EP #117

3 things i had to stop doing to change my drinking habit

Enjoy this conversation with therapist, author and recovered drinker, Amanda E. White all about her book, Not Drinking Tonight

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In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist podcast, host Molly Watts guides listeners on a transformative journey to establish a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Molly emphasizes the importance of breaking free from guilt and the compulsion to finish a bottle, instead promoting the enjoyment of a glass of wine mindfully. Through her insights, she dismantles past patterns and excuses, urging listeners to view a doable drink plan as a tool, not a punishment. Molly shares her own experiences of overcoming perfectionism and relying on willpower, emphasizing the need to invest in oneself by understanding individual coping mechanisms and emotions. She introduces the Behavior Map Results Cycle (BMRC), a transformative tool that dissects the connection between thoughts, feelings, and actions, enabling listeners to navigate their emotional triggers. Molly encourages a neutral, scientific observation of one’s relationship with alcohol, facilitating a shift from judgment to understanding. To aid listeners further, Molly introduces Step One, her coaching program, offering comprehensive guidance and group coaching sessions. The episode serves as a beacon of hope, illustrating the power of self-awareness and transformation in achieving a peaceful relationship with alcohol.

Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October. You can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got grises I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from a very cold Oregon again. Wow. I think last week I said how cold and chilly it was. It’s there’s frost on my car this morning. Over the weekend I had snow again. What is it? It’s officially spring, folks. We passed that mark when it when we passed the date this week. And I don’t know about the rest of Oregonians. But I’d like to see a little proof of spring here. Meaning no more, no more snowing No. And and a little less raining and a lot more sunning. That’s what I’d like to see. So this is the third in a three part series that I’ve been doing over the last few weeks on plans and habits and goals and how these relate to our relationship with alcohol. And I will link the last two weeks episodes in the show notes. But as a reminder, we talked about in week one, we talked about the difference between having a drink plan and learning to drink and what that might look like. And if you’re struggling still with, with the ideas of having a drink plan, or what you’re making that mean, I would I would highly suggest that you go back and listen to that episode. Last week, we talked about drink plans versus drink goals and how having a goal for alcohol really can be an area of personal development, which is not like we are taught, right? It’s not a recovery program. And this isn’t because we are sick or broken or genetically predisposed, right? We can have goals around our relationship with alcohol just like we have goals in other areas of our lives. Fundamentally, this idea that your drinking habits are no different than other habits that don’t serve you is very different from what most of us have believed about our drinking. It’s definitely different than what I believed about my own drinking. Even though I called my over drinking and oxymoronic habit, I absolutely believed it was different than other habits that didn’t serve me. And I talked about that about how changing that perspective was foundational to changing what felt like a very unbreakable habit for me. Hopefully, you agree with me on these highlights from the last two episodes. So number one, having a doable drink plan. I say that doable drink plan is a tool not a punishment, and not a restriction for helping us build the habits of an alcohol minimalist lifestyle. Number two plans are stepping stones to habits which are stepping stones to goals. The goal isn’t Just to drink less, but to truly have alcohol become a minimal part of your life, to make it a nonfactor to be at peace with your drinking habits. And this isn’t a time based numbers based change. Now, that doesn’t mean numbers aren’t involved. But this is a lifestyle that means so much more. And there really is no finish line. Number three, your life, what is going on in your world matters, and the rate of change how much time and attention that you can spend on making progress on these goals, it doesn’t matter. We have to be invested by incorporating the ideas of our mentors, with confidence in knowing our own lives, and what will and won’t work for us at any given time. Now, this isn’t permission to stop working on your relationship with alcohol, it’s not giving you permission to over drink. It means taking things slower, remaining mindful, and not throwing in the towel during these chat during challenging times that we you know, whether it be days, weeks or months, that’s okay. And we can see our progress here if we look for it, by changing how we think about our timeline and how we do it. All right, so onto this last episode. Today, I’m going to talk about three things you need to stop doing to achieve your goal of a peaceful relationship with alcohol. These are three things I had to stop that I had to stop doing to achieve my goal of a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Here they are. Number one, I had to stop overwhelming myself and making change harder. Number two, I had to stop making my drinking a moral decision. And