MuseIngs

​​​​​​​​​


I've been sober for 35 months.
I was drunk for 23 years.

Why is alcohol so addictive? This excerpt from my book, "Quiet Please I'm Trying to Drink" deals with Alcohol Myopia.


We tend to think of alcohol as mainly acting to curb inhibitions, rather than blowing up emotions, but this can’t really explain its differing effects on the same person, under the same circumstances, but at different times. Sometimes it made me loud, rowdy and obnoxious, sometimes quiet and reflective. Sometimes sad and depressed, along with all the blends and mixtures in between. In the last 40 years’ psychologists have demonstrated alcohol having all sorts of counter-intuitive effects on people. Studies have shown individuals can become less aggressive, and less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior when drunk, (but most describe violent drunks, depressive drunks, sleepy drunks, amorous drunks, and all the rest). It's widely accepted alcohol brings about parallel states of consciousness; one study gave college students a sparkling drink containing vodka. Within 20 minutes, some were acting drunk, complete with inflated egos, the tendency to flirt, etc..
 
However, we’re not always chucked into the same parallel state of consciousness. If culture and personality alone explained the psychological effects of alcohol, then how come we can have quite different experiences while drinking on consecutive Thursdays, unless alcohol’s effects on us depend on the exact situation in which we drink?

Even if this is true, which features of a situation push our feelings and behavior in one or other direction, one time towards gloomy navel-gazing, and another time towards exuberant extraversion? According to some studies, people’s yin-yang behavior while drinking can be understood by a simple idea with some intriguing implications. The so-called ‘alcohol myopia’ model says that drink renders our attentional system short-sighted, and the more we drink, the more short-sighted it becomes. With more alcohol our brains become less and less able to process peripheral cues and more focused on what is right in front of us. It’s this balance between what is right in front of us, and what we don’t notice around the edges that determines how alcohol affects us in different situations.
 
So how does this work? Well, suppose you have an ego boost when you drink on Monday, feeling much better about yourself. The attentional short-sightedness induced by alcohol makes your shortcomings float away. One of the reasons alcohol is so damn addictive might be because it can act like self-actualization in a bottle (I read this phrase somewhere but can't remember where; I was likely drunk). On the other hand, your worries can get worse when you’re drunk. If you’ve had a bad day then chug a drink, all the peripheral cues which are potential distractors are cut out, and all you see are problems. The positive side of this attentional focus is that if, while drinking, we are doing something enjoyable, we find it easier to ignore any nagging doubts or worries. We can be totally in the moment listening to music, shagging someone we shouldn't, watching sports, or talking with a good friend. It’s even possible that for some types of task it may increase performance as we let go of our insecurities. Maybe that explains why I was always a much better guitarist after a six pack, and why so many writers wrote with a glass of whisky at their side. If you read "On Writing", it sure worked for Stephen King in the 1970 and 80s.


Your Thoughts?








A thread on the AskReddit website invited users to explore their st​​​​​​​ruggles with alcoholism.

“What is your, “and then I realized I was an alcoholic” moment?”

Over 4,000 people responded to the thread. Here are two of the most poignant answers.

"When I started rotating what stores I went to for beer so that people wouldnt think I had a problem.

AND IN ANSWER A DAY LATER

"When I stopped rotating stores because I no longer cared if people thought I had a problem."