How I Became Alcohol-Free. Thoughts on Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis

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When you give up alcohol you have to go through a process of change. I don’t mean the change of you’ve “decided to try stopping drinking alcohol.” On its own, it can be argued that that statement is meaningless and possibly/probably bound to fail.

Maybe you’ve made a decision to give up alcohol and you assume that is your whole focus but stopping drinking alcohol is only a part of all this.

The essential part you have to focus on is changing the things in your life that are alcohol-related. You have to change the aspects of your life that make you ‘link’ with alcohol. You have to change the things you do that make you continue to drink. You have to focus on changing yourself by learning new things, learning new ways of thinking, doing new things.

What are you going to do? When are you going to do it. How are you going to do it?

If you carry on drinking and never change then your brain doesn’t have the chance to change either. Your brain will stay in the same place as that of a drinker.

If you stop drinking and slowly make changes in your life that don’t make you ‘link’ with alcohol then your brain will have the chance to slowly change to that of a non-drinker.

‘’Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.”

‘’Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is a general term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking and emotions’’

Neurogenesis is the creation of new neurons in your mind which if stimulated start firing off allowing changes in the brain.

This process can start from your first day alcohol-free but it’s important to accept that it’s a gradual process and it can’t be rushed.

– It will never happen overnight……

Put simply – If you stay AF and change your behaviour at the same time you’re going to develop different parts of your brain. The more you change your behaviour away from alcohol and find new ways to live the more these new pathways will evolve.

It will hopefully become easier to make those improvements in your life.

Your brain adapts to what you do in your life. To the situations and activities that you choose to be involved with. To how you act.

To who you choose to be.

So if you truly want to change your life and live without alcohol you have to be prepared to do some groundwork. I don’t mean climb a mountain or learn a new musical instrument or put your name down for a marathon. You may simply find you’re really tired and you decide to focus on learning new techniques to relax and sleep. You may find you’re anxious and decide to focus on ways and means to de-stress online (or find a class) for exercise, yoga or mindfulness etc. You may find you’re brain is crying out for stimulation or that you’re bored and decide to focus on finding new activities like reading, walking, watching a film, going to the cinema, knitting or learning a new language etc.
You may concentrate on making nice meals etc.

You may be like me and choose to do a few new activities, change some routines and learn how to change your reactions to emotions. (It was usually emotions that I used to justify my drinking).

So to put it bluntly when you stop drinking alcohol if you truly want to do this you have accept that you need to undergo this process of change.

If you continue to do exactly the same things, in exactly the same environment and are not learning how to change your daily routine, your daily actions and reaction to emotion then you may find you struggle to stay Alcohol-free. In fact, you may find it’s impossible to not drink alcohol.

You may find you’re stuck – feeling resentful of the fact you’re not drinking alcohol.

And so you drink and – worst of all – you justify it when deep down you know it’s so bad for you and those around you.

So now I know why it worked for me this last time I quit after years of trying.

Now when I look back I know it was because I changed my daily routine, actions, and reaction to emotions to not include alcohol whatever happened. And now I see that it was actually because I changed them that I was able to give up alcohol long term. I accepted I had to do things differently, live my life differently and maybe develop new interests. But especially learn new ways to deal with my emotions. My focus was on ‘changing’ and that’s what I HAD to do instead of drinking alcohol.

At first, my biggest change was writing and posting on the site. But now I realise it got my brain ‘going.’ Jump started it. Made me start thinking and researching things and looking things up online. Because I’d got my brain ‘going’ it subsequently made me go for walks more, make nice meals, have hot baths, start yoga classes and find other ways to relax instead of drinking.

It made me THINK before I picked up a glass of wine.

Instead I worked out why I wanted to drink, what I thought I’d get from it and most of all it made me determined not to drink alcohol – even though at the beginning my every thought was crying out for it.
I read books and read online (not just about alcohol about many things). Most importantly of all for me is that I learned to stop reacting to certain situations, slowly learnt to control my reaction to emotions.

Sooooo for those of you who’ve got this far -to sum up my musings and epic post

How I became AF-

Alcohol was not good for my brain (no shit Sherlock -I knew that 😳) but I hadn’t realised that I wasn’t using my brain in the right way because I was drinking it…..

Stopping drinking alcohol was a great plan for me – but it could never be enough on its own to sustain the action long term.

When I stopped drinking alcohol I needed to undergo a process of lifestyle change and thought process change – and focus on them in order for it to work long term.

In focusing on changing my life it made my brain ‘grow.’
Neurogenesis stimulated and developed changes in my brain.

So if you’ve chosen to have a crack at being AF then the more you use your brain in the right way and the more you challenge yourself – the better chance you have of staying AF.

Stay safe ❤️

I love being AF 🦄
( 5 years 5 months AF)


Related Reading : Your Power Over Addiction From Psychology Today Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D.


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