Alcohol & relationships
In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist Podcast, host Molly Watts shares insightful strategies for individuals looking to transform their relationship with alcohol and cultivate a peaceful coexistence with it. Drawing from her personal experiences, Molly addresses the challenges stemming from family alcohol abuse, a lifetime of anxiety, and the struggle with daily drinking habits spanning over 30 years. Molly underscores the power of scientific understanding in breaking past patterns and eliminating excuses related to drinking habits. The episode delves into the complexities of relationships, covering primary relationships with spouses, partners, and significant others, as well as friendships and family dynamics. Molly offers valuable insights into challenging limiting beliefs, highlighting the importance of personal accountability for one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions.
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 a rainy soggy wet or again this morning. But there is real hope on the horizon, folks. According to the weather forecast, this week, we’re going to hit 70. Now, I don’t know if that’s really going to happen. But wow, just the idea of like sunny warm weather. Yeah, the springs here spring springs hope hope springs eternal in the spring right. Before we get into this episode, we have a winner of some alcohol minimalist swag. It is c w 66. If that is you please email me Molly at Molly watts.com. And let me know that you are the winner. And if you want to be entered to win some alcohol, minimalist swag, all you have to do is leave a review of the podcast or the book breaking the bottle legacy wherever you listen to podcasts or on Amazon or any other book seller that you might find it there. And CW 66 Thank you for your review of the podcast. All right, so what did you think of the new intro? Did you notice any difference? Ever since I recorded the intro, the first intro to alcohol minimalist, something about my cadence in it and the music have been bugging me. So I finally got around to re recording it and I found some new, more upbeat music and wallah. So well even if you didn’t notice. I’m happier with it. So that’s a win. Speaking of winning, how many of you are playing in some sort of March Madness bracket? According to the NCAA tracking who was tracking perfect brackets across all the biggest bracket games, CBS Yahoo ESPN, it took 28 games for the last perfect bracket to be busted. I was out in like one of the first games because I had Kentucky who was a number two seed going to the Elite Eight. So they got they got ousted in the first round. So yeah, not so much for me. I honestly just play for fun at my work. I don’t have a good beat on college basketball anymore, except I do have my youngest son still at Gonzaga. So of course I have the Zags along with much of the world winning the tournament. And we’ll see if this is finally the Gonzaga Bulldogs year to win it all. Let’s Go Zags. All right. What does any of that have to do with this week’s podcast episode will honestly not a lot other than being in brackets, being in brackets playing NFL fantasy football choosing PGA players to win tournaments. It’s something that I along with my husband and our boys, my dad, my friends, and now even my co workers have done often over the years. It’s just one way that we connect and activities like these are building blocks in many layers that are the facts Foundation have a relationship, right? But those relationships with my husband, my family, my friends, my co workers are the bedrock of my life. And I have to believe that they are the same for all of you who are listening. And so today here I get to the point right, I’m coming back to another in my series alcohol. And it’s been a minute since I’ve recorded one of these. And if you’re interested, I’ve actually created a playlist over on Spotify, which I’ll link in the show notes for all of the alcohol and episodes. They include alcohol in your immune system, alcohol in the holidays, alcohol and our kids alcohol and genetics, alcohol, and the past alcohol and binging alcohol and athletic performance, alcohol and aging, alcohol and nutrition, alcohol in your liver, alcohol and sleep and alcohol and anxiety. Lots. For those of you not listening on Spotify have also created the same playlist over on YouTube, which I will link there. And unfortunately, there is no way to share a playlist from Apple podcasts that I’m aware of. So if you’re listening there, you’ll have to search back through episodes to find all of the alcohol and series. It’s always in the title alcohol and but if you somehow know how to do that enough Apple without having to pay for a premium content, someone please let me know. Today’s addition to the alcohol and series is alcohol and relationships. So this is a loaded subject, and I’ve decided to tackle it in three ways. Number one, how alcohol impacts your relationship with your partner, your spouse or significant other number two alcohol as it relates to your friendships. And number three, and last, but certainly not least, alcohol and your family. Now before we get into these three areas, I want to first acknowledge that with the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, there are two that have to do with relationships. These criteria are a part of the 11 characteristics that you you evaluate for alcohol use disorder. This is one found that drinking or being sick from drinking often interfered with taking care of your home or family, or caused job troubles or school problems. Another one is continue to drink, even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends. This is important because according to the DSM five, if you meet two to three of these criteria of the 11 presented, you are considered to have mild alcohol use disorder. So just two that are affecting relationships, and you could be considered to have mild alcohol use disorder. The ability of alcohol to compromise our relationships and