For me, the mental load was taxing and emotionally exhausting.
I remember dreaming of a day where I would have no thoughts about alcohol swarming around in my mind. Thoughts about how much to buy, what brand, what size, how many, and then I’d switch to why am I doing this, and it’ll be just one, and I’ll start tomorrow. I wanted to suppress all these thoughts and distract myself so I wouldn’t think about them.
Here’s what I learned: We can’t spend years thinking one way about alcohol and suddenly stop thinking that way. At least that’s not how it worked for me or for most people. It’s a more gradual process.
But it’s impossible to stop thinking certain thoughts. And the harder we try, the more we tend to get the opposite effect. And the more preoccupied our minds become to that all we seem to focus on.
In this episode, I’m giving you the secret to what does work. Noticing our thoughts and allowing them to come in IS a crucial piece to stop overdrinking. I want you to free yourself of this mental, and emotional, drain.
You are listening to the Drink Less Lifestyle Podcast with Dr. Sherry Price, episode number 32.
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 beautiful friends. I am recording this podcast at the end of April and when it goes live it will be May 5th. And the day that this goes live will be the day after my birthday. I can’t believe another birthday has come. And I’m actually excited about it this year. I plan to celebrate with a few close friends and of course imbibe in a cocktail or two or maybe a glass of bubbly. And if you follow me on Instagram I may just post about my birthday celebration there. So that’s what I’m planning to do, so much fun because I get to be with other people this year.
I remember my birthday last year I just really wasn’t interested in celebrating whatsoever. Covid was in full swing, full lockdown, nobody was going anywhere and it really just got to me. I was telling my husband, “I just don’t want to celebrate. Don’t get me anything, don’t even, we can just let the day pass.”
And then here’s what happened. He came upstairs and he says, “I want you to go get ready.” And I said, “For what?” And he goes, “Just go get ready. Go get ready.” And I’m like, “Okay, I’ll go put on some jeans”, because I was living in my comfy yoga pants for what felt like eternity. And he’s like, “No, go put on a dress.” And I was scratching my head, not literally but more figuratively and thinking a dress, really, I’ve been in yoga pants for weeks now. A dress, that just seemed such a foreign concept.
And what he had done was order takeout from one of our favorite restaurants. And so he needed time to set up so I’m guessing he wanted me to take time to get ready so it would buy him more time for setting up. And it turned out to be a really enjoyable and fun experience. He told our daughter, “Why don’t you act as the waiter, or waitress, or server”, or whatever. So when I come down the steps she escorts me to my seat and then tells me the two options on the menu for the night. And then when I picked one I instantly knew my husband was getting the other option.
And it was actually a fun evening. And I’m thankful he did that because otherwise I would have just kind of sulked. But this year I am looking forward to my birthday. And these times have been a little tough these past few months, this past year, just nice to be able to come out on the other side. And when this airs I will be fully vaccinated which makes me very happy because that feels like progress to me.
And another thing I’m excited about is the day this airs is I will be onsite doing a photo shoot to be featured in this magazine that I was asked to be featured in. So I’m very excited about this opportunity as well. And then the last thing I’m pretty excited about is that I will have my daughter mostly, if not all, registered for all her summer camps which many of them will be meeting in person. So it really feels different this year and I’m very excited for that.
And I love that so much is happening at once. It’s like my brain is like Pop Rocks. We’ve got this going on and that going on, and your second Covid shot, and then the birthday, and this, and that. So it’s quite fun to experience that again. And I was thinking maybe I’ll just celebrate the whole week, and if not, maybe the whole month, why not? And here’s really the truth, you can choose to celebrate whenever you want, however you want. It doesn’t require a birthday to do that but it’s always fun to use it as a reason or as an excuse if you need.
Alright, so can I also tell you something else? I just love how awesome you ladies are. I’ve been getting quite a few emails from you and thank you for reaching out. I absolutely love it that this podcast is helping so many of you drink less, be aware of your drinking, be conscious of your drinking, question your drinking. And just evaluating it, some of you for the first time, some of you in a long time, you haven’t evaluated in a while.
