One of the reasons we become so dependent upon alcohol and other addictive substances is how they can make us feel, how they influence our self-perception, and how they can cause us to feel differently about ourselves relative to other people and the world. When we drink or use, we can feel changes in our personality, shifts in our perspective, and new outlooks on life. We can feel as though we’ve become the person we’re meant to be. We can feel less inhibited by nervousness, insecurity, and self-doubt. Why is alcohol called liquid courage?
Liquid courage is a term given to the feelings of self-confidence and self-assuredness we can have when we drink or use. Sometimes when we’re high we can leave behind the social anxiety that has been holding us back and making us isolate ourselves. We can feel more comfortable talking to people, more grounded within ourselves, and more at ease. We can feel as though our drug of choice has given us the courage we need to reach for our goals, strike up a conversation, to come out of our self-imposed isolation.
We might feel courageous and strong enough to go after something we’ve always wanted, to pursue that person we’re interested in, to stop holding ourselves back in all the limiting ways we’ve grown accustomed to. We think we need to be high to accomplish what we want in life. We think that our drug of choice is giving us the courage we wouldn’t have otherwise.
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Does alcohol really give you courage?
Alcohol courage, or liquid courage, is a term that originated in the 17th century. Soldiers heading to the front lines to face cannons and gunfire were given a good dose of gin, which was thought to boost their confidence. Today, people use alcohol courage for other purposes. Drinking gives them the confidence to do things they are otherwise too scared to do — flirting, fighting, singing karaoke at a bar.
Alcohol causes our brain to release a flood of dopamine. This chemical is associated with pleasure and can make you feel confident and powerful. Alcohol also directly impacts the part of the brain associated with good judgment. This reduces your inhibitions and fears, making you more likely to make impulsive decisions without thinking things through.
Why Is Alcohol Called Liquid Courage? The True Danger
We are used to hearing about Alcoholism quite often, we even lightly use the term most of the time to refer to someone who just likes to drink, but it is a really serious disease and should not be taken lightly. In the scientific article ‘The Definition of Alcoholism’ Morse RM, Flavin DK, published on Jama Network Journal, a 23-member multidisciplinary committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine conducted a 2-year study of the definition of Alcoholism.
Therefore, the committee agreed to define Alcoholism “as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.”
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States
An estimated 95,000 people, approximately 68,000 men, and 27,000 women die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.
According to the 2019 NSDUH, 14.5 million people aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder. This number includes 9.0 million men and 5.5 million women. This problem threatens a big number of young people too, as stated by the same source, an estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 177 had AUD. This number includes 163,000 males and 251,000 females.
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Emotional Effects of Alcohol
There are many reasons why a person may choose to drink. They may turn to alcohol to cope with painful emotions, mask feelings, reduce pain, lift mood, achieve a state of relaxation, reduce inhibitions or gain social acceptance. The emotional effects of alcohol can be especially strong among those who have an existing mental or physical health condition. Over the long term, however, alcohol can make these conditions even worse.
Alcohol and Emotions
Alcohol affects the brain’s cerebral cortex, which is where thought processing and consciousness take place. Alcohol consumption, especially in large quantities, interferes with rational thought. Drinking also depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, causing a person to have less inhibition and display poorer judgment. This lack of inhibition often leads people to drink more than they otherwise would.
While you may feel good for a while after consuming alcohol, the effects are always temporary. A person may feel positive emotions while under the influence, but the emotional factors that led to alcohol abuse remain after the intoxication fades.
Emotions and moods affected by alcohol can usually be grouped into three general categories, including:
- Painful feelings: When someone uses alcohol to deal with painful feelings, they are typically trying to overcome emotions of fear, hurt, sadness, grief, jealousy, shame, embarrassment, guilt, or loneliness.
- Happy feelings: People who use alcohol to manipulate emotions of happiness are usually attempting to heighten feelings of delight, thrill, general excitement, self-esteem, confidence, and connection/belonging in social situations. Research suggests that these motives are a common reason for drinking, especially among younger people.
