What You Don’t Know About Alcohol And Your Body
Let’s talk about what happens to your body when you drink alcohol and what happens when you stop drinking after consuming it on a regular basis.
My guest on the podcast this week is Gillian Tietz, the Sober Scientist and host of the Sober Powered Podcast, who has come on the podcast to talk about the Science and Psychology of Addiction.
What happens to your body when you drink alcohol?
And what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol?
In this episode Gill and I talk about…
- Why alcohol slows down our brain activity
- How alcohol affects our sleep and why you wake up at 3am after drinking
- The connection between alcohol and anxiety
- Why alcohol makes it hard to lose weight
- What happens to your body physically during withdrawal from alcohol
- The benefits your body gets from taking a break from drinking
- Rage gardening + Tomb Raider
- Gill’s story and her road to recovery
- Why you need to build a ‘drama free bubble’ in early sobriety
- How we felt physically and emotionally when we stopped drinking
About Gillian Tietz
Gillian is a biochemist in the Boston area and is 17 months sober. Her passion is helping others free themselves from the drink, hate yourself, drink cycle by providing education on how alcohol affects our brain and causes addiction.
Gill uses her scientific background to connect neuroscience, psychology, and her personal experience to getting sober.
Wherever you are in your journey, understanding why alcohol causes your own personal brand of misery will fundamentally change the way you approach sobriety.
Want more support, resources and tools to help you go alcohol-free?
You can Drink Less + Live More today with The Sobriety Starter Kit.
It’s the private, on-demand coaching course you need to break out of the drinking cycle – without white-knuckling it or hating the process.
Connect with Gill Tietz
Head over to Apple podcast and listen to her show, Sober Powered Podcast
Follow Gill on Instagram @sober.powered
To find out more about Gill and how she can support you on your journey to recovery, go to www.soberpowered.com
Connect with Casey
Take a screenshot of your favorite episode, post it on your Instagram and tag me @caseymdavidson and tell me your biggest takeaway!
Want to read the full transcript of this podcast episode? Scroll down on this page.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS PODCAST INTERVIEW
What You Don’t Know About Alcohol And Your Body With Gillian Tietz
drinking, quit drinking, alcohol, feel, anxiety, people, brain, sober, stop, night, sleep, podcast, drinker, life, slows, week, hangover, day, bad, calories, months, Science, Scientist, Psychology
SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Gillian Tietz
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a bus, how to sit with your emotions, when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Welcome to this week’s podcast.
I wanted to jump in before the podcast to mention that if you’re thinking about taking a break from alcohol, or are in the stage of trying to stop drinking, and getting four days or two weeks, and then going back to drinking again, I have a free guide with 30 tips to help you get through your first 30 days without alcohol. It’s a full 30-page guide full of tips and tricks, advice and resources that will help you stop drinking and get through that really hard first month. It covers knowing how you’ll feel and what to expect day by day. And how to make a solid plan for the witching hour and setting goals that are positive and empowering, including what to shop for at the grocery store and so much more. So if it sounds interesting to you, go ahead and grab it at hellosomedaycoaching.com.
And today, we’re talking with Gill Tietz, the Sober Scientist about the Science and Psychology of addiction, and what happens to your body when you drink. And also when you stop drinking. Gill is a Biochemist in the Boston area and is 16 months sober. Her passion is helping others free themselves from the “drink hate yourself drink” cycle by providing education on how alcohol affects our brain and causes addiction. And she is the creator and the host of the sober powered podcast. And we’re going to talk about all the things today, the benefits of taking a break from alcohol, and how drinking less can improve your health, how alcohol affects your body and your brain, and how you’ll feel likely in early sobriety and what happens during withdrawal, as well as all the stuff around how alcohol impacts anxiety and sleep and makes it hard to lose weight. So Gill, thank you for being here.
Thank you for that great introduction.
Casey McGuire Davidson 03:28
Oh, you’re so welcome. I have been listening to your podcast. And I love the approach. That’s so data and information based and really helps people understand what’s going on from a body’s perspective.
Thank you. Yeah, that’s what helps me so that’s what I share.
Well, as we get started, tell us a little bit about you and what made you stop drinking and also what made you dive into wanting to understand everything about it.
Yeah, so I, I drank for seven years total. I didn’t start drinking until I was 22. So I was a late comer to alcohol. But when I started drinking it was right from the very first drink a huge problem after my first drink. I remember I had so much shame and I didn’t even understand like messing up or humiliating myself or feeling bad for blacking out is the first drink. So, it was a problem from the start. I had absolutely no control ever over how much I drink. Yeah, and things just got worse and worse for me, but I never had any consequences on the outside. I looked completely normal to everybody else. I got my masters while I was drinking every day. I got a job as a Scientist and I was drinking everyday, and no one knew. People just thought I was like bubbly, nice girl. And eventually, it started to affect my mind. To health, and that was the last year or so of my drinking. And I developed pretty significant anxiety, which I’ve never had anxiety before. And it would keep me up a few nights per week. Like I would wake up that jolt at 3am and be like, freaking out and not able to sleep till the sun started coming up. And then I also started to get suicidal thoughts. And those really scared me because they were, they were intense, and they just wouldn’t let up. Like, I would wake up at 3am. And I would have the anxiety and then my mind would start telling me all these really scary, terrible things. And it just forced me to quit one day like I quit, and then I went back to it. And I thought I was cured. And then the suicidal thoughts came right back. And eventually I was like, okay, alcohol for me, equals being suicidal. And I embraced this never drinking again, because I felt that I was putting myself in danger if I continue to drink, and that’s a very powerful reason to never drink again. So yeah, 17 months this Friday.
