EP #160

Dry January Series: Alcohol Core Belief #3 - Alcohol Creates Connection

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In this episode of the Dry January series, Molly Watts delves into overcoming alcohol abuse and fostering a peaceful relationship with alcohol, urging listeners to continue their journey of minimizing alcohol intake even after completing Dry January. She explores alcohol core belief #3, which suggests that alcohol creates connections, shedding light on how this belief shapes our social interactions and relationships. Watts emphasizes the importance of prioritizing non-alcoholic connections and challenges listeners to reevaluate their beliefs about alcohol’s role in social settings.

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 habits. 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 was a very warm and dry Oregon today. Almost 60 degrees here. This is the end of January that I’m recording this. I’m not quite to the end of January, but we’re right there. And it was absolutely beautiful out today. Really gorgeous day here in Oregon. I’m grateful for that doesn’t always happen here. During January two weeks ago, as you might have heard it was a little bit snowy and icy and yeah. So this episode is dropping on January 31. It is the end of January or dry ish or damp January whatever goal you had for January, we have reached the end of the month. So how did it go for you? Did you find it easy? Did you have some Off Plan drinking? Are you motivated to keep going and really change your relationship with alcohol for the long haul? You know, this was my fourth dry January. And really there was never any question for me that I would make it the full 31 days. But even I had a couple of days where my brain wanted to tell a pity party story about how I couldn’t have a drink. Now I recognize that toddler brain of mine throwing out that thought, and I don’t hate her for it. I don’t get mad at my lower brain. I’m not frustrated because these thoughts happen. I just recognize those thoughts as the kind of old stories that typically fueled my desire to drink Off Plan and sort of like patting a toddler on the head and saying, aren’t you sweet? I didn’t buy into that thought. I immediately challenged it with my logical goal oriented future focused adult brain, my prefrontal cortex and thought, hang on. It’s not even true that you can’t have a drink. You’re choosing not to have alcohol during dry. You worry because reducing alcohol in your life and increasing your alcohol free days is important to you. Being alcohol free this month is a big part of your bigger goal. And that’s nothing to feel bad about. It’s awesome when you achieve your goals. Right. So there’s none of this pity party. It is my hope that whatever your experience with January has been that you’re really motivated to continue minimising alcohol in your life. I hope you’ll keep listening to the podcast, I hope you’ll hear more about things that help you really create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. That’s what I’m here. And that’s why I’m doing all of this. Back in episode number 158. Before the mid month mini series that I did, I introduced the concept of your AC B’s. Yes, you heard me right, not your ABCs but your AC B’s. These are your alcohol core beliefs. And in 158, I introduced the five core beliefs that I really believe fuel people’s desire to drink. And I’m not just talking about overdrinking, I am talking about the beliefs that run in the background for everybody. For any people that are including alcohol in their lives. These run in the background of all of our lives. And none of us question them because they’ve simply been beliefs that we’ve held on to for a really long time. Alcohol core beliefs are reinforced by society by your family, your friends, even your location. Sometimes they are often what makes changing your drinking habits are hard to achieve, because we aren’t aware of how strongly we hold on to these beliefs. So in 158, we dug into our Alcohol core belief number one, and that is that alcohol helps relieve stress. Right? That’s something that many of you think that you drink because alcohol helps you relieve stress. And last week in episode number 159, we broke down alcohol core belief number two, that alcohol makes things more fun. And today we are talking about alcohol core belief. Number three, alcohol creates connection. Now, this is a core belief that I hear from people often. And they don’t use that terminology. No one really says I believe alcohol creates connection. They don’t say to me, I believe alcohol creates connection. And that’s really the thing about core beliefs that I want you to understand. These are underlying beliefs that are strong, and they go unquestioned. And we don’t realize that they are there and fueling our desire. Instead, people will say something to me, like, it’s hard to change my drinking, because my partner and I like to share a bottle of wine together, it’s just what we do. Or it might be something like, I need a drink to help me get in the mood even. Possibly, it’s not connecting with your partner, but it’s connecting with friends. And people will say, book club just wouldn’t be the same without wine. running in the background of all of these kinds of thoughts is the core belief that alcohol creates connection. And when we talked about alcohol core belief number one and alcohol core belief number two, I acknowledged