EP #24

Changing to Thrive with Dr. James and Dr. Janice Prochaska, Ph.D

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In Episode 24 of “Breaking the Bottle Legacy”, Molly sets the stage for an insightful conversation with Dr. James and Dr. Janice Prochaska, experts in the field of change and founders of Pro-Change Behavior Systems. Molly introduces the Prochaskas’ book, “Changing to Thrive,” which focuses on breaking negative habit patterns, particularly related to smoking, alcohol, overeating, and fitness routines. The episode emphasizes the stages of change, exploring the significance of recognizing where one is in the cycle and progressing forward. The conversation delves into the three Ds—denial, delay, and doubt—that individuals experience when resisting change. Dr. James and Dr. Janice Prochaska share insights on the chronic diseases associated with behavior patterns, emphasizing the interconnectedness of breathing, drinking, eating, and moving. They discuss stress relief and coping strategies, highlighting the role of stress in regressive behaviors. The episode underscores the value of self-changers, those who can use tools and guided education for behavioral change. Stress relief emerges as a crucial component in developing coping strategies for breaking negative habits. The Prochaskas discuss the inequities in teaching tools and accessing them, and the importance of understanding the stages of change for effective progress.

You’re listening to breaking the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 24. Hi, I’m Molly, after a lifetime living under the influence of family alcohol abuse, spending more than 30 years worrying about alcohol and my own drinking, believing I had an unbreakable daily drinking habit, I changed my relationship with alcohol forever. If you want to change your drinking habits than breaking the bottle legacy is for you. My goal is to help you create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, past, present, and future. Each week all focus on real science and using your own brain to change your relationship with alcohol. Nothing has gone wrong, you’re not broken. You’re not sick. It’s not your genes. And creating peace is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to breaking the bottle legacy. With me your host Molly watts, coming to you from another epic day here in Oregon. I don’t know what to tell you folks. It’s been absolutely gorgeous here in Oregon this spring. And I’m hoping it does not mean that we are going to have a really hot and dry summer. We had some forest fires people might remember wildfires here in Oregon last year. Don’t want a repeat of that. But the Sunshine has been so appreciated. I love it. And I gotta tell you, you have to come to Oregon if you haven’t visited already. Today on the show, I am talking to doctors James and Janice Prochaska. They said to us, Jim so Jim Prochaska. And the the doctors Prochaska are both PhDs. Jim is a longtime expert in the field of change and has written more than 400 publications. He has been a co author 250 times and he said many research grants in the area of behavioral change and behavior systems. And he is basically recognized in his work as developing the stage model for behavior change. And so that is something that we’re definitely going to be talking about. His wife, Janice per Chaska is a PhD in social work. And so together, they founded pro change behavior systems where they worked for the past 2030 years, and they’ve recently retired. And in their retirements, they aren’t sitting back they’ve written they wrote and published a book called Changing to thrive, which is the book that we’re going to be talking about, because it’s got just a wealth of information for anyone that’s trying to change a negative habit pattern, but specific information for people that are battling smoking, alcohol, overeating, and whether or not you’re you’re embarking on a fitness routine. These are all areas that they’ve focused on for changing to thrive. And we’ll get into why they did that. But of course, the emphasis on alcohol was a reason for me to want to talk to them. And this is just a very valuable conversation on how to recognize the stages of change where you’re in that cycle, and how to keep progressing forward. So I hope you’re gonna really love this conversation with Dr. Janice and Dr. James Prochaska. Good morning, Janice. Good morning, Jim. Thank you so much for being on the podcast with me today. I can’t wait to dive into changing to thrive and sharing it with my audience. Thank you for inviting us to be here. Yes. Absolutely. So the book, the books, full titles, changing to thrive, using the stages of change to overcome the top threats to your health and happiness. I want to talk a little bit I know you’ve you wrote a book before Jim changing for good, right? Is that changing? Yes. And then now changing to thrive. And so talk to me a little bit about the decision to put this kind of information out where we’re really addressing some of the core risky behaviors that people embark on for that are threats to their health and happiness. Well, historically, changing for good was not written for the public. It was written for clinicians and academics. Okay, so there’s that. Yeah. But once it started to get taught to students, it really started to spread and also taught to clinicians. And so it did gave us I mean, it has sold over 200,000 copies and continues to Wow. But changing to thrive was specifically much more written for the public. Yeah. And have it in terms of having like exercises and all that they can do. Some would call it a self help book, we like to call it a self change book, because it’s really based on science. Yeah, I love that was the first time I’ve read that or heard that terminology, self changers that you use throughout the book. And I just adore that. I love that. Because it’s self help, we all kind of, you know, almost want to close our ears these days to more self help books, right. But self changing is just phenomenal, because that’s