Prepare to reassess your beliefs, confront societal norms, and redefine your relationship with alcohol. My guest, Molly Watts, and I take the lid off the alcohol industry, revealing the disturbing lack of health benefits associated with any level of drinking. Be prepared for a deep dive into the psychological aspects of alcohol consumption and the myths surrounding it that often go unchallenged.
In this episode, we dissect the complex relationship between alcohol and anxiety. We shed light on how alcohol disrupts our brain’s homeostasis and potentially induces anxiety in the middle of the night.
Through our conversation, we aim to equip you with crucial insights about habitual drinking, the importance of good sleep hygiene, and the implications of heavy drinking. Here’s where you’ll learn how to address the anxiety that comes with tackling your drinking habits, and why it’s essential to confront it head-on.
Finally, we emphasize the importance of a conscious plan for alcohol consumption. Together, Molly and I dive into strategies to manage your alcohol intake, addressing fears of missing out and emphasizing the role of self-care.
We also explore Molly’s program, ‘Making Peace with Alcohol,’ which provides group coaching, coursework, and a supportive community. So, join us as we unravel the complexities of alcohol consumption and offer tangible strategies for healthier habits.
Trust me, you won’t want to miss this enlightening exchange.
Molly and I discuss questioning beliefs, normalizing alcohol use, and language’s influence on thoughts and opinions.
We examine the prevalence of misinformation, low-risk limits, and the need for alcohol-free days to form a healthy relationship with alcohol.
Molly and I discuss alcohol’s neurochemistry, its relationship to anxiety, its effects on homeostasis, and the anxiety of addressing drinking habits.
Molly and I discussed alcohol consumption, self-care, neurochemistry, and FOMO.
Molly Watts and I discuss creating a conscious plan for alcohol consumption, her program Making Peace with Alcohol, and its group coaching, coursework, and community.
Molly Watts is an author, podcaster, and life coach who helps daily habit drinkers change their drinking to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol.
As an adult child of an alcoholic, Molly developed a decades-long daily drinking habit that defied logic and caused endless anxiety. Worrying about alcohol, first with her mother and then as her own drinking habit seemed “unbreakable”, was exhausting.
Using science as her guide, Molly transformed her drinking and became what she now calls an alcohol minimalist. Most importantly, she is completely at peace with alcohol and helps other people do the same.
The idea that there were some people in the world that didn’t come home and have a drink after work, like it just wasn’t a part of their daily routine. That was sort of shocking to me. I couldn’t even like, what do you mean? Oh, okay. I just assumed well, yeah, they don’t because they’re totally sober. You know what I mean? They’re just non-alcohol users.
And then, I was like, Oh wait, you mean like people that I know and are friends of mine, they don’t drink every day after work like I do.
Welcome to the Done With Dieting Podcast, where it’s all about designing the life, you want in midlife. I’m your host, Elizabeth Sherman, a master certified life and health coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, feminist coach, and specialist in women’s hormones.
Are you tired of scales, food logs, and strict diets? Struggling with hormonal symptoms and the challenges of aging, changing relationships, and entering the next phase of your life? You have come to the right place.
Here, we talk about food freedom, nurturing a better relationship with your body, and feeling great again. All without the weight of traditional dieting methods.
Through a mix of solo podcasts and conversations with industry experts, I’m here to guide you towards a healthier, happier you.
Join me as we explore ways to look and feel better and strive for optimal health regardless of where you are in your journey. But more importantly, to reclaim control, confidence, and joy in this beautiful stage of life.
This is the Done With Dieting podcast. Let’s dive in.
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Done With Dieting Podcast, episode number 148.
Now, if you’ve ever caught yourself contemplating your relationship with alcohol, trust me, you are not alone. We’ve all been there, wondering about that extra glass of wine and the occasional after work drink. Or the societal pressures to unwind with a drink in hand. It’s an area that many of us navigate and sometimes it can seem a little fuzzy.
Today, we’re going to pull back the curtain on this very topic. We’re diving into the world of alcohol, its impact on our health, and the tangled relationship it often has with anxiety. We’re not just scratching the surface here. We’re diving deep to debunk some myths, question the narratives and stories that we’ve been told. And explore how we can redefine our relationship with alcohol.
To guide us today, I’ve got an incredible guest. Molly Watts is a true champion in this field, and she’s going to be joining us. Together, we’re going to unravel some of the complexities of alcohol consumption and offer tangible strategies for healthier habits.
She’s not only bringing her wealth of knowledge to the table, but she also has a podcast called, “Making Peace with Alcohol,” that has helped thousands of people transform their relationship with alcohol.
