EP #74

Six Keys to Changing Your Relationship with Alcohol 2.0

alcoholic minimalist podcast

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In this episode of the “Alcohol Minimalist,” Molly introduces six keys to changing one’s relationship with alcohol, emphasizing the importance of rewiring thought patterns and overcoming the belief that change is inherently difficult. Molly discusses the need for incremental change, planning ahead, and the significance of the results cycle in reshaping thoughts about alcohol. She highlights the discomfort that may arise during the process of change and advocates for self-compassion and curiosity. Molly encourages listeners to build a supportive community aligned with their new perspective on alcohol and emphasizes the commitment to progress, not perfection.

Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October. You can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got prizes, I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from a really pretty Oregon. I’m actually recording two episodes back to back. So if you listen to last week, you heard me talk about how wonderful it was same day. Sorry, disclaimer, hopefully, by the time you’re listening to this, which is going to be happening during the first week of June. This podcast will be dropping on June 1. I really hope that it’s still sunny around here in Oregon. So this week on the podcast, I am actually you’re listening to an older podcast that came from it’s episode. Well, it was in June of last year. So June of 2021 that I recorded this, and I have re cast the introduction. So it’s it’s back into instead of breaking the bottle legacy you’re hearing you heard the intro for alcohol minimalist. And I’m adding in some new thoughts right now here before you listen, I wanted to share this podcast this week, I’m actually taking a short break because of the Memorial Day weekend. I hope you had a great one. My editors actually off this week too. So in preparation, I wanted to just give myself a little break. And so I wanted to reshare this particular episode because it’s actually an episode I get a lot of positive feedback on from people. People have shared some really wonderful stories. And they, they tell me that this particular episode is one that they go back and listen to over and over again. So I thought that it would be valuable to reshare it now, as we’re heading into summer. This is a great time to make changes to your relationship with alcohol. It’s a great time to become an alcohol minimalist. Now you may think to yourself, but I’ve got all these plans, all these in the celebrations. And I know for myself, I start thinking of warm weather and I want to my my brain wants to immediately think okay, yeah, great. We can go have a beer in the backyard. Okay, that is just one version of the story. That’s just one thought. It does not have to be the thought that you choose to accept listen to, or include, you know, question that thought? Is that the only option? Is that the only thing that’s possible for you, because here’s what I found out, I can go back and enjoy a non alcoholic beer in the backyard and have just as great of a time. All right. That’s just one example. I understand. Summer is a time of letting go right at the time of relaxation at the time when we just want to have some fun, especially if you’ve lived if you live in Oregon, and you’ve sustained you know, you’ve made it through the dreary winter. I get it right. But that doesn’t mean that we need to increase our alcohol use and it might be the very best time to really question and some of the stories you have around alcohol. So please listen in as I am resharing episode number 26, six keys to changing your relationship with alcohol. Have a great week, everybody and I’ll see you next time, I wanted to talk a little more about the process of changing your relationship with alcohol, and some keys that I think are important to understand to really embrace the process. I could have also titled this episode six keys to changing your perspective on drinking. Either way, internalizing and accepting these key ideas. Ideas will hopefully help you create successful change, this time around when it comes to your drinking habits. And for those of you that are new around here, as a reminder, I am someone who drank daily, I was considered by the N i A the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a heavy drinker both on a daily basis, which for women, as a reminder, is anything more than one standard drink so Sorry, ladies. But I was also a heavy drinker, because I had more than one day per month that I was binging alcohol, which by US standards is anything more than four standard drinks for women in one day. And I will link those guidelines for both men and women in the show notes. But on average for 30 years, I would estimate that my weekly alcohol consumption was around 25 standard drinks, and there were no alcohol free days whatsoever. So a good night for me, would have been only two beers on a weeknight, but honestly, I preferred not to count a lot of the time because I was really anxious about my drinking. And I knew in my heart of hearts that my drinking was not healthy. I also firmly believed that I couldn’t change my habit, and fear of not being able to quit and what that meant, kept me drinking and stuck. For years, I believed that it was an either or that I either had to stop drinking altogether to be quote unquote, sober, or keep drinking like I was, which I reassured myself wasn’t an alcoholic behavior like my mom. So I could accept the anxiety and unhealthiness that I felt as just my lot in life. As an adult child of an alcoholic, I genuinely believed that I had a genetic predisposition to desire alcohol