EP #120

Is Sobriety Easier than Moderating Alcohol?

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In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist podcast, Molly shares insights from her hybrid online course and coaching program, highlighting the inclusion of ongoing group coaching at no extra charge for Step One participants. The discussion delves into the complexities of self-diagnosis, challenging prevailing notions around moderation and abstinence. Molly references the DSM-5 criteria for alcohol use disorder and recommends the book “The Abstinence Myth” by Dr. Addy Jaffe. She explores the societal pressure to appear successful in recovery programs and debunks inflated success rates, emphasizing the importance of honesty in the recovery journey. Molly also advocates for the mindful drinking app Sunnyside as a valuable tool for building healthier drinking habits. The episode concludes with a focus on the power of thoughts and feelings in shaping actions and results, encouraging listeners to challenge unconscious beliefs and take steps toward a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Molly’s approach balances moderation and minimalism, acknowledging the individuality of each person’s journey.

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 prizes, 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 am 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 used 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. Well, hello, and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast. With me your host Molly Watts coming to you from well, I have news for you folks. It is raining in Oregon. That’s not really anything new or newsworthy. But I heard today on The Real News as I was getting ready to jump on this podcast that since March, we have had 81% of the days here in Oregon have been colder than average, colder than average 81% of our days colder than average over the last two months, including right now. And for those of you who are longtime listeners or listeners at any rate, you may remember that I’ve been without a furnace. And I still am without a furnace. And yes, that’s right. end of April, well, middle of April, middle end of April. And I am experiencing 30 degree days here at the start to the day. And they’re only ending up in the high 40s. And we have no furnace. That’s how I feel about it. Anyway, on to the show. It is April. Even though you might not know it from the temperatures around here. It is April and April is Alcohol Awareness Month. And this episode is dropping on April 19. You have 11 more days to sign up for step one and get the 50 minute one on one coaching session that comes with it included with your one time investment. You’ve heard me talk about step one before on the podcast. And I’ve been working with students now since September in my hybrid online course and coaching program. And it’s really been fantastic. My new program starting in May, is really just the next evolution of step one, it’s getting a little bigger and better. And what I’ve promised all along is true. If you’ve invested in step one, you will automatically be enrolled in the new program, no extra charge no ongoing subscription fees, which is pretty much unheard of for a program that includes ongoing group coaching. You pay once and you have access to the course to group coaching. And right now you still get a one on one coaching session with me all for less than $300. For more information please go to www dot Molly watts.com/step One and by the way, that’s Molly with a why watts with an s.com. On to the show. Before I get started I want to remind everyone that listens to this podcast that this podcast is not intended for anyone who identify themselves as having severe alcohol use disorder. If you you have any question about your alcohol use and want to explore the definitions of mild, moderate and severe alcohol use disorder. I am including a link to the NIA A’s self diagnosing tool in the show notes this week. So please check that out if you are curious or concerned about your alcohol use. This week’s topic is related to an episode. That’s episode 61 backup, which I did. And I will also link that in the show notes that I did last year. Not not kind of around this time. But it’s a little bit different. And it’s a question that I’ve heard, asked pondered, commented on shared countless times in groups that I see on Facebook like moderation management’s Facebook group, other parts that I other groups that I’m a part of like the mindful drinkers. One that’s called Drink less live more for women, the the hams group, the harm reduction groups. And this this comment this, this idea, this question is, is posed many times, and I’ve seen it many times over the last few years, and it’s this is being sober, easier, or being alcohol free, easier than moderating. Most often what I hear in these circles is something along the lines of I can easily stick to being alcohol free for days, weeks, or even months. But when I try to moderate, I just can’t seem to do it. In fact, in recovery circles, the question of whether or not it’s possible to drink alcohol, after recovering from physical dependence remains a hotly contested and divided question. I believe that’s where some of the mindset around whether moderating or sobriety is easier comes from because recovery programs are almost exclusively 100%. abstinence based, with AAA being the most recognizable and entrenched in our collective thinking. And the messaging from AAA is very clear that the goal is abstinence. And if you drink you have relapsed and you are starting over at day one, there is no it’s not possible for you to drink in on an on an AAA path. The very measure of success for recovery programs is all about abstinence, right? We literally talk about success as being abstinent from the substance. So how could we ever allow alcohol to be a part of recovery? Now, if you haven’t read it yet? I highly recommend the book the abstinence myth, by Dr. Addy Jaffe. I also interviewed Dr. Jaffe here on the podcast back in episode number 21. And I will link that in the show notes as well. Lots of links this week. And the book does a fantastic job of articulating how this long storied focus on abstinence as being the only answer to addiction stops us from providing real solutions to addiction. And essentially also illustrates where I