And now that the pandemic hopefully is, I like to think, coming to an end, or at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel that we get to emerge from this. And decide all over again what works for our life and what doesn’t, what we want to leave behind, what we want to attract into it and who we want to become.
And I think alcohol is something a lot of us fell into the habit of when we were feeling the doldrums and when we were locked down. And now that we are coming out let’s not use that as a reason to keep doing it or as a way to now that we socialize, here’s what I see happening is that we’re going to be awkward again. Some of us might have to learn some social skills. I know for me the comments just don’t come out naturally.
I went to pick up my Starbucks order the other day and somebody had mentioned a nice comment. And I looked at them and I’m like, my brain had to stop a little bit and say, “How do you respond?” I’m just used to not saying much, picking up and getting out because we had to stay away from people. It didn’t feel safe. People felt guarded.
Now that people are not feeling so fearful I feel that it might take a little bit of us, some of us, maybe not everybody, but some of us to be like, “Hey, this is what it’s like to be social again. And it’s okay if I have a little bit of anxiety. It’s okay if I say the wrong thing. It’s okay if I don’t respond and I take two or three more seconds than I normally would like I did in that moment. So I think we just need to give ourselves some grace and know that, yeah, we can learn these skills again and we can brush up on that.
So back to these emails and these messages I’ve been getting from you. Thank you so much. Some of you are saying, hey, you’re applying this material to your weight loss goals and it’s working phenomenal. Some of you are really changing your desire for alcohol working with these tools and I’m super excited for that too. I do want to inspire you, motivate you, give you the tools that you need so that you can create that relationship with alcohol that you want.
It’s not about what your neighbor does, not about what your husband does. It’s not about what your best friend does. It’s about what you want for you. And getting what you want when you get there I feel you should be at peace. You should be at peace with the relationship that you choose for you around alcohol.
I know last night my husband and I had an impromptu date night. And so we took advantage of it. We went out and I ordered myself a Manhattan and I enjoyed it. And guess what? I had no desire for another one and it felt great. I enjoyed it, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I just enjoyed it. I was with it, I experienced it and then I didn’t have desire for more. I was satisfied. So I just want you to know that that’s possible.
I actually posted about that experience which I usually don’t post about alcohol because I don’t think society and me adding to that needs to really brainwash people to think more alcohol is more fun. So I don’t normally post about it but I did inside of my private Facebook page, the Stop the Overdrinking Habit because I also want people to know that I am at peace. And I still choose to drink on my terms and I’m able to shut it down or shut it off, or whatever you want to call it with just very little amount.
And I don’t have desire for more. I don’t use alcohol necessarily always as a way to reward myself, or always as a way to relax at the end of the day. I may choose to have one to relax every now and then but it’s not my relaxation method of choice because I don’t want it to be because I’ve been there and I didn’t like that version of me. So I just want you to know that it’s possible to get the relationship with alcohol that you want. And for me I want that take it or leave it relationship.
And to me that means I’m at peace with it, I can have one or two and stop. I have my own back always and there is no slippery slope or there’s no thoughts of me thinking that once I start I can’t stop, none of that. None of that enters my brain anymore, it used to, but none of that enters my brain. And that’s exactly what I want to delve into for today’s topic is this notion of thought suppression. At least that’s what I’m calling it.
And I’ll start by saying that when women enter my Drink Less Lifestyle program and they begin working with me and learning these tools, namely the think, feel, act cycle which I talk about so much on this podcast. I think many of them feel that they need to not think about something. They need to stop the thoughts coming into their mind around alcohol because once they fully start to grasp the concept that their thoughts lead to their feelings and their feelings cause their actions. Their brain will start to think that they should no longer think certain thoughts.
And that these thoughts must never come into their brain or their mind again. And all of a sudden it’s like they don’t want to think about these thoughts because it leads to overdrinking. But it doesn’t work that way and that’s one of the ways you can misuse this cognitive tool. Because here’s the thing, the reason that many of our thoughts are there, it’s because they’ve been there for years and here’s the kicker. They are on automatic. They are going to come. Many of them are even unconscious.
