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When Lisa Boucher saw that she was following her mother's path into alcoholism and loss, she turned things around. Now she helps women break free from alcohol and live better lives for it. In this episode, we discuss her book, Raising the Bottom.
Allan: 01:03 Lisa, welcome to 40+ fitness.
Lisa: 01:06 Thank you Allan. Happy to be here.
Allan: 01:08 You know we're getting into that time of the year when there's you know, holidays and you know, we're going to have Thanksgiving coming up. And of course then after that there's all the Christmas parties. And then of course, New Year's. And you know, we associate all of these holidays, all of these events with alcohol.
Lisa: 01:27 Yeah. And you forgot Halloween because that's becoming a huge alcohol. Um, I know when I was raising my sons, my husband, we're still together and he's a drinker. And when they were taking the kids around when they were little, we had, um, I had a problem with the happy hour at every single house. So the parents would have their kids dressed up in their little costumes and each house would offer a cocktail. And I said, ah. So I ended up making my husband stay home and give out the candy. And I took the kids because by the time you get around, we had a, like a big circle. Half the parents could barely stand. So it starts, I mean there's, there's just no holiday. There's no event that doesn't say, hey, it's all about the parents. And we got to drink too. So what are we modeling?
Allan: 02:22 I moved to Bocas Del Toro and you know, there's an expat community here and uh, you know, we get together and we have dinners and go out and watch our friends, you know, perform and you know, but it's, it's kind of a cycle of things of it. All of this is always going to involve alcohol, you know, bring your own beer, bring your own wine kind of mindset to all of it.
Lisa: 02:44 We live in a boozy culture and you know, for your listeners, I'm not opposed to drinking moderately, but I think Allan, we have normalized alcoholism in a lot of ways. And what I mean by that is people, I quit drinking before I was a daily drinker and I'm around a lot of people that drink daily and I'm not talking just one drink a day. They're drinking four or five drinks a day. And they walk around saying, well, I'm a social drinker. Well, actually, yeah, that's more like getting into alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse. They may not be full blown alcoholics, but it can have a detrimental impact on a life when if you're going to work, they say 80% of alcoholics have families and have jobs. So if your life looks like something like you go to work and every night after work, especially when you live in, in the tropical place like you do, if every day your social life, your after work life is at a bar drinking for the rest of the evening, at some point, by making that choice, you're choosing not to do a whole lot of other things.
And so I just encourage people to say, is this really what I want to do or am I just going along with the flow? I know when I quit drinking, there's so many things that I have found to do. I just went to a bird lecture this morning. I mean it's kind of a nerdy thing to do, but I'm really interested in nature and the birds and things that when I was drinking, I didn't even see the blue sky or the birds, I didn't notice. I wasn't really present on a daily basis or a moment to moment in my life. So there's a lot of things that you miss too with, with the drinking. And it's just a matter of really rethinking all the drinks and saying, is this who I want to be? Is this how I want to spend my time? And I know with like the people that do get sober, there's a lot of deep heartfelt regret of the things that they missed or the things they didn't do with their family, with their children, with their spouse or significant other, because drinking can take up a lot of time.
And I sobered up in my late twenties and I literally just squandered that whole decade of my twenties when you're trying to set up your life. And I had a lot of regrets about that, but much less so than someone who waits till they're 45, 50, even 60 to get sober.
Allan: 05:40 Yeah, you had a statistic in the book kind of hit me in the face. Um, it was up 10% of the population is an addict or an Alcoholic.
Lisa: 05:51 Yeah. I mean that is true. So think about it. Here in the United States, we have about 320 million people, roughly. So there are truly about 32 million addicts and alcoholics. And that's probably, that's probably under-reported because there's a lot of people like me, I did not go to rehab. I did not go to the doctor. I knew about this disease by being raised by an alcoholic mother. So I've been entrenched in this whole thing from the time from birth my whole life.
And, and I've had siblings who are addicts and alcoholics. And now that I've been sober 30 years, I work with a lot of people in recovery. My first husband was a raging alcoholic, so I've just been around this and they say, and I'm also a registered nurse. So here's another scary stat, is 14% of doctors so I've noticed working in healthcare, there are so many doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, that end up in recovery. So that's a pretty high stat. 14% of doctors and 10% like I said, in the book of the general population. So these are people and the people that I focused on in my book are people that you would never suspect they had a drinking problem because I think that's, that's why more people aren't finding recovery. There's this stigma, there's this picture in our heads of an addict is, is the person, the homeless guy on the street, the people that are passing out in cars that we see on the six o'clock news and that is one face of addiction, but that is at the end-stage.
So I wanted to focus on the people again that were, that were more like myself or the 80% functional alcoholics. For instance, Caro, she's one of the, I have 10 stories in the back of the book of various women and, and out and a guide. Um, she was a surgeon. She was coming home every day making dinner, had two children that were well dressed, well fed in good schools, lives in a great neighborhood. All of these trappings that we look at from the outside facade and say, Oh, that's a great life. However, inside she's falling apart. Her kids are miserable. They can't stand her drinking. They are losing respect for her. And she finally one day just came home from work, started to open that bottle of wine and said, you know what, she went back, didn't drink that day, went back to the hospital, told her partners, Hey, I think I have a problem.
These are two other surgeons. And their response was, surely you jest, this can't be. So this is the attitudes of what we've got going out there and still working in healthcare a couple of days a week. I like to keep my foot in so I can tell you what's going on currently. And the attitudes are shameful. People come to the hospital, they are not getting the help they need. They get a lot of the times, all this anxiety, depression on happiness. The underlying issue is substance abuse, drinking too much, um, taking perhaps too many prescription medications like Xanax, volume, Adavan these benzos do not help a person's life go well. A lot of times they're meant to for anxiety. People get rebound anxiety, which is even worse than their original anxiety. So all of these medications are not helping. And what I'm still saying is the doctors are throwing medicine at these people.
They leave the hospital, their lives continue to spiral out of control. They're unhappy, they're gaining weight, they're losing their marriages, they're losing their children. It is a mess. And the doctors though still rarely address the underlying issue of substance abuse. And I'm saying, Allan, we need to get people clean and sober before we start labeling them with anxiety and depression diagnosis because that is what happened to my mother back in the 60s who was also an RN. She went and got on volume them, which was the pharmaceutical industry's first billion dollar drug that led into a 25-year addiction that escalated into alcohol to where she was nonfunctional. My mom was the woman laying on the floor like you would see in wine and roses, you know, she was a hot mess. So this is where it led for her. And so 10 years into my nursing career, I really started to wake up and I'm looking around and I said, my God, nothing has changed.
Nothing has changed. And let's not forget, there's children on the backside of all of these men and women who are caught up in addiction. So we are in essence cultivating a whole new generation of addicts and alcoholics because growing up in these environments with drug and alcohol fueled parents. I know as a child I was traumatized by it. My father was rather abusive. He's trying to control my mother's alcoholism, which is absolutely uncontrollable. She was incapable of parenting. So we basically raised ourselves. I have two older sisters and a younger brother and we've all been touched by addiction in our own lives. So this, you know, we're just perpetuating the mess. And so celebrating all these boozy outings and events, it's like what happens behind the scenes? Is anybody aware of that? Does anybody care?
