The Unconscious Mind And Alcohol Addiction: Liminal Point 7: Is Alcohol Vital To Social Life?

The Unconscious Mind And Alcohol Addiction

Dear alcohol, we had a deal where you would make me funnier, smarter, and a better dancer… I saw the video… we need to talk.

– Anon

The Unconscious Mind And Alcohol Addiction

Before you ever drank a drop you did not need alcohol to enjoy yourself socially, yet as you grew older, you observed everyone around you drinking in social situations. In fact, you almost never observed social situations without alcohol. You assumed alcohol was a key ingredient for a good party. You began to drink socially, and initially you probably still didn’t find alcohol vital to socializing. Since alcohol is part of practically every social situation, soon you only experience social situations with alcohol. Eventually you developed a small dependence, and you missed alcohol if it wasn’t available. Your experience confirmed your observations. You didn’t have quite as much fun if you didn’t drink. You concluded, yes, alcohol is vital to social life.

Let’s consider reality:

I drink for social reasons

Clearly drinking is a social pastime. At many occasions, alcohol turns a great event into a nightmare. At our wedding we only offered beer and wine to guests. We knew providing certain guests with liquor would mean trouble. We all have stories of the uncle or friend who gets drunk and ruins the wedding. And that doesn’t only happen at weddings. There are plenty of nights out at the club or the bar where social drinking quickly turns antisocial.

My brother, a non-drinker is a second-degree black belt, something he would not have had the discipline to achieve in his drinking days. We relish competition, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. We enjoy these things because our senses are engaged. It’s part of our nature as human beings to pursue the company of other humans. According to research by Johann Hari, social activities can help prevent addiction. If rats are put in cages alone with both drug-laced and clean water, the rats quickly become addicted to the drug. But if rats are in cages with lots of friends and social activities—Hari says to imagine a rat park—they ignore the drugs and prefer plain water. And before you think rats might not be a good representation of human nature, you should know their genetic, biological, and behavioral characteristics closely resemble those of humans, making them excellent test subjects. (Melina, B. (2010, November 16). Why Do Medical Researchers Use Mice? Retrieved August 13, 2015). Why Do Medical Researchers Use Mice? Retrieved August 13, 2015) Hari believes the antidote to addiction is actually companionship.(Hari, J. (2015, January 20). The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think. Retrieved May 21, 2015)

With my personal experience, I can’t help but agree. Addiction turned me into a loner. I had secrets and couldn’t connect with others as well as before. My cravings drove me to a point where I valued the drug more than people. This is hard to admit, but it’s true. When drinking we become insular, we lose ourselves, and we miss out on true opportunities for companionship. It’s not the drinking that makes these activities fun; we enjoy them because we are with friends and doing something we like. When was the last time you came home from a football game and raved about the quality of the beer instead of talking about the amazing touchdown pass?

We have become accustomed to drinking on these occasions. We didn’t need alcohol to enjoy them before, but now we have developed a habit of drinking. We have intertwined, within our minds, the alcohol and the joy we feel from the occasion. This is for a few reasons:

1) The idea that drinking enhances experiences has been ingrained in our minds through advertisements

2) We reconfirm this when we develop an almost unnoticeable physical dependence on alcohol. Alcohol can take ten days to fully leave your system, and your body physically craves a drink. You probably don’t even notice this, or you just notice the feeling as, “A drink sounds good.” The relief of feeding this craving makes alcohol seem as if it is contributing to your enjoyment of the occasion.

3) The mental belief that drinking enhances the occasion creates a placebo effect. This makes two things happen.

a) Since you believe alcohol is helping you have fun, it does. Your mind is incredibly powerful.

b) If you skip a drink, you feel deprived. You believe you are not enjoying yourself as much as you would with a drink in       your hand. You come to believe that you won’t have fun without a drink.

4) This cycle continues, and as drinking is addictive, you eventually create a physical addiction. At this stage, once you are addicted, you will feel miserable when you do not allow yourself to drink.

How can you know this is true? You don’t have to look further than people who don’t drink at all to realize it’s not the alcohol that makes social occasions amazing. Think about a school dance. There was no alcohol, yet it was fun and exciting. You scoped out girls or guys, enjoyed looking at everyone’s outfits, and spent social time with friends with no parents allowed.

As Rocca says, “Alcohol stifles your creative mind, dulls your senses and turns you into something of a slave to its every whim, the real world shrinks drastically until it is nothing more than a cycle of hangovers, booze and falseness.”( Turner, Sarah & Rocca, Lucy The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine o’Clock (2013) Accent Press Ltd.) Alcohol homogenizes life, meaning you experience the same deadened sense of drunken reality at a hockey game as you feel at a fancy dinner. And you won’t remember much of either. Instead of enjoying the wide variety of social activities available to us, drinking makes them all blend together. Rocca describes it as life becoming small, a boozy Groundhog Day in which you become ensnared. You don’t realize you are caught fast in your small life until you crawl out of it and re-enter the land of the living.(Turner, S. & Rocca, L. The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine o’Clock (2013)Accent Press Ltd.) Drinking ensures social events become unmemorable and monotonous. After all, drunkenness feels the same no matter what you are doing. You dumb down every experience. Instead of making sharp, crisp, lifelong memories, you recall social occasions through a haze or not at all. You know the saying—“It must have been fun; I don’t remember it.”

I now have more fun than when I was drinking. I no longer worry about what I will drink next, where it will come from, or how much I will have. I can’t wait for you to experience this. At a restaurant or sporting event, you will be amazed at how much you’re enjoying yourself and truly happy you no longer drink. When you stop believing you need to drink to have fun, you won’t need to. You’ll realize that alcohol can actually hinder your fun.

I remember pressuring my friends to drink. I would tell them they weren’t being any fun as a ploy to get them to drink with me. Now when I order a non-alcoholic drink people call me boring. How is that sociable behavior? Why do we do that? Probably because we don’t want to question our own drinking. Why do you think drug addicts and heavy drinkers hang out together? Could it be because no one makes them feel guilty about how much they are consuming? I found it easier to drink as much as I wanted in the company of other heavy drinkers. It seems OK to poison ourselves if everyone else is doing it—our dependence is masked. It eases our guilt and our misery.

High school hallways are filled with laughter, shouts, and jokes, and there is no alcohol. The locker room after a winning game has a buoyant, joyful atmosphere, again with no drinking. Is it so hard to accept that what you enjoy about social activities are your friends and the experiences? Do you remember how great the beer tasted? Of course not. You remember how much your friend made you laugh or the good-looking girl who kept smiling at you.

If someone asked you why you like playing your favorite sport, say soccer, and you replied, “Because it’s sociable,” what would you actually be saying? It sounds like you don’t like soccer all that much, but you play it for the company. Isn’t it strange that, in studies, the most popular reason we give for drinking is that it’s a social thing to do? Especially when we know drinking is harmful and addictive. Aren’t we actually saying we don’t know why we do it? We don’t have a truly good reason? We might even be saying that we don’t actually enjoy it. And if we don’t enjoy it, why do we drink? We drink because we are addicted to a drug.

Isn’t empowering knowing how the Unconscious Mind and alcohol addiction can be changed?

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