Most people can understand how drinking upsets the delicate chemical balance in their brain, leaving them feeling anxious, out of sorts, and even out and out depressed. They therefore have a reasonable expectation when they stop drinking that they will be happier. This is indeed the case the majority of the time. The good times are better and more frequent, and the bad times are fewer and aren’t so bad. Things that caused the drinker significant concern when they were drinking suddenly no longer seem so overwhelming.
However everyone has bad days, either caused by something specific or just by the mood changes that all human beings are susceptible to on occasion. You need to accept that you will have bad times even when you’ve stopped drinking. However there is another mental trap you also need to be aware of.
Take a standard situation. You have a bad day at work, or you have an argument with your partner, or you have a bill you can’t pay. Whatever the reason, you are miserable. You start thinking about drinking. You start to thing that a drink will relieve your misery. Of course it won’t, it will just add to it considerably firstly by the sense of failure because you once again failed to stop drinking, and secondly because the physiological relief is so short lived and is replaced by a corresponding feeling of anxiety. However assuming you don’t take that drink you are miserable, only now you aren’t miserable and thinking about the argument / bill / work whatever, now you’re miserable and thinking about how you can’t drink. You start to blame the misery not on the argument / bill / work, but on the fact that you’ve stopped drinking.
Very soon our mindset changes from the correct position, which is ‘I am miserable because of work / finances / relationship issues’ to ‘I am miserable because I can’t drink’.
Just as drinking gets the credit for benefits that it doesn’t cause (such as the dopamine rush we get when we are socialising) so does not drinking often get the blame for any misery which is in fact caused by issues completely unrelated to the fact that we have stopped drinking.
When you stop drinking you need to accept that it’s not a ticket to paradise. It will result in a startlingly better quality of life, but there will still be bad times, albeit it they will be far fewer and far less overwhelming than when you were drinking. There can be many reasons for these bad time, many possible causes, but your stopping drinking will not be one of them. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming your unhappiness on the fact that you have stopped drinking.
Just what I needed to be reminded of today. Last night I was very close to rush out and pick up a drink but I didn’t. I was very angry and upset. I reminded myself, that any urge (which seemed unbearable) will pass, if I only can sit it out for 10 minutes. And it did, my reasonable ‘brain’ kicked in again, the urge disappeared. I started to calm down.
I find your emails and reminders so very valuable.
Just what I needed around now. I’ve been stopped for 11 days and feel the benefit but as alcohol has been my ‘go to’ ever since I can remember I was trying to figure out a way to keep the reality button in view when life gets tough in future. Thanks for a timely post. However I have no desire to invent a tough time just to test it out. I’m sure I’ll get that chance in due course!!!
Stick with it Irene. Your life and those around you will benefit so much. Even when the euphoria of having given up starts to wain you will become uplifted by having your freedom back. Wishing you every success with your new life.
Thank you Jane. This time more than ever I feel the cognitive dissonance gap is narrowing thanks to Williams book and others. Thank goodness those people have shown the courage and commitment to speak out.