Drinking is a Conditioned Response

I would get done with work and it was time to make dinner. While preparing dinner, I enjoyed a glass of wine. And another glass with dinner. And sometimes another glass after dinner. When I was cutting back on my drinking, I found myself wanting to pour that first glass of wine each time I was preparing dinner. It was like my body was on autopilot and, making dinner without the wine seemed so odd. Foreign. It felt strange. Like something was missing. I had some craving for the wine that came and went. But the experience of cooking seemed different and incomplete without the wine.  I had developed a conditioned response to cooking dinner.

A conditioned response is a learned behavior to a previously neutral stimulus.

The activity of making dinner in my kitchen was the neutral stimulus that would signal my brain it was time to drink.  I repeated this behavior for months on end so my brain adapted to expect this behavior.  Like Pavlov’s dogs who learned to expect food and salivate when the bell rang, I was conditioned to expect wine as I prepared dinner.  It became a habit without question.  It was just what I did.

A conditioned response is a learned behavior to a previously neutral stimulus.

A conditioned response stores information about the environmental cues associated with the behavior.  Therefore, making dinner was my cue to start drinking.  These cues trigger the urge for alcohol.

Just as the brain was conditioned to respond in this way, it can de-conditioned from the behavior.  Same as was witnessed with Pavlov’s dogs. When the bell rang and no food came, the dogs were eventually no longer salivating and expecting food.  The conditioned response gradually diminishes and even disappears.  We can train the brain that we are cutting back on our drinking.  And the brain will adapt to the new norm.

Share this post

You May Also Like

Empowering Our Youth Around Alcohol

This week, I had the incredible opportunity to speak to The Miss Rancho Bernardo Scholarship Pageant contestants about tips on presentation, public speaking, and most importantly their public persona as school leaders and

Read More

Cheers to Celebrations!

May is my birthday month! I enjoy birthday celebrations.  They are a beautiful reason to come together and a special time of connection. Typical celebrations include lots of food, plenty of desserts, and

Read More
Scroll to Top

Unlock the power to
overcome setbacks

Click below to learn the KEY steps towards unstoppable resilience. 

Complete 50%

Enter your name and email to get instant access to the guide now

Please note that by providing your email address to us, you are agreeing to receive other communications from us from time to time and to the terms of our Privacy Policy.