that the impact of alcohol on our neuro chemistry does, in fact, at very low levels, create a reaction in the brain that elicits a sensation of euphoria and lessened inhibitions. Which, if you’re talking about alcohol, core belief, number one, relieving stress, it can feel like it’s relaxing. And if you’re talking about alcohol, core belief, number two, alcohol makes things more fun. It can feel euphoric, right, which is fun. And it’s important to notice that it’s not the same as the emotion of contentment, or the emotion of relaxed, those we create with our thoughts. The emotions are sustainable, but the reaction in the brain that you get is still absolutely there. It’s real. And as I said last week, you’ve usually just got used to counting the initial brain buzz, as fun or as relaxing. And you’ve been relying on that influx of dopamine to change how you feel about yourself, or about the situation that you’re in. And so much so that you don’t even bother paying attention to what you’re thinking. Now, when it comes to alcohol, core belief number three, again, there is some logic along with the chemical effect of alcohol on the brain that we’re just talking about right there. And those intandem are why you believe that it is alcohol that creates connection. Traditionally, this is the logic and kind of the history. Alcohol was always consumed in communal, social or ritual contexts. That’s where we we came, where the alcohol you know, where alcohol when it first became something that people use, that’s where they used it. The use of alcohol by humans goes back 1000s of years. In fact, some philosophers actually believe that alcohol may have been the impetus for humans developing agriculture and complex societies. Talk about creating connection right now in his 2021 book, drunk how we sipped danced and stumbled our way to civilization. Author, Edward Slingerland, who is a professor he writes, various forms of alcohol were not merely a byproduct of the invention of agriculture, but actually a motivation for it, that the first farmers were driven by a desire for beer, not bread. In archaeology, there’s a hypothesis called beer before bread, that is gaining adherence and seems very plausible. If you look around the world, the first cultivated crops tend to be plants that must have been chosen for their psychoactive properties, not for their nutrition properties. And so that’s behind this idea that it’s this desire to get cognitively altered, that motivated hunter gatherers to settle down and start living in these large scale societies. So yeah, basically getting intoxicated is an ancient behavior. And it is actually probably one of the motivations for us creating civilizations in the first place, potentially. Now, the idea that alcohol helped us build communities may sound like it It’s evidence to support alcohol core belief number three, that alcohol creates connection. But here’s the thing. Creating connection with other members of our species has been a key part of evolution and survival, dating back millions of years, not just 1000s, our primitive ancestors brains evolved to seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. And one of the important brain developments in the mammalian brain was the importance of social bonds, which was connected to our survival. I shared a quote in my book breaking the bottle legacy about this, I said, our primitive brains evolved to associate our emotions with necessary actions for the survival of our species. Generally speaking, this means avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. For our archaic ancestors, the Neanderthals, being a member of the tribe was literally a matter of life or death. And as humans evolved, we have become more and more socially connected. Mammals are more socially connected than reptiles, primates, more than other mammals and humans more than other primates. What this suggests is that becoming more socially connected is essential to our survival. In a sense, evolution has made bets at each step, that the best way to make us more successful is to make us more social. That was a quote from that book. And it’s really just to make us more connected, right? Our ability to form social bonds, our ability to connect with others goes back for millions and millions of years, well before humans introduced alcohol into this equation. So just because the hunter gatherers decided to settle down so that they could plant grapes and grains, doesn’t mean that alcohol is what’s creating the connection. Hey, everyone, just a quick break to talk with you about sunny side. Now, you’ve heard me mentioned Sunny Side many times before, you’ve heard me talk with Nick and E and the founders of Sunnyside and I just want to share with you why I am so passionate about this company. They are way more than just a drink tracking app. They are really about helping people create a mindful relationship with alcohol and they stand for a life that is about having more, not less, right. There are more rested mornings more days when you’re feeling your absolute best when you have more energy and positivity. Sunnyside is not there to tell you to never go out to never drink, but they are there to help you enjoy your life and to wake up and be ready to be your shining best. It is not an all or nothing approach. It is friendly, it is approachable, and it is absolutely judgment free. They want to be a solution that fits into your unique lifestyle. And