A layered cake. That’s what I picture when I think about the next couple months. The bottom layer is the upcoming holiday season. And during a ‘normal’ year the holiday season can be stressful because…
…because of feeling overwhelmed, not getting everything on your todo list done.
…because family. Nuff said.
…because your vision of what the holidays ‘should’ look like, looks nothing like what yours actually do look like.
…because what once looked so far away, the year’s end, is now right before your eyes…and you are still standing there with a list of unmet goals.
…because you’re lonely. You don’t do well in crowds. You’re exhausted. You’re broke.
Now take all that ‘normal’ year holiday stuff and add on another layer…a big fat layer of global pandemic.
Hold up…not done yet! Let’s go ahead and add one more layer…the “I want to stay sober through it all’ layer.
If you are newly sober, and this will be your first sober holiday season, you may be feeling a little (maybe a lot) nervous and anxious…that’s normal, and you are not alone. Stay with me here and we’ll get to some tips that can help.
For those of you that have some sober time under your belt, you know how good it feels, and what that inner freedom feels like, when you get through a holiday season alcohol free. These tips may help you too.
Self care is a must. You’ve ditched the booze! That’s a grande size of self care!! But there is more you can do in the self care arena, and taking care of your body, mind and soul is important during these stressful times. Healthy eats, plenty of water, enough sleep, physical activity, slowing down, stopping to breath, and making time for meditation. All very important and will help you get through the season. Here is a 5 minute meditation you can do anywhere!
Be mindful of what you’re drinking and thinking. (Not to be confused with ‘mindful drinking’, which is a movement I’ll explore in a later blog.) When headed to a social gathering or holiday party don’t go empty handed. Bring your own NA beverage or, if you know there will be NA options there get one right away. When you are prepared and have a beverage in hand people won’t be constantly asking you if you want a drink. Having a drink in your hand also helps you not look so awkward when you don’t know what to do with your hands.
Plan ahead. There are a number of simple things you can do ahead of time…before you get to the party…that will help reduce your angst. Drive yourself, so you can leave when YOU need to. Arrive late, leave early. Yes you are sober, but no that does not mean you have to be the designated driver, that can be triggering…drunk people are annoying (shocker!) and you may not like your drunk friends the next day. Have a friend or two on standby that you can call or text if needed.
You are going to be asked why, so have your response ready. “You’re not drinking? Why aren’t you drinking? For how long aren’t you drinking? You are never drinking again?!?!” They are going to ask…the questions will come. Because in this backwards society we live in, where drinking is the norm…if you decide to go alcohol free…you’re the odd one. You don’t owe anyone an answer. But not being prepared when this question is thrown at you can make the situation even more uncomfortable. Keep it short and simple if you want. “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Because.” The end.
Out with the old, in with the new…create new traditions. Change the setting. If you’ve always spent Thanksgiving dinner over at Aunt Mary’s…where you would have a little turkey with a lot of wine, then maybe you should offer to host the dinner at your house. Change the time. 4 pm Christmas dinner at the in-laws with all 20 cousins too much, try going over there for brunch. Do something completely different from your familiar holiday activities. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter or to walk the dogs at your local animal shelter. Giving and being of service is one of the best things you can do during the holidays, it helps you get out of your own head and focus on others.
First and foremost, make your sobriety your top priority, because it is. Every morning set your intention..tell yourself that you are not going to drink. No matter what. Eliminate the option of drinking altogether. Remind yourself why you made the decision to live a life without alcohol…and that your ongoing sobriety is the biggest, most important, gift of the season.
And always eat the cake.
Until next time, be well,
Kerri Mac 🤟🏽
In the year 1519, Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, ordered his men to, ‘burn the ships’. 🔥⛵️ His logic behind this wasn’t to go down in the history books as the conquistador loco that ordered his men to destroy his ships. Nope. It was to send a message to his men, a loud and clear message…
…there is no turning back…his men would have to conquer, or die.
Two years later, in 1521, Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec empire. HIs ‘burn the ships’ strategy worked! Although, guys! His men didn’t even really burn the ships, they sunk them! 😱🤯 And that fun fact, my friends, wraps up our history lesson.
But there is a life lesson in this story that I do want to talk about. The story about Hernán Cortés, in its simplest form, is really just about commitment.
