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Why Is Moderating Alcohol So Hard?

Moderating alcohol and how much you drink is probably your goal if you’re worried about your relationship with alcohol. 

Most likely you don’t want to stop drinking completely, but rather you want to cut back, drink less, drink less often or (what I hear most) you want to “drink like a normal person”

And yet most people who love to drink find it really hard to moderate how much alcohol we consume. 

Often we’re able to take a week off, a month off or not drink at all while pregnant or breastfeeding, but somehow, regardless of how many rules we make, we’ll eventually find ourselves back to consuming more alcohol than we mean to. 

Here are some strategies I tried over the years to moderate how much alcohol I was drinking

  • Trying to only consume 2 glasses of wine a night (which occasionally worked but usually did not)
  • Promising to only drink on the weekends (which seemed to begin on Thursdays and end on Sundays)
  • Changing what I drank from red wine (my favorite!) to white wine or beer
  • Not having more than one bottle of wine in the house so I wouldn’t open a second one
  • Only drinking when I was at home (so I wouldn’t be tempted to drive)
  • Only drinking when I was out (so I wouldn’t consume an entire bottle)
  • Drinking water in between each alcoholic drink (which didn’t reduce my overall consumption of alcohol)
  • Scheduling workouts for 5:30 am so I wouldn’t drink the night before (which didn’t work very well. I just either skipped my workouts or had to do burpees early in the morning with a hangover)
  • Joining a running club in the evenings so I wouldn’t drink (that didn’t work either, it just moved the time I started my drinking from 6pm to 8pm)
  • Buying boxed wine so I wouldn’t be tempted to finish the bottle (By the way don’t try this one at home as a moderation strategy;). Instead of helping you moderate alcohol consumption it lets you consume more wine without having physical evidence of it…) 
  • Telling myself to get my shit together every morning and promising myself I wouldn’t drink tonight, or this week, or for a while (only to be rationalizing that I would just drink “less” by the end of the day)

Moderating alcohol is usually an elusive goal that is hard to achieve and maintain for people who love to drink.

And it’s because alcohol is an addictive drug. By taking the drug (alcohol) the substance creates the need for another dose (and you drink again). 

Why is it hard to moderate your alcohol consumption?

My guest is William Porter, author of Alcohol Explained and Alcohol Explained 2: Tools for a Stronger Sobriety. Alcohol Explained is the definitive, ground-breaking guide to alcohol which explains how alcohol affects human beings on a chemical, physiological and psychological level.

Tune into this episode to hear Casey and William discuss:

  • Do “resets” work? Is moderating alcohol easier after you’ve taken a week or a month off drinking?

  • Why your brain has learned that alcohol alleviates the unpleasant feelings of withdrawal that alcohol itself caused
  • Why struggling to moderate your drinking has nothing to do with willpower
  • The impact of even small amounts of alcohol on your sleep
  • The learning model of addiction
  • How environmental factors influence some people to drink more or less than others
  • How to counter the belief that vacations and nights out with friends won’t be any fun without alcohol

Ready to drink less + live more?

Resources and links mentioned in the episode:

www.alcoholexplained.com

William Porter on Moderation 

My Previous Hello Someday Podcast Alcohol Explained Interview with William Porter

Dopamine Nation Podcast Interview with Dr. Anna Lembke

Podcast on alcohol’s impact on your sleep

Forbes Article: What Alcohol Really Does to Your Brain

More About William Porter

William Porter is the author of Alcohol Explained and Alcohol Explained 2: Tools for a Stronger Sobriety. He currently lives with his wife and two young children in London. He is a solicitor and previously served with the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. 

About Alcohol Explained

Alcohol Explained is the definitive, ground-breaking guide to alcohol and alcoholism. It explains how alcohol affects human beings on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, from those first drinks right up to chronic alcoholism. Alcoholism and problem drinking seems illogical to those on the outside, indeed it is equally perplexing for the alcoholic or problem drinker. This book provides a logical, easy to follow explanation of the phenomenon and detailed instructions on how to beat it. Despite being entirely scientific and factual in nature the book is presented in an accessible and easily understandable format. For more information and to read the first 5 chapters for free please visit www.alcoholexplained.com.

Connect with Casey

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Want to read the full transcript of this podcast episode? Scroll down on this page.

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 30-Day Guide to Quitting Drinking, 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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READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS PODCAST INTERVIEW

Why Is Moderating Your Drinking So Hard

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

drink, alcohol, people, craving, unpleasant feeling, day, thinking, moderation, wine, wears, brain, problem, feel, alcohol withdrawal, life, stop, anxious, moderate, alcoholic drink, called

SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + William Porter

00:02

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 buzz, 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.

I’m jumping in before the episode today because I wanted to let you know that if you haven’t checked out some of the free resources on my website, you are missing out on some great support that could be helping you on your journey to drink less and live more. If you go to HelloSomedayCoaching.com you can grab the free 30-day Guide to Quitting Drinking. Over 10,000 women have downloaded the guide and it is really comprehensive what to expect on day three and day five, what to shop for, how to get ready to quit drinking, what you might feel on day 16, tips and tricks and resources to tap into. You can just go to my website, enter your email address and it will be sent right to you. 

Also at HelloSomedayCoaching.com you can sign up for my completely free 60-minute masterclass, Five Secrets to Taking a Break from Drinking, even if you’ve tried and failed before. These are the mindset shifts that I go through with my private coaching clients when we first start working together. And if you’ve been stopping and starting with drinking, take 60 minutes out of your day to watch this, it will help. You can sign up for a time that works for you. And if you don’t end up being able to make that time a recording of this session will be sent to you. 

And if you’re ready to make this whole quitting drinking thing easier or take a longer break from alcohol, I want you to check out my signature online sober coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit. It will help you move from day five and day 10 to 45 and 60 to six months and beyond by building not only your sober foundation and sober muscles, but life skills that will serve you well for the rest of your life. If you want to learn more about it, just go to sobrietystarterkit.com. And now let’s jump into the episode.

03:36

Hi there. Today we are talking about moderation. Some of the questions I hear more than anything else are around the idea of either “Why can’t I drink like a normal person?” meaning drink once a week during every other week and have like two drinks at a time, or some women have gone a period of time without alcohol. And I have to admit, I did this myself. I had a year alcohol free. I came back and said, “Okay, well now I’ve reset. Now I can moderate this time. It won’t be a problem because I’ve got more tools and I’m in a separate place and I’ve had a break from it.” And in no time at all I was back to a bottle of wine a night. Every night. That was the way I drank. And not only that, part of what confuses people about moderation is a lot of people can only have two drinks once or twice or every once in a while, and then at other times, they really get to the point where they can’t. They’re always holding onto “Well, I don’t drink too much every single time.” I’m excited to have this conversation, since it comes up so often. 

