It seems like most behavior and decisions in life are based on the levels of pleasure (or reward) versus pain, and which one is more important to us at the moment. When I was in the middle of a drinking binge, I used to think “why can’t life just be like this all the time – this mellow, euphoric, peaceful feeling of being in an alcohol-induced state?” But the answer would eventually come – because keeping that “state” was very difficult and “one-too-many” turned into fights, arguments, paranoid thoughts, blackouts, embarrassment, shame….and so on.
Finding the motivation to quit a bad habit, including breaking free from an alcoholic addiction, can be a matter of adjusting your position on the “pleasure / pain pendulum.” So, where are you right now – are you swinging towards pleasure or pain?
STARTING POINT – PAIN – The pain of anxiety, stress, shyness, anger, loneliness, etc. drives the urge to drink to relieve the pain.
SWING TO (UNHEALTHY) PLEASURE – The pendulum swings to “pleasure” as the alcohol produces euphoria, relaxation, numbness, a false sense of happiness.
SWING TO PAIN – The pendulum swings back to greater “pain” because of feelings of shame, embarrassment from what we may have done or said while we were intoxicated, health problems, relationship problems, etc.
SWING TO (HEALTHY) PLEASURE – As the pain from drinking gets too bad, and we try to stop drinking on our own, we begin to feel more energetic, more productive, confident, hopeful and in control.
THIS IS WHERE WE NEED TO STAY! But this is a very crucial time, because some of the original pain will still be there – anxiety, stress, anger, etc. We have 2 choices:
1) Start the pendulum swinging again by drinking to achieve the “Unhealthy Pleasure” – euphoria, numbness, relaxation, etc., OR
2) Begin to put more “energy” into maintaining the “Healthy Pleasure” side of the pendulum by:
a. Addressing the triggers that are causing you to feel pain.
b. Find more healthy sources of pleasure, and replace alcohol with these alternatives (see Things to do Instead of Drink).
c. Balance your brain chemistry with supplements such as MODER8, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, etc.
d. Set some person goals in the various areas of your life (personal, work, family).
e. Incorporate regular exercise in your life – make it fun, such as hiking, dancing, swimming, etc.
The more effort you put toward the “Healthy Pleasure” position on the pendulum while you’re there, the easier it will be to stay there!