It’s been almost a week since I last posted, but I’m doing well. Great, actually. It’s been a whole week since I dumped that “temptation bottle” of wine down the kitchen sink, along with the rest of the booze in my house–and frankly, I’ve barely thought about drinking let alone wanted to drink. Day 23, and rocking it.
For a work project, lately I’ve been reading about the neuroscience of addiction. My, oh, my, how our shit gets fucked up. NO WONDER it takes us so long to heal. And here we are, blaming and hating on ourselves. Dude, the wolf voice is real.
I went camping yesterday, and a friend met us down on the beach. We got to talking about drugs and booze and he said that his ex-wife (now deceased from complications of alcoholism, sadly–she was like, mid-50s?) used to get drunk on the way to the restaurant. Like, literally, her personality would change as they were driving, before she even got near the first glass. He said he had friends who would experience the symptoms of being high–like vomiting; kind of hard to fake that–en route to get the heroin. He said they had to pull the car over for the guy to throw up onto the side of the road, miles before their pickup point!
I, for one, have found that my cravings don’t mean I really want to drink. I THINK I want to drink, but I don’t. I have experienced the feeling of being high on wine, of having my mood swing totally UP–all by thinking about, anticipating drinking. In the articles I’ve read, these reward circuits ARE, in fact, firing; the problem is, they’ve become sensitized to different amounts of neurotransmitters and different mental stimuli, let’s just say, so their firing isn’t associated with a healthy reward or a moderate amount of reward. For instance, every time I sit down and watch a movie, I want to drink. Every time I unfold my chair on the beach, I want to drink. My brain is associating these events with drinking, and bam, my reward circuits start firing.
I also read a piece where the gist of it was, there are different circuits (i.e., chemicals and neurons) for want/desire and reward/pleasure. Like, I can want to drink, but the pleasure derived from this is different than the so-called pleasure from actually drinking. Which might explain how I can feel my mood shift simply by thinking about how nice it would be to have a glass of wine. (I wonder if this applies to the whole, Absence makes the heart grow fonder, adage? 😉 )
The problem is, it’s not real.
The solution I’ve found is, let it keep happening until it doesn’t! And, miraculously, it STOPS HAPPENING. Or, it happens less, and less powerfully. Or, you learn to ignore it. Or, your brain simply starts to right itself, and dials those circuits back down to normal.
We spent all day Monday and Monday night on the beach. Back in the day (is it really in the past?) I’d feel nervous about “being trapped” in front of that much time, with no wine to escape to. I KNEW I would feel trapped, like I couldn’t breathe, having to just sit there and be; and it would make me dread going or doing things that involved just sitting and being.
Sit there and be? Without feeling irritable, trapped, anxious? NO WAY. Yet…I did it! Or, it did me. I not only had very few cravings, but there were points along the way where I felt just as high/drunk as I might have felt if I had actually drunk. Of course, better: all the happy and contentment and none of the confused descent into madness.
I was also able to just sit there and stare at the night sky. WITHOUT feeling like I wanted to interrupt the process, or disrupt it with a drink. I could sit there and just be. Wow. Who would have thought it possible?
THIS is what I’m talking about when I say the cravings “subside” after a few months. Now, more than ever, I can “see” my brain at work, and use my knowledge to defend myself against the urges, cravings, thoughts of drinkin’. They are not real. And, incredulous as it may seem to us as we embark on parting ways with alcohol, they go away. The mind rights itself. Maybe not completely, and maybe not exactly the way I’ve described, but the thoughts come less, the associative thinking dies down, and we’re left with something we haven’t seen in a long, long time: a flat terrain that is our mind, a blank canvas tethered at the ends of a solid frame that is our brain. Both are like the surface of the water on a windless day. And, my, how long we’ve waited for that calm.
So, onward. Day 23 and…not really counting. I mean, I don’t think it’ll really start to be all that exciting until day 90 again, maybe. Who knows? At the moment, I’m not really thinking how “nice” it’d be to have a glass of wine. I know it wouldn’t be “nice,” and I know the next three days (shit, let’s put it at a week, who am I kidding?) wouldn’t be “nice.” And frankly, by the time I get to this point in the thought process, my brain has given up and I’ve forgotten about the craving.
Just because you think it, does not make it so.