Saturday, September 30, 2017
100 days! How I got here 9/30/17
Today I have been sober 100 days.
I had a huge "light bulb moment" a couple of years ago when I read about how using alcohol repeatedly physically, biochemically changes the neurotransmitters in such a way that you "need" alcohol to feel happy. I realized - maybe I'm not just making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it isn't just my latest obsession. Maybe, if I just stop worrying about my drinking, the worry/problem will go away. Maybe, at this point the addiction isn't my fault. Well it is my fault bc I caused it but maybe it is more than just a mental game. Maybe it is an actual physical game that is making it hard for me to quit. Maybe it isn't just that I am weak, so I can't control it. Maybe it is physically beyond my ability to control it at this point bc I have restructured my brain with a deadly chemical. Maybe I'm not just imagining I have a problem. Maybe it isn't just in my head. Maybe I'm not over exaggerating my inability to stop drinking. I have no idea of that makes sense to anyone else but it flipped a switch for me. It wasn't just about "trying harder to moderate....only drink two....drink water...eat first...." Somehow, learning all of this was a huge weight off my shoulders. Somehow, I felt less like a failure and that allowed me to start thinking about the only solution that made sense - to stop drinking and heal my damaged neurotransmitters. This explained my cravings, my desire to keep drinking, in a scientific, physical, real way. The first switch was flipped for me.
As long as I kept pouting alcohol into my brain, even when successfully moderating, the more damage I was physically causing to my reward system which was causing my cravings and inability to stop - I wasn't just making it all up - it was real.
Then 100 days ago I had another HUGE "aha moment" when I realized that using alcohol every weekend, even moderately, was affecting my ability to enjoy life at all - ever - even when not hungover - that I needed a drink to feel happy, relaxed, at peace. Without my weekend drink, I was just tired, depressed, anxious, kind of blah feeling all the time. It wasn't just that I was tired or over stressed or had a bad week. or whatever reason I came up with, it was because I didn't have alcohol in my brain setting off the chemicals responsible for making me happy. I realized, 100 days ago, that I would feel tired, kinda down, not super happy until I had that drink. I noticed that I got talkative, my mood lightened and I could enjoy life once I had that drink. Then the 2nd flip was switched.
I realized that not only was I living to drink on the weekend, I was drinking on the weekend to enjoy living - even when sober. I had rewired my brain (physically) to not be able to enjoy life without alcohol - even when sober.
This latest article I read, flipped a 3rd switch for me. The article was about the subconscious mind. Alcohol, no matter how small, relaxed me, calmed down the anxiety, made me feel relaxed, social, less stressed, less tired, happy. The more times (weekend drinking for about 30 years) my brain had the calm/relaxed/happy response from the alcohol, the more my subconscious mind put these two things together and craved the alcohol to achieve those feelings. It's like Pavlov's dog or putting your foot on the brake in the driver's seat. It becomes an automatic subconscious solution to feeling stressed, tired, anxious, worried or depressed. My subconscious brain tells me, without me even realizing it, that I need that drug to feel better. I realized this last night. I was exhausted. I had had a super busy week full of evening meetings, parent conferences, team meetings, etc. I was driving back from the grocery store, about to pass out from exhaustion and I thought to myself, "If I was having a nice IPA when I got home (while putting the groceries away) to celebrate the week being over, I would feel a lot better right now. I would be happy, have a lot more energy and be really looking forward to having that beer. Even the thought of drinking would make me feel better. And then I thought, "Why is that? I'm exhausted! Why would I want to drink?" It's bc my subconscious mind is telling me that it will relax me, make me feel better, make me happy. What my subconscious mind doesn't realize is that it is the lack of alcohol on a Friday night that is actually partially responsible for me feeling so shitty. That if I drink I am temporarily relieving the problem but exacerbating the problem long term because alcohol is what is causing the problem in the first place. Switch 3 flipped
I was relieving all of my depression, anxiety, boredom by drinking the drug that was causing all my problems. This was happening on a physical, subconscious and biochemical level. The only way to stop the insanity is to not drink at all - ever - and let my brain heal. It needs to relearn how to be happy - without a drug.
Thank goodness the damage isn't permanent at this point.
It has been a long journey, mentally and physically, to get to this point of understanding with my addiction. I am thankful for every day I remain sober bc I am healing.