I don’t drink nearly the amount I used to, but when I do – I now get the worst hangovers. Is this normal? Annie explains that YES, this is normal and tells us why. She educates us on the chemicals involved in this and why even a couple of drinks can leave us with a hangover from hell.
Yes, it is totally normal and I want to explain why. It’s a few reasons but I remember during my drinking days, one thing that I was super proud of was my tolerance. I really excited about the fact that I could out drink the co-workers at work and I wouldn’t have a hangover the next day, even if I drank more than a bottle of wine. It was something that I kind of wore as this badge of honor. When I look back on that now, knowing what I know about what tolerance really is, it is astonishing to me. I can’t believe that I was so proud of something that was literally destroying me in such a profound way. So be happy that you do have worse hangovers now.
Tolerance, what happens there is your body says, “Okay, there’s something inside that you’re putting in,” and it assumes you don’t have a choice. It doesn’t think that you’re actually going to put ethanol into your body, something that causes cancer and makes you feel off balance and all this other stuff. What it does is it tries to combat that and it says, “Okay, I’m gonna process this out faster.” The more you put it in your body the more your body says, “Okay, I’m getting used to this, I don’t think you have a choice, I’m doing everything I can to keep you healthy so I’m gonna start to process alcohol faster than before.”
In addition to processing it faster so it takes you more to feel tipsy, more to feel drunk, it does something else but it really turns down the levels of the effect mentally. When at first you would drink a glass of wine and feel lightheaded, now you can drink three or four glasses of wine and not feel that lightheadedness, and that’s from drinking repeatedly every single day. Your body assumes you don’t have a choice in this, it assumes you don’t want that feeling because it doesn’t want it. It wants to maintain homeostasis both in body and mind, and so it starts to really do its work to turn down the effects of alcohol.
One of the scariest ways it does this, and I talked about this before, but it releases a chemical in your brain called dynorphin. What dynorphin does, it’s a natural sedative that actually reduces the ability of your brain to feel pleasure. Over time, you drink more, more dynorphin is released, you drink more, more dynorphin is released, and you can rob yourself of your natural ability to feel pleasure. The dynorphin doesn’t leave as quickly so the next day you might feel really anxious or uneasy or down and you’re thinking, “Oh, well I just need a drink.” Well yeah, you do just need a drink. Guess why? To counteract the dynorphin that you’ve unknowingly released into your brain through drinking in the first place.
The bad thing about just needing that drink is it will make you feel better very temporarily but then your brain will again compensate and release more dynorphin. You can see the pattern of where this goes over time, and a lot of drinking over time makes it so that you’re literally not happy without a drink in your hand. The fact that I was proud of this, that I was thinking that, “Oh, my tolerance is such a good thing and I’m so impressed with myself for being able to drink so much,” is just unbelievable to me at this point in time.
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What happens is you get fewer hangovers. The next morning I’d be able to take up and go right to work and I’m like, “Oh, hanging with the big boys, being able to just go right back into work,” literally that was just because my body became so efficient at processing out the poison that I was putting into it. It’s totally normal so if you take 30 days, 60 days off and then you drink again you just don’t have that tolerance but that is a beautiful, good thing. That means that your body and mind are healing, that they’re coming back to normal, that that constant level of dynorphin which makes you feel just icky is leaving your system and it’s a really, really good thing.
I’ll tell you one other thing about this, is that we all have our own path in finding peace in our relationship with alcohol. Obviously, if you’re watching this video maybe you or somebody you love probably isn’t at peace with their relationship. There’s something conflicting there, you both want to drink and don’t want to drink at the same time. You’ve got some sort of inner conflict around drinking. Finding peace is generally … I mean, I know hundreds of people, probably thousands of people who have stopped drinking alcohol and I’ve had emails from thousands of people over the last few years. It is not generally a straight line. Even for me I would say it wasn’t a straight line.
Tune in to hear about why you have worse hangovers and Annie’s test 4 months in to her journey.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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