What AA Skeptics Can Learn From the 12 Steps with Arlina Allen

Episode 169 June 12, 2024 01:06:23
What AA Skeptics Can Learn From the 12 Steps with Arlina Allen
Alcohol Tipping Point
What AA Skeptics Can Learn From the 12 Steps with Arlina Allen

Jun 12 2024 | 01:06:23


Hosted By

Deb Masner

Show Notes

Arlina Allen is a Certified Sobriety Coach & Hypnotist, The Founder of Sober Life School, and Host of the award-winning podcast “The One Day at a Time Recovery Podcast.” She specializes in helping smart, busy, professional women to quit drinking and create a life they love. This fall she is releasing her book, The 12 Step Guide for Skeptics. 

Arlina has been sober for 30 years, happily married for 27 plus years and is the mother of two amazing young adult men and mama to Teddy, the family English Bulldog. And, fun fact, lives in the same area as me in Idaho! 

As an AA skeptic myself, I really appreciated this conversation with Arlina. She shares how Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps were helpful for her and walks us through some of the more “problematic” steps with a fresh perspective.  

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. I'm your host, Deb Maisner. I'm a registered nurse, health coach, and alcohol free badass. I have found that there's more than one way to address drinking. If you've ever asked yourself if drinking is taking more than it's giving, or if you found that you're drinking more than usual, you may have reached your own alcohol tipping point. The alcohol tipping point is a podcast for you to find tips, tools, and thoughts to change your drinking. Whether you're ready to quit forever or a week, this is the place for you. You are not stuck, and you can change. Let's get started. Welcome back to the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. Today on the show, I have Arlena Allen. Arlena is a certified sobriety coach and hypnotist, the founder of Sober Life School, and host of the award winning podcast, the one day at a Time recovery podcast. She specializes in helping smart, busy, professional women to quit drinking and create a life they love without rehab or aa. She's been sober for 30 years, happily married for 27 plus years, mother of two amazing young adult men, and mama to Teddy, the family english bulldog. And fun fact, she also lives in the same area of me in Idaho. I'm in Boise, and Arlena's in eagle, which are just right next to each other. So I thought that was super cool and super small world. So welcome, Marlene. [00:01:40] Speaker B: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be talking to you. [00:01:44] Speaker A: Same, same. Well, I did a little intro of you. Is there anything you would add to who you are and what you do? [00:01:52] Speaker B: Who I am and what I do? I am obsessed with, like, all things, like personal development. Like, I love exploring, you know, behavior change. You know, what are the sort of the underlying root causes that compel people to act in certain ways. And I just love kind of unraveling that whole mystery. And it's so interesting because everybody is different, so it's something that just never gets old to me. [00:02:21] Speaker A: Yeah, I love that. And, I mean, you've been sober for a long time. You're one of our long timers. Like 30 years. [00:02:32] Speaker B: Yeah. You know what's funny is, actually, I had my last drink of alcohol on my 25th birthday, which was in mid November, so. But I continued to use drugs. I was a big pothead, and so I continued. I was back in the day, they used to call it the marijuana maintenance program. It was kind of a tongue in cheek, a little description of what some people do when they're, you know, on that early stage of recovery journey. I didn't know that that's what I was doing, but I quit everything April 23 of 94, and that's kind of the date where I kind of plant my flag in the ground of, like, okay, this is when I started practicing abstinence. [00:03:15] Speaker A: Yeah, I will. I would just love to hear your story, like, your experience with drinking and then how you quit and because, gosh, things have changed so much in the last 30 years, but just for us to get to know you a little bit better, can you share? [00:03:32] Speaker B: I always start with sort of, and this is what I do. My own podcast is always. I'm so curious about childhood because I feel like that sets the stage for everything else that's to come, because that's, like, really when my identity was shaped, you know, how I understood the rules of the world I was growing up in. And, you know, my parents were super nice people. You know, daddy was from Kentucky. He was a military guy. He was an officer in the marines and worked at places like Lockheed and NASA. Very. Just, like, cerebral and. But super tender hearted. Like, if he's very religious and if he would start talking about Bible stories, he would often start blubbering and crying. I mean, he was so. He's so sweet, just so tenderhearted, which is, like, polar opposite of sort of, like, the outside of, like, tough guy marine, but. And he was very much the nurturing parent when I was growing up. And then my mother is from Mexico City, and she was just, like, this extremely positive, like, Pollyanna, delusionally happy person most of the time. But when I was growing up, you know, my parents actually, there were two things that happened that really altered my who I became. I was sexually abused by a neighbor when I was really little, and then my parents divorced when I was seven. And those two things were really traumatic for me. And, you know, my dad left, but he was close by. He was a good dad. He was very active in my life, but he was the nurturing one. And my mother raised my sister and I. And, you know, she, you know, we lived with her in the house, and she was a really hard working person, and she always had, like, multiple jobs. Listen, she was tired, right? And as a grown woman with two kids, like, now I have, you know, so much more context about what she was going through, all that to say. She was really angry when I was growing up, most of the time. So she had, like, these two different personalities. She was either really happy or she was really pissed off. And I felt like she saved her happy face for the outside world. So my two predominant feelings when I was growing up was, like, guilty and wrong, right? Like, I grew up in that area. I'm 55, so I grew up in that area of era of the Latchkey kid, right? So I had a house key. I would get myself to school and then let myself into the house when I got home from school. And my older sister and I were left home alone for a couple hours, a few hours before mom got home. Then she was really tired and it was like, you know what? She's super clean and kind of controlling about how everything should be done. And I was not living up to her standards. So I felt like that was, like, the source of a lot of our conflicts was just. I was not producing enough, cleaning the house enough. So it was really, you know, I learned to become performance based. I learned that if I performed well, then I could receive the approval that I so desperately wanted. And I didn't know, you know, the things that were happening to me. I didn't know that it wasn't my fault. And I just, you know, I grew up in the church, a christian church. We went to a. Oh, my God, I'm drawing a blank. Presbyterian church. I grew up in a presbyterian church. And I was kind of always getting these messages that I was the sinner and that, you know, I was needing to be. I was trying to prove my worth all the time. I kind of didn't get the message of being, like, forgiven and beloved. It was always. It