Whether you’re a social drinker, a thinker, or someone who’s been contemplating their drinking habits, this episode is for you. Expect a candid conversation, thought provoking insights, and some real talk about alcohol, anxiety, and control. And trust me, you are not going to want to miss this one. Let’s get started.
All right everyone, welcome Molly Watts to the Done With Dieting Podcast. Molly, I am so excited to have you here because we were just talking before, we got on and our philosophies are so similar. But also, we are both friends and colleagues. We’re both in the same mastermind, and I’ve gotten to know you a little bit better. And this is just great.
So, first of all, introduce yourself to the listeners, tell them who you are, what you do and who you help.
Molly: Hey, that sounds great. Thank you, Elizabeth. Wonderful to be here. And yeah, absolutely. Getting to know you, getting to know your work, and what you’re talking about on Done With Dieting, I’m excited to be here and share our philosophies. Because I do agree with you, we have a lot of things in common and the people that we speak to I think are similar in terms of what they’re looking to do and hoping to change in their lives.
I am someone who works with people who typically have what they consider an unbreakable drinking habit. So, not somebody that who would necessarily consider themselves to have a drinking problem, but maybe a habit that they just can’t seem to break. They’re looking to create what I say, a peaceful relationship with alcohol.
And my podcast is called, ‘The Alcohol Minimalist.’ We don’t live in the lanes of black and white thinking and needing to cut things out completely. But we do talk about minimizing alcohol because there’s some real health reasons and health considerations for why people would want to reduce their alcohol use. And I talk about that a lot.
And I also talk to some degree, I’m an adult child of an alcoholic. So, there’s a little bit of us, we talk about that to some degree too on Alcohol Minimalist. But I’m excited to be here and share some of the work that I do in terms of talking to. I’m always the fun one to have at the party, right? Cause I’m going to come in and tell you why you shouldn’t be drinking the wine that you’re drinking.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Everyone wants you around for sure.
Molly: Right? Exactly. It’s not that bad. I promise, you can absolutely drink your glass of wine and I am here to tell you why it’s okay and why you might want to consider not drinking the whole bottle.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, it’s so funny when I meet clients in the grocery store, they like almost feel embarrassed about what’s in their cart. Or my clients will come to me, and they’ll like profess all of their sins. And I tell them that I’m not their health priest.
Molly: I love that. Yeah.
Molly: Exactly. I’m nobody’s big brother. I’m not watching and I’m here to help people. And I think you talk about this too. I talk all the time about becoming a better mind manager and becoming a better thinker. Because at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about.
And we need to be willing to question the stories that we have around alcohol and some of the long held beliefs that probably started when we were kids and we weren’t even considering drinking alcohol, but we were learning about it, right?
From society, from our family, from our friends. And all of those things feed into an unconscious system that we have that drives our desire to drink. And we need to be willing to challenge that and bring that thinking into the conscious, which is really what I focus on mostly.
Elizabeth: Oh, gosh, that is so important. And I never even really thought about it. Like as a little kid, I would see my dad drinking coffee. And then, when he got home from work, he would drink a martini, that was his big thing, and my mom would drink wine. And as little kids, we always want to grow up, right?
We want to be like our parents, and we want to be the big kids and we’re constantly striving. And so, I never really thought about how that played into my relationship with alcohol. That’s so interesting.
Molly: Yeah. Well, it normalizes it, right? And so, this is the flip side of that. My mother was had a problematic relationship with alcohol, had severe alcohol use disorder. We called her an alcoholic back in the day. Which created a whole set of beliefs for me about alcohol and alcohol use in one camp, right?
But then, there is this very normalization idea, my parents did before it became a problem, they definitely had that after work mentality, and it was an every night thing. And I can honestly, remember when I started addressing my own alcohol use and changing my own relationship with alcohol.
The idea that there were some people in the world that didn’t come home and have a drink after work, like it just wasn’t a part of their daily routine. That was sort of shocking to me. I couldn’t even like, what do you mean? Oh, okay. I just assumed well, yeah, they don’t because they’re totally sober. You know what I mean? They’re just non-alcohol users.
And then, I was like, Oh wait, you mean like people that I know and are friends of mine, they don’t drink every day after work like I do. Oh, how interesting. I honestly, like that’s the programming that I had in my brain. And I honestly believed that I needed to drink when I got home from work.
That’s the message that I had in my head, that was what helped me relax and unwind. And that’s how I could relax and unwind. That was the belief system, not like I just that I wanted to have a drink when I got home, but I actually needed to.
Elizabeth: Well, yeah. I mean, that’s such a common response like, Oh my God, I need a drink or after today, I need a drink. Right? Or let’s go out and have a drink together because the day that we had was just bonkers, whatever.
