“It’s a Disease!!!”

When it comes to alcohol abuse, we often hear the refrain, “It changes your brain so it’s a disease!”

UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Center recently reported that “it” causes “thickening of the brain in the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.”

The problem for the disease mongers is that in this case UCLA researchers are talking about meditation, not drinking.


Read a bit on brain plasticity and you learn that everything we do changes our brain. Yes, absolutely everything effects your brain and the only way to stop your brain from changing is to die.

That’s not to say that some changes aren’t better than others. Positive changes can be a result of regular exercise, which is by far the best cure for general depression. It also does a good job of managing anxiety. And keeps us limber, can be social and recreational, and helps offset many of the negative side effects of getting older.

Doing crossword puzzles changes your brain as does learning any new skill, language, hobby, or attitude. Anything and everything changes your brain, including not using it.

Your only choice, really, is how to manage your brain’s changes, which is a lot like managing your body which, not too shockingly, turns out to be like managing your life.

Or not.

Stop drinking, change your brain, add new skills and change your life for the better. Keep on drinking and follow the easy road to negatively impacting your brain and life.

Yes, life enhancing changes take effort, while life diminishing ones only require that you pop a cork and lay back and let whatever is left of your life pass you by.

If you think you’d like to at least see what an enhanced life (and brain) might feel like, then you might want to consider what we can do to help with that. For the past month we have been writing about the various “tools” we use to help you make the changes you say you want.

Simply stated, as one client summed it up at the end of the intensive 5 day portion, “You guys have a two-step program: get a grip, get a life.”

She wasn’t wrong.

Isn’t it time you too got a grip and a life? It’s a lot more interesting than life inside a bottle — and so are you.

But everyone’s drinking….

In reality, a lot of people don’t drink, many drink only a little, and for most of us it isn’t a big deal in any case.

What is true is that we tend to gravitate towards the people whose drinking habits reflect our own, then we pretend that “we” are “everyone.” But that is a self-selection process and you will quickly learn that if you aren’t drinking your perception of others will change dramatically.

We also convince ourselves that other people care about whether or not we’re drinking. They don’t (other than spouses and others who suffer from the results of our drinking). Really.

Other people don’t care what you do as long as you’re not interfering with their drinking.

And even if people did care, do you really want to be a slave to others’ opinions? If you do, then AA really is the right place for you.

Remember that with maturity we become more aware of what we do and why we do it and, hence, more powerful in directing our choices, behaviors, and lives in general. Our drinking habits just become another of those patterns we can choose to maintain, modify, or eliminate.

Which gets us back to “get a grip and get a life.” Or at the very least, an informed and conscious decision to maintain our drinking preference. Yes, that’s what we said. It’s a preference, not a disease.

So take charge of your life, assume responsibility for your choices, and enjoy the rest of your life in whatever form that takes.?