Allan: 12:02 Yeah. And you know, from my perspective, you know the times that you know, where, where I would think, you know, I kind of get, for lack of a better word, dependent on the alcohol is I'm very much an introvert. And so if I'm going to go to a party or an event, which obviously here on the Island, just because all the time, you know, a couple of drinks makes me human. Um, from their perspective, um, when I'm not drinking and you know, there's always, my wife will get some questions. It's like, what's wrong with Allan? Just like, Oh this is, this is just half. He hasn't had a couple of drinks. I'll give them a couple of drinks and he'll be nice. There'll be a normal person in small groups, one or two, one on ones. I'm fine. But when I get into larger groups or you know, in places with people, it just, I shut down. And so the alcohol kind of just helps me loosen up a little bit.
Lisa: 12:51 Well, I get it. I think you're not alone. I think the majority, I know that I was very similar when I was drinking. It's like you have to have a few drinks before you get to the party. But when I got sober, I started to number one, be true to myself. So I'm not a big large gathering kind of person. I stopped going to a lot of them. My husband's more of an extrovert and I talked about this in the book. So how do you juggle a relationship, a marriage, whatever when one person drinks and one person's social and the other one is kind of how like you Allan. So I just told my husband there was, you know, pick a few parties that we are regularly invited to that you really want me to go to and I'll go. And the ones that are just, I don't feel the need to go anymore.
I prefer more meaningful activities, smaller intimate dinners or gatherings. Like I said, I've just had other things that I do with my time now then suffer through some huge event or gathering that I really don't want to be at to begin with. So it's, it's picking and choosing and being true to myself. And you know, I started to, when you work on your inner-self and some of the drinking was fueled by low self esteem. Some of my drinking was fueled by thinking, people are focused on me. This self-centeredness, that alcoholism breeds where we think people are going to notice us or look at us. And so we're self conscience. But the reality is is most people are in their own heads, focused on their own stuff and they're really not paying attention to us. I used to say that all the time, I have two grown sons now, but when they were in high school, my one son was always so worried what everybody else would think. And I used to say to him, they're not focused on you. Get out of yourself the, I mean, you're just another kid walking. They're not even paying attention to you. And I hope that that helped them get some of that spotlight off of thinking that people are focused on them when they're really not, when they're really not. So we can find other ways to love ourselves and just to say no, it's okay to say no and just not do certain things that I don't want to do anymore.
Allan: 15:15 Yes. Now in the book, um, you're coming from a woman's perspective, but that is in this book was somewhat written more for women and their perspective. Why, why is alcohol more of an issue for women, uh, than it might be for men?
Lisa: 15:29 Well, I don't know that, that it is actually in Raising the Bottom. I focus more on women only because I am a woman and I can intimately relate it to. But I will tell you before I scare off the guys, there's men love the book. Men love Raising the Bottom. In fact, there was a guy who founded in Seattle, he's a merchant Marine. He took it out to sea with him. He found me on Twitter months later and said it was life changing for him. And he's still sober by the way. So I think men really like it because they can read it and almost say like, wow, I can relate to all of this without feeling threatened at all. So I don't want to scare men off by reading the book, but I can relate to more of the women's issues and how we're responsible a lot of times for family and we get a lot of things dumped on our shoulders.
And I know men have stressors as much too, but I will say this, it seems like men do better at saying, Hey buddy, I quit drinking and their friends kind of respect that boundary I think better than women because I have a lot of women that tell me they really struggle with their so called friend groups who don't really want to be friends with them once they quit drinking and all this. And I find that so disheartening for many reasons. Number one, if your friend group is of that mentality, they're probably super heavy drinkers and they probably, I know when I was drinking, I hung out with people who drank like me. I was not hanging out with normal drinkers. And so I didn't realize there were people who didn't drink like I did that there were people who might have drinks a couple of times a month and then that was it.
And they were the true social drinkers who had a big life and were involved in many other things and their life did not revolve around alcohol. So the people that I socialize with were very much different and we drank every night and had parties and gatherings and we called ourselves social drinkers. So when you have that, like I said, want to boot people out or say they can't be friends or whatnot, and women seem to care about that and I tell them, well you don't need those people then find new friends. And I don't know why that's so threatening to some. And I think in order to change your life, to get sober, to maybe drink less, whatever it is that you decide you want to do, you have to be willing to face a little bit of pushback, which leads me to, as adults, why are we pushing back?
Why do we have to have this peer pressure, this adult peer pressure? When I used to go to gatherings early in my recovery and you're, I'm so uncomfortable anyway cause you feel this shame cause you're like quitting drinking and I don't, now I look back and go, Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? Um, but it's like we feel shame for doing something good for ourselves. If you go to a party and they have all these sweets and you refuse a sweet, nobody questions you. But if you go and you refuse to joy a drink, you get the 20 questions. If you're a young woman, Oh, are you pregnant? Oh, why aren't you drinking? Oh, are you on medication? I mean, it's ridiculous. And so I tell people, men and women, no, is a complete sentence, no thank you. We don't need to explain ourselves. And if somebody has a problem with me not drinking, it's usually because they have a drinking problem and they're very uncomfortable with that mirror of someone not drinking to kind of almost co-sign on their BS. So we can navigate these drinking. I go wherever I want, I do what I want. I have a very big life, but I just don't drink. And for the most part, nobody really cares. Like I said, the only people who I've ever really cared that I'm not drinking are people that ended up having their own problems with alcohol.
Allan: 19:51 Yeah. Now, this last month, uh, we ran a challenge, um, and I included an alcohol piece to it and I didn't say completely abstain from alcohol, but we're going to cut it back and continue to kind of regrets it and cut it back. I've had no alcohol challenges in the past and the turn around was relatively small. Um, so it'll be interesting as people get into, you know, the results of going through the challenge. People are improving their health there, they're losing weight. Uh, you know, that's part of the, the gist of the whole thing. Uh, so alcohol, you know, I think we all know alcohol can lead to weight gain, uh, and stopping drinking can actually help you in your weight loss journey. But there are other health things that we should consider with regards to alcohol. Could you kind of get into some of that?
Well, I mean, Oh my gosh, alcohol impacts really every organ in our body. So let's quit diluting ourselves and say, Oh, it's not that bad. It caused the seven types of cancer that's been proven definitively. Alcohol is a class one carcinogenic. So it is in the same class as asbestos. Now nobody is going to tell you that. And the research on that is when you, if you Google it, you're gonna have to dig a little bit. Cause that's not something that pops up immediately. But Oh, believe me, it's there. So in addition to like for men, there's a lot of throat cancers, esophageal cancers, stomach cancers, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and women with breast cancer. I know when I got into recovery here again, I started paying attention and I'm like, Oh my God, so much breast cancer in these women. And then years later I'm researching, doing all this research for Raising the Bottom.