Thank you. That’s great. And for your second question, why? Why do I care about all the science? I had so much shame, that I was a bad person, I was the worst person ever. I was a loser, there was something wrong with me, I did something bad to deserve this problem. And when I stopped drinking, I was like, Is that true? Did I really deserve this? I’m really a loser. And I started researching it. Because I have two science degrees. So I can really, I know where to find that information. And I know how to digest that information. And I started reading about it from day two of sobriety, every single day, still at this point. And just knowing that information helped free me from like the blame. And I realized like, no, this isn’t, because you’re a bad, horrible loser. This is just something that happens to people sometimes.
Casey McGuire Davidson 07:18
Yeah. And I want to thank you for sharing that about feeling suicidal, I feel like it’s I know, it’s hard to share. It’s something that people don’t talk about enough. So I know if someone is listening to this, and hearing that from you, it’s really going to help them. I also experienced really bad anxiety, sort of panic attacks, lying in bed, in tingling, like feeling like I was tingling all over my body and could sort of barely cope with everything going on. And I also felt doomed. Like, I felt like I was really going to fuck up my life and my health and my marriage and my kids, and that it was going to be my fault. So I mean, I think that a lot of people who drink even high achieving women who look like they have it all together and are succeeding at work, like that emotional feeling of being really low and kind of scared, is common.
Yeah, I completely agree. And when I started sharing, people started telling me like, wow, I felt suicidal, too. I didn’t know that. Other people were having that experience. And I realized, like, there’s a lot of us, and no one’s really saying it. So I mean, I’m cool to say it and tell everybody everywhere, when that was one of my biggest fears, like Actually, my grandmother, my dad’s Mom, I never met her. She actually shot herself in the head when she was in Vietnam. And then my, my sister had a couple of suicide attempts. And when I started feeling like I couldn’t cope, I was really terrified that I was going to feel that low, as well. And so I think it is, it is something that we need to talk about more because it is scary.
I’m so sorry. For both of those things. But yeah, it’s more common than people think. And I think we’re scared to bring it up. Because my fear at least was, you know, someone’s going to have me committed. And people are gonna think that I’m a danger to myself, or that, you know, this could happen at any moment, and people are gonna feel weird around me. But no one feels weird around me. And people have just been very, very kind about it. Yeah.
Casey McGuire Davidson 09:47
That’s awesome. And so I do want to go into the science around it because I always tell women when they’re like, why is this happening to me? Why can I stop? Why do I want it Worry about enough? Why can I take a break without going back? I’m always like it is working as designed. Like it’s an addictive substance that is meant to draw you in. But I know you have so much more data around why that’s true.
Yeah, it some people can binge drink and move on with their lives. And then there’s other people who binge drink, and then obsess about it all the time. And alcohol just has a way of making you feel really bad about yourself. And that’s where it becomes a problem, I think, because my husband was drinking a lot with me. But he never felt that he was bad or a loser or hated himself, he just drinks and then move down the next day. And for some of us, we just get so obsessed with, you know, how much can I have today, I drink yesterday, I’m not supposed to drink today. But I really want to, and all of those thoughts and, and even though we know that something is going on, just the desire to drink outweighs any knowledge that we have. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a loser. Because of that, or you’re weak, and you can’t like, resist a craving. It’s just because alcohol, when you abuse it, it makes it hard for your brain to send messages to other places. And all your brain knows is like alcohol is the best feeling thing that exists in the world. And even though I know like, I have to drive, this time is going to be different. Like it’s just so easy to talk yourself out of it. And what I’ve learned is that it feels better for some people than other people. And there are there are some MRI studies. And you can actually see like, if you type in MRI, like alcohol addiction, or alcohol craving or something, you can see these images, and they will compare a social drinker’s brain to the brain of a problem drinker when they are presented a cue. And the social drinker’s brain is just like me, like whatever, and the person with the problem, their whole brain lights up, and all these areas become activated. And there’s just so much going on. And I think it’s fascinating. And I’ve learned that it’s nothing that we did is something that we cause it’s just like you said, alcohol doing was designed to do.
Casey McGuire Davidson 12:39
Yeah, and that’s how I feel like I used to tell my husband, my whole brain lights up when I think about drinking or when I drink. And he would be like, why don’t you just stop, like, you’ve had a couple, you’re feeling good. And I would be like, I never want this feeling to end. So I was like, drinking more with the idea that like it will prolong how long I feel this way, which it didn’t write, I would just pass out and wake up with the awful feeling at 3am as well.
Yeah, there’s a peak, you have two or three drinks, and you feel like amazing, best feeling ever. And then the more you drink, I thought, the more I drink, the better. I will feel so similar. And once you pass that peak, it just shoots down below baseline into misery, no matter how much you drink after that. And yeah, I just think it’s so cool that our brains are like, oh, but one more like one more would be so nice. It’s like no one more would really make us feel so miserable. And we just you know, we keep doing it. Yeah. Well, so
Casey McGuire Davidson 13:55
what are the most important things that someone who’s listening this should know about how alcohol affects your body?