really what and I talked about that here on the podcast, I am very big on the fact that I want people to change their relationship with alcohol. So it’s not about stopping the action of drinking or stop drinking too much. Of course, that’s hopefully the outcome, right. But to do that, we have to change our relationship with alcohol. And that’s one of the things that I’ve loved so much about this book. And I, I’ve shared a little via correspondence with the two of you that I was a self changer, and went through this process, unwittingly unknowingly not having the terminology that this book has helped me now articulate kind of the process that I went through. And that I think is maybe just right there, in and of itself, why the book will be so valuable for people is giving them the language to see where they’re at, in that process of change. Well, I value that you discovered that yourself, and then validated it with someone, it’s still a creative discovery by yourself. And then we help to validate that well, and I think too, for a lot of people, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure you’ve seen this over years and years of helping people and research. This is an kind of a never ending process. People are continually cycling back through this process of change, and have to and learning the these steps and the different areas of pre contemplation and action. And, you know, all of that helps you understand that. It is an ongoing process. You know, you don’t have to look, you’re not always, at least for me, now, I realize I’m not always in search for the finish line. You know, that’s a, I think, a gift. Well, what we don’t emphasize as much is that we do see a stage of termination, a stage in which people are confident that they have made it, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have other health risk behaviors that need to change. Yeah. Yes, I’ve moved on. Now I’ve now the the alcohol habit is under control. And now I’m going into the diet and the hand exercise regime. So I completely appreciate that. One of the things that really stood out to me, so let’s talk a little bit about if you could, for me and for our audience, describe the three Ds that happen when people are in the process of, you know, not being ready to change their habits and not being ready to look at these high risk behaviors. Right? Because you were mentioning a pre contemplation a few minutes ago. And those three Ds are, don’t know don’t know how to change. Denial don’t think they need to change, or demoralize that they’ve tried to change and failed. And I’m so demoralized, they don’t want to try again. Yeah, and that’s just huge, especially for people that have these high risk behaviors like myself with with drinking, you know, I had tried so many times to control or quit and was always focused on the action, as opposed to and that’s really what’s been seminal in this change for me now, and I know is really in line with what changing to thrive talks about. It’s a it’s a change in the process of how I think about behavior and how I think about what what I’m doing and how I feel, and really managing that, that that feeling, but also, so yeah. So demoralized was, you know, is something I hear all the time. Also what I think and really what this book serves to do is the don’t know part, right? Don’t know how to change. That’s right. And that’s really I think, what you in this book, what you’ve said is that the number one reason that people don’t change are aren’t able to be successful in changes because they simply do Don’t know how. Yeah, and that’s incredibly important, because that’s something that that they can do more readily. And a book like change into Thrive can help them to do. But you know, recognize they live in an action oriented society, they live with physicians saying, Oh, you got to stop drinking. Well, okay, tell me how dark Well, the doctor doesn’t know. Ha. Right. Yeah. And also, I think in this in this society, in this world we live in today, we’re seeking a fast answer, a fast solution, immediate gratification, we want the answer, you know, we want it yesterday, we want the problem to be solved. And so it’s sometimes a hard pill to swallow to understand that this process is going to take time. That’s one of the things that I talk about a lot. And I know it’s not I know, in your book, you’ve talked about six month timeframes. And for me, I again, I didn’t, I haven’t gone back to really try to look at those chunks of time, it took me about a solid two years of thoughtful work and working both on my own thoughts and my feelings that were creating the the desire to drink, and then also creating a plan to put a thought and process or a plan in place ahead of time, instead of responding in the moment, things like that. I took steps along the way. But one of the things I find is that people just expect or hope that things are going to change a lot quicker, like that 21 Day myth of a habit. Yes, yes. Yeah. And that is very important that and that’s kind of what some of the Self Help. Books are a lot of them that aren’t based on sciences, you know, will change, you know, in 21 days, or will change you tomorrow. And that’s, that’s also what people are wishing for. And a lot of times Simon, for example, they turned to alcohol as a way to deal with, you know, with their depression. Well, how they’re treating depression with a depressant? Yeah, not a good combination. We talked. We talked about that a lot. I talked about the science of alcohol. I’ve shared a lot on this podcast about the neurotransmitters and how you’re actually, you know, increasing your chances of feeling depressed and anxious by drinking to relieve your depression. It’s It’s a never ending cycle for people, for sure. When we talk about the stages of change, and really understanding that it’s going to take time to move from what what I think I read in your book, and what I understood is that a lot of people who seek professional help, that even the professionals don’t, they don’t understand these earlier