Drinking Choices – SDA 82 Transcript
I’m Kevin O’Hara for alcoholmastery.com and welcome to Stop Drinking Alcohol 82.
Back from my great vacation with my son and his girlfriend. I can’t believe how grown up he’s getting now. ACHH!
I hope you are good, and getting the most out of your new life.
I have a couple of sections for you this week. The first part is about alcohol withdrawal treatment and do you need it? And the second video is about one of the greatest benefits of quitting drinking which is you will make better choices.
Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment: Do You Need It?
I’ve written a few articles about alcohol withdrawal in the past. For the most part, I think I have managed to get my message across, that this is a habit, the vast majority of people with an alcohol habit stop drinking on their own, so the likelihood is that you can quit drinking on your own as well. I get some criticism for saying this by those who have gone through a bad time or those who are worried that I’m sending out the message that you quitting alcohol is never dangerous. I’m not out to criticism, but this is a subject that I will continue to revisit because of the huge amount of disinformation that is out there about alcohol withdrawal and whether you need alcohol withdrawal treatment.
To begin with, I’m not a doctor, this video is not medical advice, so it shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for being careful and paying a visit to your doctor. I just want to help you keep an open mind to the fact that you can affect your experiences by how you think about quitting drinking and the types of feelings, physical and physiological, once you do stop.
With that in mind, do some people need treatment for alcohol withdrawal? Most definitely yes! Make no mistake, some people have created so much damage and destruction within their bodies that it is very dangerous to quit without specialist medical help. No amount of positive mental attitude, changing the ways you are thinking, altering the words you use, and so on, is going to overcome any serious physical damage that you may have been caused for yourself.
But stopping a habit is not where you need medical attention. It’s not a medical condition, much as some would have you believe. The part where you need medical treatment is not because you now want to quit drinking, it’s because of the damage that alcohol has already caused.
For instance, damage to your liver is damage to your liver. It can be caused through using drugs, eating the wrong foods over a period of years, or through diseases like hepatitis or hemochromatosis – an inherited disorder which involves the body absorbing and storing too much iron. In the same light, a broken leg is a broken leg. It doesn’t matter if the leg has been broken in a skiing accident or a car crash, it has to be treated like a broken leg. Both the damaged liver and the broken leg are medical conditions.
The doctor cannot prevent you from breaking your leg again, you need to get skiing lessons or learn how to drive safer. If you are lucky enough to have successful treatment on your liver, the doctor cannot prevent you from causing further damage. You have to change your lifestyle, your habits. It’s nothing to do with medicine. I know there’s the argument for medication to help you stop drinking, but that is not helping the underlying habit.
The majority of people who come to the Alcohol Mastery website, those post on the site or on YouTube, and those who frequently send me emails, are people who are quite capable of handling this habit on their own. Sure, their habit may have gotten a bit out control, but for the most part they understand that something is wrong.
Also, by the time you comprehend that you are having a problem with alcohol, for the most part this is still a long time before any serious damage has been caused.
Your body is absolutely capable of dealing with most toxins, even the massive toxic burden from constant alcohol use. But there is only so far your body can go, there are limits to its capabilities. Having said that, your mind and body will let you know that something is not right, that there needs to be change. It will provide you with big obvious signposts. It doesn’t give you the warnings when it’s too late, how stupid would that be… here is your body, doing such a great job a keeping you alive, but at the same time it’s keeping the damage a big secret??? It lets you know well in advance.
Whether you come to the conclusion that something is wrong through pains in your body or because you’re finding it more difficult to gather your thoughts. This is your body letting you know that something is wrong a long time before it’s gotten anywhere near life threatening.
Your body is letting you know something is wrong while you can do something about it. That’s what all pain is about, a physical alarm that you’ll find very difficult to ignore. Very few people persist with naive drinking past these warning signs. Once you start to get these warnings it’s difficult to create more and more damage or not do something about it. The fact that you are listening to me, or people like me, or searching for information, is plenty of evidence for that. By the way, not only am I telling you that you can get rid of this habit, I’m telling you that once you get alcohol out of your life and learn some new skills to replace the tool of alcohol, you won’t recognize the person you will become or how good you will feel.
I really want to keep harping on about alcohol withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal treatment because once you do get to the stage where you know something is not right, where you don’t want to continue down this path, there is so much bad information which can steer you down the wrong road. What I mean by the wrong road is where you are giving up your control and your abilities to make the changes.
So let’s take a look at the meaning of alcohol withdrawal first.
According to the website patient.co.uk*, “If you are alcohol-dependent you have a strong desire to drink alcohol. In addition, your body becomes used to lots of alcohol. Therefore, you may start to develop withdrawal symptoms 3-8 hours after your last drink as the effect of the alcohol wears off. So, even if you want to stop drinking, it is often difficult because of the withdrawal symptoms.”
Can I ask you a question?
You have been drinking for a while, right?
What does that last sentence sound like to you? You develop withdrawal symptoms 3-8 hours after your last drink as the effect of the alcohol wears off. What normally happens after you have had your last drink? You go to bed, right? So 3-8 hours after you go to bed, you probably wake up again. I know that’s what I used to do anyway. I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like crap, dry mouth, headache, shaking, badly needing to pee. We generally call it a hangover!
The website goes on to say, “Withdrawal symptoms include: feeling sick (nausea), the ‘shakes’ (trembling), sweating, craving for alcohol and just feeling awful”… like I said, a hangover.
Check this out for yourself.
