Chasing the "Buzz" of Alcohol
In this episode of the “Alcohol Minimalist” Molly discusses the appeal of enjoying a glass of wine without guilt or the need to finish the entire bottle. Backed by scientific insights, she emphasizes breaking past patterns and eliminating excuses. Molly advocates for changing one’s relationship with alcohol during the summer, urging listeners to notice the special aspects of the season beyond alcohol-related activities. The discussion shifts to alcohol tolerance, with Molly explaining its effects on the body and the importance of understanding how tolerance impacts the desired “buzz.” She delves into the biphasic effect of alcohol, emphasizing the limited therapeutic benefits and the need to remind the brain that another drink won’t enhance the buzz. Molly introduces Sunnyside, a program helping users reduce alcohol consumption, and shares her goal of being 70% alcohol-free.
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 well, it’s a cool Oregon this morning. But we came out of a absolutely gorgeous Memorial Day weekend, Memorial Day itself was just about perfect. I have to say, I think we were right at 80 degrees or just below and stayed warm into the evening, I was out in my backyard enjoying food outside for dinner time and playing some bocce ball in the backyard with my family and extended family. It was really a nice weekend and I was drinking non alcoholic beers. And I gotta tell you, Well, I don’t want to do like a promo for a beer. I just had a great non alcoholic beer. If you’re in my private Facebook group, you’ll hear me you’ve seen me post about it. Because I gotta tell you, it’s a great one. It was perfect for what we were doing on Memorial Day, you know, summer is unofficially here, right? That’s what Memorial Day kind of means. And I’m super excited about this summer in particular, I have a lot of new things that I am working on. And I will be sharing these with all of you over the next couple of months. And I hope you will dive in. Join me and really make this summer your best ever. I shared this in my newsletter that went out this past weekend. And I wanted to reiterate it here too, because I really believe that summer might be the best time to start changing your relationship with alcohol. That’s right. In this time of less structured warm weather, no rules fun. If we choose to, we can see that alcohol isn’t what makes the season better. If we direct our minds, if we pay attention, we will notice all the other things that make Summer Special, the sun is going to shine, the grills are going to grill the baseball timings are going to be full, the pools are going to be open to jump in. And the people are going to smile all because it’s summer. It’s all going to happen whether we have a drink in our hand or not. Now maybe you’re thinking yeah, but I want to have even more fun and alcohol helps me do that. But does it really know what creates fun is your thoughts. And when your brain tries to throw out the idea that another drink will make things more fun. You need to challenge that thinking you need to ask yourself what else is true. What else is true is that sticking to my plans means I’m choosing to create peace. Drinking more increases the chances of negative consequences of alcohol. It doesn’t increase the positive that’s true. What else is true is that it’s fun to win the moment I’m in to win the moment of making that choice to stay on plan. And another truth is that that’s just my toddler brain talking to me. It’s not really what I want. If you want to start learning more about the thought work I’m describing here, have you checked out my seven day quickstart guide, it could be just what you need to get going to get started. It’s not going to fix you in seven days, it’s not going to fix this long term habit. But it is an opportunity to get started. You can learn more at www dot Molly watts.com/quickstart. That’s Molly with a why watts with an s.com/quickstart. And he is by the way, doing that now during June, it is a good idea because that introductory price of $27 is going to go up in July. All right. The other thing I’m getting ready to open is making peace with alcohol. My new online course and community are just about ready. I had hoped to have this done in May, but due to some technical challenges at the website, it’s not quite ready but soon will be. And that’s another reason I’m really looking forward to the summer. The last reason that I’m really looking well not the last but just the last that you’re gonna hear about right now. I’m really looking forward to the summer is that in July, I’m partnering with Sunnyside to do more dry July. My Facebook group members know that I’ve made it my goal to be 70% alcohol free this year. And I have a plan for achieving that goal. That includes more dry July, as well as more sober October and dry you weary which were I’ve already done. In both July and October. I’ll be doing 25 alcohol free days, and Sunnyside is partnering with me to help you achieve that with me. Now, you don’t have to do 25 days if you don’t want to. You can customize your plan to whatever more alcohol free days means for you. And if you aren’t currently subscribed to Sunnyside, you’ll get that whole 31 Day Challenge for free. More details to come over the next few weeks. So stay tuned, but I’m super excited to do more dry July with you. Okay, on to this week’s show. This week, I want to talk to you about chasing the buzz we get from alcohol. Now you’ve heard me talk to you before on this podcast about changing the the mindset of wanting to drink to get drunk. And this is along those