How to Control Your Drinking
Hi, and welcome to part 3, the final episode in Stop Overdrinking. I know this is the one that most of you have been waiting for, because this is when we talk about how to actually do it. If you haven’t listened to part 1 and part 2, it’s really important that you do, because the understanding behind the processes that I’m going to teach you is imperative. It’s like knowing how to add but not knowing why and not knowing how it works. You’ll be able to memorize 3 plus 3, but you won’t be able to use it with any other number. I want to make sure that you understand the concepts behind what I’m teaching you.
Part 1 really dove into why we want to drink, why we like it and why we have that desire. Part 2 is, why is it so challenging to quit? What’s going on in our brain that compounds the issue of wanting to reduce the amount we’re drinking or quit the amount we’re drinking? In this part, we’re going to talk about the actual techniques that we are going to use to unlearn the desire that is causing us so much trouble.
In the last episode, I talked about the Pavlov dogs. I talked about the dogs that every time that this assistant came down the hallway in their clogs, they created a noise that they later retested with the bell, but they created a noise that gave the dogs the indication that they were about to be fed. Before they were fed, they started drooling, so there was this condition to response to drool that was associated with the clogs. The same thing has happened to us with desire. All of our thoughts about drinking have created this conditioned response. Our triggers are maybe in the evenings, maybe going to bars, maybe our thoughts about the end of the day. A lot of us don’t have any trouble drinking in the morning or during the day. We don’t have any thoughts about drinking or any associations with drinking early in the day. We have a lot of associations in the evenings.
The way that they were able to condition those dogs to drool upon ringing a bell, upon the clogs coming down, was the same way they were able to uncondition those same dogs to not drool by doing this. If they hear a bell and then they’re fed, they hear a bell then they are fed, they hear a bell then they’re fed, eventually they start to drool when they hear the bell, but if they ring the bell and not feed them, ring the bell not feed them, ring the bell not feed them, they reverse that conditioned response. Are you with me on this? This so is so fascinating to me.
Our conditioned response, our desire is our conditioned response, that’s whey it feels like it’s out of control. It feels like it’s just happening automatically. We have this desire. We don’t know where it’s coming from, but where it is coming from is from our brain. We have a thought about alcohol, we have that desire, we have a thought about alcohol, we have that desire. The dogs couldn’t think about their desire in that way, but we can. The way that you unlearn anything on purpose is by using your prefrontal cortex. All of the mental skills that I’m going to teach in this episode and in my membership, is all about using that higher part of your brain to manage that lower part of your brain. I like to call that lower part of our brain, the toddler with a knife. It’s very innocent but it can cause a lot of damage if it’s not supervised, so you’re going to supervise it.
You’re going to use that prefrontal cortex to manage that lower part of your brain.
What we’re going to do is think about it logically how we created this desire to drink and how we have conditioned ourselves to want it more and more and more based on what I taught you in the last 2 episodes. Teaching yourself to not desire it, is actually relatively easy and what I find fascinating about it, is you can take a dog that has been programmed to drool for years and years and years and you can unprogram that in a much less amount of time. Think about it. For many people, it’s taken them 20 years to create this desire for overdrinking. You can undo this desire literally in amount of hours and if you’re willing to put the time and the practice into unlearning something, you will be able to do that if you are someone who is overdrinking small amounts and wants to change that, to over drink less amounts or to completely quit drinking.
The way that we go about doing that, is the exact way they did it with those dogs and it’s culinary intuitive. I’m going to take you through the steps. You’re going to interrupt that neural pathway. Right now, the neural pathway is you may have a trigger, so there maybe the drive home from work, or it maybe walking into a bar, walking into a party, seeing a certain friend. That’s kind of that circumstantial trigger and then you’re going to have a thought and it maybe as simple as I want a drink, I need a drink. Those are two of the main ones. “I want a drink, I need a drink, I need to relax, it won’t matter this one time, who cares? Screw it I’m going to have one.” There is a whole list of thoughts that you might have that will trigger that desire. Once you trigger that desire, then you will act on it typically and that will perpetuate that desire. It’s just like the clogs or the bell, the drool, the feeding. The alcohol, the thought, the desire, the drinking.
