Alcohol & Anxiety
In Episode 14 of “Breaking the Bottle Legacy,” host Molly Watts invites listeners on a transformative journey toward a peaceful relationship with alcohol. With a focus on the science behind alcohol’s impact on the brain, Molly delves into neurotransmitters like GABA and glutamate, unraveling the mechanisms that lead to feelings of euphoria and relaxation. She exposes the deceptive nature of alcohol-induced relaxation, explaining the phenomenon of anxiety rebound during withdrawal. Sharing her personal journey, including an enlightening 11-day alcohol-free period, Molly provides relatable insights and dispels myths about alcohol’s effects. The episode offers practical resources, including a free ebook and links to a supportive community, empowering listeners to take tangible steps toward sobriety. Molly’s commitment to demystifying alcohol and fostering understanding resonates, encouraging listeners to embark on their paths toward a peaceful, alcohol-free life.
You’re listening to breaking the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 14. 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 well, you know, gotta be honest. It was a beautiful day yesterday. It’s been very nice off and on this week. And this morning looks a little cloudy, a little gray. But hey, it is Oregon it is March. And to make matters worse today is was Spring Forward Sunday. So it’s done. We’ve we’ve moved at an hour ahead. I’ll be looking forward to it this evening when it stays lighter out longer. But definitely the morning of daylight savings time is like oh, it’s already that time Yikes. I feel a little behind the gun already. So today, I want to first take care of a little housekeeping. I want to ask you have you grabbed your free copy of alcohol truths? How much is safe? If you haven’t, here is why I think you should. This short ebook is focused on three areas of your health, physical, social, and financial. And in it, I clear up some of the science about drinking alcohol. There’s also an easy tool for you to use a cost benefit analysis of your current drinking versus your future drinking. So I call my relationship with alcohol peaceful, but it’s also safe. And safe is an acronym for s science guide your drinking decisions. A your drinking decisions are adaptable. F your future goals align with your drinking decisions. And ie your drinking decisions make you feel empowered. So go to www dot Molly watts.com. That’s Molly with a Y watts with an s.com. And pick up your free copy today. Also, I want to encourage you to join me in my private Facebook group. It’s private. So all of your posts, comments are only visible within the group, none of your friends, family, whatever will know you’re in there. But you can search for the group on Facebook. It’s called Change your alcohol habit. I’ll also link it in my show notes. And I would encourage you to come it’s a great spot for just some camaraderie, some more support more information. And we’d love to see you there. So come along. Today’s episode is all about alcohol, and anxiety. And this has got to be one of the things I hear most from other people. And it’s definitely what I believed about alcohol for many, many years, like decades. And that was that I needed to drink to take the edge off my day. It’s probably the number one reason that people give for why they think they can’t change their daily drinking habits. They believe that their lives are inherently stressful, and they believe that alcohol helps them unwind. So I want to talk about that today. And I want to dispel that idea for you at least to a certain degree. I want to set the record straight from a scientific basis on how alcohol affects the brain. And why drinking to relieve tension and anxiety is often a very double edged sword. So if you’ve listened to earlier episodes, you’ve heard me talk about alcohols biphasic effect and how alcohol affects many different neurotransmitters in the brain. Alcohol is tricky, because it doesn’t have just one effect. And it’s both a depressant and a stimulant to the brain. We’re going to dive a little deeper here. And I’ll just forewarn you that this is going to be a little sciency and it’s going to be full of technical information. And if you’ve again listened to previous episodes, you’ll realize that I’ve already claimed my science geekiness and while I understand that not everyone loves science the way I do. I really believe that understanding the science of alcohol will help you start changing your thoughts about it. So that’s why I’m gonna keep talking about it. and getting all this information. It’s building up a reserve in your logical, future focused brain of facts. And those facts counteract all the stories we’ve been telling ourselves about alcohol stories that are reinforced by our primitive brain, and by society and by the alcohol industry itself. You know, while it’s going to be sciency, I’ve also tried to simplify it, so it’s easy to digest quick review the brain, the brain consists of an estimated 86 billion neurons. Those billions of brain cells communicate by passing chemical messages from one another. Those are neurotransmitters neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers. And billions of neurotransmitter molecules work constantly to keep our brains functioning, managing