was just so this overall theme of falling short all the time and failing and just really struggling, those were kind of, like, my predominant feelings. And I say all that because I absolutely 100% recreated. Like, that was my deep fall setting. And I created that experience in my adult life. And when I was very young, my mom had gone out to dinner one evening and my sister and I were left home alone. I was about. I was under ten, so I'm going to say between eight and ten. And that was when I had my first drink. And I'm not even sure where I got the idea. I didn't see either of my parents drink, but there was, like, this dusty old bottle in the cabinet. Somebody must have left it there from a party or something. I don't. I don't really know, but I thought it'd be a great idea to drink some of this booth. And so I remember that first drink like it was yesterday. The way it burned my lips, the way it burned all the way down. But then that warmth that spread through my whole body, and it was so interesting, because in that moment, I didn't realize how bad I felt until I felt really good. It was like all the self loathing and guilt and shame and all that stuff was, like, lifted, and all I felt was really good. And the juxtaposition of those two feelings, in contrast, was so powerful, it, like, burned in my psyche forever. Like, oh, this is the answer. That's where I got that feeling, like, oh, this is the answer. And that's, that's when I started. I didn't become a daily drinker at ten, but I, you know, the seed was planted and I was like, this is going to be the thing. And, you know, I became a little more regular when I was about 14. [00:09:11] Speaker A: Yeah. And, and were you growing up in, you mentioned, like, you're, you're in Idaho now, but you lived in California, your dad was southern. Where, where were you at? Like, what area were you at? [00:09:23] Speaker B: I grew up in Sunnyvale, California, which seems like very sunny California. So it was Sunnyvale, California, which is, like, the heart of Silicon Valley. So I was super lucky to grow up in that area because that actually presents a lot of really interesting opportunities for me later. But, yeah, that's where I grew up was in California. [00:09:44] Speaker A: I got it. Yeah. And so you had those feelings when you were young, like, of not being worthy, not being enough, and just having to be perfect. Perfect, not rock the boat, all of that. And drinking was like a solution, a temporary solution. And so then what happened? Because you quit at a young age, in your twenties? [00:10:10] Speaker B: I did, yeah. I mean, I started young, so I kind of crashed and burned by the time I was 25. I had always had, like, this crazy work ethic. I don't know if it was because I got it from my mom. I'd always seen her working multiple jobs, but I kind of got this idea in my mind that there were two things that were going to save me from all these feelings of inadequacy that I had. Let's say it's like there was a lot of trauma and then there was all this setup at home, but I always kind of had this feeling like something outside of me was going to save me. And it kind of showed up in either men or money. Like those were. I thought that. I thought the knight in shining armor was going to come rescue me for myself, I guess, take me out of, like, my miserable circle. I thought love was going to save me. And I also had, like, this belief that, like, I, we grew up kind of poor and I didn't really realize that we were kind of poor because we lived in a house, and I had friends who were, like, very, like, almost homeless, you know, but I didn't think I was. But money was a. It was really a big problem when I was growing up, and I always felt less than at school with these kids, especially when I was. I later moved in with my dad and into Cupertino. Cupertino, you know, that's where. That's where Apple was founded, right? I was going to school with these girls that were wearing very, very affluent neighborhood where that I was kind of on the wrong side of the tracks, and these girls were wearing all these beautiful clothes, and I was always, like, feeling less than. And it kind of got it in my mind that if I just had enough money and was in love, like, had some man to save me, then my life would be perfect. So I had, like, this crazy work ethic. I got my first job at, like, 13 years old, babysitting. And then I was, like, the only girl in my neighborhood with a paper route. And then I had, like, a ton of jobs after school because I was trying to get enough money so I could buy the clothes so then I could feel comfortable, right? So I had always had, like, this. This ambition. And by the time I hit 25, I was just falling apart. Like, I was in this career, and I was failing miserably. Like, it was a really good opportunity for me to make a lot of money, and I was just blowing it because of my drinking and my using. And so I just, like, had all this ambition and wanted to live my life in a certain way. And over and over again, I saw that it was the drugs and the alcohol that were preventing the alcohol was really preventing me from finding the love I wanted, and the weed was really preventing me from performing professionally at a level that I wanted to perform. And I would just, like, battle. I did two years of moderation before I was like, I have to practice abstinence because I had too many. I would call them, like, episodes where I would go out and start drinking and then, like, all this crazy stuff would happen, and I wake up the next morning and be like, what is that all about? You know? It's like I had these two alter egos. It was either wimpy Wendy or badass Betsy. I was either fighting or crying when I got really drunk, and it was always really drunk. It was like, once I started drinking, I just wanted more. It was really. Yeah. And I would just always black out and throw up everywhere and wake up in strange places. And I was like, what? By the time I was 25, I was like, I just cannot do this anymore. I kind of hit this rock bottom, and I was like, something's gotta give. So that's when I started practicing abstinence. [00:13:58] Speaker A: Yeah. And first with the alcohol. And so back then, what did you do? Did you go to aa rehab? Like, what did. What was your route to getting sober? [00:14:10] Speaker B: So it started with, like, having the worst night of my life with my sister. She and I went out, and I just had, like, this really horrible night. The police were involved. I didn't get arrested, but the next morning, I had to go to her house. And I don't really remember why I went, but it was like I woke up with that feeling of complete, like, demoralization. Just, I don't know that I've ever felt so low. And I went to her house to find out what happened, really, and to apologize again, you know? And she told me that she was going to start going to Al Anon because of me. And here's the funny thing. I was, like, clutching my pearls, like, because of me. Like, I was so. Like, it's so funny. I was so self centered, but completely incapable of self examination, right? Like, I couldn't see how other people viewed me, and I was a mess. I was a train wreck, and I just couldn't see it. I kind of knew, but I didn't. I didn't realize. I just didn't want to give up the alcohol. And, you know, in 1994, when I finally got sober, there really wasn't anything else besides Alcoholics Anonymous. I really wasn't even aware of rehab. Like, I had heard, like, somebody in high school may have gone at some point, but, like. And that wasn't really accessible to me. Like, I didn't have money, I didn't have insurance. I didn't have, you know, my parents, you know, didn't