What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

by pgh

Make no mistake about it, you’ll definitely feel the physical effects when you first quit drinking after many years of alcohol abuse.

What will happen? That depends on how frequently you drank, how much you drank, and how long you’ve been drinking; your body’s physical reaction will vary. For some, quitting drinking can result in a dangerous withdrawal from alcohol.

If you experience serious withdrawal and you don’t get medical attention (detox), you could suffer from a seizure, or even death. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Confusion and hallucinations (delirium tremens)
  • Tremor of the hands Hands
  • Fever
  • Convulsions
  • Black Outs

In most cases, the symptoms will be less severe and you won’t need medical attention. However, you may still experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Jumpy or nervous feelings
  • A “shaky” feeling
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Eyelid twitching
  • Heart palpitations

Psychological Withdrawal

Aside from the physical effects, you’ll also experience psychological withdrawal. You’ll find yourself craving alcohol, especially in situations where you would normally have a drink in your hand.

Preventing relapse will take a significant effort on your part. Overcoming chronic alcoholism is extremely difficult. If you’ve failed in the past, you’ll have to really make sure you take more action this time to ensure that you stay sober. To quote Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Listen to Einstein, if you’ve failed at quitting alcohol in the past, make sure you don’t just go through the motions again. Seek out support and take steps to make sure your recovery sticks. Some important steps you can take include:

  1. Going to AA or NA
  2. Attending rehab
  3. Schedule regular visits with a therapist or counselor
  4. Build a network of friends in recovery to support your efforts

Long Term Effects

Chronic alcoholism can cause damage to the liver, brain, and cardiovascular system. In the long term, your body and brain will start to repair some of the damage caused by excess drinking. You’ll find that you have more energy, and you’ll feel better overall.

Mentally, you’ll always be a recovering alcoholic. Don’t expect to drink in moderation successfully. Over time, you’ll find yourself relying less on external support groups. You should switch your focus towards your own personal and spiritual growth – this ensures that complacency and the eventual relapse will never set in.

By striving for constant self-improvement, you’ll be naturally motivated and driven to maintain your sobriety.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

chris January 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm


Could someone tell me what actually happens to the body on a daily, weekly,monthly basis after quitting alcohol. For example roughly for each : how long for your blood pressure to drop. How long for your skin to get better. How long for alcohol to leave your system. How long for your liver & kidneys to repair & other such questions on the body recovery for a moderate drinker

many thanks


Josh January 24, 2013 at 2:46 am

Hi Chris,

Moderate drinker is too broad a term to be able to give an accurate answer to those questions. The answer to many of those questions will depend on varying factors, for example:
– How long has the person been drinking?
– How frequently did the person drink?
– Was the person a binge drinker?
– What kind of liver/kidney damage was already present?

As for how long it takes for alcohol to leave your system, alcohol gets metabolized at a rate of .015 of blood alcohol concentration/hour. If you’re at the legal limit of .08, which usually means being slightly buzzed, and about 2 drinks for the average person, it would take 5.33 hours for alcohol to leave your bloodstream.


sharonbryan February 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Josh, Good for you! May I ask you a q? My husband drank beer bout 3 most wk nights wk ends up to 15 bout once a month. He stopped 2 wks ago for my health reasons. He is a brew master. His legs are tight and tingling and really bother his life. It started a yr ago. He does no other things ever. Could it b he is not thinning his blood enough? Thank you for ur time. :]:]

Josh February 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hi Sharon,

Sorry I didn’t see this sooner. If he still has tingling in his legs I would recommend seeing a doctor. I’m no physician so I’m really not qualified to make suggestions here, but something ongoing like this that is interfering with his quality of life is likely a symptom of something bigger – it could be nothing serious, but it could also be something significant that requires prompt attention.

Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

hhatch April 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

he should see a dr for the swollen legs. mine were due to congestive heart failure. on the upside if he’s no longer drinking all that beer he’s probably losing weight which is a priority with chf

sharonbryan February 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I’m on clean and soberlive site

Beverley April 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Don’t know if anyone can help me, but don’t know what to do. My husband drinks around 8 cans of beer every evening. He is alcohol dependent. However, he decided to quit and hasn’t had a beer since last monday.
He is experiencing severe headaches as well as loss of appetite. I want to support him, but don’t know how to help.
Has anyone any idea how long the headaches will last as its getting him down to the point of tears. I don’t want him to give up but I just don’t know how to help.

Tessi May 4, 2013 at 3:17 am

Dear Josh,

Do recovering alchoholics become short tempered and irritable?

If so, is there any way to mitigate these symptoms?

I am dealing with an recovering alchoholic who drank himself to oblivion every

Genie July 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm


I want to quit drinking alcohol but am worried about the side effects. I have been a binge drinker for about ten years. In the last two months my drinking has gotten worse. I have between 6 to 12 drinks roughly 5-6 day a week. Will I be okay to quit with out medication?