I think the easiest way to put it without going into specifics is that we all have these things that we think alcohol is doing for us. They’re called positive alcohol expectancies. So for me it was alcohol is fun. Alcohol makes me happy for other people. Alcohol reduces my anxiety or alcohol makes me more social. So whatever yours is, you should realize that alcohol does the exact opposite of that thing that you think like for me, the beginning was fun, of course, because I had a giant buzz. But as soon as I crossed into drunkenness, I got sloppy. I got sick a lot of the times I fought with my husband I blacked out and forgot the fun and so many things and I really like none of that’s actually fun. And for anxiety, specifically, a lot of us will drink because we think it helps us relax and you know, unwind or de stress or if you do have anxiety to cope with your anxiety. But as you abuse it, it changes your brain to create anxiety. And that’s why I actually developed it when I never had anxiety. And I do not struggle with anxiety anymore. It took about six years of drinking to do it. But because alcohol slows down brain activity, your brains going to compensate for that, because it wants to be balanced. So it’s going to increase the amount of excitable neurotransmitters that it sends around to bring you back up to normal. And when you stop drinking at 3pm, the alcohol has, you know, mostly worn off. And you don’t have that to slow down brain activity. But you have this huge boost of all the excitable neurotransmitters, so then your brain is overactive. And that’s why you’re like freaking out and, and the way you’re feeling my version of that I felt really far away, the room like zoomed out. And it was very scary. And that’s also why people will have seizures when they quit. And they just go cold turkey after drinking a lot for a long time is because that burst of excitement is too much for the brain. And if you do struggle with anxiety, it’s likely that you will struggle more in the first few days. Because of that, and your brain has to learn like alcohol is not going to be here all the time forever. And unlearn what it adapted to before and that takes a little bit of time. And then your brain will learn how to you know, rebalance itself out and you won’t have that added burst of anxiety. But every time you drink and go back to it, you’re just resetting the suffering that you have to do and potentially making it worse if you continue to drink for like a year or two. Yeah,
Casey McGuire Davidson 17:14
I was just really interested in what you were saying, because I was talking to a client just an hour before we got on the call. And she is having a huge move right now with two little kids cross an ocean. And she was saying that previously, when she was moving, she had these huge panic attacks and just, you know, amazing anxiety and she’s like, we are moving in a week and I feel so calm. She’s like, I feel competent. I’m not worried. And she said 60 days sober today. And so she’s like, how is that even possible just in two months, to have such a night and day experience. And of course, she has more energy and more hours in the day cuz she’s not drinking and she’s sleeping better. But she’s like, my baseline level of calm is incredible.
That’s amazing. I thought you were going to say she had time similar to mine. I didn’t expect you to say 60 days. I mean, I know it happens. But that’s I’m very happy for her because moving is I’m trying to move into a stressful experience.
Casey McGuire Davidson 18:25
Yeah, I know. I was just happy because I know I felt a lot calmer and more competent in early sobriety. But then also at four months, I had a big anxiety attack. And I was so bummed because like now I’m on some anti-anxiety medication. And I wasn’t at the time, but I was like, I quit drinking. How am I not cured of everything? Yeah.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like, isn’t my life supposed to be amazing right now? And what you’ve realized is like, No, you had all these problems that you were carrying, and they just kind of hung out with you. And they were waiting for you to stop drinking. So they could appear, in your mind actually deal with them.
Yeah, exactly. And as you work and get rid of them, that’s for me, that’s where all my calmness has come. Because I know like, you know, whatever this is whatever that is, I can deal with all sorts of stuff now. And like get through to the other side.
Yeah. Well, so tell me you mentioned that alcohol slows down your brain activity. So can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, so there’s two main neurotransmitters. So one is GABA. And that’s the one that slows down brain activity. And the other one is glutamate, and that’s the one that speeds up brain activity. So your brain is trying to maintain a balance between those two neurotransmitters at all times and alcohol stimulates GABA, so you have more GABA hanging around. And it slows down the messages that your neurons are sending to other neurons, or it stops them completely depending, you know, on the message or how much you drink. And yeah, so that is Yeah. And then as you continue to abuse alcohol, your brain is going to try to make that harder to do. So, it reduces the availability of GABA and alcohol to bind and slow things down. So it makes it less, I’m not explaining this great. It makes less spots for alcohol to bind to. And then when you are not drinking GABA normally would bind to all those spots, but now there’s less spots. So now you have extra excitement. And now you have less ability for Gabba to bind and slow down things. So it’s just it’s a big mess. Yeah, beginning.
Casey McGuire Davidson 21:02
Yeah, I mean, I definitely I had quite a few nights and not just party nights, like literally me on the couch nights watching TV where I just don’t remember stuff. And I didn’t even realize it. Like my husband said to me, this was one of the few nights before I actually stopped drinking for the last time. He was like, you watched the show already. And it was a you know, TiVo recording of scandal. And I was like, Nope, I didn’t. He was like, No, you did. You watched it last night. And I honestly thought he was screwing with me, like, I did not believe him. And so I watched pretty much to the end of the show. And of course, I was also drinking, it’s another bottle of wine, even though I had the night before, too. And something was familiar right at the end. And I was like, oh my god, I literally don’t remember any of this.
Yeah, that’s really scary. And that, that used to happen to me a lot I would write when I started realizing that drinking was a problem for me. I was drinking a lot every day, and I would come home, and I’d like to get drunk and play to murder. And I was so excited for the new Tomb Raider game to come out. And I got really drunk, like extra one night and I’m playing Tomb Raider. You know, whatever. And I go home the next day, I put my game on. And I’ve no idea where my character is. I’m like, what am I doing? What has happened? And I tried to play I’m like, no, maybe I remember. And there. There’s like a whole hour or two of the game, where there were some important plot points that were gone. And I had to actually restart from the beginning. And that happened to me so many times. Like it just was gone. And I was playing these games and doing all this stuff. And nothing is going on and realized it was because you had been drinking.
