Changing the Conversation Around Alcohol
In Episode 42 of “Breaking the Bottle Legacy” Molly introduces her guest, Rachel Hart, author of “Why Can’t I Drink Like Everyone Else?” and acknowledges Rachel’s significant role in her own transformative journey. Rachel shares her backstory, revealing a struggle with anxiety and a desire for a confident, outgoing persona, leading her to use alcohol to cope. Both hosts emphasize the cultural division between normal drinkers and alcoholics and challenge this binary perspective. The discussion delves into the concept of abstinence versus moderation, with Rachel highlighting the importance of understanding one’s relationship with alcohol and avoiding virtuous judgments. They explore the neuroscience of alcohol and the social benefits in limited amounts, emphasizing the need for mindful consumption. The hosts advocate for trusting individuals to determine what works best for them and reject the stigma associated with substances. They discuss the importance of dismantling the vice or virtue lens applied to alcohol and share insights on managing emotions without relying on alcohol.
You’re listening to breaking the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 42. 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, it’s a pretty okay, Oregon, it’s a little cloudy, but it’s still warm, and it’s still not raining by the rains coming. I know it. So pretty soon, I won’t be having those tearful updates from here. Today on the podcast, I am just so excited to share this interview with you. I am speaking to none other than Rachel Hart. And I say none other than because in this space of changing your relationship with alcohol, I really believe that Rachael is one of the best. If you haven’t already started listening. She has a wonderful podcast called The take a break podcast. She has a very active group membership. And she has a wonderful book called Why can’t I drink like everyone else. I reference it often in my own book and all of her work on this podcast. So I was thrilled to get to talk to her and share this conversation with her. And I got so much out of it. I know you’re going to to hear is my conversation with Rachel Hart. Hey, Rachel, thank you so much for joining me on breaking the bottle legacy. As I told you, it’s kind of like a an aha moment for me so surreal to actually be having a conversation with someone who was so instrumental in my own journey in changing my relationship with alcohol. So thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today. You’re so welcome. I’m really excited to be here. Yeah. Awesome. Well, I wanted to just have you first share a little bit, because I’m pretty sure that most people that listen to me, are familiar with you. But give us a little bit of the backstory kind of what got you hear what you’re doing now. Your book, tell me tell me all about it. Sure. Well, I will tell you that I started drinking when I was 17. It was my first week of college. And I went to a party and I wanted to die. That’s good. I was no good. I was like, Where where are the exits? I really was like, I had a ton a ton a ton of anxiety. And I remember someone put a you know, one of those like red plastic Solo cups in my hand, which I’m sure it was like some sort of like Hawaiian Punch and green alcohol, like semi was really atrocious. But it just like so quickly. I felt this kind of like release from my anxiety. And you know, I did not know, I didn’t really didn’t even know to call it anxiety back then I didn’t know what was going on. I really thought something was probably just wrong with me. And I remember very quickly being like, Oh, this is how, like the real me comes out. This is how I get to be the girl who is funny and witty and self confident and outgoing and likes to have a good time. So it really did very early on. And drinking felt like it felt like I was meeting myself every time I would drink and I liked that version of me. Now I will add that at the same time. I often felt like I don’t really seem to have a very good off switch. Like my desire felt. It just felt like more is better. Like, right, this is good feeling this way is good. So more is better. And there was a part of me I think throughout college that recognized like, I don’t this doesn’t really feel great sometimes. But you know, it was very I was around a lot of friends. were partying the same way. There wasn’t a lot of kind of conversation with my kind of like teenage young 20 Somethings self. That was like let’s talk about your relationship with alcohol. It was just like, No, this is fun. I want to have fun. I work really hard. I get really good grades. I’m like doing all the things checking all the things off my to do list. I was very kind of like overachiever and and you know my ability to kind of party on the weekends was like, Okay, this is where I get to like blow off steam and cut loose and also just like not feel like saddled with all these hang ups. And like that kind of nattering lady in my head, who