number three, I had to stop taking away my main coping mechanism, my daily drinking, without replacing it with a skill set to manage stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Let’s dive into each one a little more. What do I mean when I say that I had to stop overwhelming myself and make stop making change harder. This is kind of two things wrapped into one but they feed on each other. In the past, when I was not successful with changing my drinking habit, I definitely approached change in ways that led to overwhelm and made change harder. How? Well I tried to restrict and abstain from alcohol from a willpower mindset and a very perfectionistic attitude. That meant I thought that nothing short of alcohol free days, or succeeding in a forced break from alcohol was good enough. I set myself up for quote unquote, failure because I was unwilling to meet myself where I was. I relied on willpower and white knuckling my way to abstaining, which of course did not last. I could not keep it up forever. And intellectually. Not only did I believe that about myself that I couldn’t keep it up forever. I also didn’t really want to keep it up forever. I didn’t believe that I never wanted to drink again. So all of my attempts to abstain or take a braid, a break felt really hollow. They didn’t resonate with me, they felt like just a test, right of my resolve and nothing more. And it was a test I very often failed. And when I failed to stick to these abstinence plans, I used it as an excuse to quit trying to change at all. I simply fell back into my old habit and believed my own thinking, which was that change was just too hard. Those were the thoughts I had. I, you know, console myself with thoughts like well, it’s not that bad. I’m not an alcoholic, like my mom. Everyone has a vise alcohol is just mine. Changing my relationship with alcohol forever, meant doing things differently than I had always done them before. And even though it seemed very counter intuitive to me in the beginning. Now what do I mean by that? If you’ve listened to the show for any length of time, if or if you’ve listened to the first episode in this series, that one from March 15. I talked about a doable making a doable drink plan. Doable is very important. My doable drink plan started with meeting myself where I was. I literally made a plan for the number of drinks that I was already routinely drinking three or four even sometimes five on on weekend occasions. And when my brain wanted to tell me that it wasn’t good enough that I wasn’t ever going to change this way? I literally had to tell myself nope, stop. That is old Molly thinking. New Molly does not believe that way. I believe that I am working on rewiring my brain and changing which part of my brain is making the decision for alcohol. I believe that I need to work on a small change that I feel capable of making right now. So I can create evidence for my brain that I can make and keep promises to myself. I am learning. This is what I told myself, I am learning to be someone who desires alcohol less, and making a doable drink plan is good enough. This is something I talk with my students in step one about frequently because they come in with a goal of drinking less, and they feel very motivated to reduce and cut back and they want to jump in both feet all gung ho and I slowed them down and I encouraged meeting themselves where they are at. Now that doesn’t mean that we are going to stay where we are. It means that we are going to start here. We are going to actually make a plan ahead of time. And that plan is going to be something that you feel 80 to 90% Sure you can follow and as you work on your thoughts and your beliefs around alcohol, you will naturally want to start reducing the number of drinks that you’re drinking. You will want to start including alcohol free days. You will do this not from because you are feeling restrict full restricted or resentful of a plan that feels impossible. You will feel like you want to follow it because you are practicing new beliefs and you will be focused on new thoughts that create feelings of motivation, optimism and happiness about a plan that is substantially less than what you’re drinking right now. I promised that will happen. Just a quick break to talk with you about Sunnyside. You hear me talk about it on the podcast and truthfully I have so many students and group members that share with me how Sunnyside is their preferred tool. It helps them build their healthier drinking habits and really create that peaceful relationship with alcohol. It’s a tool that I feel very confident in recommending. And the Sunnyside team has recently in September launched a new iOS app. And that iOS app is going to just enhance the existing text message experience. It makes it easier to build healthier drinking habits for anyone looking to cut back or simply drink more mindfully. The new Sunnyside community is also available only in the new iOS app. And it gives you access to an engaged community of like minded people who are also on a journey to cut back on drinking and build healthier drinking habits. It’s a safe private space and you’ll get access to inspiration and advice from Sunnyside members as well as coaches. I encourage you to go check out Sunnyside go to www.sunnyside.co/molly to get started on a free 15 day trial. That’s www.sunnyside.co/molly We look for ways to do just a little bit better each day. For me it was a long time before I incorporated alcohol free days routinely into my weeks. Once I did routinely incorporate one alcohol free day, it took me a while to add another alcohol free day. But each time I