Yeah, yeah, I knew the whole time. Like, I blacked out. Yeah. And yeah, I was just like, Oh, I was really stressed that day.
Casey McGuire Davidson 23:10
Yeah. Every day really stressed. Right? Yeah. No, I know. It’s so when you’re drinking, you’re like, my life is so stressful. And it’s amazing that you can have the same life. And when you stop drinking, you know, everything isn’t solved. But your base level of anxiety really does go down pretty substantially.
Yeah, I completely know what you’re talking about. Everything when I was drinking was a huge deal. I was so dramatic and upset. I was so direct. Everything was offensive and everything was everybody else’s fault. My husband, he was the worst husband ever. He made so many mistakes. And when I stopped drinking, these same types of problems would occur. And I’d be like, Oh, yeah.
Casey McGuire Davidson 24:04
Like I used to get so riled up about stuff at work. And it wasn’t even stuff happening to me. It was somehow the outrage of management decisions are what was happening to my colleague or how we were not serving our customers. And then once I stopped drinking, I would like to come home. And my husband would be like, how was your day? And I’d be like, it was okay. And he was like, What? And I was like, Yeah, he was like, what happened? And I was like, I don’t know, I went to a couple meetings, got some projects done walk to Starbucks, and he was just like, holy shit. This, you know, at 20 years of marriage has never been like, and I wonder whether I was just sort of Riley myself up for reason to drink or whether my emotional instability was just so all over the place. I mean, what do you think?
So alcohol affects the areas of the brain that control our emotions, and it makes it just like it affects the area of the brain that controls our ability to control our impulses. And we have a hard time regulating our emotions, because we’re drinking all the time. So it actually is real. It wasn’t. It’s not that I’m a drama queen at heart. It’s that I could not regulate my emotions because alcohol was affecting all these areas of the brain. And it was, I say, it literally like made me crazy. Yeah, I feel. And yeah, I’m just so normal. Now. I feel like I’m a completely different person. And that’s because my emotions have leveled out. And I have the ability to self-regulate where before that was impossible.
Yeah, I mean, that’s amazing. Like, just how mentally and emotionally better you feel after you get some time away from it. So how long do you think it takes after you stopped drinking to sort of feel that sort of emotional regulation kind of come back?
That depends. So I’ve had two, I’ve had 290-day experiences, I had the first one I did 90 days. And then I thought that I was cured and could moderate. And the second time was this sober stent. So the first one, I was angry all the time, is very upset. I was very jealous. And that lasted for about two months, okay. And then I started to see better emotional benefits. But that’s because I had no intention of ever actually getting sober. I always was going to drink again, that was the plan. And because of that, I missed out on so many positives. And the second time when I stopped, I embraced quitting. And I was like, here for it ready to do the work. And I noticed the benefits a lot sooner, like within the first month, so it depends really like what’s going on in your life. And if you are ready to stop, or if you intend to go back to drinking, you might slow the benefits.
Casey McGuire Davidson 27:11
Yeah. And I think that’s so common, not just for me, that was my experience as well, but also for a lot of the women I work with, because I also had sort of a first extended period of stopping pretty much I felt like my life was unsustainable, and I was really unhappy and couldn’t figure out if it was my marriage, or my job, or me, or all the things combined. So I pretty much like decided to stop drinking mostly. So I could get clear on what the problem was. And I had all these like, things I was angry about, which is funny now, because I’m really not an angry person at all. But I was like, I don’t have a leg to stand on. I can’t make my argument because I don’t remember a lot of stuff at night. So that was the first time I stopped drinking. And I really didn’t want to write like you. I was like, this is the worst-case scenario. And I stopped drinking for like four months. I ended up going a year, but I got pregnant with my daughter. So I’m pretty sure if I had not been pregnant, I would have been like just kidding. Let me go back to drinking. So I went back to drinking after she was born because I said, Oh, this was situational stress. It now I I’m in a better place I have a better job I can, you know I can go back to drinking out won’t be an issue. And it was that second time of going back to drinking. Was the same thing happened, right? I was very because I had been in the sober world. Because I went back to drinking it was glaringly obvious to me that all of my anxiety and anger and you know feeling like shit about myself and, and all that stuff was caused by the drinking. So the second time I was able to stop, same thing. I was like, I had no illusions that I would not be brought back to that same place. And therefore I was so much more positive about it.
Yeah, exactly that you just summed up how I feel about it. Like I connected like oh, alcohol makes me anxious. Alcohol makes me dramatic. Alcohol makes me suicidal. Alcohol makes me feel terrible every single day like this baseline horrible feeling. And I realized that through the experience of during the 90 days and I think that when they have like a relapse or, or a little blip or whatever. You shouldn’t like to beat yourself up for that because you’re going to learn so much from that experience. And I think without my experience, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today in my sobriety.
Casey McGuire Davidson 29:48
I agree. I mean, I think that if any period of sobriety you get if you go back to drinking that will actually serve you to finally be able to walk away from it and be really happy. Because you get a glimpse of how you feel without alcohol, and then you go back and say, Oh, shit, it wasn’t situational. It’s actually this substance. Yeah, exactly. Tell us cuz what actually happens in early sobriety in terms of being in withdraw? Because I know that’s something a lot of women struggle with, like the first week, two weeks, three weeks, you know, you kind of feel like shit, and you are emotionally unstable and rageful. And sensitive and sad, and you don’t sleep well, the first couple nights, and it feels like, Oh, my God, this is awful. I might as well go back to drinking.