Retreat is easy when you let yourself have the option.
On February 15th, 2019, while attending my very first Recovery Elevator event, Nashville LIVE…I hit 100 days sober. I can remember how excited I was when I did the math and realized I would be there on that day. But I was also terrified! Flying across the country, alone, to go meet members from my online recovery community, that I only knew from Facebook…was stepping way outside of my comfort zone. It was scary, I was so nervous I almost canceled the trip. Strangers scared me. People scared me.
At that point in my sobriety, counting days was very important to me. There were days, even weeks, in the beginning, when counting those days was all I could focus on. But that got me to day 100. The first day 100 in many, many years.
Knowing myself, and finally being honest with myself, I knew that I would have to do something more than count days and read quit lit if I was going to make it another 100 days. I needed more accountability and I was going to have to get uncomfortable. So I bought that plane ticket to Nashville. And I secretly made plans to publicly share my milestone of 100 days sober on social media.
It’s not just a coincidence that my 100th day fell 100 days after my (last🙏) rock bottom moment. I’m not going to go into anymore of my story right now, if you’re curious you can listen to my interview – Recovery Elevator Episode 255.
When it came time to press “Post” I was a mess of sweaty, shakey, nerves. Even admitting to the people that knew, from personal experience, of my drinking problem was hard. I was embarrassed, filled with shame and guilt. My anxiety was still at an all time high, almost paralyzing at times.
There is this stigma associated with addiction, and too often it keeps people from admitting they have a problem or from seeking help. The word ‘alcoholic’ brings up images of a person living under a bridge, drinking from a brown paper bag.
I often felt damaged, defective, less than. I knew that in order for me to move forward in life, to break the cycle I had been on, that I would have to do something drastic.
This public post on Facebook was my ‘drastic’. 👉🏽
I have never regretted posting it. As I started getting the notifications from comments and likes I was afraid to go read them. When I finally did I wanted to cry. Happy tears. 😭 Grateful tears. I was overwhelmed and speechless by all the positive, encouraging, supportive and ‘I can relate’ messages that I got. I was shown nothing but love.
This single scary ‘burn the ships’ post 100 days in busted down the door and has made it easy for me to continue to share my journey. Using my story and my voice helps keep me in check, and it helps others know that they are not alone.
Fast forward to today…In the few days before sitting down to get these words out I was doing a lot of thinking about my 100 day post, trying to remember the way I was feeling, what emotions I was experiencing. What quickly came to mind was how scared I was. Putting yourself out there like this, being vulnerable like this, is scary. And once it’s out there…once that ship has been burned…it can’t be unburned! But that’s the point, right? I knew I had no other choice, I had to take action. If I didn’t, nothing would change. Even though I really wanted to get sober and live a life without alcohol, I was too scared to leave the comfortable and familiar. Burning the ships gave me the courage, strength, and the push, to step into a new life.
Have you burned your ships? Or do you always give yourself a way out?
It doesn’t have to be a public blast on social media like I did. That was a level 5 on the Burnometer! 🔥
There are different levels of burning the ships. Start with level 1, work your way up! They all will help establish another layer of accountability for you.
Level 1: Someone you don’t know well. This could be a store clerk, a barista, a friend from book club, but not a stranger.
Level 2: Someone you consider a friend, or who you have regular monthly interaction with. This is an acquaintance from the gym, a neighbor, restaurant employee.
Level 3: This is someone you interact with on a weekly basis. Co-worker, good friend, running partner, or hiking friend.
Level 4: Meeting with a close group of friends, family, spouse, in person conversation. Immediate family.
Level 5: FB Live, Podcast, Social media post, family meeting, airplane with banner in the sky.
I challenge you to pick a level above, find someone that fits the description…and burn baby burn. 🔥
Please come back and share your experience with me!
Until next time, be well.
👋🏽 Hi, my name is Kerri Mac. Some of you may know me, but I’m betting that most of you don’t. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog, my very first blog.
How did I end up here, writing a blog for Recovery Elevator? Well, I like to think of it as though I graduated. Two years ago I started writing the show notes for the podcast. And now, here I am…writing blogs. I have been a member of Café RE for over 2.5 years and that has changed my life. But that’s enough about me, for now. 😉
I want to talk about the benefits of quitting drinking. And not the obvious ones, like the health benefits or the money and calories saved. No, I want to go a little deeper, and more niche…and I want to make a list…because who doesn’t like a list?
