Feeling Relaxed Will Reduce Alcohol Dependence

In my book Alcohemy, I propose the primary (if not the only) reason many people drink alcohol is to try to feel better than they currently do. The exception to this is when people take a sip of alcohol for a taste reason alone, or as part of a symbolic, ritual or religious process, (like toasting the newly married bride and groom, someone’s success, a toast to someone’s memory at a wake, or a small sip for another religious practice).

For the taste purpose; it is usually just a small amount to experience the unique taste. In the case of ritual or religious type reasons; the intent behind the actual gesture is symbolic and not one of self-indulgent pleasure-seeking. It is more about the event, or the other person, than to get some effect from the alcohol. Apart from these reasons, alcohol is only consumed in an effort to alter the person’s state of mind.

If the primary reason for drinking alcohol is to attain a state of feeling ‘better’ than we currently are, it implies that there are many millions of people around the world that aren’t feeling content or  ‘good’ a lot of the time. Some of the reasons we want to change our state of mind by drinking alcohol is to:

Frazzled Woman, 300x218

  • Relax; feel more confident; block out worrying thoughts; to veg-out and dumb-down a bit for a while; to switch off; to feel carefree or happy; to settle the nerves; to de-stress and chill-out; and to generally take the edge off an emotional time or hard day.

Most people believe having a few (or a lot of) alcoholic drinks will dissolve their cares away, as if it was some magic potion. The reality is, drinking alcohol doesn’t change anything at all in our environment that is causing our discontentment. In fact, it usually causes more harm and if we already have a moderate alcohol dependence, it may cause others in our environment (family, friends, and colleagues) to think worse of us, because we continue to look to alcohol for the solution.

Because the ethanol in alcohol affects brain neurotransmitters like endorphins (pleasure), glutamate (excitatory), dopamine (reward), serotonin (mood) and GABA (inhibition), we can feel a temporary change to the emotional state we were in before drinking alcohol. However, alcohol is actually a nervous system depressantand drinking alcohol will start impairing and shutting down important areas of our brain, that help awareness and cogitative ability. Instead of ‘feeling’ better after drinking alcohol… we actually ‘feel’ less. It is only a delusion that everything in our world has become miraculously better. Furthermore, the alcohol we have consumed has now likely started to compromise our judgement and rational thinking, which could lead to poor choices, making us feel even worse later.

Sad Woman with Drink in Her Hand, 300x200As you can see from the above common list of reasons people drink alcohol, most have to do with wanting to relax and unwind. If we were naturally feeling content and relaxed most of the time, we wouldn’t feel the need to use external substances like alcohol to boost our low emotional state. It makes much better sense then to look at more healthy alternatives to keep ourselves in a generally relaxed and content state of mind. The problem is a lot of us had grown up believing alcohol was an appropriate substance to use as a quick-fix to any stressful occasion, or simply as a general mood enhancer. We choose alcohol instead of the many other great healthy alternatives.

Happy Woman on Beach with Bicycle, 300x199To keep this blog post from getting too long I will discuss some of the great ways to keep your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters naturally high, (and certainly how to boost them in times when you are stressed or at an emotional low point), in another post on my website. If you make a habit of using healthy ways to relax, every time you start to feel stressed, alcohol use can become as irrelevant to you, as it is to me now that I am permanently alcohol-free.

Do You Like Who You Are Now?

How often you take time out to really reflect on the type of person you have developed into? Do you constantly measure up to the personal values you would ‘like’ to uphold?

Self-assessment is essential for success

Woman's self-reflection on alcohol dependence

If you are not your own #1 fan then you have some work to do. If you are not very comfortable in your own skin, others pick up on this (at least at a subconscious level), and won’t experience a natural magnetic attraction to you. No, this isn’t an ad for a dating website 🙂 … it’s a natural instinct to admire and want to be associated with people that are happy, confident and have an easy-going, relaxed sense of self-assuredness about them. People that have that quality attract the attention, camaraderie and cooperation of others, both personally and in business.

So how do they get to be that way? What makes them so damned relaxed and content? Don’t they have the same dramas in their lives the rest of us mere mortals do? Well yes they do. It’s just that (to a large extent), no matter what happens around them, or to them, they still like who they are. They are more driven by what type of person they are, that they adhere to the values they treasure, and they are more influenced by their own opinion of themselves and their environment, then they are of external commentary. They accept that opinions will differ, challenges will come and go (as will friends and acquaintances); that they will never be able to please everyone, so they don’t fret if others reject them or their ideas. They know that there is only one person that will be with them for their entire life, so they had better make sure they have the respect and admiration of that person… it’s themself. If you can’t respect and be a good friend to yourself, then how can you expect others to.

Confident, relaxed people understand if they get their own ‘inner’ house in order and make it comfortable and inviting, people that like it will want to visit. Those that don’t like the carpet or curtains can keep going down the street… they aren’t offended, because they love their house the way it is. This doesn’t mean their house is perfect either. They continually strive to improve the décor to suit their own taste and do regular housecleaning and maintenance. It is likely they do an annual ‘spring clean’ to discard what is not serving them well and check if an attitude or two needs adjusting. This is an ongoing process of assessing and remodelling to ensure they are happy and living with things they value the most.