know about it either. It just wasn't accessible to me. And I had. Two of my clients were actually in the program, as they call it, and they invited me to go. And I was so desperate to be sober that I was willing to do whatever. Whatever it took, which included going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. And I tell you, I set foot in that meeting, and it was like coming home because they were loving and accepting of me. And it was. They didn't look like I thought they were going to look like. Like some of them look like I thought they were going to look like, but most of them did not. Like, there were these women that were dressed in business suits and driving bmws and they looked all nice and polished and beautiful and, you know, everything in between, right. There were women that were just out of treatment that were, like, borderline homeless, so there was, like, the whole gamut. But it didn't matter what they look like on the outside. They were saying things that spoke to my heart, right. Like, I could tell that they got my kind of crazy, and they didn't judge me for it. And they helped me to, like, find, like, this new normal, right. Because, you know, I was so. I was so lonely and desperate for companionship. It's like I had, like, ruined all my friendships, basically, so I, like, needed new friends. And they were, like, reaching their hand out to me, welcoming me and asking me for my phone number and giving me theirs, and they were like, call me anytime. It was. It was so amazing. And I totally jumped in with both feet. And, yeah, that's, you know, I did everything they told me to do. That's amazing. [00:17:33] Speaker A: Yeah. And you hear that a lot, and I so appreciate you sharing your experience, because I. You know, back then, it was just aa, and there's still aa now. And I know that it gets a bad rap, but, like, it has helped a lot of people. And isn't it great that now we have so many options and different ways to help people change their drinking? And I think we can learn a lot from it, which you've done, and now you share in your own way as well. So what do you think about it? You know, you said it spoke to your heart, and you jumped in. Like, what were some of the things that were most helpful for you? [00:18:17] Speaker B: You know, they were saying things out loud that I was only admitting to myself in my darkest moments. Right. Like. Like, my drinking really was a problem. It really was a problem. And they were offering me unconditional love and support and friendship, and it was. It was. It was exactly what I needed at the time. And they offered me a process to do this self examination that was so desperately needed. Like, I. You know, people were talking about, you know, doing the work and accepting responsibility. I literally did not know what that meant. I did not know how to do that. And, you know, I'm very practical and pragmatic, and I was like, there's steps. Like. And I would read this. I was like, I don't even know. Like, at face value. Like, it had no meaning for me. It wasn't until I was working with somebody else that somebody else gave me context and perspective. Like, they needed to explain, like, oh, these steps are actually largely a writing exercise. It's like a mindset shift. But it was like, you need to take all these actions, and it was like, cause and effect. We take these actions, you get this result. Run the experiment was kind of like this common refrain. Run the experiment. Like, don't take my word for it. This is what people would say, this is what I did. This is what I used to be. Like, this is what I did. It's just a suggestion, which was nice, because most people show up in these environments super self conscious and defensive and afraid and sad and anxious, recovering from alcohol. Your whole neurochemistry, your cortisol levels are high, your fear is high. They just had this way of helping me to calm down and just kind of relax a little bit, and they offered me these mindset shifts and helped me to, like, let go of what wasn't serving me so that I could accept responsibility for what was mine. Right. So it was really just a very pragmatic, practical process to sort through all my baggage, learn emotion management, be of service, like, feel useful and purposeful again, and have a lot of fun, to be perfectly honest, because I thought I was like, okay, my life is over. I can't drink anymore. No more weed. So my life is over. There will be no more fun to be had ever again. But, like, nothing could have been further from the truth. These are a group of people who love to party. Like, we would go places and do things and gather all the time, and people were super funny and outrageous and really wise and profound, and it was just. It was. And I was young, and there was, like, young people's meetings, and I just needed to be around other people who were. Who sort of, like, got it, who kind of, you know, like I said, got my kind of crazy, but they didn't judge me for it. And we can kind of laugh about it and just keep moving forward, you know? It was pretty amazing. Yeah. [00:21:42] Speaker A: And that's the beautiful part about, like, finding people who get it. It is so helpful, just that whole, like, me too. Like, oh, you're thinking this? Me too. I thought I was the only one in the world. And because a lot of times, we do feel so alone. We feel like we're the only ones who have a problem with drinking. And it's just so, so helpful to know that you're not alone, that there are other people who get it. [00:22:09] Speaker B: And it was not only that I wasn't alone, but I finally had a word for what was wrong with me, what was happening to me. You know, I know you don't like the word alcoholism. But for me, it was so freeing. It was like, oh, this is what's happening to me. You know, now they call it, you know, in the DSM five, the diagnostical manual that professionals use, they call it alcohol use disorder. And it's sort of like this mindset shift, this change in perspective that we have now, that it's. That this alcohol use is on a spectrum, right? There's from, like, the people that are, like, blowing up their lives, that are homeless and destroying their lives, to people who are functional but still suffering with this alcohol use disorder, there's some pretty high functioning people, and I think that's even harder to come to grips. Like, you got this thing, you know, whether you call it alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, that you got this thing, and it was there something about acknowledging reality that allows you to then take responsibility. But for me, it was so freeing, and I like to destigmatize it by actually using the word and changing the meaning of it. So for me, it's a badge of honor. And it also tells me a lot about somebody. It's like, oh, they know what it's like. They're doing a lot of work to take care of themselves. It's like they have, like, I used to think I was, like, so easygoing, but no, I'm high maintenance. I, like, have to do all this stuff to maintain my emotional sobriety. Right? And so with one little word, it's like, I get you. You get me. We're on the same team, and we're, like, connected at this heart level that, you know, normies, as we like to call them, they don't get it. But I know that they get it just by one little word. That they get it. [00:24:09] Speaker A: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that makes sense. And, like, you, I'm. And I should say, like, personally, I don't use the term alcohol. I know, and I do. I was telling Arlena that before we started recording. [00:24:24] Speaker B: But if you don't use it, doesn't that imply that it's