stages of change, and that where they can help people in those pre contemplative, and before they’re ever ready to take action. And they want to jump to the action, as opposed to helping support those earlier stages. Well, I was just reading a article by a leading choleric on psychotherapy, and he is talking about how the rates of dropout are still so high. You know, people come for help, but they don’t stay, or they stay and they don’t change. And in I think still there is too many therapists to feel like, all all I have to do is be here and and with my expertise, I will help them change. Well, the burden is much more on the individual rather than therapist. Yeah, yeah. And again, it’s a process of understanding. One of the things I really appreciated about your book, too, is the fact that you are it is loaded with lots of exercises that really help people in that earlier process to determining the the trade offs for behavior change and not changing your behavior. Because I think, you know, one of the things I’ve I really explored was and had to explore was there. I had some associations, I had some thoughts about drinking, that, that I perceived to be, you know, as something that I was going to have to give up right as a negative is something that I was going to lose. And really shifting that thought process was something that was key to helping me change the habit for good. Yes, I think one of the helps in the book is to really outline very thoroughly all the advantages or pros of drinking responsibly. And also, there’s a reflection of what one can do to reduce some of the cons of having to give up this this recently. Yeah, that’s that’s exactly what I meant is that reducing the cons, because you have to allow yourself to understand that you’ve built up a positive association. So there is going to feel a little bit, you’ve created some loss. And you can counteract that by changing and for me, it was a lot of education on the science of alcohol, once you really start to learn about what alcohol is as a as a drug, you start to, at least for me, it was a lot, it becomes a lot less attractive as a as something that is a coping mechanism. Yeah, China’s has done a really nice job with the book in terms of the kind of exercise and said that people can do. And, you know, and we make the point that typically without that kind of guidance, it’s going to be trial and error, you know, a trial, you know, this, and then I’ll err, I’ll try that. Well, that leads to getting demoralized. Whereas guided learning, though, took away that change in the throat, but does, it really helps them too much more, increase the chances that they will change. And change means progress. Okay. It doesn’t mean inaction. So they’ll progress from one stage to the next. Yeah, exactly. And that’s a key point right there. This is the real differentiator for me is that progress through the stages of change and understanding that the focus is really on changing your mindset, really, first and foremost, before it’s kind of one of those ideas that and I actually just talked to another psychologist and an addiction expert recently. And his theory or his strategies are that, you know, when you focus on changing the, the mindset and the, the orientation for why people are drinking in the first place, or over eating, or overspending, or smoking, or whatever it is that they’re using as a coping strategy, by focusing really backwards on all of the reasons and the rationales for why people are doing it in the first place. That’s where true change happens where true change and true success comes from is not on focusing on the action, but on all of the steps leading up to it. Yeah, and certainly in these times with people having to be as you know, told time and again, you have to stay home had to stay home, and, boy, the alcohol when wait when depression came up. And it’s this was just such a tough, tough time. And partly, I mean, it’s because people really were feeling they were losing their personal freedom. And, and frankly, I don’t think public health experts did very well as really educating people that they could greatly reduce their risks from having from the COVID-19 often not getting it or getting it in low levels, by changing the same very behaviors that we would emphasize to change to prevent and manage chronic disease. Yeah, yeah. And I love I mean, this whole idea of this, the chronic diseases, and this is a big part of changing to thrive, because these four areas breathing, drinking, eating, moving, you know, they’re their key, and I actually, prior to doing breaking the bottle legacy, I had a podcast called Living happier, longer and all about the habits of a happier, longer life. And so these, these key areas of our lives, where we really can create happiness and thrive are the four that also correlate to chronic disease states. You know, it’s not like it’s not rocket science, right? To figure these things out. These are the things that we do all the time and when we are not doing them when we are drinking to excess alcohol, that’s a toxin, you know, this is not going to lead to happier, healthier, longer life, it’s just not. And so but at the same time, and I appreciate this in the book as well as people are stressed out, and they have little knowledge about how to effectively reduce that and how to manage that without using these coping strategies that they’ve depended on for so long. Well, I really like that you you do not label somebody in alcohol. Yeah, I mean, that is just so common. You know, it’s like because somebody has a challenge with alcohol that they’re not the hot. Somebody has measles we don’t call him a measles Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I don’t I do stand tend to stay away from our don’t necessarily subscribe to the disease model of alcoholism at all. Um, but what I do believe is that people develop a psychological dependence on on alcohol or any really, I mean, any negative habit. And again, you and your book talk about all of these diet and exercise, smoking. And then