Pain….whether it’s physical or emotional, many of us have used alcohol to cover up the pain. But what happens when we are able to kick our bad drinking habits, but the pain remains. While we know that it’s not healthy to use alcohol to cover up pain, sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s a better solution. Annie takes this question and gives us statistics, medical science, and resources to help us navigate through how to deal with pain without alcohol.

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Episode Links:
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life – Byron Katie

Download EP:196 Transcript

Alcohol To Numb

Drinking for so many of us, whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain or even not pain but just the edge of life, the stress, the underlying current that something isn’t quite right, the lack of ease and feeling comfortable in our own skin, the social anxiety, whatever it is, drinking numbs these feelings. It does this by making your brain function slower, it encourages neuro-transmitters, GABA and glutamate in your brain. The function of alcohol in those specific neuro-transmitters, is to make your thoughts not connect as fast, you don’t feel your senses as quickly, you don’t feel your sense of balance as much. And so, by definition, you think less and you think more slowly and you feel less pain. And it is very similar, I’d say, to any pain killer that is a bandaid and stops the bleeding, so to speak, but doesn’t actually address the issue.

Alcohol Creates Addiction

Our bodies become tolerant to it and because we need more and more of it to achieve the same effect. What happens is that that one or two glasses of wine, your brain doesn’t have any more control to say, “Okay, I don’t want that third and that fourth glass of wine,” especially when over time you’ve developed pathways of addiction in your brain. You don’t have control because your brain affects your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that exerts control not only on your immediate decisions but on your long term decision making. So it’s such a hard cycle to get out of.

Using Alcohol To Numb Pain

Alcohol is probably one of the most dangerous things on the planet to use to numb pain because of the addiction it creates. Not to mention the amount of death and destruction and disease it causes. We talk so much about drug addiction, and it’s a huge thing in our country right now, heroin, painkiller addiction, all of these things. But the interesting thing is that the statistics that I’ve read most recently is that there’s about 24,000 people that die every year from overdoses according to pharmaceuticals and about 22 from overdoses to illegal drugs. And there’s about 90 that die from alcohol related causes, 90,000 people. So it’s four times as many as each of those categories. And it’s really scary because alcohol can literally steal your happiness from you and it steals so much else.

My Experience

I’ll say from my own experience, I used alcohol to medicate anxiety and depression. When I stopped drinking, I remember having a similar moment where I was just like, “I feel like I would just, if I could just take a break from this misery in my mind I would just be happier.” And getting through those moments and realizing that going through door number A where the alcohol is, was not the solution. Making just this decision inside myself to close that door and say, “This is never going to be the solution.” It would only ever be the solution if I wanted to continue this cycle and always have a short term answer for this problem. If I actually want the long term answer, if I actually want the life I want to live, if I actually want to move forward, I have to start trying other things.

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