EP #84

Stop Counting Steps: Creating a Peaceful Relationship with Alcohol for Life

alcoholic minimalist podcast

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In this episode, Molly discusses her approach that diverges from the traditional 12-step program and advocates for small, sustainable steps, such as planning ahead and setting achievable goals. Molly introduces her coaching program, Step One, designed to guide individuals toward lasting change. She contrasts her approach with other programs like Moderation Management, highlighting the importance of personalized plans and ongoing commitment. The episode explores tools for success, including planning ahead, not letting mistakes derail progress, practicing self-compassion, and fostering curiosity. Molly delves into the science behind alcohol’s effects on the brain, stressing the need for education to challenge ingrained habits and beliefs.

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. Hello, and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly watts, coming to you from folks. It’s still hot around here in Oregon. I mean hot, hot, hot. It has been a long patch here of really sunny, dry weather. You know, I’m not complaining. And I see actually like, perfect days on the horizon this week in terms of mid 80s. And really just awesome. So yay, us. Yay, Oregon. I know, I’m sure there’s some people that are worried about potential forest fires. So okay, I get it. We could use rain eventually. But right now let’s just keep the sun. All right. Hey, how are you all it’s been a bit since I’ve been recording in terms of recording a full podcast. I’ve been doing the intros but not full podcast here. And so I just want to say hello again. Thank you for everyone that just finding this podcast. And for those of you that have been here for a while. Thank you too, for tuning in and listening. I really do appreciate it. And in fact, I appreciate it so much that I have a prize winner this week. This week’s prize winner is actually from YouTube. Did you know that the alcohol minimalist has a YouTube channel, really just mostly podcast content on there right now. But I’m going to be increasing on that platform going to be adding some videos. So I decided to start rewarding people who are leaving comments and positive reviews over there, even though there’s not technically a review system. But if you leave positive comments, I see them and I’m adding them into the drawing. So this one comes from quite a ways ago that somebody left this comment but Ty lane, t y la i n those are the two names Ty lane. If you are listening, you are this week’s winner of some alcohol, minimalist swag. All you got to do is email me Molly at Molly watts.com. Let me know that you’re in fact the prize winner and I will send you out your alcohol, minimalist swag. I know that this podcast helps people I get messages and emails from people weekly of gratitude. And I of course love those messages. They make everything that I’m doing worthwhile. But it would be great if I could just take all of those messages and add them as reviews. Because of course we can’t do that. But reviews are really an important way at least that apple which is the biggest podcast player, judges whether or not they offer or suggest my podcast to someone who is either searching for content or listening to another podcast that is similar. So the more reviews the more podcasts has. And of course, the more good reviews, the more the podcast becomes findable by other people. You can think of leaving a review as a way that you’re paying it forward and helping someone else who might be trying to change their drinking habits. And of course, if you do it and you leave your name, or at least you know, a, a name, I and you will get entered into the drawing for some alcohol, minimalist swag. So please, please leave a review. I would appreciate it and other people would appreciate it, too. How have you been? If you are here with me in this northern hemisphere, you’re Have you been enjoying summer like I have. I have had this little four week hiatus of a mini break least four weeks off from writing full episodes with my summer content series. And it’s been awesome. And thank you again to all of my wonderful guest contributors. Elizabeth Fenton from the primal potential podcast, Dr. Addy Jaffe from ignited.com Katie Lane from thrive, alcohol recovery, and Dr. Loretta Bruning from the inner mammal institute.org. Thank you all again for your graciousness, and for allowing me to share your content here. Even though I haven’t been writing podcast content I have been writing and I’ve been very busy creating content for step one. I announced it last week on the podcast and I mentioned that the early adopters early special offer is only going to be available now through August 14 2022. So this podcast is dropping on the 11th, I believe. And look at that, I’m looking at the 10th on the 10th. So the 10th to the 14th. So you only have like four more days while to get the the introductory offer. And if you’re listening in this week, then fantastic could go go to www dot Molly watts.com/step. One altogether, and sign up to get information on the course. I’m really excited about this opportunity to help people in a more specific way. And what I’ve put together is a hybrid coaching slash online course offer that