alcohol of course, as well. One of the key reasons that all of this is so important and so intertwined, is not only because many people have CO, you know, co habits, right, so they are often drinkers and smokers and overeaters, etc, etc. But if we don’t get to the root of behavior change and understand the process of how to change our behaviors, if we just try to focus on if I just decided, okay, I’m not going to drink anymore, and I white knuckle it, and I use all my willpower and my grit to do it. Typically, I’ll just turn to something else. To release the stress, you know, I’ll just figure out a different, a different strategy, that’s not any more helpful. You were talking about the three Ds, those who are not ready to change their pre contemplation, people who start to think about changing and are in contemplation. There two Ds are doubt, doubt if I really want to do this or not, or delay let’s let’s just take more time. Let’s wait till my birthday, let’s wait until New Year’s, you know, just let’s delay this decision. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s because they, they want the certainty, right, we’re all looking for certainty, we want to know that if we’re going to do the work, it’s going to work, right. And we want to know that if we’re going to because we also associate, that’s also I think, associating with the doubt, because we’ve tried before, and we haven’t been successful. The delay is just one of those I was a, I was a master of delay, I also was one of those that if I just if I just learned more, you know, taking a lot of information and education. Somehow that seemed like an active process. Even though it wasn’t changing anything, I thought I was learning a lot. It took me a while to. But that was but again, one of the reasons I’ve appreciated your book so much is realizing that that was for me, just a part of my process. And it wasn’t, I can now reframe that as something that I needed to be in that stage of contemplation before I was ready to take action. And so it’s okay, you know, that’s an okay, it doesn’t mean you should stay there forever. And there should be ways and that’s again, part of the reason this book is so wonderful, because people do like myself, I would have never sought professional help. For what I can consider to be my long standing drinking habit, right, I wasn’t somebody who associated or affiliated or thought in my brain that I was an alcoholic, or that I had a severe alcohol use disorder. But it kept me I had ongoing anxiety for years and years and years, because of being an adult child of an alcoholic, I continually worried about becoming an alcoholic and myself as my mother defined for me. And I failed to see that my own alcohol use was truly keeping me from doing so many things in my life that I wanted to be doing and was very detrimental to just so many other areas of my life, I didn’t realize that I was creating all that anxiety because of the drinking, right? It was there was just a lot. And yet, I did not I wouldn’t have sought medical or professional help for it. And so your book is so valuable, because there are a lot of people like me, who are self changers, and who can use tools of guided education to go through this process. And this book really helps people, you know, do that in a supportive way that that can help them with all of these habits, right? Because there’s chapters on smoking, there’s chapters on drinking, there’s a chapter on diet, there’s chapter on fitness, and so this is all information that that any of us can use to change to thrive. You know, and I think what’s important is is you know, there are five, the big five that are the ones that account for the most chronic diseases and and infectious diseases. And you know, so we’re just looking at an article and our that had like 60 different things that you need to change. You know, you want to overwhelm the world. You know, and frankly, when it comes to diet that it really is a sugar addiction, and it is an addiction now and breaking that one was a tough one as well. But you know it is a small number. And that that gives such a great impact on health and well being and long, longer life in a freer life. So I want to ask you this question, because I’m sure that I know the answer. But I try to share with people because I had a 30 plus year, daily drinking habit. I came from a, like I said, being an adult child of an alcoholic alcohol has been impactful part of my life for most of my life. And what I want people to hear is anyone with the right tools, and with the right language, and with the right, internal desire, can change. Period, you can do it there is you’re not too old. It’s not you’re not, you know, you’re not genetically pre determined, predestined. You aren’t, you know, there’s nothing you can’t learn. You can change. Would you agree? Yeah, I mean, well, one of our models is when when somebody is getting demoralized, no, people will say, well, they just don’t want to change, or the fact that they’re demoralized, meant they tried to but weren’t able to make it. And what we say to them is, look, you don’t want to give up on yourself, and we’re going to work to not let you give up on yourself. Because, yes, you did relapse, but what did you learn from? Right? Think of it as a learning experience, rather than as a failure? Yeah, look, I always say that compassion and curiosity, we have to look at ourselves and look at our past, and, and our, you know, anything that’s happening in our lives with compassion and curiosity, what’s going on? Why is that? You know, why is the challenge there in in anything that’s happening? Why is the challenge to change harder, and with the right tools and understanding the process of change, and understanding how to work through all of the six stages of change? That is something that people can in fact, learn, and they can learn it today? They can learn it, you know, it’s it’s never too late to, to figure this out. Right? That’s right. Yeah. Just bottom line, it that is right, exactly. Yeah. Well, one of the