Why Do I Feel Like I’ll Die Without a Drink ?

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For people who are physically dependent on alcohol, not drinking can be dangerous. If you are dependent and stop drinking without medical supervision you can die. But that is very rare. It is actually considerably more common for people to die because they continue drinking.

The vast majority of people who need to stop drinking are not physically dependent but neurologically addicted, and they only feel like they might die without a drink. The mind is a powerful thing and that feeling that you NEED to drink is most likely in your mind. However powerful it may be.

Why is that? Why does a perfectly rational, intelligent, often high functioning adult who behaves responsibly all day, find themselves needing a drink at the end of the day like a belligerent toddler demanding candy, when just hours earlier they had sworn they would never drink again?

Alcohol acts on your brain in many different ways. In the simplest terms, it stimulates you and gives you a sense of euphoria but then quickly depresses you , which causes you to drink more hoping to return to the feeling of stimulated euphoria. It is a vicious cycle.

And then as the alcohol begins to leave your system your lizard brain/ limbic cortex/survival brain starts screaming I NEED a drink. I will DIE without a drink. a Drink will fix EVERYTHING.

The Lizard brain screams but you HEAR it’s voice as a calm rational one. You hear the solution to the problem. The rational adult voice calming the storm of stress that rages in your head.

 ” Of course I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight. It’ll help me relax. I’ve had a hard day. I’ve earned it . Wine is good for me. Everyone drinks. Something else will most likely kill me first so I might as well enjoy life while I can ”

Addiction is the realignment of your brain to think it needs a chemical for survival. Like water. Like air. Your brain is an amazing, flexible instrument that is designed to learn, and drugs, are designed to manipulate it. 

It’s not just the Lizard brain that you have to override. The part of your brain that controls your instincts to do the very things you NEED to do to survive. There are also all kinds of chemical reactions going off when you drink and it takes time to re-stabilize when you stop.

Serotonin

Serotonin impacts every part of the body, from one’s motor skills to emotions, regulating one’s mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire…..

…. there (is) a significant decrease in the function of the serotonin system, which regulates impulse control and mood, in women’s brains after just four years of problem drinking, 

Serotonin system in women’s brains is damaged more readily by alcohol than that in men’s brains, study finds

Dopamine

“By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult).  The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression.

Research suggests that alcohol’s effect on dopamine is more significant for men than women, which may account for men drinking more than women on average. ….” What Alcohol Really Does to Your Brain

But those are not the only reasons that you find yourself holding a glass of wine at the end of the day that started with Never AGAIN!  It’s also because we are bullied by our culture to feel that we SHOULD be able to handle habitual drinking. Because ALL THE COOL KIDS DRINK and we’re encouraged by the media to think that people should be able to drink without consequence. It’s not just the night time shows on television where drinking is glamorized it’s all day long. The social pressure to be able to “hold your liqueur” is there on social media and for many people even at work.  

When I was drinking …

I did not understand why I was addicted or how I was addicted or what addiction meant.

I simply felt a deep immobilizing shame at not being able to stop drinking.

I was paralyzed. 

I felt tremendous guilt and self-doubt because I could not stop.

and so

I isolated myself.

I remember how it felt 

It felt like I was perpetually bullied 

You drank more than you meant to last night. You wake up feeling like crap. Full of self-doubt. You tell yourself you will stop, you’ll never do it again, you’ll cut down or you’ll stop drinking and then you find yourself at the end of the day with a glass of wine in your hands feeling like it is the solution to the problem …

What happened?! 

You’ve been bullied.

From the moment you start trying to build up the “will power” to  ” Just say NO” everywhere you look, all day long, drinking is glamourized. EVERYONE else can handle it. EVERYONE else is doing it. But you CAN stop and it is worth it.  

It’s really worth learning everything you can about the science of addiction. Alcohol is a very tricky drug . Knowledge is power!

Don’t let yourself be bullied! 

I will not be drinking today .

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If you’re drinking too much too often and want to stop or slow down, come talk to us.

Alcohol is the only drug that people question you for NOT using but you don’t HAVE to drink. Don’t stay trapped because the stigma of not drinking seems worse than the cost of drinking to much.

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More From The Boozemusings Community Blog :

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

5 great posts on the Science of Addiction

Related posts from Inside the BOOM Community :

Alcohol the Bully
Staying Sober Without AA
Shame and Redemption

Thinking About the Price of Freedom

There is no shame in becoming addicted but the addiction itself will isolate you with shame. Shame is the food addiction feeds on, STARVE IT. Feed yourself with Community and Knowledge .

im possible

More Reading :

Stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol.

Withdrawl Symptoms from Day 1 to 30 and beyond

7 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

Mind your Lizard Brain

Alcohol sugar cravings (managing them) and the whole Gut-Brain health connection thing.

The ‘witching hour’ and hypoglycaemia

12 tips for going Alcohol Free

Thoughts on Self Care and Liver Cleansing

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