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I Just want to drink normally..

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

I get it! You just want to drink normally, you just want to moderate and not drink to excess.

The truth is, at this stage in your life, you have a feeling that all is not as it seems with alcohol. It seems to take more than it gives, it gets out of control at times, and there seems to be a need to consume more once you start drinking. You may even stare at your third or fourth drink and ask yourself, why? Why do I need to have more than one drink, why do I have this need to finish the bottle or the six pack in the fridge. In the back of your mind there is a nagging worry that you could have a problem that others don't seem to have.

You have become self-aware.

In answer to your new self awareness, you decide to cut down or moderate your drinking.

You make rules, set boundaries, nominate alcohol free days, what days to drink, how many to drink, where to drink, who to drink with. Inevitably you break your own rules, drink on a non-drinking day, have one at the bar on the way home or one at the restaurant, just one becomes two or three. You beat yourself up, again. Why can't I just drink normally.

I don't think I've ever seen anyone express the desire to moderate their heroin or moderate their meth, they are highly addictive drugs that can hook you very quickly once you start. There is does not seem to be any expectation on the medical side that you can moderate such substances. Strategies for moderating alcohol however are encouraged, we are advised to create the rules and set the boundaries.

Would it shock you to know that alcohol really is a highly addictive substance to humans? Drink enough, long enough or use it to self-medicate and any human can become addicted. It is not a moral failing or an allergy or imperfect gene pool that causes humans to become it addicted. It is the very nature of alcohol and its effect in the brain.

Evolution has given us some incredible processes and hormonal responses in the brain to help us exist on this amazing planet. Processes that help us remember where and how to find food, shelter and community. Alcohol hijacks those naturally occurring processes and stimulates the reward centre, making us susceptible to the illusion of wanting and needing alcohol. Alcohol in effect creates a need for itself. Alcohol also diminishes our ability to make good decisions, the old "One for the road" or "I've got time for just one more.."

Our subconscious mind has also absorbed years of alcohol advertising, social and family conditioning to reinforce the belief that alcohol is necessary for its existence.

It's the wanting, needing and effects of alcohol that make all the rules go out the window when we have a drink. That feeling when you hear "Oh a drink sounds nice" the little niggle of a craving, the wanting and needing a drink to scratch the barely perceptible itch starts it.

You have your first drink and as it is absorbed into your bloodstream you feel warm and fuzzy, maybe light headed and you start to relax as your barely perceptible craving has been satisfied. You may not be aware of it but your prefrontal cortex begins to slow down its processing and relax your normally good decision making. Combine the wanting, needing and effects of alcohol with a belief that alcohol has benefits, you can certainly drink more than you intend or want to, once you have that first one.

You break your own rules with an uncomfortable effortlessness.

When we break our self imposed rules, usually the next day or in the hours after, we feel regret and usually anger at ourselves for being weak, undisciplined and unable to stick to the plan. This self-directed anger and negative self-talk stem from a deeper realisation that breaking our alcohol rules, goes against our personal values and goals we have set for ourselves to moderate. We want a healthier lifestyle, to drink less and be in control of our actions.

The disappointment we feel after breaking our rules is often accompanied by a renewed determination to do better next time. We convince ourselves that we will regain control, that we will be able to drink in moderation just like everyone else. This resolve arises from a genuine desire to overcome our struggles and to align our drinking behavior with what we believe to be the norm. We experience cognitive dissonance, where the subconscious mind believes alcohol is necessary to our existence but the conscious mind wants to live a healthier lifestyle and cut down the drinking. The cycle continues.

Moderation is possible if you have a good understanding of what's going on in your brain, what the effects of alcohol are on you and your brain when you drink, and what conscious and unconscious beliefs you hold around the benefits of alcohol. If you can understand all of the above and how the subconscious mind is working against you and resolve those conflicts with your conscious mind, you can moderate, but when you do, be prepared for your subconscious mind to ask "Why the f*ck are we doing this at all?"

Thinking of moderating your drinking?

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