Latter #3: Retrain the Reptile Brain Summary
Letter #3: Retrain the Reptile Brain Summary
In letter #3, the first thing we learn is sometimes we just don’t feel good. Maybe it’s because we’ve done something like hung out outside in hot humid weather smoking cigars all day or maybe there’s just no reason at all that we don’t feel good. In sobriety (especially early sobriety), we often don’t feel good. It’s important to realize that this happens and it’s normal. It’s OK to feel like crap, we just deal with it and move on. The most important thing is that we don’t drink.
Back when we felt bad, the reptile brain in us, would have us take a drink whenever we felt like crap. So, in letter 3, we make the “ass fall off pact” again; today you are not going to drink even if our ass falls off… tomorrow you can go out and drink, but today you stay sober. Try reading the letters in the morning, they will help you get the day started right.
Letter #3 goes on to explain the reptile brain. It’s the primitive part of the brain. It’s the part of the brain that controls impulses, obsessions, daily rituals, and our fight or flight response. It’s the part of the brain that runs on autopilot. Like when you order a drink without even thinking about it because it’s what you do.
The reptile brain has been conditioned by your drinking. When you drink and drink, it starts to become a habit. That’s when the reptile brain begins to take hold. As this drinking habit continues you begin to want this drink more and more. Eventually you need it. The reptile brain is working here. You need a drink. You think you can control this urge but eventually you give in.
The reptile brain protects us (usually). When you touch a hot stove, you pull your hand back immediately without even thinking about it. The reptile brain also teaches you to not touch the hot stove in the future. That’s the reptile brain working.
With alcohol the reptile brain works a little differently. As you become dependent on alcohol, the reptile brain thinks it needs alcohol to feel better, no matter what. The reptile brain doesn’t care if alcohol is causing problems. It continues to use alcohol as the solution to problems or uncomfortable feelings. This happens in the subconscious. You may even recognize the problems alcohol is causing but the reptile brain will figure out a way to convince you that more alcohol is the right choice.
I personally wanted and needed to quit drinking long before I finely did. Everyday I would say no alcohol today. But somehow, I would convince myself that it would be OK if I had a little. Without fail I would end up drinking a whole lot. Even while I was drinking I would tell myself just 1 more and that’s it. But I would drink many more. The reptile brain was way more powerful than any will power I had.
Just like Marcus, I was in the death grip of Alcohol Hysteria.
Marcus goes on to talk about his insane thinking. That he might be worth more dead then alive. He knew he had to quit drinking. He was wondering if he was a terrible person. He had very little self-worth. He wondered if the reptile had taken him over and was causing these insane thoughts.
He was reacting to life with a drink rather then responding to life in a positive way with out drinking. But he couldn’t get out. He explains that once we are addicted we act on impulse and that we have to learn how to interrupt that process.
Marcus also explains that alcoholism is a fatal disease and that you MUST seek medical attention and be honest with your Doctor about your drinking to take that first step of quitting.
So, every time you try to quit, you feel like crap. It’s so much easier to just take a drink or many because your reptile brain tells you that alcohol will make you feel better, even if it doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how successful you are, the reptile brain IS MORE POWERFUL!
There’s some valuable lessons here:
- There is nothing wrong with you. You are just another human trying to make your way through life. You are a product of your situations and experiences.
- You can pause and step back, even for a moment. You can pause for 15 minutes when you get anxious, angry, or frustrated. The feelings won’t kill you, but alcohol might.
- Racing thoughts and emotions are just thoughts, nothing more. Don’t take them seriously. They do not need to be drowned in alcohol.
Marcus has explained the reptile brain. You don’t have to feed it. You can learn a new way of life. It might seem impossible, but you can get there. No matter what you’ve been through or are going through you can stop drinking and have a new wonderful way of living. You start by not drinking, even if your ass falls off.
Pause, take a 15-minute break from life, try to live by responding to life rather than reacting to life. AND DON’T FEED THE REPTILE BRAIN!