Yeah, so all of that is your body. Like, we kind of run on alcohol here, like, like, we use alcohol to do all of these things. So where is it and your body having to relearn like, no more alcohol, sorry. But in the beginning, like the first week is challenging, you know, insomnia, because we’re used to knocking ourselves out. And people will get the belief that alcohol helps me sleep but passing out doesn’t count asleep. passing out is like getting anesthesia for surgery, you wouldn’t count that asleep. So it’s the same thing. So if you pass out for four hours, and then restlessly sleep for another four, you got four hours of sleep. So that’s a common thing that people don’t understand. And you have to learn how to sleep without knocking yourself out. And emotions are our nuts. Mine were crazy. And your brain just has to come back to normal. Like it has to be able to speak to itself again and be like, No, we can regulate ourselves here. We can regulate our impulses, we can control our thoughts, we have control over our emotions. And because alcohol depresses the central nervous system, there’s a lot of different symptoms that you can have in early sobriety like night sweats. That’s what I think people don’t anticipate. That’s one that I had a lot. I had such bad night sweats for like two to three weeks. It was really bad. My husband and I used to just laugh, because it was that bad. And if you think about it, and if you don’t know this, read a little bit about delirium tremens, and the like, worst symptoms of withdrawal. So they will have trouble regulating their blood pressure, trouble regulating their body temperature, trouble, like regulating their thoughts and all that and withdrawal is just that, but less, because we don’t have an extreme rebound, we just have a rebound. So if you understand those symptoms, you can kind of connect them to what you are experiencing. But I would expect insomnia, anxiety, like we said earlier, night sweats, headaches, bitchiness,
Casey McGuire Davidson 33:08
yeah, I always say it’s okay, if you feel rage. That’s normal. Yeah. What about like, the really bad cravings?
Yeah, so cravings happen. A lot of it can be emotional, if you’re past like the withdrawal stage. And that’s because you know, alcohol does, you know, whatever alcohol does relax you, it actually does, because it slows down your brain, which makes you relaxed. So you know that for a fact. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or filled with rage, I had that too. You know, if you drink, you will instantly not feel that. And you will instantly be brought down from overwhelm to normal. And that’s why it’s so easy to have a craving or a trigger. And everything that’s good for us doesn’t give us instant relief. And it’s hard to, in the moment, choose the thing that’s better for future you. And when you are like really early, and your impulse control is still messed up and your emotional regulation is still messed up. It’s really hard to fight those off. And it’s hard to think like three hours from now me is going to be having anxiety and hating myself and fighting with my husband and passing out. And maybe I don’t want that. And tomorrow’s me is going to be so filled with shame that it’s hard to even like survive. But when you can’t control your impulses are your emotions. You don’t think about that. You just think like I am overwhelmed. I will not survive another second of feeling this thing. And that’s like what a craving is to me. I feel like they’re very emotional. I don’t know.
Casey McGuire Davidson 35:02
Yeah. I mean, I wrote that I was on like day 10. and stuff was happening at work. And I was really upset and angry and all the things and I had made a commitment not to drink. And I was actually working with a coach. So I was like, Fuck, I can’t drink. Because I was like chatting with her every day. I was like, dammit, I can’t do this. And I sat at the top of my driveway, and like, cried and was so upset. And then I came back to our garden and did like, hard labor for an hour. And What amazed me was, it passed, like, I had gotten my energy out, and it actually passed and I was like, wow, I have never, as an adult, sat through anger and in, you know, being indignant and being hurt, and not drank over it. And, you know, an hour later, I was like, That’s amazing. I’m so glad I didn’t like self-sabotage. And I was on day 10. So I’m so glad I didn’t start over. But it’s just like, if you’ve never sat through that feeling you feel like it’s gonna last forever.
Yeah, and once you do it one time, then you are so much stronger. And the next time it’s like, okay, we’ve we felt this before we’ve done this thing. We just have to go rage garden. And we’ll feel better.
Casey McGuire Davidson 36:27
Some people go for a run I rage garden.
I love that. I’m sure your garden appreciated it. I rage walk.
Casey McGuire Davidson 36:35
I was like shoveling stones. We were putting like salt and pepper stone on our race vegetable. I was shoveling stones.
Yep, yeah, get it out of your body, like a lot of us will just sit and stew in it. And think about you know, that asshole this and, and how everybody’s wrong. And we’re not wrong. And I can’t believe they did whatever. And you have to get it out. Like whether you complain to a friend or rage burn or rage walk or whatever you want to do, like you got to do anything. And then the trigger will pass. And same thing. Like for me weekends were really hard. When I first started drinking, I would just drink like the whole weekend. And I was like, how can you have a good weekend? If you’re not drinking? Like, like, yeah, people do. They don’t go out to brunch and get drunk. And then did they just stare at each other?
And the first time I did a sober weekend, I was like, Huh, I can do that. That wasn’t so bad. And then it made the next one easier. So for me, every time I’ve been filled with rage, and I got past the rage, I knew I could get past it again. And I think that’s what we just have to remember, even though it feels like the world is gonna end you’ll never survive this overwhelming feeling. You just have to know that it will go away. And they’ll go away a lot quicker than we expect.
Casey McGuire Davidson 38:01
When that’s why I always suggest like, if you’re in your first two weeks or so, like try to build a drama free bubble. Like if something’s gonna set you off, put it off for two weeks. If it’s a conversation, like avoid people who trigger you or make you angry, just do everything you can to be as emotionally protected as you can in the beginning.