Remember with the Pavlovian dogs, the way that they handled that is they still did the bell, they still heard the drool, but they didn’t give them the food and eventually the drool stopped. We are going to do the same thing. We’re going to still have the trigger, still have the thought, still have the desire but we’re not going to drink. Some of you are like, yeah, easier said than done. How do you not react to that desire? That’s been my problem all along. Here is trick. I want you to think about that desire as an urge. We use the word urge a lot when we’re talking about food.
I want you to think about that desire as an urge. That you want to drink. Something has told you to drink. That you need a drink. That you want a drink. That you can have a drink. That it’s no big deal if you have a drink. “Screw it, I’ll just have a drink,” then you have that urge. There are three things that you can do with that urge. 1, you can drink and then you’ll satisfy that urge, so you have the urge and then you satisfy it. The second thing you can do and this is what most of you have been trying to do and failing, is resist that urge. Push against it. Resist it. Create a bunch of anxiety. Create a bunch cognitive dissonance. Create problems for yourself. For most of you, that ends up with drinking because that ultimately relieves that urge.
The third option and this I really want you to think about doing, and this is going solve everything for you. I promise if you do it, is you allow that urge to be there. You do not engage with it. You do not negotiate with it. You do not try and make it go away. That urge is the drool. That urge caused by the bell, which is your brain is the drool.
You can’t stop the drool with force. You can’t stop that conditioned urge response with force. You have to allow it to be there.
The only way we make the drool go away, the only way we stop that conditioned response, is by not rewarding it with the alcohol. By not providing it with the dopamine rush that comes from drinking the alcohol. By not putting the alcohol in our brain. This will not be difficult if you will approach it this way. If you approach it from the stance that you’re going to allow the urge to be there and you’re not going to answer it. You’re going to allow the bell to be rang, you’re going to allow the drool to come and you’re just not going to answer it.
This process, being able to do this is a skill and I want you to listen to me very carefully. I mentioned this in the very first video but I’m going to remind you of it. You may tell yourself that you can’t do it, but the reason you can’t do it is because you don’t know how and you don’t know how because you haven’t practiced. I love the example of the unicycle. I use it all the time. You may say to me, “I can’t ride that unicycle. I can’t get on it. I don’t know how.” That’s very different than “I just simply can’t ever do it.” You see the difference?
If you’re having trouble not resisting the urge, you are conditioned to resist that urge and if you find yourself trying to resist it, it’s only because you haven’t learned how not to. If you find yourself reacting to that urge and constantly drinking every time you have an urge, it’s just because you haven’t learned how to allow it to be there. That is a skill you can learn. It’s not intolerable, it’s not awful and in fact when you learn how to allow an urge to be there, you’ll realize that, that desire, that urge is completely harmless. The only time it become a problem is when you give into it or you resist it. It is completely harmless.
There is a skill that you can learn that is only available to human beings, that’s only available with the use of your prefrontal cortex. Most of us don’t even know the skill. The skill is being able to watch yourself think. To be able to watch yourself feel and not react. Can you sit here and watch yourself think thoughts and not react? Can you watch yourself feel a feeling and not react? When you associate with your prefrontal cortex, when you go into the space where you are witnessing yourself think, witnessing yourself feel, there is tremendous relief in just doing that. Instead being in your body feeling like you’re being affected by this urge, it’s almost like you’re the witness watching yourself have an urge. You see what I mean? It’s almost like someone else that’s having that urge.
You may not be able to do this the first time you try. You may not be able to do it the first 20 times you try, but you will learn how to do it. You can learn how to do it in a matter of hours. It’s a matter of practice. Being able to practice yourself. Watching yourself have an urge. Watching yourself have desire and not act on it. That’s very different than resisting it, pushing against it and fighting it and wishing it weren’t there. That’s something if you join my membership, that I will really help you do if you’re struggling with, but I want to tell you that it’s not worth struggling with it, you just need to practice it.