So, yeah. The way that we speak about alcohol really informs our thoughts about it or reinforces our thoughts about it. Yeah?
Molly: Yeah, absolutely. And those sentences in our brains are so strong. Right? And I can remember like I said, when I really started digging into this habit because for years and years, I genuinely believed that it was part of just a genetic predisposition. Like I desired alcohol more than other people because I came from an alcoholic background, right?
So, I had this whole mindset around it. And the habit did feel literally unbreakable to me. Like I was able to do most everything else in my life. I was successful in my career. I was successful, I had family, kids, the whole nine yards.
And yet, I had this one habit and because of my relationship and with my mother and this whole backstory that I had, there was this constant sense of anxiety around it too, right? So, I worried all the time, but at the same time, it felt completely unbreakable.
And I remember, when I first started doing this work and I was at work, got into my car and the first thing that came into my head was, I need a beer. And that was the sentence. It was, I need.
And it was like I said, the first time that I really was aware of that thought and I like went, Oh, wow. I don’t actually need one, I want one. But isn’t it interesting that my brains, thought process is I need. And I could see and feel and sense how that drove the desire to drink, right?
It was like, okay, you think I need a beer and you feel like you have the desire to drink. It’s like, oh, this is how that’s working in my head. And once I started to like become aware of that thinking and that unconscious thought that had been there for so, so long on the repeat.
Then, I was able to look at it and go, wait a second, hold on here. We don’t need one, we want one, but do we really want it? Because that’s not what we want is to feel relaxed. Right? And so, once I got into the work and really understood it, it was like, oh, okay. So, I’ve just pretty much trained my brain this way, and now I just got to untrain it.
And that’s really the work that I do now with other people but understanding that and changing that relationship for me was the one thing that I really needed to change. Because I had so many stories around alcohol and like I said, being an adult child of an alcoholic, it had more magnitude for me. It was the habit that I felt like I couldn’t break that really needed to be broken.
Elizabeth: So, let’s talk a little bit more about your story. Like did you hit a rock bottom or was it just that sentence in your brain that made you make the shift? Or had you gone through treatment programs or tried to get help on your own beforehand?
Molly: Absolutely, not. No. No way. I was never, no way. Like I mean, I say that all the time. There was no rock bottom moment. Nothing of the sort. No one on the outside would have ever perceived me as someone who had an alcohol problem. I Looked from all accounts like everybody else.
What happened to me was that I worked on a passion project business that was focused on very similar to work that you do here, the habits of a happier, longer life. And doing that work, I was really focused on promoting all these positive habits and these habits that were scientifically backed to increase longevity and improve happiness.
So, I focused on these five habits, and they were really the habits that I watched my dad. So, you see, I had these polar opposites, my dad, who really embodied optimistic aging. And that was all what I was about. I was hashtag optimistic aging.
And I had a podcast, and a product, and I was doing all this work and really promoting it all the while, like kind of ignoring and not really discussing this my mom’s very different aging experience because of her alcohol abuse. And I didn’t want to address it because if I did, then I would have to address my own, what I call oxymoronic habit, right?
Because it just didn’t make sense to me. Although, I was doing all these great, these five very positive lifelong longevity and health based, and happiness based habits. And yet, there was this one habit that I just couldn’t seem to break and that was my daily drinking habit.
And it was really that once I learned this, I was actually interviewing a life coach on my other podcast that I got introduced to the work of learning how to connect my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions.
And this imposter syndrome I guess, for lack of a better word just became so powerful for me. Like, I just felt, ugh. If I don’t address this, if I don’t take care of this, I can’t go on talking about all these positive habits. It just doesn’t feel authentic because I’m not really talking about this like I said, the one thing that was really holding me back from living my best life.
So, that’s kind of what happened for me. It was a big confluence of everything coming together. And me, just like really deciding at the beginning of 2019. Like I have to address this. And I didn’t talk about it at first. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to because it had been decades that I had been drinking daily and well beyond the limits of what people would consider.
I thought it was moderate. Which as a lot of people don’t really understand or know the actual definitions and that’s part of what I do too. I dove into the science; I dove into learning all about self-coaching and things like that and I applied it all. Then ultimately, became a coach myself.
Because everything that I learned, and I kind of took bits and pieces from everywhere because not the way that I learned and the way that I applied things, I’m very analytical, very science oriented. So, the science and the neuroscience were really important to me. It helped me challenge those longstanding beliefs that I had, like the idea that I needed to drink to help me relax and unwind. The science of alcohol doesn’t support that.
So, we tell ourselves that but it’s not really true. And in fact, when you have a consistent daily drinking habit, you’re actually perpetuating anxiety in yourself, in your neurochemistry. That’s a long winded answer. I apologize.
