I go on a lot about brain-retraining in early sobriety... how we need to really embrace the reality of a sober life by actively working inside our grey-matter to turn our thinking around. How we need to actively challenge every hard-wired belief that for years has told us that booze is the magical ingredient that makes any occasion special.
It took a huge amount of effort when I started living sober to not feel hard done by because I couldn't relax with a glass of merlot at 5pm, because I couldn't refresh myself on a hot afternoon with an icy cold beer, that I couldn't raise a toast with champagne, that I couldn't bond with girlfriends over a Chardonnay, that I couldn't have fun at a party without numerous tequilas.
The method I worked on (developed with the help of this book and this one) was to focus really clearly on all of the many other factors inherent in an event that weren't about what liquid was in my glass. So I'd clearly and consciously make a mental list about all of the things that were good in a moment or event.
I'd think to myself that relaxing was about being finished work for the day, putting on comfy pants and lighting a scented candle.
I'd remind myself that being refreshed was about re-hydrating and taking a well-earned break after some exertion or exercise.
I'd concentrate on the fact that raising a glass in a toast with others was about human connectedness, joy and celebration.
I'd focus on the fact that bonding with girlfriends was about female companionship, camaraderie, support and love.
And I'd hone in on the fact that having fun at a party was about being out socialising, great music, excellent chats, yummy nibbles and dancing!
And slowly over time as I relaxed, bonded, celebrated and refreshed myself without booze I realised all my hard-wired beliefs were BULLSHIT! I started seeing clearly that alcohol is a drug that mimics genuine feelings .. and experiencing those feelings authentically was infinitely better and more rewarding!
This was the most astounding and powerful observation that I came to the more I lived sober. Feeling positive emotions in a pure form (without booze) is incredibly lovely and powerful. I have been hit with pure joy so strong it took my breath away. I've been uplifted by endorphins so natural they make me feel like I'm bursting out of my skin. And I've basked in the warm and calming glow of gentle contentment that no feeling out of a bottle has ever come close to.
This is a fundamental truth: Despite the best efforts of the alcohol industry to make us believe nothing is special without alcohol, and despite the best efforts of our own brains trying to convince us that our lives will be miserable without booze... IT'S JUST NOT TRUE.
We have everything we need to live a full, fun, exciting and rewarding life naturally inside of each and every one of us. It will never be found in a brain-bending liquid inside a glass.
Love, Mrs D xxx
What a gift! Perfect way to start my day today. And a big thank you to @DaveH. I learn so much from you both. And it brings such sense to everything that I’m going through and inspires me to keep going.
Awesome and invigorating comment, Gives strength to myself that this is possible. A big smile from me :>
It’s a great message that deserves frequent repeating.
Thank you MrsD! You are so inspiring. So many of us have been drinking for years and if started out social and so much fun. We thought it was a necessity to have fun. I have been struggling in the last year with my personality changing after a few drinks. I am sometimes rude to my sweet husband for no reason and I wake up in the morning wondering what I said. One would think laying in bed at 3 am in misery and trying to nonchalantly ask him in the am “was I rude last night” would be enough for me to stop. I have never been like that before. Thank you for your inspiring post and I am so happy to be part of this group. I have to make a change.
Thank you, Mrs. D for the lovely words and the reminder that developing new pathways in the brain takes time.
Wow! For a long time I’ve suspected that these powerful wonderful feelings that you describe so vividly are there, but I’ve only had glimpses of them. When I’ve stayed dry for a few days. I can’t wait for this to be the new normal for me! 4 days down, on my way ?
Brain re-training is everything, it is 100% of the challenge we face when overcoming our addiction. It is our brains that are the problem, not alcohol. Sure, drinking has led to us being the way that we are, but it is how our brains work in relation to alcohol that is the problem, not alcohol itself.