And the light bulb went out and I went, well my God, no wonder all these alcoholic women have breast cancer. It's the booze. I mean we can't say for sure that it's the sole cause, I'm sure there's environmental factors. Stress is a huge one, but a lot of people drink because they can't handle their stress because they don't have good coping skills. So it all ties in together. Um, you've got people, when I was working in the ER, people who are diabetic drinking heavily, their blood sugars are all over the place. They're coming into the hospital because now they're having kidney failure from their unchecked diabetes because they were drinking too much. They're getting coronary artery disease from their unchecked diabetes because they couldn't stop drinking so much. So there are so many ways that alcohol and the alcohol turns to sugar in our body.
So you're just getting this bombardment of sugar, which causes inflammation. Let's move on to the brain. The extended care facilities. Nursing homes are filled with people who have a long history of drinking. Lot of alcoholics end up in the nursing homes. Lot of people with longterm benzo abuse or I don't even want to say abuse, people tend to get on those benzos and they stay on them for the next 30 years because the withdrawal to get off is so awful. They just stay on them. And I think that's how they were designed by the pharmaceutical companies. So they give you this benzo when you're 25 to help you not feel anxious and when you're 60, you're still taking it and pretty soon the mind just goes to mush. So these are things that people don't really understand about how and what it can do.
In the last five years I've seen a big uptick in women that are yellow because women do not have, we lack the chemical that helps to break down alcohol. Men have more of the, Oh, I was, that's a tongue twister for me to say. It's ADH is the, the short, but we women lack ADH. Men have more of it. So that's why men can kind of skate along and drink maybe a little longer and a little harder without it totally impacting them physically. Like at, well a woman, um, women go downhill much faster. And that's, I talk a lot about that Raising the Bottom because that was instrumental for me. Why I got sober when I did, because I saw how quickly once my mother crossed that line from drinking martinis at lunch to becoming a full blown alcoholic. Her demise was Swift.
Her, she ended up looking like she was nine months pregnant, her skin was yellow, she was dying, she was, she was dying. And that happened in a span of five years. So I'm seeing a lot more of that that I didn't see 10 or 15 years ago. I've been in health care for 25 years now. So that is new and it's all attributed, I believe, to the pharmaceutical, or I'm sorry, the alcohol, big alcohol is doing a very, very good job of spending their billions of dollars in ad budgets to target women. And so the new alcoholic often is well educated. She makes a good living. She wears designer pumps and she carries a diaper bag. And this is the new alcoholic of what we're facing. So now let me ask you this, Allan, what happens to those children on the backside in this boozy mom? Well, they end up like me probably will land in their own addiction later on because when you have a mother who's all about the party time, you're not present. You're missing a lot of the nuances that I know with my twins I was able to pick up on, I was two weeks sober when I found out I was pregnant with twins and I'm so grateful that I was a sober mom who was fully present. Both my sons went on to become division one athletes. Both of my sons went to college, they graduated college playing football. And I can just assure you it would've been a very, very different picture had I not been sober. Our family would've been very different.
Allan: 26:32 Now there are a lot of people that will say, okay, you know, and I don't drink that much. You know, I just have a couple drinks here and there and like you said, social drinkers. Um, I was actually reading a study the other day or there's actually several studies out there that show that we're, we're really not good at self-reporting what we eat, what we drink. Uh, so you know, if they ask you what you had for dinner last week and in general, um, you are going to under-report your calories, um, you're gonna report more healthy food than you actually ate. Um, and if you drank alcohol, you're probably gonna report less drinks than you probably drank. But you know, this is an alcoholism is actually something that unless you self-diagnose, nothing's going to change for you.
Lisa: 27:15 And you're absolutely right. So what changed my life was getting honest with myself because the standard alcoholic answer is I had two, Oh, I only had two beers. I only had two drinks. They always only have two. Yeah. So you're right, people lie. And so that's why doctors that are tuned in, most doctors are clueless about alcoholism. Some of the stuff that comes out of the psychiatrist's mouth that I hear like, Oh, it just drives me crazy. They'll say things like, Oh, they used to be an alcoholic, but now they just, they're using meth or something crazy like that. So like they just switched addictions is what they did. But back to your point. Yeah. So we lie, alcoholics lie, we all know that. Um, if you want to change your life, be honest. Nobody can, you know, I knew two years before I quit drinking that I was drinking too much, that I was crossing a line.
I had a home bar that I loved and I knew everybody kinda like on cheers. Everyone knew my name. And when I go, we used to go in there and start asking the person sitting on my right and left, who, or by the way, drinking right along with me and say, do you think I drink too much? And of course they're like, ah, I have no, you're fine. You know, what are they going to say? Yeah, you're drinking. So, but, but that was already, that was those early warning signs. Something was not resonating within my soul. And I knew, I knew that it was not, um, I don't even want to say abnormal, but it was abnormal for me because it's like people get so caught up on quantity. Like I said, I was not a daily drinker. I did not drink a fifth a day.
However, when I drank, I get a few drinks in me. There were times I absolutely could stop and I would be your designated driver. And there were other times I could not stop. So there was that unpredictability factor, which is indicative of potential alcoholism. There was the fact of how it affected my personality. I'm a pretty even keeled person. I'm not a drama queen by any stretch. Give me a few drinks. I know we're going to have drama. It's either going to be, I'm going to create something, I'm going to start a fight. I'm going to shoot my mouth off inappropriately pick, pick anything I would just do and things that I'd never would do and say sober. So that was another clue to me. I was losing my moral compass. That was another tip off where you start to rationalize and justify lying.
You know, I don't know, it was never really a thief, but I'm sure that could have come where, you know, you take 20 bucks out of your husband's wallet, don't bother to tell him, Hey, I took 20 bucks and you start, you know, I didn't do that then, but I could see where I could have maybe segwayed into that kind of behavior. And we tend to rationalize things like, Oh, that's fine, that's fine. Well now actually in sobriety it's about getting rigorously honest, living right, doing the right thing. And so I was really losing my way that way. And I don't know that I would have saw it as early as I did had. Again. My mother was instrumental in my recovery because she sobered up when I was in my early twenties, and I saw her change dramatically. So by the time I got sober, my mother had seven years sobriety under her belt, and she had morphed into this amazing mom that I think I wished I always had.
But it can impact us in so many ways. And I just really want people to understand you've got to throw out all these old ideas that an alcoholic has to look a certain way because no, there are no demographics, there are no boundaries. And I'll tell you the worst nightmare for an alcoholic is money. There's a lot of alcoholism. My father goes to Benito Springs in the winter and I go down there. So you've got a lot of affluent people in the Naples, Sarasota area. And as a nurse I see the loose blouses and the big livers and the guys in their golf shirts with their big livers sticking out. And it's just, Oh my God, I almost can't stand it because there's just so much. Their lives are golfing and drinking and eating and there's going to be a lot of, you know, earlier deaths because this is what they do and they, this is their social life, which is fine, but it's, um, it's scary and a lot of ways to me when I see how sick some of these people look and they don't even see it.