 

My guest today is William Porter. I had him on once earlier and it is one of my most popular episodes. It’s called “Alcohol Explained.” William Porter is the author of the books Alcohol Explained and Alcohol Explained 2: Tools for a Stronger Sobriety. He lives with his wife and two young children in London. He’s a solicitor and previously served with the fourth volunteer battalion of the parachute regiment, and we’ll talk a lot more about the work he does. So, I’m just going to welcome him. William, thank you for coming back on the show.

 

05:34

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me back.

 

05:36

Yeah! Well, let’s just dive in and talk about moderation. I know that you said as well that moderation is an issue that just constantly comes up.

 

05:48

The problem is, when drinking, we tend to drink more and more, and it becomes more and more problematic. But, of course, the issue is less with the problems it causes. And it’s why we want to keep doing it. Because as it causes more problems, it also moves from being a pleasure to being a necessity, and we start developing very deeply held beliefs about it. People think to themselves, “I want to stop drinking”, but then think, “Oh, I’m going on vacation, I’m going on holiday next week, I can’t possibly do that without drinking.” And then they start thinking about, “How can I go out on my birthday? What about Thanksgiving, what about this, this and this?” And there’s so many parts of their life they just can’t believe they can enjoy without a drink. It is kind of between a rock and a hard place, because on the one hand, they want to stop. 

 

But on the other hand, they have forgotten how to enjoy life without a drink. They think it’s impossible that they could try to come up with this third way, which is moderation. It’s well, that’s okay. Because for most of us, we remember a time when we drank a lot less. And it was, it was effort free, we just did it. And no one starts drinking a bottle of wine every night, they start up on lower amounts. We kind of have this thought, “Oh, I remember the time when I could take it or leave it.” And then we look around, and there’s a lot of people out there who also conceivably take it or leave it. That becomes the goal. Because we can’t bear the thought of living life without alcohol. We look for this kind of – this compromise; this third way.

 

07:15

Yeah, and I know I did that for years. Literally, I would say to myself, in my head, “I have to get a hold of this, so that I never have to stop drinking.” Like, quitting drinking completely or not drinking again, was my absolute worst case scenario. I was like, “I gotta get this under control” because I knew it was going nowhere…good. And a lot of times when I talk to women that I work with in private coaching, they go back to, “Well, it wasn’t always this bad. It used to be fun.” And I’m always like, “Okay, how long ago was that like?” And they were like, “Well, 10 years, five years, 20 years sometimes.” And I want to talk with you about how that changes and why.

 

08:05

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll go through the basic chemical physiology, because I think that’s a really good starting point. And I think one of the key things here is what people do when they try to moderate. What they often do, it works for a bit and then they fail. It doesn’t work. They try again and again. Again, they end up seeing it as some kind of personal failing. “It’s me, I’m weak, I have something wrong, what’s wrong with me?” It’s… I think it’s very empowering to understand that it’s not you. It’s the alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s a sedative. Okay, so when I’m using the word depressant, I’m using it in its chemical sense as something that reduces or inhibits nerve activity. That’s why you feel slightly dulled when you have a drink. The problem really comes in with the human brain because the human brain creates and secretes a huge array of chemicals, drugs and hormones that it naturally produces. The people would have heard of many of these things like endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol, these are all chemicals, drugs, hormones that the brain creates, and puts into your system. 

 

Now, there’s a huge amount we human beings don’t understand about this process. We all understand it really is in its infancy. But what we do know is the brain works by way of something called homeostasis, which is essentially a delicate chemical balance of all these chemicals, drugs and hormones. When you introduce something like alcohol, which is a sedative, your brain tries to counter it. It’s your brain reacting to a poison taking steps to counter a poison. And it does this in lots and lots of different ways. But what it amounts to is it becomes oversensitive. If you imagine it like a weighing scale, where those old fashioned bar weighing scales, where you’ve got a basket on each side and a bar in the middle. If you imagine on one side, you’ve got sedatives/depressants, and on the other side, you’ve got stimulants. If it’s perfectly balanced, you feel good. You feel generally quite positive and quite resilient. If you lump a load on the sedative side, the sedative side drops. So your brain seeks to counter that by lumping a load on the stimulant side. The problem then is the alcohol wears off, the stimulant side goes up. And that’s why we get high anxiety, that anxious feeling you get after drinking. It’s a chemical. It’s a chemical source to it. 

 

You know, another way of putting it is, for every action, there is an equal opposite reaction. So whatever relaxing effects you get from alcohol, you get a corresponding feeling of anxiety when it wears off. This is also why we wake up at three or four in the morning after drinking, we may be absolutely exhausted, our body’s crying out for sleep. But we can’t sleep because we’ve got this massive imbalance. It’s loads of stimulants. It’s like drinking a jug of strong black coffee and trying to sleep often.

 

10:54

That’s like, you wake up at 3am after the alcohol has come out of your system and your mind’s racing and you feel awful and you can’t fall back asleep. Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it. Yeah, that was like every day of my life. I even went to my doctor and was like, I have insomnia because my job is so stressful. And she prescribed me Ambiens. Then I was drinking a bottle of wine a night with Ambien. 

 

11:18

Of course, I didn’t tell her how much I was drinking. But yeah, that was a really dangerous thing to do. Yeah, a lot of people don’t, they don’t link it to the alcohol. But it is absolutely the alcohol that’s doing it. Yeah, this is the scary thing. And a lot of people won’t like to hear this. But this is alcohol withdrawal. A lot of people think of alcohol withdrawal as delirium tremens in the street, you know, when you’re hospitalized, have seizures. That’s the extreme side of it. Yeah. 

 

But withdrawal isn’t all or nothing. There’s a corresponding smaller amount as you drink less. And a lot of people say, “Well, no, surely that can’t be alcohol withdrawal.” That if you define withdrawal, as this is how I define anyway, it’s an unpleasant feeling caused by a chemical imbalance that is itself caused by the previous dose of the drug wearing off, that is alcohol withdrawal. Now, the point here is to make it so we’ve got that basic concept in place, that alone does not make addiction.. Because what happens the more you drink, the more proficient your brain becomes at countering the alcohol. You’re able to drink more. That’s what tolerance is. You can drink more over the years, so you need to drink more to get the same effect. And the withdrawal gets worse. Because, if you have a small glass of wine, your brain is compensating for a small glass of wine, the anxiety you get afterwards is going to be really small, you might not even notice it. If you’re drinking a bottle or two it is correspondingly increased. So anyone who ever drank alcohol has withdrawals. But for most people, it’s really minor and they don’t even notice it. What causes addiction is actually a learned process. Because let’s say you have a couple of glasses of wine and it wears off, leaving an unpleasant feeling. There’s lots of these unpleasant feelings, almost like when you have too much caffeine. You feel slightly anxious, slightly on edge and quite focused on things. It’s not a nice feeling.