I think that’s exactly what they’ve created. You can register for a free 15 day trial. Go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to get started. That’s www.sunnyside.co/minimalist to try Sunnyside today then we don’t really have to go back that far in history. To understand where this core belief gets cemented for many of us, I think back to my college friendships, a few romantic relationships, including my now husband. And all of those relationships were forged around drinking together because alcohol was just a major part of our social life in college. And it could be easy to juxtapose alcohol as being the driving force in that connection. But when I think about things like my husband or my best friend from college, like my best friend, we met week, one in the dorms and for sure, there were many drunken escapades throughout our college years, but we’re still best friends. She was my maid of honor. We have kids all the same age, we’ve navigated lots of ups and downs in our lives together. And none of it has to do with alcohol. She’s funny, intelligent, creative, strong, and when we see each other, it doesn’t matter if we’re drinking coffee, taking a walk or having a glass of wine. And that’s what I need to remember. My decision to drink less or drink not at all is of zero consequence for our connection. And when I have focused my attention on whether or not I get to have a drink with her or alcoholic beverage together, it minimizes all the other things said are so important about our friendship, and exaggerates the importance of alcohol. Now that friendship is a special one granted, but even with acquaintances with the book club crowd with your usual weekend hanging out friends, I want you to ask yourself, what else is true about what connects me with these people? Why do you like spending time with them? Here’s what you have to know, the experience of friendliness towards someone isn’t influenced by whether you’re drinking or not. Rather, it stems from your thoughts. It’s the BMRC inaction. Similarly, feeling like you’re separated or disconnected from people. That’s not determined by external factors like drinking, either. But it is the result of your thoughts about that person about the situation or the environment, essentially, it’s always your thoughts that are going to create your feelings, right? A thought that may seem innocent enough, but actually fuels the alcohol core belief. Number three, is this simple one. alcohols, just drinking is just what we do together, we drink because that’s what we do when we hang out together, or maybe your family. We’re just a family that drinks together. When you believe that drinking is what you have in common, that it’s just what you do together. When you deeply believe that there is going to be a lot of fear around losing your quote unquote, connection, right, you’re going to have a lot of what ifs playing out in your head. And because our brains love a negative bias, and they’re prone to catastrophizing, and thinking up all of the worst case scenarios, you are going to paint a gloom and doom scenario of losing all of your friends, all of your family just because you’ve chosen not to have a drink. Often we find ourselves entertaining and thinking and projecting about this idea, especially when we believe that drinking is the common thread binding us. We envision that scenario with people, when we’re not even really in this scenario. These thoughts occur when we’re alone. And we’re imagining scenarios where those friends are drinking, and we are not, or visualizing of an event where they have a glass of wine in their hand while we abstain. And in these moments, our thoughts are what create these feelings of fear and ambivalence. And we see our actions unfolding and our behaviors well before any of this stuff has actually even happened. And when you’re alone, just contemplating the notion of not drinking, or believing that drinking is your your bond with these folks, I really want you to see what comes up for you because what you’re going to feel is this idea, this sense of loss, because you’re creating it with your thoughts. Let’s delve into the concept of connection and disconnection in the context of your relationships. Feeling connections actually just means establishing a rapport with other people, right? Experiencing friendliness, and a sense of camaraderie. And on the flip side, being disconnected means that you feel separated from or estranged from people around you. And it’s really important to hear that the word Connect is actually a verb, it’s an action and consider this, what really brings people together what pushes them apart, right? Connection is an active process, and it necessitates doing something to establish, or disestablish, a bond with another person doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not we have a drink in our hand. You see where I’m going with this, right? If we look at the behavior map result cycle, and specifically the result cycle, it says that our thoughts create our feelings which dictate our actions. When you believe that you can only establish a connection with other people through alcohol. You’ve really essentially disempowered yourself and you relinquish your responsibility to take charge of building connections. Right? And that’s, that’s what I want you to hear. You can and should be in charge. of making connections. It’s not alcohol that does that for you. Now, listen, I’m