I just haven’t seen any other coaches doing in this space. And certainly not at the price point I’m offering it for for either way, actually, even if you’re listening after August 14 Without the early action offer, I guarantee you that the price will surprise you. In a good way. Thank you. And I truly believe that step one can help you move forward, put a framework for sustainable change in place, and help you make real progress on creating your peaceful relationship with alcohol. Go check it out. The course is going live now. But it will be available to you if you’re listening to this. In the future. Step one is available for you. www dot Molly watts.com/step. One. All right, done with the housekeeping. Here we go. In conjunction with the launch of step one I wanted to do this episode, because it got me thinking while I was creating all this content, about why we need to stop counting our steps. You know in the alcohol recovery realm, it would be hard to find someone who’s never heard of the 12 step program. The 12 Steps originated by Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is the spiritual foundation for personal recovery from the effects of alcoholism, both for the person using alcohol as well as their friends and family in Al Anon family groups. The 12 steps are also used in recovery programs for addictions other than alcohol, and they’re used in many, many recovery programs across the United States and internationally. Many members of 12 step recovery programs have found that these steps are not merely a way to overcome addiction, but that they’ve really truly become a guide toward their new life. And I want to say that, I hope it goes without saying actually that if AAA has worked for you or has helped someone you know, or or you know anything else, I am nothing but grateful if A has been beneficial for you. But for myself, for my mother, certainly. And for many, many people. It isn’t successful. And if you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time, or read my book, you know that I don’t subscribe to the 12 steps. In fact, I take true exception with step number one and that is to admit that you are powerless. Over alcohol. Side note, if you’re wondering if there might be some significance to why I named my own coaching program, step one. Yes, it’s a little bit of a commentary on the 12 steps. And that first step in particular, but I promised this episode is not going to be some massive sales pitch. So don’t worry. It’s really not even what this this episodes about. It’s kind of about though the philosophy behind my course, behind everything I do, really around here. Because step one, and the alcohol minimalist is all about empowering you to change your relationship with alcohol. And you’re going to do it, not by counting your steps. And certainly not because you’re powerless, right, I believe that your brain has the power to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. And the only step that matters is the one you’re willing to take today, one step at a time. And step one is where we start every day. Here’s what I know, I spent a lot of time not taking action, like yours. I just allowed my fear of failure, my anxiety over not being able to drink, quote, unquote, every night, and how awful that would feel. Keeping me stuck in a habit that wasn’t serving me for decades. I had a lot of starts and stops, I set up rules and limits for myself that were 100% focused on the action of drinking, but didn’t address the feelings I was trying to change with my drinking. So when my willpower didn’t hold up, and I gave in to the urge to drink, I use that as evidence that I was never going to be able to change. And I was just genetically predisposed to alcohol, alcoholism. So obviously, my desire to drink was just stronger than other people’s. And I acquiesced to the stories and decided that this was just as good as it was going to get, I would just make sure that I didn’t let my drinking turn into full blown alcoholism, like my mom. That was the life I was leading. When I finally did take a step in the right direction, and began to make progress, and ultimately broke my unbreakable habit, I started small, and I focused on the day in front of me, I knew that if I was going to have any hope of sticking to a different path, I was going to have to be willing to do it for the rest of my life. Now are these steps, I’d say that they are more like tools that I keep on a tool belt that help me to keep stepping. I take steps every day to be an hashtag alcohol minimalist and I will be happily walking this path forever. No counting required. What are my tools that I say are around my waist on my tool belt in my backpack however you want. However, you want to envision yourself stepping and walking along a path number one, I started by meeting myself where I was and focusing on making a plan that was achievable. Number two, I quit using my mistakes as a as excuses to stop trying. And number three, I educated myself I went deep on the science of habits, the science of alcohol and the science of the brain itself. Now I will tell you that in my book and in a previous episode, I talked about my toolbox and these are similar to those but I really want to talk about these a little more in depth this week. And because I find myself still really needing them in using these tools