Updated: May 29, 2021
Let's take some time to dive deeper into urges.
Most of us think that an urge is something we have no control over. It's just there, with a mind of its own. We seem to obey it. We give into it. I want to offer that an urge comes from a thought. Perhaps, we could call it an innocent thought, that emerges and has its own life. We think it's harmless until giving into that urge starts to cause results in our lives that we don't want anymore.
I like the image of an innocent toddler who really, really wants something, so badly that he or she will throw a tantrum because that toddler thinks he or she will die if they don't get what they want. That toddlers brain is still immature, or rather it is controlled by the lower brain- the primal brain, it doesn't rationalize that they won't die if he or she doesn't get what they want. If you were to give into that toddler after she or he has thrown the tantrum the toddler will realize and associate that if I scream loud enough I'll get my reward.
When your brain starts a thought pattern of wanting a drink (urge), it starts out innocently. For example, I worked so hard today. I deserve it. My flight was delayed and I'm exhausted. My kids are driving me nuts, I just need to relax and unwind. I used to call it my mommy bubble. It usually started around dinner time when I was convinced I couldn't take any more noise or questions. All of these thoughts seem so calm and reasonable. So after many occasions of giving into the urge, my brain learned that those thoughts would get rewarded.
Reward and Pleasure
Your brain has one primal goal and that is to seek pleasure, avoid pain, with the least amount of effort. That is called the motivational triad. Your brain is seeking its reward. In our "caveman past" it was necessary to have rewards in order to survive. If we didn't have a reward for life's "jobs" we would have just stayed in our caves and not takes risks. Eventually our species would have died out.
Sex is a great example. Our brains get a high dose of dopamine when we have sex. The reason for that is so we continue to propagate our species. When we eat we also get a dopamine dose and the purpose is so we are healthy and energized. Unfortunately, alcohol releases a very high concentrated dose of dopamine. Therefore, it only makes sense that our brain seeks out this extreme hit of pleasure. This is a much higher concentration of a reward than the reward we get for going for a walk. This high influx of dopamine encourages our brain seek alcohol. It's a good indication that your brain is working exactly as it was designed to do. Pleasure, Reward, Little Amount of Effort.
Where Do I Begin to Break the Cycle?
To interrupt the urge for a drink, the first step is to pause and recognize the thoughts that come up for us. Be an observer. Imagine yourself as a bird up in a tree, on a branch, observing its surroundings. Step outside of your mind for a moment to observe your thoughts. Listen to them. Then, take a moment to drop down into your body. How do your thoughts make you feel? Perhaps, unsettled. Ask yourself, is there any harm in feeling unsettled? Will you die (like the toddler thinks they will)? Practicing this first step is the beginning of your journey. You can be the adult and rationalize that your won't die if you don't have that drink. The drink will always be there. But you can know that you won't die if you don't have it.
✅ P.S. Need a simple to follow step-by-step process to drink less? Check out my signature programs HERE.