by Kerri MacFarlane | May 15, 2023 | Alcohol Free, Blog, Helpful Tips, Resources
Today is the day! Today is the day we are going to find out if you have a drinking problem…or not. Are you ready?
For Paul, when it finally sunk in that he did indeed have a drinking problem (and a good one at that!) two things happened.
First…he was like, “Oh F&#K!”
Then…immediately after, as this truth spread into his body, to his bones, to his conscious, his unconscious, to the heart, to the liver, something neat happened. An incredible amount of energy was instantly liberated.
For two reasons.
- The stigma or label of an alcoholic didn’t change who he was. He was still alive.
- But more importantly…all the energy, the incessant thinking he had of…
- Do I drink, or not?
- Do I have a problem, or not?
- How am I going to control my next session of drinking?
- How am I going to hide it?
- Let’s do our best not to black out before 8 pm.
- Do I have enough shitty box wine back home?
- Let’s not let people know we’ve already had 9 drinks before meeting up at the bar.
ALL of that went away instantly.
In fact the worst place a person can be with a drinking problem is in limbo. The do I or don’t I phase. (Paul covers this in Episode 417).
So for this diagnostic, we are going to use the test listed in the DSM 5, or the diagnostically statical manual which is what most psychologists and/or therapists have somewhere on their shelves.
There’s 11 YES or NO questions. If you answer YES to 2 of the questions, if you meet 2 of the 11 criteria, within the past 12 months, they call it an Alcohol Use Disorder.
- Do you sometimes have difficulty controlling how much you drink or for how long you drink alcohol?
- Have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down your drinking?
- Do you sometimes spend a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking?
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences at home, school, or work? (Have you ever lost time off work because of your drinking?)
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences to your relationships or social life? (Have you ever concealed how much you drink? Has anyone ever commented on your drinking?)
- Have you continued to use despite any negative consequences?
- Have you put off things or neglected to do things because of your alcohol use? (Have you ever disappointed your family or friends? Have you ever missed a family event?)
- Do you occasionally have strong cravings for alcohol?
- Has your tolerance for alcohol increased? Are you able to drink more than you did before?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms the next day after drinking? (Have you ever been shaky or sweaty that evening or the next day?)
- Has your alcohol use led to any dangerous situations? (Have you ever been charged with impaired driving?)
Paul has always strived to be a good student, and was “happy” to report a score of 100%. 11/11. For shits and giggles, let’s’ cover what it means if you didn’t ace this like he did.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
The presence of at least two of these symptoms means you have an AUD. If you have two to three symptoms, it’s considered mild; four to five symptoms is considered moderate; six or more symptoms is considered severe. (If you don’t fall into the severe category, a mild diagnosis can still warrant concern, as it may be the start of a larger problem.)
A couple things before we wrap this up. If you have a drinking problem, life isn’t over…in fact, it’s just beginning.
Some of you may have just learned you have a drinking problem. If this is devastating to you, go to Episode 411 where Paul talks about the grateful alcoholic.
Paul had one more bit of info in his notes from Episode 428 If you find yourself listening to a sobriety podcast (or reading this blog), and you’re not a therapist, a doctor, or listening so that you can support a loved one, then YOU have a drinking problem. If you question whether or not you have a drinking problem, you just answered that question. The bigger question is…what are you going to do about it?
***Taken from Recovery Elevator Podcast, Episode 428, host Paul Churchill***
by Kate Spalding | Apr 16, 2023 | Alcohol Free, Blog, Mocktail, Recipe
I hope I’m not disappointing my 4 readers (hi Roxanne, Robyn, Kerri and Trisha!) No mocktail recipe this month. But I will throw in my favorite homemade ice cream recipe as of late for a little change up. Lately my mocktails have been top secret as I’ve been writing one for a friend that’s getting married this month.
Being my reflective self, I realized that it 2 years ago exactly I hosted my first a mocktail class with Café RE. I’m really proud of myself for becoming comfortable enough with myself to be known as someone who makes mocktails. And not just mocktails, but delicious ones that people request.
We can say it, Sobriety is weird sometimes. How do you make friends? What do you do with your hands?
When does my “ASK MY ABOUT MY BEING SOBER” tee shirt arrive that is now a requirement to wear to all parties?