and and that’s what I want to hit on want you to hear the most. Hey everyone, just a quick break in the show to talk with you about Sunnyside. Now you’ve heard me talk about Sunnyside on the show before. I’ve had Nick and in the founders here as my guests. I am just so impressed with them. They are deeply mission driven. They are building a service to help millions of people create a healthier relationship with alcohol with no pressure to quit or feel guilty. So you know they are very aligned with everything I talk about here at alcohol All minimalist. I wanted to share with you some thoughts and comments made by people in my group and my clients who use Sunnyside. I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised. I have used a few tracking apps and despise to them. But the support the daily check ins and the plan. Yes, the plan. I signed up for three months yesterday and actually looked forward to the check in today. I have no doubt this tool is a step forward for me. I just want to thank you to everyone who recommended Sunnyside in this group and all of your advice throughout, I’m having the best start to a week of moderating Since I fell off the wagon in January, you work the plan, and it works. Thank you everyone. Now you don’t have to take my word for it, you don’t have to take their word for it, I want you to check it out for yourself. Go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started on a free trial today. Let’s dive into each one a little more. Number one making a doable plan. I’m pretty sure this part of my strategy is a little different from what you might hear from other people or programs. In fact, I’ve actually had conversations with Mary read the executive director of moderation management, because moderation management’s steps of change, quote unquote, suggests starting with a 30 day break. Now it’s kind of old. And Mary, in fact, has said that they’re not strict about that anymore. But in the literature, it says that in that 30 day break, you’re supposed to do some things to you’re supposed to learn skills for avoiding drinking on occasions when you choose not to drink, you’re supposed to learn skills to control drinking on occasions when you do drink, you’re supposed to identify the key triggers that lead you to over drink and develop means to neutralize those triggers. You’re supposed to develop your own personal rules that will keep you drinking moderately. And you are supposed to identify and start new sparetime activities that will displace drinking in your life. Well, first of all, that’s a lot to figure out in 30 days. I don’t know if I even believe it’s possible for you to do all that in 30 days, which also kind of set you up with some potentially unrealistic expectations of what a 30 day break will provide for you. Now, not all 30 day breaks are alike. There’s a big difference between just white knuckling your way through a forced 30 Day abstinence period. And even doing a shared group experience like sober October or dry you weary where you’re with, you know, it’s a social thing. And it can be really beneficial, absolutely for long term habit change, if you use it as an opportunity to do some mindful reflection. Now, Rachel Hart, who has been on the podcast before, she hosts the take a break podcast, and has a program named the same where she does focus on taking a 30 day break. But she teaches you how to take that break in a really productive way. And most of you know that Rachel is someone who helped me a lot in terms of educating myself. But one thing that I’ve struggled with for a long time, that kept me from actually taking action on Rachel’s Take a Break program, which I did do back in November of 2019. For those of you who are wondering, one reason it took me so long to do it was because I didn’t think I could take a whole month off drinking and I wasn’t even really sure I even wanted to like I didn’t know if being alcohol free for a month was something that I really desired to do. And when I did Rachel’s program, I wasn’t successful at taking the month off. I did learn things in her program and I was of course already familiar with her think feel act cycle from her podcast, her book and my own work with Brooke Castillo self coaching model. And you have heard me talk about the behavior map results cycle. I’ve mentioned before that it is based on the model self the self coaching model from Brooke Castillo and Rachel calls it the thing feel act cycle. They are the same thing. Rachel’s think feel act cycle is the same as my result cycle thoughts that create your feelings that directs your actions, right. I just wanted to clear that up. We’re all talking about the same thought work but we do things we approach things in a different way. Her program is now called the 30 Day Challenge, which again, kind of sounds like the 30 days is going to set you up for success fell scenario, which I know isn’t the goal of her teachings. But to really benefit you have to keep going in her membership which is monthly. I just wanted to be clear about that. I mean, if you do her course, which I think is great, just realize that the 30 days, you probably need to keep going longer. But I digress. If taking a 30 day break is something you are committed to then absolutely try it. Just don’t be lulled into believing if that one month is going to change