made those small incremental changes they were adding up and creating consistency in my new habits. And as I built new habits that aligned with my alcohol minimalist guidelines, the goal of having a peaceful relationship with alcohol became my reality. My lifestyle was a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Another thing I had to stop doing number two, was making my drinking a moral decision. Now let’s face it, we as a society still have a lot of work to do when it comes to changing the guilt shame, good, bad, right? Wrong judgments that we have around alcohol for me as an adult child of an alcoholic who had a history of judgment around alcohol, okay, I absolutely hated how my mother was when she drank I hated it. I hated alcohol. I hated her when she was drunk. And like a lot of societal messaging around of alcohol abuse that exists. I unconsciously and probably not consciously believe saved that it was because she was broken. I believe she drank because she lacked discipline and willpower. I believed she was just someone who was physically dependent and couldn’t beat it because she lacked the strength. All right, that judgemental habit that judgemental thought pattern was there. And when I changed my drinking habits for good and created a peaceful relationship with alcohol and a peaceful relationship with my then deceased mother, it was because I learned and mastered the behavior map results cycle, which illuminated how much my old thinking was steeped in judgment. Those practice beliefs had been had fueled my thoughts and feelings about my mother. And as I learned how to observe my thinking, I realized that that pattern of thinking set me up for seeing my own drinking patterns as either good or bad or right or wrong. When we experience the negative consequences of over drinking, like feeling hungover or having anxiety, or maybe even legal consequences, like a DUI, right, it feels very obvious that our overdrinking was quote unquote, wrong. Right? Wrong, right? Sorry. Here’s the problem with judgmental thinking. It doesn’t help us feel better. And when we feel worse, when we beat ourselves up and tell ourselves, we should know better, we should do better, we should be better. We feel defeated, hopeless, and like change is impossible for us. What do we do when we feel that way? A lot of us because we’ve had the habit of drinking in the first place, we turned alcohol, right. The other side of climb morality to our drinking choices is telling ourselves that we’re being good when we don’t drink, or we only have two drinks when we felt like me three. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate our successes. But we want to be careful with the language that we use. Thoughts are literally just sentences in our brains. So the language that we choose around alcohol is important. What we make our ability to keep our plans mean and the words we choose is important because but when we need to be willing to set aside our judgment, and just get much more neutral about alcohol. It also means that I needed to uncover my thoughts about alcohol being a reward, right? While I didn’t consciously think I drink is my reward for getting through the workday. Unconsciously it was there, I treated alcohol like a reward and anticipated it like a reward. I looked forward to it like a treat at the end of the day at the end of the workweek. And when you see alcohol as a reward, even though that doesn’t seem like it’s a morality judgment, it’s part of a whole cycle we have with regards to our behavior. When we do good, we get rewards. And it’s a vicious cycle that permeates so much of our lives, not just our relationship with alcohol. And hey, again, I want to be able to recognize when I do good, I want to encourage myself and I also want to practice changing my thoughts to see that the results of doing good are the reward, right? It’s the results that I have from doing good work in my life that are the reward, not some external thing, not a glass of wine, not a piece of chocolate, nothing else is the reward. It’s the results that I have in my life, that are the reward when you change your view to that. That’s how change becomes long term and sustainable. One of my goals with my drinking habit was to become much more data, not drama driven, and becoming much more neutral, a scientific observer of my thoughts, my feelings and my actions. That’s how I was able to challenge and challenge my old thinking and practice new beliefs. Right? So again, becoming much more neutral, no, good, bad, right? Wrong. And just letting the data speak, be data, right? We don’t have to apply judgment to it. The third thing I needed to stop doing was to stop hacking away. Now this is gonna seem odd, but I needed to stop taking away my most tested coping strategy without having a skill set in place who cope with stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. This was really the big difference in why I was successful in changing my drinking habits. When I did, I finally understood that cutting back on my drinking abstaining from alcohol, focusing on the action of drinking was never going to create sustainable change. Learning the behavior map results cycle and applying it to my life. That was the skill set I had not had before. And why trying to change my drinking before never stuck. For decades, drinking was my go to, for solving negative emotions. I believed I needed to drink every day to solve my feelings of stress. It was my coping mechanism. And before when I tried to abstain, take breaks or simply control and restrict my drink my drinking, I was 100% focused on the action without any