EP #150

Change How You Think, Change How You Drink: Molly Watts on the Brain Shaman Podcast

alcoholic minimalist podcast

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On the Brain Shaman podcast, Molly Watts shares her personal journey of overcoming family alcohol abuse and forging a healthier relationship with alcohol. She discusses the patterns of overconsumption during holidays like Thanksgiving, emphasizing the importance of understanding the neuroscience behind drinking behaviors. Offering resources for mindful drinking and advocating for a non-AA approach to alcohol moderation, Watts challenges traditional narratives and promotes understanding the root causes of overdrinking. Delving into the effects of alcohol on the brain and addiction, she highlights the necessity of mindfulness in managing cravings and reshaping thought patterns. With insights into brain health, consciousness, and addiction, the episode provides a comprehensive exploration of changing habits and achieving personal growth through intention and self-awareness.

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 habits. 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, it’s been a pretty decent Oregon. It’s a little bit cold, a little bit cloudy, but it hasn’t rained that much today. And for November, we’re going to take that we’re going to take it and when I look ahead. It’s kind of every other day or so there’s rain, but there’s a few days that are very sunny and bright. And those are the ones I really look forward to. Especially during this time of year. It’s cold, but it’s not. Those cold clear days. Those are the best. Hey, how are you doing? How is no binge November going for you? I hope it’s going well. I’m doing a special episode next week, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. One that I hope will be kind of an episode that you keep on repeat or that we drop it again every year the night before Thanksgiving. Because I think that there’s so much that comes up. For those of you that have listened for a while you know that I have some stories around Thanksgiving myself. But the idea of over consuming and over drinking and no binge kind of idea. I think that overdrinking follows very similar patterns to overeating for many people. And that’s kind of what I’m going to dig into next week. Looking forward to delivering that episode, I think you’re really going to love it. This week’s episode before we get to it, I am actually sharing it from another podcast that I was a guest on. And Michael Wait, who is the host of the brain shaman podcast, a rather new upcoming podcast when I did it. And I’m always happy to be on shows and to support podcasters who are just getting started and our conversation really, we’ve I really enjoyed it. And it took some twists, and some turns that I don’t normally go on here on the show, but a lot to do with brain health and with kind of the triune brain model that I typically favor in the work that I do and philosophy and science and all of it and I really think that there’s some some great kernels for you to to hear from this conversation and I hope you’ll get a lot out of it. So before we get to that, though, I do have just a bit of housekeeping. First and foremost, I’ve got a couple of prize winners. So if you would like to be entered into the drawing for some alcohol, minimalist swag, all you got to do is leave a review of this podcast or of my book breaking the bottle legacy wherever you listen to podcasts, or wherever you’ve read the book, and I will find you and enter you into the random drawing. Now the random drawing includes comments from Spotify comments from YouTube Good Reads Amazon, Apple books, you name it. I like I said I will find you and I enter you into that. And the random prize winner each week is just that it is selected at random. This week’s winner is at Matthew W. Walsh. 974 You left a comment on YouTube. I appreciate that. And at Matthew Walsh nine seven before I think I don’t think there’s an extra W in there. If that’s you then please email me Molly at Molly watts.com and I will snail mail you out some alcohol minimalist swag. The other way that you can be entered into winning some alcohol minimalist swag is to get selected as the chosen winner based on your review. And this person just recently started listening to the pod cast and left this really great review which I so appreciate because to get people to actually leave reviews is really hard work. I don’t know why because people tell me all the time how much they love the show. They say it in comments to me they say it and emails to me. But yet I don’t have as many reviews as would make it really great for especially for people looking for this type of content. That’s really how Apple and who’s the biggest podcast player prioritizes who they show, right and so if you’d like to leave a review, please do but this person who I love also their nickname, which is all nicknames are taken. So all nicknames are taken. If that is you please email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And I will mail you out your alcohol minimalist swag. And here is what all nicknames are taken says. I love listening to podcasts at the gym. It’s my jam. I feel like I’m getting a two in one, a body workout and a mental one. I discovered this podcast over the weekend and this morning my mind was blown. I use self coaching to help guide me to positive lifestyle changes. I’ve been looking at helping create a healthier happier me. After this morning’s workout and podcast, I went home and immediately downloaded the Sunnyside app to help track my drinking. I already tracked my workouts and meals and never thought to track the nightly love affair I have with Pinot Noir. It was so easy to ignore and or drink alcohol when I was pregnant with my kiddos. So why should I not have the same respect for my body now that I’m older and not pregnant, I am so inspired and can’t wait to add this podcast to my health and fitness routine. My goal is eventually get to a place where I can enjoy two to four glasses a week, instead of two to four a day. All nicknames are taken, I so appreciate you leaving that kind of review. And I totally agree with you. Why not treat alcohol just like the other habits that we choose to track that we choose to be mindful with that we choose to care about. Right. So I appreciate you taking the time to write their review. Please email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And I will send you out your alcohol minimalist swag. Before I get to this interview, I want to share one more thing. And that is just a couple of free resources that are available to you that you might not be aware of, especially if you’re newer here. You can find them both at my website, www dot Molly watts.com. The first one is podcast listening guide, you go to www dot Molly watts.com/guide. And there are 15 Kind of curated episodes that will help you just navigate pretty deep catalogue of episodes and help you really kind of get a jumpstart on what this alcohol minimalist life is all about. The second one is alcohol truths, how much is safe. And that is my ebook that I’ve had for a few years now. And it’s just a really valuable resource gives a lot of scientific information gives a lot of risk reward kind of analysis for you to work on. And really to help you understand, from a scientific perspective, the truth of how much is actually safe, right? And Hint, hint, the answer is that the safest amount is zero, which I say all the time on the show. But there’s ways to include alcohol in your life in a minimal way. And if you accept the low level of risk that is associated with it, then that’s kind of what we