Whether you realized it or not, drugs and drinking take a major toll on the body. In extreme cases of long-term abuse or severe addiction, the damage can be irreversible or even fatal. Fortunately, in many cases the body is able to bounce back. Here’s a timeline of what you can expect to see immediately once you quit drinking or using drugs, and after long-term sobriety of at least one year.

Immediate Changes After Getting Sober

We won’t sugar coat it, things can get a little worse before they get better. Depending on the severity of your drug use, you may experience withdrawal effects that can leave you with uncomfortable symptoms such as insomnia, mood changes, low energy, hallucinations, nausea, and muscle pain. In most cases, these symptoms only last up to a week (cases where they last an extended period of time–or get worse–can be potentially life-threatening and medical attention should be sought immediately). 

Once the withdrawal period passes, two major changes occur: intense cravings (not all cravings, however) and sleep patterns return to normal. With sleep being hugely impactful in multiple areas of our overall health, this causes a positive domino effect of other welcomed improvements in the body. Namely improved mood and increased energy levels. One of the most notable immediate changes after getting sober is the mental clarity or ‘lifting of the fog’. 

You may feel an overall improvement in your sense of well-being as well. Now that your immune system rebounds and is no longer hampered by drug use, it quickly becomes more responsive and once again adept at fighting off illnesses. 

6 Months Sober Physical Changes

In this short span of time, your physical condition is likely to have improved considerably. Not only will you feel better because of improved sleep, better and more stable mood, and stronger immune system, but you’ll probably look a lot better as well, including clearer skin, a better smile, and even healthier hair. 

One of the main contributors to this improvement is the restoration of digestive function–here’s why. Drugs and alcohol disrupt nearly every step of digestion from reduced saliva production to constipation. This, in turn, can lead to decreased appetite. Less food intake means fewer opportunities for the body to get the nutrients it needs. Since we are quite literally what we eat, those nutrients make up the building blocks for our bodies, including our skin and hair.

Good things are taking place inside your body as well. The liver will have finished shedding the fat it accumulated as a result of drug abuse (this fat can lead to a host of other serious liver issues that can both directly and indirectly result in death) which first began around the one-month mark. The liver is integral to a number of key bodily functions including nutrient absorption and cleaning of the blood.

Physical Body Changes: 1 Year Sober

You may not look outwardly different after a year of sobriety compared to six months, but immense physical changes will have taken place internally.  Your liver may have shed dangerous fat, but now much of the scarring of the liver should have cleared up as well, allowing it to return to near normal function.

The heart, another major source of health issues for those with addiction, will also start to experience improvements after one year of being sober. Both stimulants and depressants can end up increasing the risk of cardiovascular stress including stroke, heart failure, and heart attack. Scary, right? Further, the side effects of those conditions that can cause those issues can be a health issue on its own. A healthy heart ensures that your other organs get the oxygen they need to function properly and repair themselves, which makes this physical change a truly remarkable one. 

Non-Physical Benefits of Long-Term Sobriety

While there’s no shortage of benefits one will experience when giving up alcohol or drugs for an extended period of time, some of the most impactful changes will be the ones you can’t see, changes in the mind and spirit. 

Mental health plays a huge role in drug abuse and addiction and can be both the cause of it, or an after-effect that keeps a person using. The ability to have better psychological wellness means greater control over oneself as well as a reduced urge to use drugs in the first place. This positive shift in attitude, cognitive abilities, and mood can make a world of difference for improved relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and coworkers to enhance overall quality of life.

If you’re looking to begin your recovery journey, you don’t have to do it alone. Find a drug rehab near you today to take the first step in healing your body and mind.