Always Look on the Bright Side of … Sobriety
By Sara Schapmann
If you or a loved one is trying to get sober, you’ve likely heard time and again how destructive alcohol abuse is to the mind and body. Still drinking? A recent study shows that negativity might not be the best route to sobriety. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Monty Python was on to something with the comedy song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” University of Sussex researchers implemented a number of interventions with university students between the ages 18 and 25 and found that positive approaches were most effective in reducing alcohol consumption. When students focused on the benefits of refraining from drinking — like having more money and better overall health — versus fear appeals — such as how much they were over-drinking and the negative consequences — they were less likely to binge drink. Weekly alcohol consumption decreased from about 20 units to 14.
Seven Positives of Curbing or Quitting Drinking
Following suit with this recent study, here’s some inspiration to help you curb your drinking or finally get the treatment you need to put substance abuse behind you.
- More Money in Your Pocket — The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines heavy drinking as more than 14 drinks in a week for men and more than seven in a week for women. Say you have 12 drinks a week at around $5 a drink (taking into account an average between at-home versus bar prices and beer vs. cocktail and wine prices). That is around $60 a week you’d save, and a whopping $3,100 a year. Want to get more specific? Check out the National Institute of Health’s alcohol spending calculator. You can enter the number of days you drink per week, how many drinks you consume, the average cost per drink, and it will calculate what you spend each week, month and year on alcohol. That’s money you could put toward a vacation or savings for the future.
- Better Health, Less Illness — Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on your immune system and has been correlated with several chronic diseases and serious health conditions. The NIAAA notes 25 health conditions that research shows positively correlate with alcohol abuse. These range from digestive disorders, neuropsychiatric conditions and diabetes to strokes, tumors and certain cancers. Step up your health when you step down your drinking.
- More Free Time — If you’re a heavy drinker, chances are you lose several hours a week to drinking or feeling ill after drinking. The duration and severity of hangovers depend on a number of factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed and the person’s physical makeup, but generally hangovers begin several hours after the last drink and have lingering effects for 24 hours or more. Think of all the hours you can gain back every week if you eliminate alcohol.
- Career Success — According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, substance abuse costs employers $81 billion annually due to factors such as missed days, poor performance and on-the-job injuries. Alcohol abuse can put your job in jeopardy. Perhaps you’re the coworker with the rep for overindulging at the holiday party or office happy hour. Maybe you’re coming in late or regularly missing work because of your drinking habits. Even if you’re making it to work on time, you’re likely not living up to your potential because alcohol abuse can affect concentration, mood, decision-making and other components that contribute to job performance. Saying goodbye to drinking can help you not only keep your job, but excel at it and get more job satisfaction.
- Improved Mental Health — Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Sometimes people with existing mental health disorders use substances to self-medicate symptoms and other times substance abuse can lead to mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that approximately six in 10 substance abusers also have at least one other mental disorder. Alcohol is a depressant and may lead to depressive symptoms when abused. Quit drinking and maximize positive mental health.
- Better Relationships — People who abuse alcohol may suffer from interpersonal issues and have unhealthy attachment styles. If your drinking has become problematic, you’re probably hearing it, or feeling it from all directions — family, friends, partners and perhaps even coworkers or bosses. When alcohol is a priority, investing time and energy into nurturing relationships and practicing positive communication can fall by the wayside. Stop filling your glass with alcohol, and instead fill your life with healthy relationships and connections.
- Enhanced Health — Alcohol abuse can adversely affect the gastrointestinal track and hinder your ability to absorb nutrients. Even if you eat a healthy diet, you may not be getting the full benefits of your food because your body is unable to properly process nutrients. Alcoholics often show major deficiencies in zinc, calcium, iron and vitamins B and D. When you stop drinking you will likely feel better because your body is better able to soak up energizing and healing nutrients instead of being depleted by alcohol.
Getting sober isn’t as easy as simply becoming a Pollyanna, but keeping your sights set on the positive rewards of a life without alcohol can help keep you motivated as you embark on the work of recovery.
Lieber, C.S. Relationships Between Nutrition, Alcohol Use, and Liver Disease. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Schuckit, M.A., Smith, T.L., Kalmijn, J. Relationships among independent major depressions, alcohol use, and other substance use and related problems over 30 years in 397 families. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2013.
Shield, K.D. Measuring the burden—alcohol’s evolving impact on individuals, families, and society. Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, Volume 35, Issue Number 2.
Swift, R., Davidson, D. Alcohol Health and Research World: Alcohol Hangover: Mechanisms and Mediators.
Wyrzykowska, E., Głogowska, K., Mickiewicz, K. Attachment relationships among alcohol dependent persons. Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Volume 27, Issue 2, June 2014, Pages 145–161.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.