About Drinking Alone and Overcoming Alcoholism

In episode 255 of Elevation Recovery, Chris Scott and Matt Finch discuss the concept of solitary drinking (also called drinking alone). They dive into areas surrounding this topic such as the dangers of drinking alone, whether or not drinking alone makes you an alcoholic, and resources for overcoming alcoholism.

The Drinking Alone Epidemic

They also discuss how the pandemic lockdowns have led to an epidemic of individuals drinking alone at home. Due to the isolation, ease of drinking alone while working at home, and other variables, the U.S. and many other countries have seen a radical spike in solitary drinking and drinking at home statistics.

More people are drinking alone than ever before in history. Additionally, more people are drinking in general and in 2020 the overdose death rate for drugs and alcohol hit an all-time high.

Overcoming Solitary Drinking & Alcohol Use Disorder

In this episode, which you can watch, listen to, or read, Chris and Matt share some of their personal stories of drinking alone, the dangers they ran into as a result, and much more.

They help people not feel so alone and hard on themselves if they’re engaged in problem drinking and haven’t been able to get a long-term grip on it.

Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Here are some ways to learn from this episode:


Chris Scott: A lot of people think that if you have a bad breakup or you lose your job, it's okay to go home and have a glass of wine. But if you ask yourself, "Why am I doing this and how much do I need this?" If you rank on a scale of 1 to 10 that need, and it's over a 5, even if it just seems to be an emotional or a psychological motivation for drinking and you don't have a physical dependence, then you should be aware that it could become a physical dependence with repetition.

Matt Finch: Other people might be drinking alone like I was where I was just at home and you were too hiding from the world, scared, stressed out, fearful, drinking alone first thing in the morning because if we didn't drink alone, we were going to go through withdrawal.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning into the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.

Matt Finch: Welcome everyone to episode 255 of Elevation Recovery. My name's Matt Finch, and I'm joined with my friend and co-host Chris Scott. Today's topic is going to be on drinking alone, and we're going to add a bunch of different in depth kind of topics within that overarching topic of what you need to know about drinking alone. We're also going to talk about dangers of drinking alone, does drinking alone make you an alcoholic, it's basically called solitary drinking, drinking by yourself, all that, and we're going to provide resources for overcoming alcoholism towards the end.

Matt Finch: We're even going to throw in a little section on the pandemic lockdown drinking by yourself phenomenon or epidemic by popular demand. In your Facebook group actually Chris for Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0, one of your students posted a question and tagged me specifically, "Matt Finch, have you guys done any Elevation Recovery Podcast episodes on coping with the stress of COVID?"

Matt Finch: And so in the description of that comment thing, or not the description, in several comments, I put about five or six episodes. The last one we did that had anything to do with COVID and COVID mental health addiction, that kind of stuff was probably about a year ago, I think it was last winter and we had done a bunch leading up to that. And so I promised that we would add that into an upcoming podcast. So we'll just start right away. I even have flashcards today. What is solitary drinking, AKA drinking alone or drinking by yourself?

Chris Scott: Well, I suppose that's somewhat self explanatory, would be consuming alcohol without being in a social situation. And whether or not it's a problem would depend on why you're doing it and how often you're doing it and how much you're drinking, what the quantity is and potentially how long you've been doing that as well. So alcohol use disorder is a spectrum.

Chris Scott: And I recall early on in my drinking years, actually back when I was in college, I noticed that I would have a six pack of beer at around senior year of college, in my room in case we weren't going to go out to party that night and I would drink it. And sometimes my friends would come in and hang out for maybe 20 minutes at the time, we were all doing homework. I ended up writing my senior honors thesis, essentially intoxicated drinking alone.

Chris Scott: And it occurred to me at some point that that could be a problem. But I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm in college. People in college drink whenever they want." So I socially justified it. And then I moved on to continue drinking alone and my drinking alone escalated throughout my years in finance. And there were some ebbs and flows, but you know that drinking alone is a problem for sure if you feel a visceral, primal need for alcohol because that's what alcohol dependence technically is, physical dependence.