Allan: 32:01 Yeah. Now in your recovery and in your mother's recovery, you utilize the 12 step.
Lisa: 32:07 I did. Yes.
Allan: 32:09 So even that wasn't on your plan. Can you kind of just quickly kind of go through, cause I think you kind of hit on some of those points of getting honest with yourself. Um, and, and I think the 12 steps is actually kind of that approach to actually making that happen and making it real in your life. Not just an exercise you do over the course of a weekend, uh, at a seminar. But this is something that you have to live and do over course of quite a long time,
It becomes a way of life. Allan, I know people go to rehab and I just need to throw this out there. So many people go to rehab in their families think, Oh, they're cured. No, Nope. That is just the tip of the iceberg because a lot of people go to rehab just to get people off their back and they have no intention of really doing the hard work. It takes working on the core insight issues. However you choose to do that. I like the 12 step because it gives you a roadmap to do that. And really the first step is we have to admit we have a problem. So I don't care what recovery method you're going to use, smart recovery, whatever. Um, you have to admit you have a problem because you can't, I mean, it's almost like if someone who's overweight, you have to admit, okay, I decide I need to lose weight.
Until you're ready to accept that about yourself, you're not going to change it. And then the 12 steps really help a person look at their issues. I can. So what were some of mine? I was a very fear based person, which I didn't realize that. Um, so I had to look at how as a child my predominant emotion was fear. And I covered up with that fear with a lot of false bravado. A big mouth, that kind of thing. So I had to look at that. I had to forgive my parents. They did the best they could. I didn't think they did a great job raising me. Um, since I did kind of raise myself along with my siblings. Now I have a sister who stayed in addiction 40 years because she couldn't, she liked to blame my parents as opposed to taking responsibility as an adult.
Okay. Our childhood wasn't great, but it, it could have been worse. And I'm an adult now and I'm going to make the choice to make my life better and be a different parent to my children. And, and my sister couldn't do that. So yeah, you have to. And then it's about, it really focuses too on getting out of yourself. I mean, alcoholism is, We have to get humble. It's that I'm going to do it my way disease. It's a disease that is riddled with pride. People can be almost homeless and they still think they know what they're doing. They're unwilling to listen. They've lost four jobs, they're on their third marriage and they still swear they don't have a problem that you see over and over again. Anybody who's been married more than well, even three times, it's usually alcohol is in the picture there somewhere.
One of the persons involved was drinking and my older sister, she's on her third marriage. Yep. Alcohol has been involved in each one of those marriages, so we have to get honest about, we can't blame everybody else. It comes back to what are we covering up inside of us and dealing with that and working on the issues. Having that humility to say, I can't do this. Making amends to the people that we have harmed people. Moms especially, they say, Oh, I'm not harming anyone. Well, yes you are, because your kids may be well fed and you might get them to their soccer practices. But when you're standing on the sidelines with a cocktail in your hand, you're not really focused on the present moment. You're focused on, Oh, when this cocktail is empty, I got a hall over to my friend's cooler and get a refill.
And it's just a very selfish, myopic way of life, the drinking life. And most people don't really see it until they do get sober. And then the last factor is it's about helping others and doing it freely and willingly and giving of, you know, I do, I work with a lot of women. Recovery coaching is like really big now. I don't charge because it was freely given to me. And so it's an honor and a privilege to help a woman who is struggling, who says they want to change their life and then to give them some simple directions that they follow and their lives begin to change in amazing ways. So that is a gift. So it's, it's really a way of life and it's part of my life that I've just incorporated into my life and it's just who I am and what I do.
I go to meetings three a week, I work with others and I write books and I'm still in there sometimes.
Allan: 37:17 Lisa, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get that stay well.
Lisa: 37:22 The obvious Allen exercise, eat right, but here are, here are the three that I think are really helpful. Number one, stop people pleasing because that a lot of times people, people please. Then they have resentments which fuels eating and drinking and anger. So people are very angry, so stop people pleasing. If you really don't want to do something, I mean other than things that like we have to do, like go to work or whatever, but stop people pleasing so that you're not resentful. Number two, get engaged in something outside of yourself. As I said, help others. People are depressed, they're anxious.
Well, when you're only focused on your own depression and anxiety, it almost fuels it. Whereas if you're focused on helping somebody else, getting out of yourself, the anxiety and depression is cut in half. So I would suggest find something, find a hobby, find a way to help others. And you will watch happiness. Um, quotion expand exponentially. And number three, which is no problem for you down there in Panama, get out in nature people, 89% of adults spend 15 minutes or less a day in nature. Oh my gosh, no wonder we're drinking, right? Because you're around, you're in these sterile environments, be it an office or whatever. And then you go from that to your car, to your house. And I don't think, I mean, well, let's go back to hunters and gatherers. We're meant to be outdoors. You know, the trees, the greenery. There is a chemical in this greenery called Fido signs, and it is proven in Japan.
They call it shouldn't ring Yoku. They don't give out a lot of antidepressants in Japan, they prescribed nature walks and force bathing. So this fight assigns in the trees, helps to increase your immunity, decrease depression, decrease anxiety. So why are we not doing more of these sorts of things and forth? The drinkers know this does not mean you go sit under a Palm tree and have five drains that doesn't count, but maybe go walk amongst the butterflies or I think you mentioned early, maybe before we started taking that you'd have a rain forest nearby. I mean, what a gift. I can't imagine how amazing that would be to walk through this rain for some of this nature. Chirping and chattering above your head. These are things that really can make you feel so much better. And I wonder if people just, if they decided to do something like that every day as opposed to drink five drinks, maybe have one drink after you go on a nature walk and maybe that had be enough and you just had a drink. Your life could be really different in just something as small as those sorts of little changes can have huge impacts when you realize like, wow, I took that walk and I was fully present and engaged in my surroundings. I mean, I can't tell you how many people get sober and say, Oh my God, for the first time I like, I smelled winter or I saw spring. This is what taking alcohol out of a life can do. It's like ripping off the veil or the scales. It's like you see things just totally different.
Allan: 41:06 Lisa, thank you so much. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book (Raising the Bottom), learn more about what you're doing, where would you like for me to send them?
Lisa: 41:15 They can go to my website raisingthebottom.com. I'm on Facebook under Lisa Boucher award-winning author. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram at raising the bottom.
Allan: 41:26 Okay, well you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/406 and I'll be sure to have them there. So Lisa, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Lisa: 41:15 Thank you, Allan. This was a pleasure. I enjoyed talking with you.
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In the book Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington explores her relationship with alcohol.
Allan (1:14): Ruby, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Ruby Warrington (1:17): Allan, thank you for having me.