just wanted to point out everything that I was doing wrong and every way that I wasn’t measuring up. And so that really was, like how my kind of journey with alcohol began. I then spent, you know, over a decade, really trying very silently and in a very hidden way trying to figure it out. And I stay silent and hidden. Because I felt a lot of shame. I really did believe what I think so many of us are sold this idea of like, the world is divided into normal drinkers and alcoholics, and I really didn’t feel like I related to either. And so I didn’t want to talk to people about it. I didn’t. I had this very kind of, like, internal struggle of what does this mean? Why can’t I figure this out? And PS, it wasn’t just alcohol that I felt like I had this mores, better attitude, I felt that way with food, I felt that way with smoking, like I felt kind of compulsive in a lot of things in my life, including work, right? Like, yeah, I was a very good employee, you know, like, give me like, I was gonna get it done. And so, you know, I think how I ended up where I am here is, I just tried so many times, and I failed so many times. And I felt so much shame for so long trying to figure this out. And it wasn’t until I’ve really, I’ve really had this understanding of I feel like there’s an upside to this. Like, it’s not just all downside. It’s not just all like, Oh, God, I’m so hungover. Oh God, like, Why did I do that? Why did I get so drunk in front of my colleagues? Why did I take that guy home? I started to realize, like, No, I think that there’s like a benefit here in terms of feeling like, it was my time to say like, Hey, the days done, or like the work week is over. And I get to have fun, and I don’t have to follow the rules. And I don’t have to do everything perfect. And I can not have to always be in my head all the time. And, and recognizing that, I think was what put me on a journey of saying like, what if this isn’t really about alcohol, right? What if it is something beyond that. And so, you know, I started doing this work, I discovered the work of the thing, fielack cycle, which is something that has really contributed and influenced my own journey and the work that I teach, I decided to leave my job, become a coach, write a book devote my life to it, but largely because I felt like, Oh, my God, we talk about this in in such a backwards way. Like we talk about this, If only someone would have explained that, you know, that desire that I had for, you know, like a glass of Chardonnay was very similar to the desire that I had for getting lost in like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. But I think like we talk about them kind of culturally very separate. It’s like alcohol is a thing unto itself. And I think I just felt very called that. I didn’t feel like there were a lot of conversations out there that kind of addressed me and where I was, and my journey. And I just wanted to have it. I wanted to kind of change the conversation. And here we are. And then you did and yeah, absolutely. And I appreciate that. Because the whole idea. So your book is called Why can’t I drink like everyone else? I should say that and that was like my constant refrain that internally silent, right? I was like, why? Like, my sister’s not struggling? My best friend isn’t struggling, like why can I just drink like everyone else? So that was my perception for the longest time. Yeah. And I, my and I totally appreciate that. Because I come from a background of being an adult child of an alcoholic. So and really, for a long time, the whole what you what you just talked about the whole concept of an alcoholic, right, I had a very clear picture in my head of what an alcoholic is. And I wasn’t that. So therefore, I didn’t want to acknowledge the lifelong, decades long, daily drinking habit that kept me stuck in this vicious cycle of anxiety, because I was constantly living with this worry that I was going to become an alcoholic. Right. So like I was following down a genetic path. And definitely like you I had this idea that well, I’m just I’m just wired differently. I have this genetic predisposition to desire alcohol more, therefore, that’s why I can’t stop doing it. Even though I have this ridiculous anxiety about it. I call it an oxy. oxymoronic that’s, that’s the way I felt like I was like, This doesn’t make any sense. I worry about it all the time. But yet I want to keep drinking and that seems to take away the worry that I have that I want to keep drinking. It was like, you know, tonight and then I just have like, worry the next day. Exactly. And I think it’s really important, right? Because like, you know, you talk about it and, and I see this a lot with the people that I work with, you know, people come to me and they might have a story that sounds similar to mine that it was more like, okay, the weekends here, like, Let’s go crazy, right. And like I very much I think for a lot of my relationship with alcohol, it was a very kind of like party binge