I would wager a guess that every person living a sober life can tell you about their last drink. Actually, I am sure they can tell you about many drinks, but they can certainly tell you, I had my last drink on Monday September 28, 2015 or whatever that date may be. I did not realize that was going to be my last drink. If I had, would I have done something different? Does it even matter?
We knew I was sick, in fact, we knew I was dying. We had spent the weekend previous in the Smoky Mountains for a little R&R before the medical procedures and treatment started. It was a Monday night, I was to be to the hospital early Tuesday morning for the first of three procedures that week. I sipped on a vodka and Diet Coke, OF ALL THINGS! That was my last cocktail.
We live in a world where alcohol use is rising among women in the United States at alarming rates. Some statistics indicate the rate of binge drinking for women has increased by close to 20% in the past decade. Honestly, you can't go too far without watching, reading, or hearing something about drinking. Rose all day. Coffee before Wine. If you can read this, bring me another glass of wine. Bottomless Mimosas. Day Drinking. And in case you've missed this one, you can order wine at Starbucks. The list goes on and on. We live in an era where it is socially acceptable to "day drink", bring wine to the ball park, children's birthday parties, even baby showers. And for the record, alcohol is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, combined with exhaustive marketing and social acceptability. It's the trifecta for trouble.
I did not become sober and turn into a prude. Honestly, it does not bother me in the least bit that drinking has become so socially acceptable for women. However, what does concern me is how accepting we have become of it and what is this doing to the health of our women?
It took getting sober for me to realize a lot; and staying sober to understand even more. Current literature suggests, women are more likely to turn to alcohol for its negative reinforcing effects — to decrease feeling bad, and remove anxiety and stress. Ummm yes, 100% yes! Alcohol is a super efficient tool for self-medication. It works like a dream, until it doesn't. I didn't realize I was in this camp until I had been sober for probably six months. My pink cloud never came! Just a lot of grit and even more grace kept pushing me through to this understanding.
Without going all Walter White with the science, what I learned through my own version of outpatient rehab helped me understand so much about how I was feeling or more accurately NOT feeling. Dopamine 101. Dopamine plays a big part in the reward center of our brain. It is a neurotransmitter that has the reputation of a"feel good hormone," The brain of an alcoholic has dopamine levels that are significantly below average - thus explaining the need for more and more alcohol. The addiction to alcohol and the sudden withdrawal of alcohol has considerable effects on the brain (and dopamine).
It took my brain a long time for dopamine to kick in again. I went through a period of time when I truly thought, it would never come back. Those were basement days, that turned into weeks. I didn't think I would feel happy again. So when I say my pink cloud never came, it's because my journey was different. A lot of alcoholics, early in their sober journey experience the pink cloud phenomenon, when they feel so good about their sobriety; their new path to healthy living, easy peasy pink cloud breezy. Everything is new, fresh and clear for the first time - this is short lived, and unfortunately for a lot of folks, relapse follows.
I am thankful my pink cloud never came because as I keep on living today, with my OWN dopamine flowing, I will enjoy God's grace, my gratitude, and keep pushing through.