You are listening to the Take A Break podcast with Rachel Hart, episode 166.
Welcome to the Take A Break podcast with Rachel Hart. If you're an alcoholic or an addict, this is not the show for you. But if you are someone who has a highly functioning life, doing very well, but just drinking a bit too much and wants to take a break, then welcome to the show. Let's get started.
Alright everybody, so last week I was talking all about why you aren’t doing the work because I see this as such a big stumbling block for so many of my clients, and it was a huge stumbling block for me for so long in my life, and I don’t want it to be a stumbling block for you.
But this week, I want to talk about kind of the next level of what happens when you start doing the work, you start trying to change the habit of drinking, you start trying to change anything in your life, and then you run up against this belief that I have seen over and over again in my life and I see it with so many of the women that I work with, and that belief is just, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand. I’m confused.”
When you’re not getting it, that is really a make or break moment. And I’m going to tell you guys something funny. I watched this happen in my own life very recently. I was really not getting something. So I’m a life coach, I have a business, and I’m going to tell you this; when I set out on this journey, I did not understand how prevalent Excel spreadsheets would become in my life. I did not understand this.
If someone had told me that I decided to quit my job and become a life coach, if they had said, “Hey listen Rachel, you’re going to have to become an expert at Excel,” I would have been like, what are you talking about? No, I’m just going to talk to people about habits and how the brain works and how to change their drinking. What does Excel have to do with any of this?
But you know what, Excel is a big part of my life. And I recently was working with a spreadsheet that I swear I have gone back to over and over and over again and I was not getting it. And I was making it mean terrible things. I mean, I just could not even see my way out of it.
And my husband who is a wiz at Excel, he works with numbers day in and day out and knows so many shortcuts when it comes to Excel spreadsheets that it kind of terrifies me, he was like, “Yeah, you just don’t have as much practice as I do with Excel. That’s it. There’s nothing going on here. You’re not stupid. The person who made the spreadsheet isn’t stupid. You guys just think about this problem in a different way. She thinks about it one way, so she built the sheet. You’re trying to understand the sheet, you think about the problem in another way, you don’t have a lot of experience, that’s it.”
He made it so simple. I realized, oh my gosh, I’m doing the exact same thing. And this is what happens when you start learning how to manage your mind. You realize that the work that you’re doing here to change the habit of drinking, it’s going to show up in every area of your life. This is why this work is so transformative.
This is what I say to my clients all the time like, welcome. Yes, let’s change your desire, yes, let’s figure out how to change your weekday habit of coming home and uncorking a bottle. Yes, let’s figure out how to make it that so you’re not waking up hungover, regretful, whatever it is.
But just wait. Just wait and see how this is going to transform everything in your life. Because learning how to change your drinking, it really just is kind of the entryway into the meta skill of learning how to manage your mind. So I want to talk to you about the idea of not getting it and not understanding what I’m teaching, not understanding the think-feel-act cycle, or understanding it but not knowing how to apply it.
So when you start working with me, not just listening to the podcast but when you join my program and you start working with me, I teach you how to use the think-feel-act cycle as a tool, and that requires learning something called the self-coaching model. It’s how you write this think-feel-act, how you write it out onto paper in a way that you can change it.
So you have to be able to write out the self-coaching model. It has five parts to it. You have to be able to learn how to change it. Now, so many people right off the bat will say, “I don’t get it.” And I’m always like, yeah, of course you don’t get it. This is just like what my husband was saying to me this weekend. Like of course you don’t get it. Why would you get it? You’re very new to this. This is going to take some practice.
And this is what I’m saying to people all the time. They say, “Yeah, I don’t understand the self-coaching model, I don’t understand how to write it out.” It’s like, well, why would you understand how to do it? You’ve only done it five times or 10 times. Maybe you’ve only done it 20 times. It takes practice. It’s a new skill.
It really is like learning a language. Your brain is trying to figure out a brand-new way to understand how it sees yourself and the world and alcohol and everyone in it. It’s totally brand new. Of course, it’s going to take some time. I want you to think about this. You were taught at a very young age that alcohol creates your desire.
Now, what I talk about and what the think-feel-act cycle shows us is something completely different. No, you create your desire. Alcohol just sits there. Your brain has practiced for many, many years thinking that it’s hard to turn down a drink because the drink itself is so tempting. Over and over, your brain has practiced this thought.
“Alcohol is so tempting; I just have so much desire for it.” That’s something that you really have to unlearn when you start this process, when you learn how to manage your mind. You have to unlearn the belief that a drink tempts you. No, it doesn’t. It just sits there. You are tempting yourself.
And let me tell you, that’s the best news in the world because if you’re tempting yourself, guess what? You can change it. If the drink is the one tempting you, what are you going to do? What most people do when they want to change their drinking is they think they have to hide out.
