationships that were founded on alcohol, is finally being channeled into a reliable and healthy relationship with the most important person in my life, me. It’s not always easy, but what worthwhile ever was.

  2. This is all so true…yes, it takes time, but it happens. It takes time to get used to not having the booze there and actually figuring out who the real you is again. At first it’s scary not having that crutch, but life gets so much better if you can get through the scary part. And, it gets WAY easier. No more constant thinking about drinking, hiding it, recovering from it. Some friends will drift away, but you’ll also make new ones, and odds are you’ll find that they’re better for you. Love that idea of a “filter”. Oh, and I dropped 40 pounds and got back to my pre-booze weight without any effort! 20 months sober and proud of it 🙂

    • Yes, I think you’re so right about having to move through the scary part. If you can sit it out it gets so much easier and great things start to happen! Well done on your 20 months

    • Karen, that is so motivational. I am on day 3 and am holding onto the fact that it will get easier. Also looking forward to losing some of this belly I’ve acquired.
      I’m feel very determined but 5 pm sends me into a crazy mental battle. Reading posts like these helps immensely. By 7:30 pm I’m fine. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

      • My time is 5pm – 10pm….that’s when my mental battle begins and it takes a lot to not leave the flat and pop next door for something. I’m back at day 4 so the initial “yeay clear head!” positive vibe is being encroached on by the mental battle again.

        • I had the same issue, where I became ‘unhinged’ around the 5 o’clock hour… I found that Kava tea (Yogi brand makes one) did the trick and calmed me SO well. Some days two tea bags were needed…

    • Hi this is my fourteen day without drinking I wake up with this taste like a hangover can anyone help.

      • Hi Linda – can you expand a bit on your question? I’m not sure what you mean.

    • How long did it take you to lose 40 pounds?

  3. The depression has definitely lifted – I don’t cry nearly as often as I used to. Also, it’s almost hokey and supernatural the way opportunities are popping up. Ones I never ever thought might happen. Yes, some friendships have changed,but others have also been reinforced in odd ways.I have more courage in seeking out friendships and opportunities,too.

  4. Hi, great post. I like that line that ‘it helps you get clear on who and what should be in your world.’ I’m struggling with that a little in my 1 year+ of being sober.

    What I’ve noticed is that I’m a lot more balanced than I thought. I thought I was really emotional and I cried a lot. I’m actually pretty even-keeled – something that I looked to other people to have, to keep me steady.

  5. I am so much happier, I have gained back the respect of my daughters, I am saving money from the alcohol and not shopping online while under the influence of alcohol. I am walking a mile a day and goin up to 1 1/2 miles next week. My attitude of gratefulness is improving daily. I bought the book of “Gratitude Works” and reading daily. Life is good and God is great

    • Oh my….online shopping under the influence? Getting those random gifts in the mail, not having any clue what prompt you. Yep..Guilty!! I love that I found this site and all that you are sharing. Everyone of you is singing my song. Feels great and much needed. I’m day one and hoping to be saying 20 months.

      • I’m day on too! How is it going Paula?

  6. You’re so right about the ability to accomplish and get things done! I get more done now before 9:00am than I used to in a weekend. One of my favorite things is looking at myself in the mirror first thing in the morning. That red, puffy, swollen, dehydrated face is long gone; it’s been replaced with a clear, vibrant and smiley face!

    Thank you for your Monday blogs, I love reading them!!

    • Thanks Erinn! (And I completely agree about the vanity argument – that alone is a great reason to stop!)

