Alcohol slowly started to highjack the ability for me to enjoy my life. Me feeling happy, me feeling excited, me feeling gratitude, me feeling alive. Overall, it started to numb my senses and emotions.
It was hard for me to get excited about anything that did not involve alcohol. If there was not going to be alcohol at an event, I wasn’t interested. Simple things that should bring me a feeling of joy were difficult: watching my son play a basketball game or seeing my daughter perform in a play. I began to only exist in my life, until I could drink again.
How does this happen, the mental illness part of alcohol addiction that starts to take over and ruin your life and those around you? It is my understanding it all has to do with the reward, relax and pleasure center of our brain.
When I drank alcohol, it directly hit two neurotransmitters. First is GABA – which naturally inhibits brain activity and allows us to naturally relax and regulate anxiety. Next is Dopamine – which naturally gives us feelings of joy and pleasure and reward.
Alcohol artificially stimulates these two receptors first by binding to GABA receptors and mimicking its effect on the brain. Then binding to the dopamine receptor making it excrete MORE dopamine. When I drank alcohol, I artificially felt the sense of pleasure and reward and at the same time my inhibitions and brain slowed down. I could relax AND feel good. The key word here though, is ARTIFICIAL.
After years and years of artificially stimulating these receptors, they begin to basically get lazy and burn out, only working when they are stimulated by alcohol. They were waiting around for alcohol to tell them what to do and in return I started feeling more anxious, restless, irritable and discontent when I was not drinking. In turn, that is why I started to become dependent on alcohol for almost everything.
I couldn’t feel really good naturally, I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t relax naturally, I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t reward myself naturally, I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t have fun naturally, I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t feel natural excitement, I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t feel happy naturally, I needed alcohol.
When I stopped drinking, I thought my life was going to be over. I thought I was never, ever going to feel those feelings again. I thought I was just going to continue to exist in my life and feel numb…without drinking, how was I going to get any relief? I felt like I was doomed.
Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Our brains are incredibly smart! Once I stopped artificially stimulating those receptors, they slowly started to wake up! They started to get back to work! As I allow my brain to heal and repair, those feelings of happiness, peace and contentment, joy, excitement and fun are naturally starting to return slowly but surely. Feelings I have not felt without the use of alcohol for a very, long time.
I am grateful today that I am sober and that I do not NEED alcohol for one single thing. It is the feeling of true freedom. It is better than any artificial high that I could ever feel and it gets better every day.