believe some of this mindset around moderating versus sobriety comes from. And yes, I’m using the verses very deliberately because I think the idea that sobriety is easier than moderation has its roots in that black and white thinking that underscores the recovery industry. I want you to consider that. How much of what you believe about how easy it is to moderate comes from these unchallenged ideas from the recovery industry. This is a quote from the book the abstinence myth. We have bought into the collective belief that abstinence is the only cure abstinence now forever and completely. The addiction recovery industrial complex measures success in treatment by the percentage of clients abstinent, a month, six months or a year after treatment. As if this single singular yardstick is the be all and end all of success. And success rates are dismal. Depending on what studies you believe and what population you pay attention to. Current treatment success rates are between 10 and 35%. Not exactly something to brag about, and no better than the rate of improvement among those who don’t enter treatment. This the sort of success rates you hear in marketing materials for the biggest treatment organizations are essentially pure fiction. Programs regularly tout 70% success rates and higher with no scientific rigor behind them in no transparency, but it’s more than unsubstantiated claims. Research studies have repeatedly shown that a substantial portion of participants in these studies actually lie about their abstinence. Numerous studies have shown that when comparing self reported substance use to biological tests, such as breathalyzer or drug tests, people substantially under report their use. One recent study found that while 97% of participants actually consumed alcohol, as measured by an ankle sweat monitor, only 30 to 40% reported doing so. This shows us that in reality, nearly all treatment participants drink during treatment, and the vast majority lie about it when asked even when they know they’re being monitored. The social pressure of having to look good means that many people aren’t honest about their slips. We have created a system where people can’t be honest with their suppose it helpers. And that sets up a terrible starting place for a therapeutic relationship. That was a quote unquote, from the abstinence myth. This, again, isn’t a recovery conversation. This isn’t a recovery podcast. And when I’m talking about it being easier to be sober, versus moderating, moderating. I think we need to acknowledge that some of our beliefs about our individual ability to successfully moderate are fueled by long standing thoughts we have really had programmed into our subconscious, surrounding what success might look like, and what we likely still believe about alcohol, and what we are seeking in the glass. This is really where we are headed with this question of what’s easier. When it comes down to it. I believe that the answer to whether sobriety or moderation is easier for you. Depends on your answer to the following question. Are you drinking to get drunk? Honestly, that question might seem funny to some of you. In fact, in a recent post in the mm group, someone made the comment. Don’t we all drink to feel the effects of alcohol? Is that the not not the same thing as getting drunk? And as an alcohol minimalist? I think that’s where I would have to say no, it’s actually not the same for me. I don’t drink alcohol to get drunk. Now I used to, but I don’t anymore. 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. I do drink to feel the effects of alcohol quote on quote unquote that I enjoy. But those effects are limited and both from a scientific level in terms of neuro chemistry. And from my own experience with alcohol as I have reduced how much I drink and how often I include alcohol in my life. I’m aware of the of the limits my own personal limits. And the thing of it is, I absolutely believe that for me being an alcohol minimalist is easier than complete abstinence. And that is because I just don’t see alcohol as an answer for changing how I feel. But I also don’t want to have to make an a line in the sand for me personally if I have to put a line in the sand and ultimatum and tell myself I’ll never have another drink ever. That doesn’t feel easy. at all, and I don’t want to write. So this is where my practice as an alcohol minimalist is much more aligned with sober living. However, the difference is that many sober only communities will tell you that the only way to achieve peace is through abstinence. Whereas I would say that peace is available to you with alcohol free living, and it’s also available to you with my form of moderation or minimalism. And any type of moderation if you you know, if you are peaceful with the way that you’re including alcohol in your life, that’s the way to do it. That’s the way that that is the answer. The truth is changing a long standing habit of any kind, requires attention, you have to be able to see your own thinking and how it’s fueling your feelings, including the feeling of desire to drink, which is what a craving or an urge is, as well as what feelings are there to motivate you to change. Both your thoughts and your feelings dictate your actions which determine the results that you have in your life. Whether you want that result to be sobriety or moderation. Either one can be easy, if you do the work to understand why you are over drinking, and what you believe alcohol is doing for you. For many people, moderation goes something like this, they try to, quote unquote, be good during the week, and either not have any alcohol at all, or restrict themselves to a couple of beers in the evening. The problem that is that instead of changing their thinking around alcohol, they keep thinking thoughts that create feelings of deprivation, they still want to get drunk to escape to buffer and numb themselves with alcohol. And they live with these self imposed rules that feel exhausting. This is when and why moderation can seem or feel harder. But what I find interesting in sober circles is that they make that may make it seem like removing the decision to drink is the answer. The actual answer is to learn and understand that you can do all the fun things without over drinking. And you can gain skills and strength to cope with the bad moments in life. Without over drinking. Life