Transcript: Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol
Well. Hello there. How are you doing today? When I thought about doing this podcast, I didn't want to create one that advocated for everyone to stop drinking. I'm not going to tell you to pour out your wine and your liquor, so don't worry. I wanted to share with you my thought process about giving anything up and how drinking was really just one more thing that I used in my life to avoid my thoughts and my feelings. I wanted to record this podcast because I know that there's something that every single one of us knows is keeping us from being our best self, whether it is over eating, over drinking, over shopping, overworking. I wanted to just bring some awareness to the fact that we all have something that is preventing us from living bigger in our lives. Whatever that is for you. I hope that you can apply some of what you hear today and maybe get some awareness around what might be holding you back.
And I also wanted to share that this took me some time. I negotiated with alcohol for a while to keep it in my life any way that I could, and then I finally recognized how much precious brain power and energy I was spending on alcohol. It didn't have to take time. I could've just decided that I didn't want to have it in my life, but I had such intense associations of pleasure with it that I kept hanging on and I finally let go of those associations with pleasure, the process that I went through. I'm going to share that with you and just give you my thought process around this. So if you are interested in exploring, giving anything up, alcohol, overspending, over eating, checking social media all the time, working later than you should, then you can start to play with it in your own life and questioning whether or not you want it in your life and questioning your thoughts around why you're keeping it in your life.
If you decide to do that, this isn't a podcast about beating yourself up or blaming yourself or anything like that because that's not going to serve us. Anytime we start beating ourselves up, that's when we can recognize, Hey, these thoughts are not the thoughts that are going to help us move in the direction we want to and just say, Hey, you know what? I'm okay. I am just recognizing that this is something going on in my brain. It is not a reflection of who I am as a human being. It's just something that's happening in my brain. Now, the first thing that most people in our society think when someone says to us, I don't drink alcohol is usually, Oh, and she must have a problem with alcohol. I never considered it that way. I just thought I was having fun. I'm already spunky and fun and alcohol would just amplify that.
Plus just about every single person I know drinks, but I saw in my life a net negative impact on my life over time that I just couldn't ignore and we'll get to that. The first time I tried to give up alcohol was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago, and my doctor said that drinking alcohol increased my risk of getting cancer again. Now you'd think that that would be enough to get me to stop. I tried it. I gave my girlfriend my port glasses. I gave other friends alcohol that was in my house, but I felt really forced into it. Like I was forced into a corner. And my natural reaction, and probably yours too, was to say, screw that. I'm going to drink if I want a drink. I want to enjoy my life. And drinking wine with friends is one of the things that I enjoy.
I felt like I was depriving myself of something I enjoyed. The feeling of deprivation will never give us the result that we want if we want to eliminate something from our life. So just recognize if you're white knuckling something that that is a signal that you're not going to be successful. So just recognize that. Um, I will get into how you can process that feeling in a little bit, but I just want you to recognize that if you feel like you're white knuckling it, like you are forcing yourself to not spend, to force yourself not to eat or drink or whatever it is that you do. You are suppressing an emotion. So we'll talk a little bit about how to process that in a bit. So I drank an undergrad but it seemed really prevalent in law school. There's even a night called bar review.
For those of you if you're not a lawyer that isn't when you go study for the bar, it's when you go to a bar. Ours was on Thursday nights and the drinking would usually go Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, maybe on Sunday. And we all just looked at it as a release from the pressures of law school. Everybody was doing it. Uh, it was just something that you did to be social, kind of let off some steam. And the school administrators are part of this socialization process. In law school, there's alcohol at all school events. Usually it's open bar. And there was even a security guard posted at my law school to make sure none of us drove off in endangered our soon to be legal careers. So you can kind of see why or how alcohol plays such a large role in the lives of lawyers.
Lawyers are under intense pressures. And one of the ways to avoid the feelings surrounding those pressures rather than processing those emotions and understanding how our brain works is to drink alcohol and it is something that I have seen throughout my legal career. In fact, if you don't drink, people will look at you like something is wrong with you. That's anywhere, right? If you're listening to this, if you're not a lawyer, you're probably a professional who does networking, who probably spends a lot of time socializing with other people in order to build a business and you likely noticed that alcohol is a huge component of that. There are certain cultural norms in our society like eating excessively during the holidays and working long hours to show how dedicated you are and drinking alcohol at pretty much every single social event. On my trip to Bali earlier this year, one of the women in our group commented on how refreshing it was to hang out with a bunch of women at dry events in her circle of doctors and other professionals she spent time with.
They all drank alcohol and she was the only one who seemed not to drink and she felt kind of like the odd woman out the net negative impact the alcohol had in my life became clear about a year ago I'd been drinking since before undergrad and in my years of drinking I have had blackouts I have over drunk to the point of being sick and I barely found my way home some nights and got myself into some questionable situations, but I never saw these things as resulting from drinking too much or drinking at all. It was just that's what happens. I had really abdicated responsibility for my life to alcohol when I look back on it and I'm not saying that I would do anything differently. I think that there's a a big learning curve that we have growing up and that's just something that we do and it helps us learn things.