type relationship. And then I work with a lot of people also that have, you know, it’s like the nightly ritual, right? It’s like the daily thing, and then it, it starts to be like, Oh, that like one glass turns to two and two turns to three. And then like, there’s not that much left in the bottle. Right? Right. And so it’s like, I think we just don’t talk a lot about how like, there really is a spectrum that it really is not this kind of like cookie cutter. Here’s what it looks like NPS, we don’t need to put a label on it. Like the idea of, you know, I think what I very much kind of kept me hidden, not only this kind of idea of like, well, there’s normal drinkers, and there’s alcoholics was this idea of, and the only solution is, say that you’re an alcoholic, wear that label for the rest of your life. Introduce yourself that way for the rest of your life and never drink again. Right. And when I, when I saw no like, like having fun on the weekends, like, you know, going out to happy hour with my colleagues like, this is like when I get to have fun, like the idea of lifelong abstinence. I mean, it just those words just don’t sound very fun. No. And I think that that’s I mean, for me, for sure. That kept me 100% stuck for years. Because the idea, the fear that I there was no way in my mind that I could ever, never drink again. That’s the way I mean, like, literally, that was the mantra that I had. Which brings me to a question, Rachel, because you and I were chatting about this before we jumped on, but you are alcohol free. But I want to ask you about this, because it isn’t like you, you tell yourself you can never drink again. It? Well, it’s a couple things, right? I mean, I think that my own kind of like journey and evolution has changed over. You know, I mean, I think at this point, I’m 40. I started like really doing this work to kind of understand my relationship with alcohol when I was in my early 30s. And so I would say right now that like, Do you drink? And I would say, not really, in the sense that I do teach like a mindful drinking exercise within the program that I teach. I think that that’s been really powerful for a lot of people. And it’s something that it’s something that like I’ve you know, done and used as well. So it’s like, I don’t know, technically like, what, like what counts, like, I think like we’re so kind of obsessed with like, okay, but like, do you consume alcohol, right? And like, and what is it and I think like, so much of that language and so much of that programming, is this idea that we are taught and that I think, culturally we absorb this idea of like one drop will set you back, right? So you have to like you have to declare that like this is how much alcohol can be in your system, which is none. Right? And so I have done, you know, a lot of the kind of like, mindful work around drinking, and I really, it’s so fascinating, because I’m really just like, I just really don’t like it anymore. I really don’t desire it. And so I just think we so kind of, again, break people down into like, okay, so like, Are you sober? Or do you moderate? Right? Like, which one and I just want people to challenge those concepts. Like I want people to challenge the concept of abstinence. Because when you think about the word acid, it’s like you’re literally restraining yourself from indulging in something. Right? It’s not what I do. Right? Right. Right. Yes, I wouldn’t be very successful at it. Yeah. And it doesn’t sound very fun. And also, I think like the idea of moderation, like I work a lot with my clients around this because everyone I work with has very different goals. Some people want to drink less during the week, some people want to drink less than a sitting, some people want to take an extended break. Some people want to go alcohol free. But I always talk to people about moderation because it’s like, okay, are we actually looking at your relationship with alcohol? Or are we focusing on some sort of magic number? Yeah, it’s going to solve the problem, right? Like, that’s the belief if only I can drink one. If only I can drink two, then this won’t be a problem, kind of ignoring the fact that you know, alcohol doesn’t affect you the same way every day. Yeah. It doesn’t help but like your own little personal petri dish. Yeah. But like there’s so much kind of I think there’s so much fixation on like, Oh, I just need to find like the magic amount. Right or like the right number, as opposed to understanding why you have the relationship you do, what kind of relationship you have with your urges and your cravings. Why you don’t like feeling? An unanswered urge, right? Like, there’s so much there to explore that like focusing on a number won’t ever reveal for you. Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I talk about it here, and I know it’s, it’s parroting what you say as well, it’s, it’s really understanding, if we’re trying to use alcohol in a way to change how we’re feeling. Right. So you talk about the thing, feel X cycle, and I carry that over here, and I talk about it in a different, slightly different way. But the same Genesis, and that is really at the crux of everything that I learned about it. When I changed my own relationship with alcohol, I say I have, I’ve created a peaceful relationship. And I say peaceful because for me, there was a lot of stories that I’ve held on to from my past, and especially with my alcoholic mother, who is now since deceased. And so being able to come to a peaceful place with her even after her passing, you know, that that whole thing. And so it’s a different, I say peaceful because I no longer use alcohol as a means to try to change how I’m feeling. Yeah. And I really understand that the only way that I change the way I’m feeling is by changing what I’m thinking. Yeah. And I think that that is, you know, the, for most people that are caught in this cycle of a habit that they’re trying to change your drinking pattern that they’re trying to change. It’s really because they don’t see the connection between using alcohol as a means to change how they’re feeling. Yeah. Do you agree? Yeah. And I think I just want to add here, because I think sometimes when people hear us say that, right, there’s no, because I think I had this as well, but I was just like, No, I just like it tastes good. What do you do? Like, I’m not trying to change how I feel like I just like it. Okay. I think that one of the things that I think is really important is to acknowledge, and it’s not bad, to use things to change the way you feel. This is a very human thing, right? And it doesn’t just happen with alcohol, like humans do this, like all the things, right. But the point is not to be like, Oh, shame on you, you should just be like feeling your feelings and not trying to ever change. The point is to really say, like, is it actually not serving me? You know what I mean? And I think that that, like that, for me to also just look at alcohol as something that was totally neutral. It wasn’t good or bad. It wasn’t right or wrong. It has been on this earth long before humans, right to just see it as like, Yeah, this is just like a part of living on this planet. It’s here. But humans have put all like all of these stories, all of these labels, all of this, like, it’s amazing. It’s horrible, right? It’s like a sign we I think so often. And I did this as well use, you know, how much you drink as a sign of like, who you are as a person, whether that is oh, that, you know, like, That person doesn’t drink, right? Or like, or they’re a big drinker. So it’s just like, we like humans have put all the labels on it, we put all the stories on it, and to just kind of like, peel it all away, and be able to just look at like your individual relationship without that kind of like, shame or judgment or blame, or I’m doing something wrong or bad or even, I mean, I talked about this a lot, even, I really encourage people not to use the kind of language of like, it’s poison, it’s toxic. And I and I used to use that language, initially, as well, like, I thought it would be really helpful. But I see then how it gets people in the cycle of like, they make a commitment to say no, or they make a commitment to say one, and then they also have all these beliefs about how it’s so terrible. And then when they give in, then they kind of like assume the label of like, now I’m bad. And I should have known better, and how could I have done this to myself when I have this information about how it’s bad for my body? Like, we just have to be able to look at it like, Look, can we just look at it as like data, you know, and not have all the story attached to it? Right? Curiosity and compassion, sitting there with our scientific observer hat on I say that too. And I think you also I heard you say, we want to steer away clear from, you know, the, the virtuous side, right? We’re not we’re not we’re not like winners, because we aren’t drinking in a certain scenario, you know, or we, I mean, we’re not better than everybody else. Yeah. And I think that that like that is just as detrimental. Right? And again, I say this from experience, right? That I was just like, Oh, look how good I’m being right. Like, I’m just being so good. And people do this with alcohol. People do it with food as well. But the problem is, after a while of me being like so good all the time. I always got to a point where I wanted to rebel. Like I was sick of being good all the time, and I was sick of following all the rules and I was sick of just Putting my desire away in kind of the effort to be a virtuous person, like that’s not sustainable either. I mean, it really, it’s not. It’s not like, oh, we shouldn’t say it’s bad, but also like saying that it’s virtuous and good to say no, again, can be like, just as problematic for people. Yeah, I do. And I think about that a lot. Because it seems to me that a lot of people that are out selling the the sobriety programs, right, and they’re really pushing that 100% alcohol free life, I