The advertising and promotion of alcohol industry is not responsible for our addiction. If that marketing made us addicted then everyone exposed to the marketing would be similarly impacted, but that is not the case. Normal drinkers see exactly the same amount of promotional material as we do, but it does not make them become addicted. But the clearest evidence that alcohol marketing does not cause addiction lies in the other drugs that are cuasing problems. Herion, marijuana, meth etc have no advertising whatsoever, but still have large numbers of addicts. Advertising does not cause addiction.
What causes addiction is when the reward system recognises the benefits of drinking far more strongly than it recognises the harmful consequences, and THAT is the difference between us and normal drinkers. In us the reward system encourages drinking far more strongly that it discourages drinking, and our brains enter a runaway condition whereby the urge to drink is further increased by the act of drinking. It is the reward system in our brains driving this, not the marketing of the alcohol industry, and all the other challenges we face in stem from this.
When we stop drinking we face four distinct challenges simultaneously; cravings, low emotions, biased memory, and lies (e.g “just one won’t hurt”). None of these is created by alcohol; they are all manufactured by us inside our own brains. But far more seriously for us is that these are all created entirely automatically. We can’t choose to not have cravings, we can’t choose to not feel miserable, we can’t choose to have different memories and we can’t choose for the lies to not come. We have no direct or immediate control over these things; they are going to happen whether we want them or not.
But the brain has not accidentally arrived in this state. The brain is a learning organ. It is self-teaching and self-improving and it learns and improves completely automatically… it doesn’t run things past our judgement first. Mental processes that are repeated are strengthened and become faster, and this makes them more preferred routes through the brain… that is what learning is, whether it is related to a memory, a behaviour, an emotional response or whatever. Our brains “learn” to encourage us to drink.
Our whole challenge in recovering from addiction lies in re-teaching the brain how to operate in relation to alcohol. To retrain our brain we have to make it use slower and less preferred routes over well practised and exercised routes until these newer routes gain sufficient strength to become faster than the old ones. This is an enormous challenge. We have recognise that our brain has followed a pathway that we don’t want to continue to use, we have to force it to follow a different thought-path, and we have to keep repeating this intervention until the new pathway becomes fast enough to become the automatically preferred route.
We have to stop our brain doing what it naturally wants to do and force it to behave differently. That is the whole challenge of addiction and once we understand this then we also understand why it is such an incredibly difficult thing to do.
I appreciate your thoughts. I never saw an ad for alcohol and thought, ‘hey, I need a drink’. McDonalds is probably the largest advertiser in the world and I don’t eat at McDonald’s. I have learned to drink. I have learned to drink when miserable and I have learned to drink when happy. I can laugh at myself now. There were times I would celebrate 5 days with no booze by having a drink. No advertising needed. Re-training the brain is hard, at times lonely, frustrating…but it can be done. I now look for simple rewards such as being clear minded enough to enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
Thanks for your written thoughts.
I am almost a year alcohol free which is something I NEVER could have imagined myself doing. Its been hard but so rewarding. I have been fully present in the last year with no embarrassing or downright scary blackouts and so much more. I love having helpful sites like yours it backs me up so much. I am not in AA or anything but one thing I think is so true is literally take it “one day at a time’ otherwise you will drive yourself mad! Your brain is a powerful thing and eventually after a lot of noise about whether to drink again or not, it will retrain itself. Thank you Mrs D and to anyone else thinking about it. You CAN do this x
At 156 days, I am finding that this is the absolute truth! I do not need alcohol to have fum, relax or celebrate anything! In fact, life is much more enjoyable now. Thanks for the awesome post!!
Just what I needed to read this morning thank you Mrs D. At 2 weeks sober this is the part I struggle with the most. Reading this post has made me feel infinitely more positive about the future
Love this, and need this mind change. This post is exactly what I needed to read, and will reread. I love that you give real examples in real circumstances that we all experience.
That is truly comforting to read.I am 23 Days without now. For the first time in a long time I can see where I’m heading.
Thank you! I want me some.of that!! ??
“Alcohol is a drug which mimics genuine feelings”, POW!! How beautifully written. What diamonds you impart~~~ whoa, thanking you Mrs. D.