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As the Season Changes – Alcohol Cravings with Smell and Memory

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As the Season Changes – Alcohol Cravings with Smell and Memory

Old 04-21-2017, 02:54 PM
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As the Season Changes – Alcohol Cravings with Smell and Memory

As I was walking from my office to my car to go home earlier this week I stopped for a minute and looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful vibrant blue and the sun was bright and beating down a welcome heat that we hadn’t felt in some time. I took a deep breath of the fresh spring air when suddenly my body tensed up. Just like that, out of nowhere a massive craving to go grab a case of beer. What even brought that on?

Luckily I’m at a stage where cravings aren’t a huge threat to my sobriety anymore, I can understand them for what they are and realize I just need to let them subside but in my earlier attempts to stop drinking however I certainly lost good stretches of time to the seasons changing and the cravings that seemed to come with it. To help better get through seasonal cravings I needed to get a deeper knowledge of why they happened.

This particular instance everything was fine until I took that deep breath in. It wasn’t the fresh air itself that caught me but the new smell of spring that came with it. How could something as simple as a smell cause my body to have such a drastic reaction?

The Trojan Horse effect:

Addiction can be tricky. If after trying to get you to cave with a direct assault it is not successful it will try to sneak into your mind in other ways.

The way our minds associate certain things with memories can cause very strange cravings at seemingly innocent things. Just like the story of the warriors stashed in the Trojan Horse our urges can be hidden under several layers waiting for an attack when your guard is down.

Smells & Memories
There is a very strong association between smell and memories called Olfactory Memory. This among other reasons is an evolutionary response to help our ancestors: search for food, smell smoke as a warning system, identify the best times for reproduction, and recognize other animals. Since we have come to live comparatively pretty comfortable lives, it mostly now is used for warning systems and to give us the occasional random nostalgic flashback.

Memories Tied to Warmer Weather and Drinking
When I got a whiff of the familiar smell of spring I instantly had visual images flash through my mind of drinking out in fields secretly when I was younger and sitting out on porches with bottles of beer when I was older. I could picture them very clearly and as I did I got a rush of the same emotions that I felt during those times. The stronger the emotion at the time the memory was formed the more vivid it will be. I remembered, how I felt relaxed, comfortable, and was having a lot of fun. Which made my mind panic because...

Not Knowing How to be Outdoors and Enjoy Yourself Without Drinking
The amount of experiences I have doing spring-time activities without drinking are A LOT smaller than the amount I have doing them while loaded. Even though I am now comfortable with doing these things sober, these three layers happen in an instant and almost entirely unconsciously. My mind tried to make me doubt myself and offer an old crutch as the solution.


So, what do I do to stop the hidden addiction from sneaking out of the wooden horse overnight and wreaking havoc?

Visualize Activities Sober and Recall Similar Past Experiences
It may sound stupid but it works: if I am nervous about being outside and doing spring activities without drinking, I visualize myself doing those things sober. Although we can’t get actual experience in, if we keep visualizing success in doing these things without booze the more comfortable we will become with it.

To add an extra layer of confidence, I recall any times in the past where I did a similar activity without drinking and was fine - if I can recall a time where I did it without drinking and had lots of fun, even better!

Be able to separate drinking from old experiences
To make those past experiences less emotionally connected, I think back on them and ask myself “was it really the drinking that made that fun?” Was it hanging out with good friends, family, or lovers that made it so great or was it the act of drinking? If it was booze that made it a great time then surely I would have an awesome experience every time I drank right? I have a feeling that you may have drank with some of those exact people and had a less than desirable experience as well. Realize the good emotions come from the connections and emotions and not the drink that went along with it.

Gain new more powerful sober associations to smell
Ultimately the best way to overcome this particular craving is to develop some new more power memories with that smell. The more you get out and have a great time sober, the more you are going to link those new memories to the season changing. Visualize, have faith in yourself, and get out there!
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Old 04-21-2017, 02:57 PM
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Hey guys, I don't want to spam your forum so I am just hitting my 5 post point here! I will submit future posts to my personal blog on this site if anyone is interested in reading more Hope everyone has a good weekend
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Old 04-21-2017, 03:58 PM
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thanks. good post, keep on doing stuff.
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