It’s like Odysseus. Do you remember this from ninth grade English? This is when I read the Odyssey. He had to strap himself to the boat so that he would not be tempted by the call of the sirens. This is kind of how we treat alcohol. It’s like, oh god, strap me down, I can’t be around it, it’s too tempting.
No, this is the most empowering thing that you learn is that you don’t need to strap yourself down because you’re the one creating your own temptation. There’s no siren call going on here. Some of you will say to me, “Okay, that makes sense but I can’t find the thought that’s creating my desire. My desire just appears. My drinking just happens.”
I have people say this to me all the time, and I so understand it because I said the exact same thing. Sometimes I wasn’t even planning to drink. It was like it just happened. But you have to understand, of course it feels that way. That’s what it’s like to have a habit. When your brain has practiced a thought, “I want it,” over and over and over again, the brain’s like, listen, we don’t really need to keep consciously practicing the thought I want it. We can move that down to the unconscious brain.
So of course, you’re not finding the thought at first. Of course, it just seems as if your desire just appears. Because everything that you’re doing to change the habit is to try to bring your thoughts, your unconscious thinking back up to the surface so that you can see it, you can understand it, and you can change it.
And let me tell you, that takes work. It’s not going to happen immediately. You can’t just snap your fingers. But it can happen so much faster than you think. I really was right there. If you feel like sometimes your drinking just happens, I’ll tell you, me too. I definitely believed that some things like alcohol and food were just way too tempting and that sometimes I would just drink them or eat them without any forethought.
And so for a long time, I believed that the recipes for success meant keeping these things that were so tempting as far away from me as possible. Then guess what would happen? I was very frustrated because it’s very hard to organize your world in which you never encounter alcohol or you never encounter chocolate.
And when that wouldn’t work, when I couldn’t always keep it as far away from me as possible, and then I would consume it, then I would just be mean to myself, hoping that if I was just mean enough, maybe I would learn my lesson. How many times have you thought that to yourself? “Maybe I’ll finally learn my lesson.”
That is the hallmark of beating yourself up. But guess what happens? You just feel like crap and then ultimately, you end up looking for relief. You end up looking for a way to feel better. Being a jerk to yourself, it always perpetuates the habit because the habit is built on searching out for relief. The more you create negative emotion in your life, especially if you’re just creating it because of how you talk to yourself, the more you will then go in search of relief.
I will tell you, I really refused to believe this for a long time. I really did. I dug my heels in on this one. I was like, okay, I get it, be nice to yourself, but secretly I was like, being mean to yourself, it’s the way. That’s the way to accomplish anything. If I’m nice to myself, I’ll let myself off the hook and then I’ll be really bad.
I was really sure that kindness would be the death of me. But you know what? I was wrong. And so are you if you believe this. I really want you to ask yourself, how quickly do you think that you should get something? When you’re trying to learn a new skill or you’re trying something out for the first time, how many tries do you give yourself? I’ll tell you this, I gave myself one.
I gave myself one attempt. I believed for a very long time that I should get things perfectly. And if I didn’t, I didn’t want to try again. Then it was time for me to quit because then I was embarrassed that I hadn’t gotten it right away. But you know what happened with this thought? Not only was I mean to myself when I didn’t get something right away, when made me less likely to try again in the future, what happened was that I started not wanting to try new things at all.
I started not wanting to try to learn new things because I was so afraid of failure. And so I was taking a pass on so many things. That’s what so many people do when I say to them, hey, let’s just take a break from drinking. They say nope, I’ve tried it before, it didn’t work. Like wait, what? What are you talking about? What do you mean it didn’t work?
It did work. You tried it and then you encountered a thought that fuels the habit and you listened to that thought and you felt desire or permission and then you drank. That was a beautiful moment for you. That was a moment that really could help you understand and explain everything.
But people are so sure, no, it didn’t work, and then I was so mean to myself, I don’t want to be mean to myself again, I don’t want to try something and then fail, so I’m going to stay right where I am right now. I really want you to imagine how crazy this is.
My default thinking was that things should be easy and that I should be able to get everything right away. And if it was difficult, then it was a problem, and it probably meant that I was kind of stupid, and that I was the only one that couldn’t figure it out.
Instead of believing hey, you know what, when you learn new things, when you learn how to change your habits, it’s kind of hard for your brain because your brain likes to do what’s easy and you’re doing something new, and that’s kind of hard. It’s trying to lay down new neural pathways and that takes energy.
Imagine if that was your default way of thinking. Imagine if you were 100% committed to changing the habit and you were 100% committed to taking a break as a way to do it. And you were totally committed to not hiding out at home and to using the time when you were taking a break to actually learn how habits work and the think-feel-act cycle and how to manage your mind.
