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Noticing the sunrise

Episode 4 of my alcohol analysis series

The idea of changing or even challenging your relationship with alcohol can feel like a big ask. But if I invited you to pause, reflect and then explore your world outside of the initial alcohol buzz you might just decide there is a whole lot of life that you are missing out on. And if you let that new life in you may even start to notice the sunrise.

Who defines "normal" behaviour and do you want to conform?

In coaching sessions it comes up often: "I thought I was functioning normally so I didn't see a problem." There are two questions here: what exactly is the definition of normal? and who created that definition? I will leave you to consider that.

Is there a possibility that your personal "normal" has diminished over time with the pressures and demands of life ? You might still be ticking the required boxes so might not question it. But what if your normal was to expand?

Firstly let's acknowledge the buzz (with a bit of science)

Alcohol takes the edge off. It increases your gaba - the neurotransmitter that essentially dulls your senses which has the initial impact of relaxing you. It floods your brain with happy hormones - dopamine and glutamate. It feels good. If you are in the right frame of mind (not drinking on a negative feeling) then the immediate effects of alcohol are generally pleasing.

Question the sacrifice

So where is the problem? It is what often happens outside of the brief period of warmth that we often don't acknowledge. I decided to explore exactly that: how I felt outside of that moment - before, short term after and then long term after.

When I started to notice the impact alcohol was having on everything outside of that moment of consumption I was genuinely astonished. I would often not sleep well on drinking nights. I would feel slow the next morning. I might skip exercise, do less in my day than I would like. Revisiting the chemistry lesson, the next day our brains experience

a depletion of happy hormones as they try to rebalance. This often leads to "hangxiety" - that horrible combination of feeling physically drained and extremely anxious. The lethargy can often continue throughout the next day, possibly beyond. Take it further and question your ability to focus at work, your ability to enjoy your day, engage with your family. Are all of these experiences diminished as a result of the excess of alcohol in your system? You probably wouldn't have noticed before. I certainly didn't.

Does a life shift call for a new perspective?

This sacrifice I speak of doesn't happen to everyone. Many people are happy to consume one or two drinks occasionally and have sensible buffers to stop further consumption. Your brain can cope with this level of consumption. These individuals have not associated alcohol

with a specific feeling, a need, an occasion so they can take it or leave it. And the brain therefore doesn't see this as a threat. It doesn't feel the need to step in and adjust the chemicals in your brain.

But what about the great many of us that don't have a buffer, an off switch, a "sensible limit"? If over time you have started to see alcohol as an essential element or a regular fixture, the lines of what you are actually "enjoying" may have become blurred.

You generally don't start out your drinking journey with a specific consumption goal. Along life's path alcohol can so easily begin to take over, so gradually you might not even notice. So the catalyst to unwelcome drinking habits, I believe, is very often the struggle to adjust to life's shifts. For me the growing family, work commitments, the continued underlying worries of how my daughter will cope in the world (this is one that I am sure any parent of a child with additional needs can relate), shadows of the past, the need to fit in all combined to cause me to embrace a habit of drinking to relax far more than I would have liked. Because this habit is perfectly welcome in society I didn't question whether it was actually helping me!

But when I embarked upon what I can only call a "wellbeing journey" in 2020 (described in previous blogs) I began to engage a growth mindset* and the floodgates of opportunity opened. I removed alcohol, I slowed down, I embraced change and adventure. I met new people trying new activities, I started studying again. My outlook expanded. I noticed the sunrise and paused to enjoy it. The clarity and energy experienced from losing the alcohol in my system was lifechanging. Do I miss that buzz? How could I when every thing around that moment was better, easier, more energised.

If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to explore change.

* growth mindset: thriving on challenge and viewing struggles as a springboard for growth. Someone with a growth mindset views intelligence, abilities and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort. Someone with a fixed mindset views those same traits as unchangeable over time. Alcohol, in my view is a huge barrier to that growth mindset and when you remove that barrier the possibilities are endless!


Interested in exploring the alcohol free world?

My mission is to normalise the conversation around alcohol. It doesn't have to be awkward. This is just another life change and a hugely positive one. Don't overthink it.

I offer an Online rethinking alcohol program and 1:1 program plus one off sessions so please get in touch if this is something that interests you.

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