Routine alcohol use is mostly rooted within cultures that hold a special place for alcohol as a mainstream beverage. For example, you see a prevalence of alcohol use in some European and Asian countries more so than elsewhere. However, alcohol abuse is referred to excessive drinking compared to just occasional drinking, and is hallmarked by individual’s unsuccessful attempts to cut down. Alcohol abuse often leads to alcohol dependence, whereby the person experiences unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which makes it more challenging to stay sober.
Alcohol is considered a “downer” which refers to a substance that slows down brain processes. For persons who feel anxious, self-conscious or fidgety, the experience of slowing down is sometimes a welcoming sensation, bringing peace and comfort. However, alcohol is a substance which one can quickly habituate to. Meaning, after only about 10 days or so, the amount of alcohol that it takes to create a buzz quickly grows, and the individual recognizes that it takes more alcohol to reach the same level of buzz than it did with less alcohol. Given that the transient peace and comfort that is experienced against the anxious and self-conscious feelings is rewarding, the individual is quite inclined to succumb into consuming the now increased level of alcohol, only to reach that same level of comfort once again. In the human brain, there are pleasure centers, allowing humans to experience pleasure and feel motivated. Therefore, “learning” occurs naturally when reward and pleasure occur together. In this case, the person “learns” that with alcohol, they could just feel good and bypass all the unwanted anxiety, fidgety and restless feelings they had before.
Trouble begins of course when the “downer” affects everything in a systemic way. Therefore, inhibitions and ability to foresee natural consequences to one’s behavior also go “down,” making the interpersonal lives of those afflicted with alcohol dependence very unpleasant.
Alcoholism has both short term and long term negative consequences on psychological and physiological health of the person. Trouble with concentration, shakiness, irritability, insomnia, nightmares, decreased sexual desire and sexual performance, obesity, trouble metabolizing sugar, and depression and extreme anxiety in the form of paranoia are among the side effects of alcoholism. Liver damage, hepatitis, brain atrophy, and Alzheimer dementia are also noted as long term health hazards related to alcoholism.
At the Feeling Good Therapy and Training Center of Fremont, our psychologists are highly trained in the psycho-physiology of alcoholism. In other words, there is an appreciation of the process of “learning” and the reward system in the brain, and an understanding of the role of alcohol as a systemic downer, which affects mood, motivation and organization. Our clinicians meet the patient where they are in the process of alcoholism, and begin the journey to recovery from that standpoint.
We do not go by a prescribed “model” of recovery, nor is our approach informed by mainstream manualized steps. However, we use brain science in recognizing what the specific needs of each patient is, and together through an empathic therapeutic relationship we examine the options with our patients’ input. We then implement a plan of sobriety along with the patient’s goals in mind, and help our patients reach those goals.