A false pleasure differs from a natural pleasure because it comes from something or a substance that is manufactured and leads to supra-therapeutic levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine acts in the reward center of the brain and is largely responsible for creating habits such as overdrinking and others.
False pleasures are a big problem because they leave us craving more, and having more, will still not feel like enough. It’ll never be enough. We keep chasing something that can’t bring us true pleasure or true fulfillment. We’ll still feel unsatisfied and have yearning for more.
Join me on the podcast this week to learn how false pleasures hijack your brain and keep you trapped. When we recalibrate our brain with natural pleasures, only then will we experience joy and contentment that we are truly seeking.
You are listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle Podcast with Dr. Sherry Price, episode number 26.
Welcome to Drink Less Lifestyle, a podcast for successful women who want to change their relationship with alcohol. If you want to drink less, feel healthier and start loving life again you’re in the right place. Please remember that the information in this podcast does not constitute medical advice. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Sherry Price.
Well, hello my friends. I am just wrapping up for today and boy let me tell you, it was a day. I got so much done today. I have been working on a new workbook and video series for my Epic You program and the content that I’m working on for the next month is amazing. I just have to say it is super awesome. We are going to be doing a deep dive into understanding our emotions.
And this past weekend I had the opportunity to spend 12 hours at a training over Zoom and I have many more hours to come of training as I’m diving deeper into this in my own life. And it was so interesting because I’ve learned so much about myself and how to be a better coach, how to coach in this area when people are processing difficult or sometimes confusing emotions and being able to hold space for them.
And for me what I have experienced just in the last 12 hours is I find it so fascinating because one of the coaches I asked to take me into my feelings and do this work with me. And I told her at the beginning that I think I need a good therapeutic cry. Do you know those cries I’m talking about? It’s kind of like your whole body shakes, it’s that ugly cry. Because I’ve just been holding onto so much tension and I feel it in my gut. And so she took me inside, she did the work. And what I thought I needed is not actually what happened.
So it turns out that when she dropped me into my body and I felt into that tension and that anxiety that I was carrying around for the past couple of weeks, it turns out that I didn’t cry at all. I actually started laughing. And I was just sharing this with the ladies inside my coaching program that I can’t believe that’s what I needed. It was so interesting because my brain was wrong. My brain thought I needed to cry. And what my body really needed was to laugh. And I just kept laughing and laughing, and after that coaching session I have been laughing ever since.
And I have to say how light I now feel, how much of that tension just left my body. It felt really magical. So I just want you to know that I practice what I preach. I am doing this work as well. And I’m hiring coaches to help me process my brain, my emotions so that I can grow and learn through this process and so I can show up as a more equipped coach for my clients. And I will always invest in myself. And I will always invest in coaching because I know the power it can bring to our lives. And I know how healing it could be.
And I think it is the absolute best form of self care and mental care. So I just love how she unblocked me emotionally and that really got over some mental hang-ups for me. I even had somebody comment on my posture and how I’m standing up straighter than I normally do. I find it really interesting when you get over these blocks that you’re just carrying around that that sense of lighter feeling you actually do stand up taller. It feels so good. And it just reminds me that laughter is the best medicine or it’s one of the best medicines.
So before we dive into the show that I have planned for you today I want to read a review from one of my clients in the How to Get Your Off Button Back program. I was just so honored to receive this feedback in the program and I’m just so delighted to hear that the program is working for so many women.
So the client writes, “This program combined with your podcast has been so informative and helpful. I really think I have changed my thoughts around drinking and now I’m the person who drinks so much less. I’m grateful that I have access to the program to go back over the lessons from time to time if I need. You are so helpful and motivational and I love being the kind of drinker I want to be. Thank you so much, X.O.”
My friend you are so welcome, this journey is so rewarding and it’s so great to hear how you are benefiting and how it’s changing your image, your life and your identity. And I love that you shared this with me so I could share it with so many other women and let them know that drinking less is possible and doable. And it does feel like a big shift mentally. I totally agree with you.
So, ladies, keep sending me in your stories as we have hundreds of women who have joined the How to Get Your Off Button Back program. And I want to inspire other women on their journey to cut back and find a different relationship with alcohol, one that serves them, one where they’re in control, one where they’re confident, one where they don’t have to play the avoidance game if that’s not feeling right to them.
