Benefit of Quitting Drinking: You Will Make Better Choices
If you had met me before I stopped drinking, you would not have listened to a word I had to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, I’m half-Irish, I always have something to say. I was leading a duel life. Half my life was the working man who had to provide for his family, someone who did want to get ahead, and a person who genuinely enjoyed living.
I genuinely wanted to be the best person I could be. The other half was the person who didn’t like to wait for things to happen. I wanted my buzzes now, not tomorrow. These two lines of thought are mutually exclusive. You cannot be the best person you can be if a part of you craves this daily instant gratification. This ‘want it now’ side of you will drag everything else down to that level. It will hold you back from all the rewarding possibilities that waiting, working, and patience will eventually bring.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who is known for creating what is known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory goes something along the lines of: your mental health is based around fulfilling a series of deep-seated needs, all culminating at the peak of self-actualization.
Self-actualization is, in Maslow’s words, “”What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”
In short, a self-actualized person has realistic perceptions about themselves, others, and the wider world. They are motivated by a sense of ethics and personal responsibility. They want to help others, to solve problems outside of themselves. They view the world with appreciation, if not awe, focusing on what can be instead of what cannot be. For me, one of the best characteristics of Maslow’s self-actualized person is a person who is self-determining. You don’t need anyone else to tell you how to live your life, what to be happy about, or conforming to other people’s ideas of contentment.
Much of this boils down to the choices you make in the moment. As a drug user, alcohol of course included, you cannot make the best decisions while you are:
1. Thinking about using the drug.
2. In the process using the drug.
3. Suffering through the inevitable consequences of using that drug.
I’ve made some pretty poor choices throughout my life as an alcohol user. From getting behind the wheel of my car while drunk to standing on the outside railing of a ferry crossing the Irish sea, drunk as hell, with only fresh air between me and the cold sea fifty feet below. Luckily, neither of these past choices resulted in any serious or long term consequences. However, I can’t say that about most of my past decision making. Being an alcohol user has definitely infected many important choices that I have made which have ultimately affected my whole life.
There’s an Irish saying about being so drunk that you were ‘locked out of your head’. That’s saying is a lot closer to the truth than most of us would care to admit. In a drinking culture, taking into account most of the western world, alcohol drinkers love being tipsy, drunk, pissed, or out of our heads. But we never really stop to think about what is happening to us biologically so that our bodies and minds can arrive at that feeling.
Blurred vision, loss of balance or co-ordination, difficulty understanding what someone is saying to you, having trouble with speaking, confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness are all common signs that a person is very drunk. They are also among the most common signs that someone is having a stroke.
That really tells you something about what’s going on in your brain to get you to the feeling of being ‘wasted’.
On a previous video, we’ve learned that alcohol is one of the few substances that can pass straight through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). This barrier is there a simple method of protecting your brain from harm. It can prevent most foreign substances, your own hormones and neurotransmitters that don’t belong in your cranium, and it maintains the constant environment that your brain requires. This protection has evolved over millions of years. One foreign toxin that it won’t stop is alcohol. The reason it doesn’t stop alcohol is because the blood brain barrier is not used to the levels of alcohol that are flung at it from alcoholic drinking.
Alcohol is used as a very efficient cleaner, as a solvent, and as a motor and rocket fuel, among other things. Your brain is the control centre of your entire being. You don’t do anything without it first passing through the brain. Do you really want something that is used as an industrial cleaner to be washing around inside the control centre of your entire life? Think about it, it just doesn’t make any sense…
So the next time you take a drink of alcohol, imagine what the effect is on the delicate electrochemical signalling that is responsible for processing and transmitting every thought you have.
We all have bad days and we all make some bad choices. That’s part of living and learning. The normal process when you make a mistake is to think about it, to try and isolate the reason it didn’t work out, and to change the choice or some part of the choice the next time round.
When we’re under the influence of a heavy drug like alcohol, we’re often not even aware what choice has been made, never mind the processes or the thoughts that preceded making that choice. So we cannot learn any lessons. You can’t go back over the thought process to see where you went wrong because it has generally been permanently wiped out of your memory.
There is nothing you can do about the choices that have already been made. So there’s no point in beating yourself up about them. Beating yourself up has probably driven you to use alcohol on more than one occasion, which only leads to more negativity and more of the same beating yourself up. The choices that matter are the ones you can alter, and the only ones you can alter are the ones you make from now on.
Once you make the choice not to drink alcohol again, your decisions and choices will become much cleaner. For a start, you no longer have rocket fuel running rampage in your head. Your brain will be in that constant pure environment that it needs for clear, crisp thoughts to happen.
Another reason for improved choices is that the choices you make are often cumulative. One choice can often be the catalyst for a whole series of thoughts. You are more likely to get more of your choices wrong when you are not in complete control of your brain, when you’re locked out of your head. You are more likely to make more bad decisions when your brain is bathed in something which is also used as a toxic solvent.
When you stop drinking, your choices and decisions will improve because you have better control over your thought processes. When you don’t drink alcohol, the only chemicals that are in your brain are the ones that are supposed to be there. Because you’re not wasting your time drinking and recovering, you’ll have more time to think things through, leading to better choices, which will in turn lead to better choices.
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Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!