“But I didn’t mean to get drunk! ” So many people have said these words, myself included. I often felt like an accidental drunk, it was never my intention and I would really beat myself up about it afterwards. Now, I dont blame myself for those times, blame is a waste of good energy.
I know now its nothing to do with weakness, intelligence or worth, its just the power of alcohol on the brain itself. Alcohol is a highly addictive substance that when consumed in quantity leads us down the path to eventual unconsciousness.
How alcohol affects the brain
As a tutor I used to do right and left brain learning assessments with students and as background we looked at the triune or 3 part brain. To help illustrate in very lay terms how the three parts worked, we looked at how they are affected as we drink alcohol.
The first part to take a hit is the neo cortex, the front part of the brain that is associated with higher thought processes, judgement and motor control. As we drink our judgement and values are compromised, along with our balance and we may do or say things that are out of character.
The limbic brain, responsible for all our emotional reactions, is the next part to go, hence the warm gushy drunk person, the sad weeping person or the irate angry crazy person. With this combination of impairment going on its easy to see how the previously viewed unattractive stranger becomes a dashing prince and regrettable “beer goggle” decisions are made.
Finally, and this is getting into seriously dangerous territory, the reptilian brain is all that is left. This part is the brain stem, essentially responsible for keeping us alive, our heart beating, our temperature regulated and lungs breathing. When alcohol affects the reptilian brain we can end up in a comatose state, the basic functions working but without any conscious control. The lights are on but no one is home.
The way alcohol affects the brain can make it very difficult to try and control it
Trying to control drinking can be difficult. When we begin to lose the sense of reason and rational thought in phase one, our plan made earlier in the evening to limit drinks to 2 or 3 can easily get thrown out the window as the internal party warms up.
Alcohol can be a bit like a “snake in a glass” the more we drink the more we lose control and the lurking reptile hiding in the shadows takes over.
Its lovely to be free of regret or shame, yay to being sober!