more. And I just would be consistently and constantly stuck managing alcohol, so that I never crossed the line to become an alcoholic, I fearfully managed alcohol, so that I would not cross a line. So now of course, my relationship with alcohol is completely different than it used to be. And so are my drinking habits, there is no more anxiety, I have no worry or fear that I’ll start drinking every day, or that I’ll drink beyond the limits of low risk drinking, I am at complete peace with alcohol. And I include it in a minimal way, maximizing my enjoyment and minimizing harm, which is what being an alcohol minimalist is all about for me. So I’ve said it on the podcast before. And I think it’s really important to note that I didn’t get here overnight. It took me two years of working on my drinking before I ever did a full 30 day break. And it wasn’t until after my first year of working on my habit that I consistently followed the guidelines for low risk drinking. Along the way I was learning and using the results cycle. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about there, go back and listen to episode number 11, which I will also link in the show notes. But the short of the results results cycle is that your thoughts create your feelings, which lead to your actions, you have to figure out how to use your brain to change how you are feeling and not turned to alcohol to help you feel different. And that was the real thing that was different this time around was learning how to manage my mind and understanding how my own thinking was driving my drinking habit. I also talked about in episode number 13, my toolbox, which includes four tools, one planning for drinks ahead of time to compassion and curiosity for offline drinking, three alcohol education and number four community and I used and still use all of these tools to maintain my peaceful relationship with alcohol. So these keys I’m going to talk about today are really woven into the background behind both of these things, the results side goal and those four tools. And I realized that looking back, these keys were there and are really what underscored my success So this time around. So here we go. Number one. And this may be not too surprising, but accepting it is really paramount to your long term success. Here it is. Change is simple, but it’s not easy. Now, I almost didn’t share this idea because honestly, I think when it comes to changing alcohol habits, people have a lot of thoughts already about how difficult it’s going to be. And, of course, that very thought kept, keeps them from even trying to change. And that was me for many years, I convinced myself that the process would be so hard and so awful, that I’d have all this desire to drink. And I just have to grit my teeth, and suffer and suffer through it. That, of course, I never want to get started, right. But I think it’s important to understand that nothing I’m telling you about this process is difficult to understand, it’s not going to take you hours of study to start. And just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that the change is going to be easy. Our brains are designed to automate systems, and to be as efficient as efficient as possible. And change means that you have to rewire and override likely years of habit processing in the brain, it’s simply not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in a sustainable way, if you’re not digging into the result cycle and changing your thoughts around alcohol. I remember a time when I used to think that by taking a week long break off drinking, I could prove to myself that I didn’t have an alcohol problem. Now, of course, those times I try to make a week long break, and I’d fail on the middle of the week, and just kind of sweep it under the rug, and rationalize why it hadn’t worked and how I still really wasn’t having any big issues with drinking. So back to my habit I went, I focused on the action of drinking and absolutely had no tools, or any connection to the why I was drinking in the first place. And once I made the connection between how my thoughts were actually creating my desire to drink, that was the beginning of real change. For me. Even understanding how my brain was working to create desire, changing those thoughts wasn’t easy. In the beginning, it took time to unwind 30 years of daily drinking, and all the stories I had been telling myself really since childhood about alcohol. What I want you to hear about this was that it wasn’t easy. But it also was possible, I had the power to change my thoughts and realizing that I could do it. And that just because it wasn’t easy, I was totally capable of doing it was key. Number two, change is incremental. The first two tools in my toolbox making a plan ahead and planning ahead for Off Plan drinking are simple. We just talked about it. But expecting yourself to just jump in and be perfect from the get go in either of these areas is unrealistic, which is why key number two is that change is incremental, your success is going to build on itself. And when you start with making a plan ahead for drinking. That’s really the first building block for success. So and by the way, just so you know, I would say that it is probably the biggest spot that people get hung up on. They want to keep living with their in the moment impulse sprain and leading up to how they feel in the moment to decide how much they’ll drink. If you really want to change your relationship with alcohol, you have got to plan ahead 24 hours ahead of time is my recommendation. I really don’t care in the beginning, especially if you even stick to your plan. We’ll get to that. But I hear people all the time dragging their heels on making a plan at all. And it’s because they aren’t sure how