It’s the time of the year when a familiar message starts popping up in online sobriety groups:
What is it about a beautiful sunny day that makes me want to drink so badly?!
We think there is a magical answer to this, but it’s no different than why we drink when we are snowed in or when there is a cozy rainstorm. Or, for that matter, when we are stressed, angry, or sad.
We have a thought (a drink would be great right now!) that causes a feeling (desire) that we reward with alcohol. Repeat this pattern a few times and a craving is born. We have trained our brains to pair sunny days and alcohol, and compound it by associating the sun/alcohol combo with good times – laughing with our friends while we have a margarita at a sidewalk cafe or sipping a cold IPA while we watch our kids play in the back yard.
Wanting a drink on a sunny day becomes automatic. If it weren’t the idea might sound kind of crazy…
It’s beautiful. I feel happy. What would make it even better? I know! A drink that will make me numb and tired.
But, of course, that isn’t where our mind goes. Our brains are trained to seek immediate pleasure and the longer term negative consequences don’t quite bubble to the surface in those moments.
We inadvertently taught ourselves to crave a drink on a sunny day, but we can unlearn it. We can allow the craving to come and go without responding to it and eventually our brain will stop making that association. We can be proactive in reminding ourselves of the truth – that it was never the alcohol that made us laugh with our friends or take joy in watching our kids play. In fact, it eventually just made us tired, numb, and impatient with our kids.