Tag Archives: pleasure-reward

Lack of motivation, or, My attempt at neuroscience

20 Aug

5:25 pm

Lack of motivation. Bored to tears is not just an expression. Maybe some days you’re simply not meant to get much done? Except, ahem, eating and drinking everything in the house. (Why is it that after quitting drinking, we turn to food and substitute drink? Is there something so hardwired about equating “food substance” or “something that is going into my alimentary canal” with “reward” that we can’t shake it no matter how long and hard we try?)

Today is OK–meh, actually–and I can deal with that. However, I’m having the usual brain fart: I find it difficult to hold my thoughts in form; like food that wants to be vomited up, my thoughts want to come out in fragments that don’t resemble much of anything that makes sense.

Is this writer’s block, or simply something I have to contend with from now on? PAWS gone wild? I’m hoping the latter, but most of the time, my patience wears thin. I don’t have time for this shit.

Once every few days, I take note of my motivation level, which seems to me to be pretty damn low. And, I think I’ve figured it out: maybe for so long I associated EVERYTHING–work and play, life in general–with drinking, now my dopamine circuits can’t (won’t?) fire for anything without the attached reward (wine). It goes almost without saying that that sort of freaks me out, considering that I need to like, eat and work and laugh, whether or not (not) there is wine involved.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “normal” people–and even a lot of drinkers who did not fall as far as I must have–simply cannot understand this. Their dopamine circuits still allow them to desire to do many things, whether or not booze is in the picture. Like, eating, or going to the gym, or working. I was actually vaguely aware of how much I relied on the “reward” of wine in order to motivate myself to do any of these things toward the last few years of my drinking. And then it got worse: I skipped eating altogether; I only worked out in order to both be able to drink more and maintain a modicum of health such that my body could continue to drink more; in the end, the only thing that got me through my often painfully intellectual day was the reward of wine after having gotten through it and, later–it got even worse–the reward of wine DURING said day.

It was a neverending cycle, and I’m not sure how I ended up in its claws OR how I managed to extricate myself. Maybe throwing up a bottle of red wine at 3:30 am and then drinking an entire OTHER bottle before getting up, showering, and getting on the commuter rail by 7:20 am became one of those few-and-far-between memories that could override the need for wine? Uh, maybe.

Dopamine is involved not only in giving you pleasure, but in making you want to seek out pleasure. Motivation to do, or in science speak, to perform behaviors that are associated with pleasure. Now, if EVERYTHING you do–for me it ranged from running to writing to travel to talking on the phone with friends and family–you associate with the reward of drinking, and you place a high level of importance on this reward, eventually your dopamine circuit is only going to fire to motivate you toward these associated things as long as there is the reward of wine. If there is no reward of wine, there is no dopamine, and therefore, no motivation. (I’d like to do some interviews on this, but I think this is the gist of it.)

When the associated behavior/triggers are going out to bars, or hanging out with friends, ditching the wine isn’t the end of the world. But I associated everything with drinking.

Now, I feel no strong urge to do anything. I work because I NEED to, and I run and eat and read and hang out and go swimming and take care of the dogs and plant shit because…I know it’ll make me feel better, eventually. I do love certain things, of course, and living sober is amazing, don’t get me wrong. I just have to think my way into wanting it all, more often than not. Some days, though, all that future focus cannot cover up the present lack of reward. And, what’s worse, I’m afraid (worried) that this new normal might not right itself anytime soon.

With all that in mind, I continue to do and strive, and get about 25 percent of what I want to get done actually done every day. And I’m learning to accept this, and not judge myself. This is the only way, I somewhat resignedly tell myself. You got yourself into this, now you have to (and can) get yourself out. Is there another way, though? Does it have to be this hard? I honestly don’t know…

Anyway, I don’t mind waiting, and right here and now is a pretty good place to take a seat. Happy Week 22 plus 1 day to me! By Saturday, I will have passed my longest record of 158 (almost) days sans booze. Wowie. Thanks to ALL OF YOU, for listening and cheering and empathizing.

Who’s going to get hammered on day 90? This girl.

5 Sep

2:50 am

When I finally stopped drinking this past June, I had a HUGE many reasons: blacking out and doing all sorts of shit, most of which I’ve come to realize, is WAY outside the norm. Yet, I somehow managed to keep some semblance of control over my life… Anyway, I was driven in June to simply quit. I kept my head down, endured the pretty strong physical and psychological cravings, and ran and did bikram yoga and kept myself insanely busy and focused. Eye on the prize. Fuck this and fuck them and fuck fuck fuck All y’all can go fuck yourselves if YOU THINK I’M GOING TO CAVE.

Well, I did cave. At day 60. And I got back on the horse. And I caved a week later…and got back on that same horse. And now, approaching my second round toward day 21 (today is day 19), I feel…like I need incentive to not drink. Like, maybe, being sober is just temporary and after which, things will be different and I can go back to drinking. Non-alcoholically, that is.

Like, once I do this fixer-upper of a “90-day detox” from the sauce, my mind will be reset and I can have my wine back. If I give it my best shot, a perfect score, a real good one-two, then…I’ll be able to successfully return to a place I was before I started binge drinking a decade ago. Maybe?

The question is, is it possible to rehabilitate your drinking? I used to binge eat — more on that soon, as it definitely relates to the way I came to drink — and I remember the early days of literally, re-learning how to relate to food. It was really tough, I remember, rehabilitating my binge eating habits — eating and emotions are deeply connected, based on my experience. With wine, it’s similar in that I’m re-learning how to relate to incentives — what gives me pleasure and why. It’s like building back up the muscles and tendons around a broken bone, and re-teaching them how to work again.

Rehabilitation. I LOVE this word, and I truly do believe that some people CAN re-learn how to relate to drinking alcohol. It’s not black-and-white for everyone, most certainly. Circumstances — and people — are all different. Anyway, to make a long story short, for the first time since getting sober, I allowed myself to think that perhaps I will be one of these people. I feel like there may be something to look forward to, that this getting-sober thing doesn’t necessarily have to be about AA’s dogmatic (and possibly erroneous) “once a drunk, always a drunk/you cannot be fixed, EVER” philosophy.

This, however, begs the question, why would you drink alcohol if you don’t really need it? If the buzz is fun only to the extent that you don’t need it to have fun or be happy or feel good, then…why would you drink?

In any case, I hate to say it, but some days the only thing that gets me through the day, past the lone bottle of “it’s me against you, bitch, and I’m winning” red wine on my kitchen counter is the thought that I’ll allow myself to drink it one day. Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not before a month. Or 60 days. BUT, maybe at 90…? Alone. With all the doors locked from the inside and all my electronics equipment safely hidden in a steel safe.

(Whatever it takes, right? Or, maybe this is what they call “dry drinking.” I have no idea, but I can’t help but think it’s pretty normal and well, pretty damn OK if it’s what gets me through my witching-hour cravings.)


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