 

13:16

There’s lots and lots of reasons in life, why we might feel like that. You might have stress at work, you might have problems with your partner, you might have worries, troubles, you might just sometimes wake up and not feel right. And we don’t ever really know what it is. Most of the time when you have these unpleasant feelings you just get on with things. You just crack on because that’s what you have to do. People will drink some wine that has this unpleasant feeling, and either sleep through it…it will disrupt their state, but they’ll sleep through it. There may be a residual feeling there the next morning but they just carry on with their lives. But what happens when you’re drinking regularly over an extended period, your brain in particular subconscious starts to make a connection. And the connection it makes is, there’s a specific unpleasant feeling that kicks in when one glass of wine or one drink wears off. 

 

And the answer to that is to have another drink. Because if you think about it, you feel unpleasant because your brain is geared up to work under the sedating effects of the alcohol, but the alcohol has got to go back to the weighing scales. The stimulant side is way down really heavily when taking another drink. That’s the quickest way to redress the balance. When you take that other drink. You’re lumping a load back on the depressive side and correcting the balance. Your brain’s geared up to work on sedating effects of the alcohol ‘til the alcohol is gone. When you reintroduce alcohol, you feel a whole world better really quickly. And over the days, weeks, months and years your brain starts to make that connection. And what it learns is when one drink wears off, there’s an unpleasant feeling that needs another drink to relieve it. When you learn that, and I say to add again, it really emphasizes this is not a personal failing, it’s learned behavior and anyone who happens to anyone who drinks enough alcohol. 

 

But the point here is, when one drink wears off, it creates the desire for the next one. It’s not like food. If you’re really hungry, you want a pizza or a burger and you eat one or two, or however many, you fill yourself up, and you don’t want more. You can never have that with alcohol, because however many drinks you drink, it wears off and creates the desire for the next one. And how long does it take to wear off? The alcoholic drink will start wearing off after about 20 minutes. They usually find that they might have a drink or two and they’ll feel kind of relaxed. And that will start to wear off and start to be replaced with an unpleasant anxiety. Obviously, it does depend on how much you drink if you’ve had a dozen drinks or so it’s going to last longer. And also it does differ for individuals. But this was a residual feeling that carries on for the next 36 hours. Usually, it peaks and then sort of tails off, but it’s there for quite a long period afterwards. But it can happen either because people drink or have a drink and it wears off. And that night, they want another one or they fall asleep and they wake up the next morning feeling unpleasant. It’s all part of the same process. 

 

And that’s why this is, at its simplest, why there’s always kind of that tension with moderation, why it’s inherently difficult after you pass a certain point. Because when you start drinking, your brain doesn’t make that connection. You have a glass or two of wine, it wears off, it feels unpleasant, but you don’t even think about it. And still less you stop wanting another glass of wine to get rid of it. But over the years, when you learn that, that’s what it creates, it creates that desire. Now the problem is what you learn cannot be unlearned, you say you’ve never encountered the concept of mathematics before. Okay, you’re an intelligent person, I could sit down, I could teach you 123 and four, the concept of numbering, and I could teach you two plus two equals four, you get that fairly quickly. Okay, so that’ll be fairly easy for me to teach to you. I could never unteach it. Once you’ve learned it, you’ve learned it for life, because it is an actual simple fact. That’s the problem with alcohol and any addiction. When you learn to make that connection between the withdrawal and the taking another drug to relieve the withdrawal, you cannot go back to that take it or leave it stage. The take it or leave it stage with every drug is once and once only when gone. It’s, it can’t be returned to. 

 

17:39

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I was thinking of that, which is why I asked how long it took to wear off. I used to drink, obviously, a bottle of wine a night, but I drank fairly quickly. Like, pretty much when my glass was empty I immediately refilled it. And I remember vividly sitting on my couch, and my husband, who always kind of wanted me, didn’t want me to stop drinking, but wanted me to drink less, would say to me, like, “Why don’t you stop at two or three glasses? Like, why don’t you do that?” And, of course, by this point, I was pretty buzzed. But I just said to him, I was like, “I never want this feeling to end.” Like, I made the association that if I keep drinking, it goes on longer. And whether that was like the dopamine hit, or the fuzzy feeling, or the having that disconnect or that bubble around me. 

 

I mean, I just remember, I never want this feeling to end because he also was like, “You pretty much drink until you pass out or it’s gone.” Like, I would finish a bottle before I stopped and just be like, “I just need one more glass.” Like, just that isn’t quite enough, I would wait until he went upstairs and get up really quickly and open another bottle, and get another one down in the morning, and sort of hold up that bottle and squint at it and see whether there’s like a quarter left. Did I just have one more glass or three quarters gone? Just to be like, how bad is my day? 

 

19:22

Yeah, yeah, this is the problem. And this is the simple physiology, when like, so this alcohol kicks in and it lasts sort of six hours usually afterwards. Although it’s hailed often, it peaks at different times. But it’s not a nice feeling when you’re drinking regularly. You feel unpleasant most of the time, then you sit down in the evening and you have your glass of wine and it feels lovely. And the reason it feels lovely is because it’s removing that unpleasant feeling that it created in the first place. And you do feel nice and relaxed. You feel exactly how relaxed I feel now because I don’t drink so I feel like that all the time. And of course you have bad days and the rest of it. Your default state is I’m okay. But of course humans want to feel good, we don’t want to feel bad, you have a few sips of wine. And as it starts to wear off, you don’t want it to end, you want to keep going with it. 

 

And I think this may be a good time to introduce a separate concept here, because it kind of explained the basic physiology of alcohol, alcohol addiction, and why it’s inherently difficult to moderate after a certain stage. That, of course, I’m sure, people, astute listeners, will be sitting there thinking, “Well hang on. That doesn’t make sense.” I get it when you’re drinking, but I get – so you’re saying I wake up the next day I have to withdrawal I don’t want to drink in the morning, it’s the evening I want to drink. This is where maybe it’s worth building on these concepts a bit more to provide a bit more clarity. Addiction, again, it’s not just the physical side. It’s that learned behavior. 

 

But there’s another part of it as well, which I call craving. It’s the mental desire for something. Now, a lot of people think about craving and they just, they almost think it’s just this thing that happens to you that you can’t avoid. It’s just, you know, you’re walking around, and suddenly you’re craving and you just gotta sort of white knuckle it and just grit your teeth and get through it or have a drink. But it isn’t a toy. It’s a very specific conscious thought process. And what happens is the thought of an alcoholic drink enters our mind. And that’s what we call the trigger. It’s the seeing someone having a drink that called the thought of it, popping into your mind, or an advert or whatever it might be. 