Let’s call our list, The Top 10 Benefits of Quitting Drinking. Catchy, right?!
Here we go…
1 – Your authentic self will begin to emerge. I say begin, because this isn’t a one and done thing, and it takes time. That’s what recovery is, recovering the person you were meant to be and giving the inner child permission to come out and play again. This authentic self fully recognizes that the mind makes life out to be way more serious than it actually is. In fact, don’t forget Rule 22, lighten up and never take yourself too seriously. When you ditch the booze there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself rolling sideways down grassy hills.
2 – You’ll have the chance, the opportunity, to find out why you’re using alcohol to dull that internal discomfort. We’re talking about getting at the roots of this discomfort. No quick fixes or fads, but doing some serious soul work where we make that long journey from living in the head to the heart. This one isn’t so much a benefit, but a life mission and why we’re here.
3 – You’ll begin to find out who you aren’t. Ahhh, you thought I was going to say find out who you are, didn’t you? Nope. And in terms of finding out who you are, I encourage you to rid yourself of this lifelong pursuit because when we quit drinking, the opposite happens. We find out who we are by a series of finding out who we aren’t. Do you dig? Does that make sense? The “who we are” will organically be uncovered by a sequence of revelations of who we aren’t. For example, I’m not a girl who likes to stay up until 2 am and sleep in late, quiet early mornings are my favorite. It’s more common, than not, to find me awake at 4:00 AM…journaling or meditating. You’ll learn you’re a strong person, deeply rooted in this world, who doesn’t need an external substance to feel good internally. Those days will be gone. Hasta la vista, baby! ✌🏽
4 – You’re open to signs from the universe. Whether you believe they are coming from God, Allah, galaxies, the willow tree in your front yard, or your neighbor Tim, you won’t miss them because you’re drunk or hungover the next day. Hooray! 🤸🏽♀️🤸🏽♀️
5- You can see the insanity of the mind. The Hindus called the natural dysfunction of the mind Dukkha, Buddhists call it maya and Christians call it original sin. You’ll also be able to take a step back, become the observer of the mind, and recognize this insanity. Here is what you’ll be able to see. Studies also show that of the 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts we have a day, 90% of them are equal or the same as the day before. 💭
- It’s these repetitive thoughts that always drive you to make the same decisions.
- It’s these familiar decisions that always lead to the same actions.
- It’s these familiar actions that always result in the same outcomes
- It’s these same outcomes that constantly result in the same emotions
- And these familiar emotions give you those familiar feelings.
- And it’s these feelings that always lead to the same thoughts – thereby completing the cycle. You can now recognize this and will be empowered to change your thinking.
6- Your brain will start to produce regular amounts of Melatonin again. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and simply lets your body know that it is night-time so you can relax and fall asleep. There’s an important word in there. It helps us RELAX when our outer environment says it’s time to relax. Studies show that regular alcohol intake drastically reduces the amount of natural melatonin the body produces which, as you can imagine, does a number on your sleep! 💤
7 – Welcome back Oxytocin, or the connection molecule. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. It may also have benefits as a treatment for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety and intestinal problems. This is the molecule that allows us to build altruistic relationships with other human beings. When oxytocin is present in the body, we are living more in the heart area and less in the thinking mind. Studies show that pregnant women who have higher levels of oxytocin bond more strongly with their babies after they are born according to a 2007 study in the journal Psychological Science.
8 – You’re part of something MUCH bigger. We all want to feel like we’re contributing to something, that we are adding to a project or goal and making this world a better place. People are ditching the booze more than ever these days and this global movement takes warriors like you. The bigger picture is that we are no longer looking externally for inner comfort. That’s really what is taking place, and you’re a big part of raising the consciousness on the planet. In fact, when we struggle with addiction we think we are in the back of the line in terms of success and achievement, but in reality, we are the ones who are forced to look within and make HUGE life changes. We are paving the way for others.
9 – You stop hoping. Yep, hope is the problem. When we are hoping for something to change, be it our inner emotional state, the weather, or whatever…then we stop denying what is. This incessant hoping for something to be different drives addiction and is doing a number on humanity. The Buddha noticed this 2500 years ago in Lumbini, now modern day Nepal, when he links all human suffering to craving or hoping for something to be different. That guy was so far ahead of his time.
