The Uncontrollability of Alcoholism Recovery

Matt Salis
5 min readApr 24, 2019

I fell asleep at 7:30pm last Friday night. I was feeling exhausted after dinner, and I laid down before cleaning the kitchen. Within a minute, I was out and didn’t wake until 8am Saturday. I have a teenage son for whom my twelve plus hours of sleep is an every weekend tradition, but for me, sleeping like that was very rare. It was also glorious and necessary.

Do you know what else my half-day hibernation was? It was a part of my recovery from alcoholism. It was really important and totally uncontrollable.

Alcoholism is all about control. We alcoholics use our elixir to control stress, to deliver relaxation, to ease social anxiety and manage our moods. Everybody knows that. But it actually goes much further. We learn how to use alcohol to control almost all the aspects of our lives. We know that booze will eliminate boredom in the short-term. We figure out that a beer or two will give us renewed alertness if we are trying to finish a report of concentrate on a project. As we discover along the years of drinking, alcohol will fend off exhaustion and keep us rolling well beyond the time our bodies are pleading with us for rest.

The dopamine release that becomes dependent on alcohol consumption gives us an unnatural burst of good feelings that keeps us going when our brains and bodies are otherwise ready for a sleepy recharge. Caffeine gets all the credit for having this power of stimulation, but alcohol can do it, too. As we become addicted and our bodies hold back dopamine and only release it when we consume alcohol, we even begin to require alcohol to get that little energy boost that pushes us through the exhausted times when sleep is not an option.

We all know that alcohol is technically a depressant, and anyone who has spent significant time pouring copious amounts of booze into our lives can attest to the link between alcohol and depression. However, before drinking makes us listless and lethargic, it wakes us and energizes us. That’s why bars stay open so late and drinkers often outlast non-drinkers at parties.

It is all about the dopamine surge. A huge part of recovery from alcoholism is having the patience to let the dopamine flow return to normal. This what I’m talking about when I write about a repair to brain chemistry in recovery…

--

--

Matt Salis

I live in Denver, Colorado, with my wife and four kids. I write and speak about addiction and recovery. Please follow my blog at SoberAndUnashamed.com.