 

21:28

Or you’re going home from the day at the office, or whatever it might be, and place your laptop down, do your homework. And then the thought is there. Whether you crave or not depends on what you do with that thought. If you take that thought and fantasize about drinking a taste, stop thinking, “Oh, it would be so nice if I had a drink” and going through your mind opening the bottle and sipping it, and then think how wonderful it was, and then teasing yourself with the possibility of having it, thinking, “Oh, you know, I said I wouldn’t drink today. But I could just have one. It’s so nice.” You’re taught what you’re really doing is torturing yourself. Yeah, it’s like being really hungry and sitting there with your favorite food in front of you. You’re dangling that carrot in front of your mind. That’s the craving process. And addiction isn’t just about the physical, it’s also about the craving process. 

 

Okay, a key point here, and this can be, it’s quite a delicate point. But we have some very, very specific rules about drinking. If people smoke or vape, it’s perfectly normal for them to get up in the morning and light a cigarette or reach for their vape as soon as they’re awake. But it’s really frowned upon if people drink alcohol, with good reason, because it intoxicates you. You can sit there smoking all day and still kind of function as a human being. You can’t do that with alcohol because you’ve been intoxicated. 

 

So we have these very specific rules. One of them, you’ve described in your own drinking, and it’s a very, very common cycle for people to get into. They will wake up in the morning, they will feel tired, because they haven’t slept properly, because the alcohol interrupted their natural sleeping pattern, and they will have that horrible anxious feeling that comes from the alcohol withdrawal. But, and this is the key, they don’t drink in the morning. They don’t wake up and think, “A glass of wine, how would that be? They don’t start craving they don’t crave because they don’t even pay a moment’s thought to having a glass of wine. Because they gotta get up, they got to get the kids together, they got this to do at work, they have all day to get through with the withdrawal release there. But the craving isn’t. And that comes about from certainty. 

 

If you’re not going to take a drug, you’re far less likely to crave it because it’s just not on the menu. And as I’ve mentioned, craving is about fantasizing. It’s not about teasing yourself at all. I could just reach out with a glass of wine. Because we don’t drink in the morning. The craving isn’t there. We drag ourselves through the day, we have lunch, and go through the afternoon. But as soon as you close your laptop down or you walk out of the office, that’s your drinking time. That’s when the craving kicks in. Because then it’s “Oh yeah, actually, I can drink for this time because this is my wine o’clock, whatever it is.

 

24:01

Yeah. And I think that also is the habit, right? And the, like you said, there is no social pressure. But there’s a lot of negative associations with drinking in the morning. Even in our own mind, we take it off the table. I mean, even if you look at any of those Am I An Alcoholic quizzes, they’re like, “Do you drink in the morning?” A lot of people look at that, including myself, and the answer is no, therefore, I don’t have to stop completely. But like you said, just taking it off the table. Deciding that for a period of time you are not able to drink, you are not going to drink. It stops that debate in your head and lets you move on to other ways of celebrating the end of the day or more relaxing or what else you can order on the menu.

 

24:56

Yeah, exactly. And I think this is, again, a sort of a separate but very important point to make about moderation. For me, in my mind, what I do in the alcohol sphere, I think about alcohol, probably 90% of my waking hours. But I never quit. I never crave a drink. I never entertain the possibility of having wine because I know I’m not going to drink. Yeah, okay. It makes it very easy for me. Because when I go to the pub to meet friends, I don’t have to agonize over whether I have a drink or not. I’m just not going to have a drink when I’m gonna have an alcohol free drink. Absolutely fine. It simplifies everything. But if I was moderating, every time I went out, I would think, “Well, could I have one on this occasion?” And then you’re thinking about it. 

 

And of course, what happens when you’re thinking about your craving, you’re thinking about what it would taste like. Because I have thought, on occasion, that one of the big things with craving is, it stops us from engaging in life. Yeah, because if I’m out with my friends, having an alcohol-free beer and chatting to them, I’m enjoying their company. If I’m out with my friends having an alcohol free beer, but agonizing about whether it’s “real” or so-called real beer, and alcohol, you know, like a normal hour without an alcoholic drink, I’m not listening to what they’re saying. I’m not concentrating on what they’re saying, I’m just taken up with this unpleasant internal debate. And this is what a lot of people find. And this is one of the reasons, unfortunately, it feeds into this belief that we need our culture to enjoy ourselves. 

 

Because let me give you an example: going on vacation is enjoyable. Okay, I’m going to Spain in a couple of weeks, I’m really looking forward to it. I won’t be at work, I won’t have to cook or clean, I’ll just be sitting around all day, all the meals cooked for me, nice food, nice place, there’s nothing to dislike about it. Okay, it’s, it’s gonna be really nice. But if I’m not paying any attention to the sun, the relaxation, the thing, if I’m not paying any attention to any of it, and instead, I’m taken up with an unpleasant internal debate about whether to have alcohol or not, I might as well be sat in a prison for all the enjoyment I’m getting out of the holiday. 

 

Yeah, and this is the problem with craving. When you’re craving, you’re not enjoying yourself. If I then have a drink, there’s two ways to end. But there’s also ways you can end the craving, one of them is to have a drink, because of course, you’re not going to crave something while you’re having it. Yeah. And this feeds into people’s experience, because of what they find is, “Yeah, I don’t enjoy myself when I’m not drinking, I don’t enjoy being with my friends, I don’t enjoy vacations, I don’t really enjoy anything unless I have a drink in my hand.” For the support placebo at that point, it’s just an obsession. And the easiest way to abstain from that obsession until I go out to engage in life again, is to just have the drink. That is going into moderation. This is the problem with it. When alcohol was on the menu, no matter how rarely, or moderately, you decided to have it. The fact that it’s even there means you will be thinking about it and obsessing about it and much more likely to crave it.

 

27:52

Yeah. Yeah. And also like the minute you have that first drink, it is very, very difficult not to have a second, even if you manage to not have a second all year, sort of thing. I didn’t quite get to the point that I wanted to get to. And I always think of alcohol like a magnet, where the closer you are to your last drink, the stronger the pull is. And as you get further away, the magnet gets less strong and less powerful, and it’s easier to not drink.

 

28:27

That’s a really good analogy. I think it’s worth mentioning as well, because what you’ve said about it doesn’t quite do it for you. A lot of this is about what people want from moderation. And this is another thing. I think it’s worth just saying to people. If you want to moderate, theoretically you can, because nobody forces you to drink. And nobody can physically stop you from drinking if you want to. So it’s absolutely within your power to drink as little or as much as you want. The problem with it is, if it was that simple, why aren’t you doing it already? 

 

Yeah. 