Type the words alcohol withdrawal into Google and see what comes up. The articles and videos are mostly describing what we know as a hangover. But when it’s called alcohol withdrawal, the same symptoms become very serious. The focus is on the danger and on getting medical treatment. If you do the same search, typing hangover, aka alcohol withdrawal, you’ll get a lot of manly-type posts… how to overcome a hangover, 11 ways to ease a nasty hangover, 7 natural hangover remedies that work. Two polar opposite approaches to the same problem.
The hangover that you get after a drinking session is a form of alcohol withdrawal. You’ve become so used to the process of hangover that you don’t give it a second thought any more. You certainly wouldn’t visit your doctor every time you got one.
Why am I telling you this? Because you have been going through alcohol withdrawal for a long time, you have just been calling it by a different name. This goes back to the dangers of the language that we use. If we called our morning hangovers by what they really are, severe alcohol withdrawal, maybe it would cause us to be a lot more concerned than we actually are. But alcohol withdrawal sounds too much like something a druggie would have, or an alcoholic.
There is an old saying that goes, you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter. Just as a turd is a turd, alcohol withdrawal is alcohol withdrawal. You can roll it around in fairy dust and call it a hangover, but it is still alcohol withdrawal, the consequences of alcohol poisoning. This is one type of alcohol withdrawal that you don’t seek treatment for. Why? Because of our perceptions, because we are so used to calling them hangovers. We tend to try and sleep our hangovers off, to eat fried food, take pain medication, or the hair of the dog.
During my worst hangovers, I always found it very difficult to drink more alcohol so seeking out more drink wasn’t normally on my agenda. That was until the pain wore off and my habit kicked in.
So, if you’re a drinker, you are already going through some form of regular alcohol withdrawal. It’s part of the cycle, drink, intoxication, withdrawal.
How do you know when you need treatment of alcohol withdrawal or not?
I’ll say again, if you are worried at all… you should go to your doctor.
Over 70% of people who have stopped drinking alcohol have never had any form of treatment or help. If you have managed to quit alcohol for more than a few days in the recent past, you most likely fall into this category, you can most likely do this on your own. On the other hand, if you have not managed to quit alcohol for more than a day or two in the recent past, don’t take the risk. At the very least talk to your doctor. Don’t be a hero about this, it’s just not worth it.
To finish up, your chances of severe problems when you quit drinking are minimal. We all go through some form of alcohol withdrawal no matter what… it goes with the territory. For most of us, that withdrawal will mean nothing more than a hangover and some minor physical discomfort.
For those people, your biggest withdrawal is going to be in your head. Again, I don’t like using words like these. The word withdrawal has way too much negative baggage to describe what is really going on. For me, the process of quitting drinking, is very like a separation or a divorce.
When you go through a relationship separation, you need to change many aspects of your once shared life. As a heavy drinker, the things that you did together, you and the alcohol, you now have to do apart. It’s often the anxiety about making the necessary changes that keeps some relationships festering for years, when they should have ended a long time ago. The same basic principles also apply with stopping alcohol. Fear, anxiety, insecurity can create physical problems. In some people, those physical problems, which are brought on by the mind, can land them in hospital with the shakes, rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, and so on.
You have much greater chance of big problems if you persist in your alcohol usage. As I have said in the past, and I’ll keep repeating, many of the symptoms and side effects of quitting are about mind over matter. Stay strong and persist. Control your thoughts about what you are experiencing and why you’re doing. You will feel much less discomfort. If you don’t control your thoughts, the chances of your discomfort levels being more severe are much greater.
There are very rare cases where the damage that has been done by the alcohol consumption is so great that it is extremely necessary to be slowly weaned away from alcohol under medical supervision. But that is very rare. Bottom line, regardless of your risk, if you are in any doubt, seek medical advice. They are the only ones who can truly tell you if you need treatment of alcohol withdrawal or not.
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.
Thank you very much for watching Stop Drinking Alcohol 81.
As usual, so you can access these videos a lot easier on YouTube and on the Alcohol Mastery website, I will be uploading the sections separately. So you can check out the videos for the following:
The first video on alcohol withdrawal treatment can be found here.
The second video on you being able to make better choices can be found by clicking here.
Next week on Stop Drinking Alcohol, I’ll be answering the question: Is alcoholism a disease or a choice? I’m also going to be talking about you not being alone in your NOT drinking. In fact you’re in the majority. And I’ll look into a news story I came across about drug dealers being executed.
I want to leave you with this:
There is an old saying that “Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.”
As said earlier, there is never any point in beating yourself up about the choices you have made in the past. A choice is almost never bad at the time, only in retrospect. We all have perfect vision when looking back and it’s easy to criticize our past selves. But that criticism ultimately lands right back on your shoulders.
If I wasn’t a drinker, I would have never met the mother and married the mother of my son and Sean would not be alive. I would never have met Esther, my partner. Being a drinker, or at least stopping being a drinker, has allowed me to see and understand parts about myself that could have remained a mystery. I’ve become a part of something here, with Alcohol Mastery, which has enriched my life in so many ways. It can only ever matter what you do now. The choices you make now are the only ones you can make, so don’t beat yourself up.
If you found anything of value in this video, could you please take the time to subscribe, share or click the like button on YouTube. This means a lot to making the content more widely available to other people who are also having trouble finding some answers. If you have any questions, you can ask me on the website, on YouTube, through the Alcohol Mastery Facebook page, or by sending me an email to email@example.com. You can also find me at alcoholbooks.com
Thank you for watching.
Until next time, I’m Kevin O’Hara for Alcohol Mastery, Onwards and Upwards!