This episode is going to focus on how alcohol destroyed years of my sleep life and therefore made many attempts at destroying my entire life. Obviously, I was drinking most evenings.
Sleep is the foundation to life. Without sleep, we would not be able to drink our much needed water and breathe in our ever needed oxygen. Sleep is not a pillar, it is the solid ground for all of life.
Alcohol has no foundation in my life, and I think I could challenge you all and posit that consuming alcohol does not offer a beneficial foundation in your life as well. What do you think?
I have not been a drinker my whole life.
I can actually recall the year when I started drinking at least 5 nights a week.
I entered a relationship, and though the red flags were the most glaring I have ever seen even to this day, because I had an immense amount of loneliness growing inside me, I ignored them.
What I should have done was moved out of Wisconsin like every bit of my being was screaming at me to do. The only ting holding me back were my own self created fears and negative beliefs.
Fun fact: this podcast is being recorded in Florida, because I finally took back control of my life and did what I needed, not just so I could thrive, but so I could even just survive. My move to Florida in 2019 was the beginning of a long journey of unpacking trauma, getting super f*ing honest with my self, and releasing loads of people / places / things that are not aligned with my needs and life vision.
I’m going to use a word in a second, a word that most of us all will say, “That’s not me.”
Here’s the thing, nowadays in our modern world, we all live with at least 1 low grade addiction.
Think about social media, phones, food, substances, tv, video games, dating shit heads, etc.
In my words, we are all addicted to our own bullshit. What’s your go-to?
We may call it our treat after a stressful day, our coping mechanism, our happy place.
The things that bring us instant pleasure are almost always the things that bring problems, too.
Taking insightful and powerful words from Dr Anna Lempke: “We can make our lives better, especially when we understand the source of our suffering. Paradoxically a major source of our suffering may be the very things that give us so much instantaneous pleasure. So by eliminating those things to the extent that we're able to for a long enough period for our brains to recalibrate, I really do believe that that will be in a ha moment for a lot of people.”
This is a “life project” worth doing and you CAN do it! Don't despair. If I can do it so can you.
Okay, so, back to me drinking at night.
I am tiny so per blood alcohol rules, and regardless that I was born in raised in the drinking state of Wisconsin, having 3 glasses of wine puts me in drunk land. Two vodka martinis and away I go.
Rewind to the most abusive and ridiculous relationship I will ever be in, I started drinking.
He was an alcoholic you see. I was a stoner. For the first year I did not have a desire to drink along side him and a shared friend of ours. Wow did they always have to have beer on hand, at least.
It’s bizarre that I accepted this in my lie. But, when our self belief is a black hole of despair and hopelessness, it’s almost like even the worst people can be seen with rose colored glasses.
You are probably wondering how I met him. No surprise here, he was my weed dealer.
I thought he was nice and he has a full time job; he told me he did the dirty deeds on the side as to maintain a social life and feel a bit important.
Can we all point out the blaring red fags here!?
Makes friends with drug users
Spends leisure time driving around selling drugs, for fun
Where are his normal friends at?
Why isn’t he doing beneficial things after his work day?
Listen, if you have a person in your life that you call your partner, then that human should be looking out for your well-being. This guy was only looking to support his addictions. So when I would drink, it would be encouraged. He would pour or make me another.
As the relationship devolved and became more abusive, I learned to drink as a massive coping mechanism. I would immediately start drinking when the clock hit 7pm; a rule I made in attempt to not feel or live like an addict. I would drink to ease the outrageous anxiety my body as trying to manage, I would drink ease the bizarre and terrible emotional damage, and I would drink help fall asleep.
Let me be really clear here, this guy felt so terrible about the abuse, that when I separated from him for about 6 months one of his amazing manipulative ploys to win me back was to pay for my weekly trauma therapy. He even suggested the therapy and printed off a massive local therapist list. He gave me the funds to go, which I now can see was one of his ways to get to see me every week.
Yep, I said 6 months because instead of taking back control within my self I continued to relinquish all control and hand it over to him. I re-entered the relationship and you better believe I was super drinking at this point. I was even day drinking. I just wanted to feel better in any and every moment.
I was missing the point entirely, though. Feeling better and a better life is never going to be found at the bottom of a bottle. Not only is alcohol and it’s effect damaging enough, but add it to the mix that is little to no sleep, and I was quite very killing my self slowly. I am not being dramatic - the science is far too compelling and in my words shocking to not take seriously.
