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Alcohol Deprivation Blues – Understanding and Managing the Dopamine Dip in Early Sobriety
How does the dopamine hit that you get from a drink make you reliant on alcohol? What do you need to understand about the role dopamine plays in your experience of joy and well being, in order to successfully stop drinking and stay sober?
Dopamine. Also known as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s an important part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more.
read more : How to Hack Your Hormones for a Better Mood
All drugs which lead to dependence appear to affect the dopamine system and alcohol is one of those drugs. The following articles are written by members of our BOOM community. Sharing our varied experience of what worked for each of us in the hopes that it may help others.
Daily work. Change. Control – can start with a simple daily list
The hardest thing for me about stopping drinking was the vulnerability I felt when I removed the coping mechanism I had used my entire adult life, but, it is allowing that very vulnerability that enables change. Opening myself to knowing that I could not control alcohol. That I could not control my external world. That I could not control the chaos. But that I could choose to NOT drink and that was enough to start the process of breaking free.
One of the reasons that people feel raw, exposed, and vulnerable when they stop drinking, is that their brains haven’t learned how to shoot out that “feel good” chemical dopamine without the alcohol key in the ignition. But writing that list and checking things off is the beginning of retraining your brain to feel good naturally!
“Dopamine increases when we are organized and finish tasks – regardless if the task is small or large. So, don’t allow your brain to worry about things that need to be done. Instead, write these tasks down and then check them off one at a time. It’s been shown that it’s more satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels when we physically check something off of our to-do list.” from 10 Ways you can release Dopamine in the Brain without Medication
Read more: Breaking Free
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.
…. 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. 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.
Anyone who is getting sober or still working on staying sober understands how it feels to rob the brain of am alcohol induced dopamine “fix” that has become habitual. At the very least, it sets off a psychological withdrawal, a kind of emptiness or restlessness or craving for something that feels uncomfortable. It’s a “pull” back into whatever habit we formed that set off all that dopamine release in the first place.
The path in early sobriety or intermittent sobriety is all about that “pull” but also all about getting past it. Getting free! Some people do a flawless job of getting and staying sober, but for many it’s a process and a path strewn with stumbles and falls. And it’s human nature to focus on the disappointments and not upon the gains. So that’s where this article comes in.
read more The Dopamine Dance in your Brain
Eventually the dopamine hit from the successful lie, from “getting away with it”, becomes almost as powerful as the dopamine hit from the drug. Hiding away. Me and my bottle. Me and my smokes. My precious.
When I was pretending not to smoke, and pretending not to open that second bottle of wine at night, the pretending was almost as addictive to my brain as the alcohol and nicotine. Eventually the dopamine hit from the successful lie, from getting away with it, becomes almost as powerful as the dopamine hit from the drug.
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