Now, a few years ago I became heavily involved in thought work and shifting my beliefs about things in my life. And one of the big shifts for me was restructuring my life to make room for my business while continuing to be a lawyer full time. It also involved me reevaluating how I fuel my body for more energy so I could wake up early and get things done all day without crashing. And doing all of that required me to understand more about what my body needed and didn't need to feel good. It also required me to really pay attention. It required me to look at how everything impacted my day, whether it's what I eat or what I drink. So I've processed what I have processed with alcohol, but I'm still going through this and other areas of my life. So one of the big things I noticed is that I overeat and I will reach out for sugar and I will reach out for, for um, salty snacks for kind of like a comfort.
And I will use those items to, uh, push down emotions to avoid. And when I do that, I also noticed in my body that I become really tired. I've cleared out my body of a lot of these toxins. I'm looking at them as toxins, but you can look at them as food. It's just food. It's just how I choose to use the food in my life. So while I've done this through the work I've done on alcohol, I'm still working through this on other areas of my life so that I can better fuel my body. And once we start doing something like totally detoxing our body of the foods that we don't want in our life, like sugars, dairies, uh, anything else that you feel is might be impacting you mentally. Once you put that back into your body, you can really see a difference.
Like, I really see a difference when I have sugar because I crash. It does not feel good in my body. It makes me feel a little bit ill. So after about a year or so of this kind of work, understanding how it was working, um, how, how my brain was working and how I could create more energy in my body, I started to really see how alcohol, red wines were really my drink of choice. I loved Zinfandels and ports. Well, I saw how they affected my body and how it felt. They made my stomach hurt the next day and I'd wake up in the middle of the night and I'd feel groggy the next morning. But I kept drinking. And every time I'd go out with friends, I'd drink and I could never have just one. These, uh, there would be like at least two to three drinks per night. Now, while I knew that it was the alcohol impacting me, I figured I could just negotiate it, negotiate with it.
I thought, well, maybe if I just limit myself to one drink, I can keep it in my life and be normal. But of course I simply couldn't have just one. What was the point of that? Right. So then it was, well maybe I'll try drinking white wines and see if that impacts me differently. And that seemed to work, but then it didn't and I just felt off. It didn't seem to matter what I tried. I couldn't strike a deal with alcohol, that it would just make me feel good, like that's what I expected it to do. And let me clarify what feeling good really meant for me. It really meant numbing out. It really meant numbing out to the problems I may have felt at the time to the discomfort of being in a social situation with a lot of other people. Maybe they were drinking alcohol too, feeling the status of sipping a glass of wine.
I mean, doesn't that feel sophisticated to you? And to disconnecting with my real feelings about what was happening around me to really disconnecting from myself, my thoughts and my feelings. Now, a lot of the physical impacts of alcohol, the sleep and the stomach issues had to do with my age because my body simply doesn't metabolize alcohol the way that it used to. But when I stopped drinking, I couldn't ignore how much I'd missed by drinking so much over my lifetime, I'd missed connections with people at parties. I've missed entire conversations with people because I was in a haze of alcohol and that doesn't even mention the entire blocks of time. I had forgotten not to mention the fortune I had spent on alcohol and maybe some embarrassing situations, you know, that I don't even recognize had happened, and do I regret any of it? No, not even a little bit.
I had a lot of fun. I got a lot out of the experiences I had and I stopped drinking exactly when I was supposed to. Well, I have a glass of port in the future maybe, but now I have a complete understanding of what I'm giving up. When I make that decision, I'm giving up focus, the opportunity for connection and I'm giving up feeling rested and a body that feels good. The idea of having a glass of port. It doesn't excite me like it used to because now I think about the net negative impact it has on my life rather than focusing on the alcohol. I have a ton of alcohol in my house and I don't feel the need to drink it. Alcohol just doesn't interest me. About seven months ago I was at a friend's birthday party and we went wine tasting. I thought, Oh, I will have a single glass of port and that's when I realized I didn't even really want it.
It didn't taste as good as I remembered and I think the taste we think is so good is actually tied to what we think we're going to feel when we drink it and I didn't feel any better while drinking that glass of port. I'd recognize that that was a false association I had made over the years. If you're struggling with giving anything up in your life, the very first thing to notice is that you're struggling. If you're struggling or resentful or white knuckling, giving something up, that's not going to work. I experienced that firsthand. One thing you can do to begin making shifts towards letting something go is to write down all the negative impacts that that substance, or it could be a person even, right? Like we have people in our lives that we know aren't good for us, but we still have them in our lives.
What net negative impact have they had on your life? What are the things you're missing out on or have missed out on by deciding to keep this thing in your life and think about all the thoughts that you have right before you go to grab it, whether it's food, social media, uh, calling up that guy, you know who's no good for you. When you start to see these thoughts, then you can start preparing yourself for the next thing you'll have, which is an urge to do it right now. Maybe those thoughts or something like, I just need to relax. I'll feel better after that. After I have that cookie, it'll make me happy. I want it. It's just a sip. I'm just going to have one. Oh, and this is my favorite. I deserve it. It's been a rough day or a rough week or a rough year and like our brain finds all of these different ways to justify bringing this thing back into our life when we know intellectually it has a net negative impact on our left and right.