do around here. Anyways, go pick up one of those resources. If you haven’t already. You can find them at www dot Molly watts.com, as I said, and I hope they serve you well. All right. This again is my conversation with Michael wait on the brain shaman podcast. I hope you enjoy. Make it a great week, everyone and I will see you next time. Okay, so you help people kind of rebuild their relationship with alcohol. Definitely. I think that I use the term to rewire people’s kind of neural pathways regarding alcohol to recreate, reimagine and rebuild a different or change their relationship with alcohol. I typically say help people create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. And it’s not like the typical path that I hear usually, there’s just a path or just cold turkey stop it. Yours seems to be a bit different. So can you explain that? Yeah, absolutely. So that narrative that a narrative really is something that is historically what has always been the path for people that who are when somebody identifies or says, you know that I’m having trouble with my with my drinking habits or, or I have a drinking problem. That’s kind of the vernacular that people use, right? Aaa, and abstinence based programs are really what people think of when they think of how to how to fix it, that’s, that’s just the answer, the answer is stop drinking, and then you will be fixed. But in reality, we are really not drinking, you know, it isn’t about the amount that we’re drinking, if we’re not somebody that’s physically dependent, and I don’t really work with people who are physically dependent, but for people that are drinking more than they want to, it isn’t so much about what they’re drinking, how much they’re drinking, but why they’re drinking in the first place. And for many people, it’s just a habit pattern that they’ve established, and a coping mechanism, much like other coping mechanisms, but alcohol is kind of a different, a different, historical, bad rap. And there’s reasons for that. And it is because they’re, you know, we’re, we’re misled about alcohol in both directions, not only from the recovery industry, but in terms of the advertising industry, and things that we’re promoting the way that we promote alcohol is also inaccurate. And so there’s a lot of miscommunication around alcohol. And I guess that’s where I come at it from is just kind of helping people understand the trade offs that they’re willing to make, positive and negative, and that they can absolutely change their relationship with alcohol, which definitely goes against everything that has ever been taught by AAA, which is that kind of it’s like you’re powerless. Alcohol has all the power and you are powerless. And I definitely work with people in a totally different way. Right? So we’ve been told that alcohol is like this demon, this devil that we should never dance with. If you dance with it, then you’ll get sucked in, and you have no control over it. And I guess what you’re saying is, while yes, alcohol does have a physical and psychological effect on us, we do have the power to live with it to some extent that there’s there’s a middle ground between sobriety and alcohol addiction or whatever. Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s, I think that there’s a big, there’s a lot of misunderstandings around alcohol period. And so whether or not someone is drinking alcohol, and they believe that they are just a normal drinker, right, they could be someone who’s actually, by definition, a heavy drinker, and they just don’t really know, we don’t, we aren’t taught a lot other than if you are someone who has a drinking problem, you’re, you know, you’re passed out on a bench somewhere, with, you know, a paper bag beside you, right? I mean, these are the images that people have, you’re, you’re someone that needs a recovery program, there’s a lot of gray area, and there’s actually a term called gray area drinking, and that’s for people who are drinking past limits, that would be considered to be low risk, and who are worried about their alcohol use, but still keep drinking, they drink more than they kind of want to, and they find it hard to change that habit, but they also don’t like they can never, they would never raise their hand and say I’m an alcoholic because of the this imaginary that they have in their minds of what having a drinking problem looks like. And I don’t even like to use the word. I mean, that’s again, I think that if we look at alcohol, and we we look at it as the same way that we look at other things in our lives, that maybe we’ve developed a coping mechanism around some people, you know, overeat, some people overspend some people play games, over game, some people gamble. Some people have addictions that are, you know, maybe their exercise based, right. We have to look at it habit and decide whether or not that habit serves us. And if the habit is still doing what we want it to do. In my case, for me, when I realized that my drinking habits were causing me more anxiety than this long held story and belief that I had that I needed to drink to relax and unwind. And it was kind of an oxymoron, didn’t really make sense that I was drinking, to relax and unwind, but my drinking was causing me all sorts of anxiety. Right? And I thought that it was just because of the fact that I grew up with an alcoholic parent, and that I had a lot of ideas about it. genetics being genetically predisposed. But in the end, what it ended up being what actually is true and what I learned and how I eventually changed my relationship with alcohol was getting educated on some of the neuroscience behind alcohol and understanding what was actually happening in my brain. And once I realized that I was like, Oh, so this whole idea that I’ve had where I believed that alcohol, was helping me relax and unwind, actually wasn’t even true. The amount that I was drinking was causing me a rebound effect in my brain that actually increased my feelings of stress and anxiety. So what does happen in the brain when we drink alcohol? And that’s kind of a big topic, actually. There’s a first drink, even before that is like craving to drink. And then there’s like 20 drinks and just go as deep or far as you would like to go with that. Yeah, so I mean, that’s one of the things about right, so. So alcohol is like the most widely used non prescription drug in the at least in the United States, and probably in the world. And it it affects our brains immediately, like 30 seconds after we start drinking. It affects our our brain chemistry. And what’s interesting about alcohol is it’s got so many different effects, and it affects different areas of the brain, brain in different ways and different neurotransmitters, the two main neurotransmitters of the brain, GABA and glutamate. So GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, which what that means is basically it’s responsible for turning the brain off or slowing it down. And glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter responsible for basically turning the brain on. So GABA and glutamate exist in this very, you know, symbiotic relationship there, when when GABA goes up, glutamate goes down and vice versa. And they kind of are always looking for homeostasis, they’re always looking to be in balance. And alcohol increases the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, and it decreases glutamate. So it basically like that’s what gives us that that euphoric, relaxed feeling that we get when we have when we have our first drinks. The problem or the conundrum with alcohol is that we chase that effect. But unfortunately, in the brain, it is a biphasic effect, which means that the more alcohol that we consume, it does not turn out that those euphoric feelings continue. We get, we basically pass a blood alcohol content level of 0.055% pretty quickly. Like you said, 20 drinks. No, no, no, we’re we’re, you know, we’re way before that, like, basically one to two drinks. Some people do it, you know, I’ve seen these guys. Let me see this, like 20 year olds are like chugging bottles of whiskey. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, but they’re drinking, they’re drinking stuff. They’re drinking way beyond what is. So what I say is there’s, if you look at alcohol as a drug as a chemical, right, so it’s a drug, there is a therapeutic level of alcohol, that level is basically have a blood alcohol content of 0.055% or less, and to reach 0.055% of blood alcohol content. That does not take very long for most humans. So for most women, that’s going to be like one to two drinks. For most men, that’d be max two to three. And I say most and Max, because honestly, and I say it all the time on my show. Drinking alcohol is like kind of like your own personal petri dish every time you drink. It’s like your own personal science experiment. Because how much you’ve eaten, how tired you are, whether you’re a guy, whether you’re a girl, whether you are, how old you are, how fit you are, how warm it is outside, all of these things come into our own chemical and metabolic reaction to alcohol. So but no matter what the bottom line is that therapeutic effect is very limited, and basically very low. So no matter what you’re drinking, if you’re once you get past that once you get past that once you get past n up to like the the legal limit here in Oregon is 0.08%. Once you get above that, all positive benefits are gone. And you’re just cascading down the downside of all the negative consequences that come from a higher blood alcohol content. And that’s that’s the thing with alcohol. It is there is no scenario where over drinking Seeing is actually going to be good for us, or good for our brains. Okay, but there are some cases where being a little bit buzzed, just like wondering, can does that have some benefits? Or is that also something we should avoid? Well, I think that you can make a case for it is what I would say. I mean, there’s there is if you look at the blood alcohol chemistry that people enjoy, right? So if you I mean, just from a sheer allegorical from people talking and what they share, people enjoy that relaxed, uninhibited. The feeling of having those chemical neurotransmitters you know, depressed, or the the way that so we call alcohol, a depressant, right? So basically, that relaxed kind of euphoric feeling that you get in the very early stages of your blood alcohol content going from zero to 0.055%. That I could tell you is therapeutic is beneficial is I mean, not beneficial, beneficial, will be the wrong way to put it. It it achieves what people are looking for. Adaptive are something temporary solution to something at least Yeah, well, it. Yeah, exactly. It gets you what you’re looking for, right, it gets it does create this euphoric, relaxed, open feeling in the brain, and people enjoy that. The trade off is that again, you can’t, you can’t change that, that that’s it, that’s the only time that it exists is going from zero to zero, you know, from your blood alcohol content from zero to 0.55%. So after you have that, that initial, good euphoric feeling, if you keep drinking, which is what people tend to do, your chasing that continued buzz, but it’s, it’s pretty much not possible, you will go past the 0.055, you’ll go past that blood alcohol content, and all the negative consequences will start to pile up, right, because it might be nice to use that GABA to sort of kind of kind of shuts down parts of our parts of our brain, for example, we’re living in this society, in this world where we’re kind of hyper rational, and we’re thinking too much, and we’re always busy, busy, busy and stuff. So if we can turn down that prefrontal cortex with the GABA, that’s useful, but then if you keep drinking, that GABA basically starts working his magic on all the other parts of your brain, and now you’re stumbling over and falling and you’re raging around and getting crazy, and maybe even, you know, dying or something. Well, yeah, you can, eventually you’ll eventually lose consciousness and die. Yeah, alcohol is kind of tempting, because it allows us to quickly snap out of our state of being that we are in right now. And whether that’s we’re anxious or stressed, alcohol could kind of bring us back and give us a bit of dopamine. But if when we were, our life is too perfect and too orderly, we’re bored, it can also give us a bit of dopamine and excite us, maybe we don’t have friendships, we are socially isolated for a bit. So it gives us oxytocin and serotonin by connecting with other people actually touching each other in the bar and stuff and laughing and all these things, you know, in our normal life, we’re kind of stuck in this sort of predictable way of being so like, orderly, or it’s predictable. There were rules to things and we kind of follow these rules. And alcohol could kind of like, bring us out of that, even for example of it. A lot of cultures, we’re kind of told not to express our emotions, or to release our anger and Our fear and our sadness, and all of that. And alcohol even, like, lets you scream and laugh and all these other things. So I’m throwing a lot out here right now. But it’s just like, cool, because like, I mean, it’s tempting, because it it is one way to sort of take us away from ourselves and bring us into the land of all those things that we are currently missing. And of course, there’s a rebound effect, that GABA sort of shifts over and now it becomes too much glutamate, the dopamine gets crashing down the next day and you get a hangover. So there’s a sort of payback to it all. But in the short term, it makes sense why people drink? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that that’s the, and what I what I help people see is that there’s other ways, I mean, it’s a transitory and temporary thing. But there are other ways to help us feel better. And that has to do with changing how we actually direct our brains and how we manage our minds. And I believe in cognitive behavioral kind of therapy techniques that really are all about creating the feelings. And when you realize that when you realize that the long game or the the trade offs that I’m making with alcohol really aren’t giving me what I want and what I really want is to feel better. I want to feel more relaxed, I want to feel less stressed out I want to feel connected to people. And to do that, I’d be better off creating, having, you know, different tactics and different ways that helped me call my brain that, just like you said, we’re over, you know, we’re overrun in this world that we live in these days were way too busy, we’re way too. Our brains are way too active. We’re inundated with messages and imagery. And all you know a lot, our brains have a lot to sift through. And our attention is constantly being battled for. And it takes work, it takes intention to manage your mind and to be a better thinker. But that is work that is really valuable. And when you do that, then you don’t really need and feel like you want to escape your own brain all the time. Right. And that I think is the better is kind of what ultimately, we got to do. That’s, I think, also what separates what I do and how I work with people. Because we’re not just talking about focusing on changing the action of drinking, we’re focused on actually working on our brains and becoming better thinkers. How do we become better thinkers? That’s, I