Chris Scott: I was drinking alone before I got to that point, but I'm sure that the drinking alone helped me get to that point because over time when you drink, most people know that your tolerance increases. What a lot of people are not aware of is that there are certain neurotransmitters such as GABA, which is the primary calming neurotransmitter in your brain and glutamate which is the counterbalancing electrical activity increasing neurotransmitter, in other words, not calming, but stimulatory, excitatory neurotransmitter.

Chris Scott: And you can end up with a long term deficiency in GABA and essentially too much glutamine activity due to alcohol because alcohol effectively subs in or the GABA. It increases GABA activity, but it actually depletes your long term supply, your baseline supply of GABA because your brain says, "Well, if we're going to keep drinking i.e, and we're going to keep drinking alone, then we don't need to make so much GABA because this ethanol stuff is going to keep subbing in for it."

Chris Scott: So you end up with too much glutamate, you end up with anxiousness, you feel jumpy, you might have heightened reflexes. So I remember probably several years into my work in finance if something jumped out at me, I lived in New York City, so it could be a car coming around the corner or an elevator shaft that sounded weird, I would jump. I would go, "Whoa." And if anyone was around me, they would notice because I was jumpy.

Chris Scott: That was too much glutamine activity. And that was caused by drinking too much but a lot of my drinking was drinking alone. So as usual, I delved a bit too much into the biochemistry perhaps, but I hope it's helpful for anyone wondering why they might have a primal scream for alcohol when it seems to be socially inappropriate. We do have certain social norms that say that you shouldn't drink to some extent when you're not alone.

Chris Scott: But then again, you turn on the movies or TV or Netflix and there are people drinking alone all the time. So it can be very confusing as someone who's on that slippery slope towards addiction to try to figure out whether or not what they're doing is socially justified. I like to step outside of that box and say, well, what's actually going on inside of your body? Do you have signs of physical dependence?

Chris Scott: If you do, then it's potentially going to become a problem if it's not already. If you don't feel that primal need for alcohol, and again, it's a spectrum. So you might feel like you're a little bit bummed out if you don't drink alone, you might feel slightly depressed. It took me years before I got to the point where I felt that scream and then literally had hallucinations if I didn't drink.

Chris Scott: It took about five or six years in between, there's points along that slippery slope towards full physical, full on severe physical dependence. But a lot of people think that if you have a bad breakup or you lose your job, it's okay to go home and have a glass of wine or maybe if you had a stressful day at work, it's okay to go home and have a glass of wine. But you ask yourself, "Why am I doing this and how much do I need this?"

Chris Scott: If you rank on a scale of 1 to 10 that need, and it's over a 5, even if it just seems to be an emotional or a psychological motivation for drinking and you don't have the physical dependence, then you should be aware that it could become a physical dependence with repetition. So a primarily emotional or psychological or spiritual issue that's seeming to compel you to drink if not physically, could eventually result in you feeling physically compelled to drink.

Chris Scott: So it is a slippery slope, but then again, of course there are a lot of people who do occasionally drink alone and it is not a problem for them. So this is not a moral issue. I'm not a prohibitionist. I don't see consuming alcohol, whether alone or socially as an immoral act. But what we focus on here is addiction. So I think it is crucial to have self knowledge and understand what's going on inside of your body, inside of your brain, what's going on with your psychology.

Chris Scott: If you have a social life in which you're drinking a lot already, and then you also drink alone, then you might want to ask yourself, why are you doing that? And the hierarchy of things or the priority list of things in your life is alcohol going from a number 30 to a number 10 to a number 1 or 2. If it gets to the point where it's all you think about or all you ruminate about, or if it's in that top five at all times, then you might want to keep an eye on it.

Matt Finch: Yeah. And that's one of the next flashcards is the top reasons, what are the reasons why people drink alone? So embedded within what you just discussed, I start thinking about other questions like, well, why does someone drink alone? Obviously to change the way they feel. They might even like how they feel already, but they want to feel like they'll know they'll feel once the alcohol hits them or they might be using it for, like you said, a breakup or a stressful day at work.