We may not even be aware of all the thoughts that we have programmed in our mind around alcohol. And by using this cognitive tool, the think, feel, act cycle, it’s not like I’m telling you that you’re now going to develop the power to suppress thoughts. That’s not actually what happens. That’s actually not a skill set that I believe that we can even obtain because I don’t think we can take years of thinking one way about alcohol and all of a sudden stop thinking that way. At least that’s not how it works for most people.
And if you look at the psychology and the scientific evidence, that’s not how the cognitive process actually works, we can’t just suppress thoughts. And guess what? I tried to do that all the time. I don’t want the drink when I really wanted the drink. I would try other ways to suppress my thoughts, telling myself that these evil thoughts or these are bad thoughts and never think these thoughts. My brain would judge my thoughts. And say, “You know Sherry, you really shouldn’t be thinking about this, this way, how terrible of you.”
So I’d get that inner critic going with the thoughts that I was having because I knew these thoughts weren’t helping me. They were leading to overdrinking. Now, think about that. Not only do you feel bad for having the thought that you’ve just classified as bad. But now you’re also feeling bad for the judgment you have about yourself for having that thought which feels equally bad or even more bad. So to sum it up, it’s like badness on top of badness which creates more badness. And this is not good badness. This is bad badness.
And here’s also what I’ve noticed about my brain is that you really can’t stop thoughts from coming in. They come, they’re automatic. They’re going to show up. And science shows us that you have 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. And here’s what I think. I think many women drink to stop their thoughts but guess what? They still come. You just might not notice that they’re there because now you’re sedated from the chemical called alcohol floating around in your brain but the thoughts are still there. And they haven’t changed, it’s just you don’t notice them.
So I really think you can’t stop thoughts unless you remove your brain which is just not practical or possible. So here is my thought about thought suppression. It’s a fantasy. It’s made up. It’s a fairytale. It’s an illusion. Remember, suppression is the act of keeping something from happening. You cannot suppress your thoughts my friends, they will come. That is the nature of the mind.
Now, some of you may think well, isn’t that why you do meditation because so many of us are told that meditation is a clearing of the mind of its thoughts? And I think that’s where a lot of us go astray and why we can’t get into meditating because for the longest time I thought it was clearing the mind of all the thoughts. And then I felt like I couldn’t be effective at it because there is no way my mind would stop giving me thoughts.
But if you look at the actual practice of meditation, it’s more about noticing your thoughts and just not fusing with them. It’s allowing the thoughts to be there, noticing them and then redirecting them or redirecting your attention away from them. You’re bringing your awareness elsewhere and you’re just not noticing the thoughts. And if you do happen to notice them, no problem, you just redirect your mind.
And this is actually using the skill correctly the way I teach it as well with the cognitive model inside of my program, because it’s the most effective way to rewire your brain. We have evidence from that for meditation. We have evidence from that from these cognitive based tools. So what I’m saying is there’s different ways you can rewire your brain. You just want to find the way that works best for you. Now, meditation’s great if you do it. But if you don’t do it you’re not going to get the benefits from it.
And diving deeper into the think, feel, act cycle as we do, it’s about using this cognitive tool as the method to rewire the brain. So it’s noticing those thoughts that are leading to overdrinking and then redirecting the thought to some other thought that does not lead us to overdrinking. Now, everybody wants that magic thought but it’s not the same thought for everybody’s mind because we all are imprinted differently. And we want to know how to redirect the mind and what thought will work for our brain and that’s what we find through coaching.
So I think of this in my scientific brain like a double stranded DNA helix molecule. It’s twisting and it’s turning. And if you think about that DNA molecule, it comes together, the genes, the chromosomes to lead to an expression of the person, to lead to their characteristics, hair color, eye color, all the things. So it’s like your thoughts you want to twist and turn to code your mind, to express what you want to see manifested in your life, meaning the actions and the results that you get for your life.
So it’s finding a way to express those genes whether dominant or recessive to get the traits that you want in your life. So I always like to ask, how can I change my thoughts to get a different result, one where I don’t over-drink? And to get the result of not overdrinking you have to tap in and learn to manage your mind as well as tapping into your emotions in a helpful way. And the emotion part will be for a whole another podcast.
But managing your mind, it doesn’t mean that we’re asking it to stop thinking about alcohol because we don’t have that power. But it’s about allowing what thoughts come in and redirecting them, or twisting them, or turning them to a thought that does serve us, that does lead us to not take the action of overdrinking.
