During Dryuary, as you take a 31-day break from drinking, you’ll discover (or rediscover) Moderation Management’s fundamental strategies. Taking an extended break from drinking is beneficial for many physical reasons which you will automatically experience by not drinking. To encourage long-term, sustainable change, you can also use this break to change your thinking around alcohol–which only happens if you work at it.
Look for a new Brain Lesson every Thursday to help.
I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
You might be reading the title of this brain lesson and wondering what in the world this has got to do with changing your drinking habits or taking a month-long break from alcohol. This week, we are focusing on physical benefits and I want to direct your attention to how our bodies experience emotion–the actual physical expression of your emotions. One of the biggest benefits of not drinking is being able to dial into the vibrations in your body that are your feelings.
For many people, myself included, I developed a habit of turning to alcohol to help me buffer away negative emotion. I truly believed I couldn’t handle the feelings of stress, anxiety or depression that seemed to be constants in my life. I just wanted to escape them and alcohol was my go-to answer. Of course there were a lot of problems with this strategy, not the least of which was the excessive amount of alcohol I was consuming on a daily basis. And the thing is, alcohol didn’t solve the problem. Alcohol provided a temporary buffer and when it was gone, the negative emotions were back and typically with an additional layer of guilt and regret. To change my drinking habits, I needed to learn that I was capable of handling all of my emotions and that’s what this lesson is all about.
In last week’s brain lesson, I talked about how most of us can recognize the physical feelings of our emotions. When you think about a time you were really afraid—you likely remember your heart pounding. Or visualize getting angry, and you might imagine your fists clenching, your jaw tightening, and your face getting flushed. The important part about this recognition is understanding that these physical experiences ARE your feelings. Your feelings aren’t some big uncontrollable, horrible things that need to be avoided. You can tolerate an increased heart rate for a bit. You can handle any emotion you feel because it’s nothing more than a vibration in your body. Side note: the physical response of our emotions only lasts ninety seconds, after that if we’re still stuck in an emotional state it’s because we’re feeding the emotion with our thoughts.
Use this break from drinking to pay attention to the feelings you have. Describe what happens in your body when you are feeling stressed, anxious, angry. Get clinical. Be analytical and view your feelings without any drama. Remind yourself that there is no emotion you’re not willing to experience.
In the comments below, share an emotion you’ve been resistant to experiencing with the phrase “I’m willing to feel___________ because I can handle any emotion”.
Stay tuned for a new Brain Lesson next Thursday!
Molly Watts is the host of the Alcohol Minimalist Podcast, author of Breaking the Bottle Legacy, a wife, a mom and an MM member. Find out more at https://www.mollywatts.com/