ACT #7 Parenting (Stress)

Annie Grace invites an experiment in Alcohol Free Living.  It’s been a couple weeks and today’s reading asked me to gain…

Awareness – Clarity – Turnaround of the statement: “I need a drink to handle my kids”.

I have three kids who are all old enough to drive.  Which makes them all able to have access to alcohol and drugs (and inhalants…and sex…and) – which could stress out any parent enough to “Drive them to Drink”.

This actually gave me an easy out in social circles to NOT drink.  At any given time, I might have to go out and “parent”.  {Grateful for the July evening when we were cold sober and got the call from the local police that our ‘driver’ was pulled over in a grocery store parking lot for a “teen prank”}. Not sure how that would have all gone done if neither of us was too drunk to drive to meet all of them.

I’ve been lucky.

I have been intoxicated with kids in the house…but thankfully (on my knees in gratitude to my guardian angels)… I have not been called on to have to “sober up quickly” to get my kids necessary life sustaining care.  I wasn’t necessarily responsible and aware ten years ago… I was just lucky.

{With cheeks red in shame, I did pack up my toddlers and drive home drunk one night…it still haunts me as to the all the ways that could have gone so many shades of shit show…including—most likely—losing my kids to social services had I been pulled over}

I do worry about how my actions model “adulting behaviors” for my kids.  I don’t want them making the same mistakes I made in my teens and twenties.

I’ve had a lot of this on my. mind for the past few years.  I am still trying to wrap my brain around how to tell them that what they have watched me do in social situations – Is NOT responsible adulting…. without preaching, or appearing to judge my peers – the adults- they have grown up with.  It’s sorta messy.  I’m pondering all of it.

For now it’s time for Turnaround:

  • I do NOT need drinks to handle my kids.
  • Drinks do NOT make me a better – less stressed – more attentive parent.
  • Alcohol robs me of being 100% present with my family.
  • Liquor DOES NOT teach my kids to be a happy person.  I do not want that for them.
  • Numbing myself…means I am numb for the people I love.
  • Alcohol creates STRESS it does not relieve it.

 

 

ACT #6 Alcohol and Health

Alcohol is NOT healthy in Moderation  

Over the years, decades, centuries…. alcohol in moderation has been marketed in my country. The United States passed a prohibition law in January 1920.  One of the most notable things learned from it is that people will do almost anything to drink AND distribute it to eager participants.

Even in the past ten years, it seems that there has been a pendulum of health claims to support moderate consumption.  I even went as far as joining a “Health Conscious Wine Club” that finds wines around the world that are sugar free, sulfite free, perserverative free…cause that’s the problem with wine (insert sarcastic snarl).  Nevermind the fact that alcohol is pure ethanol, “which is extremely toxic…”.  In 1988, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared alcohol a carcinogen in 1988.

It took 30 more years for a global study to announce that there is NO safe level of drinking. Not a sip, not a fractional ounce.

2018 NPR Article: No Amount of Alcohol is Good For Your Health, Global Study Says

2018 Time Magazine: A New Study Says There’s No Amount of Healthy Drinking

Why are there no disclaimers in alcohol ads?  There are for every other drug ad.

“In a study of harmful effects of 20 drugs, alcohol came in as the most dangerous drug.  It’s more harmful than heroin or crack cocaine when you look at the ratio between toxicological threshold [or how much it will take to kill you] and estimated human intake.” (Grace, p 111)

Besides the organs in the body… there are alcohol related injuries and the mental health depletion.

The Impact of Alcohol Related Injury

Scholarly Articles for Alcohol and. Mental Health Decline

The Role Alcohol Plays in Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

 

ACT #5 Alcohol and Happiness

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Let’s just get right to the TURNAROUND is this ACT…

ALCOHOL DOES NOT MAKE ME HAPPY

As a matter of fact it makes me STUPID, LAZY, FAT….SAD, ASHAMED, REGRETFUL…and lists of other negative words.

The ACT-5 Activity encouraged me to Try the Happiness Experiment. 

“The world’s leading happiness researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, says the 10 most positive emotions that combine to create the emotions we call happiness are”…(p. 101)

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Amusement
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

On a piece of paper (really write it down), consider each emotion, one at a time, and consider all the ways alcohol increases joy in my life.  Then write down all the ways alcohol robs me of joy in my life.  How does alcohol add the emotion, how does it take it away?

