RE 451: What to Say to Someone Who is About to Drink

RE 451: What to Say to Someone Who is About to Drink

Episode 451 – What to Say to Someone Who is About to Drink

 

Today we have Grant. He is 54 from Sacramento, CA and took his last drink on August 10th, 2020.

 

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[02:16] Highlights from Paul:

 

We are five weeks into our Q & A series. This week’s question comes from Sarah C. “What can you say to someone, so they don’t drink?” Or how to help someone not drink.

 

Paul gives us some tried and true methods that work and strategies that the Recovery Elevator team believe in. Here are a few suggestions that Paul shares with us:

 

Tough love does not work, so a tone or stance of unconditional love needs to be present when confronting a friend who is about to drink.

 

Quick note about boundaries. Talking with people that are drunk can be triggering, and little can be done. Ask them to call you in the morning or when they are sober.

 

Being there with your presence, whether it is in person, via the phone or FaceTime, or Zoom, is the best thing you can do to help them. Holding space provides a safe container for the person to feel the feels, sit front and center with a craving and not feel judged or criticized.

 

You can also ask them about their “why”. Having them be clear on their “why” again is never a bad idea. You can also remind them that alcohol has been ruined. Drinking while knowing that alcohol no longer has a place in your life isn’t fun.

 

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[10:48]: Paul introduces Grant:

 

Grant is 54 and lives in Sacramento, CA. He is married and they have two young adult kids. He enjoys hiking and the area he lives in has a lot of nice places he explores. Grant works in research and public policy work in California and now focuses on addiction and recovery.

 

Grant says his first experience with alcohol was when he was 12. A friend had procured a bottle of brandy and they both ended up drinking to the point of going to the hospital. He drank through junior high and high school with a group of friends on weekends. The drinking continued in college, and he started trying other substances as well. Grant says there weren’t many consequences.

 

When Grant was in his 30’s after they had children, he found that alcohol helped him take the stress off. He quickly switched from beer to vodka that was easier to hide. He was succeeding at work which stressed him out more than he realized. He says it took some time but eventually he was drinking in the morning just to feel normal.

 

In 2019 someone from HR confronted Grant about smelling of alcohol and he told them that he was an alcoholic. He couldn’t admit it to his wife initially but started looking for outpatient treatment. He was able to quit for a time but relapsed after a painful experience with work which found him resigning and taking a new job with a pay cut. At this point Grant had joined Café RE and left home for a little while to live in a sober living house. He learned a lot while he was there and realized that he was going to have to do things differently.

 

After sober living, Grant started a home breathalyzer program to help him stay motivated. A meetup with fellow Café RE members gave Grant another turning point and realized that he was on the right path.

 

In recovery, Grant started volunteering with a non-profit in the addiction and recovery field. He also started listening to another recovery podcast where he shared information about addiction and recovery. He left to work for the non-profit called Shatterproof which helps people find treatment and recovery with their Treatment Atlas. Grant also has his own website about addiction and recovery – Sober Linings Playbook.

 

[53:19] Paul closes the episode with a poem from Peter, a Café RE member.

 

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RE 162: Things Your Addiction Will Say in Your Own Voice

RE 162: Things Your Addiction Will Say in Your Own Voice

“Your addiction will lie to you in your own voice.”

Your addiction will often appear to you as a voice in your head that sounds like your own rational thoughts.  It will tell you that it’s not really that big of a deal, that you are really in control or, in many cases, will conveniently wipe your memory (the ISM or “incredibly short memory”) so you won’t recall what a tough time you had getting through that last hangover.

Be on the lookout for justification phrases such as:

“But I didn’t really have a problem before”
“Everyone else drinks like I do”
“This next time will be different”
“I’ve quit once, I can quit again”
“The only person you’re negatively affecting is yourself”
“I’m cured! I just went [X amount of time] without drinking!”
“Everyone else is having so much fun”
“I got this.”

Stay vigilant in protecting your subconscious mind from thoughts like these and you will have an easier time avoiding relapse.  It’s much easier to stay sober than it is to get sober, and staying sober isn’t always easy.

Mike, with almost two years since his last drink, shares his story

 

SHOW NOTES

 

[8:05] Paul Introduces Mike.

Sober over 600 days.  37 years old, from California.  A professional musician that has worked in California, Boston and around China, as well.  He now lives with his girlfriend in Hong Kong.  Mike does for the show notes for each podcast episode.

 

[11:10]  You quit drinking and smoking at the same time?