All of a sudden you can feel 14 again, but actually be 39. So figuring out who you are next can be hard and takes some time to get comfortable in a new skin. I liked to make and drink cocktails before I stopped drinking, so why should that stop just because there’s no more booze in my drink? Happy to be making cocktails still.
All that said and now here’s your recipe for this month.
Birthday Cake Ice Cream
Serves 1 (because Ice cream isn’t meant for sharing)
- 2 C heavy cream
- 1 C whole milk
- ¾ C sugar
- ⅛ t sea salt
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 t almond extract
- 1/4 cup sprinkles or jimmies
1- Pour 1 cup of the cream into a saucepan and add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Warm mixture over medium / low heat until the sugar has just dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the remaining cream, milk, and almond extract. Stir to combine and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
2- Once chilled Whisk mixture and pour into ice cream maker. Make according to manufacturer’s instructions. Last 5 minutes add sprinkles and finish churn.
Until next time!
Love and Mocktails,
by Kerri MacFarlane | Mar 15, 2023 | Alcohol Free, Helpful Tips, Science and alcohol
Let’s talk about dopamine!
If we are to properly discuss alcohol addiction we will soon come to the molecule dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter commonly coined as the pleasure molecule, but that’s not entirely correct. Dopamine is more accurately described as the learning molecule. However, it’s definitely a combination of both. Dopamine is the molecule that has kept us alive for thousands of years. It’s the chemical that drives us to eat, to find warmth, shelter, to find a mate, and puts a smile on our faces when we high five or hug another human being.
Another neat fact about dopamine is once we take action towards a goal, we get a little blast of dopamine. The human dopamine system is like a see-saw, as a dopamine hit brings about pleasure, and then is quickly followed by pain or a lack of dopamine. What goes up, must come down. This is to keep us motivated and it worked great when we were hunters and gatherers and we had to constantly search for our basic needs – food, water, and shelter.
But, in the modern world we live in a world of abundance rather than scarcity, and our brains have not evolved for the “fire hose of dopamine” of sugar, social media, TV, sex, drugs, ALCOHOL, or any number of dopamine-triggering stimuli so easily available.
In short, it could be said that in the modern era, we are all addicts running from fix to fix, which is a reason why on average people open their smartphones around 100 times per day averaging 2,600 swipes, taps, or touches.
Many of us reached a phase in our drinking when we no longer drank to feel good, instead we drank to feel “normal”. I know there are some heads nodding right now.
This is 100% tied to dopamine.
When we drink we open the flood gates to the dopamine system, and then the dopamine system tries to reset itself by creating a deficit the next day, or next couple of days. We then are even more motivated to reach for that drink to offset the treacherous feelings of the dopamine deficit. Think merry-go-round. 🎠
When people do cold plunges, or ice baths, it has the same effect on the dopamine system..but backwards. You experience the pain of the cold water first, then you get a rush of feel good dopamine. Cold plungers are chasing dopamine just like alcoholics.
Countless books have been written on what addition is and its causes. Most would agree it isn’t any one thing, but many things. One reason why some are more susceptible for addiction is based on the makeup of their dopamine system. We have nearly 8 billion humans on the planet and there are 8 billion different dopamine systems. We don’t all experience pleasure and pain the same. When we put our hands in front of a fire, we don’t all feel the warmth equally
It’s quite possible that those who struggle with addiction have enhanced dopamine receptors. Does everyone have the same experience when they take their first drink? Absolutely not. But one commonality that Paul has noticed after interviewing hundreds on the Recovery Elevator podcast is that when those of us that struggle with alcohol take our first drink there’s a light show going off in our dopamine system.
On the flip side, Paul has asked many normal drinkers what their first drink was like, and the common response was eh, it was okay.
This lends truth to the idea that those with enhanced dopamine receptors are more prone to addiction.
Let’s get real. We need that dopamine hit. As human beings after all, it’s what keeps us going, it’s what keeps us alive.
So what are healthy, or healthier, ways to get that dopamine hit? What is the best form of dopamine? Or perhaps the safest?
Well here’s a couple of ideas…
Intimate connection with other human beings. “We know that when we make intimate human connections, oxytocin binds dopamine, releasing neurons in the reward pathway and dopamine is released and it feels really good.”