A lot of humans like me think we need substances or chemicals to help sleep because we have trouble turning off our mind and feelings in the evening.
Understand this, okay? Alcohol is a sedative. I was using it as a “sleep aid” to help fall asleep, but unfortunately alcohol is anything but a sleep aid, to be clear. It is commonly used to turn off thoughts and loosen up the mind when in fact we are just losing consciousness.
What alcohol is actually doing is knocking out our cortex and sedating our cortex. We mistake this loss of consciousness to sedation for sleep. I was losing consciousness every alcohol induced night but I was not necessarily falling asleep any faster or better. I was also very much certainly experiencing fragmented sleep, whether consciously recalling the multiple times I was waking up in the night or not. I would wake up often super often and that’s not good for REM or going into a deep restful state. I would wake up constantly because alcohol gets a variety of mechanisms going and activates the autonomic fight-flight system. My alcohol induced sleep had littered my sleep with punctured awakenings.
Alcohol straight up blocks REM sleep people! REM is critical for cognitive functions, emotional and mental health. If we do not REM, we will not live a healthy life. Fact.
REM is like a self generated overnight therapy emotional first aid.
Think about kids. Think about the fact that we are all kids that grew up; we developed.
Kids have a bedtime routine. The happiest kids usually have a full life routine, obviously with much space each day to play and exist as a kid, but still structured none the less.
Adults fall apart emotionally when we do not sleep well. I am a wreck. And, with each passing month that I am now sleeping restful, it has become painful obvious to me how crucial sleep is for us to be able to emotionally regulate each day. We all need sleep to function best.
Does this sound familiar? Imagine you had a rough day. I’m already going to argue that with a growth mindset that day likely would not be viewed as rough. Anyways! You get home and you want to unwind and feel better, so you say, “oh I need a drink, I’m stressed out or feeling uneasy.” Or “Today was another rough one”. The major mistake here is that we are teaching dopamine that this behavior of drinking to cope and/or before bed is something we should continue to do. Because we decided as well as communicated to our body (nervous system) that we are avoiding pain by drinking, dopamine is stoked to be present and do its thing.
Dopamine does not care what you do.
Dopamine just cares that it is activated.
Dopamine will motivate you to go towards all the things you have decided are pleasurable and continue to avoid self chosen pains.
Remember, dopamine is like a see-saw.
It will always try to balance the pleasure and pain via motivating us towards our chosen pleasures, even if it is apart of an addiction, even if it means we are going to lose our kids.
I would drink and smoke to cope with emotional pain and in turn I was truly creating more pain & issues in my life. Obviously, these issues would need to be addressed sooner rather than later if I ever wanted to feel better and live better. Rather than cope in the meantime, I chose to take back control and heal for a lifetime.
By getting totally f*ing clear on my Life Vision, re-establishing an unshakable Self Belief, and creating a daily routine for moving and night that is consistently honored.
If my brief story that umbrellas my massive alcohol problem is not compelling, here’s some life changing science. Drinking a glass or two with dinner even at 6pm or 7pm absolutely has an effect on our sleep. It is undeniable even though I think we would all love to know and believe otherwise.
Truthfully, is this information going to permanently stop me from consuming a beverage in the evening ever again? No it's not. What this information offers to me, and what a lot of facts offer to us, is the ability to discern and decide what we do each day and night. Information is empowering. Consequences are direct answers to how we should move forward.
The more we learn about the world and our body and how it is all connected, the more we can weigh consequences, effects, and after-the-facts to determine if we do indeed want to engage in a behavior.
My learning and heavy reminders that alcohol destroys sleep and therefore wellbeing is almost enough for me to change. The following are what absolutely shifted my gears:
Hear this loud and clear as its a truth of life: REM sleep is the greatest predictor of your life longevity. It’s a linear relationship between REM sleep and life longevity. The less REM sleep humans receive, the higher probability of death (in this regard we are talking about all-cause mortality). Never forget that alcohol indeed takes away REM sleep.
The culmination of the aforementioned in addition to having negative health effects such as incredibly bad acid reflux, adult acne, and gastro issues of all sorts…and knowing that I am going out and buying the very liquids that create these issues is what really helps me change my behaviors and upgrade my life choices.
