It’s no secret that with extended use, alcohol can damage the brain. Alcohol can affect the brain and the body in so many ways, especially once the habit becomes chronic.
Here’s the good news: much of these effects can be controlled, or entirely eliminated, once you’re able to achieve and maintain sobriety. In fact, sobriety means achieving more than a distance from substance use; it requires a holistic lifestyle change, replacing damaging or compromising practices with practical and productive habits. Once you’re able to make these changes a reality in your life, likely with the help of close friends and family members, you’ll begin to notice changes as new habits take hold.
From short-term and long-term memory to linguistic fluency, so many of the brain’s essential functions benefit when you recover from alcohol use and kick destructive habits to the curb.
Which parts of my brain are affected by alcohol use?
As different parts of the brain perform individual, essential functions in the body, it’s understandable that each section responds differently to alcohol use, and each recovers in its own way.
For example, the cerebral cortex is responsible for much of our decision-making. Known as the “thinking center” of our central nervous system, the cerebral cortex helps us establish and fulfill high-level decision making: making plans, executing strategies and solving life’s everyday challenges. In addition, the cerebral cortex is also responsible for controlling how our body perceives and responds to many of our senses – touch, sight, smell, etc.
The brainstem is also affected by sustained alcohol use, and controls many of the critical functions our body needs to regulate autonomously. These functions include heart rate and breathing regulation, maintenance of healthy blood pressure and the entirety of the sleep-wake cycle.
The limbic system – the part of the brain that regulates our ability to feel and to experience pleasure – is also affected by chronic alcohol use. Typically, the limbic system is appropriately triggered whenever our bodies are meant to experience pleasure, perhaps when eating one of our favorite meals or interacting with friends or family members. However, destructive substance use habits can also trigger the limbic system, flooding the brain with excessive pleasure sensations that then reinforce incorrect behavior with positive emotion.
How will my brain health improve after I get a handle on my substance use habits?
From critical thinking and reasoning to everyday communication skills, alcohol’s effects on the brain truly impair so many of our body’s basic abilities. However, once you achieve and maintain sobriety, your brain begins a remarkable recovery process.
Understand that it can take months, sometimes even years, before you’ll begin to experience the primary benefits of a life without substance use. Stay strong in your sobriety; it takes time for your body to undo much of the damage that alcohol use can impose. First, you’ll likely experience clearer, more rational thinking, much like a “brain fog” has lifted from your ability to reason. Sometimes, this clearer thinking can start to take effect only weeks after you cease damaging alcohol use practices. Memory retention will also increase, as will your ability to focus and to multi-task.
Addiction impairs your brain’s pleasure center. As your body regains control, and proper hormonal equilibrium begins to return, you’ll notice many of the positive effects that come with the restoration of your brain’s chemical balance.
You’ll begin to notice that you enjoy your favorite habits more, as your brain again becomes accustomed to feeling pleasure as a result of life’s normal activities. This is because your brain still recognizes that your favorite activities provide the same joy they once did, but it now has the hormones at its disposal to reward you for enjoying those activities.
However, keep in mind that your brain now also rewards alcohol use with those same hormones. As a result, it’s best to practice safe abstinence habits from alcohol. Falling back into those same practices can quickly undo all of the progress you’ve made toward a life free from addiction.
Getting help to jump-start your brain’s recovery
So many individuals never get the help they need to fight destructive alcohol use, because they never admit that they need the help. Take the first step today, and pursue the freedom from substance use that you know you deserve. Schedule your first appointment through Real Recovery today, or call (855) 363-7325, to join an extended care recovery program that helps you identify and eliminate addiction, restoring self-confidence and peace of mind.
When you achieve and sustain sobriety, when you distance yourself from the habits controlling your freedom, your brain rebounds in incredible ways. Get started today on restoring your brain to optimal functionality, through sober living that promotes connection, healing and personal happiness from day one.