Here are three things you can do with the urge. You can drink, you can struggle against it or you can allow it to be there. Here is the way I want you to think about it. I want you to think about noticing, allowing, paying attention to all the thoughts that are creating that desire. The first thing you’re going to do is allow the urge to be there without fighting with it and without reacting to it. You’re going to learn how to do and we’re going to practice that. If you fail at it 100 times, it doesn’t matter, keep practicing, keep trying. Unicycle takes twelve hours to learn how to ride. Up until that moment where you learn how to ride it, all twelve hours is failure. That’s what I want you to think about with this urge.
I want you to think about how do I allow an urge? I know if I feel tense that I’m not allowing it, I’m resisting it. I know that if I drink, I’m not allowing I’m obeying it. How do I figure out how to just let it be there without freaking me out and without obeying it? That’s going to be a process. Then you’re going to watch the thoughts that create it.
You’re going to watch yourself think. You’re going to watch every thought that comes up. You’re going to allow those thoughts to be there. Some of them you’re not going to like. Some of them are going to be illogical. Some of them aren’t going to make any sense. It’s totally fine. Just allow them to be there. I like to write them all down. I like to just be the witness. I like to observe my own thinking. I like to think that’s really silly that I think that. Oh my gosh, that makes no sense that I think that or wow, no wonder I want a drink. Look at all these thoughts I have about and just witness those thoughts.
The more you’re able to witness your thoughts, feel that urge, and not drink, the less and less that desire will show up in your life. If you’re able to do it 20 times, the desire will probably be down by half. This is not the same as I’m not going to drink for 20 days and you go like this against that desire and you use sheer willpower not to drink for 20 days. That will have no effect on your desire, lessening, in fact it will probably increase your desire. Do not try and white knuckle it. That is not the skill I’m teaching you. The skill I’m teaching you, is how to allow an urge to be there. How to allow that itch to be there without scratching it and to be at peace with it. That is the skill that we have to learn. It’s not difficult but it does require practice.
Notice the sentences in your brain and notice how it comes up with more and more sentences trying to increase your desire to drink.
Your brain is only doing this because it thinks it will die otherwise. It has been programmed that if there’s dopamine involved, get it no matter what or we’re going to die. Go, go, go get it, so your brain will come up with lots of different sentences to try and get you to drink.
It’s totally fascinating and if you can observe it with your prefrontal cortex, observe that lower brain trying to do that, you’ll be able to do it from a place of peace, and interest, and curiosity, and fascination, and you won’t get wrapped up in the drama of all of it.
When you allow these sentences to be there, this will create desire, but that desire is completely harmless. Desire is completely harmless unless you react to it or try and fight it. Practice allowing it. Don’t be alarmed, upset, annoyed or frustrated by the sentences creating that desire. Allow them to be there and just witness them from a place of peace. The reason they’re there is why? Your brain created them because it thinks you’re going to die if you don’t drink that alcohol. It literally thinks it’s part of your survival. It’s not trying to hurt you, in fact the opposite, it is trying to save you.
Let’s move on to the third piece that I want to teach you. The first thing you’re going to do is allow an urge to be there. Not fight it, not react to it. The second thing you’re going to do is really pay close attention to all of those thoughts that are causing that desire. You’re going to be a witness. You want to become conscious of those sentences in your mind. Those sentences are powerful. Those sentences are the clogs coming down the hall. Those sentences are the bells ringing, so you want to know what they’re so you can expect them. Those are creating the desire. At this point they’re probably really unconscious.
