Do you class yourself as a casual drinker?
The progress of alcohol addiction can take years, or decades, and sometimes it hovers on the edge for a lifetime. This does not mean that so-called ‘casual drinkers’ are not addicted. To a certain extent they are, and alcohol will be affecting their health in ways they may never understand. It can be tempting to look at this group of drinkers with envy but in fact they are still taking a highly addictive and dangerous drug, and they are still at risk of serious health issues and becoming more addicted.
There are many phrases that are used around alcohol when drinkers are asked why they drink, and I’ve used them myself. I used to say things like ‘I can take it or leave it’, or ‘It’s not doing me any harm’. When you look at these statements, they are usually negative. They are not positive reasons to do something.
Society and the media have built up the consumption of alcohol as a treat that we give ourselves because we have earnt it. Would having a spoonful of arsenic be seen as a treat? Alcohol is a highly toxic, cancer-causing drug and is anything but a treat.
If alcohol is so amazing and so enjoyable, why is a whole industry built around people taking mini breaks from it?
Dry challenges are common and taking a break from alcohol is a good idea, but think about it … you now know that anybody who needs to prove that they can control something clearly has a problem.
When we start drinking again after a dry challenge, we often find that very quickly we are back to the levels of consumption we were at before or are drinking even more. The nature of addiction is to drink more over time because we are naturally driven and motivated to get our survival motivation hormone, dopamine.
For a casual drinker to remain as a casual drinker, two things need to happen: firstly, they need to be unmotivated to seek more alcohol over time as the dopamine reward gets less.
Remember the stone age woman and the coconut? The dopamine reward gets less for doing the same thing, so we are motivated to work harder for the reward. When you look back on how much you were drinking 10 or 15 years ago, is it more now?
Work is needed to take a drug and maintain a status quo of consumption, and for a casual drinker to stay a casual drinker that takes effort.
You will know people who can have a single glass of wine from a bottle and put it back without a flicker, while you’re sitting there thinking, ‘How did you do that? Why did you do that? Don’t you want the rest?’
There are people who don’t drink for emotional reasons like fun, or stress. Addiction hasn’t developed because the pathways in their brain haven’t made the connections or established the beliefs strongly. But this doesn’t mean that these connections won’t develop, and there is always a risk. If a disaster or significant life-change befell the person, they are likely to believe that alcohol will make them feel better, because that is their lifelong experience of watching the rest of society.
Lots of so-called casual drinkers are addicted to alcohol and are on the treadmill trying to moderate or cut down what they drink, and, for many, alcohol will be causing them stress and misery.
When we first realise that we have a problem, the first thing that we are likely to do is to try to cut down the amount we drink. It may be a desire to cut down that bought you to this book.
In order to cut down, we will need to be conscious of what we are drinking in a way we weren’t previously. We will need to think about alcohol more and will need to exercise control in the form of willpower. So, we start to make rules for ourselves.
We’ll decide not to drink at certain times or on certain days, or we’ll make rules for ourselves to only have two or three drinks instead of four or five that we normally have. Rather than finishing the second bottle, we won’t open it, or we’ll open the first bottle and only drink half. We’ll start marking the bottle with a marker pen so that we don’t go past it. All of these things may work for some time, but will never last because we are working against our natural survival instincts (that alcohol has hijacked) and we are just changing our behaviour and not our underlying thinking, beliefs or desires.
Once we’ve followed our self-imposed rules for a while, we’ll convince ourselves that we don’t have a problem anymore, or we’ll decide our rules were pointless, or maybe we’ll just give up.
Something will spark an emotional reaction, or there will be a special occasion, or reason to have a blow out and all of our intentions are forgotten. It takes hard work to cut down or moderate.
Many of us will start a new exercise regime with high levels of determination and willpower, and we’ll do it religiously for a couple of weeks until something throws us off course.
When our willpower and determination to control what we drink fades, the psychological relief of having a drink will be so great that the subconscious will once again interpret alcohol as being really good for us, and the addiction will be stronger than previously.
The subconscious mind, whilst it is left unchecked around its perceived benefits of alcohol, will do everything in its power to give you the drink it thinks you want and need. So even if you have decided that you want to cut down, or you want to stop, your subconscious mind will be working hard in the background. Your child-like subconscious mind is doing its best.
The well-intentioned subconscious mind will be telling your conscious mind that ‘just one won’t hurt’ or ‘we deserve it because we’ve had a particularly trying day,’ or ‘we deserve it because the children are being particularly annoying,’ or because our spouse has said something particularly unpleasant to us. The reality is that until the subconscious mind is re-educated the problem will prevail, and it will get worse.
Alcohol destroys the health of everyone who drinks, in the same way that smoking does. Alcohol also eats away at wealth; it destroys relationships and destroys our wellbeing.