And this ties so well into the topic I have planned for us today and that is to discuss false pleasures. Have you heard of this term? Well, when I talk about false pleasures how I like to define it is that something or a substance that leads to this super therapeutic level of dopamine being released. So when I say super therapeutic that’s a term we use in medicine to mean super high amounts. We usually refer to it as super therapeutic concentrations of drugs.
So this is like an overabundance or a surge of dopamine that you can’t get with natural substances, only these concentrated substances like alcohol, like drugs. So manmade manufactured substances or things that lead to super high doses of dopamine being secreted in the brain and body. And if you remember back to previous episodes where I covered the role of dopamine, we know dopamine is that feel good chemical in the brain.
It’s that neural transmitter that we release when we drink alcohol, when we scroll on social media, when we do these activities that lead to this high amount of dopamine being released. And it’s also dubbed the do it again chemical because it activates our memory and our learning. And it tells us, “Hey that felt good. That was associated with pleasure, let’s do that again.”
So it really remembers everything about the whole experience. It remembers when it happened, the time of day, who we were with. It really just crystallizes that into a memory so that our brain learns on how to do that again with ease. So we can get these high, high elevations of dopamine which causes these false pleasures. We could get that from alcohol, sugar, playing video games, scrolling through social media, really anything where you feel that instantaneous hit or buzz and get that reward. So that means it’s associated with immediate gratification.
So if you’re scrolling through Instagram and it’s like you see these posts and then you can email and you can comment and people could comment right back. That’s like instant gratification, kind of like playing video games. And when you’re playing video games you can advance to different levels of difficulty within the game.
You can join partners, you can win rewards, all of that is designed to keep our mind stimulated and keeping it wanting it to achieve and so that we get the dopamine hit while we’re playing. Because when we activate that reward system in the brain the brain wants to keep doing it. And it wants to repeat the behavior which means it becomes a habit. And habits associated with negative consequences, that’s the definition of an addiction, something you do over and over again that’s associated with negative consequences.
So it’s that dopamine that really gives us that hit, that rush, that euphoria that we really look forward to when we drink. And then here’s the thing, the brain requires more of that dopamine to sustain that effect. So instead of playing Candy Crush for an hour, now we’re playing for two hours, instead of having one glass of wine, now we want the whole bottle. So not only is it a cycle that perpetuates itself, it’s also a cycle that builds up tolerance and requires more, and more, and more. And then it turns into this game of I can never get enough.
And here’s the thing, you’ll always want more of something that can’t truly satisfy you, the desire will always be there. You’ll always want more. And you’ll want more the next day. And then the habit becomes so ingrained and then it intensifies our cravings so that we desire even more as time goes on. This gets wired into our subconscious programming, leading us to drink on autopilot and overdrinking and feeling like we can’t stop or maybe that you just don’t want to stop.
And you start to become kind of dependent on this substance to give you pleasure. You kind of seek it for the pleasure and here’s the thing, you stop experiencing pleasure from natural pleasures. So let’s talk about natural pleasures for a minute. If we think about natural pleasures sometimes they are things that are associated with delayed gratification, like working hard to achieve a goal would be considered a natural pleasure. So natural pleasures can give you the ability to feel gratification in the moment but it’s much less than what you would get with the false pleasure.
A false pleasure is going to give you that super therapeutic hit of dopamine, or this huge surge of dopamine, whereas a natural pleasure would give you just a tiny blip of dopamine hit. So it’s not going to feel like this rush or this excitement, It’s going to just be a little bit of a blip so you’re not going to notice it as much as you would a false pleasure. Now, that’s not to mean it wouldn’t still be enjoyable, it’s just not going to be as enjoyable comparatively.
Now, when you think of natural pleasures they could be meditation, they could be yoga, they can be playing with your kids or your grandkids, things that bring you what I consider true and lasting joy. It’s not fleeting. You feel more content with natural pleasures. You feel that there is a sense of appreciation, a sense of gratitude with natural pleasures, like appreciating beauty, appreciating the smell of the air after a rain. Whereas with the false pleasure I think it just leaves you craving more after you stop the activity.