 

Because what people often think with moderation is what we’ve kind of spoken about a bit. I can’t bear to stop. But I can’t bear to continue as I am. So I have to find some kind of middle ground. And what people hope for from moderation is what you described right at the beginning. That, “Oh, do I have a drink?” Do you have a glass of wine? And you sip it and you really enjoy it, and then it’s gone, and you just don’t think about it again for another week or another hour or another fortnight or however long it’s gonna be. Or you have one or two and really enjoy them and then you’ll finish and you go on to enjoy the rest of your eating, all the rest of it. That’s what we hope for. Really nonchalantly having a drink or not having one and we’re not really fast either way. That’s not the reality of moderation either. It’s all about constantly obsessing about whether or not to drink, having a drink, really wanting it, it goes far too quickly. You desperately want the next one, but you’re not going to have it. So you grit your teeth and resist it. That’s the reality of moderation. It’s not possible to go back to that take it or leave it stage because you’ve learned.

 

30:21

Yeah, it’s when you get to that stage. It has to be effort to maintain it. Yeah. And what people find is, okay, they may be spending less time alleviated and with hangovers, but they’re obsessing about alcohol as much as they ever did. Because they’re constantly thinking, Is it a drinking day? Isn’t it a drinking day? Can I have one? Can I have to exhaust thing? Yeah, and it takes too much for you have a particularly bad day. And you just think I couldn’t be bothered with this anymore. We still live like this, and you just drink and drink away.

 

30:55

I know, people will say to me, some of the times, when they go back to drinking, they say, “I’m just tired of thinking about it. Like, I’m tired of debating this” and the sad reality is, but it’s actually positive, that the further away one stops thinking about alcohol, the time is to get further away from it. I don’t understand and haven’t for years and years, probably since my first six months, spent all day thinking about missing a drink or wanting to drink or whatever it is. I just don’t think about it like you even though I talk about it all the time. Because that pull is a lot less strong. 

 

And I remember before I quit drinking, I had all the, “Oh my god, I’ve got to stop, I’ve got to take a break. I need more willpower, what’s wrong with me?” and would make these resolutions that I was going to not drink for a period of time or not drink tonight or not drink this week or until the weekend. And I would get about four days in and then I’d be like, Oh, fuck it. Fine. I’m buying a bottle of wine, and of course finish it. And then I get four days in again, and do the same thing. And then I’d say to myself, well, drinking two bottles a week is way better than drinking seven or eight, which is not incorrect. It’s fun. Never got out of that withdrawal cycle. I never got to reset my baseline level of happiness. I was not wrong, that I was less happy, more irritated, more anxious, when I wasn’t drinking when I wasn’t 30 days out because my body was in withdrawal and I was constantly craving it.

 

32:48

This is another myth as well about moderation. People think with moderation, you get the good without the bad. Now, a few simple physiological and chemical facts about alcohol. Even wondering, your brain chemistry and causes a feeling of anxiety I completely get. I agree that if you have one glass, it’s going to feel like you’re gonna have a lot less anxiety. If you have two bottles, you still get the anxiety. That destruction to your brain chemistry has an impact on your sleeping patterns, which is why drinkers are always tired, always want you to be invested for 12 hours and still get up feeling absolutely exhausted. One glass of wine impacts your natural sleeping patterns and makes you feel tired the next day. It increases your heart rate because your brain pumps those stimulants in to counter the state and effects the alcohol and the alcohol wears off, your heart rate goes up. That’s why when people wake up in the night, they can’t sleep, they feel anxious, and quite often their heart’s beating really, really fast. 

 

Now, simple facts about heartbeat, when your heart rate goes up, your brain tells you to stop, slow down and rest. Okay, simple physiological fact, the faster your heart’s going, the more your brain is screaming at you to stop and slow down and rest. That’s why exercise is hard. One glass of wine accelerates your heart rate and robs you of energy makes you feel tired and lethargic. I completely agree that the less you drink the less damaging it is, that people need to understand it’s not “Oh, if I can only drink two drinks at a time I’ll have all the good without the bad.” You get the bad, absolutely you do. You just get it in smaller doses.

 

34:22

Yeah, absolutely. What’s interesting you were talking about interrupting sleep and I did an episode specifically about sleep. But I got some stats that I thought were so interesting. The stats say that less than one drink for women decreases your sleep quality by 9.3%. One drink for women decreases your sleep quality by 24%. A single drink and more than one drink for women decreased your sleep quality by 40%. And of course I would drink four to six drinks a night. When I stopped drinking, I probably had not had a good night’s sleep in years. Yeah, it has such a big impact on people. 

 

35:17

What a lot of people think with sleep, you lie down, you go unconscious, come to and you’re good to go. Sleep is much more complicated than that. We humans go through sleep cycles; different cycles. I think people probably heard of these. So, there’s something called deep sleep, where, as the name suggests, we are very deeply unconscious. And then on the other end of the scale, there’s something called REM sleep, which is rapid eye movement. The reason it’s called that is because your eyes are under your eyelids, even touch sensors to people’s brains and monitor them. And it’s really interesting when we REM sleep, when we dream, our brain lights up almost as if we are fully awake. Now, we don’t, again, like the homeostasis in the brain, there’s a lot we as humans don’t understand about sleep, that it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to know, if you want to feel good, you need to go through these naturally occurring sleep cycles. 

 

Now, when you take alcohol, because it is a sedative, your brain can’t get you into REM sleep, because remember, it has to go almost as if to when you’re fully conscious. But with a load of sedative depressant inside you, it can’t do it. Drinkers, on average, get two hours of REM sleep, monitoring on average six or seven, it has this massive impact on your REM sleep. And of course, after five hours or so, when the alcohol wears off, you can’t sleep at all. It has this massive, massive impact. They’ve done some reps where they start in REM sleep and they’ve been dead within a few weeks. They’ve tried to do human trials on it, where they monitor people. And when they go into REM sleep, they wake them up. And most of the time, they can’t complete the trials because people can become very depressed, very disorientated, and then they take themselves off the trials. So it has this massive impact on our mental health. But most people just don’t even realize it. 

 

36:58

Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things right when you’re that I’ve heard about either in prisons or in other situations in terms of torture, that they keep people up like days on end, which is horrible. Of course, this is all also as well with moderation. It’s almost a catch 22. 

 

37:24

Because what we are really saying is alcohol’s too much power, I want my power, I want my decision back, I don’t want to put all of this forced to do something. But how much power something’s got over us is directly related to how much we want it. The more you want something, the more you will give up for it. Now, the reason I have no problem with alcohol anymore, and I have no desire for it is because I don’t want it anymore. If you retain a desire for it, you’re automatically going to have problems trying to moderate. 