Yes.  Smoking was getting in the way of his singing.  He read Allen Carr’s “Easy Way To Quit Smoking” and at some point he realized that he wouldn’t be able to quit smoking without quitting drinking.  He committed to 30 days.  Felt great so he kept going.

 

[13:58]  When did you realize you were going to have to quit drinking also?

 

When he moved in with his girlfriend.  He realized that his actions were having consequences that were affecting other people, and that if he really cared about this person and himself, he would have to clean up his act.   

 

[15:45]  What were the indicators that you had a problem with drinking and/or smoking?

He had a therapy session, and the therapist helped him realize that his problem was the drinking, and not what he had thought.

[18:27]  At that point, did you attempt to quit or moderate?

Yes.  Upon advice from his father, he tried to moderate his drinking by only drinking during work hours.  It was a form of torture as his whole day became centered around waiting for work to begin.  Eventually it lead to him breaking the rule and drinking all day for weeks.   

 

[20:23]  So the willpower technique was torture?

Yes.  While the rules were in place he found himself constantly distracted and thinking about drinking.  His brain was hijacked by both tobacco and alcohol.   

 

[22:40]  How did you get through those difficult cravings after you quit?

He started learning martial arts, and it gave him the tools he had been missing.  Previously, he had been using alcohol to relax intense feelings of anxiety or discomfort, but now he was able to use the techniques that he learned at the martial arts classes.

 

[24:25]  Was everyone kung fu fighting?

In Hong Kong, not as much, but globally, yes.. more people are practicing Kung Fu now than ever before.   

 

[26:54]  What do you do when the uncomfortable feelings or cravings come?

He focuses on the physical sensations of the craving.  He tries to keep his body from becoming static, and thus paralyzed by the craving.  He breathes, moves, walks, gets fresh air, whatever is necessary to keep the craving from tensing him up.

[29:19]  What is it like to continue working in the nightlife now that you’re sober?

When you’re still drinking, even the thought of trying to quit seems like an insurmountable task, but once you’ve quit and, inevitably, you change the way you see things, the environment in which you were in before is not what it seemed.

[32:30]  What’s on your sobriety bucket list going forward?

He’s interested in the physical activities he always turned down while he was drinking and smoking.  He wants to travel more and say yes to the things he said no to in the past.

[34:05]  What is it like to not have the addiction causing you to feel unsolicited fear?

It’s liberating.  There are so many positive experiences to be had in life.  Sobriety is an opportunity that begets other opportunities.

[34:53]  What is it like to be in recovery in Hong Kong?

 

He knows someone who has been to AA in Hong Kong but he hasn’t been to any meetings himself, yet.  He found solace in online resources, and he considers his online communities to be his recovery community.

[37:10] Rapid Fire Round

  1. What was your worst memory from drinking? 

    A really bad hangover in which he could barely function.

  2. Did you ever have an “oh-shit” moment? 

    His skype call with the therapist during which she pointed out that his main problem was probably drinking. Before that conversation with her, he had asked his friends about his drinking and they had all reassured him that it was normal.  She was the first one to point out that it was probably the cause of his issues.

  3. What’s your plan moving forward?To continue to set my priorities on health, not overdoing it, to take it a day at a time, never say that “I got this”, to stay vigilant and positive.
  4. What’s your favorite resource in recovery?The Recovery Elevator podcast, That Sober Guy podcast, Belle’s One Minute Message podcast. The Allen Carr books.
  5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received (in sobriety)? 

    To begin today. If you are suffering, definitely begin today.  Don’t be afraid, it’s better on the other side.

  6. What parting piece of guidance can you give listeners who are in recovery or thinking about quitting drinking? 

    To begin, to stay focused and to not beat yourself up.

  7. You might be an alcoholic if… 

    it’s ever an absolute emergency that you don’t have alcohol, and you find yourself planning accordingly.

 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Easy Way To Quit SmokingA quit aid by Allen Carr.
30 Day No Alcohol Challenge – A quit aid by James Swanick
Standing at the Water’s Edge – A book about creative immersion by Dr. Anne Paris
Connect with Cafe RE– Use the promo code Elevator for your first month free

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“We took the elevator down, we gotta take the stairs back up, we can do this!”

 

Staying Hopeful Through This Long Journey

Staying Hopeful Through This Long Journey

Today’s blog entry is from Ana.  Ana has been a member of Café RE since April 2023 and is an active and supportive member of her Café RE OG group!

Staying Hopeful Through This Long Journey

By:  Ana (Café RE OG)

Around 4 years ago, when I finally admitted I needed to tackle my drinking problem, I truly believed I wouldn’t be able to go a single day without alcohol.

It was scary.

