Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sober Day #51- Settling into Sober (Neuroplasticity)

It's starting to all add up.  A night without wine is beginning to seem like the norm.  I think about my typical 'before' evenings-  coming home from work and immediately pouring a nice glass of cold crisp white wine.  My norm for so many years-  and yet, thinking about that now, I caught a thought flitting across my mind-  Why would I want to do that?  And I don't, really, most of the time now.

I think it has to do with laying down those new neuronal circuits, connections.  Remember the neuroscientists' maxim:  What fires together wires together?  Think of it in the context of piano practice:  The first time through a new piece, it is awkward and stumbling (for most of us, anyway, lol).  Each time through, our brains change a tiny bit, and the neurons directing each of the finger movements begin to lay down stronger and stronger connections between themselves.  Eventually, those connections are so strong that playing the piece seems automatic, like something you've known forever.  Professional pianists actually grow the part of the brain that controls finger movements to be larger than the normal person's.

So every night that I come home and do something other than pour a glass of wine, the connections between those non-alcohol-consuming activities becomes stronger.  The connection between 'coming home' and 'pour glass of wine' begin to wither, lose strength.  So now there is seldom that automatic thought:  home-wine.

When I was in medical school, they taught us that by early adulthood, the brain was set, finito, no longer capable of changes.  That this is NOT true is one of the most amazing bits of knowledge since then.  Our brains CAN change- a lot- and these changes can continue through our last breath.  This neuroplasticity- the ability of the brain to change, to be plastic- is amazing to contemplate for those of us who want to make major changes in our lives.  It IS possible, we CAN do it!!

I sometimes picture what is happening in my brain-  visualize little construction equipment paving the new roads I want to build, using little jack-hammers to remove the ones I want to change.  It is surprisingly satisfying!

Here's to each of us, building our new brains!!


  1. Thats a lovely thought & a great image.

    1. Thanks, Norm- I just notice I used the non-proper-noun version of your name twice in my first paragraph- apparently your posts have made an impression on me, lol!

      I find silly or incongruous images help keep my attention focused on my 'destinations'.

  2. Yes! Here's to us! I'll raise a nice mug of coffee to that. I love this.. because along with it comes the realization that we do have the power to change and shift those connectors.. we have the power to shift habits and negative thoughts and all the rest of us. This is great and I'm so happy to hear that it is becoming more normal to not be drinking. That is the one guaranteed thing that a solidly sober person could say to any newby.. keep going keep going keep going it gets easier it gets easier it gets easier. Love this post xxx

  3. Yes, the first few days of no-wine were definitely the hardest, and it DOES become easier. Then, no-wine felt very weird, deprived. Especially when contemplating the horrifically, un-imaginably long time of 100 days. I am soooo grateful for the sober bloggers (like you!) whose posts acted (as still act) as a beacon for me toward discovering that sobriety needn't feel bad.

    That would make a good mantra for those first few days/weeks: Keep Going, Keep Going, It Gets Easier!


I'd love to hear about your journey, and hear your take on my journey. Comments are very welcome!!