 

But why would you want to moderate unless you have the desire for it? You see what I mean? It’s kind of like, to be completely in control of it, you need to not want it anymore. And if you don’t want it anymore, you will be like, “No, I don’t want to moderate.” Yeah, you don’t want to moderate anymore. But for a lot of people, it’s almost impossible to imagine not wanting to drink anymore. Yeah, I see it as almost like a prison. Okay, and each bar on that prison wall is a false belief about alcohol. I need it to enjoy things. I enjoy nights out more with a drink, I won’t enjoy a holiday properly without alcohol. I can’t go through, I can’t enjoy Thanksgiving without drinking. I needed to relax at the end of the day, I needed to de-stress all of these. They’re all false. Okay, and they all form the bars of your prison. 

 

And for me, quitting drinking, when a lot of people say, make a list of all the reasons why you want to quit, and then have your last drink or finish your last drink and then grit your teeth and keep concentrating on all the reasons you want to stop. That’s fine if it works. For me, it’s far more, it is probably less rational. But it is far more effective to make a list of all the reasons you want to drink and then start analyzing them and thinking, “Hang on, is this right?” Because let’s say for example, going on holiday, going on vacation. Alcohol is a sedative. It just makes you feel slightly dulled. How does that add to your enjoyment of a holiday? Yeah, how is being tired and anxious at your enjoyment of a holiday? For me that was the fault. 

 

A far more effective way of quitting was to actually start tearing down those bars one by one and studying to disprove it based on experience. Yeah, it’s almost like how you accumulate rubbish in your attic or your garage? Stuff just sits there. It’s almost like a decluttering exercise. Imagine each box of stuff in your attic or your garage or your beliefs about drinking. One day you need to just cut everything out and examine it. Yeah. Is this correct? Is this useful? Is it good? If not, I’m chucking it away and having done with it. When you go through that process, for me, it wasn’t necessarily about going out and disproving it. It was about analyzing it rationally and thinking, hang on, is this true? And how is it true? Let’s look at all the physiological, biochemical, and psychological processes here. My experience was that I didn’t enjoy holidays without alcohol. But what I began to realize is, I wasn’t going to enjoy anything if I was sitting there wanting something I couldn’t have. Yeah. And actually learning to let go of it and enjoying the moment, enjoying feeling rested and relaxed and all the rest of it. Of course, I enjoy holidays, you should enjoy them as a child. And a lot of this it’s Yeah, right. You used to enjoy them as a child. Free. Yeah, it’s for me. 

 

So a lot of people say that sobriety is like learning a new skill. I would qualify that and say, it’s not about learning a new skill. It’s about relearning a skill. We use that as yeah, but we forgot how to use it when we stopped drinking. Because when we were youngsters, we used to go out to parties. We used to go out with our friends, we used to go on holiday, we used to give and cruise, we enjoyed all of it. We didn’t need alcohol, it’s only when you introduce the drug that you become reliant on it. 

 

41:15

Yeah, there’s so much in there that you said that I completely agree with, which I love. That’s why I love having you on because we’re, your approach is something I completely relate to. The way I think about it is to some extent, with the cue craving reward cycle. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs, right? Once we decide to drink, even people will say to me, once I finally stopped debating, and say screw it, I’m going to buy a bottle of wine, I’m immediately relieved and relaxed. Yeah. And the reason is, it’s like Pavlov’s dogs, right? You start to salivate when you hear the sound, not when you actually even get to it. 

 

And part of that, I think, is good news. Because it means it’s a conditioned response, which means you can deconstruct it right, you can condition yourself to have a different response to a different stimulus, which is why some people then start craving tea, or I had a client who had like a ice cream sandwich every day at eight o’clock. And she was like, “My brother came over and ate my ice cream sandwich.” And I was like, “What the hell are you doing?” Whatever it is, yeah, but the other thing in terms of realizing through experience, that the beliefs you have, are not true. 

 

One of the reasons I like women to go through 100 days without alcohol is not only because you’re getting rid of that magnet, and you’re like resetting your level of happiness and calm and dopamine, and you’re like, oh my god, I haven’t felt this much energy in ages. But you also have to go through a holiday, a vacation, date nights or birthdays. And kind of realize, like, Okay, I thought this was awful. The first 20 minutes were. I was anxious, whatever, then it got a lot easier then I was more present. I loved waking up the next morning without a hangover. You know, when a client of mine went to Hawaii with a girlfriend, and she said, yeah, when she was having a drink at dinner, or two, I was jealous. But then she came home and she had more, because that’s what you do, then the next morning, we were supposed to go on this gorgeous hike in Hawaii. And she was like, but I’m tired. I’m not going to do that. My friend went by herself and said it was like the most amazing experience of the entire vacation and realized she would have missed out on that. Like, such a natural high, such a memory, such a moment where she was proud of herself. And you don’t usually get any of those. You get your dopamine hit. You get all that stuff. You don’t get that feeling of pride and wonder and all the good stuff. 

 

44:13

Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right there. So over here we have “Dry January”, where we are encouraged to not drink for January. And I was at work in January and someone said to one of my colleagues they are gonna go out for drinks. And it was like, no, no, I’m not going out. I’m doing Dry January. And I thought, well, what are you teaching yourself other than how miserable it is not to drink because the point is not. I’m going to stop drinking and stop living for a month. I’ll just sit there and wait for 30 days to disappear. You’ve got to go out and say okay, well, I believe that I don’t enjoy socializing without alcohol. Let’s give it a go. Let me go out and not drink alcohol and see if it’s enjoyable or not enjoyable. You have put things to the test. And I think that’s absolutely right. That’s what you need that period because you have to feed into “I’ll try this and see if I enjoy it” and big surprise, of course, we do enjoy it. 

 

And that’s the thing. And that’s why I think it’s so incredibly empowering. When you quit. I think this is one of the other problems with moderation. Two major problems with moderation are that it perpetuates two myths about alcohol. One is that it’s necessary to enjoy certain situations. Because if you’re saying you want to moderate, you’re saying, “I can’t go through these situations without a drink and more enjoyable with alcohol, I need them to enjoy myself”, you’re perpetuating that myth. But more importantly, you’re perpetuating a very damaging myth that says alcohol is not addictive. Yes, it’s addictive. It’s physically addictive to talk about the psychological chemical processes that mean it is addictive. We wouldn’t try moderating methamphetamine or heroin.

 

45:52

We wouldn’t even talk about moderating cigarettes, we only talk about moderating alcohol. And that comes back to this completely false and very dangerous belief that alcohol isn’t addictive. Because yeah, as I say, you don’t moderate things that are addictive, you stay away from them. Yeah. And it’s just because society, right, puts alcohol on a pedestal and doesn’t really want to talk about how addictive it is, right? That’s where they put the impetus on the individual by saying, “know when to say when or drink responsibly”, you know what I mean? It’s just not possible without white knuckling it for a short period of time and then saying, fuck it, if you’ve had enough exposure to alcohol, right? And if you live in a society that drinks a lot, or have a family that drinks a lot, or hang out with a friend group that drinks a lot, which of course I did, most drinkers do, you’re going to consume more and more and rationalize binge drinking. And then you’re, then you’re sort of down the path, right?

