Alcohol & The Past
In Episode 38 of “Breaking the Bottle Legacy”, Molly Watts addresses the challenges of changing one’s relationship with alcohol. Molly emphasizes the importance of defining clear rules to avoid slipping back into old habits, even amid societal pressures like football season and the emotional weight of commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. She delves into the impact of past experiences with alcohol, highlighting two common ways it manifests: individuals either harbor shame, regret, and guilt over past mistakes or use these negative emotions as a way to prevent future errors. Molly introduces the profound concept that the past only exists in one’s thoughts today, emphasizing that dwelling on shame and guilt doesn’t lead to sustainable change. She explores the behavior map and result cycle, emphasizing the need to understand how the brain works and manage one’s thoughts and feelings to break the cycle of negative habits. Molly encourages listeners to accept responsibility for their present and future, urging them to let go of regret and apply the podcast’s insights to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol.
You’re listening to breaking the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 38. 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 a little bit gray and cloudy Oregon this morning. We had a little rain and kind of will not rain, more of a drizzle this weekend, and felt a little more foolish, which is okay with me. I gotta say football season is back, which makes me super excited. And it’s time for me to light all those beautiful pumpkin spice candles, which I love. So, welcome. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for listening. If you are listening to this podcast in the second week of September 2021, when it goes live, I want to tell you that the book has launched it is available on Amazon pretty much in any country you might be listening to this from the book is titled the same as the podcast breaking the bottle legacy, how to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. It’s in both Kindle and paperback. And I would just love it. If you’d go grab a copy, read it, give me your feedback, leave a review on Amazon if you’d like to. And I hope you’ll do it, I hope it provides great value for you as well. If you have not joined my private Facebook group, I’d really like to invite you to do that as well. It’s completely free. It’s just another great resource just like this podcast. And here’s a quote from David, one of our group members. He says, a confession to make this not drinking thing. I’m frustrated and annoyed. Only eight days in and all I’m seeing are benefits and he has some laughing emojis. I’m generally a positive and happy person. But even more so now. For the first time in question mark, question mark, question mark. I feel rested and mentally sharper. Monday was usually a write off for me at work, not because I was hungover but because I was tired and had brain fog. This is what I intended, though, to remind myself what normal should feel like this is quote unquote, normal. I do actually have a worry at this point, before I’m done, I need to figure out what I want my relationship with alcohol to look like. I know I operate best in a structure with rules. If I don’t define what those rules are, before the end of this exercise, I worry I’ll slip back into old habits. So maybe I keep abstaining until I figure that out. My ultimate goal is to not stop drinking, but to drink when I want to. Not just because it’s four o’clock on a Sunday, or to have a glass of wine at lunch without turning it into a day long session. You know, meet friends have a few beers and maybe get a bit rowdy. That’s okay, but not just sitting at home drinking because there’s nothing else to do. What strategies or barriers do you employ to be present and maintain control? Thanks for listening, have a great day. So that was David’s input. He shared that when the group and myself and many other group members jumped in with our thoughts. And that’s just an example of what’s going on in there in terms of sharing what’s going on in our lives, strategies, hearing people’s thoughts on what you’re doing and what they’re doing, what’s working, what’s not working. So I would love for you to join me. Again, it’s a private group, so no one’s going to have to know you’re in there. All your thoughts, posts, shares in there are private, but you can search for it. So go to Facebook groups, you can look for it by name. It’s actually called alcohol. minimalists. Change your drinking habits. But there’s also going to be a link in the show notes. So either way, and I hope to see you there. All right, on to this week’s episode. This is another in the alcohol and series and And I’m calling it alcohol and the past. I wanted to share this episode this week. Because here in the United States, it’s been a week of reflection, and remembering as we honored the 20 year anniversary of the 911 attacks. Looking back on both the horror, and the hope, of the worst terrorist attack in American history is natural, appropriate. And of course, we all feel the magnitude of that event, as it still thrums through our collective memory. I actually shared in our Facebook group that I found myself needing to curate those stories about 911 that I was watching, reading and listening to. I chose to seek out the stories of more hope. As I felt my emotional capacity being stretched thin by the stories of pain and suffering. I am in no way trying to minimize the trauma for anyone. But even with this most graphic and horrible event, we can apply a fundamental lesson about the past, one that is absolutely key in changing our relationship with alcohol. It was of utmost importance for me, as an adult child of an alcoholic, who had many events in my past that involved alcohol. I had a past with alcohol with my mother, I had a past with alcohol from my own choices. I had a past with alcohol with my husband. Here is a lesson that took me decades to learn, decades to apply. And one that I hope you can learn from earlier and better and faster. The past only exists today, in what I think about it, I want you to really let that thought sink in inland with you. The past no longer