In shorter words, when I learn something important, including damaging things I am doing to my self, I can then use that information to empower my life moving forward. It’s my choice.
What are your night time choices going to be?
In regards to drinking in the evening, I know how it is going to affect me the next day. Honestly, the next few days. My motivation and ability to focus will be much lower, and that has to do with how I have impacted my sleep. What's more, my sleep directly relates to my quality of life as well as my dopamine levels which also directly relates to motivation, how I feel, and ability to accomplish things.
No matter how little I drink, I will have less REM sleep. I must understand & accept these consequences if I am to continue to choose to have an alcoholic beverage at night.
More life changing science:
Some hormonal systems recharge and refresh during sleep and this is crucial for our life.
There are major hormone consequences when we lose REM sleep. Our growth hormone release drops well over 50% when alcohol is consumed at night. Growth hormone is vital for metabolism, libido, and repair of tissue. It is essential. ESSENTIAL. Our growth hormone release is tethered to REM sleep. Are these consequences of consuming alcohol, which triggers your dopamine and tricks you in all sorts of ways, worth losing years off your life and feeling lesser than you could everyday?
Currently there is 1 week night every week that I drink. And, it’s really tough the next day. I drink alcohol Tuesday evenings when recording Hippie & the Hick podcast. I schedule my day after in regards to this. What do I do? Cut fabric and other more reflexive tasks that are still productive. Deeply and intimately move through my morning routine to tap into my body more and wake up my mind. Oh, and you better believe my water intake is double and I am supplementing more than usual. By the way, kudzu is said to not only help with dissipating the desire to drink but it equally is beneficial to ellviatin hangover. This is information extended to me through a master level herbalist. I have not looked up supporting research at this time for kudzu root, but I can attest that the effects are positive.
Okay, di you know this about REM!? REM is smart. Like, creepy smart. In the early morning hours when your chosen substance such as alcohol or marijuana dissipates your brain goes back to the same amount of REM and tries to get back all the REM sleep it lost during induced sleep hours! The debt for REM sleep tries to be naturally fulfilled in the morning.
The takeaway here: Substances reduce our life longevity juice that is REM sleep and confuses dopamine so we engage in behaviors that are not beneficial for a long life.
Nowadays I drink on the weekends usually sitting around a campfire or sipping a red wine while making a big shared dinner. My limit is 2 beverages. I will be honest and say, that when I received a phone call a few weeks ago about a friend choosing to take her life via hanging, that I drank 3 alcoholic beverages that night. To be fair, they were 5% alcohol. If I were to have chosen to drink 3 martinis for example, I should surely expect my face in a toilet for many hours Andy entire next day to be useless and “shot.” Not ever worth it if you ask me.
I live with severe depression, too. Bipolar 2, to be open and clear. It’s still not worth it to drink to ease the depression and anxiety. When I appropriately leverage my dopamine and maintain a regulated nervous system, I can see life as well as my self for all the amazingness that life offers.
We are all addicted to always feeling good nowadays. In my lay person as well as professional assessment, we are all addicted to dopamine.
I watched my self and my friends for year make choices on short term good feelings rather than doing what is needed to have and live a life that fulfill our needs.
I watched my self and so many people choose substances and/or people that were not good for them.
This is all because of dopamine. We do things because of dopamine. Dopamine is the Doing chemical. We have to be conscious and aware and try really f*ing hard in this modern world, because dopamine can sneak up on us and crawl deep into us when we least expect it.
Our phones are a great example.
Many Americans live with a low grade addiction to their phone and/or social media.
It’s up to us to actively choose the better things for the long-term that is our actual long life!
This is our only life and with each passing year we continue to choose our desires over our needs, that life we know we could be living that feels pretty darn good every single day slips farther and farther away.
Choose your envisioned life. Choose the life that will give rather than take. Make choices that bring more into your life; more smiles, more hours of sleep, more friendly people, more money, more connection.
All the best today beebs!
YOU GOT THIS
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I have linked my favorite evening supplements, stress busters, and anxiety reducers for you to enjoy if you choose. I have also added thoughtful additions that I am contacted about frequently in regards to reducing stress and anxiety as well as assisting with reduction in consumption to alcohol. Kudzu is amazing for helping reduce alcohol intake as well as create an avoidance and disinterest in drinking alcohol; kudzu can turn you off from alcohol. Kava is a great replacement, but cannot be paired alongside alcohol at all.
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