Yeah, exactly. Because we’re so emotionally vulnerable in the beginning and like crazy things are happening to our body. And maybe your partner’s still drinking and you’re like that jerk. I wish I could hear that Ellis right in the beginning. You’re jealous, you’re pissed off. And you see the cue of him drinking and its triggers this craving. So I mean, the emotions are real.
Yeah, I like that the sober bubble for two weeks,
Casey McGuire Davidson 38:54
I completely agree with you. And if anyone’s listened to the bubble, our podcast which started so many years ago, like a decade ago, that’s the original idea of the name of the bubble hour is you’re building this bubble around you that? Yeah, it’s really cool. The icon before a Gene McCarthy took over was this woman in a bubble, which was like on all the podcaster, which was kind of cool. So how long does withdraw last?
So it could last anywhere from like, few days to a couple weeks? It depends. I mean, it depends on your genetics, because we’re all different, but it depends a lot on how much did you drink and for how long? And for me, I drink for seven years. I think I skipped like; besides my sober time I think I skipped like three days when I had a hangover like of death and couldn’t drink because I would throw up. I had withdrawal for like a few days like maybe three days were the worst. Have it and then I would have like insomnia and night sweats, like the more manageable kind for like two weeks. Yeah. But after the first few and those first three days,
day one, I just sat on the couch and waited for the day to end. I had such a bad hangover. I was up that night until 530 in the morning, you know, having suicidal thoughts so, and really sleep. I got a pizza and sat under a blanket and watch Netflix. And then day two, I actually had to go to work. And I put my headphones in, and just listen to podcasts, like the whole day. And I had both headphones in, which is a signal like, like, don’t talk to me, I don’t I don’t want anyone to even like start a conversation. Don’t just email me. And people left me alone. And I just listened to podcasts and did my work. And I kept to myself, which like you said it helped because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I admitted that I was a problem drinker who can’t drink. And like, just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to you guys. Yeah, like this is a nightmare.
Yeah, so keep busy. And kind of just keep to yourself and keep going to be so tired. Right? Like physically. I mean, so let’s talk about that women. You know, when they’re talking to me, sometimes they’re like, I just feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I’m so tired. So why does that happen? And how long does it last?
Yeah. So alcohol is broken down by two different enzymes in the body, the first one, we’ll break it down into an intermediate, that’s 10 times more toxic than alcohol is. And that’s why, like people will have the thing, it’s called the Asian glow. People from East Asia, a lot of them have similar genetics. And they don’t have an efficient second enzyme. So that intermediate builds up and makes them feel like crap. And the second enzyme converts that into acetate, which is basically like, vinegar. You know, which isn’t harmful, like the other thing. And what happens with acetate is it can go into your bloodstream very quickly and reach the brain. And the brain can actually use it for energy. So I used to say, like, I’m exhausted, I need some wind energy. And I was literally energizing myself because alcohol is broken down into something that provides my brain with energy. And if you get your body and brain used to drinking all the time, your brain can choose to use acetate over glucose, which is the normal way that we energize ourselves. And when you all of a sudden stop drinking, you’re taking the brain’s source of energy away. And it has to like, go back to using glucose and now you have way less energy because you’re getting all your energy from food, and then all this extra energy from all the alcohol. So you’re just cutting off, like a huge source of energy that your body was getting. And that’s why we feel exhausted in the beginning.
Casey McGuire Davidson 43:29
And so how long does it usually take to have more energy back? I mean, I’m assuming it varies.
Yeah, some people get it quick. And I think that being in like, the pink cloud, definitely helps. Like your mental state will help your energy. But for most people, I think, once you get to like, the three-month mark, you should start feeling good in terms of like energy levels and sleep maybe even 60 days. But I think once you get to like three ish months, a lot of the adjustments that you needed to make have happened or have mostly happened.
Yeah, yeah. And that bone tired, I think usually lasts like three weeks, like just this sort of feeling like you’re dragging through mud, but definitely, I found it takes longer to feel like you’re just, oh my god, I feel good. I’m bouncing out of bed. You know, where you wake up and you’re like, sober. Sleep is the best. This is great. And everyone hates you. They’re like, Oh, yeah, fit with your silver benefits.
Casey McGuire Davidson 44:36
I know. That’s awesome. Well, so another question I had. So I’m just asking you basically all my questions, but this work. So I’ve heard that when you’re drinking it like really messes up your dopamine levels in your brain and sort of your ability to feel joy at stuff that isn’t super high or triggered. buy alcohol. And then once you get it out of your system, your brain readjusts to be able to have those feel good feelings without it, which you didn’t have when you were drinking. Is that true? How does that work?
So this is kind of similar to what we’re talking about with GABA, like the way that your brain adapts to kind of self-regulate. So alcohol will give you like a huge burst in dopamine. And the brain will kind of adjust to like even that out. And that’s why you never feel as good as the first couple times, you got that bizarre and you need more and more and more, to feel the same pleasure. That’s because your brain is trying to adapt and go back to normal. So that’s so dopamine exists to reinforce behaviors that keep us alive, like eating, sleeping, sex, drinking water, you have a dopamine burst in your brain, in an area that creates a memory. And then you remember, like, eating feels good, I should eat more, or like sex feels good, I should have more sex. And that’s designed just to keep us alive. But alcohol does that. And then you have this huge burst, and you create a memory. Alcohol is the best feeling in the entire world. And though, that’s another reason it’s so hard to stop, because it’s a belief, like alcohol feels so good. And yeah, so the brain is just going to try to adapt to whatever alcohol is doing. And just bring you back down, and it brings you back down like lower than you normally were to compensate for that huge jump that alcohol gave you in the first couple hours.