The third thing I want you to do and I again this is a tool for your prefrontal cortex that only your prefrontal cortex can do, is we’re going to use its ability for planning. We’re going to use its ability for decisions ahead of time. One of the things that’s so amazing about this part of your human brain is that, it’s the only thing on the planet that can really do it. It can really plan on purpose and decide on purpose. As humans, we can do that. Some of you may say, “I’ve tried this before. I’ve tried to decide ahead of time that I wasn’t going to drink,” but that’s before you had tool 1 and tool 2. Now you’ll be able with the tools that being able allow urges to be there, you’ll be able to allow your decisions ahead of time. I have many tools that I will have you use to supervise yourself and set yourself up for success, and to really plan ahead, and have a strategy, and have a way of planning things so you will never be at the effect of your brain.
One of the most important things I can tell you, and please don’t forget this no matter what. Whether you join my course or not I really want you to remember this. Under no circumstance should you ever if you are someone who wants to stop overdrinking, you should ever take a drink that isn’t planned. All drinking has to come from the prefrontal cortex. You cannot let any of the planning come from the clogs or the bell ringing, because that will perpetuate that unwanted desire.
First and foremost, I teach my students to plan their drinking and you can plan as much drinking as you want. I am going to drink on Tuesday and I’m going to drink two bottles of wine. Fine. Plan it ahead of time. I have a worksheet that I think is really important to do that I have my clients use and it basically has you think about, okay what do I want to drink? Why do I want to drink it? What will be the consequences? What will be the obstacles? Really anticipate and plan in a really deliberate way what you’re going to drink and why. For example, you might be going to a wine tasting. Plan how many glasses of wine you want to have. Don’t limit yourself. If want to drink 20 glasses of wine, 20 tastes of wine, that’s fine. You just have to plan it.
Your prefrontal is in charge. None of this responding the moment or reacting on that unconscious desire. Do you understand the difference? It’s really, really important. We don’t ever want to have that need, your conditioning, driving our actions. We always want our actions to be driven from the prefrontal when it comes to anything that has something with concentrated pleasure. That includes shopping, it includes achievement, it includes gambling, it includes pornography, it includes alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, anything. It has to be something that you are managing from that prefrontal cortex.
Never something that you’re allowing to be managed from that lower brain that’s basically in a thought air of neurological junk because it thinks it’s a survival mechanism and it’s not. Planning and making decisions ahead of time.
Whenever you want to drink starting now, you have to plan it 24 hours in advance. You need to plan what you will drink. You need to plan how much you will drink, period. I like to add and I have a worksheet for this, what will be the consequences that you’ll be experiencing and what are the obstacles? Make sure that you plan that ahead of time and you make that decision from a place of a clean mind. That decision has to be rock solid. You have to commit to that decision 100%. One of the things I tell my students is don’t underestimate how much you want to drink, because you don’t want to get in a position where you’re letting your lower brain take over, because then you’re creating more drool. You’re creating more conditioned response. You have to stay in charge. If you say three drinks, that’s it. If you say 15 drinks, that’s it. You’re the one managing that from your prefrontal cortex. It’s always 24 hours ahead of time and it’s always decided.
If you put yourself in that situation and you have an urge to drink that isn’t planned from your prefrontal cortex, you do not under any circumstance drink. You do not resist that urge. You just allow it to be there. Some of you may say, okay, that’s very challenging, because once I start drinking I lose the ability to allow for that urge and that is true, but you’ll be surprised at the power of the prefrontal cortex even when your brain is inebriated. You will come at some point where you will lose control. I want you to really think about how many drinks that is for you so you know that you can always stay in prefrontal control for any drink that you have. That’s first and foremost. All decisions have to be decisions ahead of time. When you plan for decisions ahead of time, then you must honor them. The way that you will honor them now differently than you did before, is by using your prefrontal cortex to manage your own urges, to allow for those urges to be there without giving into them.
The other thing that I always want you to really think about, is what do you want your regular drinking life to be? How often do you want to drink? What do you want your regular protocol to be? What do you want to drink and why? And making those decisions from a place of your prefrontal cortex and not a decision, from any kind of conditioned response. Not from belief that you don’t have control, but from a belief that you do have control. It’s really important.