mean, it makes sense. Of course, ideally, we can become better thinkers. But that’s kind of a chicken in the egg thing. How, how do you become a better thinker, because like, the prefrontal cortex is kind of controlled by the body in the past, and the neural circuits and all that. So it’s like, kind of like, you have to sort of change it bottom up, to change the top. But also, like you’re saying, you can work from the top down. Right, but there’s like a weird connection between the two. And I guess, yeah, where do you start? Well, I think that that’s kind of what you’re so first of all, it’s, for me, it’s about teaching people to become aware of some of that unconscious thinking, right. And some of that, that lower level brain that lower brain activity in the stuff that’s driven by our, our earlier, more primitive brain parts, that tend to be reactionary and tend to be more like our the mammalian brain, where it’s, it’s much more focused on survival, right. And that’s if we understand the different the ways that our brain works, and how our brain did evolve, and continue to evolve and develop a prefrontal cortex, which is where all of our higher thinking exists. Human beings I talk about all the time, you know, the beautiful, our beautiful, brilliant human brains, it’s because human beings, we’re the only we’re the only species that are known to be able to think about our thinking, right? We it’s Medicago, it’s called metacognition. And it’s, we’re actually able to observe our own thoughts. And that’s where it starts, you got to catch yourself, you got to catch some of those unconscious stories, you got to start working, writing them down, right, I talked about, I mean, visual thoughts. So you want to get them written down on paper, you got to kind of do a brain download. So you kind of just sometimes you’ll, you’re completely unaware that you’re even those thoughts exist. But then as you become more aware of them, you can catch yourself in that unconscious moment. And challenge, that unconscious thinking that’s driving some of your unintentional or habituated actions. If you want to change those habit actions, you got to, you got to work backwards to the thoughts that are driving it. And they don’t just happen in a vacuum, the actions don’t just happen, they happen. Because of, of the way that we are responding to thoughts. Typically, a lot of them are unconscious in the beginning, but you can, you know, with, with, with practice with intention with focus, then you can uncover some of that unconscious thinking and bring it into the conscious and start to decide and direct your brain. I talk a lot about intentional thoughts, right and creating new beliefs by focusing my attention on what I want to practice thinking. And it isn’t always easy. Sometimes my brain wants to go back to old stories. And I literally have to catch it and say, oh, yeah, Hold on. Wait. That’s old Molly thinking, that kind of thinking is that is the thing that just keeps me stuck. Yeah, so like animals, other animals don’t have as big of this? Or do they simply don’t have this neocortex that allows them to plan and think and do things intentionally. They don’t have this sort of like freewill that we seem to have. But we all do, we do still have those primitive more primitive brain structures, the overall nervous system and the limbic system and all of that the other animals share especially than other mammals. We do have this prefrontal cortex but we don’t have it activated fully, or fully functioning at all times throughout the day. Are all times throughout our life, we use things like sugar, or certain technologies, and maybe just the lack of sleep, lack of sunlight, different things that might kind of tamper down the power of this human brain of ours. So in a way, we’ve kind of, I feel, we have to find those times of day or find ways to sort of power up our neocortex. Because if we’re running on this, like low battery, human brain, then it’s gonna be really, really hard to do things consciously, we’re going to just become an animal and just do things unconsciously. So I guess the question is, how do we strengthen our prefrontal cortex? Because it’s just because you’re human doesn’t mean? Yeah, it’s just there ready to go all the time, for some people is always off. And so how do we kind of strengthen? And how do we stop weakening? And what are some things that sort of decrease our consciousness or freewill and some other things that kind of light up this prefrontal cortex of ours, so that we can be more intentional and all of that? Yeah, you bring up good point that the bottom line is that we got to take care of our brains, right. And brain health is kind of synonymous with circulatory health or cardio health, some of the big things that go into taking care of your brain and a healthy brain, right is a brain that is going to be way more capable of using and tapping into that prefrontal cortex. So some of the basics, some of the basics for brain health are asleep. Number one, that’s it just like literally the biggest. And first thing is sleep, because it is 100% proven that it is during sleep, that our brain actually like rinses itself, of all of the toxins from the day. And that is the number one thing, if you are having issues with healthy habits with you know, decision fatigue with any of life, you got to make sure you’re addressing your sleep dates. And so that’s number one. Number two is you mentioned circadian rhythm kind of the morning light, so morning light and light in the in that first part of the day, it’s super, super good for your your brain and for, again, just overall brain health. And number three, would be the Well, I mean, there’s more. But a third one would be cardio exercise, right getting getting good, if it’s good for your heart, it’s good for your brain bottom line, a couple of other ones connection, staying connected with people that’s again, that the social isolation, just not being connected to folks connected to people. And that’s our brains actually evolved to prioritize social connection. Unlike the mammals, that’s again, just higher level of organization. And so you have to figure again, if it’s, if that’s why the brain if we evolved that way, it’s good for the brain. So another another way to do it. So that’s, that’s kind of four things. I mean, and then obviously, again, just a basically, good healthy diet. Yeah, sugar, lots of you know, there’s a lot of chemicals. And if you’re, you’re doing a lot of chemicals or eating a lot of process, John curve up a lot of sugar, it’s not gonna, it’s not gonna be free of your brain either. And this might also be solving the alcohol problem from another angle, not only are doing all these behaviors, increasing the efficiency, and working of our prefrontal cortex. It sounds like it’s also giving us these neuro chemicals, these happy neuro chemicals, like serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, and endorphins in other ways. So yeah, we won’t be so famished and hungry for them. So we don’t have to get them from alcohol. You know, if we have enough people in social interaction or life, then maybe we don’t feel as desperate to go out there to the bar. And if we already have some meaningful projects we’re doing or we’re exercising, and we’re doing other things to get our dopamine up getting some serotonin from doing things actually make us feel proud. And we’re getting it from the sun. And there are a lot of other ways to get these neuro chemicals. And it sounds like alcohol might become more tempting and more alluring. When we are lacking one of these neuro chemicals. I don’t know, would you would you agree with that? Or is that like crazy? Yeah, I