a shameful word? [00:24:29] Speaker A: Well, what I try to do, like you said, was take the stigma out and put the science in. So I'm a nurse, and so I am like, you know, it's alcohol use disorder. If people have cancer, we say it's a person with cancer, it's person first language. Even with diet, people with diabetes, we don't use the term diabetic anymore. It's a person with diabetes. But all that to say, I also get the identity thing because I say I'm an alcohol free, badass and to me, that's empowering. And so for you like, to hear you talk about, like, you like to use the term alcoholic because that means a lot to you, and it helps it make sense of the world and having another person who gets it. Oh, what are you. [00:25:18] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm waving my hands because I'm such a hypocrite. Because I don't actually use that word a whole lot. I just. It just. I know this is. I'm so, like, you know, hypocritical sometimes. I don't actually use the word a lot because I like to meet people where they're at. Do you know what I mean? So it's like I'm caught on this fence of living. Like, I want to honor my roots of what helped me stay sober for 30 years. At the same time, it's like, I'm not ignorant. Like, I am in the. I love science. I love science. Science is what allowed me to be like, oh, this is a biological thing. It's not a moral issue. Even though an alcoholic's anonymous, they beat it like a drum. Oh, this is not a moral issue. You know, but science actually proves it, right? [00:26:11] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:26:12] Speaker B: Like, science proves it's not a moral issue. You consume alcohol. It's a chain of chemical reactions in your body that disrupt all your hormones and just does all kinds of crazy things to your body. So it's like, oh, it's. Understanding the science really helps. Sort of takes, like, the shame away from it. [00:26:32] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:26:33] Speaker B: So we got to meet people where they're at. People don't like the word, but it's like. But to me, it's not a shameful word. And. But, so I don't know. I don't know how to feel about it. Like, I get all triggered when people are like, oh, I don't want to use the word alcoholic. [00:26:49] Speaker A: Well, I appreciate your honesty and your perspective. So you. [00:26:54] Speaker B: It's been my insanity. [00:26:56] Speaker A: No, I mean, it's okay. And I think that shows, like, people can change and you. You can, you know, really who you are is just Arlena, and you get to decide what label you want to use. But what I wanted to see was, like, what do you think has changed in the last 30 years? Like, about our approach to sobriety, our approach to drinking, to what we've learned about alcohol. Like, wow, what have you seen? What is that experience been like for you? [00:27:28] Speaker B: Well, I think, first and foremost, we have so much more science than we used to have. Right? Not just physical science, but, like, psychology science. Like, now we really have this clarity that it's rooted in trauma. Right? Like, all these things that we talked about in twelve step as character defects. Well, we understand that those are really survival skills, right? Like, my survival skill of learning how to perform, to receive love and acceptance, you know, translated to, like, workaholism as an adult. You know what I mean? But that was my survival skill, being, like, really defensive. It's like. So it's interesting, like, I don't like to use terms like character defects because that feels shamey to me. I prefer the term like survival skills or human frailties or whatever. So I think what's changed is, like, we have more words now to describe things and help people. Like, we just need to meet people where they're at, right? I spent ten years in technology sales, and one of the first principles of sales is to align yourself with somebody by meeting them where they are and sort of putting the problem out in front. Right. And so it's like, oh, well, you know, you're not the problem. It's, you know, our society is kind of the problem now because you have influences to pressure you to drink all the time. Like, it's the only drug that you have to explain why you're not using it. Like, it's so. Like, they even drink at some churches. You know, some. Some religions pass it around during service. You know, it's just kind of crazy. And then. And then, you know, as women, I feel like we face a fair amount of trauma or we're exposed to a lot of things that can happen to us. And so these are the underlying causes. And so I think it's really interesting that over the last 30 years, we have really, really begun to unravel, sort of, what is that? The root cause, which is, like, trauma, low self esteem, our identities, how our identities are shaped. And so that then begs the question of, like, okay, well, what's the antidote, right? And so there is a lot of discussion about how to treat all those different types of, like, wounds, dysfunctions. We have so many tools. Like, that's the exciting thing about now is this is a great time to be sober. We have podcasts and memoirs and all kinds of different groups, and we have so much science and psychology that can help us, like, unravel the mystery of us and lead these really productive, positive, like, fulfilling lives that have, like, deep, like, profound meaning and purpose, I think. And so I feel like, you know, that's a long winded answer, but we just have so many more tools now than we used to 30 years ago. [00:30:43] Speaker A: Yeah. Absolutely. And I would just add, like, there also is just going to the science as well. Like, there's just more and more research showing, like, no amount of alcohol is beneficial for your health. And you don't have to have a drinking problem to quit drinking. You can just quit drinking because it's shipped for your health. And so I think you're seeing more. More of it being, like, a wellness revolution, a wellness conversation, a health conversation, versus the shame and stigma, morality and all that. Like, a lot of people are just giving it up. Like, they know smoking's not good for you, so that is really, really cool. [00:31:27] Speaker B: Yeah. I was talking. I interviewed this guy, Andy Ramage, who talks about middle lane drinkers, and he's, like, a high performance guy, and he doesn't talk about alcoholism either. He really talks about living alcohol free. And I feel like that really speaks to, you know, like, the middle lane drinkers. Right. People who are, like, professionals or, you know, whatever, who don't really relate to, like, the emotional or physical bottoms of really severe drinking disorders, but they want to optimize, and they don't want to wake up at 03:00 in the morning and, you know, or be hungover all day and waste half their day at work being unproductive or, you know, waste a lot of time. And, you know, I really appreciate this whole sort of sober movement we have, like, sober October and no booze. November and dry January is really big now for. And it's just like this move towards optimal health, like you were saying. I think it's. I think that's really exciting. [00:32:33] Speaker A: Yeah. Do you feel. And I hear because you've kind of come from the aa side of things or just more of a. Do you think that there is that backlash from people who have really developed the physical, emotional dependency, and then they're kind of looking at a mom and boise, like, well, you didn't really have a problem or whatever. Did you kind of struggle with that, or do you see that? I see a lot of infighting among people in the sober world, and it's unfortunate