same lines. But the bus is a little more nuanced. One of the things that I hear from people all the time when they are even just thinking about reducing alcohol in their lives is that there’s this competing desire with the buzz, they’ll say but I just like the feeling of being buzzed, I don’t want to have to give up that buzz. And honestly, I get it because I absolutely enjoy what I would call the buzz that an alcoholic drink feels like in my brain. What I have come to understand, however, through my work in changing my relationship with alcohol is how limited that effect really is, and how much I do not enjoy the consequences of chasing that buzz by over drinking. So what do I mean by all this? I’ve shared the science of blood alcohol concentration a few times on the podcast and last year I did a full episode on blood alcohol concentration. I will link it in the show notes. It’s episode number 77. And it’s part of the alcohol and series. And certainly the conversation about the buzz involves understanding BAC to some degree and specifically our own blood alcohol concentration and how the alcohol we drink impacts us for most people now and that means I’m gonna say this means people that have not developed a tolerance to alcohol. So hold on let’s talk about tolerance for a minute. I don’t think I’ve ever shared any of the technical definitions about tolerance on the podcast. So a person with tolerance requires a higher blood alcohol concentration than a non tolerant person to experience some of the same effects. Basically, tolerance means that your body is suppressing its normal responses to the toxin that alcohol is so you’re less likely to vomit pass out etc. Your ability to stand walk speak without slurring may change with tolerance. Your reaction time and peripheral vision do not Improve with tolerance. So this is a problem because you may feel less inebriated, but your reaction time is actually just as bad as it would be, you know at whatever at a higher BAC and BAC and the rate at which you metabolize alcohol do not change with tolerance, this is important, okay, B A C does not change, so your blood alcohol content will be higher, and you will not feel it right. So, you may not feel the effects the same but as you drink your BAC is still increasing. And tolerance is not a good goal, right? We do not want tolerance, here’s why physical damage and impairment are occurring without your knowledge. With tolerance, you feel less drunk, so you’re less able to accurately judge your ability to function. For example, you may think you’re okay to drive even though your reaction time and vision are impaired. Your body no longer protects you the way that it was meant to said, you’re less likely to vomit or pass out, you may reach even higher, more toxic blood alcohol concentration levels. When you develop tolerance, you can no longer experience the buzz, quote unquote, that I’m talking about. You don’t get the same stimulant effects at low doses. And tolerance and withdrawal are two symptoms of alcohol use disorder. So if you are building your tolerance, you are moving toward physical addiction. All right. So ask yourself some questions about your own tolerance levels and whether or not you are developing tolerance, because that’s another really strong reason to want to reduce your alcohol intake overall. And also to change your relationship with alcohol. In most cases, it can take anywhere from two to five weeks of a complete period of abstinence to lower your tolerance level. In really a period of abstinence is the most effective way to lower your alcohol tolerance. You can also lower it by drinking less over time, but it will simply take longer, right? It’s kind of the way I did it, I reduced slowly surely over time, and now my tolerance is definitely impacted. You will definitely want to note that if you do adopt the alcohol, minimalist lifestyle, and you routinely factor in multiple alcohol free days, you will absolutely lower your tolerance. And it’s very true for me, it’s actually kind of mind boggling to me that I used to drink four to five IPAs in, in a night. I recently had two pints of IPA, both were not high alcohol by by volume one was only four and a half percent one was 6%. And I had plenty of food with both of them. I stopped drinking around 7pm both just those two. And I still had a terrible night’s sleep. I woke up from three to 5am, which is not typical for me. And it was definitely not worth the trade off for me. Which is important for me to notice. And remember, because in the moment, when I’ve had one pint, it’s the buzz from that one pint that feels like something I want to keep feeling. And it’s often why I and a lot of other people that I’ve talked to and worked with, tell me, they they choose to drink that other drink, they want to keep the buzz going. So the buzz, let’s talk about it. What is it exactly? We’re getting a little sciency. Drinking is, you know, obviously societally accepted, but just like anything other drug alcohol is that for our brains, it affects the brain, ethanol, the remarkably simple chemical compound that gives alcoholic drinks their buzz permeates the cells of our body and brain within minutes of consumption. And there is still a lot that we do not know about alcohols effect on the brain. What we do know, people typically drink alcohol to induce this euphoria and reduce anxiety, and they frequently drink in social settings. That’s the buzz. The buzz we seek in these instances is caused by multiple factors in the brain. Now this information that I’m going to share with you comes from a few different studies. So