our families cannot be underestimated. And it’s something that as an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m intimately familiar with the negative aspects on relationships due to alcohol abuse. This podcast again is not geared toward recovery or for anyone who is experiencing severe alcohol use disorder. If you are unsure about whether or not you might need professional help, whether you meet the criteria for moderate or severe alcohol use disorder, please visit the N i a. I will link it in the show notes. Of course, for more information on those criteria, if you’re still listening, thank you. And I hope that you find something in this episode that resonates and is helpful. Let’s talk about alcohol and relationships. I actually looked up the definition of the word relationship when I was researching this episode. Because as you know, if you’ve listened to the show for any length of time, I say that I have created a peaceful relationship with alcohol. So while we’re talking about alcohols, effects and impacts on relationships today, I think it’s important to realize that you do have a relationship with alcohol to here is what the word relationship means. By definition, it is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, the state of being connected. So it’s the connection that is the relationship. And for a lot of us that connection to alcohol isn’t serving us. And yet we also believe that alcohol enhances our connection with other people in our lives. So let’s talk first about a primary relationship your spouse or life partner, significant other, your person. A common question that comes up for people I work with is how can I start drinking less or not drink at all when my partner is still drinking? Maybe you spent a lot of time maybe years or decades as was the case with me drinking together and you can’t imagine your partner sitting there enjoying a drink while you are wanting to join and can’t because you’ve decided had to be alcohol free for the day or a week or a month, whatever the plan might be. You might even think to yourself, it’s not fair that he or she can drink and I can’t. And the seeds of resentment start to take root. They aren’t supporting me because they want to keep drinking. And I can’t. Even when it sounded exactly like what you wanted to do when you made the plan in the first place, you know, being alcohol free in that moment, when the moment arrives, and your partner is pouring a glass of wine and you look at them like they are a class, one trader, just hell bent on making this as difficult as possible for you. Right? Do you hear what’s happening in that little vignette? That I’m painting, the circumstances your partner having a glass of wine, that circumstance is completely neutral. By the way, it doesn’t mean anything. Your partner pouring a glass of wine has literally nothing to do with you. The action of them pouring a glass of wine doesn’t make you feel anything. What makes you feel jealous, unsupported, resentful, stressed, or desirous is the thoughts you have about the alcohol yourself, or the thoughts you have about your partner. And none of these, these thoughts are true, by the way, they are just simply the thoughts that you are choosing and they are as always completely optional. There is another story available to tell. There’s another thought to choose one that might help you feel less desire more calm, happy with your own choice to be alcohol free, and absolutely nonplussed by your spouse’s actions. Will this happened for you without intentional direction of your thinking? No, most likely not, especially if you’ve caught a lot of past stories about alcohol that are well worn and easier for your brain to find. Think about all the stories that you have told yourself about your partner during the course of your relationship. You know, I’ve been married for almost 32 years and with my spouse for like 37. So like most of my life, and it would be impossible for my brain not to have dug in some neural pathways about him good and bad. I have stories about who he is and how we are connected. And here’s what I’ve learned. First, none of those stories is unchangeable. And second, the story I choose to focus on is 100%. My choice, and it is 100% responsible for how I feel about our relationship. There are many times now when my husband is choosing to have a drink and I’m alcohol free. It’s of zero consequence to me and our relationship. Our connection exists because of my thoughts and the feelings I create. Our connection has nothing to do with whether or not one or both of us are drinking or not drinking alcohol. Do I enjoy sharing a glass of wine together? Over a nice dinner or a cold beer on a summer night in the backyard? Yes, absolutely. But the alcohol isn’t the focus. Nor is it the driver of that experience. And being an alcohol minimalist, I know that moving past one to two drinks will actually have a rebound effect. And if I tell the whole story of what happens after the drinking is over, then I realized that that you know going above that is simply not enjoyable at all. Ask yourself questions, find the thoughts that are fueling your feelings, whatever those feelings are, and decide if there’s a different feeling you’d like to have. When you’re looking with envy at your spouse’s glass of wine. What thoughts are there? What could you think instead? Sometimes it’s just as easy as reminding yourself that you can have a glass of wine, but you’re choosing not to tonight, you’re practicing adding alcohol free days into your life because it’s the relationship with alcohol that you want to improve. When I remind myself of my long term goals and how much I control how I’m feeling, I feel empowered. I feel more calm, and I feel less desire. The key takeaway here is I want to understand with your partner’s actions is that your partner’s choice to drink or not drink. You get to decide what you make any of that mean. Now occasionally someone will say, I’ve asked my partner not to bring alcohol into the house and he or she