Reprogramming My Brain

I realized this week that there have been a couple of points of progress. First, I have stopped having that feeling like I should be stopping at the liquor store on my way home from work. That was happening every day, and now I am not thinking about it much at all! Second, it’s not feeling so weird to not drink beer at night. It felt really odd at first, and now it is starting to feel normal.

I do wish it wasn’t patio season though! I suppose I could have waited until patio/cottage season was over, but there’s always a good reason to wait, right? There is never an easy time to quit. Anyway I do have these little twinges out riding my bike when I see people sitting on patios with pints, or glasses of wine. The thought that always, immediately pops in to my head is this half-wistful, half-pissed off “Well. So much for that then. No more patios for me.”

patio

Ahhhh, patio season!

The thing is, that is really very silly. Last I checked, they haven’t outlawed non-alcoholic beverages on patios. It’s not like there are bouncers who won’t let you in unless you promise to drink. In other words, there is no reason in the slightest I can’t still enjoy sitting on a patio on a nice summer evening. It is just so hard-wired in my brain that patio+alcohol=fun, that it’s really difficult to rework the equation. I think that part of quitting drinking is to reprogram your brain. You have to have some experiences that help you to break the automatic associations of alcohol with events you have enjoyed.

For some people, strong associations can can be triggering. I was talking to my daughter, and she still doesn’t feel like she’s in a place where she can go out to a pub and hang out with other people who are drinking. So I expect it is different for everyone. You have to be secure that you can safely navigate a social outing that you would have boozed at before. I’ve read lots of good advice about that: making sure you’ve got your own transportation home, going with sober peeps, having a sponsor or sober buddy on speed-dial, and bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks if need be. But even with all these safeguards in place, you have to feel ready.

I have gotten through a couple of drinking occasions now with success, and it does build your confidence and hope a bit. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to run out to the pub every Friday night now or anything. Why hurl yourself in to temptation when you don’t have to? But, I do think I should hang out on a patio soon, perhaps with a big cold soda, cranberry and lime, and give my brain some further hard evidence that my life isn’t over as a sober person!

Triggers

I was thinking about “triggers” after my wine-in-cooking episode on Sunday. How and why did a recipe with wine in it set me off?

I recently read an interesting conversation about booze glasses. Some folks had to get wine glasses right out of the house because they were too triggering; others enjoy their non-alcoholic drinks in pretty glasses without difficulty. This surprised me, as I haven’t had that experience of being triggered by glasses.

I was also surprised when, the day before my little meltdown, I read a post about how non-alcoholic beer¬†triggered the schizzle out of a guy.¬†Sober Tony confessed he swilled a six of them, and wondered if you had to drink alcohol to reIapse. Now for me, having a near-beer doesn’t trouble a wit. I don’t feel like I need a real beer, or I need more than one. It seems to satisfy the beer urge without causing any problems.

However, I now better understand the negative reactions I got in my support group a couple of years ago when I said I was enjoying non-alcoholic beers. I felt oddly… judged. Well no. I felt judged. Period. But I can see now that this behaviour could very well be triggering for others, and that these folks might well assume I was on the downward road based on their own experiences.

More importantly, I can see that they were wrong. I mean some triggers would have to be such no-brainers as to be universal. For example: don’t open a drink and put it in front of you and stare at it. Probably a trigger.

But beyond obvious stupidity, we probably all have unique complements of triggers and temptations, and I think it is important to respect that every sober journey has its own quirks and characteristics. I don’t have to feel bad about drinking near beer if it works for me and my sobriety. I just have to stay self-aware about what works and what doesn’t.

Also on a happy note family dinner last night the wine was flowing, and I was just fine with my lemon-lime and bitters! No cravings. Huzzah!