My office is in an outbuilding next to Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I work for Sanford, and I’m am also in recovery, so I am acutely aware of the havoc alcohol can play on a person’s appearance. 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. Because I do not see the women in treatment every day, I am privy to the cumulative effect recovery can have on a person’s overall look. And what a difference a week makes.
I say it to the women in treatment 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. It’s like someone has taken a big pink eraser and rubbed out their vital force.
Substance use disorder (SUD) takes its toll in many ways, and it is wonderful to see the restoration that takes place in recovery. Even 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 …
In the early days of sobriety, the eyes are still bloodshot and the whites are yellowed.
This is because alcohol and other drugs dilate the small veins in the eyes, causing them to leak (yuck…). Alcohol and drugs also cause the blood vessels in your eyes to 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.
Clear, sober eyes with snowy whites are gorgeous! And clear eyes signify good health and well being. 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 mangoes; veggies like spinach and carrots; zinc-rich meats like turkey and chicken; and yogurt, nuts and seeds, all feed the pretty peepers you want to have. Think “orange” for eyes – oranges, carrots and apricots.
Alcohol causes hair loss. Substance use disorders produce brittle fright-wigs!
One of the things that is universal to an SUD is lank hair. There are many reasons why alcohol impacts hair texture and shine. 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. Alcohol raises estrogen levels and elevated estrogen causes hair loss.
And alcohol misuse lowers levels of zinc and vitamins B and C. These are essential elements for healthy hair growth. And drinking alcohol causes folic acid to drop as well. Folic acid is vital for strong hair follicles. But it is wonderful to see the confidence come back when people stop drinking/using and have hair regrowth. For gorgeous locks, eat your leafy greens. Drink lots of water and eat foods rich in zinc, like Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, avocado and okra.
Sallow, puffy or red skin? Check, Check, Check …
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. Add a cocktail of Vitamins A and C, Calcium and fish oil or flax seed oil, and you can see the difference with those bright and shining eyes you now have. Sobriety makes you prettier.
Sobriety Makes You Prettier – 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/using and their hair has grown back, their eyes are bright, and skin is glowing.
Last week, one of our residents was leaving and it was obvious she had spent some time on her grooming. Her bags were packed. She had a solid aftercare plan in place. Her family was educated about the disease of addiction and were waiting to take her home. She said to me, “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. And she was wearing lipstick. I said, “You look really pretty. Recovery looks good on you.”
She seemed startled for a moment, and then she just smiled and said, “Thanks.”
Look in the mirror and see for yourself. It’s better than Botox – sobriety makes you prettier.