The opposite of addiction is connection.
Radical honesty – Dopamine is released when we are radically honest with ourselves and others. Studies show that when we are honest about who we are, what we can and can’t control, a healthy amount of dopamine is released. (To be fair, dopamine is also released when we are dishonest.)
Here’s another thing to remember with dopamine. Neurologically, neurons that fire together wire together. When we drink we reinforce dopamine pathways related to alcohol making it harder for us to release dopamine in healthier ways.
If you’re looking for more info on Dopamine, I highly recommend the book Dopamine Nation, by Anna Lembke.
***Taken from Recovery Elevator Podcast, episode 415, host Paul Churchill***
by Kate Spalding | Feb 15, 2023 | Alcohol Free, Blog, Mocktail, Recipe, Resources
This past year I have been working for a large international women’s retail clothing store. I have the first hand knowledge of how fashion is coming back around… the good and the bad. The return lately has been to the fashion of the early 90s, grunge but with a little more sophistication and polish.
While I am not loving the low rise jeans that are back (can we please just not) and overalls, I am loving the return of Clueless and Cher’s plaid suit, slip dresses, a cropped sweatshirt and a good bias cut.
Having my head so firmly in the 90’s and a lot of time on my hands has led me to day dreaming back to that magical time as well. In my high school, before parents worried as much about what we ate during the day, I would buy a Snapple Kiwi Strawberry drink everyday for $1.25 and drink it with my lunch. Something sweet and tart at the same time really hit the spot.
I think I just heard the 3 people who
read this blog get really excited!!
They know where this is going!
Kiss from a Rose
Prep time: 15 minutes + cooling time
Ingredients Simple Syrup
- Handful of strawberries, rough chopped
- 2 Kiwis peeled and rough chopped
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- Seltzer of your choice
- 1t of balsamic syrup
To make the syrup
Add all ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil over medium head, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once boiling reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month
To make the cocktail
Add 1T of the simply syrup, add 1t balsamic syrup (try a berry flavored one) top with seltzer of your choice and stir.
The Recovery Elevator podcast last week was about the AF beverage (S4 / E416), go check it out and let us know where your feelings lie on this!
Love and Mocktails,
by Kerri MacFarlane | Jan 14, 2023 | Alcohol Free, Big Alcohol, Early Sobriety, Expectations, Resources
406 episodes of the Recovery Elevator Podcast were released before there was an intro with the main message being addressed to Big Alcohol. Why do you think that is? That’s a lot of Mondays to not tell Big Alcohol what we think, (or where to stick it 😈). Why wasn’t this addressed before episode 407: A Message to Big Alcohol…?
Well, like Paul said…we have limited time together and it feels like a better use of our time discussing how to build a new life that no longer requires alcohol, instead of fighting Big Alcohol, or fighting the past.
In fact, although you may not feel like it right now…if you keep moving forward, if you don’t quit quitting, and you keep doing the next right thing, one day at a time…you may just find yourself thanking Big Alcohol for giving you the life you have today. Crazy to imagine, right? I know it was for me. But it absolutely is true today. I am thankful for where my struggle with Big Alcohol has led me.
So here we are…let’s call out a couple of things regarding Big Alcohol, and maybe, there is a way we can work together.
First off, let’s get real for a second Big Alcohol. We both know your business model doesn’t survive off normal drinkers. Your lights are on, your doors are open, salaries are paid because of problematic drinkers…aka: alcoholics.
This is called the 80/20 rule in business and for Big Alcohol, it’s probably a 90/10 rule. This means that 90% of revenues are coming from 10% customers.
Let’s take a normal drinker. This is someone who buys a six pack of Coors Light, drinks 2-3 beers, and the remaining 3-4 cans sit in the refrigerator in the garage for the next couple weeks or months.
That is one type of customer.
Then take the alcoholic. This is someone who buys a 12, 18, 24, or 30 pack of Coors Light… daily. Where do you think your revenue is coming from? This question is rhetorical because they already know this.
Big Alcohol, we bring this up because there needs to be accountability on your part…and here’s some reasons why:
◾️Yes, it’s the individual who is drinking excessively, but the data and science support that alcohol is the most dangerous and addictive drug on the planet.
