Brain retraining…

rewire your brain

I talk a lot about this, 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 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 I wrote some months ago – “That is BULLSHIT!” and “Push the fast forward button!!!”. In them I go into more detail about how I attacked individual thoughts and beliefs .

When I first got sober this brain re-training took hard work and it took determination and it took time. Time and trial & 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

20 Comments
  1. Clare 4 months ago

    Fantastic words Mrs D.
    Totally agree.

  2. Freedomefighter 4 months ago

    Great work! Almost at 40!

  3. Jo 4 months ago

    Yeah mate. been there done that with the kids. Seeing it in writing though, powerful reminder. They are so important and I wanted my daughters story to not involve mum with wine. One night she got so worried when I was drinking she made me write her nanas number down just in case I didn’t wake up or something, goodness knows what. She was 7 at the time. And guess what!? That didn’t even stop me WTF huh. Time to put her first and enjoy the moments I have with her. Sadly that’s not my worst story involving alcohol. Sigh. Onwards and upwards 36 days and counting 🙂 happy day!!

  4. Freedomfighter 4 months ago

    great idea. play the tape forward. it seems like a good idea at the time. one drink makes me feel like it is a GREAT idea. then i forget how many drinks i’ve had or what committment i have the next day. then i can’t communicate with my children properly, i become impatient because i have to take care of them instead of sitting down and drinking. i finally get them to bed in a hurry and end up talking nonsense with my drunk husband, smoking and getting wasted. I wake up to an upset stomach, fatigue, headache, guilt, shame…oh man. hate that. hate all of that.

  5. Annie 5 months ago

    Mrs D is incredible.There is a way out.

  6. Nadia 5 months ago

    I totally relate to this post. I was AF earlier this year and it was a really healthy time where I felt amazing. I’m drinking again & I struggle with myself so often. I really need another month off to reboot. This morning I’m hungover tired & back in bed hiding from my responsibilities. It’s scary because I feel insecure

  7. Kirsty 5 months ago

    Yes I have read it and it’s great. It really opens your eyes to so many myths around alcohol. Alan Carr writes in s funny entertaining way too. Loved the book and his quit smoking one too.

  8. Choosewisely 5 months ago

    Ok I’m gonna check out that book. Has anyone read the Allen Carr book ?

  9. JR 5 months ago

    Boy, this is such a spot on post @mrs-d ….and I found as my brain healed its dependence, I found joy again in the simple things. The more dependent, the more we would need more to get the “high” and our lows are deeper…..creating and keeping us in the viscious cycle. It takes persistence to crawl out….and your attacking entrenched believes is spot on!

  10. Elsa1202 5 months ago

    This perfectly sums it up! I love how you talk about not wanting to be a miserable sober person and therefore having to rethink things. So true. The brain retraining was the only way for me. Its definitely not easy but most things that are good for you aren’t- they take strength and/or hard work – especially at the beginning. Thank you for your inspiration Mrs D. You and your writing have definitely been like my own virtual personal trainer throughout the whole reshaping of my brain and I’m eternally grateful. Loving this life free of the booze bitch!

  11. Rosieoutlook 5 months ago

    Hi Mrs D,
    I so identify with your story…. It is coming up 4 years this month of me breaking free of the shackles wine had me in. I had discovered your blog, Unpickled and the Bubble hour podcast. They were my go too’s for keeping on the right track… I would also highly recommend Jason Vale’s Kick the drink ….Easily book. I feel this reprogrammed my way I looked at wine and my habit. Life is awesome and free from the turmoil that drinking wine used to bring. Thank you for being a true inspiration. 🙂

  12. moderndaygrl 5 months ago

    i am having a heck of a time retraining my brain. I KNOW that booze is bad, i know how shitty it makes me feel the day after, heck, even while drinking. the shame, self hate, regret, remorse etc etc etc. feelings that always always follow now after every time i cave. yet, i still decide to drink!! it’s madness i tell you. even right now as i type this, i am pissed off at myself for drinking yet again yesterday bc i had a shitty day, i’m feeling like crap today, super down, tired, unmotivated, craving shit food… it sucks. i’m going to force myself to the gym for a workout, and go to hot yoga later… always helps but, still thinking about drinking here. the thoughts just won’t shut up. my longest AF stint was 41 days at the beginning of this year and it was AMAZING, and i remember after a few weeks in, i stopped obsessing about it, i stopped googling up sobriety articles and blogs… it just wasn’t on my mind anymore and it was natural… until it wasn’t and i was back drinking again. here we go again. i won’t stop trying, but when i get that feeling of “i give up, fuck this” coming over me… it hurts. at this point, i wonder if i will ever not see a day 1 again???

    • Choosewisely 5 months ago

      Hi there

      I’ve just logged in for the first time in ages. May 1, 2016 is when I first tried to quit. I lasted three months, I’d hit bottom. I had to admit I was alcoholic. But couldn’t accept it. And still struggle. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I know exactly how you feel. Addiction can be a disease and illness. You’ve lost the power to choose, as I have….you could try AA? Our bodies react different,y to the chemicals in alcohol, it’s not your fault. It’s not cause you’ve had a
      shitty day necessarily, that’s the trigger, sure. It’s good to be around other people who understand. You could save yourself years of what you are going through now… arohanui x
      .

  13. Dot2 5 months ago

    Since I was a closet drinker, until I became a movable drunk and lost my license (thank God I didn’t hurt or kill anyone), alcohol represented to me relief, not fun. I used it for 30+ years to calm myself and sleep or isolate. Of course it became everything to me and after almost dying from it’s effects, I decided to get on the path of awareness. Not just for my kids, but for me as I believe there is still purpose in this moment. Thank you for listening.

  14. Picklegirl 5 months ago

    I’m having a very hard time ‘retraining’ my brain. Even though I know alcohol is the cause of all of my unhappiness. I can’t seem to get past the idea that drinks on the deck on a warm summers day are a good idea. It always turns out to be a bad idea 🙁

    • Choosewisely 5 months ago

      Yea it does. There is a technique you can use, it’s a phrase, play the tape forward. See where that one drink leads you…

    • Rosieoutlook 5 months ago

      If you can get a copy of Jason Vale’s book ‘Kick the Drink…Easily’. This might help retrain your mind about drinking:)

      • Elsa1202 5 months ago

        This book and Mrs D’s were the two things that sorted my booze-addled brain out. Good advice @rosieoutlook !

  15. freedom1025 5 months ago

    “Alcohol is not the golden ticket to a fun life.” Embracing this notion changes everything!

  16. enzedgirl 5 months ago

    You’re a natural cognitive behavioral self-therapist @mrs-d 🙂

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