Practice Makes Permanent

It is inevitable that when you first cut alcohol out of your life, you will have the odd or perhaps intensely frequent, depending on your level of addiction and consumption, craving for a drink. These thought processes will eventually diminish over time but it is important to remember at the outset that our brains need a fairly substantial length of time to become rewired.

Neurological pathways lie behind our habits, the neuroplasticity of our grey matter meaning we are forever responding to life experiences by the physiological altering of our brain’s structure and function, which in turn affects the habits we employ and our general behaviour. In simple terms, the more you tread a particular path of your neural network, the stronger and apparently ‘natural’ the associated behaviour will become.

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‘Practice makes perfect’ is not simply a throwaway maxim – it is neurological fact.

Breaking a long-standing habit or addiction can take a long time, which can be frustrating and ultimately self-defeating. As the weeks drag by and you find yourself experiencing longing and desirous thoughts about the cold, crisp taste of Chardonnay on a summer’s evening, it can feel as though you will never successfully move forward and think differently. But you will – eventually.

The key is to stick with your intention through thick and thin; in order to rewire your brain, you MUST begin to walk new pathways in your neural network. At first, those paths will be difficult to manoeuvre, thick with brambles and weeds, but over time you will squash the vegetation flat with the weight of your steps and a small but distinctive passage will begin to emerge. Follow that route a while longer and the path will become marked, a natural road to choose. The old alleyways that led you to destruction and misery will gradually witness the dawning and then the maturity of harsh, prickly undergrowth making them inaccessible.

With time, you will automatically opt for the easy route – the gently winding walkway, bathed in sunlight and filled with the sound of happiness, will override the erstwhile dominant negative roads to destruction and loss of self. Stick with it, stay firm – practice makes permanent.

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9 thoughts on “Practice Makes Permanent

  1. bernadette Duggan says:

    Oh my God, You have no idea how much I needed to read this ~ so many ( too many to mention) times I have been tripped up and floored by the insipid, subtle yet oh so bloody insistent silent roar of ethanol addiction calling to be satisfied !!!!!! so many times I have caved in just so I could be free of the madness . Its been almost a month this last time. No cigarettes either as the one always went hand in hand with the other. Many thanks for posting this. Fantastic, it really is. so proud of you Lucy.

    • Hi there, thank you – and well done! Me too with the cigarettes – as soon as the booze went I had no desire to smoke anymore. And I am far happier without either of those addictions ruling my every waking thought!! Keep going, and even if several months down the line you feel tempted, take some assurance from me (2 years sober in a couple of weeks); it takes A WHILE to retrain yourself. I was still having the odd craving for booze even a year or so down the line. I don’t anymore though and even when under stress or sad (major triggers once upon a time) I never think of reaching for the bottle. Wishing you continued success, and many thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment. Lucy xx

  2. Jennifer says:

    That was awesome. And it’s true; you really do have to work pretty hard at it at first and give your brain a chance to rewire a little.

  3. I think there is much in there that I can identify with…something all alcoholics and addicts can. There are things that I associated with in drinking – cooking, being alone, etc. (well, waking up was an association with drinking by the end of it!) and I am convinced it’s what you said. I don’t believe in “triggers” per se, but associations are things that are hard wired. And as you mentioned, the more we do something, the more we rewire the brain. It certainly did take time for me to make new associations…damn tough, actually, and it took a lot of practice. I realized I had to make those strides by doing the things I used to do but without alcohol. And you know what, after a while, I stopped having those thoughts of picking up.

    Groovy post 🙂

    Paul

    • Hi Paul, thank you. It is damn tough, I totally agree, but I noticed this week that I haven’t even considered buying a bottle of wine, despite having a bit of stress to deal with, and once upon a time, that would have been my immediate and very dominating thought. It probably took me about 14 or 15 months to get to the stage where wine wasn’t cropping up as a potential coping strategy for stress or sadness. Now I go for a run, or a long walk, or hit the gym for a bit. I understand what makes me feel better so much more, instead of the lazy option of just pouring wine down my throat.
      Have a great Sunday, and thanks again for your comment.
      Lucy x

  4. i am sorry to say that after 1 months of abstinence i have yet again Failed in believing the monster craving would pass – my nonrecognition of the insidious voice in my head telling me that I don’t actually have a problem because I never pass out, or make a fool of myself in public, or not know when ive had enough, etc, convinced me yet again that I deserved, needed, wanted just this once [more] glass of wine and so it shames me very much to admit that I succumbed too easily ( though it didn’t seem so at the time) and in one nono second I undid the success and joy of the past 5 weeks. think i may need to have someone i can call when these overwhelming convictions start taking hold of my rationality? just need to say this as I think the secret ism and denial are entwined as part of the problem. starting over – day 1 sorry.

    • Hi, I think you are exactly right – the secretiveness and denial (which sounds SO real and true, how can that voice be wrong?!!) are very much a part of addiction. Denial was so powerful in my mind that I continued to listen to and believe it for 20 years before I finally thought, “You know what? If booze is so innocuous, why the hell is my life such a mess?” You will get through it I’m sure – don’t focus on the fact that you succumbed to this powerful and ubiquitous drug, concentrate instead on building your ammo to make sure you can ignore the temptation next time. Get in touch if you ever want to let off steam, on here or by emailing lucy@soberistas.com – I’m always happy to offer my advice and support. Best Wishes, Lucy xx

  5. Thank you so. so much for your amazing insightful response and understanding. Do you know Lucy, I do believe I am beginning to feel and hear distant rumblings of excitement and hope that I am not alone in my secret world of longing, and loathing, from anticipation and constant disappointment , from false truths and deceitful excuses. I do hope that this still subtle voice is not playing silly tricks in my mind ! One starts to loose track of what is and what is not the – Truth ! I am no longer a young person I shall be sixty ( aghhh, when did that happen !!!!) in October. I desperately want to be the person inside that I’ve always known is there but somehow or other was always suppressed, ignored, rejected ! Time now to start building some ammo !!!! fond regards Bernadette x

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