From Moderation to Alcohol Free – M’s Naked Life

What happens when moderation stops working for you? What is the next step? M found the answer in This Naked Mind.

Growing Up

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s surrounded by alcohol. My father worked in an industry where 3 hour boozy client lunches were the norm and alcohol was front and center in our house. I repeatedly watched my father come from work and immediately pour a drink. He was rarely without a glass in his hand. My drinking started rather typically, experimenting with beer and sickly sweet wines while in high school, graduating to social drinking in university and beyond. I also grew up in a very demanding home.

Good enough was never acceptable and I found relief from my “pressure cooker” environment in an occasional drink.

The Cycle Continues

School ended, work began and, again, alcohol was everywhere. Work sponsored events involved heavy drinking and lots of partying and I was happy to indulge. Life progressively got more stressful, as life does, and my drinking became more and more frequent. I got divorced, remarried, went back to school while working full time (twice), first getting my masters and 10 years later my doctorate. All the time I drank more and more as the years and the perceived stress progressed. Moderation never even crossed my mind.

That Little Voice

I made poorer and poorer decisions as the amount and frequency of my drinking increased. Many times I drove when I shouldn’t have. I started to have difficulty remembering what had happened some nights. More times than I’d like to admit I had the “26 oz” flu.

A little voice in the back of my mind started to ask some scary questions. However, I wasn’t ready to listen to that little voice.

I liked my wine and loved my rum. My upbringing had taught me to never show weakness and I certainly wasn’t going to let this become a problem. I would do what I had always done and try harder until I achieved what I needed for it to be okay.

moderation

Everything in Moderation

The decade of moderation began. If my husband even tried to talk to me about my drinking I became incredibly defensive and set about proving to both of us that I was in control. I quit for various lengths of time, the longest being a year – and always successfully. You can’t do that if alcohol is problematic – right? After each alcohol-free break, I would return to drinking – slowly and in moderation at first and then back to normal or even more than before. I tried every permutation and combination of ways to reduce my consumption: only on weekends (amazing how quickly weekends added days), never before 5 pm (it’s always 5pm somewhere in the world), only on special occasions (Tuesday suddenly became a special occasion) – you get the idea.

The little voice got louder and louder. Intellectually I knew something was wrong but I could not get myself to act.

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A Good Actress

Part of the problem was that I did a very good job of hiding my problem. My drinking was not affecting my job, I had stopped driving under the influence years before, and I didn’t get hammered in public. Occasionally my husband would mention the ever increasing monthly alcohol bills or an argument that we had had that alcohol induced on my part, but other than that being an annoyance, it didn’t appear that there was a problem. And yet, the little voice kept nattering. Everything in moderation – right?

Seeking Answers

I started googling articles hoping to get confirmation that I didn’t have a problem. That did not go well. It made me angry and more stressed and I drank more to prove that I was just fine. No – it wasn’t logical but nothing about this was for me. As someone actively involved in the field of developmental neuropsychology I dealt with the brain and inappropriate behavior all the time.

This was different and I definitely did not have a problem. I just liked my drink.

Getting Naked

One day, while doing some research for a new book, I inadvertently found This Naked Mind through a google search on dopamine. Loving all things brain related, the book summary caught my eye and I bought a copy. I could not put it down. All of a sudden, everything became clear.

When the problem with alcohol was explained neurologically, I could no longer deny my reality.

I literally went from 60 to 0 that day. Annie spoke to me in a way that shook me to my core and opened my eyes and my mind. The struggle was no longer real.

I just didn’t want to drink anymore.

Finally Alcohol Free

I didn’t say anything for a few days. I read the book twice more and thought about the big picture of what I was doing. Five days after I quit I told my husband. He read the book and I joined The Alcohol Experiment. My drinking neural pathways were very strong and my new AF pathways were going to need time and reinforcement to avoid slipping back to old habits. I had executed that habitual behavior so many times that I wanted to ensure that I didn’t allow anything to derail my conscious thought and let my unconscious return to power.

At the end of the Alcohol Experiment, Annie asked us to plan for our future. What were my plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, a year from now? Even thinking about making exceptions to being AF started to make me feel uneasy instead of being pleased with an effective justification for drinking. Annie was right – once the unconscious thought becomes conscious, you can see it for what it is and change is immediate. Thank you Annie – from the front of my brain and the bottom of my heart. Moderation is no longer for me.

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