And some of those automatic thoughts I have talked about before in this podcast like there is a slippery slope if I get started or the famous, once I start I can’t stop. Because having those thoughts and not changing them, not redirecting them will always prove themselves true. And here’s the irony of it all, by saying that once you start you can’t stop is totally false because here’s the thing. You have the capability to stop. It is innate. You do not have to pick up that next drink. You do not have to pour that next drink. So you have the capability to stop, it’s just you’re not choosing it.
So I say to my clients, “Let’s get purely honest with what is going on and is truthful.” So let’s stop saying the lies, I can’t stop because we all have the capability to stop. And let’s start focusing on what is true so the brain can learn from itself. So we know it’s totally false to say, “I can’t stop” because we all have the capability to stop. It’s just that we’re not choosing it. So let’s say it a different way, “Once I start I choose to keep going.” Let the mind begin to understand itself.
Now, many of us don’t want to say, “Once I start I choose to keep going”, because then we feel at fault, or we make that sentence mean something negative about us. And that’s not true. It’s actually showing your mind exactly the process that is happening. And if the mind doesn’t know the exact process the mind can’t help find the exact solution that’s going to work because by telling ourselves a lie that we can’t stop then what’s the next step for the brain? The brain is obviously confused.
The brain’s like well, if I can’t stop, why try? If I can’t stop I don’t know how to fix it. And then how frustrating does that feel to you? Because your brain is living under a lie, it’s living under a premise that isn’t even true so now the brain feels totally stuck. So that frustration to get rid of it, what do you do? Drink and over-drink because you think there is no solution. Your brain is convinced there is no solution.
And here’s even one that keeps you even more stuck. I don’t know why, but once I start it’s like I can’t stop. The mind is even doubly confused by this statement because one, we know it’s technically not true. We have the capability so the brain is like, wait, I’m capable but I’m telling myself I’m not capable by saying I can’t. And two, telling yourself you don’t know now just shuts down the brain because the brain’s like, “I don’t know. So how am I ever going to know if I don’t know? So let’s not even investigate opportunities and possibilities that do exist for a solution.”
It shuts the brain down by saying, “I don’t know.” And let me tell you, the brain does not like unresolved problems unless you manage your mind and your emotions along with it. And that’s a whole another skill set we could talk about on a future podcast. But really learning just the mind piece really begins to now crack open, I see where I have been doing it wrong or at least in a way that wasn’t helpful, let me change it so now I could start seeing possibilities and solutions.
And when you learn to manage your mind as I tell my clients all the time, you start generating your own control. You learn how to tap into that. You start seeking solutions. You start seeking your own answers to your own questions. And now you become the expert on how your brain operates for you as well as against you. But this comes from digging in and being willing to look for the answers. And I’ll tell you what, saying, “I don’t know”, stops this whole process from happening.
Now, you may say, “Well, Sherry, what do I think if I truly don’t know?” You just speak the truth, you just think the truth. You just get honest with yourself. You say, “I don’t know yet but I’m willing to find out. I don’t know yet but I’m willing to keep an open mind to what can help, what can work.” And then you know what you start doing? You start noticing what has worked, what has been helpful. And then you also realize it’s really not about the alcohol, it’s really about my mind. And the more I focus on the alcohol the more I’m telling my mind to think about alcohol.
And the more you tell your mind to think about alcohol right now it’s going to desire it a lot more. But the problem isn’t the alcohol. It’s the mind and its desire for the alcohol. So managing your mind is not something that unique to this topic.
Actually people who run marathons manage their mind all the time. It’s not easy to run those lengths. I don’t think many marathoners find it to be incredibly joyful their entire 26.2 miles. But they develop the mental grit to do it. They tap into that mental power to get the result that they want. And you don’t hear them saying, “It’s so hard. I don’t know how to do it.” Just I laugh because we’re thinking I don’t run, I don’t do marathons but if I did I would just think, wow, just run.