“Enough about houses already!” I hear you say. Though I believe the analogy works very well for how they live in their own skin and how their minds work. Living to your own cherished personal values and moral principles will give you far greater peace of mind and inner contentment than trying to live up to other’s expectations, or worrying what they do or think.

How to feel good about who you are

Man's self-reflection on alcohol dependence width=In my book (Alcohemy), I frequently talk about a term I coined ‘Lifeometer’ (pronounced like ‘thermometer’). In fact it is like a thermometer, except it measures whether we are living our lives according to our true personal values and desires. It is our inner being’s guidance system and is hard-wired to, and expressed by our emotions, every waking moment. Our inner emotions (lifeometer), are an instant feedback mechanism that lets us know if what we have experienced, done, said or even thought, is aligned to what we desire, and if that desire is also aligned to our inner core values. If we say, do, or think things that are not in line with our core values, we will feel an emotion on the negative side of the scale. Conversely if we do, say, or think things that do align to our core personal values we feel good emotions. People that feel good about themselves are content they are living their life based on their good values and opinions, rather than letting others dictate what is appropriate. If someone else’s comment or suggestion positively aligns to their own internal value system, then they happily accept it. If it doesn’t align and feels negative, then they are as equally content to politely reject it, without confrontation. In doing so, their inner harmony remains calm and content and they remain happy knowing they are living to their personal values. As I state frequently in my book, they are the “Master of their fate, Captain of their soul”.

Women's good self-esteem after stop drinkingPeople like this have a natural sense of good self-worth and confidence about themselves. To them, their sense of status in the world is more driven by internal criteria, rather than external trappings such as titles, wealth, formal recognition or acclaim. If you are seeking true and lasting inner contentment you can’t base its source on something outside of you. You must create your wealth inside yourself… in who you are, not on things around you and that you have.

Good self-image verses alcohol dependence

So how does this tie into people who have an alcohol dependence? From my experience it is quite closely related. I know from experience that having an alcohol dependence/addiction, personal values and integrity are often discarded (or at the very least set aside), when the mind is affected by acute or chronic alcohol abuse. One of the first brain functions to go when effected by drinking alcohol is the ability to think rationally and make sound judgements. Any solid values and life principles you hold dear when sober, can become less consciously imperative, as the logic and rational prefrontal cortex is effected and we resort to the more primal emotions and urges of the amygdala, mid- and hind-brain. Basically, people who are usually considered honourable, when drunk can do or say things completely out of character, as they lose the ability to think rationally and instead act on very primal instincts. They are often racked with remorse and guilt when sober, as the realisation sets in that they contravened their prized personal values.

If you repeatedly find yourself in this position because of alcohol abuse, you have very little chance of establishing and maintaining the good sense of self-respect that is required for inner peace. Instead you will be trapped in a cycle of inner conflict and turmoil. As I stated earlier, if you don’t like and respect yourself for who you are, why should other people. They will be able to tell from your body language and the unconscious signals you give off, that you are not comfortable in your own skin and your natural attraction will be decreased.

Be Your BestIf your alcohol dependence has grown to the stage where you can’t take a good look at yourself in the mirror and be extremely happy at the person looking back at you, it’s time to take affirmative action. Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse is a choice. What is your honest appraisal of yourself? Be the Master of your fate; the Captain of your soul.

Do You Practice What You Preach?

What Do You Say?

Yesterday morning I received some disturbing news to which I had an initial bad reaction, before I stopped myself and thought, “Hey! Stop ‘reacting’ to this situation, and start ‘responding’ to it… wake up to yourself and start practicing what you preach.” So this is what happened.

The Disturbing News

One of the early participants in my Alcohemy Video and Community Support & Forum Program, sent me a message saying she was not continuing with the treatment program as she said it now suddenly “doesn’t work for her”. Now this was a major shock, as it was coming from one of my most motivated participants, who had read the book (twice), watched all the videos (most more than once), completed all the workbook tasks, had successfully not been drinking alcohol for a few weeks… and up until now had been a very staunch and vocal supporter of the program. I was blown away by how she was regularly leaving public and private rave reviews and comments about how great the alcohol program was for her. In fact, her praise for how the program had dramatically changed the way she thought about her alcohol use, I considered her a ‘golden child’ of my relatively new alcohol treatment program, and used her as a shining example to inspire others. I could really tell by her frequent comments she really ‘got’ the deep meaning behind everything I had explained in the book and videos, and she was really loving the program! You can imagine my disappointment to suddenly get this one-liner message to say she wasn’t continuing (without any further explanation). I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean if you’ve also had some bad news that came at you like a bolt from out of the blue.