- Feelings of relaxation: Alcohol can seem to bring about a state of emotional calm. People report feeling sensations that include comfort, emotional numbness, and lack of concern about problems. These feelings occur because alcohol increases levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which inhibits nervous system activity and creates a calming effect.
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People struggling with emotional pain may drink alcohol to achieve a state of numbness. Given the effects of intoxication, it’s possible to achieve temporary numbness by drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption can even lead to alcohol blackouts and lapses in memory.
While blacking out can certainly help a person achieve a state of numbness, drinking to the point of a blackout is dangerous. During an alcohol blackout, a person loses control of impulses and has difficulty with rational decision-making. This increases the likelihood of risky activities, such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex. The state of numbness that comes with excessive alcohol consumption is outweighed by the risks that come along with it.
Because alcohol increases GABA levels, drinking can have a relaxing effect on the body. As a result, some people may use alcohol to calm their emotions, but these calming effects are also temporary.
If a person increases their alcohol use over the long term and develops a tolerance, it will take greater amounts of alcohol to achieve the same calming effects. When a person with alcohol tolerance stops drinking or tries to cut back, they may experience withdrawal symptoms because their body is used to the presence of alcohol and its effects on GABA levels. Without the alcohol needed to increase GABA levels, the body undergoes withdrawal, leading to symptoms like anxiety.
Ultimately, the emotional flatness that comes with alcohol abuse disappears, and it becomes even harder for a person to regulate their emotions.
Alcoholism and Emotional Abuse
Alcohol addiction can cause serious disruption in personal relationships and families. During a period of intoxication, a person’s emotions are sometimes raw and unreliable, resulting in anger, bouts of hysteria, crying fits, or even physical or verbal abuse. This leads others to avoid the individual out of fear or due to their own inability to cope.
The person abusing alcohol is often seen as being untrustworthy, easily provoked, unreliable, and unworthy of respect. Unfortunately, these are often some of the emotions that lead to alcohol abuse in the first place. As a result, the cycle of abuse continues and feeds into itself.
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Long-Term Mental Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol use may provide temporary relief to people struggling with mental or emotional health. Over the long term, however, alcohol abuse can make these problems worse. Using alcohol as a way to cope can lead to an alcohol use disorder — the clinical term for alcohol addiction.
People with an alcohol use disorder show certain symptoms, such as continuing to drink even when it affects physical and mental health or causes problems in relationships with friends and family. In other words, the problems a person tries to fix with alcohol may worsen as an addiction develops.
Other long-term consequences of alcohol abuse include social problems, issues with learning and memory, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Overall, alcohol hurts mental and emotional health, even if it temporarily numbs emotions or creates feelings of euphoria.
What happens to courage after stopping drinking?
When we use drugs and alcohol to change our personality and feel better about ourselves, we not only become dependent upon it and how it makes us feel, but we also never give ourselves the chance to develop our real selves fully. We’ve gotten to know the version of ourselves that is under the influence, rather than our authentic self. We’re not allowing ourselves to develop our true personality, figure out who we are, or foster the kind of lasting courage that can bring us true happiness and a sense of accomplishment. We’re using an artificial substance to create these feelings for us rather than developing them for ourselves.
As a result, we stay disconnected from the truth of who we are, and we stunt our personal development and growth. We keep ourselves from learning what we genuinely love about ourselves, and we prevent ourselves from developing the self-love and self-acceptance we need to heal. We keep going back to our drug of choice because it gives us this sense of self-confidence we’ve come to rely on.
Over time, however, we realize that this false courage is just an illusion. We’re not feeling confident or good about ourselves, and our liquid courage doesn’t last. It’s fleeting, and we have to keep drinking and/or using it to sustain it. Not only is this not sustainable for us and our health and well-being, but it’s also highly unfulfilling, and over time adds to our feelings of insecurity and self-rejection.
Alcohol Rehab Center Near Me
Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. The different facilities of the We Level Up rehab treatment center across the U.S. can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
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 Banerjee, Niladri. “Neurotransmitters in alcoholism: A review of neurobiological and genetic studies.” Indian Journal of Human Genetics, March 2014.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” May 11, 2021.
 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain.” Alcohol Alert, October 2004.
 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts.” March 2021.