I have another worksheet that I use and that my clients use for challenging situations where you don’t want to drink. Let’s say you’ve decided you do not want to drink and you’re going to a wedding. Or you do not want to drink and you’re going to a work party and you know there’s going to be tons of drinks there and we have a whole plan and you should have a whole plan for how you’re going to handle all of the urges that will presented.
How are you going to handle all of the conversations that you’re going to need to have? I find it fascinating that alcohol is one of the things that you have to justify not eating. It’s the same with sugar. If someone says, hey, do you want some champagne? And you say no, people say, “Why not?” Nobody says that when they offer you water. You want some water? No. Why not? Because they don’t want any water. When you’re not having alcohol, people want you to explain yourself. You don’t want a cupcake, why not? Explain yourself. Is it because you have a problem? Is it because you have an issue? It’s because you’re alcoholic? No, my answer is, “I just prefer not to. I just prefer not to have it. Thanks.” I used to spend hours trying to figure how I was going to answer that question. It’s just so brilliant. “I just prefer not to have it.” Really, really important to have plans for challenging situations. Decide ahead of time. Anticipate those obstacles that you’re going to be faced.
Some of you right now are thinking, “oh my God. This is so tedious. This is going to take so much work. This is so much time.” That’s part of the problem, because the brain wants to be efficient. It wants to delegate to the lower brain. It wants to delegate to the brain that’s already programmed, that’s already efficient. The last thing it wants to do is think about all the stuff, then expand all this energy planning, why should we do any of that? Let’s delegate everything, but you know what happens when you delegate. You get that automatic Pavlovian response of drinking, drinking, drinking, drinking that makes you feel completely out of control.
I want to acknowledge that yes, this will take effort and especially in the beginning. But once you unlearn the desire, it’s effortless, but it’s just like riding a unicycle. Takes 12 hours to learn how do it. That’s a lot of effort but then once you know how, you know how forever. I want to promise you that work and this practice and this repetition and this falling off and falling off and getting back on and falling off and getting back on is absolutely worth it. There is no such thing as “oh my gosh, you had a drink now you have to start all over again.” No, that’s not how it works at all, but I will say that in the beginning, the more you can deny that automatic response, the easier it is to unlearn and the only time you want a drink is when you’ve planned it ahead of time and it’s a conscious decision that you’re managing with the prefrontal cortex.
The other thing that’s really important is that any time you make a mistake. Any time you say maybe I’ll only get to drink three and you end up drinking four, that you take tedious and deliberate time to study exactly what happened and how you can prevent that from happening next time, and what went on with your brain, and what went on with your prefrontal cortex verses your lower brain. It is such an amazing opportunity for you to learn from. A lot of people will say, “oh, I just fell off the wagon. It’s no big deal and I want to get back on it.” Do not do that. Do not just blow it off, because that is exactly what your lower brain wants you to do. Not pay attention, not be conscious.
You want to use your prefrontal cortex to pay attention, to be conscious, to dissect every little second of every little thing that went on. What were the triggers that happened in the situation? What were the thoughts that happened in your brain? What was the desire? Why did you have a hard time allowing it? Why did you fight it or why did you give into it? I have a whole worksheet on how you can unravel those and the more time you spend on doing that, the more desire you’re going to unlearn. What happens in that lower brain is completely unconscious and that’s the point of it, because it’s efficient. It doesn’t have to be in your conscious brain, but as soon as you bring it to your conscious brain, then you can evaluate it and change and unlearn it and decide on purpose. That’s when you’re going to feel in control. The longer you live it unconscious, the more it’s going to feel like it’s out of your voluntary control.
We’re not going to do anything punitive ever. I want to highly encourage you to never beat yourself up. To never bring up negative emotions. To never tell yourself you’re out of control. To never say, “this is never going to work.” To never say, “this was too good to be true.” Never say, “oh my gosh, I can’t figure this out. This works for some other people.” Oh my … All that negativity will be very tempting. I really want to encourage you not to do anything punitive to yourself. Not hang around anyone that doubts your ability. You are not powerless over this. You are completely powerful. You know why?