  7. I’ve been off alcohol for 70 days and have never felt better. I welcome everyday clear headed feeling like a bright light. I’ve often use the phrase “you don’t realize how bad your feeling until you start feeling good”. This is how being alcohol free has made me feel, I vibrate at a higher frequency everyday without even trying. My emotions are in check I feel more confident than I use too and I quite frankly tell everyone how GREAT I feel. Mine was a 100 day challenge, the first week was a mild challenge but after that I was like…Man I feel good!!Not even sure what my relationship with alcohol holds for me in the future I just know I want to continue to feel this good♥

  8. I’ve just begun my journey of giving up alcohol and I have to say I’m quite scared. I feel like I have nothing to look forward to even though I know that’s rubbish. Hopefully I can do this, and would welcome some tips and motivation tools on staying sober x

    • Hi Pamela, there is loads to look forward to! If you want some help getting started I have a free toolkit here: thesoberschool.com/free and if you’d like some more intensive support, I also run a 6 week course: http://thesoberschool.com/course/

    • Things to look forward to:
      A good night’s sleep
      A clear head
      A clear conscience
      Improved image of yourself
      Knowing yourself & liking yourself
      More motivation to exercise and enjoy the world
      Less money spent on alcohol = less stress about finances and more money to spend on fun things!

      It’s not always peachie keen but at the end of everyday I think “I made it one more day…wow! I made it one more day!” and it makes me very happy.

      I’m on day 149 today. Although things aren’t perfect they’re definitely better than if I was drinking. Good luck! Hang in there!

    • Oh Pamela,I too am struggling. It’s been very difficult but I know I need to stop for my own health and well being. I have suffered from very bad anxiety my whole life and unfortunately I started using alcohol as a way to cope with the anxiety. But it helps for a few hours then it comes back even worse. Perhaps together we can do this….

    • I hear you, Pamela. Two weeks in, I am scared, tired, not sleeping well. Also recovering from pneumonia, which is why I quit.

  9. I used to think I connected with friends and family greater through drinking. It was once of the biggest fears I would lose, connecting and getting closer to people.

    I have found I’m learning more about the closest people to me. I thought I knew my friends and family but being in the present moment with them without alcohol has brought me closer. Sometimes I’ve asked myself how am I even friends with some as our beliefs and values are no longer in line now they are not clouded by a fog of beer and wine. I’m only a month in and there are days that scare me the most, but it’s what I’m gaining that keeps me steady. I’m finally, slowly learning who I am and each day it surprises me. Thank you for the Newsletters, they come at the exact time I’m thinking of having a drink. The articles allow me to stop and realign with my why and ground me back down.

  10. The end of the cycle of replacing lost contact lenses, bank cards, earrings, makeup, jackets…need I go on?

  11. I loved this post! So many of your thoughts and words are just where I am. I am 47 days sober after 30 plus years of abusing alcohol. I am rediscovering so many things at age 50! I wondered what there would be to look forward to without all the partying as a central part of my life! But like you said, I have become so productive and enjoying simpler things: a blanket and a good read, a great recipe to cook up, a fun farmers market with a girlfriend. I have also found my relationships have become sweeter, more appreciated and enjoyed! I now have no trouble imagining life without booze. Thank you! Your weekly emails continue to be a huge source of inspiration and support!

    • Thanks Bridget! Well done – 47 days is brilliant! 🙂

    • I relate to your message Bridget at age 50 I decided to make the next years the best years. Tired of the roller coaster of emotions that torment you when drinking and wanting to live and enjoy simple things. Kate’s list is very real everything she says is what I have experience in 6 months sobriety and life is great. I have surprised myself & everyone around me. Looking forward to every day now with respect for myself & feeling the respect from my family & friends for being brave and making change.

    • Bridget. I am so happy and proud of you. Go for it girl! 50 is the new 30

  12. After just two months AF, there are so many positive things…

    Less anxious; more positive; more excited about the future; more quality time with my partner and son; more doing fun things; less forgetful; better sleep; fitter; more walks; more gym; more certain about my feelings; reading more novels; reading more news and articles; better sex; no painful, swollen joints; more self-respect; more organised; no hangovers; achieve more every day; more time for others; kinder and more tolerant; better skin; no puffy eyes and face; no craving greasy breakfasts!

