Anxiety is something that many of us struggle with and when it comes to socializing without our crutch of alcohol, the temptation to drink can become overwhelming. How can we overcome this? Should we just stop socialize altogether? Annie delivers her advice, based on a combination of science and experience, to help us remain true to ourselves in those now-sober (and therefore unfamiliar) social situations.
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Socializing Without Alcohol
If you are in the early days of stopping drinking, and you’ve actually identified that you’ve changed your brain to where you’re having cravings that are almost unstoppable, and it’s very difficult for you to overcome them, then staying away from it until you get kind of a grip on that is probably a good idea. I will say that’s not the typical case for most people. I mean, often when that happens, that means that something’s actually physically changed in your brain. And there’s a whole slew of reasons behind that. It has to do with different levels of stress.
What’s happening in your brain, and they’ve done MRI studies to show this, is you have two parts of your brain. You’ve got your midbrain, which is your amygdala. This part of your brain is really responsible for survival. If you were to get in a car crash, that’s the part of your brain that leaps into action. You don’t think about it. You just act. Right? It is important for your survival, and when your survival is on the line, it takes over completely. Then you’ve got the human part of your brain, the civilized part, the front of your brain, and that’s your prefrontal cortex. That part of your brain is responsible for making good long-term decisions, the part of your brain responsible for saying, “I’m not going to do this, even though it might feel good right now, because I want this later.”
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When you’re drinking over time, alcohol actually impairs the prefrontal cortex. It does it in a few different ways. But it physically harms it. When you’re actually intoxicated, your prefrontal cortex is less able to function as it should. Studies have been conducted where they’ve put addicts in an MRI. They’ve shown them images of the thing that they’re addicted to. So for an alcoholic, they’d show them a picture of alcohol, or something that really triggers a craving. What that craving is, is actually something is happening inside your brain.
In the MRI studies, the prefrontal cortex during that period of craving, goes black.
If it feels like you go into this pub, and some other thing moves in, and all of the sudden you’re on autopilot. And you’re just compelled to pick up this drink, that is your midbrain. That is because your prefrontal cortex does not have the tools and the capacity to deal with craving. That is something that is going to be really hard until over the physical part of the alcohol addiction. You need some decent time under your belt.
I was forwarded an article today on how meditation, even just focusing on your breath or trying to be consciously aware for five minutes a day, 10 minutes a day, actually balances that out. So it actually strengthens the part of your brain that is responsible for decision makings. It balances out the part of your brain that just is kind of in that, okay, I need this drink, survival type mode. If it’s that kind of craving your experiencing, then my advice would be do whatever it takes to get that under control. Whether it’s meditation or whatever. That trigger, you’re not yourself. You’re impaired and you’re not able to make that good decision.
Listen to the complete podcast where I get deeper into socializing without alcohol.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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