But yes, that’s how I got to where I am now. And I went on to write a book, host a podcast and now work with people all over the world. Which is really incredible and help them use the same tools that I eventually used. Use self-coaching, use science, and really understand what’s going on and be able to change and break unbreakable habits.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And I think that one thing that really resonated with me, something that whenever we talk about our alcohol use to other people. First of all, there’s a lot of shame that goes along with not being able to quote unquote control your drinking. Right?
So, whenever my clients talk to me about their alcohol use, like 9 times out of 10, I feel like they always say, I’m not an alcoholic or anything or I sound like an alcoholic with what I’m telling you. And I think that many of us, we have grown up in this society, in this culture that drinking is everywhere.
It’s such a part of parties and celebrations. And like you said, relaxing and the messages that we see in movies and TV and in commercials. And all of it really influence that the thought that drinking is okay. And even the science behind it, right? That we hear one drink a day is good for you, or one drink a day is okay, or all of that stuff.
And so, let’s talk a little bit about since you brought it up. What is moderation and yeah, giving some normalcy to people.
Molly: Yeah. Well, so normalcy is one word. The issue is that there’s a lot of confusion around alcohol because we have a lot of different boring kind of interested parties, right? So, you’ve got the alcohol industry itself, who’s driving a lot of the narrative and you can imagine what that narrative is going to be. Right? Because they have a vested interest in keeping you drinking.
And then, there’s the recovery industry. Again, a very powerful industry in terms of dollars. And so, they have a narrative that they are also pushing and making sure. And so, we get a very black and white kind of very one absolute thinking.
So, you’re either somebody who can handle their alcohol or you’re not. Right? And then, you’re either diseased, broken, or the classic image of an alcoholic person with a paper bag laying on a park bench, right?
And we have a lot of people in the middle who don’t ever seek help, who don’t know, who can’t figure out, okay, well, is what I’m drinking actually good for me? Bad for me? What? And I do try to break down the science of alcohol on my show and really talk about that because again, there’s a lot of misinformation.
If you only go as deep as the headlines, then you would be very understandably believing that I drink that alcohol is good for me. Right? You could almost say, most people probably think that red wine is good for your heart. Right? It wouldn’t be foolish for you to have thought that because truly, you’ve been told that, you’ve been sent that message.
The bottom line is this. And I can feel very secure in saying this because I have done a lot of research on alcohol, a lot of due diligence, a lot of reading in depth alcohol studies. There is no amount of alcohol. Zero Zipnota, that should be considered safe or that should be considered as somewhat in any way, a healthy addition to your life. All right?
We have got to understand that no matter what we tell ourselves, there’s no preventative health benefits that alcohol is doing for us, that we wouldn’t be better served by doing something else. All right? Let’s take that full argument off the table.
Having said that, is there I am not alcohol free. And I don’t, so I’m not completely alcohol free. However, just like other things that I include in my life that have health risks associated with them, right? So, you could lump that into food things or not enough cardio exercise or too much stress in your life, right?
There’s a lot of things that are happening to us that we want to mitigate. And I believe that alcohol is it falls into that category. It is a known carcinogen, ladies. So, we have to pay attention to that. We, again, cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we’re somehow benefiting our lives by adding alcohol in.
Having said that, there are low risk limits that people can include in their lives that basically are associated with, what it means is that you have a very slight chance, very low chance, like a 1 in 100 chance of developing alcohol use disorder if you stick to low risk limits.
Like I said, in terms of preventative health. And if you look at it like on a global health basis, people that stick to these low risk limits, basically also fall into the longest lived peoples. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s because of the alcohol. Okay. It just means that is observational data that we get when we look at them over the course of their lives.
The non-drinkers and then the high drinkers, they have higher mortality outcomes than the people with the low risk limits. But again, that could be because they exercise more, they have access to better health care, they have better diets. There are a thousand other reasons that could be it.
But having said that, that’s what is through about low risk limits. What does that mean? Low risk limits are for women 65 and under. No more than one standard drink per day, or seven standard drinks in a week. And no more than three standard drinks in any one day.
So, that would mean that if you were going to have seven drinks over the course of a week and you decided to have three drinks in one day. Then, you would obviously be having alcohol three days, multiple days during the week.
I talk a lot about blood alcohol content and paying attention because really at the end of the day, that’s what it is about. I say that every time you drink, it’s kind of like your own personal petri dish. Which a chemistry term. Because everything is dynamic.
So, whether you’ve eaten, how much sleep you’ve had. Whether you’re female, whether you’re male, how much you weigh, how hot it is outside. All of these things impact our body’s ability to metabolize alcohol.