    • This is a GREAT list! Thank you. And congratulations on your two months 🙂

      • Thanks Kate! My life before seemed perfectly normal in the context of my work and social life, and the similar drinking behaviour of 90% of my friends and colleagues. I’ve been really surprised at how obvious the benefits have been and, in retrospect, how damaging that lifestyle can become. Onwards!! 🙂

  13. I’m nearing the 8 month alcohol free mark and I feel amazing. Your weekly blogs have certainly helped me, and interstingly an article you wrote spurred me onto going to an AA meeting,I’m really glad I did. It totally blew my mind of all the misconceptions I had about AA,it is an amazing organisation with load’s of tips on how to stay alcohol free. I now know that I have a whole new bunch of people who get that I can’t have another drink, without it leading to becoming a problem for me again.
    I than you from the bottom of my heart for mentioning it and normalising it for me.

  14. I love this. I came across you by trying to find stories of recovering alcoholics. it is defiantly something that seems almost taboo. I have been very open and honest about my healing journey from the start, mostly for myself because once you’re not alone with the secret of your addiction it keeps you accountable, soon after I realized there were many people on my fb that were going through struggles of their own who found comfort and strength in having someone to relate to. Thank you for starting this blog. I am 2 months 18 days clean and sober. I have found my own calling through my struggles and am soon beginning my studies to become an Addictions Counselor. The world has opened up to me, in so many ways I never believed possible when I was under the influence of drugs and mainly alcohol. I hope others reading this who are struggling are able to overcome the scary part and break out into the life they are meant to live free from addiction and self destruction.We are meant to be victorious not victims xo

  15. This article is right on time. I am two weeks with out my glass (or glasses) of red wine. Honestly I do miss it at times for about a minute and then after a quick inventory on how I feel I am over it. Like a bad relationship. Speaking of relationships-they have changed in just two short weeks. My supportive relationships have become more honest and my drinking relationships are rocky. Some people do take it personally as an attack and perhaps it is an attack on that lifestyle. I can’t afford to be ambivalent about my goals to be healthy. By the way I gave up cigarettes with the alcohol and it is coming along fabulously.

  16. How does one deal with the fact that they drink every single night with their spouse? What will he think if I actually do more than talk about it?

    • Physically look and feel so much better, after years of troubled sleep can now sleep full eight hours, awake feeling great, no more secrets, hiding or counting. No more apprehension before events if I will over drink. More confidence not less, no anxiety. About 4o days in and trying not to think too far ahead, meditation, therapy, hiking and reading are things I am doing to cement my decision to quit alcohol. Thanks for this, it’s very helpful.

    • Lois,
      I am in that exact situation. I have been af for 5 days. Everyday when my husband arrived home from work was cocktail time. It was such a routine that me dog would head to the patio when he heard the wine cork pop.
      I’m hoping that my husband will see how fabulous I feel without the wine and want to join me on this journey.
      He is a very smart man and I truly believe he will not want to miss out on this.
      In the meantime, when he comes home now he has his cocktails and I have ginger beer with lime. I feel stressed and anxious and angry during this time. I cut it short as opposed to lingering for two hours and get into the kitchen to fix dinner.
      For the time being, this is how I’m dealing with it. Good luck to you.

    • Lois,
      I’m also in the same situation. My husband gets home from work before me, so when I come in he’s already got the wine poured. I recently went two weeks without alcohol and felt so proud of myself, but one night out to dinner and I blew it.
      Happy I read these posts this morning, inspired to start again.


  17. Great post! What I’m wondering is when I’ll be over the jump. Been AF since mid-Feb, but I’m feeling quite depressed overall. I work from home and don’t have many friends after moving to a new town 2 years ago. My husband still enjoys drinking (which annoys me), so overall my journey hasn’t been the amazing one I thought it would be. Is this normal? 🙂

    • Well it’s hard to comment without really knowing your situation. However, from what you’ve written here, it sounds to me like you’re lonely. I suspect that when you were drinking it was easier to ignore the loneliness? You’ve done a great thing by stopping (well done!) but now you’re sober it’s much harder to ignore the fact that other things aren’t quite right…that’s my guess. The good news is that now you’re sober, you can start being proactive and taking action to change the bits of your life you’re not so happy with. So it might feel hard right now, but it’s much better than sticking your head in the sand (which is basically what we do when we drink!) Good luck.