mean, I think that a healthy brain is a happier brain in general, and the more that we can do to it also just understanding I think, educating ourselves on the different ways that our brain works. For me understanding that I had this, you know that the brain kind of evolved, I favor a model that that is more organizational. In terms of the of it kind of a triune level brain so like the, the higher level brain, the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, the, the mammalian complex, and then down at the bottom, the reptilian kind of pre, you know, the primitive primitive brain. And, and again, there’s there’s a lot of more sophisticated brain theory, I guess, or brain science in terms of what exactly goes and we we now know that it, it isn’t quite that simple that the you know that the higher lower, higher middle lower that they that they’re all independent, and they regulate different areas. That’s not really true. There’s a lot of cross pollination between the different areas of the brain, middle lower, the lowest level of brain, right, so the lowest, most primitive level of brain is the brain that basically keeps us breathing. Right? So we don’t think about it’s it’s autonomic, it doesn’t, we don’t get to decide whether or not we breathe, it’s just going on. And that but there’s a part of the brain that’s, that’s controlling that, but we can’t, you know, we can hold our breath, but we cannot hold our breath for ever, right? Our brain will kick in, it’ll say, Nope, you gotta breathe down. And that part of the brain is not a brain part that we can influence by our cognition, other parts of the brain, prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, the mammalian systems, those can be influenced by our thinking. And yes, anytime that you are depleted in whether it’s in neuro chemicals in any of those good chemicals, you are talking about serotonin and cortisol and endorphin and oxy top oxy. When I say oxytocin, not that one, hopefully, we can do without that one. And this one, yeah. Dopamine. Yeah. Yeah. Anytime that you are, you know, depleted and missing out on some of those neurotransmitters, you’re going to feel like you want to feel better. And whether it’s alcohol or some other coping mechanism, that’s just really the the lower brain saying, hey, I want to I want to feel better right now. And this is something you’ve told me in the past works. So let’s do it. Just a quick break to talk with you more about sunny side. Did you know that Sunny Side uses science to help you reach your goals by focusing on three scientifically proven superpowers that you have. Number one, the power of Cree commitment. Each week, you set an intention for the week ahead. That includes a tracking goal, a drink goal, and possibly a dry day goal. Number two, the power of conscious interference. You’ll learn the habit of tracking each day as soon as you finish it, which creates a mindful pause before you start the next day. And number three positivity. We know that this is a big step that can be tough at times. Right. And that’s why Sunnyside offers coaching through SMS and email to give you support, advice and motivation, you can check out a free 15 day trial at www.sunnyside.co/molly. That’s www.sunnyside.co/molly. Another question I had was, I noticed another thing is when I drink alcohol, I feel really good obviously. But then what that does is it triggers off a sort of cascade of other actions of me chasing more dopamine through, say, looking at porn or eating these chips or playing on my phone and vice versa. The same thing happens the more I engage in dopamine from one circuit, like eating some junk food, or watching too much TV or something that might trigger off this desire to drink alcohol. So it feels like dopamine, at least from my experience is like this sticky web or series of dominoes where if you just tap into one piece of the network, it kind of lights the whole thing up and just shifts you into another mode where it turns you away from this sort of free human. Yeah, kind of living and your go back into that sort of unconscious desire seeking mode. So how can we use this knowledge to control our cravings and our addictions? I guess we should eat less junk food or just do less things that spike our dopamine because it’s like alcohol. Alcohol is one of many things our brain doesn’t really know the difference between between like dopamine from this or dopamine from that. Yeah, it’s just one kind of universal currency. It’s one kind have brain circuits. So dopamine is dopamine, whether you’re getting it from your phone or your work, or whatever, or alcohol. And so I guess we got to be careful about the whole, while dopamine is, it’s great for us, it gives us movement, it gives us ability to focus and get things done in the world, it also can be quite addictive when it comes to these huge spikes, that we’re not used to, evolutionarily, you know, these technologies and yeah, drugs and stuff gives us Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s the, you know, the being aware, just again, part of the real power of having this beautiful, brilliant human brain and this logical prefrontal cortex is our ability to remain mindful, right, and to be aware of these things. And like, there’s a lot of very highly processed foods, things that are very rich, and you know, that really trip up that really do spike our dopamine sensors, right, and they’re highly concentrated rewards that are not typical of where we were in primitive days. And understanding that that’s at play is part of the process, understanding that that that is a that this highly concentrated reward system that that manufacturers have developed, to get us to buy their their goods, right to buy their things to, to follow their to subscribe to their channels to do all of that is there’s there’s really science behind it, there’s people there, scientists paid a lot of money to formulate the flavor of junk food and things like that. But what I think is really important to note is that, you know, I always ask people, okay, so is there ever been a time when you were drinking and having a good time? And you decided to stop? And everybody go? Well, yeah, of course, I’ve stopped. I mean, there’s been times when I’ve, when I’ve, you know, been drinking, but I stopped. And I will say, okay, was there ever times when you were eating something really good? And you thought you wanted to have more, but you decided not to? And people will generally say yeah, yeah, of course, there’s times like that. Okay, so the bottom line is, if we can do it, we, if we can do it, once, we can always do it, we can do it, it’s just that we’re really quick to buy into some of the stories of the lower brain of I want it, I need it. And it’s not a higher level thought, like, even in the moment when you’re thinking I want it is that really what you want, on the on the on, you know, do what I really want is to feel better, I want to feel more at peace, I want to feel more content. But my lower brain just thinks that this is the way to get it. And I have to Yeah, I mean, it requires you to stay more mindful, it requires you to stay engaged and not become, you know, by default thinking, but in my opinion, it’s a it’s a better way of it’s a better way of living, you’ll you feel better on a general basis on the on a global basis. And certainly, when you start to look at kind of, you know, I always this is bottom line, in my world, if you like the results that you have in your life, don’t change anything. Right? If you actually, if you like the results that you have, if you like what is going on in your life, then don’t change it, don’t don’t change a thing. But if you