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San Diego Sober Living - Recovery

The Health Benefits of Sobriety: Are Sober People Truly Healthier?

There was a time in the life of Michael McDonald, one of the founding fathers of the 1970s California rock style that evolved into soft rock and yacht rock, when he finally surrendered to reality and decided to recover from a lifetime addiction to liquor and drugs. In 1997, three years after hip-hop stars Warren G. and Nate Dogg famously sampled McDonald’s hit “I Keep Forgetting,” his wife entered a clinical rehabilitation center, but he wasn’t allowed to visit her. The recovery specialists told McDonald he couldn’t show up drunk or high to the clinic, and that was when he realized he needed recovery more than his wife did. More than 25 years later, the former member of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers published What a Fool Believes, a harrowing memoir in which he explains how much he appreciates his healthier life as a sober person.

Sober People Face Fewer Healthcare Concerns

It’s too easy to assume sober people are healthier, but this assertion doesn’t always hold up when looking at it from a nuanced perspective. Vin Baker, a former NBA player who drank his way through winning seasons with the Seattle Supersonics and a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was probably in better shape and healthier than most sober Americans. In 2021, after winning the NBA finals as the assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Baker mentioned he would be a healthier middle-aged man if he had stayed away from booze, and this was based on liver function tests conducted earlier that year. Now, at the age of 52, Baker is a sober man whose past addiction, which spanned two decades, makes him 45 percent more likely to suffer premature liver failure, but he’s also twice as likely to respond positively to treatment.

Even Short-Term Sobriety Is Always Healthier

In 2018, a team of American and British researchers conducted a study among 94 individuals with moderate to severe alcoholism who abstained from drinking for a month. During the research period, the abstainers were closely monitored for blood pressure, weight, liver function, insulin management, immune system status, and blood chemistry. As expected, the health aspects monitored showed improvement across all patients. More interestingly, however, is that another focus group of moderate to heavy drinkers who didn’t abstain was also monitored, and their results didn’t show any improvement.

Health Risks Are Associated with Substance Abuse

After decades of being labeled as the riskiest addiction for overall health, cigarette smoking took a back seat to alcoholism in 2009, when the World Health Organization classified alcoholism and opiate dependencies as the riskiest substance use disorders. When these conditions are present, the risk of developing early-onset, acute, and severe cancer is up to 60 percent higher when compared to people who have been sober for more than five years. Other health risks include liver disease, severe stroke, cardiovascular disease at the cellular level, and undiagnosed immune system conditions.

Sobriety Often Equals Better Mental Health

Getting back to Michael McDonald’s addiction memoir, one of the points he strives to make in his book is how sobriety has blessed him with better mental health. He feels healthier because he feels better. This is a common benefit many patients who enter Solana Beach sober living housing enjoy as part of their recovery journeys, and neurochemistry researchers are just beginning to understand that it’s related to cortisol, which is a stress hormone. When cortisol levels are compromised by substance abuse, people become far more susceptible to depression, anxiety, derealization, and other adverse mental health conditions. When cortisol levels are balanced through sobriety, the risk of chronic mental health conditions is sharply reduced. 

If you’re newly sober and you need help with avoiding relapse, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing Solana Beach men’s sober living, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, coaching, and mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about our sober living facilities, call us today.

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