 

47:05

Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s interesting, because something like 87% of people drink is seen as incredibly normal. But put it into some, like some context. Imagine, imagine if you were on holiday, with a group of people who should never come across alcohol, we’re going to an imaginary planet where alcohol does exist for all human beings, but they just don’t drink alcohol. They wake up in the morning, they wake up fresh and happy and chatty. They’ve got energy, they’re bouncing around the day enjoying themselves. Maybe they have lunch and a lie down after that. But they’re poignant and happy all the way through, imagining that they meet someone who drinks alcohol, this person wakes up tired and grouchy, and a bit miserable, sits around waiting until they can have a drink. Whereupon they become slightly more animated, but not much. So as they drink through the day, they become increasingly intoxicated and eventually fall asleep. Imagine what they think of that person. Yeah. And yeah, because we all do it. We think it’s normal, but it isn’t normal. It’s not normal to have your life center. When you say to people, would you want to go on holiday without? Because the answer is usually no, or you know, wouldn’t enjoy it. But what they’re really saying is I can’t I can’t enjoy an inherently enjoyable situation without my drug. Yeah, it is fundamentally concerning thought because 87% of people are in that boat. We think it’s completely normal, but it isn’t normal at all.

 

48:36

Yeah, yeah. I mean, one of the things someone said to me is like, imagine the happiest you’ve ever been, the happiest time in your life. And for me, when I was 16 or 17, I went on six week backpacking trips with 30 kids my age, we broke up into groups of 10. We went a week in every place and just incredible views and sitting around talking and having deep conversations. And I was like, well, you feel known and accepted. And I was like, that was the happiest I’ve ever been. And then you get to college, and you’re like, I can’t have deep conversations unless I’m drunk. I can’t have that connection, or feel that just like tingly, and overcome with emotion. And it’s just kind of sad. And part of it’s the culture

 

49:30

we live in. Very much so, yes. It absolutely is, because when you hit a certain age, alcohol was introduced. And really, from that point on, like I say, you start to lose the skill you instinctively knew as a child, which is how to enjoy everything without drinking. Yeah, yeah, but I do also think it’s like once you have a drink, then that physical reaction takes over where you keep thinking that yeah, that’s the problem is, this is the thing every drink creates the desire for the next one. Yeah, it really is that simple. So it’s inherently difficult. 

 

Like I said before, theoretically, of course, you can moderate because no one makes you drink and no one can make you stop. It’s within your power to drink exactly as much or as little as you want. Why wouldn’t you naturally do that? Well, the reason you wouldn’t naturally do it is because as your brain becomes increasingly proficient at counseling, the alcohol, you need more to get that in inverted commas bars, you feel worse, when it wears off, it starts to wear off quicker and quicker. So you need another one to replace it. It might have been when you were 16 years old, you’d have a drink and you feel nice and relaxed and floaty for an hour. That’s not how it is, when you’re in your mid 40s. It gives you a pause for about five or 10 minutes and then wears off. A very, very unpleasant feeling that requires another one to get rid of that unpleasant feeling. Yeah. And there’s no getting away with it. That’s why it’s, that’s why you don’t do it. 

 

Now, the reason you don’t do it now is because it’s not the natural thing to do. It requires an incredible amount of concentration, patience, and constant internal debate about drinking or not drinking, but more importantly, it’s all about constantly resisting a drink. Yeah, as opposed to just one decision, don’t drink anymore,

 

51:15

I’m done. And some of the easier ways to take it off the table is of course to tell people, oh, no, I don’t drink or I used to drink, but I stopped or I’m taking 100 day break, where it is a lot harder to go out and then say screw it, and pick up a drink. If you’ve told them that it’s a lot harder than if you just said “oh, I’m not going to drink tonight,” or “I have the gym in the morning” because then it’s easier to go back and forth. 

 

But when I was in sort of early mid sobriety, I used to text my friends before I went to a thing and just say I’m on a health kick. I’m not drinking, even if I asked for a glass of wine, don’t don’t give it to me. And I’d be there for like two hours watching everyone drink. I mean, this is when I’m 15 days alcohol free. And I’d be like, Alright, fine. Give me a drink. And my friend was like, No. And I was like, I can’t believe you’re saying no to me. But yeah, here’s a question I get all the time. And I hand it to people who take amounts of time off, right? They did three months off, or 30 days or for me it was even a year or people when they’re pregnant, right? And they think, Alright,

 

52:34

I’m reset. Now I’m going to be able to moderate now, it will be easy, because if I stopped for three months, clearly I’m fixed, right? That’s what we all want. Why does that not work? It doesn’t work for several reasons. 

 

The most important being what I’ve discussed before, which is that when a drink wears off, it causes an unpleasant feeling. And through repeatedly drinking, what you learn is that another alcoholic drink will get rid of that unpleasant feeling. And in that way, your subconscious learns that when one drink wears off, that CD kicks in, it interprets that as I want another drink. Every time a drink wears off, it causes a desire for the next one. Now you can stop drinking for a week, a month, a year, a decade, 50 years. I’ve stopped now eight years sober, okay, but imagine if I lived another 42 years and made it 50 years without drinking. So I’m 100 and something now, if I had an alcoholic drink, it would wear off. My brain does still counter it because that’s what it does. It tries to counter the state and affects the outcome when

 

53:45

the alcohol wore off, there would be an unpleasant feeling. And my brain, my 100 year old brain would say “Oh, I remember this from 50 years ago, and I just have to get rid of it. Have another drink.” As soon as it started to wear off. I would want another drink. Because as I say it’s learned it’s the same as math. I could teach you math and 50 years down the line. You will still remember it, you can’t forget it. Yeah, yeah, I completely agree. 

 

And the second time that I stopped drinking, now six and a half years ago, it’s because I took that year off telling myself then I could moderate, went out to dinner with my husband, said I’m just going to have a glass of wine and immediately wanted another. I stopped after two but it was not easy. Within the next weekend I said, “Oh, we should just have some wine. It’s Friday night, we have a baby, which is counterintuitive, but like we need to relax. And within a month I was having a bottle of wine at home every night. I tried to stop during those 22 months. It’s hard to stop or take a break. And finally got to the point where my anxiety was really bad. I was having trouble coping, I felt doomed. I felt like I was going to screw up my life and my health and it was going to be my own fault. That’s when I heard my coach. 