All of these out. I think writing them out by hand actually starts helping your brain process these more. But this is just the beginning stage. What's really important is starting to understand why you're doing it. Our brain wants us to be comfortable. It wants to give us comfort and we have these really intense connections with different substances because they have this, um, it's like a distilled version of pleasure. So you know, the things that we normally find pleasure in, right connection with a human being or food or, um, you know, any, anything that's normal, something that we would've had thousands of years ago that felt comfortable to us. Well, that's all been distilled in our modern society so that we have access to this concentrated pleasure. And of course our brain is like, Hey, give me more of that. That felt really good. I need that to survive.
That's why the sugar is so amazing to us as this jolt in our brain. It releases that dopamine letting us know that we've got something we really, really need to survive happening and this is good. Do it again. Do it again. It feels so good. That's why we reach for that glass. That's why we reach for that cookie. That's why we reach for, you know, maybe the person in our life that doesn't serve us is because it really feels good in that moment. But when we start to recognize what's happening and we start to recognize that these are false pleasures, that these are not pleasures that are necessarily in our best interest, then we can start recognizing, okay, what are the real pleasures in my life, the real pleasure in my life now that alcohol isn't there. It's actually connecting with the people around me and you know, being able to have a conversation with somebody and remember it the next day or be able to, um, find different people who are interesting to you when you're at an event.
Whereas before maybe you were kind of like off just drinking and maybe you were a little bit in a haze and you didn't really feel as sharp as you might usually be. Those are different things I can do now because I have totally wiped alcohol off my interest list and I've taken all the energy that I've put into alcohol, into other things, specifically my business. The interesting thing about these false pleasures is that they SAP your ability to get anything done. Have you ever noticed that when you are procrastinating, sometimes you'll reach for something that doesn't serve you like, well, I'm just going to have one snack before I get to work or I'm just going to take a little nap. I need a little rest, or you know, I'm just going to go out tonight and I can put that thing off that I need to do.
I'm just going to have a couple of glasses of wine and just start recognizing where this is impacting you. And I noticed this when I'm at my desk at work. So if you're a workaholic, which you probably are, if you're listening to this, then you might even be at your desk some days and have yoga planned or your run planned for the evening. You think to yourself, well, you know, I'm going to feel so much better if I just finished this one last file. If I just work on this one last thing I know I won't be going to yoga, but you know what? I'm just going to finish this. I'm going to feel really good about it later. That's our brain negotiating with something that isn't serving us long term. When we start recognizing what's going on, then we can say, Oh, okay, I see you, and then we can go into the reason why we're doing.
We're reaching for that false pleasure and that is we're having an urge. We're having an emotion. It could be restlessness. It can be anxiety, and we just need to sit with it. So when you start thinking the thoughts that you have, right, you've written those down, you start thinking all the thoughts like, Oh, you know what? I deserve it. Then your brain can be triggered and saying, Whoa, wait a minute. I know what's going to happen next. I'm going to feel anxious or restless or something, and then I'm going to want to reach for the cookie. I'm going to want to go to the fridge one more time. I'm going to want to fill in the blank with your drug of choice. So just recognize that that's all it is. It's an urge. But what we can do is sit with that urge. So instead of going to the fridge, we stop and we just feel it.
Now you may not be used to feeling this and that's okay. It might take a long time to work through this urge, this anxiousness, this restlessness in your body, but just to feel it and then take a few breaths, let it go. It might take you longer than a few breaths and that's okay. Just don't go to the fridge and know that this is just something that your brain is doing. It's totally normal and you are slowly starting to release what doesn't serve you. And when you notice it, at least then you're making a conscious decision about what you want. That's one more step in designing your life with intention rather than just letting it happen to you rather than just letting a foreign substance, whether it's sugar or a dairy or um, working, shopping, alcohol, it doesn't have that impact on you to just make you do things.
You are now in control of your life. You're in the driver's seat and you can make a conscious decision about what you want to do and eventually you'll let go of what doesn't serve you. You may not do it all at once. Like I didn't do it all at once. Although that is a possibility for you. You could just say, no, I'm done. I see what you're doing to my life and it is not a good thing we're done. You might just say that to yourself or you might work through this negotiation process like I did. So just give yourself some grace in this process. It's not something that you need to do right away. It's not something that we beat ourselves up over. It's just something that we go through. Now. If you have enjoyed this podcast, DM me on Instagram at Dana dot Cataldo or let me know by leaving a review on Apple podcast reviews, help this show grow and reach new people.
So I would very much appreciate it. You can leave a review at dinacataldo.com/iTunes and if you've struggled with this, if you've struggled with anything, I'd love to hear from you. I know that lawyers in particular struggle with so many different things, right? We're not really used to processing our emotions. What we want to do is work, work, work. When we are in that position, we are not allowing ourselves to have the awareness to see how all of these different things, whether it's alcohol, food, our work is impacting our life in a giving it a net negative impact. So I just want you, if you have any experience with this, if you want to share that with me to come join me on Instagram and let me know. I know that so many other people struggle with this and that they would want to hear your experience with it too. All right. Thank you so much. Talk to you next week.