Whereas with a natural pleasure you kind of get to a point where you’re like yes, I’ve had enough, enough is enough. I’ve had enough yoga. I’ve had enough walking. I feel good, that was enough and we’re satisfied when we walk away from the activity. But we’re not necessarily satisfied when we’re walking away from false pleasures because there’s still that desire and that craving for more, not unless of course we are too inebriated to even be coherent. Or we have just overeaten a tub of ice-cream and now we feel sick to our stomach. That would be a negative consequence.
Whereas you don’t get the negative consequences when you’re doing natural pleasures or enjoying natural pleasures. And one thing I like to think about with natural pleasures is that they are always consistent with our long term goals, they don’t get in the way. And they actually support our long term goals, whereas false pleasures generally get in the way of us achieving what we truly want in life or achieving who we really want to be in life.
And because your brain and physiologically your body can become dependent on alcohol, you feel like you can’t live without this external pleasure. You feel that a life with no alcohol would not be rewarding at all. I remember when my brain went through this. And I would just hear people say they drink less or they don’t drink at all. And I would think oh my gosh, that sounds miserable because alcohol brought me so much pleasure.
And here’s the thing of course that’s what my brain thought, of course because I’ve patterned it and I’ve conditioned it to think that way. And the more you have it the more it trains more brain cells to say, “Yes, this is what we need. Yes, this is important to our survival. Yes, this is important to our day, please, more, more, more.” And that’s what your brain screams for is more.
And I’d often have that thought, if I didn’t drink what would my life be like? Where would I get pleasure? Literally that would be how I would think, where would my pleasure come from because I relied on alcohol for most of my joy. So giving up alcohol or cutting back felt like my life would be less fun. And here’s what I’ve learned. It’s not.
It’s actually way more fun. I’m so glad that my brain was wrong about that. And I’m telling you, if you’re having those same thoughts, consider that your brain might be lying to you as well as it was lying to me because I thought I can’t have fun, I can’t be silly. I can’t be playful if I’m not inebriated or at least a little bit intoxicated to let my guard down, or I won’t be chatty, or I won’t be able to have our dance parties that we love to have here at the house on Friday nights, or I won’t be a good dancer.
All of those thoughts ran through my head. I thought who am I going to be if I’m no longer able to be silly and playful? But the truth was I could do that, I just haven’t done it on my own without alcohol in so long so my brain thought it was incapable of it. And I’m so glad my brain was wrong about that.
And I just want you to consider that maybe your brain is wrong about it for you too. And let me just tell you that that is just the nature of how habits work and how the dopamine cascade works. It really makes your brain believe things that aren’t true. And here’s what you may also find because I experienced this as well is that okay, now I have to rely on natural pleasures for fun and excitement.
But the problem was those natural pleasures weren’t pleasing to me at the time. Actually I found some of those natural pleasures to be downright boring or even annoying. And of course your brain is going to think that way because it’s used to this huge surge of dopamine that the brain is used to getting. And so now if you’re not giving it that huge intense concentrated manufactured pleasure, of course it’s going to say, “Something’s not right here.”
And these natural pleasures that just give you a bump of dopamine are not going to be comparatively feeling as good. So of course we know that’s going to happen. We know that we’re going to get a smaller amount of pleasure. But here’s what does happen, when you drink less or cut it out, now the brain is not getting that huge dopamine surge.
So over time guess what your brain does? It adapts, it learns now that hey, I’m not getting this huge surge of dopamine so it goes back to baseline expectations. And guess what happens with those natural pleasures? You now begin to experience them deeper and they start to feel more pleasurable because your brain has adjusted and adapted to the new environment where it’s not getting this huge dopamine surge.
And I saw this clearly in my own experience. And I may have shared this on the podcast prior. But I tell the story all the time where I used to be annoyed at my daughter who was probably four or five at the time. She loved giving me little pecks of kisses on the cheek. She’d give me four or five in a row and she’d always do this before bedtime. And of course I had a drink in my hand when she was doing this. And I remember thinking to myself; would you just go to bed? I don’t need your kisses. I want to get back to my drinking.