really gratifying experiences is when people like read change into thrive for heroes that are presentation. And it’s like, the light goes on, you know, how come I didn’t know that that’s what change is about. It’s like, I’ve had this action model in my head. And all of a sudden, it’s like, wow, it’s like, just it’s a whole different paradigm. And, and it’s been labeled early on, even as a scientific revolution changes, you know, that fundamental assumptions about what change is about? Yeah, I absolutely agree. I know for myself, once I understood, and once I really liked the light bulb, I agree with you, the light bulb went on, for me at some point in time, and it was really about the, like I said, I didn’t have the language when I was going through this process. I’m so glad I do now. But the the Stages of Change I had tried so long, focusing solely on the action, and trying to change the action, without changing the thoughts behind it. And the feelings that I was having that were leading to me taking the action. And that’s where so much of the the diet industry tells you what you should eat, but they don’t go backwards. And they say, now why are you overeating in the first place? You know, why? What thoughts are you having that are creating those feelings that you that lead you to want to overeat? You know, the smoking industry tells us, you know that we need to just stop smoking, right? I mean, that’s a no brainer, everybody knows it’s killing you. And yet, there’s so little emphasis on how to help people get to a point where they want to change where they desire that change. A lot of people believe that we solved the smoking problem in our society. I mean, 50 years ago, it was 400,000 people that died from smoking each year. Now it’s 400,000 people who died from smoking issue. Now we’ve got a larger population, but the problem is still like 400,000 people so it’s and that those typically fall on people who are the most disadvantages, you know, and who really need the guidance, you know, the most and, and we have learned To be able to harder help those people that would otherwise be seen as Oh, they can’t change, you know, they don’t have the resources. Yeah, I totally understand that. It’s it is and that’s, you know, it’s unfortunately, that’s not just the I mean, I think it’s slugging, I think it’s just everything, there’s a lot of inequity, I guess, is the best way of putting it in terms of how we, we teach these, these tools and how people are being able to access them. And that’s why these books, you know, having a book that’s that is supportive of self changers, is so important. And I that’s, again, just a gift for why that is why it’s going to be so important. We are just going to be wrapping up, but I want to ask you both a little bit about stress relief, because you’re, you know, this is a part of your work and something that you’ve been doing for many, many years. And as we discussed earlier, it’s been a pretty stressful last year for people. So how important is stress relief and developing coping strategies for getting rid of negative habits, believing when you’re wanting to change and moving towards preparation and action, when you get under stressful situations, there’s a real tendency to regress, to reach back to the bottle to reach back with a comfort food to sit on the couch and just veg out. So that’s why it’s so important to really have some good stress reduction skills. And in for us, it’s to go out walking, especially during COVID. That’s the one thing you could do. Right. And just to get out into the fresh air and to walk among the trees and to and to be with nature, some people underestimate, I think the power of a walk outside. It’s one of those things that’s proven and for most people, it’s accessible. And as you said, during COVID, it was Heck, it was one of the things that we could do, right? The the idea also that you just, you know, this learning to not depend on a negative habit, or a negative coping mechanism is really it’s a time process. But it also does require you filling in the void with something else and finding something that you can use to to help you relieve the stress because the stress I don’t believe is going away anytime soon. Right? Well, I mean, I know personally, for me, it was turning to ice cream, for example. Potato chips, and we had to take it off of our shopping lists. So stimulus control. So it’s not in in the house. I love I love stimulus control. This is tell you’re talking to some scientists, when you’re when you’re when they’re when you’re going grocery shopping, and you’re, you know, you’re exhibiting stimulus control. That’s, that’s perfect. I love that. Well, Jim, and Janice, it has been absolutely lovely to speak with you this morning. I so appreciate you taking the time, I’m going to link in my show notes, folks to where you can find changing to thrive. This is a fantastic tool, it is helpful for so many, whether it’s drinking, which I know for many of the people that are listening to this podcast, it’s a it’s a focus on alcohol, and there is a chapter specifically about changing your alcohol habits. But just in case, there are also great steps for smoking and diet and fitness. And really just before you even get there, folks, it’s understanding all of the stages of change the and we didn’t even get through all the steps of progression because there’s a lot there. This book has a lot of information, but it’s done. It’s it’s written in a way that’s accessible for people. Not not for a man. I’m sure it’s helpful for educators as well. But this is a book that was really dedicated for the public, correct? Yes. Yeah. Again, I just appreciate you taking the time and Dr. Jim and Dr. Janice Prochaska. I appreciate you being on the podcast. We appreciate you bringing the message to many more people. Absolutely. Wonderful. Well, have a great day folks. Thank you for listening to breaking the bottle legacy. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Take something that 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