EP 116: Reader Question – Does alcohol really relax us?

Why do we automatically assume that a drink will help us relax? Do we really get the desired effect of “relaxation”? What effect does alcohol actually have on our bodies and minds with regards to “relaxation”? Annie answers these important questions using personal experience, research, and the facts. Find out what goes in on in our bodies when we begin to drink. Are we adding fuel to a fire of stress and anxiety? Or is it okay to self-medicate using alcohol as our drug of choice? Don’t miss the powerful information shared in today’s podcast!

Download EP:116 Transcript

Is It True That Alcohol Will Relax Us?

Can you give an explanation of how we perceive alcohol relaxes us, and does it actually relax us, really?”

It’s a great question.

Virginia Wolf, she was actually quoted saying, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

What is relaxation? You could say that being completely relaxed means having nothing to worry about, nothing to erk us, nothing to annoy us, either physically or mentally. How can alcohol actually do this for you because it doesn’t fix your annoyances? It doesn’t fix your stress, it just temporarily dulls the symptoms of your stress. As you build a tolerance, the effect of alcohol actually decreases over time, and your need for alcohol increases. So while you’re dulling the symptoms, you’re not actually fixing the problem. So is it true that alcohol will relax us?

Dulled, Not Erased

The things that are making you upset, after you build a tolerance, they’re barely even effected or muted by the alcohol. You can become addicted over time. Which, of course, addiction is a much bigger stressor than anything you probably drank to relieve the stress of in the first place. So, there is this initial aspect of it dulling the symptom but over time, clearly, it’s probably not the best choice because you end up creating this before. Now, you have this craving that you either have to feed with more alcohol or deprive. For me specifically, wanting something that I can’t have does nothing to relax me. That creates this mental divide inside my mind. It creates all sorts of thought and stress around the thing I want that I’m not allowing myself to have which is, for me, the definition of being annoyed and aggravated, and agitated and frustrated.

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The Opposite Is True

That’s actually, over time, the opposite of relaxation. Drinking to treat your problems it almost ensures that you won’t actually address the true source of your discontent, of whatever’s stressing you out in the first place. It ensures that you’re gonna remain stuck because you treat the symptoms rather than the causes of the symptoms. Things end up going from bad to worse. That was definitely my experience when I was drinking to self medicate and relax myself. Over time, the things that I was medicating were getting much more stressful and much worse in my life, because I was not ever addressing the problem. I was just glossing over it with another drink. And you really have to dig into what is wrong, and what is going on in my life that I need to be relaxed because of. Alcohol will relax us for a moment but it doesn’t do anything but increase the stressor long term.

The Treatment

So the treatment, in theory, should address the source of the problem. And as an example, you can just think about you just came back from a long run. It’s an 80, 90 degree day. You’re really hot and getting in the hot tub is not gonna relax you. It’s probably gonna feel pretty bad until you cool down. A cold shower would feel a lot better. But equally, if it’s a really cold day, and you’ve been working outside, then getting in a hot tub might be incredibly relaxing. You have to figure out what is the source of the discontent. If you have an itch, you scratch it. If you’re cold, you put on a sweater, stuff like that. Alcohol as this one size fits all numbing agent doesn’t actually treat the source of the discontent.

Relaxation Defined

By definition it doesn’t actually relax you. If we’re, again, defining relaxation as removing that source of discontent. We definitely talk about the numbing effects of alcohol, because that’s obviously what you’re getting when you drink for relaxation. Alcohol, it numbs your brain, and it numbs your senses. It numbs them to such an extent that if you drink enough you’re literally going to be become unconscious. And unconsciousness is going to relieve whatever pain you’re dealing with, but saying that that’s a good idea, I mean, it’s kind of like saying that you should go under the guillotine if you have a migraine headache, because there’s better solutions and more long term solutions, and solutions that don’t come with a whole host of other problems.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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