Afraid of the Dark

As father of two young children I am reminded, almost nightly, of the concept of being afraid of the dark. Of course it’s not dark that children, or anyone else for that matter, is afraid of, it is what may be lurking within it. This is why it affects children more than adults. Adults know as an indisputable fact that when they wake up in the night there are no monsters lurking in the shadows. They know that monsters in the supernatural sense do not exist, and they know that human monsters won’t be lurking in the shadows because they understand their own homes and security systems. They may know for instance that no one could break in at all, or could break in without setting an alarm off, or break in silently. They know there is no space under the bed or in the wardrobe for someone, or something, to hide. Even though they cannot see what is in the dark, or under the bed, or in the wardrobe, they know from experience and logic that nothing threatening can lurk within. Adults do experience fear of the dark, but this is only when the possibility of a threat exists; either they are in an unfamiliar place, or are still half asleep and still partly within the dream they are fighting to leave. When they wake up properly, and their rational mind reasserts itself, the fear leaves. Children don’t have this. Whilst they understand on one level that monsters don’t exist, on another level, in their imagination, they are as real as any other part of their life.

Fear of the unknown isn’t irrational, on the contrary it is the safest, most rational response, and also a response that is very deeply instilled in us. Think about before humans emerged from the primeval forest, or about animals for that matter. If they hear a noise and cannot see the source of it, they can’t know if it is something that poses a threat to them or not. An animal that does not fear the unknown is an animal that will end up dead. The ones who are afraid and flee are the ones that survive. Animals and humans alike, when confronted with the unknown, fear the worst and act accordingly. They accord and apportion their fear and respect to the unknown phenomenon on the basis of a worst case scenario. This is a simple, straightforward, survival mechanism.

Alcohol addictions has always been an unknown force, and it is for that reason that it holds such power over us. All we know is that in direct opposition of all that is rational, we want, and indeed have to have, a drink. We don’t understand why and we feel absolutely helpless and afraid. These two feelings alone make us want a drink even more, but more important than that is the fact that we then accord to that irrational desire for a drink the status of absolute power, because we simply do not understand it. The other problem of course is that without a rational, scientific understanding of what is going on, the battle of sobriety seems too formidable. If you are absolutely desperate for a drink, and someone told you (and you believed) that that feeling would only last for 4 minutes, after which it would go, never to return, you would most likely mange to rally your determination and get through those 4 minutes. Conversely if you believe that feeling will never ever go, or that it will takes years to slowly dissipate, or worse of all that it will get progressively worse, then there is no point even trying to fight it. You will end up giving in at some point, so you may as well make it sooner rather than later.

This is why a definitive, complete and fully workable understanding of alcohol and addiction is needed to most effectively quit drinking, and why it is so important to understand each of the factors that causes you to want a drink, how they are triggered, and when they will end. Firstly and most importantly is removes the unknown. We are no longer up against something unknown, and therefore we no longer need to apportion to it an overly inflated amount of fear or respect. We know it for what it really is, we understand it, and therefore it no longer holds additional power over us because of the unknown element. In understanding something you diminish its power over you. Jason Vale used the example of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy, the Tinman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion finally confront the Wizard of Oz. The are in awe of him, they are terrified, until they finally realise that he is nothing more than a rather pathetic old man with a rather complicated set of mechanical special effects.

I believe that this is the reason why many people, on reading Alcohol Explained, describe it as something akin to a switch being flipped in their mind, such that they no longer have any desire to drink. If you have spent years fearing an unknown force, and suddenly have it fully explained, the results can be dramatic.

Alcohol Explained – 2nd Edition

Firstly apologies for being fairly inactive recently. I started a new job a month ago and what little free time I did have almost entirely evaporated, and what I have had I have spent rewriting and updating Alcohol Explained.

I am pleased to announce this this task is now complete and the 2nd Edition of Alcohol Explained is now ready for release.

