One of hardest parts about addiction is explaining how it feels when your brain interacts with drug/alcohol or your specific drug of choice. For me that’s alcohol. The biggest problem with explaining alcoholism is that everybody has been around alcohol and by the time you’re an adult pretty much everybody has been out drinking before and knows what being drunk is like. It’s a cultural thing, it’s legal, to some degree it’s encouraged, and, in the right circumstances, being drunk is socially acceptable. Most people who drink are not alcoholics or addicted to alcohol. This is part of what makes alcoholism very difficult to understand. A lot of people just think that you’re a dumb lush who enjoys being drunk even though it is not at all like that and it is nowhere near that simple. If it was as simple as that then it wouldn’t be a world wide public health epidemic. Explaining how alcohol makes me feel when I put it in my system is hard to articulate but the other night while talking to a friend I found a way to describe it as accurately as I could: it’s a lot like how people describe their experiences on ecstasy.
I got out of rehab three months ago. In a week, I’ll be five months sober (and seven months without smoking marijuana–NEW WORLD RECORD).
Aside from the grunt work that goes into not drinking or using drugs every single day, I think that the hardest part has been readjusting to regular life.
It’s nearly impossible to explain to people how alcohol makes me feel. When people describe their experiences on ecstasy/MDMA, that’s as close as I can come to making myself understood. When I drink, there’s an explosion in my brain and it feels better than absolutely anything in the world. Nothing spikes my dopamine levels like alcohol. It is just like the feeling of ecstasy where all of my serotonin surges and gets used up. I go into overdrive and I can’t stop. It gives me energy. It’s not at all like other people’s interactions with alcohol. I never really got hangovers like my friends did. Sometimes I’d get sick because I had way too much alcohol still in my system but it wasn’t like I was always hungover like everybody else. My “hangovers” the next morning were more like that serotonin sickness you get with ecstasy. I would just be horribly depressed the next morning as if all of my serotonin and dopamine had been used up the night before. That’s exactly how my first drink was too: explosion of joy the second I took that first drink and then the next morning I was beside myself. And of course, the only thing that would make me feel good again was alcohol. The vicious cycle started immediately.
I’ve only recently realized the comparison between how most people interact with MDMA and how I interact with alcohol. I only know the basic brain chemistry behind drug and alcohol addiction/abuse but what I learned in rehab is that it’s all going on in the same location with the same neurons and receptors. The out of control high that people describe feeling on ecstasy is very similar to how I would describe the way I feel when I’m drinking. More accurately than that though is the comedown the next morning and the battle with depression once all of your serotonin is sucked up and spent. Maybe even more than the high, I can relate to that comedown. For me, hearing about the depressed feeling the next morning after a night of rolling face is eerily familiar.