Updated: Jul 25
What in the world does this mean? Time to find out…
My parents were older than most when I was born…Mom was 42 almost 43 and Dad was 46. Back in the 1950s this was very different from most families. Today it’s more common.
What that meant for me was that I lost my parents at a younger age than most ... Dad passed away in 1999 and Mom in 2010. I was 40 years old at the time of Dad’s death and 42 when Mom passed away. These were tough times for someone my age because none of my friends could relate…they were mostly my same age and their parents were 20 years younger than mine.
My memories of Dad were horrible ones at first … of his being in the hospital with a subdural hematoma (brain bleed), the surgery, and then finally home only to return to the hospital again and again, first with one problem then another … and he finally had to go to assisted living, because my Mom, brother, and I could no longer keep him at home. My Dad was always strong and never sick, so it wasn’t something I was prepared for. At all.
After he passed away, memories of him became more and more positive in the passing years… the houses he built, the way he always managed to be there to help me with projects (even when I hadn’t asked him), the trip to college with all my stuff packed in the car, and…well you get it. My thoughts of him the last two years of his life literally went away only to be replaced with good memories. Such a blessing for all of us who’ve experienced loss. Or trauma. Or just about anything else in life that was less than good and happy.
What I didn't know was that I was experiencing a scientifically proven phenomenon. The Fading Affect Bias.
What does “fading affect bias” mean for us? Well, hold on to your seats ladies because it hit me right between the eyes when I first heard about it.
Fading Affect Bias is defined as “a psychological event where negative, painful memories recede much more quickly than positive, pleasant ones.”
Fading Affect Bias & Alcohol
Wow, I have been there and done that with my alcohol journey a gazillion times!!!
I was the Queen of Quitting for ten years before I finally became Alcohol Free! I think fading affect bias had a lot to do with it. My brain off alcohol would eventually, perhaps after a few weeks, or even months, short circuit back to the good memories instead of the awful ones. Funny how I seemed to selectively forget how that tape really played out. In my case, I always forgot the last few drinks of that particular occasion …. I remembered the good times, the first drink, the carefree dancing, but forgot the stumbling, slurring, shut down person I usually became very quickly after I had had “a few.”
And those stomach problems? They always seemed to magically disappear when I was not drinking, and thus, I forgot about them. The 3 am wake up calls from my liver trying to metabolize alcohol, the 4 am wake up times when I was playing golf that day to get the “bathroom” situation out of the way so I could play at 9 am without worrying about it, the ultrasound that showed I had fatty liver disease … all went away from being first and foremost in my brain.
What am I missing here??? I decided to quit drinking on my own. But how? I didn’t reach out to any of my friends. I didn’t have friends who shared my journey with me and could empathize because they too had been, or were going, down the same road.
Well y’all, I’ll tell you whut!! It was such a relief to find other women of like minds about drinking alcohol! I had no idea so many of us existed!!! I thought I was the only one with a drinking problem. We all wanted to quit drinking but didn’t quite know how to do it and make it stick. So we started leaning on each other …. In my case, all virtual because I started really focusing for the last time on becoming alcohol-free when the pandemic hit.
Over time, some of us stopped completely and others did what I did for so many years … quit only to start again. But the encouragement and the lack of judgment remained the same for all of us, regardless of where we were on our paths. Those who drank again here and there were still all better off than when they drank all the time. We kept reading and educating ourselves and others about the effects of alcohol.
So did y’all know that our livers turn alcohol into ethanol? True. How about that our bodies start producing acetaldehyde from alcohol? Acetaldehyde is related to formaldehyde …Ethanol and acetaldehyde are both poisons. And drinking alcohol also causes our bodies to produce dynorphins, which are the polar opposites of endorphins … feel bad hormones or feel good hormones? You decide.
So, when you get warm and fuzzy feelings about drinking alcohol, please remember the fading bias affect. Be mindful and refer back to your journal for how you actually felt about drinking and how it made you feel: anxious, sick, tired, and so on. And reach out to your fellow “Put it Downers." Someone always seems to be awake even with our different time zones. And you will get a kind, judgment-free, empathic, response. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It may not be right away, but you can count on it. And you can count on us.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said,
And as Susan Christina says,