exists. It’s gone. We can’t change it. We can’t jump in a time machine and rewrite history. And because we can not affect those past circumstances, the only thing we can do now is change what we make it mean in our lives. When it comes to our past stories about alcohol, what I notice are two main ways that it manifests in people’s lives. One people have a lot of shame, regret and guilt over their past with alcohol they believe they’ve wronged others disappointed themselves in general, and they just don’t want to let go of those mistakes. Number two people use the past as evidence for why they can’t change. So let’s look at both of those behavior patterns, patterns and dig a little deeper. The first, the first way people really frame the past and alcohol is that they are I suggest you probably say we because it was definitely me for a long time. We look back at some of the decisions we made when we were drinking. We reflect on nights of overdrinking and our thoughts immediately lean toward self punishment, embarrassment and guilt. And to some degree, we feel like those emotions are penance, right for our mistakes. We believe thoughts like I was so stupid or my actions were inexcusable. And believe those thoughts as the truth about the past. There’s an interesting dynamic that I experienced here before in my journey and maybe you have to feeling that regret and guilt. I believed that those feelings of regret and guilt that I had, that they were necessary. I thought that they were truly a natural consequence. And I believed that if I held on to the guilt, it could actually help me and prevent me from doing it again. Have you ever thought about the past like that? If you’re, you know, if you try if you allow yourself to reframe the past that you’d be sort of letting yourself off the hook and be you know, instead of that you’ll hold on to the to the regret and guilt as a way of preventing yourself from repeating the mistake. How well is that worked for you? It didn’t work very well for me. I kept repeating the mistake regardless. With when I was holding on to all that guilt and regret. For a lot of people, myself included, I had very black and white thinking about alcohol and really about everything in my life. If and when my actions didn’t live up to what I believed was, quote unquote, right or quote unquote good. I thought that the way to change was to hold myself accountable in a way that was punitive and more strict. I had to shine a big floodlight on my mistakes, to make sure that I remembered them. But of course, with a floodlight, it really blinds everything else around you, right, you can only see what you’re focused on, and nothing outside the perimeter of the floodlight is illuminated. So anything else that I might have done that was positive, was completely blocked out. And I would just focus on the mistakes. The worst part of this kind of thinking for me, and for anyone else, really, I think that does it was that all it did was create feelings of shame and guilt. Now, at the time, I didn’t understand the behavior map or the results cycle, I believed that it was my past actions that were causing the feelings of shame and guilt. Right. So nothing I could do to change it. Because my past had already happened. I couldn’t change that. But it was responsible for all the shame and guilt that I was feeling. And of course, typically, when I felt shamed, ashamed or guilty, I just wanted to make it all go away. Or I wanted to overcorrect or compensate by being really good in all the other areas of my life. So when I wanted it to go away, it was literally like pulling the blanket over my head and pretending like what, whatever happened, didn’t happen. And of course, that’s a pretty unproductive strategy strategy, because I couldn’t go back and erase it, I couldn’t change what had already happened. And so pretending like it didn’t happen, was just one way to go into denial. Or I would make excuses. And I would tell myself, you know, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a big deal. I’d also try things like just being really good at all the other areas of my life, my job, parenting, exercising, whatever I could do to distract myself from the shame. The problem is, when I ran out of distractions, or I quit hiding, I was left with those same feelings of shame and guilt. And because I really wanted to feel better, what did I do, most often, in an attempt to temporarily change how I was feeling I would drink. So I had a cycle that just perpetuated itself, even though I worried about alcohol all the time, and knew that my drinking habits weren’t healthy for me, I because I had feelings of shame, guilt, regret, I and, you know, I would, I would drink to escape them. For most people, feelings of shame and guilt do not lead to long term sustainable change. Negative emotions typically don’t lead to positive actions. And I want you know, if you really want to feel change, you have to do it sustainable change, you have to do it from a different angle, at least I did. What I want to offer you is that shame is not created by what you did, or what you said. Or whatever you think is, you know, you did that was unforgivable. Shame is only ever created by what’s going on in your brain. That’s the thing I didn’t understand at the time. And I understand now, and I hope I can convey to you. It wasn’t the actions that led to my feelings, but it was the thoughts that I had about them. So the actions were the circumstance, I applied my thoughts that created my feelings of shame and regret and guilt, which leads to my actions of continued drinking, which got me the result of a continuous negative pattern. Your past, no matter what it is, does not create how you feel about it today, in this very moment. If you feel ashamed, or guilty or regretful about something that happened in your fat in your past, it’s because you are having a thought right now, that is producing the emotions of shame or guilt or regret. This one thought alone, this whole idea, and I started off the podcast with it, that your past only exists today in what you think about it is really a mind blowing concept for a lot of people. I know it really kind of blew me away. I hadn’t ever considered the past that way. And I truly it was I think