everything from our breathing, to our heartbeat, to our learning and concentration levels. To date, scientists have identified about 60 different neurotransmitters, but I’m not going to talk about all of them. So just rest easy. I’m gonna first talk about two neurotransmitters that are very important. And they are actually the most common and the most powerful neurotransmitters in the brain. They are basically effectively the on and off switch of the brain. And they are gamma amino butyric acid, which thankfully, scientists call GABA. We don’t have to remember that long name, we’re just going to call it GABA, and glutamate, so we’ve got GABA and glutamate. In essence, these two neurotransmitters are the core of the brain. They do all the basic work such as sleeping, laying down memories and thinking glutamate turns on the brain, it is considered an excitatory neurotransmitter, and GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it turns the brain off. When glutamate is released, and goes across the synapse, it turns on the next neuron, which makes the main brain more active. GABA does the opposite. Okay, so we’ve got GABA and glutamate. Alcohol directly affects brain chemistry. By altering levels of both of those neurotransmitters. Glutamate would normally increase brain activity and energy levels, like we just said, it’s excitatory. Alcohol actually suppresses the release of glutamate. It results in a slowdown of your brain’s highways. On the other hand, GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, as we just said, reduces energy levels in the brain calms everything down. And alcohol actually increases GABA production in the brain. So increases levels of sedation, you’ve got glutamate being suppressed, and GABA being increased. And what this basically means for you is that your thought, your speech and your movements are slow down, or slowed down, and the more you drink, the more of these effects you’re going to feel. So these two effects are why people believe that alcohol helps them unwind. And you can see that it’s absolutely scientifically true that your brain function changes and your thoughts are literally slowed down so that you aren’t going to feel the stress because you’re not thinking all the stressful thoughts you were before. Alcohol, as we’ve discussed previously, on this podcast also causes an increase in the release of another neurotransmitter, and that is dopamine. And dopamine is the brain’s feel good neurotransmitter. And so that’s also a reason why it’s we think that drinking makes us feel good, right? So we’ve got this sedating effect and the increase in dopamine. Now notice how I said a drink. And here is the most important thing for you to know. The thing with alcohol is that this therapeutic effect or when alcohol produces this combination, relaxing euphoric feeling is very limited. There have been numerous studies done on the different blood alcohol levels and corresponding feelings of euphoria and relaxation, loss of inhibition. And the peak of the benefit is at point 05 5%, blood alcohol content. After that, at higher levels of blood alcohol, the depressant action of alcohol increases. And this results in loss of muscle coordination, balance issues, speech and reaction time are in fact impacted. And that’s why the legal limit for operating a vehicle in most places is point zero 8%. And just a side note, studies have shown an effect on people’s alertness and judgment well below that point. 08 and it is really important that you understand your driving can be Dangerous without you being legally intoxicated. So in Episode Number two, I talked about how your brain’s reaction to alcohol is going to be dynamic each and every time you drink, and figuring out how much alcohol you can drink to keep yourself in the therapeutic range for blood alcohol level. For most people, that means less than two standard drinks, period, even overtime. Because even though you probably don’t feel intoxicated, your blood alcohol content diminishes slowly. And even three hours after drinking can still be half of whatever peak you reached while drinking. So while a drink a single drink may truly help you take the edge off anything more than that, and you’re increasing the negative effects of alcohol so much that any offset that they that they basically offset any positive that you might have originally experienced. There’s also a rebound effect with alcohol. And again, this will be dose dependent. So with one drink, it’s probably not going to be noticeable, but every drink thereafter, you may notice it. And certainly the more you drink, the more you will notice it. It is increased anxiety several hours after your last drink. I talked about this in episode number seven, and it’s covered by William Porter in both alcohol explained and alcohol explained to. And so we’ve just discussed that your brain has a complex system of neurotransmitters that basically account for everything our bodies do. We talked about increasing GABA, suppressing glutamate. And when you do that with a foreign substance like alcohol, the body and the brain attempt to counteract it. When you stop drinking alcohol, you are left with a brain that’s been adapting to alcohol sedate of effects by dialing down the inhibitory system and dialing up the