So, there’s just never going to be a time when you’re going to really over drink. You’re never going to drink beyond three drinks. And you’re really going to definitively raise your blood alcohol content above 0. 055% which is considered the therapeutic amount of alcohol, anything above that. And you’re asking for negative consequences.
In short, yes. The low risk limits are that no more than one standard drink per day. And that is really, again, what moderate drinking is supposed to be. No more than one standard drink and people don’t really sometimes know what standard drinks are either which is another issue.
But yes. And no more than three drinks in any one day and including multiple alcohol free days in your life would be again, a part of that routine as well.
Elizabeth: Yeah. So, I changed my relationship with alcohol. There were two things that were kind of coming together at the same time. One was my menopause. And for many of you listening, you’re probably experiencing the same thing. Where once your hormones change, alcohol will have a greater impact on not only anxiety and depression and your moods, but then also your sleep habit.
I found that as I got older, as I was moving into menopause, I just was not able to get the restful sleep that I really wanted and needed in order to rejuvenate in the next day. And I’ve never really been someone who gets hangovers. So, that really hasn’t been a problem but just being awake in the middle of the night and not feeling rested when I woke up in the morning.
And the other thing was that Andrew Huberman from the Huberman Lab podcast had this amazing podcast episode on alcohol. I’ll link to it in the show notes. But yeah. Then, that was just so scientific. It’s a really long episode. Everyone who’s listening.
Molly: It’s a really long episode, I’m going to say that. It is.
Elizabeth: I had to break it up.
Molly: And very sciencey.
Elizabeth: Very sciencey. I think I had to listen to it twice and break it up into half hour chunks. Cause it’s at least two hours, if not two and a half hours. But anyway, that really allowed me to examine my relationship with alcohol.
Now, thinking about that, I was really scared, and we can talk a little bit about this. That the social impact of changing our relationship with alcohol. So, my husband and I really bonded together over wine.
We’re going to Italy in just a few weeks now. And by the time that this episode airs, we will have gone and come back. But I am a little worried about how to navigate that because I know that Italy is going to have so much amazing wine and just navigating that relationship with my husband too. It’s scary when your relationships are built on what you think is alcohol.
And then, ratcheting back a little bit and wondering, is my relationship with this person going to change? Are they going to still invite me out? Let’s talk a little bit about the fear that goes along with changing your relationship with alcohol.
Molly: Yeah. I think it’s very normal. I talked with people all the time. My husband and I had the same kind of relationship, and he still has a different relationship with alcohol than I do now. Which fed into my long again, standing beliefs that I couldn’t break my own habit because what was I going to do every night when he was drinking, and I couldn’t. That was the mind, right?
Molly: That was the mind. You can’t drink. Right? So, obviously, I think the thought that is just reminding ourselves that it’s a choice that we’re making, that we want, this is what we choose, right? It’s not like you can’t have a glass of wine. You’re choosing not to have a glass of wine. And your connection with your spouse and there’s so many other wonderful, I mean, good golly, all the other atmosphere of Italy and the food, where the surroundings and everything else.
We just have to remind ourselves that our brain loves to tell an old story that is habited and well-worn because it’s easier, right? It’s the easiest story that it always wants to hear first. And there’s other perspectives. I say to my students a lot, my clients, I never like to use the word, ‘but.’ Because that’s more into that absolute, that’s like the either or story, right? It has to be one or the other.
Instead, it’s like, ‘and’ what else is true? What else is true for me here? A glass of wine sounds really good and I really value being able to have a good night’s sleep. Right? So, it’s not ‘either or,’ and we have to really remind ourselves that these are options that we’re choosing. And can you still have a sip of wine and taste it? Sure. That’s your choice, that’s your decision.
And you can also choose to not have a glass of wine and still have a really wonderful time. Right? Do those thoughts still come up? Absolutely. Are they still going to be needing to be challenged? Yes.
And we get to remind ourselves that there’s another version of the truth. There’s another version of this story that’s going to help me feel better in this moment, and I’m going to redirect my brain there. And that’s what I’m going to choose to focus on because that’s what’s going to help me have a good time in this moment.
Yeah Elizabeth:. Well, and for those of you who are struggling with your sleep and alcohol, and everyone is completely different. But I find that I can probably have one glass of wine and depending on how close it is to bedtime and still sleep pretty well. But once I get into those two, maybe three glasses then.
Molly: You wouldn’t want it. So, general rule of thumb for me is and this is something that I was listening to, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Dr. Peter Attia, but he’s this longevity doctor. He just wrote this book, Outlive. And he’s been on a few podcasts, and I’ve been listening to him and his rules of thumb for alcohol are really alcohol minimalist.
