Motivation is generally described as the force that drives us to pursue a goal.Alcohol is a depressant, a diuretic, and a disinfectant. These generally aren’t pleasant attributes, but people have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years – some of the earliest written texts mention or contain recipes for beer, and pottery shards from China show people may have been making alcohol as far back as 7,000 BCE.There are many types of alcoholic drinks – fizzy and flat, hot and cold, fermented and distilled – but all of the alcohol we drink as humans is ethanol based.
For most people, a drink or two can be a way to celebrate an occasion or compliment a nice meal. Others may not enjoy alcohol at all; they don’t like the taste, they don’t like the sensation of being tipsy, or they don’t like feeling out of control. If you happen to fit into these categories, understanding the problem drinker in your life can be very difficult.
The process of how ethanol gets from the glass into your brain is not straight forward. And how quickly it gets to your brain (and whether or not it’s quickly broken down by your liver) is down to a variety of factors, one of which it’s actually very easy for us to control: whether or not we’ve eaten.Alcohol makes us feel increasing pleasure and relaxation as we drink more, while simultaneously hampering both our ability to make decisions and even move capably, which can lead to dangerous consequences.
Let’s take a look at what happens after that first sip of alcohol.
The organ that takes on the biggest burden of processing ethanol in our body is the liver.The liver is one of our largest and most important organs and it performs hundreds of functions, including converting the nutrients in food into something our bodies can actually use.But there’s a reason we apologise to our livers if we’ve a big night: the liver’s other job is processing any toxic substances we ingest into something harmless, or removing them from the body altogether. Which makes it the perfect organ to deal with ethanol.
The “Effect Produced”
- Stress Relief
- Peer Pressure and Camaraderie
- To Lose One’s Inhibitions
- The Disease of Addiction
- The Physical Allergy
- The Mental Obsession
- A Spiritual Solution
At Origins, we believe that freedom from the obsession—and therefore freedom from the allergy—cannot be accomplished by behavioral changes alone. In other words, simply being aware that one can no longer drink effectively will not produce sobriety.
We believe that alcoholics pursuing sobriety must maintain and grow their own connection to a power greater than themselves. This is referred to as the “spiritual solution” often discussed in 12-Step meetings. When the mental, emotional, psychological, and physical influences that exacerbate alcoholism are addressed, people are able to open up to a spiritual awakening that can produce permanent recovery.
First, neuroscience tells us that we drink to reduce associations in our mind.Ethanol, the psychoactive ingredient of alcohol, impairs communication between neurons by weakening the molecules in the walls that separate them, such that electrical signals are not sent as normal and associations between ideas do not emerge as readily. That might sound like a bad thing, but such associations are the basis for our continuous and strenuous efforts to make sense of the world, a burden we could do without. Alcohol typically elevates mood because with fewer associations to bother us, we start living less in our heads, and more in the here and now.
What this means is a bit shocking. Not only do we drink to get drunk, but we get drunk to justify behaviour that is not actually caused by drink at all!
Secondly, and relatedly, psychology suggests we drink to escape the self. When we succeed in this venture we feel great, with less narcissistic chattering and relatively unmediated connection to the people and world around us. But of course alcohol can also make us think only of our selves, leaving us heavy, lost in thought, and disconnected from the world. The reason one of these two things happen, rather than both, is that alcohol causes cognitive narrowing, making us less nimble with our attention. With less flexibility, we tend to focus our reduced cognitive resources on whatever is most salient to us at the time, and ignore almost everything else.
Third, anthropology suggests we drink to allow ourselves to break taboos. However, we should be clear about what is caused by ethanol and what is caused by culture. Anthropologist Kate Fox, supported by a huge body of cross-cultural evidence, argues that while the physiological effects mentioned above are undeniable, the assumptions we make about the impact of such effects should be contested.
Drinking does not make you outspoken, promiscuous, aggressive or rude, and nor need it make you lose control of your behaviour more generally. Such things happen in the UK, but they are self-fulfilling, and happen because of what we collectively expect alcohol to do to us. As Fox puts it: “When people think they are drinking alcohol, they behave according to their cultural beliefs about the behavioural effects of alcohol.” The problems of drinking-related anti-social behaviour in Britain are therefore about cultural conceptions of what drunkenness means, not what alcohol does.
What this means is a bit shocking. Not only do we drink to get drunk, but we get drunk to justify behaviour that is not actually caused by drink at all! And we do this because we have an ‘ambivalent drinking culture’ where we view alcohol as morally significant, rather than an ‘integrated drinking culture’, where alcohol is morally neutral.
Fourthly, spirituality tells us that we drink to glimpse unity and transcendence. Whatever you think of the the Alcoholics Anonymous process it places spirituality at the heart because it recognises that the compulsion to drink is a perverted spiritual need. By weakening self-consciousness and relaxing the central nervous system, drinking gives a glimpse of transcendence and serves as a kind of secular spiritual experience.
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes.
It is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognise as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of the larger whole.
Let’s consider several factors that are likely to lead to an increased motivation to consume alcohol. These factors influence values (i.e., anticipated emotions) and expectancies.
1. Past experiences
2. Impulsive personality
4. Social Norm
6.Alcohol is a sneaky devil
7.Alcohol never satisfies (a.k.a. tolerance)
8.Health: Being a non-drinker is the healthiest decision you can make
9.Life is more fun without booze
10.Alcohol made me dumb
Exposure to alcohol-related cues increases the craving for alcohol, and therefore the value of drinking. On the other hand, financial influence, such as taxation, makes drinking less attractive: Evidence shows that simply raising the price of an alcoholic beverage by 10 percent reduces alcohol consumption by 7 percent.
In sum, the motivational perspective predicts that people will be motivated to use addictive substances to the extent they expect that doing so will result in desirable effects that they want to achieve. Otherwise, they would not find it so appealing.