they’ll feel on Friday, they aren’t sure if they can follow the plan. So instead of trying to make one they just don’t make one at all. And I talked a little bit about this in episode number 17 Trying to moderate and hoping to abstain. So go listen to that. If you’re stuck in the not making a plan mindset. If you accept the idea that change is incremental, then you can meet yourself where you are at. And that’s exactly what I did when I was first making my plans. I was just looking back at my plans in early 2019. And here’s what my beginning plans looked like. on weeknights, I was planning for three drinks per night and on weekends. It was for on both Friday and Saturday nights. And on Sunday. My best day was to drinks but I was committed to planning ahead and taking the decision out of my impulsive re Ward center brain and into my logical goal oriented, future focused prefrontal cortex. Once I established that I could plan ahead that I could stick to my plan, then I started to reduce the number of drinks. And I did that incrementally, not overnight either. So start making small changes, so you’re not going to freak yourself out, you’re going to work on your thoughts, and so that the next level of change doesn’t feel so hard. It doesn’t scare you, because you’re going to build on those small successes. Which leads me to number three, change is slow. Real change, the kind of sustainable change you really want to make doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve already said it. Having a peaceful relationship with alcohol and never worrying about falling off the wagon again, is not about taking a 30 day break. It’s not about stringing together alcohol for 30 days, even who’s done this, who’s taken a break from drinking, all the while looking forward to drinking, when you’re allowed to. Do you see the trouble there, you haven’t changed any of your thoughts around alcohol, you’re just hanging on until you can drink again. For real change. It’s about changing how you include alcohol in your life. It’s not hating how you feel when you’re trying to change your drinking habits. And you can willpower yourself through abstinent days or weeks. But if you don’t love what you’re doing and how you’re feeling, you won’t keep doing it. The reason change needs to be slow is you have to do it in a way you’re going to really like how it feels and how you’re gonna want to keep doing it for the rest of your life. You can stain from alcohol with a lot of willpower gritting your teeth and white knuckling resisting urges to drink or you can plan and happily abstain because you know that it’s a part of the plan for how you want to include alcohol in your life. When you work on the thinking, and use your brain to manage how you’re feeling, you can actually enjoy this process. The slower the better. And it becomes a calm and peaceful part of your life. No anxiety, no struggle, just how you live your life and how you want to include alcohol in it. Hey everyone, just a quick break here on the show. to talk with you about sunny side. Sunny Side has partnered with me and I am super excited to share this company with you. I’ve actually had the founders on the show before and I will link that in the show notes so you can hear a little bit from them. Sunnyside is an app that helps you cut back on your drinking or simply build healthier drinking habits. I have watched the company grow over this last year and I’m so impressed. They are deeply mission driven. And they are building a service to help millions of people create a healthier relationship with alcohol. And they’re doing it without the pressure to quit or feel guilty. So of course you know it aligns with everything I talk about here at alcohol minimalist. Think of Sunnyside as a digital coach that helps you set the plan for the week and provides tools to track your drinks and measure your progress. All while using proven behavior change techniques to create a lasting habit change. It’s super easy to start super easy to stick to. And it includes a 15 day free trial. So you can test it out. Really it’s worth checking out. Head on over to sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started today. Number four, change comes with discomfort. Okay, I told just told you that you have to love what you’re doing. And that real change means going slow, so that you can like what you’re doing. But here’s another truth. Real change comes with discomfort. There is nothing I can tell you no thought I can give you that will overcome the fact that during this process of change, there will be moments of discomfort. There will be times when you’ve made a plan ahead of time that you feel really good about. And then your kids are arguing your boss yells at you. You get a late fee on your credit card statement. And that plan will be sitting there and you will want to drink right over the top of it. This will absolutely happen which is why we aren’t going to start out when we’ve been routinely drinking three or four drinks a night trying to go to zero. We aren’t going to drastically reduce or even abstain from the get go. We’re going to start with meeting ourselves where we are and planning from there. And then When we are in the moment of discomfort, we can follow the plan or say, eff it. We’re going to ask ourselves, what are we thinking? What are we feeling, which brain is talking to me that’s trying to change the plan. And really, that’s enough right there. Dealing with that discomfort. We don’t need to set ourselves up for failure by making unrealistic plans. There is also discomfort in not beating yourself up about Off Plan drinking, compassion, and curiosity are tools that feel really uncomfortable for many of us. Because we are so used to beating ourselves up when we