Sobriety: Give Me a Year, I’ll Give You a Better Brain

by Natalie Baker on 16 August 2017 in Health and Wellness, Life in Recovery | updated on 11 August 2017

I got sober right before I was sentenced to prison for a DUI conviction. As I began my four-year sentence, I promised myself that another drink would never be worth all that I had lost.

I kept my promise as the years went by – and it showed.

Examining the Benefits of Sobriety

After my first year of sobriety, I found that I slept better, felt more energized, and my hair and skin had a glow I hadn’t seen in years. But refraining from alcohol didn’t just have physical benefits – living sans wine sharpened my mind exponentially. Suddenly, I had greater focus, more motivation, and greater productivity, too. In fact, I got my MBA degree, ran four miles a day, and finished several books a week – all while behind bars.

As it turns out, all the positive results I felt my mind and body gained once I got sober weren’t just in my head. According to a new study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, staying sober for a year produces significant mental benefits, as well as improved brain function.

Researchers studied 115 people with substance use disorders recruited from 10 different addiction recovery clinics – those who had remained abstinent, in addition to patients who had relapsed within the year. They also recruited healthy patients without substance use disorders in order to get a wide variety of participant data. All three groups were tested initially, then tested again after a year had passed.

And the Results Are In…

Data was collected and assessed through a series of questionnaires – one that pertained to satisfaction of life using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS), another that used three methods of scoring to determine executive functioning in the brain, and finally, one that evaluated nine symptoms of psychological distress. The research showed the participants had varied results , such as:

  • “Healthy” Group

    This demographic showed no significant change

  • Sober For a Year

    Improved satisfaction with life
    Greater executive brain functioning
    Lower psychological distress

  • Relapsed Within the Year

    High levels of depression and anxiety
    Deficits in cognitive functions
    Higher failure rate in treatment

So, what’s the takeaway message of this study? If you’re approaching your one-year mark of sobriety, keep going! Use these findings as motivation that a happier, better, and more rewarding life awaits you after making it over that one-year hump – don’t you dare give up!

Additional Reading: 5 Unexpected Benefits of Sobriety

Image Source: iStock