don’t like the results you have, then you have to go backwards, and you have to decide, okay, my thoughts, direct lead to my feelings lead to my actions, which creates these results that I have my life, if you don’t like how much you weigh, then you gotta go backwards. It’s not about changing just what you’re eating, you got to go back to the thoughts to the thoughts that create the desire, the feeling of desire, that fuel the action of overeating, that gets you to the result that you weigh more than you want to write. And that’s where it all lies. I mean, people Yes. Is it true that dopamine can be hard to resist? Is it hard to say no to a piece of cake? Yes. And you can do hard things, you you’re capable of doing hard things. And if that’s the result that you want, if you want to not, you want to lose weight, then you probably want to avoid the cake and you’re gonna have to remain mindful and you’re gonna have to take control of that lower brain, but it’s possible. Yeah, I think it requires knowledge of how our brain works, for sure. And all of that to that without that knowledge. In those moments of weakness in those moments of temptation, you’re just going to think this is how it goes. Yeah. Yeah, I agree. No, it’s like so you interviewed Anna Alinsky. And she talks about how, like pain and pleasure are kind of one part of the brain and just kind of get seesaw. Yeah. And when we get, you know, too much pleasure, it kind of brings us down to more pain. But in a moment of pain, that’s when we get the dopamine hit, and like, I want more that craving comes. And that’s painful. Yeah, you know, and we want to get back to pleasure. And what she’s saying is, if we just wait, if we hit pause, we use our prefrontal cortex essentially, to spit, okay, just wait, wait 10 minutes, wait a day, whatever, wait, wait 10 days, whatever it is, then that that pain will go away, and you’ll be evened out? And you’ll you’ll be back to happiness? Or, if you want it immediately, yeah, you can go grab another drink. But that’s just going to keep the seesaw going up and down. And that pain is going to come back. But yeah, if we were just living in our sort of animal mode, we might just keep chasing and keep sucking on that alcohol. Like, you know, if you give a mouse some sugar, it’ll just keep on going until it dies, probably. But we can. Yeah, this isn’t working. Luckily, we’re not mice. And, yeah, but that like, but that requires sort of like education, I think. So I think the two keys to two of the keys to being able to regain our freedom over all this is education, and then to finding those moments in the day, or creating a schedule where our prefrontal cortex is more activated, so that we just have more energy and power to, you know, direct our lives. Yeah, I agree. I mean, education is a huge was a huge piece for me, in terms of changing my own relationship with alcohol, when I really understood my brain, understood the, the, you know, understood neuroplasticity, I mean, understood how it was possible to change these old habit patterns and these old stories and, and also just the things that the the self limiting beliefs, all of it, understanding the science of the brain, understanding how the neuro chemistry works, how alcohol was impacting how understanding the biphasic effect, all of it was important for me, because it helped me challenge some of those old thoughts that I had, that fueled my desire to drink. And that is really, you know, the difference. Now, I don’t have the same desire at all, because I think differently about it. I have a totally different set of education around alcohol, I have a different set of education about my brain. And once I understood all that, I didn’t, you know, the desire to over drink, just went away. A lot of those beliefs and thoughts we have, though, seem to be like physiologically wired through our brains, in our youth, and in our childhood, yes, psychologically there too. But there’s like a physical neural pathways there, how much do we need to understand the story of our, our sort of history with alcohol, our childhood, our traumas, the sort of stories that led us into this state where we are lacking cortisol or lacking oxytocin or we’re just not quite happy, and we use alcohol as a way to escape that pain or to get the pleasure that we need? It seems that a lot of people who drink are using it, you know, maybe for excitement and pleasure, that hedonistic stuff, but really, it’s kind of releasing us from our pain from our anxiety or stress, and all that our lack of connection with others, maybe our parents, didn’t, they emotionally neglected us, or something like that, or they physical, physical abuse all of that. How much? How useful is it to kind of go back and kind of look at your traumas or your histories, will that help with anything? Well, I never want to dismiss anyone’s, you know, what people feel is valuable for them. Personally, I believe that the past only exists today, in what I think about it, I cannot go back and change what happened in my past, I can’t go back and re make my parents I can’t, you know, the good and the bad. And, you know, if you in the model that I subscribe to in the in the work that I do for myself and the people that I work with, I believe that it’s my it’s this, you know, today now, I get to choose how I view the past. And what I want to choose is a vision of that past that actually serves me now. That helps me feel better so that I can take better actions so that I ultimately can have the results that I want to have in my life. If I do not want to feel neg They’ve isolated, depressed, sad, mad, whatever about the past, I can choose that I get to choose it. And I understand that there are and I, you know, again, there are people that are better suited to deal with, with trauma and things and I, this is more work for people that aren’t truly compromised by trauma in a way they’re, they’re no longer functioning, you know, if you’re if you’re not getting out of bed in the morning, if you’re, if you’re really focused on that pass and you’re having You’re reliving it or anything like that, in a in a way that’s coming up for you all the time, then you’re you’re not looking for the type of coaching and the type of work that I do, you’re probably going to need some work with a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help you resolve that. Not the kind of work that I do. But in terms of just in general. I don’t I for people that aren’t dealing with those kind of bigger traumatic events in their lives, but they’re just kind of, in general, like unhappier, they had some some, we all have hardships, we all have things that were that didn’t turn out the way we wanted to in our lives. And holding on to those past. missteps, those regrets, those things that didn’t serve us doesn’t serve us now. And I don’t see a lot of value in it, I certainly don’t look backwards and hold on to anger or regret or disappointment about the way things that that went, you know, in my, in my childhood, it doesn’t serve me now. And I don’t, I don’t choose it, I want to focus on the things that helped me feel better. So I can take the actions I want to take so that I can create the results that I want my life I it’s you know, we only get one spin around this world, and in this life, and we might as well make it give it our best shot, you know? How do we change those habits of thought and behavior? It sounds like what you’re saying is, it’s almost like we have this, like special brain up on top that can has a sort of godlike powers, right can completely disregard the bodily paths and all that. And maybe that’s true. Maybe we can like create these stories. I don’t know