You have a prefrontal cortex. You are a bad ass. You can use that to manage your mind, especially your animal primitive brain. It has no chance against your prefrontal cortex. Don’t forget that this is a skill that you need to learn, but once you learn it, it will be effortless.
Then ironically, and here is what’s the most ironic powerful thing of all of this. Once you unlearn desire, then you delegate that lack of desire to your lower brain, then the very thing that was creating all of that desire, will now create the opposite for you just as efficiently, just as effortlessly as it currently creates desire. Once you get on that unicycle and practice and practice and practice and practice, then eventually you’ll delegate it to that lower brain and won’t ever have to think about how to ride it again. Just like in a car, first you’re like trying to figure out how to drive, now it’s completely delegated to that lower brain.
That’s how we do it. We bring up what’s happening automatically in that lower brain area. We make it conscious. We change it by unlearning it, by allowing it, paying attention to it, ‘unpavloving’ it and then we re-delegate the lack of desire around alcohol to that. Doesn’t mean we don’t have to never drink. We can drink but we only drink according to the prefrontal decision. We never drink as a reflex, as a reaction. We never decide in that moment to drink. It’s always planned ahead of time. You can plan it ahead of time as much as you want, and as many drinks as you want, but you have to do it from a clean sober mind. You have to do it from a place of deliberateness where you anticipate the obstacles, you anticipate any kind of negative response you’re going to have to drinking and then you officially decide that you want to do it anyway.
You will never make a decision that will lead you into harms way, when you make those decisions from your prefrontal strategic brain. Your lower brain will inadvertently make decisions that will harm you, not because it wants to harm you, but it literally believes that your survival depends on it. It’s just like, picture a toddler who doesn’t get that candy bar. Like that toddler literally thinks they’re going to die if they don’t get the candy bar. They roll on the floor. They think they’re going to die if they don’t get it. You know they’re not going to die. It’s all going to be fine. They’re going to pull through. They’re not going to eat the candy and they’re going to pull through.
That’s what you have to do with your lower brain. It thinks you’re going to die if it doesn’t drink the alcohol. In fact the opposite is true. If you continue to drink too much alcohol, you could die on that direction, but you just let it have its fit, you let it freak-out, you know that it’s very serious, you know that it thinks it’s very important, you let that urge be there, you allow it to be there and then you move on.
One of the things that’s really powerful for many of my clients is, if you find yourself in a situation where you have a tremendous urge to drink, all you have to tell yourself is, you can have that in 24 hours.
You can have it, but you have to wait 24 hours until the prefrontal can make the decision. We can’t make any decisions based on our lower brain. That’s been a huge relief for people and prevented them from drinking in the moment and encouraging that bell Pavlovian response. That desire response, that increased learning of desire.
Remember desire is learned. You have taught yourself to desire alcohol, you can teach yourself to desire it less or not at all. I promise you if you apply these tools and you practice them, you can learn what I have learned. You have a powerful brain. There is nothing that even comes close to your human brain. Nothing on the planet that even comes close. You can utilize it if you apply this skill.
I really want to encourage you to join me. We are going to have an amazing group of people and we are going to go through this process of unlearning desire. The way that the program works is you will join for the first month. There will be a series of videos that will be required for you to watch. They will go into detail of every single one of these tools. It will include the downloadable worksheets that you will then print off on your printer or keep on your computer. You can fill them in online, that you will be required to do in order to unlearn this process and manage how much you want to drink.
After that, every month after that, there will be 2 coaching calls a month where you will be able to be coached directly by me, ask me question, share what you’re being challenged with, any situation you’re faced I will be able to help you. I will be able to show you how to manage your brain. If you don’t believe this is possible, if you have a lot of thoughts saddling your way, I will help you with all of it. I want to encourage you to join me in our membership at stopoverdrinking.com. Simply go there, give us your information, sign up, get started and let’s do this. I believe in you. I know that nobody has told you about these tools, but I’m going to tell you all about them. I’m going to teach them to you and yes for sure you can lessen your desire to overdrink. I’ll see you there. Bye.