Is it possible to find the alcohol off-switch? Can you ultimately shift from being an overdrinker to no longer caring about alcohol? Well, the short answer is yes. As Emily shares this week, she's found the off-switch as have so many others she coaches in her life coach practice. Listen in this week to discover her insights into how to find your alcohol off-switch.
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Episode 17. The Alcohol Off-Switch
Hello and welcome to episode 17. Let’s talk about the Alcohol Off-Switch. Have you ever thought, “I wish I just had an off-switch where I no longer cared about alcohol?” I’ve heard so many people say this or they say “I have no off-switch.” They can drink and drink and never feel satisfied and never feel like they’ve had enough. Or you’re never drunk enough. You know, the old binge drinking routine.
Well, the off-switch I’m referring to is the switch from feeling like you can’t live without alcohol in your life to not caring about alcohol any longer. Feeling like you not only can live without alcohol but you prefer to live without alcohol. Literally like a flip of a switch…where it’s so prevalent in your life and you think a life without drinking isn’t worth living to couldn’t care less about it.
Now some of you are still at the point where you want to moderate or drink socially so you’re not looking for a total off-switch, so to speak, and that’s fine, but you might consider how you’re going to accomplish this when alcohol is obviously still very important to you. You want to quit binge drinking but you don’t want to quit altogether. That’s like saying, “I just want to live with my abusive partner but I don’t want to let him control me and destroy me any longer.” You know there’s damage being done so you superficially want to remove the damaging effects of overdrinking by learning to moderate but you don’t want to give up alcohol completely.
You’re fighting to keep alcohol in your life versus fighting to create lasting change or fighting to rid yourself of the crutch. So I want you to consider starting with that dry period to create distance between you and this abusive partner. Time apart from drinking will allow you to become detached and create clarity. You can’t kick your abusive partner out, sneak over to his or her place periodically and sleep with them and expect not to live in emotional turmoil. You can’t expect to not get drawn back into the fold. Overdrinking straight into moderation is very difficult. So how can this off-switch help?
Well, people who successfully moderate do so because they really don’t care about alcohol. They have an off-switch because they don’t prefer drinking.
So the alcohol off-switch is very relevant to even those who wish to moderate because when you don’t care about alcohol any longer, you can take it or leave it, which means you can have a drink one day and not care about it the next. You can have a drink and not make it mean anything significant and move on with your life the next day. You can see that abusive ex and not feel drawn to them any longer. You might be angry, which is part of the emotional bag of feelings you might experience when you find your off-switch but most of the time it’s elation and joy and gratitude. But anger is definitely in there somewhere sometimes, too.
So let’s talk off-switch. What causes this to occur? Or what can create this for you? I was able to find my off-switch which I actually thought was spontaneous sobriety but it isn’t, which I talk about in episode 14. But this off-switch is what creates sustainability. It’s what alters you permanently to become indifferent to booze. To no longer be triggered by it, desire it, crave it, feel the need to partake, or feel the need to avoid it or avoid being around people drinking. You don’t feel less than, you don’t feel anything about it because it’s a non-event.
Trying to put how to find your off-switch in to words was a bit difficult for me because it seemed like it just happened. Like one day I went to sleep as an overdrinker and the next day I woke up not caring about alcohol any longer. But that’s not really what happened. In fact, I remember the moment it happened. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It just hit me that I didn’t have to be a drinker at all. I guess I was trying to figure out how to fit alcohol into my life and it never dawned on me that I didn’t have to. I could just not drink.
But what really sealed that off-switch was more than just the realization that I didn’t have to drink. It was learning to appreciate and love life again like I did when I was a kid. What is it about being young that makes life feel so magical and how does it get lost?
Well, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast recently. She’s the author of the book turned movie Eat, Pray, Love. But she had Glennon Doyle Melton on who also wrote a couple books, her most well-known is probably Love Warrior. But anyway, Glennon said something that resonated with me and I think it’s really the key to finding your off-switch. She said her off-switch with drugs, and alcohol, and bulimia came when she turned to creating rather than destroying. Creating versus destroying. Think about that for a minute.
I believe as humans we have this blessing and curse which is this powerful brain. It’s our enemy and our ally and it’s the tool that can help us and the tool that can hurt us. Your thoughts and beliefs are all learned from the moment you’re born as a blank slate. They’re learned whether it’s cause and effect or action, reaction, or observing your environment and your social group, believing that’s the entirety of how life works.
And through this learning process we get molded into a human being with a somewhat stuck sense of self. We have a very limited scope of who we can be, what we can do, how to behave, how to speak. It feels constricting and suffocating. You may have done everything “right” so to speak but you still feel like you don’t exist. Maybe you got the college education, got a nice job, met the love of your life, had babies, and you still feel like something’s missing. Or maybe you took another route and never got married or never had kids so you were less confined but you still feel like you’re not alive.
Your life experiences begin to accumulate and create this buried sense of pain. You feel like a guest in your own body. You feel detached and misplaced. Eckhart Tolle calls this the pain body. But you carry this pain around, buried, and you try not to let it surface. You avoid digging into your emotions because you don’t want to feel the pain. You drink and overdrink to censor or dull the pain. You lash out and build boundaries and push people away so they can’t see your pain or inadvertently uncover it or bring it to the surface.
And a common way of handling this accumulated pain body is by overdrinking. The problem is this pain body is a part of you and you can’t just destroy it or mute it without destroying the whole self. Alcohol is not like chemotherapy where it can be targeted to just one sick cell, your pain. It not only kills the sick cell or pain body but it kills the host (you), too. And what I mean by kill is the destruction overdrinking causes in your life.