maybe this particular concept was really what allowed me to understand the power of the results cycle, that there was always always always a thought about the circumstances in my life that was creating the feelings that I had that led to the actions that I was taking And you don’t have to cover up how you are feeling. You don’t have to keep generating negative feelings to hope that you’ve learned your lesson. If you want to change how you feel about your past, what you have to do is first change how you are thinking about your past. Another place that the past seems to come up all the time with regards to alcohol is using the past as evidence for not being able to change. This is what so many of us do, we use our past results as an indicator of our future success. And I will promise you something as long as you keep doing this, as long as you keep looking to the past to find evidence of what is possible for the future, you will stay stuck. In my book, breaking the bottle legacy there is a section dedicated to adult children of alcoholics. And I want to share something in here for my fellow adult children of alcoholics right now. But I will say that whether you are an adult child of an alcoholic or if you it’s in your past includes an alcoholic parent, or there is something else from your childhood that you haven’t been able to let go of this might resonate with you as it did with me. I had stories in my own mind many written from my childhood, which perpetuated the habit of drinking. Once I understood why I believed those stories, where I had learned them and who had taught them to me, I realized that to change my relationship with alcohol, I needed to rewrite those stories. Dr. Janet whiteheads. In her book, adult children of alcoholics advises living in the past and blaming parents are ways to avoid living in the present and taking responsibility for your own behavior. They are ways to stay stuck. It doesn’t mean that your life wasn’t a horror show, and that your parents didn’t do terrible things. What it does mean is that you are now an adult, you create your own horror show, and you must be accountable for your own behavior. You are also the only one who can make you feel better about yourself. I had also tried to curb my drinking before and because I had never been able to be successful at breaking my unbreakable daily drinking habit. I convinced myself that my past proved that I couldn’t change. And because I practiced the thought that I’ve never been able to change before. Over and over again. I believed it is true. And because I believed it was true, it ensured that I never took action. For years, I had all this evidence so much of it that my drinking habit was unbreakable. I had had so many attempts where I tried to change and so many failures. And for a long time, I believed it was just something that I would have to live with. But here’s what I want you to know, learning the behavior map and result cycle, realizing that I simply didn’t know the right tools before. And I had been focusing on changing the action without ever understanding how my brain works, how habits form, how to manage my mind, and internalizing and accepting that how I felt about my past, in the present moment, was not helping me change. When I understood all those things when I really grasped this concept. That is when I realized I had the power to change my drinking habits, I had the power to change everything by changing my thoughts. This is another excerpt from the book. I realized that I was holding on to the past as some sort of validation for my current woes. I used my thoughts about the past to explain my inability to change. I held on to old stories, so I could push the blame for my actions onto someone or something else. And the bottom line was this. None of the thoughts I had about my past were serving me to change my relationship with alcohol to live my best life now and in the future. I had to stop looking backward. There are thoughts you have about your past that are keeping you stuck. And there there there are thoughts you can find to help move you forward. As you’re working on that, as you’re working on examining your relationship with alcohol and the past, I want you to ask yourself some questions. What role has your history with alcohol played in your life? But what about your history have been Have you been able to use to your advantage? What parts of your past tend to get in your way? What is your perspective on yourself right now? What is your perspective on your childhood? Now? Are you ready to accept responsibility for the result you have in your life and quit looking to the past for what you want in your future? And I think maybe the best question you can ask yourself, when you are working on changing how you think about your past is this simple one. What else could be true? Challenge your brain to find a better story, one that makes you feel better about the past, one that helps you feel hopeful about the future. All right, to recap, if you are holding on to regret or guilt or shame about your past behaviors with alcohol, I want you to ask yourself is holding on to those feelings, helping you change your relationship with alcohol. Now, negative emotions typically do not fuel positive actions and living in that cycle of shame and negative emotion. And trying to solve it with alcohol is a pattern that I held on to for a long time, you typically can’t move forward if you hold on to the regret. So reframe that story. Look for a different way of what was going on back in the past, simply telling yourself I didn’t know any better back then. And now I do, right. The other way that the past typically trips us up is that we use it as evidence for why we cannot change. I did this myself, I held on to those excuses for so long. I continued to tell myself that I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t figure it out. Because of all the times that I had tried previously. Tell yourself this time is different. I know better. When you know better, you do better. And I’m going to figure it out this time. More than anything. I’m going to keep going until I do. Alright, that’s all I have for you this week, my friends. Until next time, 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