Better Than Botox – Sobriety Makes You Prettier!

hall of mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles…


The other day I was having a phone conversation with Rae and Lynnel at Sanford House about what I was going to be doing in my group session and when we finished I said, “Okay, sounds good. Bye girls.” I am old enough to actually remember the early days of the “Women’s Lib” movement, and I felt compelled to retract the salutation and say (with a dose of irony), “Sorry, I meant to say bye ‘women colleagues’.”


They both said in a chorus, “No problem. We like to be called ‘girls’.”  I believe these days, if you are over 25 and confident in your standing as a professional woman, you probably don’t mince diminutives like ‘girl’ or ‘sweetie’ unless they are coming out of the mouths of an obvious chauvinist, or your boss when you ask for a pay raise. We work in a women’s treatment center. We respect each other. And we are still vain enough to admit that being called a ‘girl’ in the middle of a long work day is a bit refreshing, complimentary and good for mental health.


Look in the Mirror, Sober Girls

I always get asked, “If I stop drinking will my hair grow back?” I think vanity gets a bad rap. My waning good looks are one of the reasons I got, and stay sober, and I think a magnifying hand mirror should be an implement in every woman’s sobriety tool box. I spend most of my work day in an office a few blocks from Sanford House, but I go to the treatment center every Friday to conduct a group session. And what a difference a week makes.


I say it to the women in my group all the time, “You look great!” The difference between the way a woman looks when she arrives at Sanford and how she looks when she leaves is marked. I can describe it in three words: eyes, hair, skin. I’ll be honest, women arriving at Sanford look like empty casings. They have lost all their color – like someone has taken a big, pink eraser and rubbed out their vital force…


A week of good nutrition, exercise, evidence-based therapy, safety and abstinence –  and miracles begin to happen. Inside and out.


Here’s Why Sobriety Makes You Prettier


eyeIn the early days of sobriety, the eyes are still bloodshot and the white of the eye is yellowed. This is because alcohol and other drugs dilate the small veins in the eyes, causing them to leak (yuck…). Alcohol and other drugs also makes the blood vessels in your eyes expand, making them more prominent. Yellowing of the whites is a side effect of a compromised liver – the result of long term substance use. Puffiness and dark circles around the eyes are caused by lack of sleep, bad circulation, water retention and overall poor health.

There is nothing so pretty as clear, sober eyes with snowy whites. It signifies good health and wellbeing and no amount of eye drops can create the effect. When you quit drinking the dark circles under your eyes will come back to life. Once you are sober and clear eyed, you can keep your good looks with Vitamins C,E, A and Zinc. Fruits like strawberries and mangos; veggies like spinach and carrots; zinc-rich meats like turkey and chicken; and yogurt, nuts and seeds all feed the gorgeous peepers you want to have. Think orange for eyes – oranges, carrots and apricots.



Alcohol causes hair loss. When I stopped drinking my sober hair was a brittle, fright wig (literally – I wore tangled hair extensions that were hot-melted to the roots of my own wispy locks). One of the things that is universal to addiction is lank hair. There are many reasons why alcohol affects this.

Heavy drinkers and drug users rarely have a balanced diet; alcohol is a diuretic, and hair is like a tissue that needs constant nourishment and hydration; and booze raises estrogen levels and elevated estrogen causes hair loss. Over-drinking lowers levels of zinc and vitamins B and C: essential elements for healthy hair growth; and drinking alcohol causes folic acid to drop – folic acid is vital for strong hair follicles. There is nothing better than seeing the confidence come back when people stop drinking and have hair regrowth.

For gorgeous locks, eat your leafy greens. Drink lots of water and eat foods rich in zinc, like Brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, avocado and okra.


skinSallow, puffy or red skin? It’s not nice to abuse your liver. Drug and alcohol use is very hard on the organ that filters and processes the blood as it circulates through the body. Also, alcohol depletes nutrition and electrolytes and steals good hydration from the body. Broken blood vessels, rosacea, red spots, wrinkles, puffiness and dryness are only a few of the maladies substance use can cause.

If you want to put the glow back in your sober skin, start with the inside and the obvious. Good health makes for beautiful skin and although a facial helps with enlarged pores and puffy eyes, there is no substitute for clean living. Avoid caffeine, processed foods and sugar. Exercise, lots of water and sleep helps – your skin and any weight loss or gain can be managed with a healthy lifestyle. Add a cocktail of Vitamins A and C, Calcium and fish oil or flaxseed oil and you can see the difference with those bright and shining eyes you now have…


It’s Health Science

A lot of what I have described about drug and alcohol consumption is not rocket science, but it is health science. When we are actively using, we tend to forget the simple rules to good health and beauty. It is a beautiful sight when a patient has quit drinking – their hair grew back, their eyes are bright and skin is glowing. On Friday, one of our residents was leaving, and it was obvious she had spent some time on her grooming. She said, “For the first time in a long time, I can say I’m ready to go home. I feel ready. I feel good.”


She was wearing a headband over French braided hair, She was wearing lipstick. I said, “You look really pretty.” She was startled for a moment, and then she just smiled and said, “Thanks.”


Look in the mirror, sober girls. You are beautiful!



Author, Marilyn Spiller is a writer, speaker, sober coach and recovery advocate with a 20-year history of international hobnobbing and outrageous over-drinking. Five years sober, she writes a popular blog called Waking Up the Ghost, where she pens a humorous account of her wobbly steps toward long-term recovery. Marilyn is the Executive Director of Marketing for Sanford House. She is responsible for business development and branding, all Sanford House publications and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford House online magazine, Excursions.