It kills more people each year than every other drug combined. An estimated 40-75% of occupied hospital beds have underpinnings to alcohol. In 2010, a Doctor named Dr. David Nutt, hired by the British government, was tasked to put a harm score on the world’s 20 most addictive drugs. Alcohol came in at #1. In 1958 the American Medical Association classified alcoholism as a disease.
◾️No amount of alcohol consumed is beneficial to the consumer.
This a myth that you, Big Alcohol, tries to perpetuate. In the Mid 2010’s the government funded agency the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) performed a study to see if alcohol consumption was good for you.
The answer was…YES. Say whattttt?? 🤯 However, it then became known the study was funded by Big Alcohol. No surprise the answer was yes! 🙄
In reality, no quantity of ethanol is good for you. The Huberman Lab Podcast has a fantastic episode about the effects of alcohol on your mind and body. The Stanford University Neuroscientists confirmed that no amount of alcohol is good for you.
◾️And let’s talk trash, garbage or waste.
A couple months ago Paul had new brakes installed on his vehicle and he rode his bike home from the mechanic after dropping off his truck. He took a scenic county road home for about 7 miles. While hugging the side of the road he was astonished by the amount of empty alcohol containers that littered the shoulder.
Keep in mind, this was in the part of the grass that had been maintained. Paul said he guessed there was triple or quadruple the amount of empty bottles and cans in the taller grass. (Now to be fair, he did see empty gatorade bottles, and trash that was not related to alcohol, but he said if he had to guess it was a 10/1 ratio.). Paul estimated there was an empty alcohol container every 100 feet (and that’s a safe estimate). With some easy math that put 52 bottles, or cans, every mile totaling over 350 pieces of trash on his 7 mile bike ride. That figure would be way higher if one were to walk through the taller grass.
This past October Paul did a retreat in Peru. One of their tasks was to pick up trash around a sacred temple about 20 miles outside of Cusco, which once was the capital of the Inca Empire. They filled about 4 trash bags, and again about a 10/1 ratio of alcohol containers to other trash.
Big Alcohol’s footprint is all over the globe; societal wreckage, physical disease, and in the form of excessive trash.
As human beings there is a goal that many of us share. That is to make this world a better place. 💚🌎
Big Alcohol, let me ask you this question, are you making the world a better place?
What impact are you having on society? On the fabric of family systems? Are you adding or subtracting to this world? Are you a net benefit? Or a net drain? What do you stand for Big Alcohol? Are you okay with your customers discarding your product waste into nature? Into my backyard? Into your backyard? Big Alcohol, your name, your brand, your message is on these containers that end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans. By all concerns you are still tied to the product, but you are not shouldering the burden after the monetary transaction has taken place.
This. Needs. To. Change.
As we all work on cleaning up our internal wreckage and chaos it’s time that you, Big Alcohol, start doing the same.
We here at Recovery Elevator are calling you out, Big Alcohol, to lean up your mess. A disproportionate amount of trash in nature is yours. It’s the RIGHT thing to do – to pick it up. We have a yearly service project at Recovery Elevator, and we’d love your help. Maybe take 1/2 a percentage of your marketing budget and help us out.
Big Alcohol, if you want to work with us, we’re open to it. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Kate Spalding | Nov 14, 2022 | Alcohol Free, Holidays, Mocktail, Recipe, Resources
Who else feels the last three months of each each really blend together…starting with Costume-palooza all the way through “New-Year-New-Me!”?
I love a good party just as much as the next person, but I also need to focus on the traditions that unique to my family. The holiday decorating has been happening earlier and earlier every year, and this year is no exception.
It becomes important to keep traditions.
I like to do most of our end of year things with a warm drink in my hand. Recovery Elevator was lucky enough to have Rise Up Coffee roast us a special Bozeman Blend this year and I used that in my recipe today.
This drink can be enjoyed hot or cold, but I almost always drink it hot. The dichotomy of cold whipped cream and hot coffee with a touch of malted flavor is something that reminds me of holidays at home.
All Snowed In (AF)
Prep time: 5 minutes
To make the drink
Combine all ingredients, stir, top with whipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy by the fire.
What are some traditions you keep and still love?