Click to View happiness_exercise_pdf

Annie finishes this exercise with these facts:

  • Research shows only 10 percent of overall happiness comes from external things- Things don’t make us happy.
  • 90 percent is from our internal environment.
  • We have the power to make changes to make ourselves happy.
  • We have the choice to decide what will influence our internal emotions.

 

50 Sober Things to Do With Friends

ACT #4:  If I don’t drink, I won’t be part of the group”.

I’ve used this as my “hall pass” to drink.  I have had many sober “group participation” successes in my past.  Yet, I let THAT voice tell myself all kinds of things to justify jumping back in with the “crowd”.

Annie Grace does a great job of summing up the societal acceptance to drink and how others have struggles too.  I love it to have someone say they aren’t drinking – I go right along with them.  I can be super supportive…but I will admit it gets old to be the only sober one in the crowd. {I’m currently reevaluated some of my “friendships”… their drinking is “concerning”… but I have never suggested they give my choice a try…However since their consumption is so extreme…I am left out…and literally I become one of the only adults in the room – NOT Fun}.

FITTING IN DURING THE EXPERIMENT (p83)

  1. Don’t Preach. (Stay Low Key)
  2. Be A Positive Example
  3. Be Creative
    1. “I’m the Designated Driver”
    2. “Big Meeting Tomorrow”
    3. “I’m on Kid/Teen Duty Tonight

I’m trying out…

  • I’m happier when I’m not drinking
  • Alcohol isn’t fun for me anymore

50 THINGS TO DO WITHOUT ALCOHOL

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Week is not Weak

I’ve been sober for 1 week many times…. one month sober various times…including a 25 month stretch.  It’s amazing how much can change in one week:

Eager to get up and start the day with thoughts of everything I can and will accomplish.

Confidence in myself and my commitments to myself.  I set a goal (30 days) and since I’ve done it before, I have no doubt that I will easily finish the task.

But this time is different.  This time I am using Annie Grace’s Alcohol Experiment to revisit many of the myths and cultural beliefs about alcohol that I wrote about in 2016/17.  I believe these reminders from Annie are helping to set a deeper groove into the areas of my brain to make the choice to live AF.   I let outside influences pull me back to a cycle of “trying moderation”.  I am not a moderate.  I was days shy of calling it 365 days of Sparkle and Shine.    I’m reminded about my desire to Bloom.

What derailed me.  The people in my life…in various forms of social interaction.

It was a decade birthday celebration {A Few Sips is Nothing}…and that illogic just opened the door for….

I didn’t want to:

  • explain
  • disappoint
  • feel left out
  • be bored
  • insert any other excuse to move away from my own goal in order to please someone else.

I’m reminded again that our society and culture accept alcohol-different than any other perceived toxic substance (I don’t think very many are ready to accept that sugar is killing our society either..yet).

No one offers their kids cocaine or heroine… at home… before they leave for college so they are ready for it.

No one offers a cigarette to someone if the say they are trying to cut back or quit. (Except maybe their smoking buddies)

Which leads to the big issue about alcohol… If I choose not to drink, it most likely makes someone question whether or not they should be drinking…which makes them uncomfortable…so it is easier to have me drink along with them….so some encourage me to “have one with them”.  Or they ask why not?

I’ve moved past the mindset that they MIGHT think I have a problem… because why else would anyone choose not to drink.  I’ve educated my direct peers and family over the years that I don’t drink to optimize my health.

But now, as I reflect, I wonder why I ever started drinking again.  And never mind what the “message” I sent about choosing to NOT be in optimal health? (Not that it is my job to model anything for anyone else…well except my kids…) Alcohol can really muck things up.  It’s a very complicated substance.  Annie’s Day 7 chapter “Your Experiment and Your Friends” really helped me see that I have knocked down some of my own roadblocks.

Alcohol is addictive (Or I would have an OFF switch)

Alcohol is poison (Or I wouldn’t see my health LESS than optimal when I drink)

I am fun without alcohol (That took took time and experience to prove through many different social situations and celebrations and even vacations.  I know it is possible because I have done it before….I just need to remember to remind myself of it).