When we try to control alcohol and fail, we find it confusing and alarming: we start to panic. Like the fish on the line, we realise that we’re hooked. A person who is strong-willed, capable, successful and motivated in many areas of his or her life becomes defeated in the face of increasing alcohol consumption, the strong will fades, and confidence and self-esteem also fade to be replaced by guilt, shame and inadequacy.
We start to wonder what is wrong with us and why we can’t control this aspect of our lives when we’re capable of controlling other aspects. This leads to confusion, uncertainty and stress, and leads to us reaching for the one thing that we know will relieve the stress – alcohol.
Even drinkers who think they’re in control and who abstain from alcohol for a few weeks and months are addicted to alcohol.
So, what prompts one drinker to attempt to cut down and another to continue unheeded? It all depends on where the drinker is in the trap, and how aware they are.
The fish attracted to the bright shiny lure is oblivious to the dangers that lie ahead, until it realises that it’s hooked. Up until that point the fish is happy and fearless, and it will happily pursue its goal. At the point that it realises it’s trapped it will start to panic, struggle and resist entrapment.
For us as drinkers, this is the point where we start to try to control how much and when we drink. Remember the learning stages. At this stage we are unfrozen. We start to flounder.
We soon realise that it’s not that easy, and whereas we didn’t know we had a problem before, we do now. Whereas before, we were unconsciously incompetent and frozen in our knowledge, we’re not any longer. Now we are floundering because it isn’t as easy to stop as we thought.
At this point just like the fish we start to panic and struggle, and as we feel more stressed and caught, we will drink more.
We continue to drink and progress from drinking because we think we enjoy it, to drinking to alleviate negative feelings, a growing number of which come from drinking itself.
Our subconscious mind is learning throughout the process of addiction because the chemical and neurological reaction to the drug is inadvertently teaching it. We have no control over this, until we decide to re-educate ourselves with the truth, and outsmart the con.
The progression of alcohol addiction from something we did for fun to full blown misery is slow and subtle. Alcohol fills our emotional gaps like pouring a jug of water over a surface with holes in it. Eventually every emotion that we have will trigger a response to reach for a drink, and that is because our subconscious mind has been taught that alcohol is what’s needed.
If we’ve been drinking unknowingly to alleviate anxiety, stress, depression, sadness, loneliness, boredom or frustration for a number of years, then the pathways in our brain for doing this are learned and strong and established. The more repetition there is, the more learning, and that leads to more neural connections between alcohol and different emotions.
But, in addition to that, we’ve stopped growing and using our own resources to meet our emotional needs. We can learn to meet our emotional needs in more resilient and healthy ways once we have broken free from alcohol. You will be amazed at how you will begin to flourish when you do this. My clients are exploding into life with increased motivation, and vibrancy and are enjoying new and different experiences on all levels. ‘It’s like I’ve woken up after years of being asleep!’ is a common thing women say when they are the other side of alcohol addiction.
When we realise that we are unable to control how much we drink, whether it’s on a daily basis or binge drinking, it starts to seriously undermine our confidence.
All so-called casual drinkers are on this path, and people who cut down or try to control what they drink are too.
When a Smart Person Feels Stupid
When a strong-minded, capable person is unable to accomplish something that they think ought to be straightforward, like cutting down on the amount of alcohol consumed, or stopping completely, the effect on levels of confidence is significant.
We start asking ourselves ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I control myself around alcohol?’ This is made worse by the outdated perceptions in society and the media where it is considered that people who are unable to control the level of alcohol consumption are weak, pathetic, and out of control.
This may be the stereotypical image of the alcoholic who has lost everything, but, more and more it’s becoming a commonplace cause of family arguments and grief behind closed doors.
The good news is that when we realise that we have been victims of a clever con trick, and we start learning, we can get our power back and we can outsmart it.
The first drink we ever had made us feel sick and dizzy and we probably didn’t like it, but we’d met the con artist and the trap had been sprung.
At this point we may have vowed never to have another drink, but the benefits of alcohol had been sold to us all our lives by family and friends who were also being conned. Our beliefs were established in our subconscious mind based on what we had seen and heard, and how we experienced the effects of alcohol. This led to assumptions and incorrect interpretations.
Beliefs were established in our subconscious minds along with the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. We concluded that alcohol didn’t harm us, and it didn’t really do very much for us, but we wanted this amazing thing that we’d been told about and seen others with. We believed what we’d been told, and we believed what we’d been sold. So, we tried another drink.
We are bringing the old and long-established beliefs up to the surface of our minds, like bubbles in a lemonade bottle, we are challenging them, and popping the bubbles, so that new conclusions can be drawn and new beliefs formed.
At no point did we decide we wanted to become addicted to alcohol, and there was never a point when we noticed it happening, because the con was working on our subconscious mind and that’s where the solution lies.
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Hi, I'm Michela
I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!
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