don’t follow our plans, truly learning how to really reflect and observe our thoughts when we choose to not follow our plans. And to do that with compassion and curiosity. It’s not comfortable at first, we are so used to beating ourselves up and believing if that we’re just strict enough with ourselves, we can change our habits. It’s not comfortable, to be curious and compassionate, but it’s 100% necessary for sustainable change. Number five, commitment is another key to the process. And commitment means that you are committed not to not drinking. But it’s committed to showing up for yourself, you are committed to the time that it’s going to take you are committed to learning from Off Plan drinking and not beating yourself up, you aren’t just committed to drinking less, you are committed to building a different relationship with alcohol. That is really a meta skill for changing any habit in your life that doesn’t serve you. If you want a different relationship with alcohol, you have to be committed to one making a plan to using compassion and curiosity to learn from Off Plan drinking. Number three, educating yourself on the science of alcohol. And number four, finding a tribe that supports your new relationship with alcohol. Now, just a side note, this does not mean that you need to replace all of your friends and family who may or may not be changing their drinking. Now, I will tell you, for some of you, it’s going to be a real challenge to hang out with your friends on the weekend, if they are consistently over indulging. And while you were in this process, it might be easier for a while not to go out to bars at first, or work or whatever. But when you have spent some time living with your new relationship with alcohol like I have now, it doesn’t matter whether I’m out with friends, if I’m at a bar or going to a party, my plans for alcohol don’t change. And I don’t worry about how drinking or not drinking will impact any event. I don’t care if my husband is drinking on a night. And I’m not. It’s just a non factor for me. I don’t think to myself, he’s not supporting me, I don’t think he’s trying to tempt me. It has no bearing his behavior, his actions have no bearing on my own relationship with alcohol. So the tribe isn’t about my family and friends. It’s for me online support groups. It’s the experts that I listen to. And it’s finding support that aligns with my thinking in reading material and listening. Like I said, it’s that kind of tribe that I want you to find that aligns with your new thinking on alcohol. The change for me happened when I committed to all the parts of the process. And I found people who helped me change my thinking and helped me stay committed, I will link to a couple of those groups in my show notes. So I highly encourage you to get involved with our tribe. Which leads me to number six. Number six, is you have to promise yourself that you’re not going to quit. NIH this time around, I promised myself that no matter what I would keep going and what I would not allow anything or anyone to make me give up. I kept telling myself that I could and I would figure this out once and for all. You have to promise to yourself that you will not stop trying and you will not use your mistakes as evidence that you can’t do it and quit trying. You won’t let a binge mean that it’s not possible for you. You won’t allow a bad week to mean that you need to start all over again. You’ll repeat the mantra progress not perfection, until you are absolutely blue in the face. And realize that sometimes progress is simply being aware of the fact that you didn’t make a plan ahead of time. You will be persistent with yourself and stop using bullshit excuses as to why you can’t make a plan. If you have some old crappy thoughts that keep coming up like I’ll never stick to it I always screw my plan up, you have to recognize those thoughts and stop listening to them. Make a plan anyway. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true, you have to keep going with your thoughts until you find one that makes you feel like you have your own back. Keep going when you want to quit. And you need to tell yourself this time is different, because we are not giving up. We’re going to solve this issue this time, it’s not going to happen overnight. And it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to happen. I’m two and a half years into this process, and I still have off planned drink nights. The difference is that I don’t beat myself up. I don’t use it as an excuse as an excuse to drink again the next day. And I know that this time, it’s different. And when I drink more than I intend to, I am compassionate and curious with myself and I recalibrate my week from right there. I decide right then what’s the next best choice I can make today? I don’t dwell on what happened yesterday. I’m not going to shame myself into being better. And I need to remind myself that I simply don’t talk to myself that way anymore. changing how you talk to yourself, the conversations you are having with yourself, this is a huge difference. I don’t believe it when my brain throws out those crappy thoughts anymore. I just see them and recognize them as the kind of thoughts that I used to have. That made me quit trying. All right, to recap, six keys to changing your relationship with alcohol for good. Understand that change is simple, but it’s not easy. Changes incremental. Changes slow. Change comes with discomfort. Change requires commitment. And change means never quit trying. Keep going. Don’t stop for any reason. All right. That’s all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next time, choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible. You have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com