TAE–Day 3 (Brain Chemicals)

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Today’s TAE lesson talked about what drinking alcohol does to your brain chemicals, particularly your dopamine and serotonin levels. I won’t go into all the science–I’m not a doctor–but the gist of it was that when you drink, you artificially stimulate the reward centers of your brain, you flood it with these “feel-good” chemicals and essentially teach your brain to keep coming back for more (the alcohol). Annie Grace said the takeaway from this information is that it’s not YOUR fault that continue to find yourself drinking even though you really don’t want to. Your brain is in control. It has forged neural pathways based on your history with alcohol consumption.

But she said that you CAN break these pathways. You CAN forge new ones. By not caving into a craving, by doing something different during these times, you can form new habits. You can teach your brain that there is a whole ton of other stuff that you can and will find rewarding. Simply taking a walk outside, doing a bit of yoga, playing with your dogs, taking a long, hot bath–any of these things have been scientifically shown to up your dopamine levels, make you feel good. Your brain will latch onto this; it WANTS you to feel good, and it will come back for more of this.

Annie then went on to explain what happens to the brain when you drink. She said that your first drink is the most impactful for the “feel-good” chemicals. You get a spike in these–which is why you desire more alcohol–but that this rise quickly dissipates. Only 20-30 minutes later, you are already coming down. And eventually you dip below how you were feeling before you even had your first drink. This is why you chase that drink with another. Because you want to be high again. Only you never reach as high as you did after that first drink. You keep going downhill. And this downward spiral can take hours to get through. You’re basically trading a half hour of a good time for 6-9 hours of a bad. Most of us are asleep during the down part, but if you’re like me, you wake up about halfway through it and feel terrible, aka my ” middle-of-the-night self-hate” sessions.

It’s interesting. It’s all very interesting. It brings to light that my belief of “drinking to have fun” is super short-lived. Sure, I feel that great little buzz after I have my strong first cocktail, but in the end that’s the best I’m going to feel all night. I will spend the rest of my evening trying to maintain that buzz, all for nothing. I will NEVER feel it again, not in the same way. What I will be doing is ingesting a poisonous chemical into my body repeatedly and continuing to throw my brain out of whack. And THAT, my friends, is no fun at all.

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