Alcohol is ubiquitous in America. You can’t drive down the freeway without seeing billboards advertising various adult spirits, all of them featuring smiling folks who look like they’re having the time of their lives.
The reality is often far different. Although many people can enjoy the occasional happy hour cocktail with few negative repercussions, others become addicted. This substance causes biochemical and even structural changes in your brain that grow more severe the more you use, robbing you of your decision-making power.
You might be among those wondering if you have a problem. A foolproof way to know whether the bottle has you in a stranglehold is to walk away. If the thought of passing up your evening cocktail sends you into a panic, you know it’s time to take action. That’s only one of many good reasons to take a break from alcohol. Here are six more.
1. To Improve Your Nutritional Intake
Are you worried about your weight? If so, you might be tempted to reduce your caloric intake by restricting meals to save more “room” for alcoholic beverages. Who cares about the calories in that mudslide if you skipped lunch to make up for them?
Your physiology knows the difference and your health will suffer. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals is an essential part of maintaining your well-being. Your body needs an array of nutrients to support strong muscles and nurture your organs — including your brain.
Certain deficiencies might even make you more susceptible to the bottle’s lure, putting you at risk of addiction. For example, those lacking sufficient magnesium intake often experience depression, but they might not recognize that this mineral’s lack lurks behind their bleak mood.
Alcohol activates your dopamine receptors — your brain’s pleasure system. That’s why you experience a momentary elation when you drink. However, if you use this substance to self-medicate depression, it eventually disrupts your dopamine system, damaging your receptors and making it more challenging to find pleasure in ordinary activities. Before you know it, you rely on the bottle to manage your mood.
You might engage in behaviors like sneaking miniature bottles to work in your purse or briefcase and sneaking off to the restroom for a little “attitude adjustment.” However, alcohol clouds your judgment, making you more prone to mistakes that could cost you your career. Being caught drinking on the clock is an offense punishable by termination in many industries.
It’s far better to nurture your neurons through wholesome meals consisting of whole foods close to their natural forms. Get plenty of plant-based foods in every color of the rainbow to increase your antioxidant intake. Nuts and seeds are particularly rich sources of magnesium, selenium and zinc, three “happy brain” nutrients that can help your mind repair itself if you overindulged a bit too much in the past.
2. To Repair Broken Relationships
You aren’t fully yourself when you’re drinking. That’s because alcohol overrides your inhibitions, making you say and do things that you wouldn’t do sober. Contrary to folk belief, your words and actions aren’t reflective of your “true” personality. Remember, alcohol causes biochemical brain changes that influence the way you act in a far more complex manner than science currently understands.
However, you’re still responsible for what you say and do while under the influence. Whether uttered sober or drunk, your words sting just as much and abuse is abuse regardless of your mental state.
Repairing relationships broken by alcohol isn’t easy or even always possible. The other party might have legitimate reasons to refuse further interaction with you if your past behavior demonstrated a repeated pattern of abuse.
However, if you’re still in the stage where you’re wondering if you might have a problem, it’s time to hit pause. Taking a break from alcohol will help you see your behavior more objectively. You might find that those harsh words you felt justified in uttering aren’t reflective of your true feelings and are downright hurtful to others.
Take accountability for your actions and offer a sincere apology with no “buts.” Remember, the best “I’m sorry” of all is changed behavior — taking a break from alcohol might convince your partner, children or friends that you are sincere in wanting to reform.
3. To Focus on Your Career
Alcohol can damage your career in multiple ways. It clouds your judgment, leading to decisions that can cost your company money and you a promotion — or even continued employment.
Furthermore, alcohol makes you lazy. You probably know that you’re not at your productive best when you’re hungover, but guess what? Filling your mental space with thoughts of, “I can’t wait to get out of here and get to the bar,” keeps you from focusing on the task at hand.
Taking a break from alcohol allows you to concentrate on what’s important. Instead of fixating on how you’re going to relax after work, you give your all, knowing that you’ll enjoy your rest all the more when basking in the rosy glow of a job well done.
4. To Detox Your Liver
You probably know that alcohol damages your liver. This organ is primarily responsible for filtering toxins from your blood, but drinking bathes its cells to a glut of damaging free radicals. These can cause cellular damage, mutation and death, resulting in fatty liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer.
Fortunately, this organ also has phenomenal regenerative powers. However, it takes time to heal. Most experts advise taking a 30-day break to allow your liver to recover, but you might want to go longer if you hope to change your habits, too.
It can take anywhere from 20 to 185 days to establish a new habit or break an old one — it varies by person. Use mindfulness to judge how long your break from alcohol should be by observing your thought patterns as an objective third party. If you find yourself obsessing over the finish line — “just one more week and I can get smashed” — you probably need a longer recess to counter that maladaptive belief.
5. To Rest and Revitalize Your Brain Receptors
Even though alcohol causes changes in your brain, these can also heal. However, you might need to refrain from drinking for 90 days or more to reap the maximum benefits.
You can encourage brain healing by participating in activities that promote neuroplasticity. Dance is particularly beneficial as it combines the endorphin-boosting effects of physical activity with following complex foot patterns. Yoga is another excellent tool, helping you develop mindfulness and the wherewithal to calm your central nervous system through breath, not booze when anxiety strikes.
6. To Discover the True You Underneath the Haze
Finally, perhaps the best reason for taking a break from alcohol is rediscovering the real you underneath that bleary, boozy haze. After all, you are a unique human being — no one else on the planet shares your gifts. Why would you want to dull your shine?
The truth is, you don’t need alcohol to have courage in social situations or enjoy a backyard barbecue. You’ll do much better cultivating your innate confidence — you can start by taking charge of the bottle — and basking in the warm fellowship of friends and family.
Alcohol can be a pleasant accessory to your life. However, if it starts to take over your existence, it’s time to do the smart thing and take a break.