Allan (1:20): I was really happy to be able to review your book, Sober Curious, because a little over a year ago now I did an alcohol challenge. I do like to do challenges for the listener, so I’ll go out there and say, “Let’s do this squat challenge” and I’ll get people to sign up, or, “Let’s do a sugar challenge” and people sign up. I posted for the alcohol challenge and basically the challenge was to not drink for 28 days. I got very interesting feedback from people and it put me into a lot of, I guess what you would call the “sober firsts” – all the uncomfortableness that can happen with that. So I experienced a lot of what you talk about in the book just by doing my 28 days. It was very interesting. But I think what was, I guess, the most tragic was how many people were posting they could never, ever go 28 days without drinking. Even though they knew that the health benefits would be substantial, they just couldn’t take that step. And that’s why I think your book Sober Curious is actually a very good book in the approach that it’s taking, which is very different from a lot of other models that are out there. I guess I want to start with, beyond the basic health aspects and what not, what are the positive side effects that you’ve experienced going through your journey with sober curious?
Ruby Warrington (2:54): First of all, thanks for sharing your story and for sharing the kinds of feedback that you got. I think it’s so interesting, as you pointed out, how we’re prepared to invest so much time, money and energy in looking and feeling great and putting everything into our fitness and wellness regimes, and yet when it comes to alcohol, people are so reluctant to even consider taking it out. I think that just speaks volumes to our emotional attachments to alcohol, whether or not we might perceive ourselves as having a problem with drinking. I think that the thought of 28 days out of your entire life without alcohol, which is a minute in time, I think it speaks volumes really. I guess the biggest benefits for me have been… There are so many, I’m not sure even where to start. I’d say one of the biggest benefits is feeling overall more energized. I think that’s a result of getting repeatedly night after night of properly restorative sleep. I didn’t really realize how poor my sleep quality was until I removed alcohol and began to get properly restorative sleep most nights. I wouldn’t say that that happens every night; of course there are other factors that play into the quality of my sleep, but by and large, my sleep is so much better. And that has a knock-on effect, in terms of my overall energy and vitality. But not only that – the knock-on effect of having that much more energy is I feel more confident, I feel more inspired, I feel more capable, I feel better equipped to deal with whatever my day might want to throw at me. So, better sleep leading to more energy and an overall sense of feeling more like, “I got this!”, just more confident and capable in my life. Those are some of the biggest wellbeing benefits, I suppose. Specifically speaking to fitness I guess, I’m much more inclined to actually get my workouts in. I’m not losing days or letting things slide because I’m feeling hung over or because I’m out drinking. One of my favorite Saturday activities now is to go and do a longer workout in the gym with my husband. Whereas before we might have gone and had a boozy lunch, I suppose. So it gives me more commitment in terms of my overall fitness goals as well. But then you kind of zoom out and all of these things have their own knock-on effects in other areas of my life.
Allan (5:33): Yes. I can see it as a journalist or someone who’s running a business or even just at work, you’re going to be sharper, you’re going to be able to think through things a lot better. Then the other side of it that I think a lot of people dismiss is how much alcohol dehydrates us, and all the downstream effects of being dehydrated. Your kidneys need that liquid to operate properly, so your kidney function is just not there. Obviously we know that there are some liver function issues as well if you’re drinking all the time. There’s so much out there. Now, one of the things that I thought was really important, and you brought this up in the book, was that we need to be careful as we’re going through this. I think this is with anything that we do, where we’re working to improve our health, is to not want to be that person that’s out there evangelizing. Everybody expected me to do that. We’d go out for dinner and I’d order water. Everybody kind of got squeamish about what they were ordering and how much they were drinking and thinking I was watching them. I was like, “No, you do you, I’m doing me. I’m not out here to change you unless you’re interested in joining me on this journey. But this is my 28 days and I’m not here to do anything different.” Can you talk a little bit about that impulse to want to be the evangelist, so to speak, as it comes to this?
Ruby Warrington (7:05): Even I think in traditional recovery circles, there is a phase that’s recognized that’s known as the “evangelical phase”. I think it’s like with anything, if we discover something that has a really amazing benefit to us, we naturally want to share it with the people that we love and we care about. If you discovered a new workout that you’re feeling so psyched about, you would probably…
Allan (7:28): Like the CrossFitters.
Ruby Warrington (7:29): Right. Like I used to be with Bikram Yoga: “You’ve got to try this. It feels so amazing. You’ll love it. You’ll love every minute. It’s going to change your life.” It’s a very natural urge, but I think with something that is so emotionally fraught for a lot of us and can bring up a lot of judgements, be that judgment of other people, judgment of ourselves as well – you have to tread very carefully. I talk in the book and also in my own life, I’m very careful to always talk about this within the context of my own experience, because the other thing that’s important to say is, everybody is different. The way my body processes alcohol and the negative impact that I wound up realizing it was having on me will be very different from the next person. So it’s not really my place, especially considering I’m not a fitness or a medical professional, to go around telling everyone else what they should be consuming or not. All I can really do is just, like you said, live by example, and if someone is intrigued and wants to ask me more, then great. You could also then say, “Well, you just went and wrote a book about it.” But that was largely because since being really open and discussing freely and without shame and without judgment my experience with alcohol, both the problems I realized it was causing me and the benefits I’ve experienced since not drinking, a lot of people have come to me to, not exactly confess, but to say, “Thank you for sharing. Thank you for talking about this openly, because actually now that you mention it, alcohol is not making me feel great and I don’t really feel like I’m a candidate for AA. I don’t feel like I’ve got a problem with drinking. But also it can be really difficult not to. What can we do about this?” So, the book is really for anyone who finds themselves on any level questioning their relationship to alcohol and wanting to investigate further.
Allan (9:30): I think the fact that you wrote a book is a little different than, you’re out with your friends or you’re riding on a bus or driving. I used to always, when I had something important to tell my daughter and I wanted her attention, I would just do it when we were in the car on trips, so she really didn’t have any other distraction. She just hated sometimes going on long trips with me because she knew there were going to be some lectures. But when you put out a book, it’s a little different because someone has to actually make the investment and the time to seek out that information and then go through that content. It’s not like you’re pushing this on them; you’re saying, “Here’s some information. Use it to your benefit where you see fit.”
Ruby Warrington (10:09): This is true. And there are actually very few people in my life that I have even suggested they may benefit from cutting back or stopping drinking. But at the same time, if I see someone struggling, not necessarily struggling with alcohol, but struggling with stress or struggling with a difficult transition in their life or struggling with finding their sense of purpose, I will gently offer the invitation to see what the clarity that comes from not drinking could bring to them. For example, my husband is now sober curious and doesn’t drink too, but that was not at all the case when I first stepped away from drinking or began to cut it out. But through being able to witness how much calmer and more competent and confident I felt about dealing with the problems in my life, he was like, “You know what? I’m going to try this.” Because he was going through a very stressful period at work at the time, and within a few weeks was feeling so much calmer and so much more able to deal with those stressors. So, I think it goes back to that thing, just really living by example, leading by example, which also brings it home to, if people have questions about why you’re not drinking, why you made this choice – be honest about it, be open about it. The more we make excuses or shy away from having a really honest conversation about why we’ve made this choice, the more we make it something to be ashamed of and the more we keep it as a separate experience from everybody else’s experience. But if I can openly stand up and say, “You know what? The hangovers felt really terrible. They were preventing me from feeling like I was living a life that was aligned” – that actually opens up a conversation and most of the time people I find are curious to hear more, because it sparks something within them also.