10 – You’ve got a chance to work on the one big lesson you signed up for in this lifetime. There’s a theory that you’re supposed to work on one major issue in this lifetime. Mine is connection. For others this can be letting things go, loving yourself, standing up for yourself, showing unconditional love to others, forgiveness, self-sabotage, facing fear, patience, shame, regret, and the list goes on. When our veins are flowing with alcohol, there’s no chance we’ll build the internal circuits around these issues. And there’s another theory, that if we don’t get to it in this lifetime, then well, you’ll start again next life. So why not get started now and start tackling the number one thing that is holding us back.
These types of lists are hard. It could easily be the top 100 benefits of sobriety. I challenge you to create your own list and then another one when you hit another milestone. Go back and see how they have changed. The first time I did a list like this, most of mine were external, now they are mostly internal. We are constantly evolving and changing as we walk this journey.
Until next time, be well.
I’d like to zoom out a bit and talk about the journey for a moment. There is no one size fits all approach to ditching the booze, but I think most of us can agree, there can by trying times. You often hear on the Recovery Elevator podcast from myself and interviewees how incredible a life without alcohol can be, which I can attest to. Still, the pathway can be complicated at times, and for reasons unknown, more challenging for some.
There is a comfort knowing you’re not alone. That you’re not the only person on the planet, who struggles with alcohol, which is how I felt when I first began my journey early last decade. There is also a comfort knowing that collectively, people find this pathway hard. The pains and painful moments are all part of it, and you’re not alone. Keep in mind, of the roughly 100,000 genes we inherit, not of them is the addiction gene, and you can reverse this progression.
Right now, since you’re reading this, it places you in the ring. You’re an active participant in the game of life. You’re in the center of the ring, and not up in the grandstands observing. And you’re an absolute badass, for purposefully placing yourself in this ring where there’s a good chance, almost certain chance, you’re going to get dirty. Smacked, kicked, punched, rolled over on, and a lot of other unpleasant things. This isn’t you saying, well, I’m open to failing, it’s you saying, I’m going to fail as many times as I need to be successful.
I admire each and every one of you for consciously choosing the enter the ring. Seriously. It’s impressive. I applaud all of you for continuing to listen to the podcast even if the message hasn’t quite “hit home” yet.
Now, to be fair, by electing to be here, living life on planet earth places you in the ring, so everyone is more or less in the ring. But your decision to move forward in life without alcohol, to address what’s holding you back in life, places you in the center of the ring and not way up in the upper decks as an observer. Your conscious decision to depart from the booze, from what provided relief, from what used to make your job, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, winter, your neighbor Tom, and individual relationships bearable places you front and center of the ring.
You might be saying, “wait a second Paul, I haven’t told anyone about my decision to quit drinking.” Well, even if the only ship you’ve burnt is with yourself, which is where it starts, you’ve still taken the most essential step in your life. This is what makes you brave… courageous… valiant… daring… vulnerable… adventurous… and a bold leader.
Now you may have heard courageous and vulnerable in the same sentence, and that’s no coincidence because they are the same damn thing. And Deep down, you know, the only way out is through. And to go through, you get cracked open, in the most beautiful of ways. It’s almost like a vulnerable sandwich. First, we must be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Then we must be courageous again to address the vulnerable parts. The vulnerability sandwich. I like it, I will personally be adding some horseradish mayo or honey mustards. I’m a huge sauce guy.
Now let me describe what the ring looks like… Imagine a bull ring from Spain. One that Ernest Hemingway would write about in the “Sun Also Rises.” When you stop running, turn, and face your fears, you just made the conscious decision to place yourself in the center of the ring. Now, as I said before, everyone is in the ring, but you just came down from row 55, which is near the top and are now inside the ring. You can still get shoved around while sitting in the top row of the stands, and there’s a slim possibility you’ll to confront a bull, but by sitting way up there, you’re well in the comfort of your comfort zone.