For those who have already bought the book, let me assure you that virtually everything new to the 2nd Edition is on the website so there is no need to buy another copy. It is not an entirely different book, it is just updated with some additional information and Chapters. However for those who would rather have everything in one book I have reduced the price down as far as Amazon will allow, to give you a chance to get the updated copy for as cheaply as I can provide it (Amazon requires certain minimal pricing on books).

I have literally put the changes through now and they can take up to 24 hours to take effect, so if you do want the new edition it might be worth checking later today or tomorrow. You will know when the changes have taken effect as the price will be £0.99 / $0.99 for the Kindle Edition and something in the region of $/£ 5/6 for the hard copy. I won’t be able to maintain this reduction for long (perhaps a week, maybe two) as I am also in the process of producing an audio version of the book and I need to finance this.

Finally if anyone can provide advice, assistance or ideas for promoting Alcohol Explained please do get into contact. In particular if there are any journalists, or if you know any journalists, who might be interested in writing an article please let me know.

 

This Naked Mind

I recently read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. There are many points in there that work very well with Alcohol Explained and some in particular that I think are worth specifically mentioning.

Firstly is the question of why it is difficult to limit our intake during any particular drinking session. In Alcohol Explained I explain how the relaxing effect of the alcohol does not dissipate leaving you feeling as you did before, but leaves behind it a corresponding feeling of anxiety that needs another drink to replace it. So the tendency, when you take a drink, is to keep drinking. I also explain that due to the discrepancy between the time it takes for the relaxing effect to wear off as opposed to the intoxicating effect, the tendency is to become increasingly drunk (the Chapters 2 and 5 that deal with these points can be found here).

This Naked Mind adds an additional layer to this. It points out the alcohol also affects our ability to make well thought out, rational decisions, specifically:

“The final change in your brain occurs within your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of your brain responsible for decision-making. It allows you to make well-thought-out decisions, exhibits self-control and prevent the more reptilian parts of your brain from running the show.”

So, to put it colloquially, when we are drinking we are far more likely to say “sod moderation I am just going to drink and ‘enjoy’ myself” as we are simply less able to make a decision based on rationality rather than base instinct. It is also the case that alcohol dulls our fear of the following day and our fear of the adverse effects of our drinking generally.

Secondly in Alcohol Explained I deal with why the concept of drinking to relieve stress is based on a fallacy. Essentially although the alcohol may dull down the stress in the short term, the effect of the drink very quickly wears off and so you end up not only back to where you were before you took the drink, but in fact worse off as you then have the alcohol withdrawal to contend with in addition to the original stress, so you then need another drink, and another, and another to keep relieving both the withdrawal and the original stress. So the net result is the original stress, alcohol withdrawal, a ruined night’s sleep, and most likely an actual hangover.

Again This Naked Mind adds an additional layer by pointing out that addiction overall is a much bigger stressor that the stressors you drank to remove. Addiction causes a mental divide in your mind (where part of you wants to drink and part of you wants to stop). This internal divide is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ and is a major and ongoing cause of frustration and agitation.

Thirdly, in Alcohol Explained I deal with why the disease theory of alcoholism is harmful. By suggesting that if you are not ‘alcoholic’ you can drink with impunity and never have a problem, it gives free licence to partake in irresponsible drinking which then accelerates the process of addiction. This Naked Mind again adds another layer to this by pointing out that this concept also stigmatises ‘alcoholism’. No one wants to admit that there is something inherently wrong with them, such that they are incapable of controlling themselves when others can, so the natural tendency is for people to resist admitting they have a problem for as long as they possibly can. We, as a society, should not be in a position of saying ‘drink unless you admit you are one of the poor benighted few who are different to everyone else and have no self-control where alcohol is conerned’ but rather ‘you are on a road that becomes increasingly unpleasant as the illusions of pleasure are one by one exploded, feel free to do the wise thing and get off it as soon as you come to your senses’.