It’s taken a lot of work; programs; books; podcasts; tears; failures; dollars; etc., but I’m pleased to say I’m on a good path to recovery.

Lately I’ve been feeling stuck though.

For the last 2 years or so, I’ve been trapped in the same cycle: I go about 3 months without alcohol. I don’t miss it; I hate it; I gag thinking of the taste. One day I get the nagging idea that I can drink moderately, like I used to.

I don’t want to go back to drinking, even in moderation. I just HAVE to prove to myself that I can, just one final time. I then try, it doesn’t work, and I end up back to square one with a new horrible story under my belt (I’m a binge drinker). It doesn’t make any sense – it’s my brain tricking me into drinking at all costs. 

It usually goes like this:

I haven’t drunk in months and I feel great, so I’m CERTAIN it will be different this time. I never go out and order a cocktail or a nice glass of wine though. I buy a pint of the cheapest vodka at the liquor store across the street; rush home; and take around 3 shots asap.

I tell myself it’s sort of the same amount as a martini, therefore I had just a martini, therefore I’m “normal” (nothing wrong with one martini, right?).

Or I’ll buy a single serve can of wine at the market downstairs. I’ll chug it as soon as I walk out of the market; can’t even wait the elevator ride back home.

I tell myself it’s one serving, one generously poured glass; therefore, I had just one glass, therefore I’m “normal”.

Obviously, nothing about this is normal. Most times, I succeed and stop drinking that day. This should be the proof I was looking for, so this should be the end of the story. But I wake up the next day feeling hungover; guilty; and defeated. I go to the market and chug a can of wine by 9 a.m. to numb the crappy feelings.

Sometimes that does me in; sometimes I go a couple more days playing with fire like this.

Eventually I ALWAYS lose control and end up in yet another life-altering, humiliating binge.

This is a cycle I haven’t been able to break yet, and I so want to change that. Today I was at that crossroads. On Wednesday night I had my 3 shots of nasty Skol vodka (my “martini”). Thursday morning I felt wretched, so I eventually caved and had chugged a can of wine by lunch time. I miraculously didn’t drink on Friday. On Saturday though, the nagging discomfort was unbearable. I had some vodka in the afternoon.

My boyfriend was picking me up at 6 to go to a party. The risk of him finding out I’d been drinking and ruining the evening and further damaging our relationship didn’t stop me from having a can of wine dangerously close to 6. I felt miserable at the party, trying to act normal and not get caught. I just wanted to come home so I could have another can of wine before bed. To my annoyance, when my boyfriend drove me home, he wanted to come upstairs and hang out. I couldn’t wait for him to leave (how sad), and I got my can of wine as soon as he left.

Today is Sunday. I woke up, you guessed it, hungover and depressed. Every Sunday morning I volunteer at an animal shelter. On a similar Sunday, I would’ve stopped at a Walgreens on my way and bought/chugged a can of wine. In the afternoon, I would’ve stopped at one of the many liquor stores I’ve memorized on my route home. And that would’ve been the beginning of a dreaded binge.

I kept thinking the eventual binge was unavoidable. I even wondered if I should just get it over with, instead of torturing myself. I had to try harder, do things differently.

I played an episode of the Recovery Elevator podcast on my way to the shelter.

I picked one titled “What to say to someone who is about to drink” – fitting, I thought.

The guest’s name was Grant. His story is very different from mine, but also VERY similar. It brought back lots of harsh memories, as well as many insights I needed to hear today. Paul and Grant praised the several guests who have gone on the podcast with around 2 months’ sobriety. It felt good to hear someone acknowledge how difficult and admirable it is to cobble up 2 months. But it also felt frustrating. I’ve been a “two-monther” for 2 years now; I desperately want to graduate to the next stage! You know, the one where it gets easier!

In AA they talk about one day at a time. Today was more like one hour at a time. The Recovery Elevator podcast and conscious shift in mindset helped, but the day still felt like an endless minefield. It was sad to drive past my liquor stores and not stop. One even had an open parking spot right in front, like it was meant to be! I stopped for gas and found myself browsing the wine/beer section (I bought a Gatorade instead). I sat in my car when I got home, considering walking to the market, or even the liquor store. 

I feel happy and relieved to report that I didn’t drink today.

I feel like crap, but I know tomorrow I’ll feel better thanks to today’s decisions, so I’m calling today a good day, a win. Abstinence is still my goal, so having broken my sober streak has me feeling defeated and upset.

But I have renewed hope: I did something different, and got different results. Maybe this is how I break the cycle.