Apart from the occasional shirt getting launched up there from a t-shirt cannon, not much happens. It’s a bunch of people who are living behind screens which have mighty thumbs and can type whatever they want. Up there, where you used to be, It’s called the sidelines of life. Where all you have is talk, inaction, and empty goals. How does that saying go? Talk is inexpensive? Talk is a bargain? Talk is of lesser quality… Talk is cheap. Got it.
So here you are, inside the ring. You look down to find your shoes are covered in dust. You suddenly feel smaller. Things don’t smell quite right. And you see large bulls running around. You see swords, bows, and arrows, spears, dinner parties where alcohol is flowing freely, your best friend Aaron is offering you a vodka cranberry. You don’t have things figured out. You recognize it’s only a matter of time before you get your ass kicked.
As I mentioned last episode, it’s not about avoiding these ass-kickings in life; it’s about getting up and back into the ring. I think I’ve done a fair job of accurately describing what this journey will be like. I cover this specifically in episode 250 titled “Is Sobriety all Unicorns and Rainbows.” Sure, after alcohol, a new life awaits, one without crushing hangovers and self-loathing, but when in the ring, there will be challenging days. Moments you don’t think, keyword think, you’ll be triumphant, but you are. You find the strength because it’s there. I know it’s there. It always has been.
Let me read one of my favorite quotes of all time for you. One that I had framed and hung up on my wall before the very FIRST episode of Recovery Elevator podcast dropped on February 25th, 2015. I remember looking up at the framed quote on the wall, them uploading episode 001 to iTunes and then said to myself, “Oh shit, here we go.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt.
I think Teddy does a damn good job of summarizing just what level of Ninja status you’re at. You’re in the ring, which is all that matters. Now the thing you’re probably saying to yourself is this. “Teddy’s right. I don’t care what others think about me.” Say it to yourself, it sounds good. It feels good. But how come when we get criticism, it usually stirs up a whirlwind of emotions in some part of the body? You’re like hang on, I just told myself, I don’t care what others think about me, but how come there’s a knot the size of a grapefruit in my solar plexus? It’s because we’re wired as human beings to care.
We are genetically hardwired to care what others think about us. The reason why is we need a tribe. We need a community to survive. Okay, so here’s where I can add comfort. Criticism is normal. In fact, it can be a barometer knowing you’re on the right path. How does it go? Haters gonna hate, hurt people hurt people… Blah to them. We’ve covered countless ways on this podcast to stay grounded, to no let others affect your energy, but let’s be honest, some of it still hurts. It always will, and that’s alright. Allow yourself to feel it, and I can promise you with a capital P, alcohol will only create another, more ferocious critic.
Now, who’s the critic? Who’s the person saying you’re not worth it, or you don’t deserve this, or don’t even try because you’ll never make it? It’s not who we think it is. Stick with me for a second here.
The spectator, or the critic we’re thinking about, the one we imagine sitting in the stands, heckling from above, in the comfort of their seat, is mostly quiet. Why? The spectator respects you, admires you, is almost envious of you… for your decision to be the most authentic version of yourself because deep down, they want the same. They want you to succeed. Sure, you may get the occasional cackle or low blow from above, but even they are saying, “go, go, get back up and get it, girl. DO it. Show us how. Lead the way.” They all want you to find traction on this journey.
The loudest critic
So who is the critic when you’re in the ring grappling with alcohol? Who is the one that places the most seemingly impenetrable walls on your path? Wait for it… It’s you. I’m 99.99% sure the worst critic is you. The constant voice hurling those vitriolic painful volleys and insults is coming from you, or the voice inside your head.
So this is good news. You can’t control disapproval from the outside, and well, you can’t really control the thinking on the inside either, but with awareness, you start to rewire this inner critic to be your inner cheerleader. Your biggest fan. A coach when you need it most.
The way you do this is becoming more conscious than ever of the unconscious self, and when thoughts come across the mind that says, “Michelle, let’s not even try, we won’t make it.” Say, “thank you for your input,” That’s it. That’s the equivalent of a tomahawk throw into an opponent in the ring. With awareness, and one departure from those unhealthy thoughts at a time, you begin to tune out this critic, you stand tall. You move forward in life without the poison called alcohol.
You can do this, I know you can. You’ve been doing the heavy lifting for quite some time now. You are up to this task, I know you are. Come on, we both know you are. Being in the ring is scary at first, terrifying, but with time, you’ll find comfort there. Even enjoy it. Welcome it. All of it.