about I don’t I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s godlike. I think it’s, I think it’s, it sounds like you’re giving a lot a lot of weight to the to the prefrontal cortex I do. I think this is great and ideal. But how do we and it’s probably the best way to think about it, whether whether it’s true or not, but how do we still have these physiological pathways in our bodies, we might be stuck in a fight flight state, or we might be sure, we might have adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our veins. And we might have these triggers and these habits and all that. So how do we change our habits? It’s not like a one day snap thing is for you. You’re really talented. No, for me, it takes a while. So what’s the process and habit change? Oh, my God, no, it certainly didn’t take me it’s certainly not happened overnight. It happens over years. And that’s the whole thing. The what I always tell people is like the only people that don’t, that don’t win at changing their relationship with alcohol or any habit that doesn’t serve you because I really believe that what I talk about is universal. For any habit that doesn’t serve you. The only way you fail is if you quit trying is if you stop if you if you just don’t keep going. And keeping going is what it’s all about. That means you got to be you got your set yourself up for understanding when you miss step understanding that those missteps are going to happen. And that they don’t mean that you’re not that change isn’t possible for you. It just means that you’re you got to re again, refocus, re align your brain rethink again and save yourself. Hey, you know, in the past, you’ve thought that way, and it didn’t work out that well. So what’s a different belief? What’s something else that you could think, and sometimes it’s just adding on that phrase, like, I, you know, when I, when I find a thought that’s that’s sticking around, that’s not really working for me, I will literally say to myself is just a thought that my brain is throwing out and I don’t have to believe it. It’s optional. Like that is the beauty of having a brain that that is capable of seeing its own thinking, it’s like, is just a thought that I’m thinking is not the truth. It’s just one version. It’s one perspective, what else is true? What else is possible? And if you keep asking yourself that and if you really keep at it, you will get to a better story and a better version and a better and a better option and something that helps you feel better so that you can take better Her actions and get different results. Yes, I’m trying to get get it like what is the I’m trying to visualize this, like, what do you actually do? And I guess it’s not something you do. It’s something you think. But to think like this, you have to still physically pause or take a breath or something. So Oh, sure. I know you don’t want to talk about actions. You want to talk about thoughts. But how what? If you want to translate into action? What action do you take to get to the thoughts? You have to sort of take some small action like a breath or Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s your face or drink some water or something? How do you? Yeah, no, no, yeah, I actually have a, I have a tool that I that I share with my folks call that I call the PB and J. And it’s so you know, so you can visualize a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s what it’s helpful, right? It’s comforting. We all if we think of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, most people think that’s kind of comforting. So the PB and J is exactly what you said, it’s P stands for pause and ponder. So we’re going to pause, we’re going to get ourselves to stop, right. And we’re going to think, and we’re going to ponder and we’re going to pause. And, and allow ourselves a little bit of time in between the stimulus and response, if you’ve ever heard of that theory of of the brain. So we want to pause and ponder and think for a second, then I say, so be in the PB and J is breathe. So we’re going to take some deep breaths, deep, calming breaths, very well known to help calm the brain down to help us get more centered, to be able to tap into that prefrontal cortex. And then the j stands for just 10 minutes. So pause, breathe, and just 10 minutes, commit yourself, say, Okay, if I can just hang on for 10 minutes. If I still want the cookie, if I still want the drink, if I still want whatever, I’ll I’ll reassess that. But most of the time, people just, if you do that, just 10 minutes, you are good. You don’t you know, you don’t you don’t want it, then you can tap back into that prefrontal cortex. Yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I’m guessing you’re gonna say no to this next one. But are there certain foods or other things we can replace with alcohol, coffee, because when we crave that alcohol, or when we crave anything, when we have an addiction, or habit, you have to sort of replace it with something else. So I can’t just sit there and be like, Okay, it’s finished, you do have to do something to replace it. So what are some things we can kind of bring into our lives to sort of replace these good habits? Well, I’m a big fan of non alcoholic drinks, first of all, so anybody that says that non alcoholic drinks are bad. That’s for me, that’s simply not true. And I don’t I don’t think that’s true for most people that I work with. So yeah, you gotta you have to typically, if you’ve, if you’ve developed a coping mechanism, for one thing, you can’t just shut yourself off from all things that are like that, or, you know, or you might have to pick up a different coping mechanism. But there’s lots of different coping mechanisms. Sometimes it’s, you know, for me, it could be a hot cup of tea, it could be a bath, a walk outside an audio book, a movie, it doesn’t have to just be one for one, right? So it doesn’t just have to be an alcoholic beverage. But if you’re talking about like being out someplace, yeah, non alcoholic drinks are great. Yeah. There also seems to be this kind of theme running through your thoughts that, like, all humans, in some way, are a bit addicted to something they maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, but we all have these sort of addictions, in a way are these sort of hardcore habits. Like some people work too much? Or some people are addicted to this as partner? And even she’s gone? And did she still in love with her? Or? Yeah, movies, or some of these different things are socially acceptable, some of them are adaptive in the social world we’re living in. And some of them are not like alcohol, or cocaine, or heroin or hardcore sex, weird, kinky things, if they’re hurting people. And like, what you’re saying, correct me where I’m wrong. These are all kind of similar things going on in the brain or addiction is sort of addiction and this dopamine and habit, stuff is all kind of the same. But so addiction itself is not necessarily bad, or alcohol is not necessarily bad, but it’s it is in relation to the world that we’re living in. So we don’t need to feel bad about having some kind of obsession about something. But maybe we should replace that addiction with a more adaptive one. And ideally, we would we would have no addictions but to soften things up. Maybe, maybe that’s unrealistic goal, maybe a more realistic thing is just to replace one addiction with a slightly healthier one. And I know we want to say no, no addiction that of course that’s ideal, but it’s kind of hard. Even even like AAA people, they become addicted to the group. They become addicted to sobriety sometimes like, Oh, I’m sober, I’m sober. That’s all they talk about. Or people are