Just how fast can the human body recover from years of alcohol abuse? And will it make a complete recovery? Or are you never going back to the way you were?
We’ve crunched into the scientific research and have the answer to all these questions and more.
Spoiler alert: if you’re thinking about quitting alcohol, you will not want to miss this video. Things are much much better than they might feel right now.
So, the first step on your body’s path to recovery is getting rid of the alcohol from the last drinks.
Regardless if you drink one glass or two bottles, your system will metabolize or break down alcohol at the same rate. It also doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, tall or short, big or small. You will break down and expel alcohol from your system at the rate of about one drink per hour.
For example, if you’ve had eight drinks, almost all the alcohol in your system will be gone after eight hours. You’ll only be left with the hangover afterward. So getting rid of the alcohol in your system is quick.
Soon after that, you’re going to start getting your first alcohol craving. Depending on how much you drink, cravings start 24 to 48 hours after your last drink. Subtle changes to your heart rate and blood pressure can accompany these cravings.
You’ll also likely suffer from sleep problems, irritability, and anxiety in these first days. Your appetite might also suffer.
Your cravings will mostly go away at the one-week mark. After that point, they will be far less frequent and less intense.
Now, I cannot stress enough that the quitting alcohol timeline I’m giving here will differ from person to person, especially regarding cravings.
Because these are primarily psychological, their intensity will depend on how you stop drinking. If you quit cold turkey with willpower, the cravings might be intense and last for weeks or months.
Plus, acute alcohol withdrawal can cause severe symptoms like delirium tremens, and people with true alcohol dependence may require medical detox. This does not happen to everyone when quitting drinking, but withdrawal symptoms are a risk for people who regularly engage in heavy drinking.
For those who do not have severe withdrawal symptoms, if you use a method like Soberclear, on the other hand, you will probably hardly notice any cravings.
And when you do feel them, they won’t bother you that much. You might even find them pleasurable as you bring the full weight of your consciousness to bear on them and mentally dissolve them.
Two weeks after your last drink, your liver is already starting to recover. The liver is the organ that suffers the most from heavy alcohol use, but its ability to recover and regenerate itself is nothing short of astonishing.
At only two weeks after your last drink, fatty liver, which affects 90% of heavy drinkers, will have reversed, assuming you only have fatty liver and have not progressed to more serious liver damage, like alcoholic hepatitis.
But if you only have fatty liver and you looked at a biopsy of your liver under the microscope, it would already appear normal after two weeks.
At the three-week mark, your gut has also made a massive recovery.
The damage that heavy drinking inflicted on your gut barrier system, which allowed pathogens to leak from the gut into the general circulation, has now been completely restored.
The bacterial flora in your gut has also recovered to a large extent, though not completely.
You will also be pleasantly surprised to notice that your working memory has also made a complete recovery.
As for the medium-term effects, about a month after your last drink, your blood pressure will have fallen dramatically or even normalized completely. You are also likely to have shed a considerable number of pounds due to consuming fewer calories.
Liver function markers in the blood improve, and you may see changes in your skin and complexion. Your sleep will also return to normal. You may actually sleep better than before you stopped because you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night anymore for trips to the toilet.
Another thing you might notice at this point is a significant improvement in your mental clarity and ability to concentrate.
At the three-month mark, your body has cleared itself of toxins and largely adjusted to functioning without alcohol consumption.
At this point, you are already seeing massive benefits in areas of your life that were previously under great strain.
Personal relationships, family life, work performance, all this should be much better at this point, and this feeds into positive mental health and a good outlook about your recovery.
On top of this, your social skills will have largely recovered by this point after quitting drinking. You might not have realized it, but the years of drinking alcohol have actually impaired faculties like the recognition of emotions in others and social cognition in general.
After this point, most of the changes you will see will actually be a result of the brain’s gradual recovery.
While the liver is the organ that suffers the heaviest damage from drinking alcohol, we saw it recovers relatively fast. At least for most cases. But the brain is far slower to heal. We’re talking years or even decades in some cases.
At six months, your brain has already regained most of the volume it lost. I know this may come as a shock to many of you guys out there, but alcohol actually chips away at the volume of your brain matter.
Your verbal skills will have rebounded dramatically at the one-year mark, probably already back to their pre-drinking levels.
At this point, most of your cognitive skills have recovered, though there are some exceptions. Certain cognitive faculties, like long-term memory, will need years to recover, as will visual-spatial skills. In other words, the ability to process visual stimuli in such a way as to understand the relationships between objects in three-dimensional space.
I don’t want to scare you, though. Even if your brain doesn’t make a 100% recovery, these cognitive deficits are subtle. Scientists have to use sophisticated tests and techniques to detect them. On your own, you wouldn’t be able to notice them in your day-to-day life.
And remember that these long-term changes will apply primarily to really heavy drinkers, what you would call full-blown alcoholics who have been heavily abusing alcohol for many years.
If you have been drinking less, even if you had a serious problem, you might get away without any permanent cognitive deficits.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s that your body is the most remarkable machine in the known universe.
You can subject it to decades of abuse with a toxic poison like ethanol, and only after a few weeks, it will have largely recovered. Again, depending on how much you’ve drunk and the extent of the damage, some organs might never recover, most notably the liver and, in some aspects, the brain.
Fortunately, this will only be the case for a minority of even heavy drinkers.
Now I’d love to hear from you. How did you find your recovery process? Did you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
What struck you the most about your addiction recovery, and what did you not expect about your quitting alcohol timeline? And if you’re still drinking, which part of the recovery process scares you the most, and which one gives you the most hope?