excitability system. When this happens, you may feel jittery, irritable and anxious. Here’s what William Porter says in alcohol explained. Essentially, alcohol provides us with a feeling of relaxation. However, the brain and nervous systems react to this by releasing stimulants and becoming more sensitive, with the result that when the alcohol wears off, we are more anxious and unrelaxed than we were before we took the drink. The whole idea of rebound anxiety is where the term high anxiety comes from. The more you drink, the more noticeable this effect is. And when you drink enough to feel really hungover physically nauseous, shaky, dry mouth headache. If you pay attention, you will also probably notice increased anxiety. In fact, you may have trained yourself long enough with alcohol like I did, to believe that to get rid of that anxiety, you need to drink again. And so it can become an unending cycle. This was something that was really apparent to me and actually became the reason that I tried my first mini break. I talked about this a little back in episode seven. And it had become after I had reduced my alcohol quite considerably on a daily basis and taking breaks or taking alcohol free days into my week as well. I was routinely including alcohol free days in my week, and I was typically having only one drink occasionally to on any given occasion. And then I went away to the beach for my birthday weekend. And for some reason, I decided that I wanted to drink more. I had about four drinks on both Friday and Saturday nights. Technically, it was probably a lot closer to six units because I was drinking IPA and it was in pints. So probably even though it was for drinks, it was technically six units of alcohol. And on Sunday morning, as we were driving back, I could feel myself on the verge of tears for literally no reason. And I had a tightness that was happening in my chest and I just felt tense. And it was truly an aha moment. Because even though I had already read alcohol explained and alcohol explained to and I had learned about the rebound anxiety when alcohol leaves your system, I had never paid attention to it. And this time it was like a light bulb went off. And I was very aware of the feeling. That night I couldn’t sleep well. And I literally woke up in the middle of the night. And I decided that I wanted to see if I would notice a difference in being alcohol free for multiple days. I decided right there and then just to commit to an 11 day mini break from basically my birthday to Thanksgiving. And that was the start of really me being able to do longer breaks and understanding that that was going to be a part of of my peaceful relationship with alcohol. My peacefully peaceful relationship with alcohol, my safe relationship has been an evolution and a process. It took me time to educate myself to it took time to change my thinking, and to break a very ingrained, long term habit of daily drinking. It took me a long time to not want to drink to unwind or to relieve stress. And it was that thought that I that I truly believed that alcohol was helping me that really drove that habit for years, decades, really, once I understood the science, and became aware of how I was actually creating the anxious feeling in my brain from drinking, it took my whole relationship with alcohol to the next level. And I realized that I wanted to experience more alcohol free days. And the more I did, the more I recognized that for me, including alcohol in my life really meant just a nice glass of wine with dinner or one cold beer on a warm day. But more than that, and it simply doesn’t equate to more benefit. Now, do I? And did I still test that every now and then? Yeah, because my primitive brain can talk pretty loudly sometimes. And I will occasionally listen to it, and believe that a second drink sounds like a good idea. In fact, earlier in 2020, during all the COVID stress, there were times I drank Off Plan and it went to three or four. But it really wasn’t until my birthday in November of 2020, that I was acutely aware of the anxiety that I felt post drinking. Last week on The episode I talked about my toolbox, and educating myself on alcohol science is one of the tools in my toolbox. So I hope that learning about alcohol and how alcohol actually increases anxiety in the brain has been helpful for you too. There are links in my show notes for both my Facebook group and to pick up your free ebook at WWW dot Molly watts.com. And I hope that you’ll go grab them. And I hope you’ll look for it. And I hope you’ll join me in both the group and in reading that ebook. I hope you take the week to really explore your own relationship with alcohol and to figure out if you’re using it to try to take the edge off. Is it really working? Or are you just perpetuating an endless cycle of increased anxiety the next day? All right, that’s what I’ve got for you today. You’ll notice this episode is a little shorter. That is by design. I am trying to keep my solo episodes now down to about 20 minutes as opposed to the longer interview podcasts. And I just want to make things more digestible smaller chunks of information. I think that will help everybody including me. So have a great week everybody. And, as always choose peace. 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