Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down and causing changes in the complex functions of the human brain and body. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) explains that “alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works.” Alcohol inhibits the major excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, and is believed to mimic GABA’s effect in the brain by binding to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors and obstructing neuronal signaling. This decreases electrical activity which amplifies feelings of sluggishness and lethargy. Studies have shown that alcohol increases the level of dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated feelings of pleasure) in the brain’s reward system by as much as 360%, which elevates one’s feelings of pleasure and reduces one’s perception of pain. Because of the way alcohol interacts with your brain and body, it should come as no surprise that you may be experiencing trepidation when thinking of drastically reducing your alcohol intake or quitting entirely. Making any kind of life-change can trigger feelings of apprehension. The following is a list of some of the most common fears around quitting drinking, and tips to help overcome them:
- Life without alcohol will be boring: Alcohol interferes with your ability to feel naturally motivated and inspired. The longer you stay away from alcohol the less you will feel like life is dull and uninteresting, as you give your brain time to recover and heal from the effects of alcohol use.
- Alcohol soothes my anxiety, and I won’t be able to cope without it: Studies show that drinking alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Alcohol reduces the amount of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) in the brain, and low levels of serotonin are associated with increased anxiety. While drinking alcohol can result in fleeting feelings of relaxation, it is not uncommon for an individual to experience increased feelings of anxiety after the initial effects of alcohol wear off. Therefore, when you stop drinking you are likely to experience reduced anxiety and be more adept at navigating your anxiety when it presents.
- My social life will become nonexistent: Although your friendships may shift, and some friendships may end, getting sober will not rob you of a social life. As your priorities shift, you will develop new friendships. The beauty of cultivating friendships in sobriety is that the connections are more authentic and generally more satisfying because they do not revolve around drinking alcohol.
- If I try, I might fail: You may stumble along the way, but the only way to fail is to stop trying. Clinical treatment studies estimate that more than two thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment. Relapse is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as the “recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40% to 60% of people relapse after drug treatment.
If you are afraid to quit drinking, you are in good company. Still, alcohol abuse can lead to an array of unwanted physiological outcomes, so it is in your best interest to face your fears.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.