I don’t know if I’ll link them all in the show notes, but different studies that I got all of this from. So the first thing, alcohol may cause us to become disinhibited by dampening activity in parts of our frontal cortex, which is important as we know the prefrontal cortex for all of the logical executive control functions. to such as inhibiting behaviors that we don’t want to do, by inhibiting our inhibitions. Alcohol makes us feel more stimulated. Number two being pleasantly buzzed also releases dopamine, and increases activity in the striatum, which is a key brain region associated with rewarding stimuli. Right. So that’s the reward center. That’s the habit part of the brain. Number three, alcohol effects the emotion centers of the brain as well. In one study, alcohol dampened the neural responses in the amygdala to negative facial expressions, which may be a reason drinking can serve as a social lubricant, a bit of liquid courage, which helps us become less sensitive to rejection or social anxiety. Now, here’s the interesting part. To me. The intoxicating powers of alcohol are not pharmacological alone, they’re not just all of those brain chemicals that I just talked about. brains like to hang out with other brains, basically. And what that looks like when you drink varies dramatically, depending on whether you’re by yourself, or whether you’re in a social situation. being around others in a social setting can itself be intoxicating, and alcohol seems to amplify those good feelings. It also provides a signal to others that we are letting our hair down when we drink around them, right. And it does not require an intoxicating dose to see those mood effects. So that again, was studied, which is very interesting. Now, if you’ve listened to this show for any length of time, or if you’ve read my book, you’ve heard me talk about alcohols biphasic effect, okay. And what that means is that initially, in low doses, it produces this buzz that where we feel stimulated and disinhibited and we enjoy talking with other people, we feel like we can dance or Converse forever. And up to a point, right. And the point is actually pretty clinical we, it’s very much based on blood alcohol content, it’s approximately 0.055% to 0.06%. And this is where the enjoyable effects of alcohol decline and wear off. And in fact, you may feel sleepy, flat, kind of disconnected as you drink more. You may get moody or sick or make unwise decisions. And here’s what’s important to know. From that point, when you start to feel the negative consequences. There’s no going back to get the peak buzz. Drinking more will only take you deeper into the negative consequences territory. Scientifically, here’s what’s going on. Even though Alcohol is a depressant, it’s a unique depressant in that the initial feelings have that buzz as your blood alcohol content rises from zero to 0.055 0.06%. As it goes up at a fairly constant rate until we’ve reached that peak buzz percentage, right? We’re getting all of these fun feelings, the feelings that you’re feeling more chatty, that you’re feeling, you know, more flirtatious that you’re feeling roar, you know, like you’re having fun, right? But you also feel still in control. And then as your body passes, that peak buzz point, you start to experience all of alcohols changes. With each subsequent dose of alcohol, the stimulant effects, those positive stimulating effects declined, and the depressant effects become more pronounced. So you’re going to get sleepy or your moods going to start slumping. You’re going to start saying things potentially that you don’t, you don’t want to say you’re gonna make me feel sick, right? You all know I’m a science girl and that is why I am so proud of my partnership with Sunnyside. Sunnyside has great data based on their user experience and they also have great science techniques behind what drives the program in the first place. Users of Sunnyside in their first 30 days experience on average a 29% reduction in drinks. They avoid 1500 calories and they’ve saved over $50 each month. This is because there is science behind the pro Graeme Sunnyside helps you reach your goals and stick with them long term by focusing on three scientifically proven superpowers. One is pre commitment, you intentionally make a plan ahead of time and we talk about making a plan all the time here on the podcast. Number two is conscious interference. And you’ll learn that the habit of tracking each drink helps you decide about it. Number three is positivity. We know this is not easy sometimes right? And we all need a little boost. I tried to be a boost and Sunnyside is a great boost via text message or email to keep you motivated. So if you haven’t already checked it out, I invite you www.sunnyside.co/molly To get started on a free 15 day trial today. Very interestingly enough, alcohols effects are more acute in new environments and situations. Research shows. That’s because our tolerance is partly environmental. We are more tolerant of alcohol in familiar situations. This was another study done in 2011. In contrast, drinking in an unfamiliar setting, hence to lower our tolerance. Alright, so think about that in how you use alcohol. in new situations, it’s especially important to remember to pace yourself, because you could get more intoxicated than you would in your usual setting. Even if you’re drinking the same amount. That was very, I like that was fun research to come upon. So again, the biphasic effect actually occurs within our brain, right? So it’s happening that by phasic, when I say it’s, it’s by phasic, I’m talking about the way that alcohol, the