One phrase I use to tell people that I am not drinking now is, “I’m off the sauce nowadays.” I use that partly in that bloody English self-deprecating ‘I’ll use humour to distract you from what I’m actually saying because heaven forfend we talk about what’s really important’ way. But also as a little in joke with myself (I am frightfully easily amused) referring to the concept that we alcoholics, or alcohol dependents, or booze hounds, or insertyourpreferredphrasehere, use alcohol like a teenager uses ketchup.
Tired? booze. Worried? booze. Happy, celebrating, angry, bored, lonely, nervous, shy? Booze, booze, booze and I’ll open a bottle when I get home just to make sure I haven’t not had enough.
(Can’t remember where I read this analogy so if it was you or someone you know please please do direct me so I can link to it, apologies!)
So when we take ketchup off the menu everything seems bland for a bit. We have wired our brains to expect it everywhere. I’ve been reading a lot about the effect of alcohol on the brain, and in particular on dopamine production. There’s a good article about it here with lots of interesting links out. The basic fact is that consuming alcohol, even a sip, triggers our brains to produce dopamine, which we perceive as pleasure. But over time our brains need more and more alcohol to produce that first hit, so we consume quantities which mean the brain also produces chemicals inducing depression and anxiety. It’s a bit more complicated than that but read more online if you’re interested! Try Googling dopamine and sugar as well. That’s pretty craaazzzy too.
I have always been struck by the number of boozers who are already or who turn into runners. Pretty sure that running’s an invitation to the dopamine party too – but without the negative consequences of many other ways of getting there. ByeByeBeer calls running ‘the perfect balance of challenge, humility and reward’, and I couldn’t agree more.
I really appreciated the varied comments on my last post on dealing with low feelings. It is so great that there are all these OTHER ways of making ourselves feel good.
There’s a whole supermarket aisle of condiments and good times out there, folks. Let’s leave the damn ketchup on the shelf.