obsessed with their work people in Silicon Valley or New York or whatever, money, there’s all these things, but when it’s like, socially acceptable, it’s like good for you. But if you looked at it, like if you flip that money into alcohol, you flip that, that work into, you know, cocaine, whoa, this guy’s got a problem. He can’t stop. So yeah, there might be like, actual bad things about alcohol. I think there, that’s definitely the case. But that addiction side of it is something like almost, and some humans have it more than others. Some humans are really wired for addiction. I think they they love those extremes. They want to go into that wild world of like, wow, like, really, really high highs, and they get so okay with having those lows. But I don’t know, I’m kind of throwing a lot out here again. But how much is addiction just part of being human? And is there a way to just completely get rid of addiction? And how should we think about it in the first place? Yeah, I mean, so I don’t, I tend to, like, I think that most people develop coping mechanisms of some sort. And they, whether it’s an addiction or true addiction, and I don’t know about the definitions between addiction and you know, physical dependence versus psychological dependence or anything else. I typically use words, like I said, that a habit that doesn’t serve you, right. So a habit that doesn’t serve you is something that’s causing negative repercussions either in other people’s worlds or in your own, like, you’ve got a lot of anxiety about it. Right. And so, I think that that, yeah, I think that, that human beings, the way that we are wired, we are definitely in the way that not only the way that we are wired, but the way that the world is built, right, we are built to serve those hedonistic kind of drives. And so it is a it’s an uphill challenge, for sure, to not just fall into default thinking and fall into kind of negative habit patterns. And it requires intention and mindfulness. And there are certainly plenty of other options, habits that will serve you, right. And at the end of the day, our life story is going to be the habits, the habits that we we have are going to be what what ultimately creates our life story. If we have a lot of great habits, we’re going to probably have a better ending to our life story, if we have a lot of negative habits, habits that don’t serve us, because habits, by definition, are things that run on autopilot that that that our brains do, you know, without thinking they are unconscious. So we have to develop habits that are just our who we are that fit with who we are trying to become and with a life story that we want to live. That’s how I look at it. Okay, and now you gotta go see, and I want to ask one more question. And then some other stuff, sir, to sort of sum all this up and give a kind of example. I know it’s this is a huge question in your life. But can you give us a sort of brief history of your life with alcohol starting from I know, your grandfather had a liquor store and you remember that you went there and you could smell the smells and your mother drank a lot. Even her father apparently drank too much, and I don’t know about in high school or your college years or that but then eventually you kind of came out of it and you are where you are now. So kind of talk about that history and then at the end, sum up what you’re doing now. Yeah, so I, I grew up my my, my mother was someone who suffered from what we now call severe alcohol use disorder. She was physically dependent on alcohol and became that way really from the time I was about in junior high for most of my life. She actually passed away as the result of an alcoholic binge at the age of 81, which is almost unheard of that you you go that long. She was in multiple recovery programs throughout my life, including at the age of 77, a nine month nine month residential program, and she drank three weeks after she came out. Clearly she was no longer physically dependent, but she never was able to overcome her psychological. She never understood her her own brain. She never understood how much agency she had. In creating her feelings and how she felt about life she was often ran at the effect of her own thinking and at the effect of her Brain and, and that was kind of who she was. I personally, you know, I, I tried alcohol when I was in junior high I dabbled when I was in high school. I drank more when I was in college, typical weekends, weekend parties kind of overdrinking. And then eventually I became somebody who just drank every night. And I became someone who drank regularly and was drinking, you know, far beyond what we now know are low risk limits. I typically drank three to four drinks every night was always somebody that kind of prided myself on not getting overly drunk a lot. certainly did. But that was kind of my like, because I’d grown up with a mother who was really annoying to me when she was inebriated. I didn’t I don’t like it. I don’t like being altered. So I really kind of tried to not get there. I’d feel that tipsy apart. But I just drank I mean, a drink way, way beyond what would be considered healthy and beyond a 0.055% blood alcohol content, for sure. And I drink more on the weekends and more on vacations and things like that. But I had this ever creeping anxiety about my drinking. Because I did have an alcoholic parent and I kind of I feared what was possible. And I didn’t want I didn’t want that. But I felt like that I felt like the habit was different. I felt like alcohol was different, like everybody else. I felt like it was different. I believed that it was different, because and I felt that I was more it was because it was maybe genetically predisposed before maybe I was just more hardwired for desire for alcohol. And, yeah, about four years ago, now, I learned about all this thought work that I talked about, I learned how to see alcohol as just another habit that didn’t serve me. And I started to do the work on it. And it took me about a year and a half of work working on how to cut back on alcohol, how to, you know, increase the number of alcohol free days. And then I ultimately ended up training as a coach, writing a book and starting this podcast so that I could help other people do the same thing to break unbreakable habits, which is kind of the way that I looked at it as far as alcohol was for me. And how can people connect with you and get your books and get your coaching or adjust your podcast throughout any other any resources that you think people might like? Yeah, so you can always find me It’s alcohol. Minimalist is the podcast and you can go to alcohol minimalist.com, that’s going to redirect you to Molly watts.com. It’s Molly with the why watts with an S. And that’s where you can find all about me and you can always look us up on Facebook, get the alcohol minimalist Facebook group. I’m all around on there. But yeah, that’s where you can catch up with me. Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Molly, for spending this time with us and teaching us how to think better and improve our brains and gain a bit more freedom. Awesome. Thanks, Michael. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. Take something you learned from this episode and put it into action this week. Changing your drinking habits and creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol is 100% possible. You can stop worrying Stop feeling guilty about over drinking and become someone who desires alcohol less. Hum join me in making peace with alcohol. It’s my six month online course and group coaching program designed to help you build sustainable change. Give me six months and I’ll help you create peace.