still get, and I hear people tell me this all the time, too. They say, well, they, they really, they, they say they want a mindful approach. And they say they’re gonna use your brain and everything else. But what they really mean is that they don’t want you to drink ever again. And they’re, and they’re really, you know, they kind of cover it up. And then they’re really, but they are very sit on a high horse like, oh, yeah, but really the best way. And the only way, the true way, is the sober way. You know, that kind of mindset? I think it really is. It’s like that willingness to again, like I said, like, it’s not bad or wrong, to use things to change how you feel, right? Humans have been doing this for 1000s and 1000s. of years, okay. And the idea is just for like you to observe and ask yourself, what is working for me and what is not. And I think also trusting people, like, we have to actually trust people that they know how to come to a place to determine what is best for them, and that they can have authority about their relationship with alcohol. And I think a lot of times, when it’s kind of like, yeah, yeah, you can decide whatever you want. But like, PS, it’s better not to drink, right? Like, underneath that. Is this belief that like, No, I know better, right? Like, I know what is better. And this kind of, you know, making substances have, you know, the lens of either a vice or virtue, it extends well beyond alcohol. And it is very problematic as if we’re somehow going to going to like reach some sort of level of I don’t know what it is like, perfection by what we put in our bodies. It’s just like, that’s not, I just want to think that I’m like, good and whole and worthy and unbroken, regardless, and it doesn’t matter how much I drink last night, it doesn’t matter how much I ate doesn’t matter if I was smoking, it doesn’t matter if I was doing drugs, right like that. Those things are separate. And I think we have them so we have them. So kind of confused and like twisted up in a way that I think that they should just be completely untangled. Yeah, I talk a lot about here on the podcast. And I do use a lot of science and I talk a lot about the neuroscience of of alcohol, the actual science and chemical reaction of alcohol in your brain. I talk a lot about low risk limits, because there is some scientific trade off with alcohol. There are some true risks for using for drinking alcohol. And I don’t do it in a way that I mean. Yeah, so we can get down to the brass tacks. Yes, it’s a it’s a toxin. Yes, it’s a carcinogen. Yes, it’s, you know, it is. But the bottom line is that there is some scientific proof that there is social benefit to it for you know, in very limited amounts. I’m not talking and I always I very carefully caveat this all the time on the podcast, it’s like, bottom line is if you want to include alcohol in your life in a mindful way, you’re never going to be drinking it to access if you really going to, it’s just not going to happen and be where you’re going to have a positive, healthy outcome for you. You’re not going to feel good about it. And it’s not going to feel good physically. I mean, okay, so you go, go for it, like totally gonna play devil’s advocate. That’s good, good. I love I remember being in college sometimes and getting so drunk, right, and not remembering what happened. And I had zero shame about it. Like, I was not and I think like, this is important for people to see like, so often when we’re just like, only talking about like, physical impacts, right? Of like, what is it like for your liver? And what is it like for your brain? And what is it like for your digestive system, but I think that we do have to kind of like parse apart the fact that like, so often when people say that they feel bad, what they’re often talking about is like, the emotional kind of pain and shame that they go through. And I just like, listen, I think is worthwhile thinking about that. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, because it’s like, if I didn’t have any of these ideas that like somehow what I did was a sign that I had done something wrong or that I was a bad person or that I was irresponsible. It would have been so much easier for me to then actually go on and more quickly look and see like Okay, so do I like the results that I’m getting like, not even from like how I feel physically the next day But like, do I just like the results? Without like, all of the layers of it? And I think it was helpful for me to to acknowledge at some point like, yeah, I went like I did get drunk in college. And it was like my friends, and I really laughed about it the next day. And I felt terrible. But I also like thought it was funny. And I think people don’t want to It’s like opening the door on that we’re so afraid. It’s like, oh, but then you’re like giving permission, you’re telling people that it’s okay. Except if we could just take all like, if you could take the emotional experience out of it and really just look at