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Dopamine and Pleasure

Old 07-05-2013, 08:58 AM
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Dopamine and Pleasure

I've been doing a lot of reading and watching of documentaries in regards to alcohol. It appears to me that one of the reasons some of us abuse alcohol (or other drugs) is that we are seeking pleasure and perhaps we have a lower level of dopamine. Maybe I have this backwards?

I am having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. My brain races faster than my fingers. Anyway for me, I find myself doing things repeatedly that bring me pleasure, be it eating chocolate, drinking, watching a favourite movie, music, etc. I find when I remove alcohol I seek another thing. Something to reinforce pleasure.

I used to use facebook as a drug. I had to quit that because I found myself only posting to get back "likes" or comments. AT first, I used it to connect to old friends, but then I'd repeatedly go back several times a day to see how many had liked my posts. Then of course, I started to drunk post and was horrified at what I'd done.

I have many things I can do right here in my house to keep me occupied, however, I am finding it very difficult to get motivated, because I am not seeing a great reward. I can clean the house - I like to see it clean but apart from my husband no one else sees it. That's just a small example.

How do we find pleasure without drugs?

Sorry for the rambling.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Genie View Post
How do we find pleasure without drugs?
It depends on the individual. For example, some people like to skydive, but that's not my cup of tea. I like to build furniture, which some people would probably find boring.

You're going to have to determine for yourself what stimuli give you pleasure. You'll never be able to do that if you're using drugs and alcohol as artificial stimuli, though. It will always mask the effects of the natural stimuli.

Best of luck on your journey.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Genie View Post
How do we find pleasure without drugs?
Maybe pleasure is the wrong goal. Maybe you should be seeking something less ephemeral.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:35 AM
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It’s been said that alcoholism is a disease of “more”.

In the end I found that pleasure was not a satisfying basis for living. I had to replace it with something more meaningful. I hope you find it.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Genie View Post
I've been doing a lot of reading and watching of documentaries in regards to alcohol. It appears to me that one of the reasons some of us abuse alcohol (or other drugs) is that we are seeking pleasure and perhaps we have a lower level of dopamine. Maybe I have this backwards?
this is 'doctor beast' in his white coat coming up with psuedo scientific REASONS to drink - i say that not to shut your topic down, because it's a legitimate thing to consider, but because thinking along those lines can trip you up.

How do we find pleasure without drugs?
for me, it was accepting that the high of drink (my drug of choice) wasn't true pleasure - i don't have my book (rational recovery) handy but i think JT makes a distinction between pleasure, aka 'the high' of drink/drug use, and true happiness.

in my experience and that of other sober people i've met, including a twenty-year AA veteran, happiness and addiction cannot co-exist, BUT, as you may know, pleasure in the form of the high can co-exist perfectly well with soul-wracking guilt, despair, shame and self-hatred.

so be careful how you conceptualise happiness and good feelings, because if it's just pleasure, then probably a heroin binge followed by crack, gin and speed is pretty pleasurable in terms of a chemical high, but it won't make ANYONE truly happy.

also, your question 'How do we find pleasure without drugs?' is another way of your beast saying 'you'll never be happy again without drugs' - be caregul about questions like that, ANY question that contains the conept of using, even 'hypothetically' because it's your addiction talking, NOT your better judgement, and if you get drawn into debating it, you'll lose.

this is why AVRT says recognise, but don't argue with, the AV/your beast, and why AA turns that choice over to the Higher Power - because it's an argument an individual addict will always lose when handled as though it's worth considering.
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Old 07-10-2013, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by DoubtfulDebs View Post
this is 'doctor beast' in his white coat coming up with psuedo scientific REASONS to drink - i say that not to shut your topic down, because it's a legitimate thing to consider, but because thinking along those lines can trip you up.
Wait a second here. I was going to let this thread die since it didn't seem like anyone was interested in the subject, however, I did not try to raise this topic as permission to drink and I was not wearing my 'doctor beast" white lab coat. I happen to be the type of person who will do a lot of reading on a subject that interests me, and when I was reading up on alcoholism, I came across the relationship between dopamine and pleasure. Alcohol does not inrease dopamine throughtout the brain, it only causes an increase in dopamine in the area of reward. http://hamsnetwork.org/dopamine.pdf It was kind of like a little "ah ha" moment for me. Upon further reading on this subject, I found there is much more involved than simply dopamine. I thought it was worth exploring and was wondering if anyone else on this forum had an insight.

As far as me asking how we can find pleasure without drugs/alcohol - I was asking how others have found pleasure. What did they do?

I have read RR and find Trimpey's approach refreshing in that sobriety can come in many forms and one doesn't have to do the AA route.

I obviously didn't express myself well with my OP.
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:46 PM
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I think that the possibility that some people are "sensation seekers" (maybe have lower baseline levels of dopamine release in their basal ganglia when they engage in pleasurable activities) might explain a small amount of why some people get addicted to things, but it doesn't explain much.

I like what I read in the Lifering book ("Empowering Your Sober Self") about this - the basic idea is that any organism with a central nervous system can become addicted. All you have to do is repeatedly administer a euphorogenic drug to said organism and all of the symptoms of addiction appear. There's no organism (with a CNS, that is) that's immune to this. We're no different than any other person out there, we just crossed the rubicon for some reason and for the majority of us, we can't ever go back (at least, I can't).
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:49 PM
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It's been so long, I can't remember what the pleasure having alcohol in my blood actually felt like, but I recall knowing it was a profoundly enjoyable gross assault upon my biological organism, especially my nervous system. Over time it had calloused my ability to experience the sort of pleasures non-addicted people value and grow to cherish, like a callous on my skin will harden it from sensation.

When I finally quit for good (made the BP), I suppose you could say I went through the DABDA stages of grief regarding the future of my drinking, but AVRT conveniently dropped the whole thing onto my Beast, and I loved that. IT went through the DABDA process. I was aware of it going on, and I felt the grief of losing forever an habituated set of experiences. But I knew it wasn't really me, the human person, that was sad. It was just the IT part of me I had chosen to kill off as best I could.

It took a little while for me to come to enjoy listening to Pink Floyd as much (and now more) than before. And quitting literally opened me up to an endless number of pleasures that I otherwise would never have known.

I've said it before. Quitting was like slow motion of coming out of a the bright noonday sun on a hot billowy day into the cool quiet halls of a museum, dimly lit to protect the masterpieces. At first I thought I had entered into dark emptiness. But as time passed, my eyes gradually dilated and I began to truly SEE what amazingly complex beauty there was, and endless material to be curious about and learn about.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:22 PM
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Beautiful post, GerandTwine.

Like you Genie, I read a lot about how the brain works and how addiction interacts with this. I have PTSD, too, so have been reading about it and the ensuing brain changes from trauma to try and understand why/how I am the way I am.

I am particularly interested in the ways that PTSD and addiction meet in the brain, especially with the idea that the addictive substance gets wired into the survival parts of the brain. I don't have enough knowledge, nor a set theory, but I think there is a huge connection between the amygdala, which produces dopamine and endorphins and holds memory of fear, trauma, etc. as survival issues and addiction.

I feel like that is something swimming around in my own brain and hope to be able to figure out the connection. I feel there is a lot of healing available in making and understanding this connection.
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:42 PM
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I ran across this copy of a talk given in a UU Fellowship and thought it gave a good, understandable overview of dopamine and the brain in addictions.

Here's the link--http://library.pnwd.org/documents/Neurobiology_of_Addictions.pdf

I'm not sure why it's not making a link, and am clueless with this kind of stuff, sorry.
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