 

RE 483: NA Beers

RE 483: NA Beers

Episode 483 – NA Beers

 

Today we have Tyler. He is 37 and lives in Phoenix, AZ. He took his last drink on November 28th, 2023.

 

Recovery Elevator welcomes Danielle Marr to the team! She now writes the bi-monthly newsletter for RE which always has journalling prompts at the end. She taught our DTB writing course this last fall and does Instagram posts a couple days a week. She was also interviewed on episode 464.

 

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[03:35] Thoughts from Paul

 

Paul shares with us the history of NA beers and how they were created to pacify the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers campaign back in the 90’s. The companies had zero intention of scaling this segment of their business and it has been said that the purposefully made the beer tasteless and bland.

 

Those days are gone. Non-alcoholic beer sales have been growing every year by 30-40% since 2019. Many of the major beer brands are investing time and money into creating their own NA products and there are more breweries popping up that are 100% dedicated to making an AF craft beer.

 

There is no need to explore the NA beer world in the early days of your alcohol-free life because it can be triggering. There is trace amount of alcohol in many of the NA beers (usually less than 0.5%) and you would have to drink 25-30 of them to reach the legal BAC. Check out this Instagram post where someone drinks several NA beers and stills blows zeros into a breathalyzer.

 

What the AF beer world exploding shows is that people are waking up to the fact that alcohol is not good for you and big alcohol sales are reflecting that. The stigma around alcohol addiction is also crumbling. We as consumers decide every move a business makes – start asking for more AF options at restaurants and grocery stores. Start asking and you will receive.

 

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[09:58] Paul introduces Tyler:

 

Tyler is 37 years old and lives in Phoenix, AZ and has a six-month-old daughter. He does maintenance for a homeowners association. Tyler is also a musician and enjoys performing, writing, and recording music.

 

Tyler had his first drink when he was in high school as simply a fun thing to do with friends. A health scare which ended up with tumor removal drove Tyler to feel he needed to live life to the fullest. He says his drinking increased as it was associated with having fun, and he discovered his passion for being a musician. That found him romanticizing alcohol, drinking more after gigs, and acquiring DUIs. Since a lot of people he knew had DUIs, it was considered normal and wasn’t taking seriously.

 

When he lost a close family member to cancer, Tyler says his drinking evolved from good and bad to ugly. He and his girlfriend went out often, and his drinking became more frequent both while out and while at home. Tyler had a lot of anger that would come out while drinking. These issues eventually found Tyler and his girlfriend splitting up.

 

Tyler started going to therapy and discovered that the loss of his aunt affected him more than he realized. He was able to process some of his anger and cut back on his drinking. He and his girlfriend got back together and six months ago their daughter was born. Tyler began to realize that his drinking was interfering with this new life and told his girlfriend he was ready to quit. At this time, he also reached out to a supportive cousin that has over 20 years in recovery.

 

Tyler says AA didn’t resonate with him, but books, podcasts and other peoples’ stories have been very helpful. He believes in recovering out loud.

 

 

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Playing The Tape Forward: A Foundation For My Sobriety

Playing The Tape Forward: A Foundation For My Sobriety

Today’s blog entry is from Johanna C.  Johanna has been a member of Café RE since September 2023.   Sha has been an active and supportive member of her Café RE Blue group and our Café RE chats!

 

Playing The Tape Forward: A Foundation For My Sobriety

By:  Johanna C. (Café RE Blue)

 

Through the course of a sobriety journey, we’ve become accustomed to the concept of building a tool kit. Stacking together concepts, ideas, and ways of coping that don’t include alcohol as a way to navigate to a better life and get closer to our true selves. 

 

There are sobriety phrases, some albeit corny or even annoying. 

 

For me, it’s the “grateful alcoholic” identity (ps I am getting comfortable with the word grateful as it relates to my sobriety journey). There may be one (or more) that are uncomfortable or downright piss you off. One concept that I learned from Paul & the Recovery Elevator POD, that still to this day, 3 months in (today, November 18th), on an extended 3+year effort towards an AF life, is playing the tape forward. Episode 356: Play the Tape Forward. 

 

 

It’s not so much a phrase, but a tool, a strategy.

 

A mechanism through which we can move through our addiction and keep saying YES to an AF life. Despite our time away from alcohol, there are moments or even extended periods of time when we feel like a life with alcohol isn’t so bad, that we can moderate. The fear of missing out is too great and the loss of that idealistic, glamorized life with a fancy glass of wine, a craft beer or a seductive cocktail with fancy elixirs mixed in, is what we want. It’s what we think we need to be complete. 