So, I’m like, yes. And he’s like a longevity guy. So, I’m like, Perfect. His things he says are there’s got to be an insane reason for me to have more than two drinks in any one day. Which is true.
There’s got to be an insane reason for me to drink on any more than three days in a week. And there’s got to be an insane reason for me to have a drink more than closer to three hours to bedtime. His cutoff is three hours before bedtime.
Molly: The thing about sleep and this is something that we should address. I’ve got a couple of really great episodes on sleep on the podcast. Again, it’s a story, right? And well-proven through history, this whole idea of a nightcap came about because alcohol actually does help you get to sleep faster.
So, there is some science and some reasoning why people believe, and a lot of people still do have a drink before bed because they really believe that they need it, right? Again, the ‘need’ word comes in like, I need it to help me get to sleep.
And like I said, not completely untrue. The problem is kind of what you alluded to is that alcohol disrupts our sleep patterns and our ability to have the different types of sleep, the deep sleep and the REM sleep. The rhythm of that, it disrupts our later pattern. So, that’s why you get that three in the morning wake up.
And especially, for women who are going through menopause, who are probably already battling some of that insomnia from the hormonal disruptions. It’s just compounding it with alcohol. So, it’s very real.
And so, this idea that we need it to help us get to sleep, you may think that. It’s actually disrupting your sleep patterns which when you are chronically sleep deprived is going to continue to have this cycle. And so, you keep creating this cycle. You’ve got to figure out a different sleep hygiene practice because alcohol is not the one. It’s not helping in the long run.
Elizabeth: Yeah. One thing that’s fascinating is I found that when I stopped drinking so much, because I still do drink alcohol, just like you. I stopped waking up in the middle of the night with intense anxiety for absolutely no reason. You mentioned it earlier. Let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between anxiety and alcohol.
Molly: Yeah. Well, I was going to say, what you just said for no reason. Actually, there was a reason. It’s literally the science of alcohol. It is the neurochemistry, right? So, alcohol, we think of it as a chemical depressant, right? It is a chemical depressant. But the reason that it is because it actually suppresses one of our very most important neurotransmitters and it increases the neurotransmitter, the other.
So, we have GABA and glutamate, and these two neurotransmitters are basically responsible for turning the brain off and turning the brain on. And alcohol impacts both of them. So, what we get in that is that as the brain, you’re drinking alcohol, basically altering homeostasis in our brains, right? The neurochemistry that we would normally have.
So, why you get that anxiety at three o’clock in the morning is basically because the brain after as alcohol is leaving the system, it is boosting up glutamate and glutamate is rising, rising, rising. Which is what causes people to feel, that’s turning the brain on, right?
So, it’s like, it’s turning the brain on. It’s going to be leading to more, if you think about it, just being more agitated, anything else, right? It’s amping the brain up. And so, that’s why when we wake up at three o’clock in the morning and we feel anxious, it’s because literally, we have done this to our brains.
Because as alcohol leaves the system the brain can’t quite, it’s trying to turn the brain back on because it feels all that chemical depressant from the GABA system. And so, it’s a natural reaction of the brain to try to get itself back to homeostasis, but it just can’t. It can’t balance itself out quite as quickly as the alcohol is leaving your system.
Elizabeth: Well, and I think what is really important here is that I probably a lot of listeners right now are thinking, but I even wake up with anxiety on days that I don’t drink. And so, understanding that this is just a buildup of the alcohol in your body and your body reacting this way, right?
Molly: Yes. It depends. I mean, it would certainly depend on how much you’re drinking, right? But if you’re drinking a half a bottle of wine every day, and then that’s going to be continually, yes. You’ll have that rebound anxiety. But it also, gosh, with menopause. It could be a myriad of other reasons too. I wouldn’t want to just simply say, it could be caffeine, you name it.
But certainly, sleep protocols and sleep hygiene is so important for the brain. Right? It’s one of those things that we cannot underestimate. And so, somebody who is drinking habitually or drinking consistently, and you’re drinking close to bedtime within that three hour timeframe. If you’re drinking more than two glasses of wine or even one. Give it a try, right?
See, how it feels if you just cut back. And see, how it feels if you move that window back from bedtime. And see, if your sleep starts to improve. It’s not going to improve automatically in the next few days but it could over the next 30 days, absolutely improve.
And once it does, especially for women of a certain age, you get pretty protective of that. Because once you get through, get a good sleep, and you feel better. Because when you don’t sleep through the night consistently, it’s not fun. It’s not good.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I was trying to be sober three nights per week. And on the nights that I would drink wine, I was probably having two or more. I was probably a heavy drinker. So, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I was probably drinking two glasses, maybe three on Thursdays. Definitely, three or four on the weekends.
