I’m just a bum, a heavy drunk.
Maybe that’s the way you’re feeling after Christmas? Despite your best intentions you drank too much. Too many hangovers. Too much making a fool of yourself.
Or maybe you got through Christmas without drinking too much but you found it lonely and depressing? Yep, you’ve got the home, the relationships, and the job. But something’s wrong. All that pressure to be happy, when you’re really not happy?
There‘s a common cause
Before Christmas, I was at two very inspiring events both of which focused on a problem that could explain both why we drink too much and why we’re not happy. In fact they could explain many of the problems in our lives.
Adverse childhood experiences
How we were brought up can explain a lot about how we act now. We’ve written before how we may not even be aware that our childhood is still having an impact on how we behave. While it’s obvious if we were physically beaten as a child, it’s not so obvious if we suffered from childhood emotional neglect.
The experts call this issue adverse childhood experiences, or ACE. You can see how the experts look at these in the picture below.
What does ACE do?
So the experts say the more ACE you had in your childhood the more likely your brain development has changed. This is because your brain has produced more cortisol which activates the fight/flight/freeze response.
The fight/flight/freeze response switches off the thinking part of the brain to ensure all our energies goes into dealing with a threat. So when we’re feeling a threat, we literally cannot think.
How ACE affects us
For example, an angry looking dog approaches me looking like it’s going to attack me. My brain quickly goes into fight/flight/freeze as I decide whether to fight the dog, run away or just freeze hoping the dog will ignore me.
My brain forgets about everything else. I don’t remember the childhood experience that has made me scared of dogs. I can’t even see the dog is actually looking at a 2nd dog behind me and is no threat to me at all.
Everything else gets forgotten about
So while the dog is there, I remain on high alert. I’m no longer thinking about getting home or collecting my daughter as I promised. My whole focus is on survival. I don’t have time for anything else.
This lovely YouTube video spoken by kids explains how our brains freeze beautifully.
The long term impact
If you’ve experienced a lot of ACE then your brain’s ability to deal with the normal up’s and downs of everyday life is less than other’s people. You’re either on high alert when you react to everything or you simply shut down anytime you feel overwhelmed or triggered. So making good decisions and following through on them is much harder for people with ACE.
People with ACE are much more likely to have problems with drinking. Their brains are more likely to be in survival model which means they can’t think and make good decisions.
So if you’re labelling yourself as a heavy drunk, it worth’s looking at your childhood to see if this is causing you to drink too much.
Be kind to yourself, don’t label yourself a heavy drunk
So if you’re feeling down after Christmas, don’t despair. Don’t label yourself with negative words such as heavy drunk. If you’re read this far you’re making progress and in a future post we’ll look at ways of dealing with the ACE that may be the cause of drinking too much.
Happy New Year!