      • thank you – great advice 🙂

  18. I am 5 weeks sober today. This is not my first rodeo but I know in my heart I can do it this time. It gets easier every day! There definetly days that are challenging but I have figured out how to channel that into positive calm energy.;) I have amazingly supportive family. I have noticed some of my relationships have changed and that’s ok, I have to worry about myself.:)
    It’s been so nice to read and know that you’re not alone and all of those things that I used to hide, be scared of, lie about, feel bad about are gone. I wake up every morning smiling, remembering everything from the night before and not feeling guilt or shame. I’m so incredibly grateful that I’m on this journey and know I have support!
    I’m so excited reading other posts and the stories are similar to mine. It’s crazy and comforting. Thank everyone for being brave and sharing!

  19. I’m 10 days in … at 57 and after 16 years of drinking a bottle of wine a day. I have gained 50+ lbs. doubled my size from a slender size 8 to size 16+. My skin smelled, hated to not remember things, some times I had no idea how I got to bed. Very ashamed of myself. My main reason to stop this habit is because of the weight gain and my poor liver. Somebody out there tell me I will get rid of this wine belly, drop some dress sizes, after all when you stop pouring 600+ calories down your throat every night it has to result in weight loss. Nobody has mentioned weight loss. I really like to hear some success stories.

  20. Hey Kate! Fantastic little piece you wrote here. It brought a smile to my face. I found myself laughing because I relate to every single one of your points.

    I got through day 70 with flying colors today. I am always extremely mindful of the potential pit falls, but I am loving this new life so much that going back to drink is never an option for me again. To be frank; I just don’t want it.

    Since quitting the booze I’ve started working out, I’m losing inches and building the old body up a bit. I’m looking younger, my energy is through the roof and the clarity of mind is something to behold.

    Another thing that I noticed was related to how alcohol consumption quite simply isn’t as socially prevalent as I thought it was when I was boozing. I put that down to the nature of addiction conditioning my mind to revolve everything around booze. When I say this, I am not merely talking about decisions and plans that I made around alcohol, but also how I perceived my social surroundings and how I emotionally interpreted um…..atmospheres (best word I can think of). Best explain…

    Before actually committing to never making the decision to put alcohol into my body again for life (Nov 21st 2016), I had 2 month stretches here and there sans alcohol, but I always believed that there would come a time when I would return in a controlled way. Needless to say this never worked well for me. Anyways….during these stints of being sober, while I started feeling amazing, the lights billowing out from the pubs I passed felt warm. The laughter and clinking of glasses sounded loud and celebratory. It seemed like everyone was in fiesta mode and it was one wonderful party I was not invited to.

    Then during periods of consumption, while the craving and anticipation never lived up to the experience (chasing that perfect night that only ever happened one in fifty attempts) the illusive atmospheres created in my head during evenings out lied to my face from every angle. I believed everybody was drinking as much as I was.

    All in all; be it during a sober or consuming period, a false atmosphere was created in my head, building distorted perceptions and exaggerated realities. Quite simply put, these were all just the symptoms of addiction be it a sober or inebriated experience.

    When I did finally quit for good and got through the initial peculiarities of accepting that nothing alcohol brought me was positive, the fog lifted. All of the false atmospheres and blatant lies mentioned earlier started fading. Recently during an evening out in London I was quite startled at how everything seemed to appear in polar opposite form to the perceptions I once held. People were in pubs, but they looked emptier and more hollow than the streets that were filled with people who weren’t drinking. I saw restaurant goers raise glasses to one another over main courses, but that’s all it was. Two hands meeting in the air with glasses of liquid. In past years my senses would have been doing cartwheels. My imagination would be overflowing about this imagery being the gateway to the most jovial of nights that I had to be part of. Ah….addiction you lying bastard….

