Bringing Pleasure into Living Alcohol-Free

Bringing Pleasure into Recovery

Now that we’ve introduced the concept of Behavioral Activation, let’s put it to work, shall we?

You may have noticed that even if you’re not in a darky, twisty place right now, you still don’t find much enjoyment in many of the things you used to do. Now, we can’t expect to have a childlike sense of wonder at every single part of our day, but it’s imperative that we find pleasure in both big and little parts of living alcohol-free. To explain this lack of enjoyment, we remember that our pleasure baseline has been impacted by habitual alcohol use; if we’ve been using alcohol regularly for a long time, our brain requires higher levels of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) to reach that baseline and feel a pleasure response.

So the warm fuzzies you used to feel when you got a hug from your partner doesn’t quite do it anymore. Reading a book just feels boring and like it’s difficult to concentrate. Taking a warm bath with fancy soaps does nothing for you. If we decide that this is just going to be how it is forever, we run the risk of falling into that avoidance and isolation we mentioned yesterday. Or perhaps we’re already there, and haven’t been able to get ourselves off the couch to do anything for a while. Even worse—we run the risk of returning to alcohol use if we decide there’s nothing good about ditching the booze.

To beat this, and to bring pleasure back into our lives, we do two things:

  1. We remember that this is likely temporary; anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure) is usually a temporary experience as our brains heal from habitual alcohol-use, and can also be treated therapeutically

  2. We stay in activity or get ourselves out of our comfort zone if we’ve fallen out of activity already.