Allan (12:04): Yes. It may come off as a big surprise – I am a podcaster, but I’m probably one of the world’s biggest introverts in the world. Quite literally, if I go out with my wife to a party, I could go the whole night without speaking to anyone. I listen. I’ll sit back and just listen to people. They think I’m mad or something because I’m just sitting around not talking. But you put a couple of drinks in me and I lighten up, loosen up and I actually let out some more extrovert vibes and am a lot more comfortable in that social situation. That was one situation where I tend to have some alcohol. And another situation for me was stress. I went through a few years recently with deep, dark seated stress every single day at work as we were going through layoffs and things were just a struggle. And I found that a couple of drinks to be a part of a party was okay for me. It didn’t really push me over where I felt like I was not in control. But coupled with the stress was when to me alcohol became less than healthy. I think when people are looking at alcohol, it’s hard for them to see and it’s, “Of course I don’t have a problem.” But I think there are some things we can see in our health and our wellness that would particularly be warning signs that something’s wrong. Do you mind taking a little bit of time to talk about the relationship of your health and wellness and alcohol, and where you can start to see those chinks in the armor?
Ruby Warrington (13:46): I think the story that you just shared is actually a really great example of how alcohol can begin to have a negative impact on our overall quality of life. And I think there is a distinction to be made between using alcohol to kind of amplify fun or, like you said, make it easier to be social. And I have the same problem as you. It’s not a problem, it’s just…
Allan (14:13): It feels like a problem when you’re at the party and it’s like, “Why are you mad?” I’m like, “I’m not mad. I’m just listening.”
Ruby Warrington (14:20): Exactly. I mentioned Susan Cain’s brilliant book on the power of introverts in Sober Curious and talk about how in America particularly there is this sort of extrovert ideal. We’re taught that to be extroverted is to be loved and to be social is to be great. And if you’re not those things, then there’s something wrong with you. Actually no. Many of us I think are probably more introverted than we are allowed to be or than is appreciated. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us or that we’re weird, we have two heads. But I think a lot of people use alcohol for that same reason, as a way to kind of loosen up a little in social situations and make it easier to engage in the kind of small talk that’s not necessarily that interesting to us. That was certainly one of the things that I used it for. But then when we start using it as a way to mask or numb out or press “Pause” on more negative feelings that we’re experiencing – stress, overwork, overwhelm, fear, these sorts of things – is I think when it can very quickly become more of a partner than just a friend, something that we feel like we need and are relying on to feel good or to feel relaxed. Then there’s more of a likelihood that we’ll become negatively attached to it, I suppose. Not to say that we can’t form an emotional attachment with alcohol when we’re using it for, quote unquote, “positive drinking situations” also. This is speaking purely anecdotally, for me and for many people I know, if I’m drinking to suppress negative emotions, when the alcohol wears off and the hangover sets in, it all comes back feeling 10 times more overwhelming. I often say unprocessed feelings never die; they just come back like zombie feelings that want to eat our brains. And I think anyone who’s woken up the morning after a night of drinking to commiserate or to ease a pain or stress will be familiar with that feeling of the crushing disappointment and distress and all of the stress still being there the morning after. Whereas on the flip side, having had a night out with a few drinks where you’ve had a really celebratory and uplifting time, the next morning, even if you’re hung over, can feel kind of lighthearted still.
So I think ultimately thinking about how we’re using alcohol, whether it’s to amplify fun or to cancel out stress or to numb stress, can have a very different impact on how it actually impacts us. Having said that, I have come to believe that even somebody who’s using alcohol to increase their experience of joy and relaxation and connection, ultimately using a substance for those things is always going to have some kind of a negative physical payoff, versus finding ways to cultivate those things from within. Ultimately, alcohol is a toxin. It creates a very heavy toxic load in our system when it’s metabolized by the body. People are always thinking about and talking about, what’s the best hangover cure? There honestly isn’t one, because it’s the substances that are produced when our liver processes alcohol that cause all of the icky feelings of a hangover. So if you’re drinking alcohol, you’re going to have some kind of a hangover. In terms of my wellbeing and our wellbeing as a society also, I just don’t feel like I have that much time to waste on processing unnecessary toxins out of my system. But going back to the socializing thing, it means that I do a lot more of my socializing during the day now, I do a lot more of my socializing one-on-one, I go to a lot less parties. So, a part of my workaround this has been getting okay with my inner introvert, loving her, and giving her what she needs to have a vibrant social life and good connections with people, which doesn’t necessarily look like the kind of social life that everybody else says I should be having, if that makes sense.
Allan (18:45): It does. The interesting thing was, I met my wife at a bar. And so for the first several years of our relationship, that’s where we would typically want to spend our weekends. And what I find is – in the book you went into it as “emotional intelligence” – I think as we’ve gotten a little more mature, that’s less of something we need when we can just actually spent some time together. We don’t have to be at the bar and we don’t have to be drinking. Having a nice dinner at home sans alcohol is a perfect evening for us now. As you’re looking at emotional intelligence and making better life choices, can you talk about how those are related? You said a little bit earlier when you don’t drink, you wake up the next day more energized, with better thought processes. That kind of snowballs, right?
Ruby Warrington (19:48): This thing about emotional intelligence, there’s a whole chapter on this in the book. We don’t get taught in school how to listen and respond to our emotions, and then in the wider society, some emotional and feeling states are celebrated and others are to be avoided at all costs. When ultimately all of our feelings are there to help guide us towards the right decisions for us, whether to guide us towards more of what’s good for us or whether to guide us away from things that are maybe not so much in alignment. And when we’re manipulating our feeling states, whether it’s to feel more good feelings or feel less bad feelings, we become disconnected from what’s giving rise to those feelings in the first place. So this idea of emotional intelligence is really about learning how to be with any of our feelings as and when they’re arising, so that we can really understand what’s giving rise to those feelings, and then begin to make decisions for ourselves and our lives based on how we feel about what’s happening. Maybe that sounds quite simple, and it can be. If it’s not something we’ve been taught how to do and we’re not used to even having that kind of inner dialogue with ourselves, it can feel a little confusing or overwhelming at first, but it is absolutely natural. And taking alcohol out of the equation really allows us to touch base deeply with how we’re feeling.
A little bit about what you said, in terms of not feeling like you need alcohol in your relationship anymore. I don’t know if you experienced this at all, but for myself, I’ve always had a fantastic relationship with my husband, so it’s been very easy and we’ve always felt very connected to each other, I suppose. And similarly with many of my close friendships. But actually removing alcohol from those relationships, both with my partner and with other friends, I’ve experienced an even deeper level of emotional intimacy, I suppose, that I don’t think I could have experienced if we’d continued drinking together. It can be as simple as telling my husband or hearing from him some stressful things that have been going on in our lives, sober. We really feel the impact of that and we really feel the impact of each other being able to empathize with one another, and it’s a very holistic conversation. If we’d been having the same conversation in a bar over a couple of drinks, there’s always a slight disconnect, because there’s always a lens between you and the actual physical experience of being in that conversation. Again, I hope that makes sense.