Keep in mind, you’re the one with dust on your face, or for us, sometimes with puke in your hair. It’s you that’s in the ring, not the external critic. You’re the relevant one.
Keep trying, you’re so close
Check out this video of this you gal who can’t be more than 4,5 or 6 trying to jump up onto a block. She keeps trying and keeps failing. This block is hitting her in the chin, she’s falling over, but she keeps getting back up into the ring. And then, after heaps of jumps, she gets it. Just like you will.
I got the idea for this episode after I got a couple of emails from listeners who were ready to give up. To accept defeat and exit the ring entirely and surrender to a life of drinking and misery. HANG WITH ME. I’m going to ask the readers a question.
Was there ever a moment when you could have sent that same email when you were ready to quit? Hang on,,, okay, every single reader who has ditched the booze or is in the process just nodded their head. SO, if this is how you’re feeling at the moment, know it’s completely normal, some call it the dark night of the soul. Which means you’re so close. So promise me to stay in the ring, for as long as it takes. Do you know who else is in the ring with you? Me, and let me tell you, the other side… is much closer than you think.
I was in a bookstore at the airport the other day and noticed a trend while looking at the top twenty best sellers. There were several books with clear, unambiguous titles. Our society collectively is starting to wake up and is looking for ways to unfuck themselves. These are the book titles I saw that were all clumped right next to each other.
UnFu*ck yourself by Gary John Bishop
I used to be a miserable Fu*ck by John Kim
Calm the Fuck down – Sarah Knight
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Mark Manson
After a quick Amazon search, I found several more books with similar titles such as
Unfuck your Brain by Faith Harper
Unfuck Yourself by Zoe Swain
I’m currently writing a book about alcohol addiction, and I’m not 100% sure of what my book title will be, but it may have the words unfu*ck yourself somewhere on the cover. I want to be clear, I had this written down on my list of potential book titles for a long time, not just because I saw a bunch of these titles in the airport:) The title at this moment is Alcohol is Shit | but it’s also the invitation. Below that title, it will say either, “control alcohol from the inside out” or “Unfuck yourself from the inside out.” Not sure yet. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All these books, including mine, isn’t fulfilling a niche or a trend, they are representing a movement that can no longer be ignored. There’s a consciousness on this planet that is starting to say, hang on a second, this isn’t working. Those of us who struggle with addiction, sometimes think we’re the only ones who reach a rough spot on life. Not true, everyone does, and we’re reaching a critical mass, especially in America. On a global scale, people are starting to say, timeout, hold the phone, the formula that I was told to follow in life, isn’t yielding the fruits I was promised.
I recently read an article titled the Age of Anxiety in the New Republic that sheds light on this movement.
According to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder in a given year; over 30 percent experience an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes. And the rate is rising: The American Psychiatric Association, in a May study drawing from a survey of 1,000 American adults, diagnosed a statistically significant increase in national anxiety since 2017.
Please read carefully. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. Right now, at this moment, there’s nothing wrong with you. Never has been and never will be. Take a deep breath; we are okay. This anxiety is a good thing and shouldn’t be labeled in some diagnostical statistical manual as bad because this collective state of unrest will eventually show us the way.
According to the article in the New Republic, this jittery national mood has given rise to what Rebecca Jennings at Vox has dubbed “anxiety consumerism”—the rise of a plethora of products, from fidget spinners to essential-oil sprays, to weighted blankets. These weighted blankets were initially developed for people with autism and PTSD as self-administered hugs, to give the sensation of an embrace, but sales for these blankets have gone through the roof, and everyone is buying them. Perhaps the most well-known product to fall into this anxiety consumerism category is alcohol. Just about everyone on the planet right now needs a big hug.
Who is going to initiate this hug?
Those who struggle with addiction are the trailblazers in the collective unf*ck yourself movement that desperately needs to happen. Not just for those who grapple with addiction to alcohol, but for everyone. As a global community, we’re starting to see what’s not working and alcoholics were the first to see it. We are leading this movement and will eventually be the ones who hold the door open for the rest of society. Let that last sentence sink in for a second. You and me. We will be leading the global unfu*ck yourself movement for everyone. Not just those who struggle with addiction.
