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.
‘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.