Allan (22:32): It does.
Ruby Warrington (22:34): There’s a nakedness almost when you’re communicating and communing with people when there’s no alcohol, if you can muster the courage.
Allan (22:47): The way I think about it is, you’re talking more in the first person when you’re sober than when you’re drinking. When you’re drinking, all those bad thoughts, all those things are almost as if you’re telling someone else’s story.
Ruby Warrington (23:01): Yes.
Allan (23:01): Because you’re not really experiencing them in the moment.
Ruby Warrington (23:04): It’s a really good way of putting it. Yes, exactly. And that for me has been another revelation, really. I’ve had that situation with family members as well. I feel so much more connected to my brother now, and to my mother – both my parents actually – just as a result of being fully present in all of our communications.
Allan (23:24): Absolutely. Now, you go with the concept of sober curious, so I want to circle back around to that, because you have a definition – you call it “sober curious”, and then you have “sober sober”. I think there are people who are really good at moderation and there are people who are not. You had to go through this experience to figure this out, and that’s what kind of led you to the concept of “sober curious”. The way I pull that all together was with that simple question that you ask: Would my life be better without alcohol?
Ruby Warrington (24:02): It sounds so simple.
Allan (24:03): It does sound simple, but that’s where the depth of this book came from. It was not, “Sober Curious: Alcohol’s bad for you. Don’t drink anymore. The end.” Your book was a lot deeper because it really talked about these concepts of abstinence versus saying you’re going to allow yourself the intelligent decision when and how you’re going to use alcohol. And actually that’s led you to use alcohol much less.
Ruby Warrington (24:35): Absolutely. For me, this feels like a very sustainable approach to changing my drinking habits in the long term. Ultimately I had got to a point where I realized that needed to happen through repeated attempts at moderation. And by that I mean saying I’ll only ever drink two glasses of wine, or I’ll only ever drink at the weekend, or I’ll only ever drink on vacation. Invariably that would lead to me drinking as much as I had been before, which in my case I was probably drinking four nights a week, moderately to heavily, I suppose – heavily at the weekends and a few glasses of wine maybe during the week. So, this idea of being sober curious is really about allowing yourself the space rather than… I’ll backtrack a little bit. So the moderation didn’t work for me. The idea of complete abstinence for me was almost like putting alcohol on this pedestal of dangerous, unacceptable, but also still special. This is so pleasurable that as soon as I drank it again, I’m not going to be able to resist and I’ll be back where I was before. It almost kept it in that kind of vibe for me. Whereas I have taken alcohol off the pedestal, just put it on the ground in front of me, I’ve been like, “I’m going to look at you, I’m going to examine you. I’m going to be really, really honest with myself in this questioning of my relationship to alcohol.” And as a result of that, completely allow alcohol to become something different in my life, almost recategorize alcohol in my life. So, the sober curious questioning really means to ask a question any time there’s an impulse, an invitation or an expectation to drink, whether it’s an expectation on your part or in the eyes of others. And they may be questions like, “How is this drink really going to make me feel now, in an hour, by the end of the night, tomorrow? Why is there so much pressure for me to drink? Why do I feel the need to drink in this situation, rather than just showing up as myself? What’s going to be the longer term impact if I continue drinking regularly, socially, on my life?” And like I said, being really honest with your answers to those questions. For me it’s led me to a point where I now have almost recategorized alcohol as a Class A substance, to be treated with extreme caution. It’s just off the table for me, but not in a way that it’s prohibited; in a way that I have no need for that in my life, in the same way that I have no need for heroin in my life.
Allan (27:18): Absolutely. I was thinking about this concept in relation to my lifestyle and the things that I’m doing. One of the things that I enjoy is I will go through what I call periods of feast and periods of famine. I’m down here in the South and I love college football. Unfortunately, or fortunately maybe, we’ve moved to Panama, and being in Panama, I’m not going to have a real football season this year. I’m not going to be able to go to tailgating and do those things, which was one of those moments where I felt pressured to drink, because I wanted to be an extrovert, I wanted to have a lot more fun, I wanted to have all those different feelings and expressions and things that would go on, and watch a great football game, and then probably have a few drinks after the game. I thought in terms of, I’m using football as my excuse to drink. And now I’m not going to go to as many football games so I’m not going to have that in my life. Part of this is, what are the types of situations where you would drink and then deciding, “I’m just not going to drink at those.” The other side of it is saying, “How much would I miss not doing that if it really came down to me deciding I wanted to have less alcohol in my life because I want to feel sharp or be smarter, have more energy and not be damaging my health?” I’ll round it up for me to say I probably need to have fewer drinking events in my life.
Ruby Warrington (28:55): I guess that is one way to think about it. And I like the fact that you identified, “I was using this football experience as an excuse to drink.” If you try moderating by saying, “I’m only going to drink on special occasions” – is the occasion or the drink that’s special? Would you still want to participate in this thing if there wasn’t any alcohol? Would it still be a special occasion for you? That’s, again, something to question. Why is the alcohol so special to you? Why is it so hard to relax in those situations? Why is it so hard to bond and feel the comradery that you want to experience without alcohol? And that’s when we get into some of the deeper questions. I also will say there’s no shame at any point in this questioning process to seek professional help if you reach a point where you’re like, “I don’t understand or I don’t like what I’m discovering about myself and my experience.” I don’t attend AA and I’m not in 12-step recovery and I’m not abstinent. I’m not teetotal even. But I do think that for someone who is having difficulty in answering these questions, the community aspect of an organization like AA is amazing, because it really offers unlimited free peer-to-peer support, which we experience in very few areas in life, particularly in health and wellness. I think that those questions can get kind of deep. But the simple answer might be, “I prefer watching football at home on the TV. That’s actually a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for me. And in fact, if there are three guys out of that group who I really want to hang out with, then I can meet one of them and we’ll do a workout together and we’ll have a great bonding session that way.”
Allan (30:40): When I get an opportunity, if I’m in the country, I will go and watch a football game. I’m now much more aware because I was going through your book and saying, “These are things I’m doing and these are the reasons I’m doing them.” I had not really thought about it before. I’ll probably still try to go to a football game if I can get back in the country for one, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse that I have to drink. It’s going to be, “There’s an event and I’m there. I don’t need to necessarily stop by the liquor store on the way in. Just go to the game, enjoy the game, enjoy my time with my friends and make that what the event’s about.” So it really was an association, but now that I’m much more cognizant of that, have that self-awareness to say that, it’s probably going to change my behavior when I do those things.