 

Or when the stress and sadness are too much, and we want to retreat into our safe space of numbing, alcohol is ready to accept that familiar role. The reality is, that space is not safe. There is no trust. It’s downright dangerous. 

 

And for those of us who have taken a step into the other side, regardless of sobriety time, see it. And the challenge now is to make it stick somehow. So…when we play the tape forward of what that life was like, it’s meant to stop us in our tracks and remember. Remember that all too familiar audio and visual representation of who we are when we’re drinking. The choices I made, the sick feeling I would feel, the events I would miss, the friends I would disappoint, the depression that would consume me – the list goes on. 

 

When we’re in it, we can’t see it. 

 

Of course, we experience and feel the booming headaches, the continuous, all-day nausea, the puffy face, the bloodshot eyes, the inner shame and fuzzy recollections of what occurred the night(s) prior.  I’ve come to realize, there is a strong sense of culture that paints that picture as an expected way of life. 

 

That it’s somehow funny to blackout.

 

Waking up not knowing what you did last night and that when we promise we’ll never drink again, it’s quite fine when we reach for the wine and wine glass the next weekend when happy hour hits. Social media is a breeding ground for insidious shit like that. We feel all of it and it sucks. But in the depths of alcohol and its tendrils that permeate every part of our being, when we’re using, it prevents any of us from seeing the other side. I’ve learned, in many ways, it’s chemically impossible. 

 

What playing the tape forward does is remind me. It grounds me. It calms me, in some way. For some, it terrifies them. It terrified me early on. It felt like there was too much to lose. 

 

Some of us feel like we would let our communities down. 

 

And now, after joining Cafe RE and participating actively for the last 2 months (I’m a newbie), in chats and outreaches to those who’ve lent a hand, I look at it this way: if I decide that drinking is most important now, as these feelings of re-inclusion come over me from time to time, then what does that mean? What do I have to give up? Who am I then? 

It means that I will not and cannot live authentically every moment of every day. 

That in a blink of a notice, if someone needs me, and I am drunk or drinking, I won’t be fully present.  Even though I may want to. It means that at some point, eventually, one glass will turn into bottles.  This will lead to paralyzing depression and anxiety, leaving me wondering, “How did I get here.” 

 

When we play the tape forward, we see the life we left.  We get the opportunity to choose an alcohol-free life every time.  A life of freedom and rid of the toxicity that drives us further and further away from who we really are.

 

Before I say this, please know that I am in no way suggesting to experiment.  The 8 months of “field research” that I engaged in after 1.5 years of sobriety in led me to the familiar line, “how did I get here (again)”.  It has taught me that it WILL eventually return to that point. It took some time, but I had reached that point, again, amidst a tragic loss. 

 

Alcohol fades our memories.

 

It dulls our feelings, loves us to live in gray versus technicolor. It feeds on us living in a depressive state. And that, I know (and we all know) is an indisputable fact. As I write this, I tear up with emotion. Reflecting on this 3+ year journey and the lessons it has allowed me to learn.   The space for me to, for the first time in my adult life, truly decide how I want to live.  And most importantly why I want to live that way.

 

I recently took advice from Laura McKowen, from her latest book ‘Push Off From Here.’ 

 

She writes about a practice she learned in therapy, a form of written visualization, where you play two different tapes forward (hmm… I thought there was only one…). Laura explains that you are to imagine a scenario where you would anticipate feeling that without alcohol/drinking, it would be incomplete, not fun, boring etc.

Then, with as much detail as possible, write each scenario out one at a time: one where you’re drinking as you would and one where you aren’t. Page 93 in Push Off From Here.

I chose Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Holy Shit was that wild. 

 

When I was drinking, those two days were ones that I would always regret, year in and year out. My first sober Christmas Eve and Day – a true milestone.  A moment I will always include in my preferred tape forward. Through this exercise, I was able to reflect on the tape that illustrates my life as an anxiety-ridden, unpredictable and obsessive drinker.  And then one where I am a present, joyful, thankful and gracious person.  One who loves spending time with their family during the holidays and cooking delicious meals, despite the stress it sometimes brings on. 

 

Writing it out, playing both tapes forward, as plain as day on paper, did wonderful things. It caused some things to shift. Mostly, it made space for me to be proud of the choice I’ve made to stay alcohol-free today.  It reminds me of the gifts it gives me each moment.  It empowers me to warrior on, closer to the person I already am. 

 

By Johanna C, 3 months sober (at the time of writing), most recent sober date August 18th, 2023. First ever sober date was June 22, 2020, a date I am proud of as well. I’ve been a member of Cafe RE since September 18th 2023.  That day was the day when I decided not to try sobriety alone 🙂

 

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