because it's like, oh, we want more unity. You know, more unity. But I can see how it doesn't matter what kind of tribe you're in, then you keep dividing yourself into smaller and smaller tribes. I was just curious what your perspective was. [00:33:29] Speaker B: We are so funny. I mean, listen, there is. There is no one program that's gonna work for everyone. That's the truth. And I think when we're dealing with matters of life and death, because for a lot of people. It is like, you don't have to be a daily drinker to be at risk for death if you're a binge drinker, right? Like, I know somebody who, she was a nanny and a young girl went out and she got hammered, got behind the wheel and killed somebody and spent the next seven years in prison, right? Like, there's some really severe consequences. And so when the stakes are that high, people are really afraid. And when people are afraid, they get really rigid. And so I think, and also when there's a lot of shame involved, I think people also get really rigid. And there is a lot of, it seems like there is a lot of infighting, which seems so silly. Like, when we talk about it, it's like we're all trying to just feel relieved from the suffering that we have, right. And we should be more compassionate towards each other. And I have experienced such vitriol against twelve step, and I'm not even that person that's going to be like, twelve step is the only way. Like, I know that there are some people, like, this way is the only way. They're very, like, religious about it, right. And there's such vitriol against it because I think it really threatens somebody's, like, core identity. Right? We're talking about when our core identity is being threatened, we get very defensive and everybody wants to know what is the right thing to do. And we're all trying to save each other from like, this lethal thing. So everybody's, everybody's fearful. And so I get it. I really do get it. And that's why I'm writing this whole book about the twelve step guide for skeptics. Because the basic premise of the book is that the steps are a worthy endeavor. It's just a great process to go through. But I will say that the steps and the meetings are two separate things. The steps are in the book, and the people are often the ones who give you context and perspective and guidance on how to do them. You don't, can't really do the steps by yourself. You really do need a guide. So you really, like, they're intended to work together. But all of the problems I have encountered are in the community are the people. They're also the very thing that have saved me. And they're like the best part of the program. And so that's why I decided to write this book to be like, hey, here's how you can go through the process safely. Here are some boundaries. Here's what to look out for. Here are some guidelines, like take what you like and leave the rest, you know, find a sponsor that fits you. If somebody's being too controlling or they don't get you, find a different one. But don't abandon the process. Like, the process is good and there's a way around all the things. Like the words, like you can change the words you can to, you know, find your own higher power. It could be science, it could be energy, it can be, it doesn't have to be this whole God thing. Like, these were God, but then you get to define what God means to you. I know, I know atheists who are 40 or sober and Alcoholics Anonymous. I interviewed this guy twice because I was so fascinated. And I, you know, in my mind he's talking about principles and values and things like that. I'm like, oh, those are all attributes of God. You know, in my mind, that's how I understand it. We're using different words, but we're talking about the same thing, really. So it's just interesting that there's like, I just want to remove the barriers to entry and remove the barriers to progress so that people can experience this amazing process that's actually very practical and pragmatic about how to sort through all your baggage so that you can be free of it and then live in a way where you're taking full responsibility for yourself. But like, tapping into like, the magic of the universe at the same time. It's a really cool process. And just like, letting go of all the, like, all the things that people get so mad about, I'm like, that doesn't have to be a thing. Like, you can get around it. So that's really what I'm trying to do. And I'm not saying that that way is the only way or that you have to do it forever or it'll keep you sober forever. Like, I'm not saying any of those things. I'm just saying the process is a worthy endeavor. [00:38:17] Speaker A: Yeah. And I think that name, the twelve step guide for skeptics, that's such a good name because they're, they're like, with anything, there's good, there's things that will relate more to me or yourself than they would to, like Joe in Boston or whatever, you know, so. And what I see also, you know, people you were talking about coming from a place of fear, but I think it's also a place of like, gosh, this really worked for me and I've seen people struggle or not make it out of this, and I really want this to work for you. And it's that you do still see people, no matter how they got sober, kind of go through this evangelical side of things when you first, like, get alcohol free or whatever, where you just want to shout from the rooftops like, hey, everybody, wake up. It's so much better over here. That's cool. Well, can you just remind us, because a lot of people who do listen to this aren't into aa or the twelve steps. So what are the twelve steps? [00:39:30] Speaker B: It's so funny because, like, when you read my intro, it's like you can't get sober without aa or rehab. [00:39:36] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. [00:39:38] Speaker B: You can. Well, there's like many paths to the same place and I'm just going to grab my book because I won't be able to talk about. Okay, so. But the first step is we admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives have become unmanageable. And with that, there's like two parts to that. So admitted we were powerless over alcohol. People hate that term. [00:40:01] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:40:01] Speaker B: And I would argue, and you're a science girl, so I'm sure you'll appreciate this. When somebody ingests alcohol, it sets off a chain of chemical reactions. Once you consume it, there is no stopping that. It's almost like a guaranteed thing, which is why people become so dependent on it, because it's like a guaranteed thing. I'm going to drink something. I'm going to change the way I feel. I would argue my perspective is that anybody who ingests it, once it's in your body, you are powerless to reverse that process. It's not like once you drop the penny as it's falling, you're not going to be able to. I guess you probably technically could stop it on the way down, but it's going to fall. Do you know what I mean? It's like, it's scientifically proven you ingest alcohol, it's going to set off this chemical reaction. So I would argue everybody is powerless over alcohol to some extent. And I think what the book is talking about is there is a feeling of powerlessness over being able to choose whether you're going to drink or not or how much you're going to drink. I was, for a period of time, desperately wanted to stop drinking and could not. I would like, I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it. I'm just going to go out and I'm going to drink something else and I would find myself blackout drunk. Right? And I'd wake up the next day being like, oh, my God, I swore to myself, I wasn't gonna do it. It was like I lost. I temporarily lost the ability to choose. And then once I started drinking, I'd be like, oh, I'm just gonna have two glasses of wine. And then next thing I know, I'm slamminsthe jagermeister with the boys at the bar. You know what I mean? It's like I had, like, no, like, off switch once I started. So to me, those were all signs of powerlessness. Like, I. I couldn't not drink and I couldn't manage how much I drank. So that's kind of what it doesn't mean. Powerless over everything people leave off over alcohol. They go, oh, powerless? What? I'm not powerless? No, no. It's just over alcohol. We have so much power. And that's really what the whole program is about. It's about giving you access to power. So that was only step one. Do you want me to just read the twelve steps so people know what they are? [00:42:22] Speaker A: Well, I like that. I like hearing, like, your explanations and, I mean, if you have time. [00:42:30] Speaker B: I do. I totally do. [00:42:32] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:42:32] Speaker B: Listen, this is my favorite thing to talk about, but step two is. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And that is sort of like. Like, if I was really sad and I called you, and I was like, I'm. I'm like, I'm really sad. I'm all messed up. You would sit with me and talk with me and offer context and perspective, maybe things I couldn't see or remind me of. Things about myself that made me feel better, give me hope for tomorrow. Do you know what I mean? It's like, that exchange is more powerful than me by myself and my sadness. [00:43:11] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:43:11] Speaker B: So that's a power greater than just myself. Sometimes starting out small is a good place to start, and it can just grow from there. And that was when, like, I had a sponsor who was like. I was like, I don't know about this God thing. I grew up at the church. I totally rejected it. I failed so many times. I just had to get. I couldn't do it. And she's like, no, no, no. That's not what it means. She's like, do this exercise. Write down all the attributes you would give to quote unquote, God. You can make up your own definition. I was like, you can do that. Like, that's a thing. Like, it was what? You know, because I grew up, I was like, this is the way. This is the only way. And this is. This is what it means. Like, there was no room for negotiation there, no room for creativity. And so I was like, I didn't know you could do that. And so she had me come up with what my higher power was, something that I could trust that had to make sense to me. Right? And, you know, the whole part about the insanity was, like, I kept trying to manage it by myself. And for me, like, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, wasn't even logical. It's not logical. It's not realistic. It's not living in reality. Like, I had this fantasy of how I wanted things to be, and I kept reaching for it. But the facts remain that my body does not process alcohol normally like other people's. So it was like this clarification of, like, see things as they are. That's kind of what I got out of step two. See things as they are and ask for help. And then step three is, you know, became willing to turn my will and my life over to the power of God as I understood God. And that was kind of goes back. Like, do you see how, like, they're. They kind of build on each other, right? So turning my will and my life over to the care of this God thing. A lot of people. And there's this beautiful. It's so funny. People are so offended by the idea of surrender, but there's this idea in Alcoholics Anonymous about surrender to win. It's like, surrender your insane fantasy that you can control your drinking. You've run the experiment for years. You haven't been able to do it. Let's just acknowledge reality and turn your will in your life over the care of this process or whatever. That's kind of how I started it. And to me, like, I came to the conclusion that this God thing was about the energy of love. And if I was going to turn my will over to this care of. To this idea of love, that meant that if I was in conflict with somebody, the idea of love is what is the highest and greatest good of all involved, not just me, right? It was so it was turning my will what I wanted, my narrow mind, you know, self centered thing to what was, what would love do in this situation? And that's kind of how it would play. And where, for me, it was like, well, where does God live? Well, it's inside me. It's in my heart. It's. It's not outside of me. It's inside. And so that means the locus of control is also inside me. Like, it's my responsibility. The power is in me. So it's just like a slight shift in context of, like, surrendering and weakness. I mean, it's just like, the things that I hear from people. It's like, oh, I don't want to be like this weak, powerless person. It's like, I want to be, but it's. That's not what it is. It's about personal response, extreme ownership, personal responsibility, and tapping into the power, the immense power that's actually inside of you. And that's kind of like the foundation. And then steps four, five and six four is a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. And that's when you get to unpack all your baggage from your past. And they present it. It's so genius. They present it as, what are your resentment? Who are you pissed at? Right? So you make a list of all the. And the funny thing is, you have a sponsor who has to listen to all your bullshit. It's like, you have a license to bitch. And there's somebody. You have a captive audience, somebody who has to listen to all your nonsense. And so I was like, sign me up. So I, like, made a list of all the people I was resentful at and got to explain the exact cause of my resentments, got down to causes and conditions, got really specific about the cause of my resentment and then how it affected me. It's like my self esteem took hit after hit after hit. I was afraid. It's like it affected my personal relationships, my emotional security, my financial security, like, all these ways that affected me. And then I was suddenly, like, got this clarity about how my life was just run by fear, like, a million times. Afraid of what I wasn't going to get or afraid of what I was going to lose, right? I just realized suddenly, like, just seeing it all in black and white, when you write it all out, the clarity of, like, oh, my God, I have so much fear in my life. I am running off of fear. And then the last part of that process, which is probably the hardest part, is taking responsibility. It's like, what role did I play in all of these situations? And it's so funny because I felt like I was such a victim. Like, everybody's so mean to me all the time. Why is this stuff happening to me? And then when I broke it all out like, that, I would get this realization, like, oh, my God, I'm the asshole in this situation. Like, people are just responding to the shitty things I did. That's why they were being mean to me. It wasn't like I was just innocently moving through life not affecting anybody. I was drinking, I was behaving badly. I was saying mean things to people, and then they would respond appropriately, and I was offended by that. And that's when I began to see, like, you know, they call it character defects, but, you know, that's when I got to see, oh, I was deploying all these survival skills. All my self centeredness, my defensiveness, my self righteous anger, those are all defensiveness. Those were all my survival skills. That's how they showed up. And then I would have a very