I know in my core that I am NOT weak. It’s OK to be different.  Choosing to not drink can set us apart from community.  (But only if I let it….and it is not my job to take away the uncomfortable feeling others have…but I can use humor to talk about MY choice).  Finding phrases and vocabulary will probably always be tricky because I don’t anyone else to feel I am judging their choices to drink.  I’ve used:

  • “I just feel better…sleep better… am better”
  • “I’ve run out of drink tickets” (especially useful to former booze buddies)
  • “Not tonight”

I like this new example by Zoe (p65) “alcohol was making me depressed”.

Alcohol IS a depressant.  

Speak Truth.

 

 

 

 

Water Lemon Drop Mocktails

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Over the years, I have met up with a group of gals, once a month, for a Birthday Club gathering.  There have been many times I have been alcohol free.  So it was an easy place to be tonight.  Displayed on the counter were wine glasses of different shapes and a few martini glasses.  I brought a bottle of wine (giving away my stash) and a bottle of mineral water.  It was soooo very easy to pour the sparkling water into the beautiful martini glass and just as satisfying.  Even when the pitcher of fresh squeezed lemon and vodka mixture arrived with a guest, I took a lemon and dash of AF lemon juice, and I didn’t feel left out (as I had the last few months) because I had a different mindset.  I was looking forward to an evening of friendship and how clear and bright I will be tomorrow morning.

As I continue through Annie Grace’s Alcohol Experiment book, she addresses:

  • Day 4 Dealing with Discomfort
  • Day 5 What Are Cravings, Really?
  • Day 6 Why Willpower Doesn’t Work For Long

Quotes that stand out for me:

Spontaneous Sobriety…When your conscious and subconscious minds are in harmony and desire the same thing…there’s no struggle.  You have no cravings and no desire to go back. (p. 44)

*

…If the subconscious mind still believes that alcohol is key to relaxation and that you have to drink to have a good time with our friends, then those psychological cravings will creep in – sometimes years after you’ve had any alcohol.  Your desires originate from your subconscious mind. And a craving is a desire. (p. 48)

*

If you have a battle going on inside you…

It’s much better to be completely present and mindful during a craving… You have a choice! 

*

All decisions take energy…. There’s also something called the ‘what the hell effect’, which explains what happens when you abandon your quest for willpower, give into temptation, and then, since you feel badly for giving in, throw caution to the wind and end up going overboard…(p 53-54)

ACT #3. Alcohol, Relaxation, and Stress

Turnaround:

Alcohol is not relaxing, it add stress to my life, both physically (with stress hormones) and the inner turmoil that occurs in my monkey brain… as it detoxes the alcohol.

Homeostasis

Day 3 of the Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace asks us to consider:

Why We Think We Like to Drink (pp. 34-41)

Annie lays out what is happening in the brain when we drink.

Alcohol artificially stimulates the pleasure center of the brain.  The chemicals that create the euphoria are endorphins.  Dopamine (desire and craving) and serotonin (satiety and inhibition) are the two main chemicals in the pleasure center of the brain.

In a healthy brain, there is a balance between dopamine and serotonin.  Alcohol changes the balance.  Drinking throws dopamine into the system, making us WANT more of what gives us pleasure .  This artificial stimulation by booze, the brain seeks to regain correct balance (homeostasis), so it sends a chemical downer called dynorphin.  This will suppress the euphoria, so when the effects of the first cocktail wears off, our sense of “well-being” actually falls BELOW where it started when sober.  We are LOWER than where we started.

The dopamine is still working and will make us CRAVE more of what made us feel good.  We drink more…and the cycle will start over and over…putting us lower and lower. To combat the depressive effect of the alcohol the body will send adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones).  The seesaw gets swinging higher and lower and now other areas of the brain are affected and are actually SLOWING DOWN.  Vision and speech can blur and slur.  We become detached from reality.  (Which some seek through drinking-a break from the real world)

Tipsy moves to drunk.  We don’t care because the brain can’t process long term consequences.  We may lose motor skills.  The brain receptors are NUMB, my senses don’t relay information well, so memories are not formed.  The stress hormones are still present to try and balance things out and as we sober up, a hangover and blurry memories lead to regret and self blame.

This “chemical chain reaction” will happen to everyone to various degrees.  It is not an issue of self control or strength or weakness, it is the natural brain function after alcohol exposure.