alcohol chemicals impact our brain, the brain center that inhibits our actions is the first to be affected by alcohol. So without the inhibiting center, the other areas somewhat go wild. And we feel a little uninhibited. Later, the brain functions that allow us that those same brain functions that allow us to act bolder and less shy also get depressed. And that is when we tend to get quieter slumped off right now, blood alcohol content chart and calculators are useful. I know I actually know people in my my Facebook group people coaching clients that I’ve worked with use breathalyzers to check their blood alcohol content, that’s obviously much more accurate. But they’re still limited. Right there. They estimate how much alcohol the at least the charts and the calculators, those charts and calculators are going to estimate how much alcohol someone of your body type and sex can typically have before experiencing certain effects. But as we’ve talked about, many times, they don’t account for various other factors that may influence your alcohol tolerance, like your age, your health, your fatigue level medications that you’ve taken food, how much food you’ve consumed, and whether or not you’re in a familiar environment, that’s a new one to me. And you may need to adjust your, the blood alcohol percentage to account for, right, how long you’re drinking and all of these other factors. Now, that’s what’s happening in our brains and socially as we achieve this, quote, unquote, peak buzz from a scientific standpoint. And then if we keep drinking, we go past the blood alcohol content of 0.055% is 0.06. You know, nuance there, our brain functions will get more and more depressed. And what has been shown in multiple studies is that when people try to keep the buzz going, that they feel from that initial lower amount of alcohol instead of actually being able to feel that initial feeling again, what they feel is increasingly tired, sick, sleepy, sad, and so on. It’s not possible. And what I really want you to hear and internalize, is that number one, the next drink does not make the buzz at her. I’m not going to say that it won’t increase the effects, but it won’t make things better. It will actually make it far more likely that you will experience all the negative consequences of over drinking. And number two, when you are buzzed, quote unquote, you are still capable of choosing not to have another drink. When you are in the peak buzz stage, you are still 100% capable of choosing to not have another drink, even though your preferred frontal cortex is slightly inhibited, you absolutely still can tap into your long term goals and decide to remember what the science of alcohol is telling us. When our lower brains when the toddler brain and the reward centers start telling us that we should have another one, we can absolutely challenge that thinking with the truth about what overdrinking means for our brains. We have to be willing to challenge what we’ve trained our brains to believe, as well as what we’ve trained them to desire, right? Science helped me do that. However, it still does. It still does. I do I am right there with you. Sometimes when I’ve had that first drink, it sounds really good to have another one. And if I don’t eat enough, if I’m tired, if I’m in a new place, it may affect me more. And if it affects me more, it’s more likely that I’m going to have those negative consequences. Now, I’m not talking about hangovers. But guess what? When you factor in multiple alcohol free days into your life, and you start to benefit from the mood, the higher mood quality, you get better sleep, you have more energy, when you start experiencing all that. You don’t want to trade that off. Now some people ask, Well, why drink at all? Well, I enjoy that initial us. I do. And it’s okay. And I’m willing to make those trade offs. I’ve done the research, I understand the cost risk benefit analysis that I am willing to make when it comes to alcohol and trade offs that I’m not willing to make. And that’s really what my goal is for you to is to help you decide what is peaceful for you. For me, being an alcohol, minimalist, enjoying alcohol at low risk levels, and doing so in a way that aligns with my long term goals. That is where peace lives for me and this science and making these decisions and being able to have the autonomy to make those decisions. Works for me. It’s not decision fatigue. It’s just that’s what I do. I plan ahead. I know I’m making these, the decision to be 70% alcohol free this year, and it feels great. And I hope you hear me, it’s okay to enjoy that buzz from alcohol in my opinion. But do make sure that you remind your brain that any therapeutic effect is really limited. After that the negative consequences will outweigh any positive buzz that you’ve experienced. Oh, and of course all those things that we talked about about vase helping us feel being more chatty, flirtatious, fun, jovial. All of those feelings are available to us. Without alcohol. We can create any of those feelings with our thoughts. Does the bus feel good? Well, I think that’s pretty well proven given alcohols popularity, right? We could still enjoy alcohol in minimal ways, and we can also enjoy all the positive effects of alcohol free days. If you want to learn more about my 70% alcohol free plan. Come on over to the Facebook group. It’s free and it’s the alcohol minimalist, change your drinking habits search for it. There’s always a link in the show notes. And stay tuned for more information on the more dry July challenge coming soon. 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