Now, of course I didn’t say this out loud thankfully. But in the back of my mind that’s what I’m thinking, just get to bed. And so here I am not enjoying these little kisses from her. But when I cut back and I took periods where I didn’t drink at all, I started to experience those kisses so differently. They became like gold to me. They became so magical.
They actually led to I think an oxytocin release for me because I felt so bonded to her now because I didn’t feel she was getting in the way of my drinking or getting in the way of my next dopamine hit. And I started to experience those kisses so differently now that my brain was not flooded with so much dopamine because I was drinking so much. Does that make sense? So once you cut back significantly it will probably be very surprising to you how much you begin to enjoy things that maybe you don’t enjoy now.
I love to tell my clients as they’re cutting back to just be open again to experiencing life anew. Now, this may not happen in the first week. The first week your brain is still really adjusting and re-acclimating depending on how quickly you cut back and how significantly your drinking was prior. But really over time you’re going to find that your brain likes new things, or goes back to liking things it used to like but you’ve kind of fallen by the wayside or you forgot about.
So for me one of the things that I started to enjoy again that I kind of forgot that I enjoyed so much in the past was reading at night. I mean let’s be honest I could read while I was drinking but I really wasn’t comprehending so much. And I wouldn’t get so far because my main activity was really drinking. Reading was just a side activity. But no, I really truly wanted to enjoy books. And when I cut back on drinking significantly I can comprehend what I read, I can get through more pages and I got lost in the book.
And you know how nice it feels to have all your mental faculties at night and the next morning, meaning I have a clear head, I’m clear minded. I don’t have to wait till midday to make an important decision because I’m too far out of it, or too far removed, or just had apathy about a topic. Now I’m able to problem solve if I wanted to at night, read at night, relax and enjoy, enjoy myself, enjoy the company of a book. And I will tell you, when I was drinking that didn’t sound like fun to me, it really didn’t.
But now that I’m not chasing a high anymore and actually I don’t even look forward to the high, so when I drink I don’t drink to get drunk, I don’t drink to get the buzz. And I always drank to get the buzz in the past. Now I’ll tell you what, the buzz isn’t exciting for me. Now, I still enjoy drinking and I still enjoy the taste of alcohol and the experience but I’m not drinking for the buzz like I used to, which is so fascinating to me.
I didn’t think my brain would be able to change its mind on the buzz. I thought that was the best part of drinking. Why would you drink and not get the buzz? It confused me. And now that I see it differently it feels so much more amazing. And I want you to hear this; really I do because what I hear a lot from women is, “I’m just too far gone. I don’t have that capacity. That will never work for my brain.” And I just want you to challenge those thoughts because I don’t think those thoughts really help you and I think they keep you further away from being the woman that you want to be.
And I say all those thoughts are just plain wrong. And let me tell you of a pet peeve of mine. It really crushes me when I hear women talk about themselves and put them into this imaginary made up category that they label themselves as, “I can’t be helped or I’m too far gone.” That is so not true. I mean I feel like I have to repeat that because I’m so passionate about it and I don’t want you to believe this about yourself, it’s poisonous. So ladies let’s not even entertain that idea because it’s simply not true.
Because we know humans can accomplish amazing things, I mean just think of all the things that humans accomplish on a daily basis. It’s mind boggling. I mean there are some people that are able to lose half of their body weight, people that are able to cure their diabetes, people that are able to quit smoking. People that are able to cut back on their drinking for good, people that want to abstain from it and then do forever. These are amazing fetes. And here’s the thing, we know it’s possible. People change all the time, our brain just stops looking for the evidence.
Our brain just wants to look at putting ourselves in a category where we can’t change. So please consider the story you’re telling yourself because whatever story you’re telling yourself you’re going to make that come true. And I like to think that false pleasures hijack your brain because that’s exactly what they do, they hijack your neural transmitters and have your brain secrete more than what you normally would. So they really do take over and hijack your brain. And then they hijack your desire.
So we know that’s what false pleasures do but here’s what I love about natural pleasures. They fill me up with true and lasting joy, think about taking a walk, playing with your grandkids, doing activities with things you love that are good for your wellbeing and your health. Natural pleasures connect me with myself, they connect me with my feelings and they connect me with my humanness. And I have done so much work on myself in understanding myself. I understand my likes and now I know why I like these likes.