thought to how I was going to cope with my emotions, if I took that coping mechanism away. It’s also why I had so many conflicting thoughts about alcohol, right? It’s why in the morning, I would feel convicted, I decided I wasn’t going to drink that day. And then as the day would wear on stress with build up, I simply listened to my brain as it began to tell me, you need to drink to feel better. A beer will help you take the edge off. Beer is what helps you relax. And before I knew it, the plan I made in the morning was forgotten and I was pouring my nightly drinks. The thing is all of those thoughts about needing a drink that that wasn’t conscious. That was I wasn’t conscious of my thinking because I had committed drinking to the habit part of my brain. So when I felt my daily stress starting to build up throughout the day, my brain started throwing out those thoughts automatically and I acted in default. I had done the same thing for years. And even though I wanted to change my drinking habits, I also didn’t want to feel stressed. And I believed alcohol helped me relax. So if the trade off was either drinking alcohol or feeling stressed out, I chose drinking alcohol even though intellectually I also wanted to change that habit. I had no strategy in place for dealing with my stress. And therefore removing my coping Enos mechanism didn’t work out very well. Right? In at least not in terms of changing my long term relationship with alcohol. So the behavior map results cycle did a few things for me. Number one, it helped me understand how my brain worked, and specifically how the habit was working in my life. It helped me understand how the different areas of the brain that were involved were working and how I had trained my brain to use alcohol as a way to relieve stress, and how over time, and with repetition, it had become a habit that was largely unconscious. Number two, the BMRC taught me the connection between my thoughts, my feelings and my actions. Once I understood how much agency I had in my life to create the life I wanted, and to change the feeling of desire that I had for alcohol. That was something that once I learned it couldn’t unlearn it. Every time I caught myself thinking a thought that fueled desire, we would get so excited, like, Oh, it worked. I could see it, I could, I could see what was happening. I could feel what was happening. And I started believing that in my own ability to just change how I was change everything by changing my thoughts. I saw the connection. Number three, mastering the BMRC allowed me to change the narrative on my life. Instead of being fueled by dramatic thinking and feeling at the effect of the circumstances in my life, I started changing my thoughts around challenging circumstances. And I began to feel less stressed out all the time. Or when I did feel stress, I could still see where the feeling was coming from. By finding and separating out my thoughts from the circumstances of my life. I felt more emotionally resilient. And I felt empowered to create the feeling of relaxation with my own thinking. Now, I still recognized and I still recognize now that there were things I could do in the short run when my brain seemed to be going into overdrive and feeling all the feelings right? We all have those moments when we’re feeling overwhelmed and we’re just feeling the brains going really crazy, right lots and lots of thoughts. But drinking alcohol didn’t daily didn’t line with my long term goals. And there were other things that I could do daily that did align, right, like going for a walk, getting by morning light, taking a bath, listening to an audio book, these are things that helped me help my brain slow down, helped me feel less stressed right. Now, if you’re still trying to grit your way through habit change, I want you to ask yourself, if you need to stop doing any of these three things. Do you need to stop overwhelming yourself and making change harder? Because you’re not willing to meet yourself where you’re at and take small steps? Are you making chart change harder than it needs to be? Do you still have a lot of beliefs around alcohol that sound like moral judgments? Is alcohol still a reward for your brain? Is your drinking either good or bad? We want to move into a more neutral position with alcohol, ie a clinical observer, not a prosecutor and not a defense attorney. And lastly, do you have a different tactic ready to go for replacing your go to coping mechanism? If you are finding that your brain seems to hold on to two competing thoughts about alcohol, I want to drink less. But I also believe drinking helps me feel better. So I also want to drink then figuring out this behavior map results cycle and how to use it to solve for your emotions is the key. I hope that these three episodes have been helpful for you. I would love to help you more if you need it. If you’d like to get some help with your drinking then I invite you to check out step one, this month, April 2023. Coming up is the last month to get one on one coaching included with your enrollment fee. And when I opened my new program in May, all of my step one students will be automatically enrolled into it. One thing that makes my program so different is that you have lifetime access to the course materials as well as group coaching every month all for one payment. There are no ongoing monthly fees, but you still get ongoing support. You can learn more over at www dot Molly watts.com/step one all right, my friends. I hope wherever you are, it is warm, it is sunny. It is beautiful. And until next time, choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com