Ruby Warrington (31:30): Absolutely. And that’s the thing – it brings us back around to the concept you mentioned earlier of “sober firsts”, which is recognizing what those situations are and then going, “I’m obviously going to go to my best friend’s wedding. I’m not just going to not go because I’m not going to be drinking. Okay, I’m just going to go and show up and see what happens.” Basically this freaks our brains out. I started associating drinking with being comfortable in social situations probably around age 14 or 15, which is when alcohol first started to infiltrate, I suppose. And if I been teaching my brain for 25+ years that I need alcohol in those situations, and then I choose not to have alcohol in those situations – that’s some pretty deeply ingrained neural pathways that I’m choosing to go against. I’m literally going against the grain. So, your brain is going to be going, “What are you doing?” But then you show up and these experiences can be so empowering, which is why I say do not ever shy away from the sober firsts. You need to go, you need to experience how much fun and connection you can have without alcohol. And slowly over time you’ll realize that you don’t need alcohol in any of these situations and that you can actually have just as much fun and feel just as connected without it. You may end up going home a little bit earlier. That’s often what happens with me – I get tired faster without the numbing of alcohol. And then the other thing to say is that if you’re not drinking and everyone else around you is drinking heavily, after a few hours, there’s going to start to be a disconnect in conversation and things like that. And again, nothing wrong with that on either side of the fence, and no shame at all in taking yourself home early and saying, “That was great, I had fun. And that’s going to be the end of the night for me.”
Allan (33:24): Yes. I’m going to have, I guess I’ll call it a sober first. I’ve done this before. One of the interesting things was when I was 16, because I wanted to really focus on football and I saw that alcohol was not helping me be better at football – it wasn’t helping anyone I knew be better at football – I stopped drinking. And as soon as I finished football, I was into college and I was like, “I’m majoring in physics. I can’t do this. I’ve got to study and make good grades. And I’m working all the time to pay my way through.” And then it was like, “Now I’m in the army. I have to be alert. They’re going to call me up at any moment. I could be in a combat situation. I don’t want to have that in the way.” And then I was back in college and then building a family and all those different things. And it wasn’t until I felt like I’ve accomplished the things that I set out to accomplish in my life. I was 32; I had at that point a good job. I was going through a pretty stressful period of time, and I said, “I’ll have a drink.” And that drink became me becoming a regular drinker. It’s not something I ever envisioned myself being. And now I’m on the other side of this saying, “What would my life be like? Would it be better if I took that step back?” One of the interesting things that’s going on as we record this – tonight, as soon as I get through here, I’m going to take a shower, get ready, and then we’re headed over to one of my friend’s houses for a party. The thing is though, she lives in hour away. So, to be sober driving back, I’m just not going to drink tonight. I made that decision, I’ll be the designated driver. I’m going to have to be social, but I know I’ll probably be a little bit more of the introvert of the party. But it’s one of those experiments and a sober first where I’m going to go through this process of figuring out how to have those conversations, to have that fun, to express myself without having to use the liquid courage.
Ruby Warrington (35:27): So what are your tactics going to be?
Allan (35:30): Lots of water.
Ruby Warrington (35:31): Lots of water. This is controversial in recovery circles, but I’m not in recovery so it’s fine for me to talk about it. If you’ve ever been a beer drinker, I really enjoy alcohol-free beer. I guess it has a placebo effect – it feels like drinking a beer and it kind of looks like drinking a beer.
Allan (35:47): And you feel comfortable. When I did the 28-day challenge, I did try it. I sampled various versions. I did find that the British versions were better, by the way.
Ruby Warrington (35:56): Yes. Europe is miles ahead when it comes to alcohol-free beer. Yes, indeed.
Allan (36:02): Yes, they are. We won’t name any names, but I did enjoy particularly the British versions that I was able to get here. It was fun to experiment with, and it does feel better. You’re holding something in your hands that makes you feel like you’re part of everything and it makes others feel more comfortable around you too. Probably not going to do that tonight though. I’m just going to do straight water and go with it that way.
Ruby Warrington (36:26): Good for you. And I think as well in social situations, beginning the conversations with questions, having a bunch of questions for people in your back pocket that aren’t necessarily like, “What do you do?” or, “Where do you live?”, but feeling safe to ask some more intimate or more intriguing questions. I suppose it helps to take the focus off “How awkward am I feeling? What’s my experience?”, and really open your focus up to, “Who’s everyone? Who are these people? What can I learn here tonight?”
Allan (36:59): Yes. I want to close off with one last question, and it doesn’t have to be related to the book or alcohol at all. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Ruby Warrington (37:19): For me, it’s slightly related to the book, but just in general, prioritizing my sleep is an absolute must. The knock-on effect of not getting proper sleep is something I feel physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. It’s really profound for me. So prioritizing sleep is definitely a big one, and that for me means having a really regimented, is the right word, but it sounds really strict and not fun. Just a really regular sleep routine, I suppose. I’m generally in bed by 9:30, so I can have half an hour with no screens to read a novel, to be putting my head on the pillow before 10:30. And I find that staying in that routine every night, weeknights and weekend really helps me stay in a great sleep cycle that generally helps me feel in optimal wellness all the time. A couple of other things. I stopped eating meat in 2010. That had a really huge impact as well on my overall sense of wellbeing. And the thing I didn’t mention about another one of the huge benefits for me of cutting out alcohol is that I had previously suffered from quite persistent, if not dramatic, IBS symptoms. That lessened dramatically after I stopped eating meat, but when I cut out alcohol it completely went away and I don’t have any gut issues anymore. Anyone who’s experienced IBS or digestive problems, it can really have a detrimental effect overall on your sense of wellbeing. So I guess those things – looking after my gut, getting really good sleep are probably at the core. It almost goes without saying, but I do some kind of movement practice every day and I meditate every day. Those are the other things, but I’d say with the sleep and the gut health, I could probably be pretty good with those.
Ruby Warrington (39:31): I recently reinstated my personal Instagram account, which is @rubywarrington, and that has most of the information. I’ll be posting about all the events, readings, etcetera, about the book that are coming up. I’ll be hosting a couple of retreats in the U.S. this spring and summer – one on the West Coast in May and one on the East Coast in July. And my website is The-Numinous.com, which is a whole other conversation, but a part of what I do is I have a spiritual wellness website called The Numinous. So yeah, you can find me there or @rubywarrington on Instagram.
Allan (40:08): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/370 and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Ruby, again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Ruby Warrington (40:19): Thank you so much for having me. This was really fun.
Allan (40:25): Ruby certainly gives us some food for thought as it comes to alcohol and alcohol consumption. So I hope you take this to heart and that this episode was able to help you. And if you do find what I’m doing here – the podcast, the book and all of that valuable, I really would appreciate if you would give us a vote on the Author Academy Awards. I’m really, really interested in becoming a finalist for this award so I can go up there and be a part of the community. So if you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, you can go ahead and vote. We’re in category for “Health”, and right now that’s on something like page 7 of 16, so you have to scroll through a bit before you find it. Find the cover for The Wellness Roadmap, and go ahead and click on that and give us a vote. They’ll let you vote one time, so please do go out and do that. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA and vote for The Wellness Roadmap today. Thank you.