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In ACT #2, Annie then calls attention to the “myth” that we NEED ALCOHOL TO SLEEP. (p.38)

We gain clarity in understanding the sleep cycle.  REM sleep and deep sleep should cycle about 6 or 7 times per night.  Alcohol is a depressant and reduces neural activity in the brain.  The brain will release chemicals to bring the body back to homeostasis.

As we learned, the depressant affect will releass the stress hormones.  Unfortunately for our sleep, the depressant wears off before the stimulants and we are left with an overstimulated brain hours after the drinks have worn off.  The alcohol will disrupt the sleep patterns.  After drinking, a deep sleep lasts for about 5 hours, but REM sleep doesn’t.  We need both to cycles.  We might end up with only 2 healthy sleep cycles instead of the 6 or 7.

After those 5 hours, we wake up and can’t go back to sleep.  The stress hormones get us into monkey brain, and worry and regret begin to creep in as the negative thoughts enter the brain.  ANY AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL WILL DISRUPT SLEEP.

Another issue is that sober sleep prep releases chemicals to quiet down and prepare for sleep.  Drinking on a regular basis trains your brain to suppress the natural body and use the artificial depressants to start sleep.  (I guess we are essentially passing out- our brain depresses wakefulness).  There is no real rest because natural sleep rhythms get out of whack.

What does this mean for this experiment?  “It means for the first two to five nights of not drinking, your body may still be expecting those artificial depressants.  Your brain might be confused during those early days, and you could have trouble falling asleep.” (p. 41) So hang in there for 5 nights…don’t go back to having a drink or it will take that much longer to find the natural cycle.  Once found, brain fog and fatigue will lift and some feel the best they have felt in decades.  (Annie)

Turnaround Challenge – Find New Statements to Negate Alcohol = Sleep

  • Even ONE drink will disrupt sleep.
  • Optimal health comes from deep and rhythmic sleep cycles.
  • I value myself too much to sacrifice my sleep and long term wellbeing.

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Focus on What Will Be Gained

Day 2:  “It’s Not What I Give Up, But What I Will Gain”.  Annie points out that I need to focus on the positive benefits of AF living….and shift my inner and outer language.

BENEFITS:  I’ve experienced extended sobriety, so I know how much better I feel and look.  The improvement in relationships, because quite frankly, I am happier with myself for keeping my commitments to myself.  The benefits are worth giving up the booze. I’ve experienced the “sparkle”.  (Rereading my 2016/17 blog posts have been very inspirational.)

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR LANGUAGE:  Develop self-talk that …this experiment will be an enjoyable experience.  Use positive phrasing.  For example, say “I’m experimenting to see how much better I feel” is different than “I’m giving up alcohol for the month”.

“You don’t have to do this experiment.  You get to do it.  You have the opportunity to do this. You are excited to do this.  You are choosing to participate.” (p 30)

Idea:  When offered a drink… rather than replying with “No, I’m not drinking”…reply in the positive with “Yes, I’d love a sparkling water with lime in a festive glass”. If we speak with positive statements the subconscious mind will be happy and will enjoy the non-alcoholic mocktail.

…”How we talk about what is happening to us and around us actually changes our emotions around our experiences!” (p32)

Would we talk to a stranger, a friend, or our children the way we talk to ourselves.

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Day 2 Task:  Write down self talk on a piece of paper.  Are they helpful or hurtful.  No judgement-Just try to make it fun.

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ACT 1: The Taste of Alcohol…And Other Sensory Systems

Annie Grace’s ACT technique includes:

  • Awareness
  • Clarity
  • Turnaround

An alternative perspective – an exercise to resolve internal disagreements

“Play detective and look at the evidence and form an objective opinion.” (p. 22)

Awareness:  Do I drink for the “taste”?  Probably not.  Although I prefer some drinks over others.  I first mixed alcohol with juice and soda pop…

Clarity: I’ve developed a taste for straight vodka and tequila instead of sugar drinks infused with alcohol.  It also gets the buzzy feeling going quicker.  My body doesn’t like sugar (hence alcohol is not good for it either).  I suppose I have judged people and their cocktails.  Colorful drinks with umbrellas do not seem as sophisticated or cultured as a martini or thick chunky tumbler with an ice cube and clear liquid.

