Alcohol and the brain... December 26, 2020
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
The podcast Sober Powered has been informative and inspiring for me these last few weeks. It has been helpful with coming to terms with my situation while also not berating myself and letting the shame take over. Gill breaks things down in terms of basic science but also relates these facts to her personal experiences. And her story is a lot like mine. Like me, she was unable to moderate her drinking, and like me, she suffered from intense blackouts. Also, she is from the Boston area.
Gill discusses moderation on one of her podcasts, and then on the most recent episode she talks about how drinking on special occasions just isn't possible for people who suffer from alcohol abuse syndrome. She discusses a study from 2019, where scientists found that having less plasticity in the pathway that connects part of the pre-frontal cortex in the brain (which is responsible for decision making) to the rewards center is responsible for rats not being able to stop drinking even though they knew they would receive a shock every time they drank.
Gill explains, "The pre frontal cortex guides our decision making abilities, so when the connection between this area of the brain and the rewards system is dysfunctional the message that we need to stop drinking or something bad will happen isn't sent. So we just keep drinking because we love to drink. You can't fix that kind of problem. There is not a moderation strategy or drinking rule that exists that can change the way that your brain is wired." This explains so much! And it paints a very vivid picture for me as well.
It helps to understand myself and my brain more clearly. I have tossed and turned so many nights in bed grappling with this addiction. Why am I this way? What is wrong with me? Why can't I just have ONE drink? Why can't I moderate?
Evan has told me, it isn't my fault, it is in my blood. That is only mildly comforting. At my TLC meetings, they tell me the "9 Things" - that "This is my thing." Etc, etc. Again, sort of helps to know I am not alone. But I have agonized over "WHY is it MY thing and not everyone else I know?" I know I didn't cause it, so it is helpful to hear the science behind it. To have a concrete image in my head that I can picture happening when I drink. It is just one more way for me to understand this situation and sit more comfortable with myself.
So, it just isn't possible for people like me to have one drink on Christmas, two glasses of wine on New Years or open a bottle of wine and leave it out on the counter for a few days. My brain just doesn't work that way. It doesn't function like that. Like I always say, there is no "off button." There is so much power in this knowledge, and I am feeling so much stronger each day. 27 days sober.