Molly: Yeah. I’m glad you said heavy drinker because that’s the thing. When you go over, if you’re drinking more than seven standard drinks in a week, by the guidelines of the CDC and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, you’re considered a heavy drinker.
And if you have any nights throughout the month, ladies, where you would be considered a binge drinking, which would be anything more than three standard drinks in a day. So, if you had four drinks on a night and Lord knows, I had plenty of them. If you have one of those in a month, then you’re considered a heavy drinker.
Elizabeth: Wow. Okay. Yeah. And so, like when I realized that I was not a moderate drinker, that I was considered a heavy drinker, that was a huge pill to swallow. And really wanting to get it under control at that point.
Molly: Yeah. And I think also for me, I never realized how much the anxiety of my constant, this worry that I had around alcohol was keeping me, holding me back. Like I just never addressed it in my own thinking. I never really allowed it to be there. I just accepted it as like the consequence of somebody who was drinking more than they kind of knew was intellectually, good for you and an adult child of an alcoholic.
Like I just thought well, this is just my life. This is who I am. This constant anxiety that I have is a natural consequence for a habit that I can’t seem to break. Right?
But I hadn’t done any of the due diligence yet. I really didn’t understand the science. I really didn’t understand that I was actually a heavy drinker. I just sort of kind of felt like it wasn’t quite more so probably again, because of the upbringing and having this constant worry of like, I don’t want to become an alcoholic like my mom.
Molly: But yeah. It’s amazing and the thing of it is that there is what I really focus on and what I want people to hear is there is so much benefit, if you’re someone who is quote unquote a heavy drinker. But heavy drinker by clinical standard, like the ones that we’re talking about. But in your mind, you’re a moderate drinker who is drinking 20 to 30 standard drinks a week, whatever that is, even 10 to 20 standard drinks a week.
There is so much benefit in reducing that down to these low risk limits. That’s where the biggest benefit is in terms of overall health, risk, consequence, longevity, all of it. Right? And so, the narrative, the story that we get is often like, you have to be alcohol free, right? It’s like, it’s either or.
And if you’re not sober, then you’re not cutting it. It’s like, no, actually, the truth is that if we can just bring it down and we can keep our mindset on what I’m doing for myself and factoring in multiple alcohol free days a week and really, again, managing it and mitigating it just like you would other things in your life that don’t help you feel your best.
It’s really the same principle with alcohol. And we just have to be clear that the stories around alcohol are going to persist. You’re going to still have all these things around you, making it seem like drinking is glamorous, that it’s beautiful. The beautiful people are doing it, that you’re going to see it all over television, you’re going to see it all over media, you’re going to see all your family and friends potentially still drinking or over drinking.
And we just want to get it into a mindset where we’re treating it and using the thoughts that help us, included in our lives in a way that we still have a peaceful relationship. That’s the way that I think about it.
And kind of like you said, it’s like, okay, I was over drinking. If this is how much I was drinking. And once you cut it back, you’re like, okay, yeah, you know what? That wasn’t serving me. That wasn’t helping me sleep. That wasn’t helping me feel great. And when you do it, you’re like, Oh, okay, I really noticed. You probably can relate.
If there’s a day that I decide to include three drinks now, I feel it. No matter what, I feel it the next day. It impacts my sleep. I’m 100% cognizant of it. And it’s not that it never happens because sometimes it does. But I use it. I like go, oh, okay. Yeah. Right. This is why we don’t really like to do that anymore.
Elizabeth: Okay, so here’s the next question that I think everyone who’s listening is asking themselves. They’re thinking, okay. But after the second glass, since alcohol decreases our inhibitions, right? How do I say no to that third glass? I just want to keep going.
Molly: Yeah. Interesting that you bring that up because in my group, we talk about it a lot. The third glass is the trickiest. It’s the one that really is going to push people past the point where they don’t want to make the logical adult decision, right?
Molly: At two. I’ll say, so has there ever been a time when you had two glasses of wine and chose to stop? And they were like, oh yeah, of course they’ve done that. Okay. So, then, we know it’s possible, right? Then, we know you can do it. And I think part of the process that I teach with people is having a plan in place ahead of time.
So, we get the logical adult prefrontal cortex is the one making the plan. We’re not allowing the plan be made in the moment. When we’ve had the two glasses, we’re really planning ahead. That’s part of it.
And I’m not going to tell you, I mean, sometimes, yes. Alcohol definitely, but at two drinks, unless you just really haven’t eaten at all and you’re really haven’t slept at all, you still should have enough cognition to be able to say, okay, this is the plan I made.
Get to the third drink and you’re probably starting to tilt into, and I’ve done it myself where I’ve had a third drink and my brain is like, Oh, this is really fun. Let’s keep going. And I’m like, Ooh, wait, hold on here. No. It’s a practice.
