Isn’t it fantastic to be driving down the road on a sunny day and, out of the blue, get hit by a bolt of bliss? Intense well-being for no apparent reason! Best. Feeling. Ever. You’re going about your daily routine and feel ‘oh ya, this is so good, I am rocking this life!’ No? This is not sounding familiar? Do you forget the last time this happened to you? Oh Sweetie, I know how you feel and it was a deal breaker for me.
I love definitions and dictionaries. Urban Dictionary defines wake-up call as ‘when you’ve been doing something self- destructive for some time before something serious happens that forces you to come to terms with what you’ve been doing and that you need to stop.’ This exactly describes how it went down for me when I realized that my beloved wine was actually stealing my ability to feel good. It was numbing the pleasure center of my brain, pretty much wrecking it. Let me explain.
Drinking does a lot of stuff to our brain. I am going to focus on one of those things for a sec. They are all equally alarming but this really shook me up and was one of the reasons my beloved wine and I had to get a divorce. There is a teensy part of our brain called the Nucleus Acumbens (NA for short) and it’s the pleasure center. Tons of great things result in activity in this part of our brain, but the thing that jazzes it the most is any kind of addictive substance. For me it was wine in any color. Drinking stimulates the reward center so you feel good but there’s this darn thing called homeostasis. Remember that from high school science class? Recall that we need it to stay alive- so it’s working away in our body at all times. Wine drinking looks something like this…have a wine & stuff happens in brain which stimulates pleasure in NA. Drink more wine and with time the brain becomes overstimulated, this is not good. Your brain cannot handle too much of anything, even pleasure, so to maintain equilibrium it releases a natural painkiller which will actually inhibit the NA. Yep, you read that right Baby. Inhibit, as in decreases or stops the pleasure. In the context of alcohol this is called tolerance. Your brain alters your tolerance to the substance over time. It seems like you need more and more to feel the same amount of pleasure. But I haven’t even got to the kicker yet….it’s not only alcohol that your brain can no longer feel pleasure for but everything. Crap. All those everyday occurrences that would give you a shot of joy no longer affect you because the pleasure center in your brain is damaged. Doesn’t that just suck? I certainly thought so.
Look around at your drinker friends (or yourself) – some of them don’t seem to experience any kind of genuine happiness and even the drink doesn’t give them much pleasure. In fact, they may even need a drink just to feel normal. Here’s the thing Sweet One, no matter how much you drink you are probably not going to be drinking less this time next year. How about in 5 years? Our intake usually increases a little bit (or a lot) each year because we need more and more of it to get the same result in our brain. Once I learned this I realized the only direction I could go was down because I would lose more happiness every single year. Total bummer.
There’s a ton of science behind alcohol and the brain but until you find the piece that really rocks your world it might not mean much. But as the saying goes, once you learn something you cannot unlearn it. Now you know that when you drink your brain creates homeostasis in your body by inhibiting the feel good chemicals coming from the nucleus acumbens which, over time, results in loss of your ability to feel pleasure IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE.
If this rocks your world, the way it did mine, what are you supposed to do about it? Pay attention to see if drinking actually brings you true pleasure or if you may experience relaxation and well-being just by being in that situation, regardless of the alcohol. Take note you Gorgeous thing. Do you truly, honestly feel good after that second or third glass, or whatever? How about the rest of your life…how is the joy looking? Pay attention. Start to learn what nurtures your soul (more on that in future posts) and what sucks it dry. Make a list, write it down. Success is a process and self-knowledge is the foundation. (Ya, I know that sounds so self-helpy and cliché but it is so darn true!).
I am simplifying the science but if you’re the kind of gal who wants the hard core research, if you need medical-literature-proof beyond what your own body is telling you, please contact me and I’ll be happy to supply you with my sources.
If you’re ready to grab a FREE copy of my best tips to start to explore your relationship with alcohol click on the link at the top of this page! These simple ideas started me on the road to happily living alcohol free, even when I never would’ve believed it could happen. xox Donna
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