Yeah, so that’s why you feel so low during the hangover or when you’re recovering, and you kind of need the alcohol or want the alcohol to bring you back to feeling normal.
Yeah. And then as soon as you have your alcohol, you feel back to normal is how I experienced it, and you drink and you feel like amazing, like nothing’s better than this. And then, because of all the alcohol on your brain, you crash down even lower than you were before. And you stay there. And then you drink and eventually, like just drinking brings you to normal. Yeah, so you drink more to get the burst. And then you get a bigger drop. And it’s just a horrible cycle.
Casey McGuire Davidson 47:31
Yeah, absolutely. And I was a daily drinker like red wine bottle of red wine 365 nights a year. And I would I mean, I, I always say like, I would feel like shit for 21 hours of my life every single day for the three hours that I would be drinking. Because I mean, you drink, and then you know, you pass out. And then you have the 3am wake up. And I would have the awful anxiety when I couldn’t go back to sleep till 5am. Like, how am I going to handle today, I can’t cope, I’m going to be so tired. And then just dragging into work and the headaches and then the irritability, you know, and the overthinking about drinking or not drinking and then repeat. Like it was. It was a really shitty way to live. And now that I’m out of it, I’m like, How the fuck did I live like that for decades? I mean, you know, how did that How did that happen? But I didn’t. I never gave myself the chance to feel better because it was just such an instinct, a habit and also physically right made me feel better.
Yeah, and when you feel like crap, every day for years, you don’t remember what not feeling like crap feels like and that becomes your new baseline. That’s just like, you know, feeling normal. And when you feel good, it’s like, Whoa, and when you feel horrible, it’s like less bad because you’re used to feeling terrible. Like, I drink everyday too. And I’d go to work with hangovers all the time. And that was just normal. Like I I’m used to, you know, being in a meeting with a hangover. I’m used to driving to work feeling like trash and like barely being awake. And when I stopped drinking, I was like, Whoa, I feel good. I don’t feel Yeah, I don’t even feel normal. I feel good. Yeah,
Casey McGuire Davidson 49:31
I know. I mean, I can’t believe how many. I mean, I think I was hung over for every job interview I ever had as an adult, which is insane. And I used to drink a lot before like business trips because I was really nervous about them. And then just trying to like to hold it together. So just the level of self-sabotage is incredible to think back on but if you’re listening to this and you’re in that cycle, just know that We totally get it. It., We know how that feels. We stayed there for a long time too. And if you can get through the really hard first couple weeks, and I know you can, you’re gonna feel so much better and you won’t even realize how badly you’re feeling now because you’re so used to it.
Exactly, yeah. And I think just being kind to ourselves too, and, and realizing like, we went to work every single day with a hangover. We did everything, like the amount of times I traveled. And I would get drunk the night before to like, celebrate like, yeah, we’re going on vacation, and then traveling with like a deadly hangover. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s just, it’s a, it’s a big difference. And yeah, I want to sound like now you’re doing a Herculean effort to hold it all together. And, yeah, be kind to yourself. And also, it doesn’t have to be this hard. So that’s super interesting to me about the dopamine levels. When you’re talking about that, and how, you know, you sort of drink to bring yourself back to baseline and then drink more to get that hit. One thing we talked about before we got on this podcast was around why alcohol makes it so hard to lose weight. And I think you cited a statistic or a system, that with two drinks in your system, your body’s burning 73% fewer calories than it would have burned without drinking. Can you tell us about that? Because that is incredible to me.
Yeah, so a lot of us think alcohol makes us gain weight or prevents us from losing weight because of all the calories. And you know, that’s true. But this study, I think, is so powerful, because it was just on vodka. So they had two groups of men, and one group had two drinks. So one shot each two regular drinks, of vodka and sugar free lemonade. And the other group just had the lemonade, so very similar. And vodka doesn’t have a lot of calories. And they looked at their fat metabolism, like how their body is processing body fat. And what they saw is that the drinkers had up to 73% less fat burning taking place. So even if you are in a calorie deficit, your body is busy, like doing other things like it views alcohol as something that is here to kill you like it’s a it’s a poison. And that’s the priority. And it focuses its effort on like, let’s get rid of this thing. And then it will focus after on like, the normal stuff that the body does. And weight loss doesn’t have anything to do with our survival like so. It’s just an aesthetic, like makes you feel good thing, but the body doesn’t care about burning fat. So that is a last priority. And that’s why it slows down so much because the body’s devoting its precious resources to pressing on alcohol. And that effect lasts like a really long time. It wasn’t just the, like two hours that they were drinking these drinks. It was an extended slowdown. So if you’re drinking every day, like for me, I was doing everything right, I was going to zoom tracking calories, like eating salad, but I would drink every day and I never, ever lost anything. I lost one pound and then gained the pound back over and over for years. And now I’m like, wow, that makes a lot of sense. So I wasn’t bad at dieting or giving into cravings or whatever. It’s like alcohol literally shuts down. unimportant things like Same thing with fertility. That’s not super important compared to the things that keep us alive. So that one also gets left behind.
Casey McGuire Davidson 54:13
Yeah, and you mentioned I heard you on your podcast talking about alcohol and weight loss. And you said if you’re still drinking on a weight loss program, it takes 10 times longer to lose the weight.
