Skip to main content

View Diary: Hi everyone, I'm Matt, and I'm an alcoholic. (271 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Congratulations Matt (3+ / 0-)

    Your life is about to begin again. But first, you have to make it out of the alcohol haze.

    Undoubtedly, for the next few months, you are going to have a lot of confusing thoughts. You are going to go to meetings that make you feel really uncomfortable. You are going to hear people in meetings say shit you don't believe. You are almost certainly going to start arguing with yourself over whether you really need to commit to AA or just being a complete non-drinker. Your mind will try to convince you that you can control alcohol. That you can moderate your behavior.

    Everyone is different. But chances are, no matter how intelligent you are, gifted, or special in many other ways, you will experience the exact same issues everyone else does.

    What you have to understand is that even after you quit drinking for a few weeks, your mind is still very much under the influence of alcohol. And there's a subconscious force that will be constantly trying to get you to say fuck it, and get drunk.

    This is because of two main things. One is that your addiction is not rational. You addiction goes right down to your reptilian brain, otherwise known as the hypothalamus. This is the part of your brain that controls autonomic functions like hunger, heart rate, thirst, even body temperature.

    Humans, with the possible exception of Buddhist monks, can't access or control or even influence the cravings of the hypothalamus. It goes real deep.

    What the rational mind can do, however, is override those cravings. And there are a lot of tricks to do that. Which leads to the second reason why your mind is still under the influence of alcohol even after you've stopped drinking for a while. Conditioned response.

    For years now, I presume, you've been out having a good time drinking. Since high school and through college? Thereafter? And only recently recently perhaps did it start to go bad?

    If that is the case, then you've had a lot of good emotional experiences drinking alcohol. A lot of good times and memories. And you have become, like Pavlov's dog, conditioned to associate fun with drinking.

    The associative response is very powerful. And it will probably be the biggest trigger down the road for wanting to drink.

    The trick is to re-associate drinking not with positive experiences but with negative ones. See a Budweiser ad showing happy people having beers in the backyard over barbeque? Replace it in your mind with you hovering over a toilet.

    Thoughts are not something that happen. They're something you do, and you can control them. Whenever you find yourself romanticizing the good old days of partying out with your buddies, remember the hangover, sickness, and DUI, or any of the scores of tragic consequences your drinking caused you.

    I've been doing this for 10 years now and I don't even remotely crave alcohol anymore. I associate it with sickness, failure and ultimately, my death.

    So this is how, even after you sober up or abstain from drinking for a while, your mind will still be sort of under the influence of alcohol. Your subconscious has been programmed to drink and to associate drinking with pleasure.

    I found it very helpful to know this when I was in my early days of sobriety. I would feel these emotions and cravings triggered by anything really, a full moon, a beautiful evening, that made me think how fun it would be to drink and I would know that my subconscious, reptilian mind was lying to me, so to speak.

    So, if the conditioned response is so very powerful, how's anyone supposed to resist it? You have to replace it with something else.

    Here's the most important point, for me, that I will make here. You cannot not drink.

    As in, you can't wake up and say, "I think I'm going to not drink today."

    I can't tell you how many times I've seen people come to meetings or call me saying that their going out of their minds sitting around trying to not drink.

    You can't do it. What you have to do is find a replacement for drinking, and do that instead. This is one of the most powerful aspects of AA. It has these meetings going all the time. Starting to feel bored or some other emotion that your subconscious mind usually wants to solve by going out for drinks? Go to a meeting.

    But the truth is meetings aren't really going ALL the time and sometimes you have to entertain yourself.

    I strongly recommend you realize that whatever time you used to spend drinking, you now will fill with other activities. Besides going to meeting, which in these early stages should top your list, you now have the opportunity to start doing really fun things again.

    For me, I had to get in touch with the me of my pre-drinking days. I looked back at all the stuff I liked doing before being a bar fly became my primary activity. Fortunately for me, I am into a lot of things. I p[lay music, I am curious about everything from history to science to literature. Quitting drinking reacquainted me with the huge, fascinating world again.

    I remember how scared I was that my life as I knew it would be over. That the party had to end. And that boredom would be my new default state.

    What an idiot I was. I now look back on all those "fun" days of partying now with a deep sadness for all the real fun I could have been having. All the wasted moments, wasted years, poisoning my brain for a superficial high.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site