I Drank Until My Head Hurt

The hidden effects of alcoholism.

Benya Clark
Feb 19 · 3 min read

I had a headache last night, and nowadays, that’s a noteworthy event. It had been months since my last one, and it will likely be months before I have another.

These days, headaches are simply not a part of my daily life. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

When I think back to five years ago, I remember getting headaches almost every day. Some days, I’d wake up with my head already pounding. Other days, it would take a few hours for the headache to kick in.

Sometimes the pain was awful, other times fairly mild. But although the headaches varied in strength, they appeared with regularity.

Why did these daily headaches finally disappear? What’s changed in my life between now and five years ago? The answer to that is simply: I quit drinking.

The Unnoticed Effects of Alcoholism

Five years ago, I was a daily drinker. I normally started drinking after work and would continue until I went to sleep. I was almost always drunk by the time I got into bed.

At the time, I had started to notice that my alcoholism was negatively affecting my health: I was gaining weight, sleeping poorly, and had very red skin. However, there were also many health effects that I never connected with my drinking habit.

One of these latter effects was my proneness to headaches. Although I knew that I was having headaches all the time, for some reason it just never occurred to me that drinking could be the issue. I thought I was just someone who had trouble with headaches.

It wasn’t until after I got sober and the headaches went away that I finally made the connection. At that point, it seemed so terribly obvious that my drinking had caused the headaches — after all, they’re one of the most well known symptoms of heavy drinking.

I honestly couldn’t tell you why I had missed this connection. Was it a mere oversight? Subconscious denial? What I do know is that the headaches weren’t the only negative effect of alcohol that I missed.

After quitting drinking, I felt much healthier in general. I got sick way less often, I felt less tired during the day, and I didn’t get nearly as many headaches.

As a drinker, it was hard for me to understand just how badly alcohol was affecting me. I needed to experience the alternative before I could see my old drunken life clearly.

These days, four years after quitting drinking, I wake up most days feeling healthy and happy. The only pains and aches I have are from working out the day before. When I go to sleep, I’m feeling just as good.

Motivation for Sobriety

Looking back on all those years of drinking, it sometimes feels crazy to me that I could put such a harmful substance in my body night after night. It was such an obviously unhealthy lifestyle.

However, that’s what addiction is like. I ignored some of the negative effects, and I missed others entirely.

One of the things that has surprised me about sobriety is that the longer I go without alcohol, the more reasons I find to stay sober. Every year, I’m discovering new motivations for an alcohol-free life.

When I first quit, my primary motivations were saving money and weight loss. Despite the depth of my addiction, I really only had these couple of superficial reasons for making a change.

As my life improved during sobriety though, I’ve found much deeper and longer-lasting reasons to continue not drinking, including my better physical health and drastically improved mental health.

When I got my headache last night, there was a tiny part of me that was actually happy for the reminder of what my daily life used to be like. It makes me more grateful than ever for how far I’ve come.

Exploring Sobriety

Reflections on life without alcohol.

Sign up for Exploring Sobriety Updates

By Exploring Sobriety

Stay up to date with the latest from "Exploring Sobriety." Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Benya Clark

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

Exploring Sobriety

Reflections on life without alcohol.

Benya Clark

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

Exploring Sobriety

Reflections on life without alcohol.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store