Turnaround: I’ve had water in martini glasses.  I’ve changed things up and order sparkling water mocktails in beautiful wine glasses.

I don’t NEED the taste of ALCOHOL.

MORE THOUGHTS …NEXT DAY

I woke this morning and was struck by the idea that drinking is a multi-sensory experience for me..and maybe that is why the “act” of social cocktailing is a roadblock for me. It’s wanting to part of the experience.  I don’t want to feel left out.  I don’t want to miss anything.

I have had a transition in my “relationship” with alcohol.  I have no interest in drinking when I am alone (not to say that there weren’t times in my life where I would sip – alone with my solo friend).  I’ve done some work…gained some awareness about “habits” that associated themselves with alcohol:

  • Getting ready for a party in HS or College – Going to a party -Going to ANYTHING social
  • Coming home from work – after a long day – or on Friday after the week – Going to ANYTHING social
  • Making dinner for my family – waiting for my husband to come home -after putting the kids to bed – Going to ANYTHING social.

The pesky SOCIAL situations. As I ponder why… I feel it is more than taste.  I think is the…

SOUND of the bottle cork pull, the pop of the champagne, the ice in the shaker, the people in the gathering, the laughter…hum of music in the background… glasses coming out of the cupboard.  “What Can I Get You To Drink”… it’s like a introduction to the start of the fun.

SIGHT of a martini pouring out of cold shaker into a beautiful glass (let’s face it I don’t think the vodka martini would have the same allure for me if I drank it out of a coffee mug)… the rich red wine with the “legs” on the glass, the perfect beer pour, the liquor hitting the ice cubes in a clear glass.

TOUCH/FEEL the mental numb.  The looseness.  The freeness (but only for a moment)…and then I wonder if my inability to be moderate is that I spend the rest of the “drinking session” trying to find that momentary bliss between sober and buzz?

{Now my sensory exploration experiment is proving to myself that this is a new awareness that I can view and release}

SMELL … There are no smells that pull me cocktails… I can only call to mind BAD moments AFTER drinking… post party mess: stale beer, cigarette butts, puke, trash… nothing light bright and airy.

It’s time for me to Turnaround the notion that “I Drink to Stimulate my Sensory System”.

  • I love the sound of friendship and laughter when I am at a gathering.
  • The sight of nature and color in my environment and food is intoxicating.
  • It feels warm and cozy to spend time with family and friends.
  • The smell and taste of food, prepared with love, is an opportunity for gratitude and happiness.

So is it FOMO?

  • I have no FOMO of hangovers, dark circles under my eyes, regret, shame, …. depression, sadness, regret… shame… Nope.
  • I love the brightness of a new day with a clear mind and freedom to move forward without having to wonder if I recall everything that happened while drinking.
  • I can reframe my experiences and look for ways to enhance every experience as a multi-sensory “feast”.
  • ALCOHOL DULLS THE SENSES…it dulls everything.  I dulls my SPARKLE.

 

FIGHTING FOMO by The Sober School

THE PHENOMENA OF FOMO and the Alcoholic by K. Fitzgerald

 

 

 

Day 1: What’s My Why?

Make a List: Why Do I Drink? 

  • I don’t want to miss out on the social experience.
  • Out of habit and/or boredom.
  • To get the feeling that comes after a few sips…”brightness and fun”.

{Why Do I Move Past the First Glass and Keep Going…and Going?}

  • I “think” I’m a better conversationalist and more upbeat.
  • The mood is easy, relaxed, and more animated.  It’s a party.
  • I feel more involved with the others that are drinking….connected through alcohol.

Make a List: Why Do I Want to Drink Less?

  • I want to feel optimal health.
  • I want to sleep the best I can.
  • I want to protect my organs and avoid illness.
  • I don’t want to feel like I’m undoing all the positive efforts for my health.
  • I don’t want to wake up and have regrets and negative self-talk.
  • I don’t want to wonder if I said too much, monopolized the conversation, repeated myself, or have hazy memories.
  • Avoid the day after doom and gloom (the seesaw from Bright and Light Buzz)
  • I don’t want to ever again numb myself to life’s amazing moments.
  • I want to be fully present for every positive and negative life experience.