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Choice Vs Impulse Control

Old 05-08-2018, 08:36 AM
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Choice Vs Impulse Control

2 years ago my psychiatrist and I agreed to try a different antidepressant in hopes that it might give my brain a little kick and help with the anxiety that had worsened. Effexor is one of the newer drugs that seems to be very helpful for some people. Unfortunately, it was not at all helpful for me.

Two weeks into the new medication I started getting severe sinus problems—swelling, pressure and a horrible smell that reminded me of cheap baby powder. It followed me everywhere and eventually I wished I could rip my sinuses out of my head just to get the smell to leave. My throat was dry and painful and no amount of water, iced tea --or beer-- could quench it. It took me about a week to realize this was not caused by allergies or an infection--it was the Effexor.

My doctor told me to drop down to half my dose and stay that way for 2 weeks. Even though I’d only been on this medication for ONE MONTH, the physical withdrawal was hellish. I was lightheaded to the point of stumbling. My mood was all over the place and I was physically exhausted. Incidentally, it was the perfect excuse for me to drink because “it was the only thing that made me feel better”. Yeah right.

At any rate, about a week after cutting the dose in half I started to feel normal again. My body adjusted. Only to have the same hell return when I had to eliminate the drug completely. Even though I went to 20mg of Prozac, the withdrawal from the tiny dose of Effexor took my body for a loop once again.

One night as I lay in bed I contrasted the physical withdrawal I was enduring from the Effexor with the mental withdrawal that occurs when I try to quit drinking.

The Effexor never helped my mood or anxiety at all, so the withdrawal was truly physical in nature. And it's hell at first--my body was screaming in protest, my brain struggling to compensate for the disruption in chemicals. But I knew that time was my friend, and each day that passed allowed my body to recover and adjust and figure out what to do. Sure enough, within 30 days of going off of Effexor I had no more withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.

It occurred to me that a similar thing happens when I remove alcohol from my life. Luckily I don’t have a physical addiction to booze, so in my case it’s all psychological (which is the inverse from what happened with Effexor). At first I feel lost, scared and anxious without my constant companion—beer. I don’t know what to do with my time and the cravings are so strong it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever go away. Yet just like a physical addiction, time is on my side. Each day I am sober I am one day further away from that mental addiction to booze. My brain starts to adjust to long term sobriety slowly but surely. The longer I abstain the more my psyche adapts.

Knowing that a psychological addiction is no different than a physical one in terms of time healing the wounds is so reassuring. But I struggled at first to understand the major difference in this analogy: Choice.

With the Effexor there is zero psychological attachment or desire in me for the drug, therefore it is purely a matter of time before the effects of withdrawal are done and over with. I know I’m not going to suddenly pop an Effexor against my better judgement since I get no benefit from it; in other words, the suffering has an expiration date and I know it.

But because booze has a psychological hold on me there is that ever-present knowledge that at any point I might choose to pick up the bottle. This “choice conundrum” hung over me like an ominous cloud of booze that could erupt at any time.

Thinking further, however, it occurred to me that the real threat to my sobriety is actually NOT about choice at all. Common sense and better judgement tell me to always choose sobriety. The real enemy then, is impulse control.

I have a choice to take Effexor just as I have a choice to take alcohol, but since Effexor doesn’t offer me any pleasure there will never be an impulse to choose it even knowing it gives me terrible side effects. Alcohol has side effects 1000 times worse than Effexor, yet the fast relief it provides—though temporary—can create the impulse to make the wrong choice over and over.

BUT I STILL HAVE A CHOICE!


I can feel the temptation and the ache of craving a drink and still choose to not take it. And each time I do that, each day I remain sober and choose wisely I am getting further and further away from that psychological addiction to alcohol. Just like with the Effexor, the pain will lessen each day, the side effects of psychological addiction will wane little by little until eventually I will be myself again.

Reminding myself of this when the pain comes is a powerful tool, and I hope it can help others as well. Thanks for reading.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:48 AM
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I think the bottom line here is that unfortunately alcohol works in the short term to quiet uncomfortable thoughts. It's a pleasant experience...for an hour or so. Longer if you are just starting out with alcohol. In the beginning it offered me a pleasant fun, exciting, manic experience.