I understand my dislikes and I know why I dislike them. I understand what drives me and what my passions are because I spent time with myself investigating what that is. And not letting society define for me what success should look like for me. I get to decide and define that for me. And I spent time thinking about my goals for my life and creating the life that I want to live and the life I want to experience, meaning the experiences I want to have in my lifetime. And when I focus on that I come out of default living, you know what I mean?
It’s not like life happens to me, it’s like, no, wait, I have control over what I have control over that I’m going to exert that control. It doesn’t mean I have control over everything but I do know what I have control over and I want to exert that control so that I get the life I want. It’s intentional, I’m intentional. And when you’re pursuing what you want and you’re doing the experiences you want, and you’re intentional about your wants, that fills you with so much pleasure.
And here’s the thing, I couldn’t see this pleasure. Do you know why? Because I was in so much pain, I thought drinking was my panacea. It was the antidote to my unhappiness. It was the antidote to the stress in my life. It was the way I would tell myself I needed to relax. But as I was swallowing that liquid depressant which alcohol is, I wondered why I got more depressed, and more stressed, and more anxious. Hello, the pharmacological effects of the alcohol pharmacist. The irony is not lost on me guys, trust me, it is not lost on me.
But I really looked to the drink at the end of the day as a sign of relief for my emotions. Do you guys remember that old commercial for Rolaids back in the day? I am totally dating myself here. But you remember that commercial, they’d say, “How do you spell relief?” And they would spell out Rolaids. Well, if you were to ask me in the past how do I spell relief I would spell out d.r.i.n.k., drink.
And that’s exactly what I would think. A bad day at work, I need a relief with the drink. A fight with my family members, have a drink, worked up over a work project or a coworker, need relief with a drink. Disappointed at the scale or that I didn’t make it to the workout that I had promised myself. I’ll get relief from a drink. How do I spell relief? D.r.i.n.k. It totally was my habit. It totally was my pattern. And it’s so comical now for me to look back on that.
And sure, I did get temporary relief. We know that alcohol provides that dopamine hit where we feel pleasure and it feels like relief, it feels like a reward. So of course our brains are going to want it because we know it works. The brain is not stupid. But the thing is it would just repeat the cycle. And the cycle would create more of the cycle and the cycle would start running on autopilot. And I felt powerless, which I knew I wasn’t powerless but I felt that way.
And I wasn’t getting closer to my goals. I felt like I was stressing out more. I felt like I was more tense. I felt like things were going in the opposite direction. And I certainly wasn’t getting any closer to reaching my long term goal of exercising on a consistent basis. But now here’s the thing, it’s not that I never drink for relief.
I may choose to have a drink to relieve my stress at the end of a rough day. But it’s by my choosing and it’s not automatic. And here’s the big thing, it doesn’t lead to me having many more. It doesn’t lead to me overdrinking because I’ve broken the pattern. I have broken the habit. Now I’m in control. My drinking doesn’t interfere with my exercise goals, my weight loss goals or any other goals. I’m now consistent where I want to be consistent.
I’m also consistent if I want to be consistent in the type of drinker I am, someone who can take it or leave it. But only because I’ve learned and practiced the skills and the tools to not have this happen, to not allow alcohol, or food, or whatever control me. And yes, there is some effort that you have to put into it, especially in the beginning because it doesn’t come naturally, if you’re breaking a natural habit that you’ve kind of ingrained over the years. It’s going to take some work.
But here’s the thing, my brain no longer desires a ton of alcohol like it used to. It now desires other things like good sleep, a clear mind, reading at night, dance parties on a Friday night without alcohol with my family because I’m able to be silly. I’m able to dance. And I don’t even care if I look like Elaine from the Seinfeld episode when she got on the dance floor. Do you know that episode I’m talking about? Hilarious. I probably look like her when I dance but now I don’t care. I used to care. I used to need the liquid courage to get on the dance floor, I don’t need it anymore.
And when I dance I now focus on how good it just feels to move my body and it doesn’t matter if I look like Elaine. And that episode by the way was so hilarious, if you haven’t seen it. You have to go look for it on YouTube, or maybe I’ll even link it here in the show notes. It was hilarious.