compassionate, loving person saying things like, yeah, I did that, too. This is how I got out of that, or this is how I see. And it was like all this shame and humiliation of finally seeing reality for the first time, like how my behavior is affecting other people. It was tempered with this love and compassion of like, well, of course you didn't like that. You didn't have any emotion management skills. You didn't have any life skills, no coping skills. Of course you behave this way because you didn't know what else to do. Right. And that's when I started learning what else to do, right. And then it became the rest of the steps are about practicing, you know, and healing. You know, prayer and meditation is step eleven. Step twelve is carrying the message to other people. That's kind of where we get like that evangelical sort of, we want to save the world. It's like, oh, my God, I've been like this. I've been relieved of this suffering as, like, the lights come on, it's like, oh, my God, everybody needs to know this information, right? But there is that service that's in there. You know, they say that if you have low self esteem, and I don't know anybody who doesn't struggle with self esteem on some level, but it's particularly bad after an experience of alcohol use disorder, struggling with this beast, right? It's like we have terribly low self esteem. Service is probably the fastest way out of low self esteem because it's hard to look into the eyes of gratitude and feel bad about yourself. Right. You can feel it on an energetic level when you've helped somebody else out, when you've connected at that heart level, that you start to relax and allow love to come in. And that's one of the reasons why I love service as one of the healing modalities. But that's kind of, that's kind of the whole process in a nutshell. [00:51:37] Speaker A: Yeah. Well, I appreciate that. Will you just say the. I just, I miss them in between after five and responsibility. [00:51:54] Speaker B: Oh, the men's. I forgot the whole amends part, right. [00:51:58] Speaker A: And I think a lot of us, like, I've never done a deep dive into the twelve steps, right. And so this, I'm just, like, fascinated by. And I love hearing your explanations. [00:52:10] Speaker B: I apologize. I totally left out the whole, like, one of the magical parts. The process that gave me the most freedom ever was doing the 9th step. So the 9th step is we made direct amends. Made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. So, like, if you cheated on your husband, you don't go to your husband and say, I'm sorry I cheated on you if he doesn't know, right? Because I would injure him. Do you know what I'm saying? But it was interesting because I had the four step, which is the searching and fearless moral inventory, made a list of all the people I was resentful at. So step eight is made a list of all the people that we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Step eight is just making a list. And typically, it's the people that was on your inventory list. And it's really hard to think about apologizing to the people that you're so resentful at. But because you did the last part, which is the. My part with your sponsor, and you suddenly get clarity on the role that you played, that's what you're taking responsibility for in step nine, where you go to somebody and it's not just an apology, it's an acknowledgement that you are aware of how your behavior affected somebody else. Right. Like, I had to make amends to my sister, and it was really. It was probably one of the hardest amends I had to make. But it was like, I could see how this specific behavior and this specific behavior hurt you. And what can I do to make it right? So it's an apology. It's an acknowledgment of the exact. That you're demonstrating that you are aware of your behavior, that you have some self awareness. But it's. What can I do to make it right? That is. That's the clincher. Right? But when you do that with somebody, I cannot tell you the free high that you get when you're a. Because that is like, that is like you forgive yourself because you took responsibility. You owned it. You apologize. You made sincere and a sincere apology. But then you're like, what can I do to make it right? And if they let you off the hook, which nine times out of ten, they do like, my sister was like, she's like, don't gossip about me to mom. And it was like, got it. Because my mom would come to me and say, oh, your sister this, your sister that, you know? And I'd be like, oh, you're right. She did this and she did that. Right? And so then my mom would go back to my sister and tell her what I said. So my sister was aware that I was talking smack about her, and that hurt her feelings, and it broke our trust in our relationship, so no wonder we didn't get along, right? No wonder, because I had a part to play in it. So as soon as she said that to me, I was like, got it. If mom brings up your. I will not bring up your name to her. And if she brings it up to me, I'm going to say, we probably shouldn't talk about her. And that was it, you know? But it's so funny how most times if you go to somebody and say, oh, I want to make amends for this, they go, I don't even remember that. It's so funny half the time. [00:55:23] Speaker A: And I think you touched on it. Like, I think one of the biggest, like, the person to forgive the most is yourself. [00:55:33] Speaker B: Yeah. Yeah. My sponsor. I had a sponsor who I was like, do I put myself on my resentment list? She was like, absolutely not. She's like, you're the one that needs the most forgiveness. Because whatever somebody says about me, I have said ten times worse, and I can't escape me. I hated who I was before I got sober. I would say the most vile. Like, somebody told me somebody in the program was like, if you talk to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you wouldn't have any friends. And I was the meanest to myself. And so that's been part of my own amends to myself, is to be very aware of my own self talk and to. Not to punish the critical voice, but to acknowledge it's kind of weird. This is what I love about what we know now about psychology, that you can't hate parts of yourself. You cannot hate yourself. Well, that critical voice that we have in our minds, that's telling us that we're such a piece of shit, that voice is actually trying to get us to act right. So it's actually trying to help us. It's doing it, and it's going about it the wrong way. But there is a part of us that's trying to help us, and so we can, with kindness and compassion to that voice, be like, oh, that's right. I know you're trying to help me. Send me a more positive thought. It's like, I got this. It's like, oh, I get what you're trying. Do you know what I mean? It's like this kind of, it sounds crazy to talk to yourself in that way, but we really do need to have a conversation with ourselves about how we talk to ourselves. [00:57:16] Speaker A: Oh, absolutely. I am huge on self kindness and self compassion and befriending the inner critic and all that. [00:57:25] Speaker B: Yeah. Oh, sorry. Go ahead. I was going to say that we have now this process therapy modality called internal family systems. Richard Schwartz came up with this process that it's like, it's this idea that we have all kinds of different parts within us, like a family. And so he has this process of helping us to sort of acknowledge these protector parts. Like the inner critic, I would argue, is the protector part, and negotiating with that part and then finding out what's behind that, like, who is this protector protecting? Typically, it's like this wounded inner child that we