did anyway, this makes me feel unsupported. While I completely understand that when you’re in a relationship and you make an agreement between one another that is broken by one partner, it can be disappointing mean, in reality, choosing to believe that because your partner bought alcohol and brought it into the house is unsupportive is just one thought that you can have. Maybe you can hear your brain saying, but it’s true that’s not being supportive. I would ask you Does that thinking help you create a feeling that helps you take better actions. This whole idea is at the heart of changing your relationship with alcohol and really at the heart of changing your relationship with yourself. Choosing thoughts that help you feel differently to take different actions. Here’s another fundamental truth that you need to embrace the people in your life and their behaviors, who they are, what they do, what they say how they act. All of that is neutral. It’s a neutral circumstance until you have a thought about it. Until you have thought about it. You don’t feel anything. People cannot make you feel anything until you think a thought. Now, if you’re like, wait a minute, what what are you talking about? Molly? Are you saying people can’t hurt my feelings? Yes, that’s absolutely what I’m saying. Telling you that people can’t hurt your feelings is not what the majority of people think we’re taught even as children that other people have the ability to hurt our feelings, but it’s not true. And while it may be hard for you to believe or buy into that, I want you to think about it from this perspective. If it was true, how freeing would it be if other people couldn’t hurt me? Right? I get to choose what I make their words mean to me. Because here’s what I know, someone can offer you a thought to believe about yourself, they can offer you thoughts all day long to believe about yourself, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not you choose to accept that thought and believe it. Another type of relationship that comes up when people are working on changing their drinking habits is friendships. You worry that friendships will change if you’re not able to drink together. If you’ve been doing Wine Wednesday, for years with a group of friends, it seems inconceivable that you’ll be able to hang out sipping tea while they’re all getting tipsy. So here’s what I have to offer you. The worries and fears you have are there. Because of all the stories you have about alcohol from the past that create this big case of FOMO FOMO fear of missing out right. For me, it was simply all the thoughts I had about how without alcohol, I’d be missing out on the fun that everyone else would be having. And I never questioned those thoughts. They were simply the truth. So my fear of missing out just kept me stuck in my habit. When you don’t redirect your thinking and you don’t challenge your FOMO thoughts, it leads to feelings that aren’t going to help you take the actions that will create the results you want in your life. You will keep doing what you’re doing and not changing. Because your thoughts are fueling the feelings of desire as well as the anticipated feeling of deprivation of not drinking. The truth is, as I just said earlier, drinking beyond low risk limits isn’t relaxing, it isn’t enjoyable. And for me, it created endless stress and anxiety. It didn’t add to the fun of my life, it actually made it harder for me to have sustainable happiness. I wasn’t rewarding myself or, you know, creating better relationships, I was preventing myself from living my best life. This way of thinking this kind of FOMO thinking is not only a lie, it’s a vicious cycle. You’re not focused on what you do have you focused on only what you won’t get, you won’t get to have a glass of wine. Instead of seeing an opportunity to go connect with friends to go share memories to commiserate about struggles, you’re choosing to tell a story that creates the feeling of deprivation, instead of a story that creates a feeling of gratitude. Managing your brain and directing your thinking is so important because our brains have a lot of previous wiring and programming that works against our ability to change habits. Now we’ve talked a lot about the lower brain, the primitive brain, here on the podcast in how it works to preserve habits, especially habits like drinking alcohol, that help it avoid pain and seek pleasure. But the thinking brain the conscious brain also has some strategies and efficiencies that we need to be aware of so that we can challenge our thinking. And what do I mean about this? So I’ll probably break down some of these conscious brain challenges in a future episode. But when it comes to thinking about our friendships with regard to alcohol, it’s the tendon See if the brain to sort and label things as well as its negative bias confirmation that can feed your worry about not being able to drink with my friends. Your thoughts literally direct what your mind sees. So what does that look like? When you think drinking is all you have in common with a friend, your brain focuses on alcohol as the common denominator, then everything else is either a difference, or it just doesn’t count, right? It’s like, well, we’re both moms, we both struggle with our kids, sometimes. Maybe you work in the same industry, or you’ve shared a past experience. Maybe you work for the same sports team, like me and my Steelers friends, or you like to read the same books, you’re in a book club together, you both love to cook, you like to go to the movies. But really drinking is what you have in common, and all that other stuff doesn’t count. So from this place, that place of focusing on the difference or discrediting what you do have in common what you do share, you simply won’t be able to feel a connection. You think this thought like if I can’t drink, this is what we do together. And your brain catastrophize is about what will happen if you’re not able to do it. And you discredit all of the other things that you do have in common, and