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I Don't Want to Die, but I really want to do the things I used to enjoy.

  • anonymous Asks ...

    I am a big football fan but watching the games always gets me craving beers. I am 3 months sober. I have alcoholic liver disease and my doctor said if I didn’t quit drinking I was going to get cirrhosis so that was enough to get me to finally stop after 20 years of hard drinking. I do not want to die so I am serious about stopping for good. But I really want to be able to do the things I used to enjoy. How can I make it so that I can watch all the games and not feel these urges to drink?

  • Florence Cameron Says ...
    Florence Cameron

    Dear Football fan,

    When it comes to sobriety, the first year is the most fragile. The urges and triggers refer to a broad range of thoughts, physical sensations, or emotions that tempt you to drink. These feelings can be so strong and very hard to control for anyone in early recovery. The statistics state that the “odds of remaining abstinent rise if patients have been abstinent for 1-3 years. After 3 years, the recovery odds remain high and stable.” Therefore, as with other chronic diseases, addiction requires an ongoing and active disease management strategy.

    There is evidence that repeated exposure to drugs of abuse alters brain function and behavior. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has discovered that in the non-addicted brain, control mechanisms constantly assess the value of stimuli and the appropriateness of the planned response. Inhibitory control is then applied as needed. This can also be viewed as applying the brakes to detrimental and destructive behaviors. However, in the addicted brain, this control circuitry becomes impaired and is malfunctioning making it harder for the impaired individual to make sound decisions in response to their environment and their self- control is eroded.

    Long-term drug abuse can trigger adaptations in habit or unconscious memory systems. Learning cues become associated with the drug experience, in your case watching football, and in many situations just seeing a picture, smelling familiar scents and hearing the tingling of glass and laughter can spark a powerful urge or trigger. The more a person is around familiar smells, sounds and sights, as innocuous as they may appear, can trigger powerful urges before the individual can put a relapse plan in place and more likely they will not be able to control their desire to use.

    Three months of sobriety is considered the infancy stage of abstinence. Even though you stated that you have been drinking for over 20 years and have been diagnosed with liver disease and willing to give it up, the force of addiction is stronger than your will to stay alive. One has to be very vigilant, guarding their sobriety under almost impossible odds. Refraining from watching football or watching it only with sober friends can curb your desire to use, but you are still putting yourself in a very tempting state. In the recovery community the first thing they tell new-timers is, "Not to make any drastic changes", then the next thing they tell the newcomer is “To change everything”, this includes people, places and things.

    Please do your research and learn about the brain disease of addiction. Keep involved in a recovery community and have people around you who support your sobriety. Getting to where you are with your disease took a long time, and your best thinking got you here. Please be patient with yourself and respect the research and the scientific evidence that has evolved in addiction. I wish you all the best.

    Jeannie Cameron, LMHC


    Naples, FL

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