have. So it's like a combination of dealing with these strong parts that are kind of self sabotaging us but also addressing like, inner child type work. It's a really, it's a fascinating process that I love doing. I actually do that with my clients. But it's parts work. We have to make friends with all our parts because you can't hate yourself. [00:58:27] Speaker A: Well, yes. So, so true. Something that was standing out to me was like, you use the word responsibility a lot. And I know, like, at first it was the whole empowerment talk and whatnot, but I love the inverse Spider man quote. So the Spider man quote is with great power comes great responsibility, but with the inverse Spider man quote is with great responsibility comes great power. And I think that's the whole owning your thing, that this is your thing. Like Laura McCowan says, it's not your fault. It is your responsibility. And. Wow. So take us through the other. [00:59:13] Speaker B: That's a very old, by the way, I, sorry to interrupt you. I know you said it was Laura McComb. That's a very old set. [00:59:18] Speaker A: I bet it is. I bet. Well, I wanted to go back to some of the just so we did cover the steps and then I'll let you go, but we're going to have to have you back on to talk about some of the other stuff you do to help. But what were some of the other steps we missed between making amends and the resentment? Yeah. [00:59:39] Speaker B: Yeah. So step four is when you, when you go through the, you know, you sort through all your baggage. Step five is when you sort of. That is when you actually share it with somebody else. So you write it all out, then you share it with somebody else. And then six and seven has to deal with, you know, they call it character defects, right? So it's like, what are your character defects? You know, shortcomings. So six and seven are kind of two steps that are dealing with sort of the character defects part. And then step eight is making a list of all the people that you've harmed and, you know, you become willing to make amends to them all. And then nine is when you actually make the amends, right? So eight is just a list. You don't have to do anything. It's just a list. Nothing to be afraid of. And then nine, that's the scary part. That's when you actually. When you actually take responsibility and make amends. And then 1011 and 1210 has continued to make. Take personal inventory. So ten is sort of like the on. Like there's this thing where you do a daily ten step. It's sort of like, at the end of the day, you sort of review your day for where did I sort of act out these character defects? Do I owe anybody in amends? But it's also, what are my character assets? What went right? What did I do right? There's a lot of initial focus on what you're doing wrong, which is important. Right? Like, in crisis, in triage as a nurse, you identify what's wrong and then you can optimize. Right? So that's why in the very beginning, there's a lot of emphasis on what you're doing wrong, which is kind of hard to swallow, but necessary. And then if you have a good sponsor, it's like, what are your character assets? What are you good at? Like, do more of that? Are you kind? Are you compassionate? Are you willing to submit to self examination? There's like a million things that go right every single day. And so it's important to take as much time focusing on the good things. What you expect focus on expands. Right? So it's character assets, too. That's the best part. And then. And then eleven, step eleven is the sought through prayer and meditation to. Oh, my gosh. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, as I understand God. Right. So it's. It's a spiritual practices of meditation, prayer, all that. Like, I like to read daily devotionals, non secular ones, you know, whatever, just something inspiring. And then twelve is carrying the message and trying to help other people, right? Which I think as soon as you go through the process, it's twelve is having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps. We tried to carry this message to the alcoholic who still suffers. Right? So it's, you did all the things, you had, all the experience, like the spiritual awakenings, and now you're trying to carry that message. The trick is to carry it to people who want to hear it. [01:02:36] Speaker A: Like, sorry I've left, but yeah, people. [01:02:41] Speaker B: Who want to hear it. I remember one day my brother called me and he was sharing about a problem and the miracle happened when I got off the phone and I realized I didn't give him any advice. Do you know why? Because he didn't ask for it. I was like, oh my God, I'm spiritually healthy. Do you know what I mean? And like if people come to me and ask me for help, I am all in, all in. But if you have to ask for my opinion or my advice or you won't get it, I'm not going to give it to you because I have to save my energy for people who want it. [01:03:21] Speaker A: Yeah, well, I really appreciate you taking the time to just be open, to have the conversation and go through the steps and just highlight them in a different way than maybe a lot of people have heard before. And I look forward to your book, the twelve step guide for skeptics. And how else can people find you? [01:03:45] Speaker B: My main website hub is sober lifestyle. So you can get access to the podcast. There's some free resources. I have a guide how to quit drinking. 30 tips for 30 days. If you're just like, I don't even know where to start with this whole thing, you can put time on my calendar. I'm always happy to help people who want to take some action, you know? And then for the people who have gotten sober, like the whole character defects thing, that requires a lot of work. And so I am certified as a hypnotist, I do internal family systems, I am a coach. And so sometimes people just need help going deeper. Because the funny thing is the quitting drinking part that is resolved pretty quick once you get into it. It's the rest. That's when all the real work begins. That's when life really opens up and blossoms. It's like after, but sometimes it's like we all have these like self sabotaging behaviors or roadblocks. And that's when we really need to do the deeper work to change. Really, it's about resolving the pain and the fears so that you can take the action that you want to take and get the result you want to get. [01:04:59] Speaker A: Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you for doing what you're doing. I'm looking forward to being on your podcast the one day at a time recovery podcast. I just had a gal in my group say every morning I write down one day at a fucking time. That is a very minute at a time, right? That is a gem from aa. So thank you, aa. And yeah, thank you so much for sharing and I'm so glad we got to connect. [01:05:31] Speaker B: I know, me too. Thank you so much for letting me rand and rave. It was fun. [01:05:38] Speaker A: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Alcohol Tipping Point podcast. Please share and review the show so you can help other people too. I want you to know I'm always here for you, so please reach out and talk to me on Instagram tipping point and check out my website, alcoholtippingpoint.com, for free resources and help. No matter where you are on your drinking journey, I want to encourage you you to just keep practicing. Keep going. I promise you are not alone and you are worth it. Every day you practice not drinking is a day you can learn from. I hope you can use these tips we talked about for the rest of your week. And until then, talk to you next time.

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