goes on my friends. And quitting drinking altogether, doesn’t suddenly make everything a walk in the park. For me, moderating alcohol in my life is easy. Because I don’t desire to over drink and to get drunk. I don’t see alcohol as a way of changing how I feel. I don’t need to drink. But when I consider the idea of never enjoying a glass of wine or an ice cold IPA, again, it doesn’t sound easy at all. It sounds like some sort of ultimatum and I that I’d be giving myself and that actually feels really disempowering. Now I’ve done the work. And I’ve figured out the thoughts that I had that fueled the habit, unconsciously, for decades. And I’ve I’ve examined those thoughts, I’ve brought them into my conscious, I’ve figured out what thoughts I want to focus on that create a feeling of motivation competence piece, in terms of how I want to include alcohol in my life. And I 100% believe that everyone here is capable of doing that very same thing. I believe that making the decision and commitment to manage my mind is what took courage. And that’s the same courage, whether you’re completely alcohol free, or an alcohol, minimalist or some other form of moderating, learning that I was capable of handling challenging emotions, that I could create feelings intentionally becoming a better thinker is what made changing my relationship with alcohol possible. And ultimately, if you’re drunk, you can’t really think too clearly right? Is there a place for alcohol in your life if you’re not looking to get drunk? I would say that for me, the answer is yes, I can include alcohol in a minimal way I can enjoy one to two drinks or on one to two days per week and not be battling a desire to have more. It’s actually the opposite. I really truly have no desire to over drink. Are there times when I’ve had two drinks that my lower brain throws out the idea that a third drink sounds like a good idea. And I have to engage my higher brain to say, Yeah, that’s actually not a good idea. And having a third drink is One of those things that sounds good in the moment, but you don’t enjoy on the following day. Yes, that happens. But it’s not a problem. It’s definitely not exhausting. And because my thoughts are always, you know, are always something else that like this that are like, I’ve got this, and I’m the one who’s in control, I feel empowered. Now, some of you are undoubtedly saying, but what if you did decide to have the third drink? That’s what I do. And then Then what else happens? For me, it certainly isn’t that I suddenly cross some threshold when I go from a secondary to a third drink to drunkenness, and the wheels just come off. I pay attention to how I’m feeling. I’ve talked about this numerous times on the podcast, every time I you drink, it’s a dynamic event, right? It doesn’t it’s not the same just because you had two drinks last night or wondering or for doesn’t matter. What you show up for today is going to feel different based on how you sleep, how you what you’re eating, you know how old you are, how big you are with your guy, girl, all of it, it matters, right? And I pay attention to how I’m feeling. And when I’ve added that third drink, it typically results in disrupted sleep. And the next day, I feel some of that anxiety. I don’t beat myself up when I do choose to have a third drink. I collect data for the next time. And over time, as my thoughts about that third drink have changed, there have become less and less times that a third drink wins that moment, and it becomes easier. I think this is what that is what I will leave off with the thoughts we have the stories we believe they are what determines easy in our lives. Alcohol is no different than any other habit that doesn’t serve you. At least for most of us. There are a small percentage of excessive drinkers who have developed a physical dependence on alcohol. But if that is you, then please seek appropriate medical help. For the rest of you who are drinking more than you want to. Don’t let the question of whether moderating or sobriety is easier, keep you from taking action. If you’re wanting to feel the feeling of being drunk, then ask yourself why. If you step back and take a look at your overall life, what other areas of your life feel like a struggle. Think of your education, your career, your health, your life, your family, your your creativity, write things down about things that are you know struggles for you uncover these unconscious feelings, these feelings that you’re trying to get away from and you’re trying to buffer or numb away from. Get them out of your head where you can see them. And, and honestly, that will be the beginning of helping you feel better. And when you feel better. When you might meant when you’re a better thinker. When you manage your mind better, you have less desire to over drink in the first place. decide to take the action of seeing each thought that you have as optional. Ask yourself what else is true? What thoughts are available to me to help me feel better in this moment. When we feel better, drinking less or not drinking at all, whichever we choose will be easier. As a reminder before I go if you work in health care, I’d like you to invite you to join the freedom summit for medical professionals, where experts, experts share secrets to navigate stress, beat exhaustion and focus on what matters most. It’s a virtual summit happening from May 1 through May 11. Each day for 10 days, you will receive two short 30 minute interview videos in your inbox that will help you break the stress cycle and gain peace and I of course am one of those experts. You Will discover The number one reason medical professionals function in survival mode. The best way to regain joy in your career and life. And some straight talk about burnout and how it stops you in your tracks. You can register by clicking on the link in the show notes. If you have questions about this, you can also email me Molly at Molly watts.com. Again, it’s a free summit completely virtual and free. And you can if you if you know a medical professional who might benefit from that, please feel free to share that as well. All right, my friends. Here’s the good news. When you hear from me next, I will have been to Hawaii. I am escaping this cold, rainy, wet state and I’m getting some sunshine. Until next time, my friend and 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