About me

pexels-photo-990819.jpegI am a behavioural neuroscientist, an alcoholic, a mother, a wife, a teacher, a student, and a mentor, among other things, not necessarily in that order. I have thought for a while about writing this blog, and now I have a little time, so here I am. Going through the process of recovery from addiction is often a deeply intense personal journey, and I am no exception. For the first time in so many years I have actually thought about why I feel the way I feel, or think the way I think etc, not just from the perspective of what the underlying neural substrates of those feelings and thoughts are, or how they are behaviourally expressed, as I had for so many years prior through my work.

Prior to entering recovery, I could tell you all about the reward circuit in the brain and how it is hijacked by the use of drugs (hint, it is extremely complicated, there’s still a lot we don’t know, and it doesn’t just involve dopamine and serotonin, although they are involved of course). I could have told you the same information when I was actively drinking, but it didn’t stop me. What I couldn’t have told you is what it felt like to go through the emotions of recovery, things that the recovery community have a pretty good handle on. The initial ‘pink cloud’ during which you come out of the fog of addiction and start to see clearly, then you feel like you can change the world! Then the inevitable wearing off of the pink cloud, and the way in which everything seems to be guiding you towards relapse. The way that social connection is so vital to recovery. This is something I could never have guessed, although I knew very well that taking naltrexone would partially block the pleasurable effect of opioids in the brain and was a relatively effective treatment for alcoholism.

Like most things in life, my discovery is that things are not black and white, but endlessly nuanced and individual. There are, however, so many things the two sides I have been exposed to could learn from each other. Behavioural neuroscience, in my experience, is primarily focused on finding medications that can treat addiction, without much thought to behavioural modifications or interventions, despite these being relatively straightforward to study in the lab. By contrast, the recovery community can be quite narrowly focused on alternatives to medication, particularly ideas derived from alcoholic’s anonymous (AA) and other anonymous programs, although I have noticed that this has started to change a little more recently. In any case, it is clear that the vast wealth of information we have gathered in basic neuroscience research has not made its way through to practise, and by the same token, there is a lot of wisdom in the recovery community that isn’t even considered in the scientific community. This blog is my attempt to bridge that gap.

8 thoughts on “About me

  1. Thankyou for sharing your journey, I’m so happy to have stumbled across your blog. I’m not an alcoholic myself, but my husband is. I’m struggling to cope with my increasingly negative feelings toward his alcohol use and I’m worried our marriage will cave. We have 4 teenage kids and both work. He’s a carpenter and I’m a nurse. I read articles and blogs written by people who have overcome their addiction to alcohol, I think it’s to give me hope,and I daydream that one day it might be my husband too, if I’m lucky). Did your husband need help or support, while you were drinking, did he ever want to just throw in the towel? Did he ever threaten to leave if you didn’t stop? I just don’t know what to do anymore. My feelings of anger and resentment toward him are threatening our marriage. He doesn’t want to stop. He tried but went back to the same after a month. Thankyou for your blog

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    1. Hey Sarah, thanks so much for your comment! My drinking definitely caused a lot, of not most, of the problems in my marriage. My husband told me early on that I drank like an alcoholic but it still took me ten more years before I stopped drinking. I’m not really sure what to tell you except that if he doesn’t want to stop then it will be very hard to get him to stop. The person has to want it, I don’t think anyone can make anyone else get sober. It has to come from them. Have you tried Al-Anon? My husband never went, but at least it would put you in touch with other people who understand your situation? Otherwise I’m sure there are groups on Facebook, or other online groups, that have been very supportive to me in sobriety. There’s some wonderful and supportive people out there. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. I will think on this and see if I can come up with anything else that could help you.

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      1. Thankyou for your reply! Was just getting ready for nightshift thinking about what I wrote and thought it probably wasn’t the right blog to post my question. I’m so intruiged by the sciencey part of it all! Very interesting! Will continue to read with interest and in the meantime get myself some support, and thankyou again for your reply 🤗

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      2. I think that if you’re putting yourself out there as being in recovery like I am, then there’s a desire to help people, and I certainly have that. So I don’t think it’s the wrong blog, I just wish I could help more!! My husband never threatened to leave me, but our relationship is a zillion times better now I’m sober. He helps me by barely drinking himself any more. Definitely get yourself some support because there is support out there. Even online, it can be most helpful. I wish you all the best xo

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  2. I really appreciate the generosity of your sharing, honesty and information on neuroscience which is invaluable for professionals and people posing the question around their own chemical dependencies.

    Each person’s recovery journey is individual and although my path is different. I very much respect yours. I wish you all the success and please keep sharing.

    Warmly,

    Clair V

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