You’re at the mercy of your thoughts and the thousands of thoughts swirling around in your brain not knowing that you can break free of this by unlearning all you’ve been taught. You can think intentionally and on purpose rather than following the regurgitated thoughts produced by your brain. The enemy brain is the fear-based brain keeping you stuck and suffocating. It’s the unintentional thinking that consumes your day telling you what you can’t, shouldn’t, and aren’t good enough to do. It’s the brain showing you the proof of all the things you’ve done wrong in the past and bringing painful memories to the surface so that you stay in your cave and don’t go into that scary world.
Your ally brain is what can pull you out of the cave and turn the switch off. Using your intentional thinking and allowing motivational thoughts to guide you and reassure you that you’re going to be okay. The intentional thinking that reminds you, you don’t have to be perfect. John Steinbeck wrote in his book East of Eden, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” And then I heard on that Magic Lessons podcast an additional layer to this quote saying and when you don’t have to be good, you can be free.
Overdrinking and drinking in general can be very destructive and self-destructive. And getting or being stuck in that overdrinking cycle is sabotaging your life, your progression, and your full experience of being human. It’s not giving yourself permission to move forward, grow, create and evolve. You’ve built a barrier of protection around you that you thinking is preventing the pain to penetrate your life but it’s actually trapping the pain inside you. That barrier is not keeping the pain out, it’s keeping the pain in.
It’s destroying your life in more ways than just the damage alcohol causes to your biology. The destruction comes in so many forms. And the most damage is likely something that’s not even on your radar right now. But there is another way to alleviate and release the pain body and that is through creation. The off-switch is when you stop destroying and start creating.
What’s amazing about letting alcohol go is the awakening that starts to flourish and the personal enlightenment and growth in your heart and soul that rebound. When you’re young, you are ambitious and your spirit is usually full of hope and love and along the way somehow this gets lost or damaged. When you quit drinking it comes back…this childlike hope and courage and curiosity in life, and who we are, and why we’re here, come to the forefront. There’s gratitude for being on this planet and the mysteriousness that is being human and that is life and the cosmos. There’s appreciation for the beauty of the universe and you feel more interconnected with the world and the earth.
You have more ambition and more drive and more energy to CREATE. So let me talk about creation. Think of this word loosely. I just want you to think of it as putting your stamp in the world. Putting yourself out in the universe in some way whether it’s talking, writing, blogging, sculpting, painting, drawing, music, using your voice and your unique abilities in some way as an outlet. Opening yourself up to let the pain body out but keeping the host intact.
Every one of us has a creative, imaginative side but it gets shut off. We stop developing and exploring our personal art as we get older and our responsibilities shift from learning to doing. We are taught our entire youth how to adult (with a lot of human curriculum missed) and then we get to adulthood and it becomes making ends meet, paying bills, raising kids, maybe, learning how to be a partner to someone, maybe, and this is supposed to be fulfilling. Well, you and I know it’s not.
But what does feel fulfilling is being productive not only to society but to your inner being. Letting that inner voice talk, giving it a platform, letting it be heard even if it’s just on a piece of paper between you and the universe. Writing is very cathartic and can be your first small step to a larger creation. When you open the door to let the soul out, it will guide you like a beacon to interests and aligned passions.
And when you can start to pour yourself into these passions and curiosities, you’re awake, alert, interested in being alive, interested in contributing in some small way to the beauty of the world. When you find yourself in the flow, as Oprah calls it, time just passes by because you have opened up your internal being to communicate and create without that cognitive brain. As Walter Isaacson says, one of the strongest motives that leads humans to art is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness. And isn’t that what you’re trying to accomplish with overdrinking, an escape?
Creation is an outlet. It allows you to escape from the narrow whirlpool of personal experience. That narrow world you were born into and molded into as your cognitive brain listened, tasted, smelled, touched, and observed. It shaped you and built walls around you. Your pain and suffering are created by believing this is how your life has to be, by believing your pain is present and real, but it’s bundled up in past experiences, and false beliefs about your future potential. And you can let it out like steam from a tea kettle by just popping the lid off. You can pop the lid off by awareness that you’re perpetuating your pain with your thinking, believing your unintentional thoughts, and not allowing yourself the grace you deserve.
Look, you’re not as fragile as you think you are. When the walls start to come down and you begin to release some of that buried pain, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to actually feel relief. But you have to stop blocking it first and using your creative mind, using your words and writing, and exploring your thoughts, and curiously reviewing your beliefs will allow you to open up that tea kettle.
So in order to find your alcohol off-switch, use your cognitive, ally brain to start the creative process. Use your ally brain to help lift you out of the narrow life you’re living. Your environment and social upbringing may have created those walls you’re living within but now it’s your time to take a sledgehammer to them and really explore the world. Now it’s your responsibility to grow. No one is responsible for you any longer and thank goodness.
Then find your creative outlet and passion that lights you up. Find what makes you feel more energized rather than what drains you. Your passions will lead you into a world you love participating in. A life you don’t want to be asleep through. An existence you don’t want to be sedated for anesthetized. A passion is just a symbolic term for living an aligned life with what unique skills and gift you can contribute and believe me, everyone has something.
And it doesn’t even have to be one thing or a known thing. Finding the pleasure in the search for your passion or the journey for your strengths is where life feels full. If you don’t know where to begin, write. Write as if you’re telling your life story. Pick a starting point and write about you or write about a fictional character resembling your life.
If you say you don’t have time, find time. Time isn’t going to magically appear; you have to create it. Create the time for you because no one else is going to do it. Invest the time in you because it will pay dividends in more ways than you know.