And if you’re not an over-drinker or never had an issue with drinking and you say, “I don’t know how to cut back”, to the person who’s never had a problem they’re going to be like, “Just cut back, just don’t buy it, don’t pick it up. Don’t do the things around alcohol.” It seem so obvious to the person who doesn’t have that result or that problem that they want to get a different result to. But what’s similar across all these different areas, whatever topic you want to insert is that it’s the mental grit. And of course there is the emotional component to it as well.
So if marathoners can develop that mental grit that’s needed so can you, but here’s the thing, it’s not by suppressing your thoughts. You don’t hear the marathoner saying. “I can’t finish this race, I can’t.” The successful marathoner doesn’t think those thoughts. Or if they do come in they twist them, they redirect them. They look at the next mile mark and say, “We’re already at mile 12, keep going.”
So noticing those thoughts, allow them to come in, it’s okay. We don’t want to turn them away at the door because we don’t even have that ability. And oftentimes when we turn them away at the door that means they’re not willing to be seen, and heard, and understood. And here’s the thing, once you see them, understand them and hear them, they begin to change on their own without much direction from you because it’s a change you want and it’s a change you’re welcoming and you’re not resisting it.
So don’t resist those thoughts coming in. We can’t do thought suppression because that really doesn’t help us get long term lasting effects. We have to allow the thoughts and redirect them. And then the brain takes care of itself. It’s been scientifically proven.
You know what happens over time as you redirect those thoughts? The brain prunes away old neural networks that support that old thought. The brain literally prunes it away. It gets rid of it because if the brain is not using something it’s incredibly efficient so it clears it away. Actually the whole body does that, if it’s not needing those cells anymore it sloughs off. It could be skin cells that we don’t need anymore because they’re dead and they slough off. It could be cells internally that go through our liver and our kidney and they get excreted.
The body is not needing something, it gets rid of it. If the body is not using something it gets rid of it. So I like to think of it as thought pruning and this is an active process that you can do to hasten that pruning. Why wait for years to pass by for the pruning to occur when you can accelerate it with these cognitive based tools?
Now, think about rose bushes, if you’ve ever grown rose brushes, they require pruning. And when you prune them they grow back fuller, and more plentiful, and healthier. Pruning actually stimulates growth and results in more blooms and a healthier plant overall. So if you ever felt stuck, especially this past year, stuck with your overdrinking habit, I believe your brain just needs some pruning to allow for different growth to take place.
And when we have these new thoughts, and emotions, and experiences, these all help the brain and stimulate our growth to get different results for a healthier body and a healthier life.
The other night I got together with one of my girl friends and we were talking about how we’re ready for this rebirth. We are just done with this past year and we were both talking about how we were going through these massive closet cleanouts. We just wanted to de-clutter our life and just get rid of the old. And we were talking about how we got rid of so many suits, and handbags, and tops, and sweaters, and all these shoes, things we just weren’t wearing. And that we just noticed were lying around and we haven’t really worn them in a while.
So we just cleared them out, we both donated them because they just didn’t serve us anymore in our life. It felt like it was weighing us down. It was down to prune our closets. It was time to free up space. It was time to make room for what feels good and fresh and energetic.
And I think the same way with the mind, we need to prune it, we need to de-clutter it, we need to get rid of what isn’t working, that way we can make space for more of what we want, peace, love, joy, contentment, fulfillment. Notice I didn’t say happiness, and I want to do a whole other podcast on my thoughts on happiness but that’s for another day.
So here’s my challenge for you today. If your mind is feeling cluttered and bogged down by thoughts that you deem are bad or just aren’t serving you, or giving you the actions and the results that you want in your life, you have my permission to prune them away. And you want to do this process actively so that you can hasten to get to the results to lead to that healthier, more vibrant version of you.
Commit to yourself and leave behind the dullness that overdrinking does to you, where you don’t even recognize yourself, or feel proud of who you are, or have lower self-esteem, and you’re not even proud of all that you’ve accomplished. Don’t let alcohol take that away from you.
Alright my friends, happy pruning and I will see you on next week’s episode. Cheers for now.
Hey, if you’re loving this podcast I’d love to hear from you. Please rate and review this podcast as it helps others discover this work and free them from alcohol. And I’d love to read your review and give you a shout out on an upcoming episode. Cheers.
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.