Alcohol slowly started to hijack my ability to enjoy life.
Overall, it started to numb my senses and emotions—feeling happy, feeling excited, feeling gratitude, and feeling alive.
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 mindlessly exist in life until I could drink again.
How does this happen, the mental illness part of alcohol addiction that takes over and ruins your life and those around you? It is my understanding it all has to do with the reward, relaxation, and pleasure center of our brain.
When I drank alcohol, it directly hit two neurotransmitters. The 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. It then binds 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 keyword here, though, is artificial.
After years and years of artificially stimulating these receptors, they begin to get lazy and burn out; they only work 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. And that is why I started to become dependent on alcohol for almost everything.
I couldn’t naturally feel good; I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t naturally relax; I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t naturally reward myself; I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t naturally have fun; I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t feel natural excitement; I needed alcohol.
I couldn’t naturally feel happy; 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 going to continue to exist in my life, feeling numb. I thought, “Without drinking, how am 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 and get back to work. As I allow my brain to heal and repair, those feelings of happiness, peace, contentment, joy, excitement, and fun are naturally starting to return slowly but surely. Feelings I have not felt without the use of alcohol for an extremely long time.
Today, I am grateful that I am sober and that I do not need alcohol for a single thing. That is the feeling of true freedom. It is better than any artificial high that I could ever feel, and it gets better every day.