 

But what stopped me from going back is like, I had two experiences. When you talk about learned behavior and proving or disproving something, the second time I stopped, I knew that it was the alcohol, that’s what got me to that low point twice where I was like, “This is really bad, I can’t cope. My anxiety is off the charts, I’m worried for my mental health and my physical health.” The second time I did it, I was like, oh, it’s not my job. And it’s not my willpower, it’s the alcohol, I’m sort of like, I’ve burned my hand on that hot stove enough. Know where it goes. And I don’t want any part of that. No, it can be incredibly problematic for people because when they’re drinking regularly, it feels like alcohol is the only thing that is the icing on the cake, or that bit of relaxation or pleasure they get from life, because of course, it’s when we drinking, that we get the relief that we feel good. And it’s when it wears off,

 

56:12

we feel bad, we keep seeing our closer friends. And we logically think, “Well, if I stop, it’s gonna get worse and worse. Because that anxiety is just gonna be with me all the time.” 

 

But to a degree, you have to trust the system, and appreciate that it’s a powerful sedative. A bottle of wine a night is a lot. And it will be having a massive impact on your sleep, your REM sleep, your mental health and your anxiety levels. And as it goes back to normal as your mental health as your brain chemistry goes back to normal as you start getting decent sleep again, as your heart rate lowers all of that. Your par, where you are normally goes up and up and up, the anxiety drops, you just feel better about everything. So to a degree you do need to trust the system. 

 

Yeah, during those first few crucial days, you’re absolutely right, that there’s no reset. It’s not like you can stop for a bit and go back to bed when you’re drunk. Yeah, I see it more like, that’s how often people say I think it’s more analogous to say, imagine trying to move a massive heavy boulder. It’s incredibly hard to get it going. But when you get it moving, you get a bit of momentum. And in the end, you’re almost just giving it an old shove here or there to keep it going. That’s what sobriety is like. You learn it and it gets easier and easier and easier. And then if you decide to drink again, you’re stopping pushing that boulder, and it’s gonna stop. And you’ve got to go through all that effort to do it again. 

 

Yeah. Another way of talking about it is drinking is like a road, you’re traveling further and further along this path. Stopping doesn’t put you back to the beginning, it just means you stop at the side of the path and stop for a bit. As soon as you start, you go exactly back to where you started. And you carry on for less. Usually, it’s not exactly like that for people like yourself to have one or two. And also lose at that point. Because they don’t want to go back immediately to where they were drinking before. But even if they do go in and have one or two of them think or go to put a stop and put the effort into stopping next time they say to themselves. Oh, only the last ammonia had gone to approve. And I can moderate Yeah. So that’s absolutely fine. And it becomes easier. The more it works, the easier it is to have that dream because you think oh, it’s working for me. I’m not getting really drunk. I’m not drinking. That is happening. Yeah, yeah, it makes it easier and easier to do it. And of course, it’s only a matter of time before you stop again.

 

58:29

Yeah, I totally agree with that. And I interviewed Anna Lemke who wrote Dopamine Nation. Yeah, she’s amazing. I’ll link to that episode. And reading that book is amazing too. But one of the things she said was anyone who comes to her whether it’s for alcohol or pot or something else, she says I recommend they go on a dopamine fast right for 30 days because alcohol keeps having your brain hitting that high. And like you talked about the anxiety, she’s like your body compensates by lowering your natural level of dopamine in your body, you are less happy and more discontent and more anxious when you’re not drinking, because your natural level of dopamine is lower. And it takes at least 30 days to reset to that baseline level of contentment and happiness without the substance. And I completely experienced that. I remember walking into work on a random Tuesday and being like the birds were flying up and the sun was out and the mountain was out and I was like, Oh my God, I am so happy at first thing in the morning. Whereas I used to walk in being like, I need to quit my job. This is miserable. I can’t handle it.

 

59:52

Yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing how people everything gets blamed apart from the alcohol. And what you need to bear in mind is when you’re going through that chemical imbalance after drinking, everything looks worse, everything looks unpleasant. And then you have a drink and you feel slightly better. Again, people start to get fooled into thinking, it’s my job. It’s my marriage. It’s my house. It’s this. It’s this. It’s this. That’s the problem. Because when I’m not drinking that problem that’s really overpowering, and unpleasant. And when I have a drink, it’s okay. I feel right about it. But what they’re missing is, it’s not that the problem is big and alcohol is helping them to deal with it. The problem’s not big. It’s the alcohol withdrawal that’s making it look worse. Yeah. And then they have the drink, and it puts it back into perspective it should have been in or would have been if they never had an alcoholic drink in the first place. Yeah, yeah. And it may be a problem, but at least then you’re clear, and you’re not less happy and more anxious, you’re able to deal with it with more emotional stability.

 

1:00:53

I could talk to you forever. But is there anything else in moderation, you think you want to make a point? If someone’s listening to this?

 

1:01:01

No, no, I make no bones of the fact that I think people, I think it’s inherently difficult. If you’re going to try moderation, I don’t live your life for you. You need to do your own thing and maybe learn from your own experiences. If you think it’s a viable option, try it. But I would say just bear these points in mind. Because what you’re really looking for is just how to move forward with your life in the best possible way. And don’t necessarily get bogged down in the thought that it has to be moderation because I can’t bear the thought of not drinking again, because that’s how all of us felt at one point or another. And actually discovering life after alcohol is what it’s all about. Because you feel you need to do it and then do it because it’s absolutely your prerogative to, but certainly don’t beat yourself up and think it’s a personal failure if it doesn’t work, because I hopefully I’ve explained some of the reasons why is inherently difficult, not because of you, but by the cause of the chemical nature of the drug.

 

1:01:58

Yeah, yeah. And it’s just exhausting and disheartening, and it keeps you in that craving cycle. And I always suggest just trying a longer period of time without alcohol, and see what your baseline is. And then you can compare it to how you felt when you were trying to moderate when you were in that drinking cycle, because it’s going to be night and day. Once you get far enough away from it. Tell us how people want to follow up with you if they want to read your books, like how can people find you and get in touch with you?

 

1:02:33

Probably the best place is the website, which is called explained.com. There’s a contact page there if you want to contact me. The books are on there. There’s an online course, which basically has everything that’s in the two books, kind of put into a sort of interactive book, almost, it’s not a it’s not a course of videos. It’s actually sort of interactive. In fact, if you go on the website, you can go and the first seven modules are there. So you can sort of try it and see what you think of it. And then that’s got links to my Instagram, Facebook, all the rest of it. So that’s probably the best place to start.

 

1:03:08

That’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. I love this discussion. I always learn a lot.

 

1:03:14

My pleasure. Thank you so much for asking me.

 

Casey McGuire Davidson  1:03:17

 

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. 

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