Yeah, so think about it if you want to lose that those last 10 pounds that you know, all of us women are always seeking to lose and you’re burning 73% less fat than someone who is not drinking. If you are in like you have the right setup with your calories and your exercise to be losing one pound per week. You might cut that down to a quarter pound per week or half pound even if you’re lucky. So those 10 pounds now after rate of one pound per week, take 10 weeks at a rate of a quarter pound per week now take 40 weeks to lose 10 pounds. So yeah, when people say like, you can still drink wine and lose weight, like you can, but it’s gonna take you a really long time.
Casey McGuire Davidson 55:18
Yeah, and that’s amazing to me. Because like, back in the day, I would, you know, do like, so careful about how much I was eating, and then four glasses of wine and be like, calorie wise, I’m still good. You know, I wasn’t eating very much. But um, yeah, that apparently was it by priority. So, yeah, it’s, it’s just good to know, because I know that’s one of the common thoughts around alcohol, you’re like, Yeah, but I’m still eating the right number of calories. And a lot of us will forego just really great food and desserts because we’re saving, quote, unquote, our calories for wine or for whatever it is. And I’m talking to clients now. And they’re like, holy shit. I had Brie yesterday. I haven’t had Brie in five years. And I’m like, yeah, it was good was. That’s amazing. So tell us, I want to hear about what the positive effects are of taking a break from alcohol, for your health for your body and for your brain.
So even if you are not a problem, drinker, but you’re a normal drinker, and maybe like quarantine and stuff like that has affected you, even you taking a break is helpful. So it’s not just for people who are abusing alcohol constantly, anyone would benefit at any level that they’re drinking. But I think it just opens your eyes to what you should be feeling like every day, because you stop having constant hangovers. And, and yes, you feel tired, and you have trouble sleeping in the beginning. But even when I had trouble sleeping, or when I got less sleep, I still felt really good. Compared to the nights that I was drunk and slept eight or nine hours, I still felt better getting six hours sober. And your liver can is very restorative. So your liver is super resilient. And it can recover fast as long as you didn’t push it too far. So if you didn’t damage and like cut off sources of toxin removal from the liver, then it can repair itself and the liver. Also something important to say about that as it doesn’t feel pain, when the liver swells and pushes on other things that feels pain. So even if you don’t have that right-side pain, your liver still taking a hit from drinking, you might just not know. And your mental health, like you’ll see your anxiety and depression and, and your emotions get better. Even if you just do a month. Things will affect you less. And your relationships may improve. Like my marriage is so much better. We’re like heading for the end.
Casey McGuire Davidson 58:17
And now my marriage, so much better to.. Yeah, yeah. So it’s not even just liked your physical health. It’s everything in your life now has the capacity to improve.
Yeah, absolutely. Anything else you want to mention that you think it’s important for people to know, I know, we’ve covered a lot.
Yeah, I think that whatever your personal brand of suffering is, you should look it up. Like my husband had really bad heartburn. And he actually went and he’s a normal drinker. He’s not a problem drinker. And he went to a bunch of doctors was put on medication, they wanted to do an endoscopy. And he was like trying to resist that. But he thought maybe he should give in and do it. And then when I stopped drinking, he backed off. And his heartburn disappeared.
So whenever amazing writers don’t the first question, they ask you should be how much are you drinking? And even if they ask you that, I mean, yes, we all cut it in half, or like we’re like, oh, a couple drinks couple nights a week, you know, but still, I feel like it’s now that I’ve stopped I’m like, Oh my god, it impacted so many areas of my life. Like I was going to get Ambien because I couldn’t sleep because I had such bad insomnia, which is incredibly dangerous. I was drinking a bottle of wine a night and then taking an Ambien. I mean, holy shit, right. That’s kind of scary what could happen with your breathing and everything else? But I feel like it’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast is because I feel like a lot of people, I didn’t know All the things that are caught was doing to my body with sleep and with anxiety and with everything else. And so I was trying to go and get random, you know, prescriptions for it. I thought something was wrong.
Yeah. So even just putting that idea in your head, like if you have really bad heartburn now that ideas in your head, and you know, like, oh, maybe that’s my drinking. So whatever it is for you, just Google and alcohol. So heartburn and alcohol, anxiety and alcohol, and just look like could alcohol causes thing infertility and alcohol, depression and alcohol. So I would encourage you to just see and get curious. And you might learn that alcohol is actually causing what you think it’s helping.
Casey McGuire Davidson 1:00:52
Yeah, yeah. Well, you have so much amazing information both on your website, I know you’ve got a guide on why we think alcohol helps us relax. And you just released a new eBook. And your podcast is a huge source of information. So why don’t you tell us like how listeners can find out more about the work you do or follow up after this podcast?
Yeah, so my website is sober parrot calm. If you go to sober parrot comm slash anxiety. That’s where the guide is, if you want that. And yeah, so repowered is my podcast. That’s where I am on Instagram. You can DM me or email me if you have more questions. I’m very available.
Casey McGuire Davidson 1:01:40
That’s awesome. And thank you so much for the work you do. I really appreciate it.
Thank you. And thank you for having me. Of course.
So thank you for coming on here. I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more.
ABOUT THE HELLO SOMEDAY PODCAST
The Hello Someday Podcast helps busy and successful women build a life they love without alcohol. Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life coach and creator of The Free 30 Day Guide to Quitting Drinking – 30 Tips For Your First Month Alcohol-Free, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement.
Whether you know you want to stop drinking and live an alcohol free life, are sober curious, or are in recovery this podcast is for you.
In each episode Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.
Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol free life.
Be sure to grab the Free 30 Day Guide To Quitting Drinking right here.
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