So I’ve learned to be less judgmental with myself and kinder because a lot of the times the reason I was turning to alcohol was to just lessen that critic inside my head, just stop the negative chatter all the time. And I’ve just learned to be more compassionate to myself and really less judgmental because that was a big reason I was drinking. I wanted life to go a certain way. Things had to be perfect. I had perfectionistic tendencies and OCD tendencies which I still have. But now I’m endearing to them, I really like them and it’s not something I want to change.
But I also realize when things are out of my control or when I’m just being such a harsh critic and I want things to work out a certain way. I’ve learned to let go without needing the drink. And here’s the thing, I know I take things sometimes way too seriously. And that’s what I learned when I was doing that coaching session that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. I just find so much joy and laughter. And our bodies need laughter.
So when you’re able to, I like to say recalibrate your brain to enjoy these natural pleasures, you feel more in alignment with yourself. You feel like you are taking care of yourself. You feel less uptight and less tense. And that to me actually feels like a bit more joy, contentment and peace. And what I also noticed when I cut back significantly, when I was drinking all the time it was like Groundhog Day. And even that I couldn’t form when did that happen? Was that on a Tuesday?
Or I couldn’t remember events, they weren’t crystal clear. It was kind of like if you were to paint watercolors and they’re all murky and running together, that’s how some of my days felt. And it was just like one day bled into the next. But when I stopped drinking so much and I became in control of it my memory is so much more crisp. I now can see bright colors. It’s like my senses have been activated, my smell is crisper. My vision is crisper. I just notice things that were just not in my vision before. It’s weird.
It’s like my life went from yeah, just getting by and let’s get through the day to this was a neat thing that I found, or this is an interesting part of my day. And I remember that and it stays with me longer. I think I’d love to describe it as I feel there’s more vibrancy to my day and to my attitude. And I feel lighter and more vibrant and I guess that’s reflected in the feelings that aren’t numbed out by the alcohol.
So think what’s possible for you if you were to give up some of those false pleasures. What would be possible for you if you stopped overdrinking? And I know for me I enjoy myself so much more and I’m not looking to escape myself or my thoughts with the false pleasure of alcohol, which only kept me hungry for more and more, and another glass, and another glass and keep going the next day and the day after, and the day after that.
Now I am satisfied with much less alcohol because my life is so much more exciting, so much more enjoyable. And I’m able to experience it on a different level. I have the ability to be with my feelings, not run away from them. Now I know how to deal with them, or manage them, or guess what? I could just allow them to be. They are not harmful. I’ve learned the tools on how to change if I’m feeling a certain way, to change that feeling. I have learned how to change my mind and my thoughts. I have learned that when I say I’m going to do something for myself I actually do it and that is huge.
So I have more self-accountability, and I enjoy learning about myself and evolving. And my body feels so much better because I drink less and because I drink less I actually eat less. And this journey has allowed me to discover other ways of eating that even make my body feel better. I do intermittent fasting. I do extended fasts now. And I don’t feel deprived when I’m doing these. I actually feel good. I feel clear. I feel mentally sharper. And that feels amazing.
And of course I still drink for pleasure. I mean why else would you drink? There’s still pleasure to drinking. But I’ve learned how to be satisfied with less and to stay in control. And this is really the crux of what I want to share with you all and for you all to know is that life is so much better with less false pleasure in it because you’re able to live fully alive and present. And here’s what I think is the best news ever, you don’t have to give it up completely.
You just have to learn to be in control so you’re living with your highest values and your priorities in mind first. And you’re not giving into something that can never satisfy your deepest needs like alcohol.
Alright my friends that’s all I have for you this week. I love that you’re tuning into this podcast. And hey, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing would you leave me a review on Apple iTunes? I would really love to hear from my listeners and know how this podcast is helping you in your journey to drinking less. And maybe I’ll get an opportunity to read your review on a future podcast episode. So please go ahead and leave me a review, I’d greatly appreciate it. Alright friends, I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Drink Less Lifestyle. If you’re ready to change your relationship with drinking now check out the free guide, How to Effectively Break the Overdrinking Habit at sherryprice.com/startnow. See you next week.