Life is so BORING without ALCOHOL – Part One

Lack of Excitement

When we stop drinking, some of us experience a general lack of excitement for all those social or solitary activities that we used to enjoy when they were accompanied by a glass or ten.

Imagine alcohol coming to you and saying, “It’s not you … it’s me”. Well, that’s because it is! The reason for the lack of excitement is purely chemical; it isn’t personal, and it has nothing to do with you.

Alcohol is the only drug that engages with (and alters) almost every neurotransmitter in our brain. One of them is DOPAMINE, the so-called “feel-good hormone”. When you think of dopamine, your mind might travel to anything that makes you feel good and excited: seeing your good friends, going to a party, going on a trip, and finally doing something you had been looking forward to. When I stopped drinking, none of this would have made me feel remotely good. The idea of seeing my friends could not be extricated by having an alcoholic drink in front of me. The thought of it was bizarre, and I wasn’t interested at all. But I didn’t know why.

When I stopped drinking the second time and started to suck up every information I could find on alcohol, I learned that drinking alcohol floods the reward centre of the mid-brain (also known as emotional, limbic or mammal brain) with dopamine. As the brain’s reward centre is connected to motivation and memory, your brain learns that every time it receives alcohol, it experiences a dopamine spike, which is pleasurable and because of that, it will drive you to do it over and over again. Your brain makes the connection between alcohol and pleasure; the connection is reinforced, and the job is done.

On top of this, it’s also important to note that the quantity of dopamine released by drinking alcohol is higher than the amount it would produce in pleasurable activities that do not involve the use of substances. As well as releasing significant quantities of dopamine, alcohol also decreases the number of dopamine receptors in your body and, as a result, your brain stops producing these chemicals naturally. This is why a lot of people who stop drinking experience subsequent periods of sadness or depression. As you all know, whatever goes up has to come down.

The other astonishing fact that blew my mind wide open is that it may take up to 14 months; let me repeat it: FOURTEEN MONTHS of complete abstinence from it for our dopamine levels to return to normal. So, as dopamine affects your mood, motivation and feelings of pleasure and reward, if you don’t feel any of those or don’t feel them as you wished or expected you did, this is why. It’s not because life without alcohol is dull. It’s because your brain is not producing enough dopamine at all. Additionally, this behaviour is not conscious. So, please, don’t blame yourself. Your brain is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. Would you be doing it yourself if you had someone working for you? A big FAT “NO”.

There is no getting away from this, unfortunately, and this is one of the (many) reasons I decided to create Sober Rebel, because I want to make it easier for you when you get there. Tapping is an excellent tool to release both sadness and depression, and if there is a way to make it easier, why not use it?

The other good news is that you will start to feel the first improvements in your mood around the three-month mark. This is why, when my clients come to me, I usually ask them if they would be willing to be alcohol-free for three months as a start instead of one because if you are a habitual drinker. If you go sober for one month, your experience won’t be as rewarding as you had envisaged, and without knowing what I explained above, you might get discouraged. And we know what we can do when our heart sinks. Here’s another reason why it can be helpful to work with a practitioner who can help you process your feelings and support you through your struggles as they arise.

Also, we have tapping; tapping can help us hugely in this period to take down all the uncomfortable feelings and cravings that might arise as a consequence of stopping drinking.