In the end, after I had been drinking for years, it gave nothing but a few minutes of relief followed by 23 hours of Hell. The cost benefit sheet is overwhelmingly in favor of 24/7 sobriety.
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Old 05-08-2018, 11:35 AM
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Yep, impulse control....kinda the cornerstone of adulting. At least for me. It seems to always come back to growing up.

And drinking causes depression. So maybe after some time, and neurological healing, you will find your depression improved.
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Old 05-08-2018, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Frickaflip233 View Post
Yep, impulse control....kinda the cornerstone of adulting. At least for me. It seems to always come back to growing up.

And drinking causes depression. So maybe after some time, and neurological healing, you will find your depression improved.
I second this, both points.

1. It all comes back to growing up. It's so simple to me this way. I can't drink like a responsible adult, so, as a responsible adult, I can't drink. Black and white. To allow myself to give in to my addiction is a selfish, childish thing. Black and white.

2. Booze causes depression and anxiety etc, science says so. Black and white. I have a tendency to depressive thoughts and anxiety predetermined in my genes. Therefore drinking is a bad idea. Black and white.

We go back and forth and on and on with this stuff. I think sometimes it's just the AV in its most devious and subtle ways. Truth is, and you know this, you just can't drink anymore.
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Old 05-08-2018, 12:12 PM
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We go back and forth and on and on with this stuff. I think sometimes it's just the AV in its most devious and subtle ways. Truth is, and you know this, you just can't drink anymore.

Word...
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Old 05-08-2018, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by lessgravity View Post
I second this, both points.

1. It all comes back to growing up. It's so simple to me this way. I can't drink like a responsible adult, so, as a responsible adult, I can't drink. Black and white. To allow myself to give in to my addiction is a selfish, childish thing. Black and white...
Yes, interesting you say this because that is the exact revelation I have had recently.

So many times I’ve tried to create clever analogies to my drinking problem that would help me quit. I’ve tried to adopt ones that have worked for others—The Beast in my head, My drinking brain, “Wolfie. I’ve developed ones of my own: alcohol is like an abusive boyfriend to me, one who promises things will be different this time and good like they used to be but who betrays me and beats me up over and over again. I even gave the abusive-boyfriend creation a name: Micky, for Micheloeb.

None of that, however, really made a difference for me, at least not on the level I needed it to. Creating analogies in my mind, no matter how thought out or clever, will never be what clicks for me. Maybe I’m too analytical or too skeptical for that kind of trickery, I don’t know. But between last night and this morning a thought came to me like a blow in the head with a 2x4:

My drinking days have simply run their course. There was a time when it was good, and it wasn’t a problem. There was a point in my life where my drinking fit in with my lifestyle, and where I had some really good times with booze. But that time has passed. For years now I’ve been trying to hang on to a habit that no longer fits in with my life without causing pain to myself and everyone else in it. It’s like being 45 and trying to act like a 19 year old. It’s like trying to squeeze into your skinny jeans when you’re 8 months pregnant. Or having 3 children and thinking your 2 door Mustang can be the family car. There comes a time when you must put on the mommy jeans, and buy the minivan. The circumstances in my life can no longer accommodate that kind of habit that my drinking had become.

This realization in itself, however, was only half of the revelation. The part that makes this different, and exciting, is that I finally understand that by accepting that drinking no longer fits into my life, the possibilities of what I can do now that I’m free from its grip are endless. When one door closes, sometimes an entire corridor opens with many, many new doors. This isn’t necessarily the end of an era, it’s the start of something much, much better.

I can also accept this without looking back with melancholy at my drinking days. Instead, I can remember the good times and laugh and be glad I had them, while at the same time being excited that I’m moving on to new and better phases in my life. It’s less like breaking up with an abusive boyfriend as it is like moving on, growing up. Reaching the next level of the video game versus playing the same levels over and over, even though you’ve mastered it many times over. I’ve mastered the game of drinking, now it’s time to discover all the other great things life has to offer. And the possibilities are endless!

Drinking is not a part of me, it is simply something I have to let go of to get my hand out of the jar like that monkey never could and onto better things.
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Old 05-08-2018, 12:34 PM
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BND - beautifully put. Thank you.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:30 PM
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Is lack of impulse control a polite term for insanity?
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