I talk about this often, how I had to do a lot of really hard work retraining my brain when I first got sober. I often say "I had to work hard to shift my hard-wired thinking around alcohol and retrain my brain".
What does this mean?
It means that for twenty-plus years I was hardwired to believe that alcohol was the best way to relax and that it was vital to ensure a good time at parties or weddings or bbqs or dinner parties or long lunches or random Friday nights. I was hardwired to believe that offering an alcoholic drink to guests was the best way to be hospitable and prove that I was good fun company, that alcohol was what a hard working housewife deserved at 5pm after a busy day and that it was a lovely treat.
I gave alcohol all the power to make all of the hight points of my life what they were - relaxing, fun, social, rewarding, treaty.
So when I had to take the booze away (because I could see that it was leading me down a very dangerous path, one where I was incredibly dependent, increasingly sloppy and ultimately deceitful) I knew I had to change all of those beliefs. I had to shift my hardwired thinking around alcohol or else I'd be a miserable sober git forever more, still believing that alcohol was the golden ticket to a fun life.
But wow, what an undertaking that was. I mean... holy shitballs!!!!! We're talking 20+ years of adulthood spent steadily & heavily drinking alcohol and 20+ years of adulthood thinking about alcohol in this way.
It was hard work turning my thinking around but I had no choice. I couldn't drink, but I couldn't bear the thought of being a miserable non-drinker for the rest of my life.
So I got busy and over the early weeks and months of my sobriety I attacked every hard-wired belief or thought that I had. Literally as each thought would pop into my head I would identify it and challenge it.
For example if I found myself thinking "how will I enjoy this party if I'm not drinking??" I'd challenge that thought. I'd make a mental list of all the good things about the party that weren't about the liquid in my glass and I'd work hard within my brain to convince myself that of course I will enjoy this party without booze.
Every day (sometimes many times a day early on) these thoughts would fly into my brain and I had to put energy and effort into actively attacking them. Sometimes I didn't believe myself and felt incredibly glum and sober and boring. Sometimes I did believe it and felt great. And as time went on and I kept up with the not-drinking and attacking my hard-wired beliefs slowly, eventually I turned my thinking around.
If you haven't already you should visit the posts "That is BULLSHIT!" and "Push the fast forward button!!!". They go into more detail about how I attacked individual thoughts and beliefs and there are loads of comments underneath of how others did the same thing.
When I first got sober this brain re-training took hard work and it took determination and it took time. Time, trial and error, and practice, practice, practice. I saw my brain like a muscle that I had to build up and flex time and again to make strong.
But it worked. It totally worked! My brain is now retrained. I genuinely do not believe those things any more. I do not see drinking alcohol as the best way to relax, I don't believe getting pissed is the only way to have fun at social events, I don't believe booze is necessary for a good time, it is not a treat, and it doesn't enhance my life.
I have retrained my brain so much that I don't mind if others drinking around me, they can have that stupid liquid. I'm so delighted to be free of the booze trap.
We have everything we want in front of us, just take away the booze, work hard to retrain your brain and you will see the same.
Love, Mrs D xxx