a long standing habit, because it probably won’t. And neither will 21 days or 42 days or 100 days, the things that you hear how long it takes to break a habit, if you don’t actually keep stepping every day. And using tools number two, and number three, to help keep you stepping. The habit won’t be broken. Now, don’t get fixated on a number of days or a timeline. Decide that you are doing this for the rest of your life. Figure out a way that you can change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol for the rest of your life. Don’t do it in a way that you hate. Do it in a way that you don’t hate. Do it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re giving up every ounce of fun that you’ve ever had. And doesn’t feel like you’re testing yourself, or even challenging yourself to succeed. This is what I want to help you do. And again, zero disrespect to Rachel Hart, her program is excellent. I just want you to realize that to really achieve sustainable change, you’re going to be doing it for longer than a month. For me, I wish I had understood the power of a doable plan. And why planning ahead is such an important tool in terms of breaking habits. It’s the doable part that may be controversial when it comes to alcohol. If you’re consistently drinking 25 to 30 standard drinks per week like I was then planning for that number seems like a surefire way to drink too much, right. And I get that. But it’s where I started. And where I think many of us who are over drinking, who are daily habit drinkers who are using alcohol to buffer away negative emotions need to start. Here’s why most of us have never planned drinks before, like literally never had a plan for how many drinks, what we are going to drink when we’re going to drink and and who we’re going to be drinking with. Many folks have been on diets before. And so the idea of planning food seems more natural. But actually planning ahead for alcohol has just never been a part of your life. You go out on a Friday night and you’re drinking and you don’t think I’m gonna You don’t make a plan, you’re just going out drinking, right. That’s why I want you to start doing it by planning ahead using the amounts that you are typically drinking. Now it’s possible that you’re not really sure how much you’re drinking. Or you’re thinking, Well, it depends. So if you’re not sure, then before you make a plan, you’re going to spend some time tracking and figuring out what your typical week looks like. Once you know what your baseline is, then I think the right step is to take is to meet yourself where you’re at and create a plan at least 24 hours ahead of time. Now that 24 hours is not some magical number. If you want to make a weekly plan, that’s great. The point is that we’re not waiting until we start drinking to decide how we’re going to drink, how much we want the decision made from our logical future focused goal oriented prefrontal cortex, not decision made in the moment by our more emotional, lower brain habit, brain, toddler brain, however you want to identify it. It’s the brain that cares the lower brain that cares about avoiding pain, seeking pleasure and conserving energy. And it’s the place where habit behaviors reside. To help change the habits we’ve created, we need to create new neural pathways. And we do that by using thoughts and planning ahead. Now the sheer act of making a doable plan ahead and keeping that plan is where you need to start. I was so used to never keeping promises to myself about drinking, because I would always try to do it with a rule that was not really realistic. I’d say I was going to be like to and through. And then in the moment I’d be like screw it one more won’t hurt. And then since I’d already screwed up the plan, I just had another one. Like I never really even believed when I wrote the mean I know when I made the plan ahead of time that I was going to stick to it. I remember feeling that way, like when I set the rule, but in the back of my mind, which was really my lower brain already throwing out lots of low quality thoughts. I was thinking, I never stick to my rules, because I’m just someone who lacks willpower. But hey, you never know this time might be different. Newsflash, that method never worked. And things were not different. Now, I am not saying that you will never come to a day when you won’t want to drink over your plan, even if you’ve set up a doable, realistic plan. I’m not saying that at all. But let’s start with a doable plan. We’ll worry about reducing the drinks and adding in alcohol free days after you successfully make plans and keep them. Which leads me to tool number two, not allowing mistakes to mean that I was going to give up on trying to change. I think I probably say this most often in my private Facebook group or when I talk to folks in the moderation management Facebook group, you have to choose compassion and curiosity. Plus, you need to keep going, you have to know that you will have off planned drinking, I still have Off Plan drinking even now, when I’m years into my peaceful relationship with alcohol. Now, I’ll tell you that my Off Plan drinking isn’t large amounts of alcohol. But I still have days that I’ve planned to be alcohol free. And I give into that toddler brain who just wants what she wants in the moment. What I love about those Off Plan drinking events