not saying that if you’re used to socializing and drinking with folks that it’s not going to feel a little uncomfortable, using alcohol to ease social anxiety, and whatever else to have fun, or blow off steam or relax and unwind. These are all 100% normal thoughts. And definitely, most likely been a part of your life. And you’ve been practicing it for years, potentially decades. And I want you to hear something, you’re also completely capable of doing all of those same things, all without a drink in your hand, feeling a little discomfort, and expecting to feel a little discomfort, you can handle discomfort. I remember the first time I was out with my husband on a Friday night, and I was choosing to be alcohol free, and I was definitely feeling uncomfortable. I had a ton of stories going on in my head before we even went out. Like I was gonna feel bored deprived, resentful of my husband, who was quote, unquote, getting to drink. I was aware of all those thoughts. And I was like, Well, alright, we’re going anyway. And I’ll just deal with it. Right. That’s how I set myself up. So we went to our favorite bar, I ordered a soda water with a lime, he ordered a beer. And we went to sit down. And I literally had this thought when I sip my drink. And this was the thought I remember it so well, because it was pretty simple. It was, hey, you know, this isn’t that bad. And just that light, little thought caused me to realize that I had been building it all up in my head, all with my thinking, creating all this trauma. And when I actually took that first sip, my first thought instead of being this sucks, was, hey, this isn’t that bad. And that small thought helped me realize, hey, I can do this. And it was such a fun feeling. And that might happen for you. And it might be a little more challenging. Granted, I had practice that, you know, opportunity in terms of my husband drinking and me not at home plenty of times before. So going to a bar wasn’t my first effort. But you get the picture, right? It is always about our thoughts. And we do have the ability to choose our own thinking. Remember that right? thoughts aren’t necessarily true, they’re optional, we get to choose what we want to believe what we want to think. And when we choose better thoughts, we feel better feelings. So all right, if you think that alcohol creates connection is your dominant core belief, I would really love you to try this this week. Number one, I would love to see you choose to not drink at an event or outing or even at home with your partner. If that’s the case, decide to have an alcohol free day when they’re drinking and see what thoughts come up for you. Write those down, be willing to challenge yourself and see if it’s really as bad as your brain might be trying to make believe that it’s going to be before you ever get there. Number two, I would love to see you make a list of the people in your life that you’d like to spend time with. If they are people who you drink with, that’s great. And I want you to write down at least five reasons why you’d like to spend time with each person that has nothing to do with alcohol. I promise you they exist. And you need to prove to yourself that there are other reasons that you actually like people in your life. And I promise you they do exist. I want you to write them down. Make them tangible for yourself. So how do you feel about alcohol core beliefs? Do you believe there are unconscious stories running behind in the underscore of your life in the background? Do you believe that those core beliefs that you may have held on to unconsciously are driving a desire to drink? Do you believe that you can change those core beliefs? I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And let me know. I would also remind you don’t forget to go grab your Mind Map. It’s at Molly watts.com/mind map and you can kind of lay out all the different core beliefs and also see some of these thoughts that fuel those core beliefs that you may need to challenge. And if you haven’t already left a review of this podcast or of my book breaking the bottle legacy. It’s just one thing that you can do to help support the show. I don’t mention it very often. In fact, I don’t I don’t think I know that I ever have on the podcast. But I actually also have in the show notes. You’ll see you can buy me a cup of coffee. That’s a great way I guess I’ve never mentioned it because it feels kind of weird. But sometimes people ask me, you know, they’re getting a lot of benefit out of the show out of the Facebook group. And they understand too, that I’m trying to grow something here and buy me a cup of coffee is just a nice thing to show me that you care. So it’s there. That’s all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next time, choose peace. Hey, thanks for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. Pick something you learned from this week’s episode and put it into action. Changing your drinking habits and creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol is 100% possible. You can stop worrying Stop feeling guilty about over drinking and become someone who desires alcohol less. I work with people in three ways. You can learn about them over at www dot Molly watts.com/work with me, or better yet, reach out to me directly. It’s Molly at Molly watts.com. We’ll jump on a call and discuss what’s best for you. This podcast is really just the beginning of our conversation. Let’s keep it going.