The Alcohol Dopamine Hit – a Pleasure and Pain Dichotomy

The Alcohol Dopamine Hit – a Pleasure and Pain Dichotomy

I used to believe my drinking was abnormal. My emotions and mood swings, my anxiety about the drinking itself, seemed to keep me going round on the hamster wheel of drink, drunk, regret. Even though I promised myself daily that I would stop. Just STOP! Now I believe that what I was going through with my drinking was more ‘normal’ than I ever imagined. It was the dopamine hit that alcohol levels at our brains that kept me unhappily swinging from pleasure to pain.

Secretly hundreds of thousands of people are scratching their heads in shame and fear as to why they drink too much alcohol.

Hiding the ‘secret.’

I now know that many many people struggle to control the drug alcohol just like I did. Look at all the books being written. Look at all of the articles and podcasts discussing how to control your alcohol intake. Look at us here on sites springing up all over the World like this one to help give support to those struggling with alcohol.

Before I joined this community I didn’t discuss my alcohol issues or admit to the struggle within.

Everyone who decides to drink alcohol uses it in that moment because it affects them. I used it FOR that effect and I became far too dependent on the effect. I truly believed I needed to get that effect from alcohol – and so I used the drug alcohol for the wrong reasons. I used the drug to change my mood. I used the drug for the dopamine hit.

I drank alcohol to mask my feelings, enhance my feelings and stop my feelings. I become dependent on that drug to do that for me. I thought I needed it to do that for me.

I wasn’t per se craving alcohol – I was craving a change in mood.

When I was anxious, angry, sad, tired, happy, jealous, bored, fed up, looking for a ‘gift to give myself.’ I leaned on alcohol as an easy way to change my mood. An easy option to use. A socially acceptable drug. A legal drug.

Since I’d found it I hadn’t grown emotionally. My emotional growth stunted because I never learnt to find other ways to change my mood. To cope with my boredom. My constantly buzzing thoughts. Cope with the ups and downs of my life.

At first when I became AF it was very frightening. Life alcohol-free was totally alien territory. No it wasn’t easy at first but I held on this time.


No compromise.

I sometimes became angry that I was not like ‘other people.’ You know the ones who can give or take a drink? But now I see that they don’t need alcohol to cope with life. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle at times but they had learnt other coping strategies to get through their life. They weren’t dependent on alcohol as a crutch.

Only by living without alcohol can I ‘grow’ and learn ways to live my life without feeling my easy option is alcohol.

For too long I didn’t believe that was possible. In fact I COULDN’T believe that WAS possible. Not until I actually stayed Alcohol-Free for a long time.

Until I learned to live with my emotions and mood swings. Until I learned other ways to change my emotions and mood swings.

Only then did I realise that I can actually do this ‘ living life’ thing on my own.

I still have good days and bad days, that will never change. The difference is that I’m so much happier to live through them without relying on alcohol to get me through.

The following paragraph about dopamine is not my writing but gives me some insight into what I was doing wrong by using alcohol when there are many other ways to get your mood change without using alcohol. It was those other ways I had to learn and it took a long time to accept them as alternatives. Alcohol was an ‘easy’ option which gave me my dopamine hit quickly. The dopamine hit from alcohol calmed my anxiety or elevated my mood quickly. Other options (the ones in capitals at the bottom of the page) take a bit more effort and time and there’s many more options not just those in the list. Check out more reading here Filling the Empty Space in Early Sobriety

For me – despite my discomforts at first – they have become better options than poisoning my body with a drug that has so many negative side effects.

What Is Dopamine?

from Alcohol and Dopamine

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter — a chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells and communicates information throughout the body.
The brain uses billions of neurotransmitters to manage everything from our breathing to our heartbeat to our digestion.”

“Alcohol has a powerful effect on dopamine activity in the brain. When we drink, the brain’s so-called reward circuits are flooded with dopamine. This produces euphoric feelings — or what we recognize as feeling “buzzed.”

Dopamine also activates memory circuits in other parts of the brain that remember this pleasant experience and leave you thirsting for more. But over time, alcohol can cause dopamine levels to plummet, leaving you feeling miserable and desiring more alcohol to feel better.”


This post was written by Zoo. You’ll find more of her writing on Boozemusings here :

Learning from the Stop – Start Cycle and Dealing with Alcohol Cravings

Musings from Five Years Alcohol-Free – Understanding WHY I Drank

Will the fun be over if you stop drinking alcohol?

Shake off the Myths of Everything Alcohol Can Do For You – Be a Unicorn!

If you’re “sober curious” … If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…or if you have stopped drinking and are trying to stick to sober! Talk to Us. 

We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using

You can read more about us Here And join  Here

community support 24-7 or sign up and sign in here

Don’t let the shame of the stigma keep you from saying

“I think I have a problem with drinking”

How do you go Sober? ( more reading in blue titles)

B Be accountable Talk to Us We Understand
A Avoid alcohol like the plague  Ideas Here
L Let yourself enjoy regular sober treats  Ideas Here
A Allow yourself to cry when needed  Ideas Here
Nourish your body with good food  Ideas Here
C Create happy & fun memories  Ideas Here
E Enjoy the precious moments in your day Ideas Here

W Work hard to get what you want Ideas Here
O Organise things for less stress  Ideas Here
Realise you can’t control it all Ideas Here
K Keep going & prepare for success Ideas Here
S Sleep enough for body & mind rest Sleep

More From Inside the Boom Community on Dopamine :

Dopamine increases when you finish tasks

You’re Brain can take you either way
Sweet Anticipation : A Busy Resource Post on Dopamine… 

Great article on Dopamine from the Temper

More from the Boozemusings Community : 

Guide to your First Month of Sobriety: Why and How to Quit

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