I drank a lot of alcohol. Alcohol caused a lot of damage in my life. Was any of it good? Was I able to at least get some nutritional value from $14 beer night? Well, let’s take a look.
Alcoholic beverages primarily consist of water, pure alcohol (chemically known as ethanol), and variable amounts of sugars and carbohydrates; their content of other nutrients, proteins, vitamins, or minerals is usually insignificant. Because they provide almost no nutrients, alcoholic beverages are considered “empty calories.” It’s safe to say a Twinkie has more nutritional value than any alcoholic drink, and it’s common knowledge that Twinkies are terrible for us. The good news is none of us lack any dietary components by not drinking. Alcohol is still shit.
Let’s talk calories for a second. 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories compared to 4 calories per gram of proteins and carbs, and 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories. Again, those are 7 hollow calories because the body never uses them.
Let’s find out what these calories are doing to us over the long haul.
1 12 oz. can of beer = 154 calories. 1 glass of wine around 125 calories and 1 whiskey coke has 180. Let’s average the three and use 153 calories per drink. Let’s say we average 5 daily drinks which equates to 765 meaningless calories per day. 5,355 per week and 278,460 per year. 1 pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, so this is close to 80 pounds of excess garbage the body must deal with.
Another snippet to drive this point home, 1 pint of beer contains roughly the same number of calories as a slice of pizza. But it’s not even apples to apples, because even though the slice of pizza isn’t the healthiest option, the pizza still contains some vitamins, minerals, and calories the body can use for energy. A pint of beer, not so much. If we average 4 pints a day, this is 1,460 slices of pizza per year, and I hope there’s at least pineapple on that pizza. I know I just lost some readers with that pineapple comment.
The human body is impressive, but it does not digest the calories from alcohol efficiently. What does efficiently burn alcohol? That would-be machines, cars, airplanes, motorcycles, generators, you get the point. The metabolism of alcohol is a complex, multi-stage process that takes place mostly in the liver and kidneys, not in the intestines, where normal digestion occurs. More significant to the current discussion, alcohol is almost never fully metabolized, but instead excreted as acetic acid, because it’s a toxin that the body wants to get rid of. When we binge drink, some of this is permanently deposited in the brain and stored as acetaldehyde.
Let’s talk about timing and when these calories are burned.
Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat, explains Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of the book “The Hunger Fix.” The reason is that your body can’t store calories from alcohol for later use, the way it does with food calories. For example, when we consume something high in calories like a hamburger, the body will way say, whoa, this is a lot of calories, this is more than I can handle at this moment, I’ll save some of this for later. The body can’t do this with alcohol. So when you drink, your metabolic system must stop what it’s doing (like, say, burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze. “Drinking presses ‘pause’ on your metabolism, shoves away the other calories, and says, ‘Break me down first!'” Peeke explains. The result is that whatever you recently ate gets stored as fat. What’s worse: “Research has uncovered that alcohol especially decreases fat burn in the belly,” Peeke adds. “That’s why you never hear about ‘beer hips’ — you hear about a ‘beer belly.'”
Why do we get uncontrollable hunger when we drink?
Alcohol impairs inhibitory control, which leads people to eat more. There is evidence that alcohol can influence hormones tied to feeling full. For example, alcohol may inhibit the effects of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and other hormones that inhibit food intake. According to one study, neurons in the brain that are generally activated by actual starvation, causing an intense feeling of hunger, can be stimulated by alcohol. Bring it on 2 am Taco Bell run.
Let’s talk about a decreased appetite malnutrition.
Stay with me for a second. Over time, chronic alcohol abuse and alcoholism can take a severe toll on a person’s appetite and nutrition levels. Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable molecules by decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines, and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. Also, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems. For example, folate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients, including glucose and sodium.
The NIAAA reports, “Even if nutrients are digested and absorbed, alcohol can prevent them from being fully utilized by altering their transport, storage, and excretion.”
After a while, the body, instead of working overdrive to properly digest what we consume, it hits the off switch on the appetite. I experienced this after about 10 months into owning my bar in Spain. At first, I would make a late-night stop at the pizza shop, but eventually, I found myself forcing calories into my body. I had entered the malnutrition phase of the addiction cycle. I found that it took about a week for my appetite to return once I quit drinking.