is that they give me a wonderful opportunity to get curious with my thoughts. It’s so interesting to me to see what thoughts still come up for me. Even though I’ve practiced the behavior map results cycle for three and a half years now. And I’ve had my peaceful relationship with alcohol for more than two years. I don’t worry about having to start over. I’m not counting days, or figuring out what which step is next. I am simply committed to using the tools and telling myself that the only step that matters is the one I’m willing to take today. One step at a time. Step one is where I start every day, I don’t have to start over. I just start wherever I’m willing to step today. Both curiosity and compassion are important. Compassion usually needs to happen first, because so many of us have been beating ourselves up over over over our drinking habits for such a long time. But curiosity is the one that develops and deepens over time, especially if you really take hold of tool number three, and that is to educate yourself. I don’t want you to mistake tool number three and learning as the step. It’s a tool to help you keep stepping. You don’t want to get stuck in continual learning. Without making plans that isn’t going to get you where you want to go either. But here’s why I think educating yourself is so important. You have to build up evidence in your mind to overwrite the habit pattern, old stories that you have never questioned. For me learning the science of alcohol, the truth about how it impacts your neuro chemistry, how some of the beliefs I had about alcohol were simply wrong. Like maybe my number one belief that it helped me to relax and unwind. What I came to understand based on studying the science was that while the depressant action of alcohol feels relaxing at first, once your blood alcohol content goes above 0.055% That therapeutic relaxing feeling is going to be offset by the negative consequence of increased excitatory trance neurotransmitters that will be released as your brain tries to counteract the external agent of alcohol. As alcohol dissipates from your system, your brain doesn’t realize it it doesn’t realize it and it can that it can stop sending out those excitatory neurotransmitters so it’s still doing it. And you’re left with a feeling of anxiety, your ability and tension. People call it high anxiety. So it’s simply not true that that two or three drinks help you relax. Basically, for a woman like me, the temporary therapeutic benefit can be achieved with one maybe two drinks, depending on fact errors that influence my own ability to metabolize alcohol. These things include like my weight, how much I’ve eaten, how tired I am the temperature of the environment how hydrated I am. Yes, blood alcohol content is that dynamic. But the bottom line is that nothing positive for my anxiety or stress levels is happening past 0.055%. And I want to be clear about this to what relief even wondering provides the loosening of those inhibitions and feelings of relaxations, which happened feelings of relaxation, which happened because of the increase in GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. And the decrease of glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter, that’s what happens at first, the effect is temporary. Of course, it doesn’t solve anything or change anything that is actually causing me stress. What’s doing that is my own thinking. But I get a little relief from it in the moment. And that’s totally cool. Don’t, don’t get me wrong. If you if you’ve listened to this podcast at all, you know that I stick to low risk limits and having a drink feels good. And I get that and it’s totally okay. But if I’m not mindful, and I keep drinking to try to keep that warm, fuzzy feeling, I will just be setting myself up for more anxiety and stress tomorrow. So yes, it’s my belief that understanding the science of alcohol, understanding how my brain works, and how alcohol impacts it, that helped me change those old beliefs. The anxiety and stress example is just one example. I also got educated on how alcohol affects my sleep, I got educated on how habits work in the brain. I got educated on the different parts of the brain. I got educated on how to use my brain to change my relationship with alcohol. Now, I’ll admit it, I love to learn, I always have call me the child of an educator, and you’d be right. Watching my own 94 year old father continue to learn throughout his life has been an excellent example of all the benefits of lifelong learning. And here’s what I want you to know. Anyone can learn this. It’s why I started this podcast. It’s why I wrote my book. I know you can create a peaceful relationship with alcohol too. If you use the tools I share, and you keep taking steps every day. What step are you willing to take today, do that? Keep going and believe that you can do it for the rest of your life. It’s that simple. It’s that simple. Really. It is a peaceful process, if you can allow it to be Alright my friends. That’s it. If you are curious and you want to learn more about step one, go check it out. www dot Molly watts.com/step one. It has been great to be back in the podcast chair and recording a full episode again. I hope you are having a wonderful week wherever you are. And until next time, choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com