Imagine if you were all in and you knew that it was going to be hard at first. What would happen then? When it becomes challenging, your brain wouldn’t make it mean that something was wrong with you because you were expecting this moment. If you met things in your life with this expectation of yeah, it’s probably going to be hard, that doesn’t mean anything, it just means I’m learning something new, no big deal, it’s alright that it’s hard, that would make you unstoppable.
I think about this so much. I always say to people, you can’t do this work in isolation. If you want to be the woman who doesn’t need a drink to relax, you have to practice being that woman. You have to practice saying no to a drink and then relaxing. And when it doesn’t work at first, that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It means your brain is just going back to that old habit. You have to teach it a new way. You have to point it in a new direction.
And that requires practicing so much more than just saying no. It requires practicing relaxing without that buzz. And that’s where so many people are like, I don’t know, no thanks, I think not, it’s going to be hard, I don’t want it to be hard, I want things to be easy. But here’s the thing; you allow things to be hard so that they eventually become easy.
Not drinking, saying no to be desire, saying no to a drink, it was hard at first. But now it’s easy because I allowed it to be difficult. I allowed my brain to go through that learning process. Meeting people and striking up a conversation was hard at first without a drink. Now it’s easy.
Going to baseball games and not having round after round of a beer and a hotdog and a beer and a hotdog, which I used to do, guess what? That was hard at first. Now it’s easy. You have to let things be hard at first so that they can be easy in the future. But most of you guys have it backwards.
I had it backwards for a really long time. I wanted it to be easy at first. And it makes sense why we have it backwards because drinking is a habit about escaping what feels hard. Now, don’t mishear me here. Do not misunderstand me that I’m saying that everything right now in your life is hard. What I’m saying is drinking is a habit about escaping that moment when you feel deprived or you feel restless when you say no.
If you don’t believe me, then just think about why it is you want to drink and what exactly you’re trying to avoid when you say no. It’s always just the difficulty of whatever emotion comes up. When you do this work and you say to yourself I don’t get it, you have to follow up with that knee-jerk response with like, oh right, of course I don’t get it.
Just like I had to follow up with that knee-jerk response when I was saying I don’t get it with the Excel spreadsheet and driving myself nuts. I mean, I was really beating myself up. I just had to follow it up with, “Oh yeah, I don’t get it. Of course, I don’t. I don’t have a lot of practice using Excel. I’m not supposed to get it yet because my brain is laying down new neural pathways. It’s supposed to be hard right now.”
So even if you’ve been listening to this podcast for years, learning something new is always going to be hard at first, but that’s what makes it easy in the future. The workaround is really simple. The workaround is just don’t make the difficulty that you encounter mean anything about you or mean anything about your future, or your ability to succeed.
Because you know what, that’s actually what feels terrible. When you make the difficulty mean that you can’t do it or you’re stupid or you’re too old or you’ve been drinking for too long, whatever it is, that’s what truly feels terrible. When you drop all the negative judgment, that’s what makes it so much easier.
I see this every day with my little boy. Really toddlers are the best coaches out there, I promise you. My son is constantly learning new things right now and he fails over and over and over again but he just keeps at it. He is learning right now how to use a scooter and I will tell you this, it is adorable, but he is not very good at it. He scoots into walls. He falls off a lot, he cannot figure out how to steer very well.
He sometimes gets confused and turns the scooter around and then can’t figure out how to turn it back around. He loses his balance. And I’ll tell you this; every day when I end work and we then start our errand time, I take him to the grocery store and to the butcher and we go pick up packages, we do all those things, every day without fail, he runs to his scooter.
He doesn’t want to do errands with me. He wants to scoot. He actually runs and he puts on his helmet. It’s so freaking cute. But here’s the thing; he has all that excitement and all of that energy, and all of that willingness to lay down new neural pathways.
He’s encountering so much difficulty. He falls every single time. He does something wrong every single time. But because he hasn’t learned how to make that difficulty mean anything, it doesn’t stop him. The difficulty doesn’t feel terrible. If anything, the difficulty for him is just a sign that he has to keep at it.
That’s what you can bring to whatever you are trying to change in your life, but especially, that’s what you can bring to trying to change the habit of drinking. Just erasing all of that chatter about how the difficulty means something about you. Because that’s what’s actually making it feel terrible right now.
You drop all of that and I promise, it becomes so easy. So listen, friends, please if you do anything after today’s episode, allow yourself to not get it. Allow yourself to be a little confused, but then keep taking action. It really will make a world of difference. Alright, that’s it for today. I will see you next week.
Hey, if you're a woman who enjoys this podcast and wants to have me as your coach, you have to join the Take A Break program. It's a 30-day break from drinking that will teach you how to say no to your urges without deprivation, the secret to not needing a drink in any situation, including not needing a drink to take the edge off, and never again feeling like you can't trust yourself around alcohol. Join me over at RachelHart.com/join. Together, we're going to blow your mind.