it. It’s like, Yeah, well, some, like sometimes your body is going to be sick. Like, is that necessarily like a bad thing? Or is that just like observing what’s happening? Right or? Exactly, it’s just the result of what happened, right? Yeah, no, I agree with that. I do think that there’s i for me, for me, learning the science of alcohol understanding more importantly, understanding the neurochemical chemicals that were actually feeding into and creating the the rebound anxiety. Like I did not understand how my tick, you know how my drinking was actually releasing neurotransmitters that were creating this the rebound anxiety after the fact, I did not understand that. I remember I had a boyfriend in my 20s We drank a lot together. And and he would say, sometimes he was just like, you just like, you’re just kind of down the next day. It’s like you’re in like a funk. And I remember feeling like, yeah, I just feel like, depressed by the world. And I just really did not. It’s so funny. Now looking back, like I really did not make the connection with the drinking. But it’s like, Listen, guys, what goes up must come down. Yeah, right. Exactly. Like if you’re gonna like release a lot. Yeah. Right, like chemicals in your brain, like your brains got to readjust. Right and to come back into homeostasis. And so like for me to understand that because I do also think that it becomes this kind of, like, cyclical thing. It’s just like, well, I just, I don’t know, I’m maybe I’m just a person that’s always down. And I always feel kind of blue and right. And to understand that and to be like, listen, sometimes I do wake up in a funk. Like in my life right now. It just is a lot less frequent. And I’m much more able to kind of rebound from it. Yeah. And when that was a result of drinking, absolutely. 100% I’m the same way. I mean, it’s not like, you know, I say that all the time, maybe stopping drinking, or drinking, breaking my daily drinking habit, because it really was it was three to four drinks every night. And it was a 30 plus year habit, you know, and I just, I was not aware of how much that anxiety that I was creating by the drinking itself, other than having thinking about the drinking, but the actual chemical drinking was creating, it’s like, yeah, exactly. And so, but yeah, just because I stopped that nothing, you know, yes, there are days when I’m not, you know, when I still feel that anxiety, or it feels, you know, and it’s just not related to alcohol. It’s just now I’m aware of it. And I’m like, oh, okay, I can deal with it and think a little think through it a little bit clearer. Of course, the thing fielack cycle always helps. So Right. I mean, I will just add this piece is that I think, you know, so much of really understanding my relationship with alcohol, it was really understanding my relationship with myself and my emotions, right. And so so much of the work that I teach people is about first learning how to have a different response to your urges and not fighting them, like not going to battle with your urges, but also not going into this place of like, take a bath, go for a walk, like find a distraction, organize your closet, it’s just like, it’s really not a big deal. It’s harmless. Like, can you step into that and that I always tell people that do the work in my 30 Day Challenge and beyond. I always say like, this is the foundation. When you learn how to do this with your urges, you get to start to practice these same skills with all of the emotions like boredom, and disappointment and annoyance and stress. Like all of the emotions that often word triggers for drinking. It’s like we’re just missing this kind of skill set. Right that Yeah, absolutely love that. It really does transform. It’s not just like, oh, okay, like now I just feel bad, less because I’m not screwing up my neurotransmitters every night. It really is like, No, I’ve developed a skill set you learn how to respond differently to my emotions. Yeah, I know you say it all the time. It’s a meta skill for life. It really is. And I say it too. Because learning how to manage my own brain has been you know one of those things where I you do you go, Wait a minute, how did I go through college and, and cool with my own kids, where it was this lesson in life because it’s really a disservice and I’m so glad that I’ve learned it now. I’m so glad that you and other people are sharing it with the world. I know that you and I have a limited time today Rachel so I won’t keep you because I could talk to you for probably hours about all of this. I Know It might get boring for everyone else to listen to but I’d be I’d be all in I’d be like yeah, let’s go so I will link to Rachel hearts programs on the on the show notes folks on to her book. Why can’t I drink like everyone else and Rachel Hart thank you so much for dropping in and talking to us today on breaking the bottle legacy anytime have me back. All right, I would love to thank you. 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