    I started to notice I was getting a massive buzz chatting to street vendors about their business. Architecture looked immense. I feel like part of me has returned to a somewhat child like state where I am getting a natural joy and excitement out of things I deemed mundane. I always had a gripe about the loss of innocence, and how adulthood appeared to suck the simplicity in joy out of me. I hated the fact that I no longer got a natural high from things I used to, but I was never once willing to look at the reason behind this.

    Now I know in my heart and soul it was 22 years of boozing my brains out that was responsible. I feel like I have finally stepped out of a tiny cage I was living in, where that small space was my Island, governor, King and Queen. Every noise beyond that cage was the great unknown that brought nothing but fear. I mentioned the peculiarity of the initial sober weeks earlier on, but only because it all comes from that fear of the unknown, and addiction keeps us locked into the tiny false reality that we desperately claim to be our sole identity.

    70 days on and that little puke and piss ridden cage looks about as appealing as Donald Trump in a pair of speedos.

  21. Choosing not to drink has made my life 100% better in all areas!

  22. I am 14 months sober and i know I’m a very different more confident person now but am struggling a bit to feel some of the close relationship s i once had with my family and in particular my step daughter. She’s very glad i am sober but something seems missing now.

  23. Today is only my 19th day sober but I can already feel so many changes… I get excited with the small things. The things I always used to do when I drank – like going to concerts, especially – are now so much more fun. Because I’m 100% there. I’m alert, I’m paying attention and really feeling it. Life is richer now that I’m not numb.
    Since my taste buds and my sugar levels are now more balanced, I’m amazed now by how I started craving fruit and vegetables instead of sugary/salty foods that were no good for me.
    My tea collection has increased too. I take so much better care of myself.
    Really, there is no bad side on going sober. I’m such a happier person now, after 20 years of constant weekend binge-drinking.

  24. I’m almost 9mnths in after trying Dry January as a mere experiment and treat to myself after hitting 50. After three weeks I just knew I’d continue beyond that and now I’m confident I can do an entire year or longer. They say it takes 8weeks to crack a habit and get a new one and for me that felt spot on. The things I noticed initially were as follows;
    A great nights deep sleep every night (with no nocturnal wake ups for a pee).
    That during January; the dullest and most depressing month of the year (in the N.Hemisphere) I became bright and cheerful as if it was July which made me realise what a hidden depressant alcohol has been in my life.
    That I was energised and active from morning to night.
    That I had a clarity of thought and incitefulness that had previously only appeared sporadically.
    That my skin became really soft, pliant and radiant and that people I knew were extremely complementary and noticed how much healthier, younger and more handsome I look (9mnths in people I know or have not met in years regularly tell me I look over 10+yrs younger, brighter and happier).
    I’ve lost 20lbs (almost 1.5stone) so far literally “without trying” and I now actually exercise; cycle comfortably for 40+ miles (60Km) per week and my body is toning up after decades of inactivity. The endorphin rush off exercise is awesome and a new thing to me at 50.
    My wife’s friends and female family embarrassingly hold me up as a beacon of will power and virtue to their other halves and the males in my family (which is nice if a bit annoying for them and embarrassing or amusing for me).
    I have developed a sweet tooth for dark chocolate but now ration myself – but it’s a treat.
    I go out as much if not more than ever to pubs and bars and comfortably drink alcohol-free beers or soda water in the company of drinkers without any ‘pain’ or sense of not having fun. The company I’m in find that an anathema (as I once would) but as I say if you need alcohol to have fun then you aren’t exactly fun in the first place.
    In summary give it a go; one week at a time – there’s nothing to fear and an unbelievable amount to gain. It’s an ongoing Epiphany Moment discovering the Real You after years indeed decades nulified and held back on the booze and you won’t miss the hangovers or the wads of money in your pocket or treats you buy yourself. Good luck.


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