My Reaction

The very moment I read that one line, my initial ‘reaction’ was to fall intovictimhood mode and think, “Oh no! What has happened? My longest serving online member now doesn’t like my program. What has gone wrong or what have ‘I‘ done wrong? Now everyone else will think my program doesn’t produce great results. Me using her as a shining example to others is gone. Woe is me! My whole Alcohemy program is in jeopardy!” In general, I experienced an initial gut-wrenching feeling of doom and gloom about the program I am so passionate about. Also, I am not proud to say the initial ‘reaction’ was more about ‘poor me’ and how negatively this may affect my ability to help others stop drinking alcohol. Self-preservation is an extremely common ‘reaction’ to most undesirable situations and I’m sure you have experienced this.

action speaks louderMy Response

For those that have read/listened to my book, or have even watched my program’s ‘Introduction’ video http://alcohemy.com/alcohemy-online-video-program/, you will know I specifically discuss the topic of ‘reacting’ versus ‘responding’. So fortunately (after a few minutes of horror ‘reaction’, I stopped myself from being in the reactive ‘dismay mode’ and switched my thinking to ‘response mode’. Only after I did that (by pausing and taking a step back), was I able to look at it from all sides and start looking for the positives. (Again, in much of my written, audio and video material, I promote that there is a positive side to everything in life if we look hard enough, though most aren’t conditioned to do that.)

The first thing I did was to switch my focus to the troubled participant and how I may possibly help her. To do this I had to know the details of her reasons for wanting to leave, so I sent her a compassionate, private message seeking greater understanding of why she felt that way and offering whatever support was required. My suspicions were that she had such a difficult challenge come her way that she resorted back to seeking comfort from drinking alcohol again and in doing so blamed the Alcohemy program for ‘not working’. And in a technical sense she is right… the program doesn’t ‘work’. Technically no alcohol treatment program does. What my program does is it provides great information, experience, a proven process, support and a forum for people come together to share and support each other to stop drinking alcohol. It has and is facilitating success… though the participants have to embrace the process and do the actual ‘work’. Printed words, videos, a step-by-step process and good intentions won’t achieve anything, unlesssomeone turns that information into committed action. I have yet to see instructions on how to assemble something, hop up and actually do it, without anyone lifting a finger.

As of this post, I am yet to receive this participant’s answer to my return message (and I’m sure we can successfully work through it, as she has been very dedicated and hard-working). Though by pausing to contemplate the possibilities for her comment, it also raised another point I make in my program; you can’t control what others do, nor are you responsible for what others do, nor how they think. In that moment I remembered I can’t control how participants accept or use the experience and information I give them within my program. My responsibility is to share it as best as I can at the time and to continue to offer compassionate support and advice, in the best way I know how.

Lead by ExampleThough I do provide a great process and motivation to stop drinking alcohol, I have no control over how much commitment and sincere effort participants will put in… that is their responsibility and it will determine their particular path on the way to success. Some will really want to be free from the consequences of their alcohol abuse, though not prepared to fully commit to the process and work involved, until it’s done. I cannot take ownership of participants’ failures, nor claim glory for their successes. By me ‘walking this talk’, I may empathise with someone struggling to quit drinking alcohol, though not drown with despair in the responsibility if it doesn’t come easily for them. I’m convinced this is just a temporary setback this particular participant will learn from, on her way to success. In fact, there is a concerning statistic I reference in my book about the globally accepted Alcoholics Anonymous program, that states: ‘nearly one-third (31.5 percent) left the program after one month, and by the end of the third month, almost half (47.4 percent) left. Of those who stay for three months, half (50.0 percent) will attain one year of sobriety’. I expect my Alcohemy process will prove better than that, though this is a take-away lesson for us all when we are trying to assist someone struggling with an issue. As much as I want success for this person and others (with all my heart and soul), I realise you can’t be responsible for others’ success or failure. We can only control our own destiny.

Another key thing I teach in my program is using natural, healthy ways to feel good when challenges get us down. I talk about a term I coined, the ‘Lifeometer’ and how it lets us know if we are on the right path or not. If we are feeling a bit down or upset we need to have a group of healthy natural ways to boost our brain’s dopamine, endorphins and serotonin levels. This is the best and quickest way to get back to a positive state of mind, which in turn generates better health, creativity and productivity.

This is another ‘practice what I preach’ lesson I got from this morning’s situation. Here I was feeling troubled by an event and my Lifeometer was letting me know my thinking was out of whack from where it should be. Once I started ‘walking my talk’ and looked for the positive actions that could come from it, I started to feel better.

After sending my personal message to the participant, I looked for other ways to feel positive. Writing this blog article about the experience and lessons was another. This in turn, led to me scheduling other blog articles I had planned to write, as well as develop a ‘face-to-face’ presentation (called The Human Face of Alcohol Dependence), to deliver nationally to companies interested in educating their employees. And further to that, I’ve committed to start recording my blog articles in video format, so people also have the choice to see my charming face :) , with emotions and sincerity along with the information. You see, helping others and being creative is something that makes me feel good, naturally. It bumps up my ‘feel good’ brain neurotransmitters, leaving me feeling very satisfied afterwards.

IntegrityThe next time you are feeling out of sorts, check for the positive actions that you can do right then, or at least start making a list of things to do as soon as you can. You’ll be surprised at how it will turn your mood around.

It’s one thing to ‘talk the good talk’, though if you want to be respected, admired and ‘feel good’ to boot… you had better practice what you preach and ‘walk the good walk’.