you feel disconnected. It’s the opposite of having a relationship or a friendship. But it’s also 100%. Because of your own thinking, and the story that you’re allowing your brain to focus on. Because of that brain’s predisposition to a negative bias. I want you to notice what happens when you ask your brain to think about all that you have in common with someone that doesn’t include alcohol. What happens when you give your brain that task? Okay, Brian, go find everything else that we do share? Sure, we both drink. But I want you to look for everything else that we do share in common. What happens when you ask your brain to do that? When you remind yourself, of all the other ways that you could connect with your friends, and how true that really is? require your brain to acknowledge the truth of that situation. If it keeps trying to tell you that alcohol is the glue that is holding your friendship together, you need to challenge it with the full story. Have you ever heard of the Ben Franklin clothes, I’m showing my salesperson roots here. But the Ben Franklin close is a sales closing strategy, where a salesperson builds a pros and cons list with a prospect about a specific offering. It’s really a balance sheet. So you can do this too, with alcohol as the only reason you have friends on one side of the balance sheet and then put all of the other things that you have in common with your friend on the other. It’s going to show you visually that you have a lot more in common in the one column than just alcohol is so important to my friendship side, right? Lots of reasons versus one. So it’s just another way a story that that your brain likes to tell you to hold on to the habit is telling yourself that alcohol is so important, it’s trying to focus you there, instead of the reality that you actually have so much more in common. All right, last but certainly not least, alcohol and your family. So if you’ve listened to this podcast for any length of time, you know that my legacy with alcohol started long before I ever created my own negative drinking habit. My mother was physically dependent on alcohol and was a functional alcoholic for most of my life. While there is certainly no question that alcohol dysfunction and alcohol abuse damages relationships, that isn’t really the context that I’m talking about it here today. And when it comes to families, what I often hear comes in two forms, number one, feeling the need to drink to endure a family gathering, or having a history of drinking at gatherings and not knowing how to show up differently. So I talk about this in my book, breaking the bottle legacy, how to change your drinking habits. I’ve shared it here on the podcast before. But one of the first places that I recognized my own thoughts about drinking to survive was with regards to Thanksgiving, and how those thoughts were fueling my desire to drink. I was so convinced that my mother in law’s behavior at Thanksgiving was what caused my stress, and that I needed to drink to relax from that stress. I literally could not imagine the event without drinking. So much so that before we even left to go to her house, I drank preemptively because I knew how stressed out she was going to make the home the whole the whole experience. What I think is so important to recognize in that situation and for you if you have a similar type of situation is how true you believe whatever thought you’re having is, I certainly didn’t question this thought and When I didn’t question it, it kept me stuck in the same pattern. I didn’t empower myself to change my drinking habit because I kept waiting for my mother in law to change her behavior, so I wouldn’t feel stressed out. Newsflash, her actions have yet to change. And I’m betting they never will. And I no longer drink before we go over to Thanksgiving dinner, I no longer feel stressed out at the event at all. I have a whole new set of thoughts that allows me to feel happy and grateful and calm, even though nothing about the circumstances has really changed. So your family’s behaviors, whether they drink or not, whether you’ve had a long history of gathering together and drinking, or if you want to believe that their actions are what are fueling your desire to drink. If you’re really sure that you’ll never survive a family gathering without a drink in your hand. You have to decide once and for all to become accountable unto yourself for your own thoughts that create your own feelings that drive your own actions. For me, I habitually relied on alcohol to help me relax and avoid stressful feelings. I absolutely believed that the circumstances of my life caused those feelings, and that drinking helped me feel better during those stressful times. And yes, we’ve acknowledged alcohol has a very limited therapeutic effect, that with one drinker so can provide a euphoric relaxing feeling in the brain. But it’s temporary. And if you keep seeking that relief with multiple drinks, you will create a rebound effect of neurotransmitters in the brain that actually increases anxious and stressful feelings the next day. So it’s certainly not a real solution. And it’s definitely not sustainable. Instead, you have to believe in your own ability to change how you are feeling by changing your thoughts. There is no situation no circumstance that you can’t improve with your own thinking. All right, this has turned into a lot of information in this episode. So I want to try to reel it in, cut it, wind it down. And I hope you will find something that helps you navigate your own relationships, whether it is with your spouse, with your friends, with your family, I want you to really challenge your thinking. Ask yourself, what else is true? What else could be happening? What else can I believe that’s going to help me feel differently about this situation? That’s going to help me take better actions that’s going to get me different results. Don’t accept your first thought. keep questioning, and keep going. Alright, 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