And another part of this practice is really asking ourselves all the time. Is alcohol something that I want to include in my life? And what story am I telling myself about why I want to have another drink? Is it really true? Right. Cause that’s probably feeding back into the whole fear of missing out. And it sounds like a really good idea at the time and everybody else is. And why do I have to be the one that pays attention, all that.
They’re all just thoughts. They’re all just optional thinking that you can choose or you can decide, oh yeah, you know what? This is what really aligns with my long term goals. And I know for myself, kind of like you. When I stick to my low risk limits, it’s when I feel my best. It’s just that simple. Yes, it can be challenging but know, it’s not impossible.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, and I think what you said in there and this is something that I talk about a lot which is your future self. So, once you have your own back and you’re like, I don’t want to have to pay for this for the next three days. And being aware of it and making the decision on a conscious level and saying, okay, I can have this third glass of wine.
And I know that the risk that comes with it is I’m not going to be able to sleep. I’m not going to be able to potentially, do all of the things that I had scheduled for myself tomorrow. And is it worth it?
And what I tell my clients is once you make that decision, you no longer have the right to beat yourself up with the inner critic tomorrow and say, Oh, I shouldn’t have done that. right? Because that’s the other part of it is beating ourselves up on the other side of it.
Molly: Yeah. I talk a lot about curiosity and compassion, and we have to be willing to learn from our missteps. In my coursework, I call it the ‘off plan, plan.’ Because you have to have a plan for when you go off plan because you’re going to. You are going to without question, you are going to struggle at times. And that’s okay too. Struggle has actually been proven to help us learn when things are challenging for us.
So, we have to be willing to question all the stories that we’ve held onto and anything that is a self-limiting belief. Right? I mean, anything that’s going to keep us from becoming who we want to become, we have to be willing to question.
And I think that the idea of it is again, fueled by the recovery industry, fueled by this black and white thinking that we have around alcohol. It’s very easy with alcohol to fall into a shame spiral. And we have to just allow that we’re going to put on the brakes and we’re going to stop ourselves.
And we’re really going to put on the hat of the scientific observer and look at ourselves. And be willing to accept it as data not drama. We’re going to dig in and figure out why it happened. Because that’s how we learn and that’s how the next time the situation comes up, we’ll have a better idea of how to go about it differently.
Takes practice and repetition but I guess, what I hope people hear is that it’s not only possible to change Habits that don’t serve you but it’s really worth it.
Elizabeth: So good. Thank you for being here, Molly. How can folks reach out to you? How do you work with people if they do want to get their alcohol intake under control? Tell us more.
Molly: Yeah. So, you can find me over at www.mollywatts.com, that’s the easiest place or the Alcohol Minimalist Podcast. And I have Making Peace with Alcohol is my program that is a six month program that people can work with me in terms of group coaching, and coursework, and community. And you can learn more about it over at mollywatts.com.
Elizabeth: Awesome. Thanks for being here.
Molly: You are awesome. Thanks, Elizabeth.
All right everyone, that brings us to the end of our episode. Thank you so much for tuning in and taking the time to reassess and redefine your relationship with alcohol with us.
My Conversation with Molly was incredibly enlightening, and I hope that you’ve taken away some valuable insights and strategies. If you’re interested in learning more about Molly and her podcast, ‘Making Peace With Alcohol,’ and the work that she’s doing.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out the show notes for all the links that you need to connect with her.
Remember, you’re not alone in this. Many of us are reassessing our relationship with alcohol and learning to prioritize our health, anxiety, and conscious consumption.
And if you know anyone, a friend, family, or colleague who you know is reassessing her relationship with alcohol and you think that she could benefit from our conversation today, please don’t hesitate to share this episode with her. We are all in this together, learning, growing, and supporting one another.
So, once again, thank you for joining us today, it’s always a pleasure to share these conversations with you. Have an amazing day and I’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey there, thank you so much for tuning in to this episode. Isn’t it just amazing how we can take control of our health without all the crazy diets, extreme measures, and strict rules? I think so too.
Now, if today’s content resonated with you, would you do me a favor? Share it with a friend who could benefit from it. Let’s spread the love and create a wave of empowerment for women in midlife.
Oh, and if you’re loving this podcast, please go ahead and leave a rating and review. I read every single one and it truly means the world to me. Plus, your support helps other incredible women just like you find this podcast. And that’s a win-win.
Don’t forget to hit subscribe so that you never miss an episode. I’ve got so many exciting things planned for you and I cannot wait to share them. Thanks again, and I appreciate you more than words can express.
Here’s to living our best lives and embracing this exciting stage together. See you next time!