Matt Finch: But I mean alcohol, most people don't drink it for the taste, although some do. I think the primary reason most people drink alcohol because they want to change their state, change the way that their mind and emotions and body all feels. So back when I was drinking, I didn't start drinking alone until many, many years after alcohol had first passed my lips. I think probably from the ages of about 14 to probably like 19 or 20.

Matt Finch: I didn't drink a whole lot back then. I was mostly into marijuana and surfing and video games and downhill skateboarding and hacky sack and all sorts of fun things that provided natural highs. And I was a enhancement smoker with cannabis because surfing downhill, skateboarding, video games, music, guitar, all of that, the cannabis enhanced that, although I suffered lots of negative consequences from cannabis too.

Matt Finch: I can't remember the first time I drank alone, but I remember at the beginning, maybe 19 or 20 and then for probably the first two years of drinking alone, I wasn't doing it because I was stressed out or I was anxious or I was depressed, I would just feel like I lived, back at that point, I lived a half block away from the Pacific Ocean, the end of Delmar Avenue just right next to the beautiful cliffs.

Matt Finch: There was cliffs, a gorgeous spot to watch the sunset, watch the surfers, go surfing, go body surfing for sunset. So every once in a while I would feel like getting a pint or sometimes a 40. I'd get a ice cold 40 and I'd brown bag it and I'd go to the bench that was on top of the cliff overlooking the ocean. So I would usually back then when I was drinking alone, it was just because I wanted something fun to do. I already felt good or okay or even really good, but I just felt like getting a buzz on for the sunset or I felt like getting a buzz on. I was usually doing something fun and I was not getting hammered typically.

Matt Finch: Then as 22 came along, I started drinking more and more. Then when I was 23, I was drinking alone a lot, drinking with friends, drinking at bars, at parties, drinking alone too. And then once I got raided by the DEA, all of my friends were avoiding me because oh, Matt got popped by the drug enforcement agency. No one could get drugs from me anymore, cannabis, which I was selling.

Matt Finch: So that was most of the people that I hung out with were just using me it turns out because after I got arrested for that, no one wanted to hang out anymore except for a few other buddies that were drinking for me. So some other questions that would go sub, underneath that heading I was thinking of is what is the person drinking alone? How much of that? What type of alcohol are they drinking by themselves? When? What time of day? Is it like at 6:00 in the morning before work or are they drinking a alone afterward? And why? So what, when, how and why?

Matt Finch: Instead of just like you were saying, you're not like at where no one should drink alone and no one should drink period. Well, that's not so black and white. It's not a dichotomy of, if you don't drink alone, you're an alcoholic and if you don't drink alone, then everything's okay. Some people might drink alone and it's not a problem at all. Maybe couple glasses of wine a week after dinner or something but they're doing it alone, they're not with anybody and yet that's not doing any negative consequences to their life.

Matt Finch: Other people might be drinking alone like I was where I was just at home and you were too, hiding from the world, scared, stressed out, fearful, drinking alone first thing in the morning because if we didn't drink alone, we were going to go through withdrawal. We weren't like calling our buddies up, "Hey, ma'am, I'm about to get sick if I don't start drinking, but I don't want to drink alone. Would you come over here and drink with me?"

Matt Finch: At some point and probably for you, this is true as well Chris, I think for most people it is, certainly was for me, once somebody gets into problem drinking, I'll talk about myself. When I started to know that I was having problems controlling how much I drank and when I drank, whether I drank alone or not, what time of day I drink, I would start to enforce rules on myself, no drinking after 5:00 PM, then it was no drinking after 12, then it was no drinking alone.

Matt Finch: I tried all these different things, no drinking hard alcohol, no drinking Jack Daniels, no mixing alcohol with pills, all these different rules and none of them worked at all. Maybe for a day or two or maybe a week possibly or usually not longer. And so it was usually just... I was going through this process of trying to control my drinking, but self imposing and self-enforcing rules was ridiculous.

Matt Finch: Because by that point, once your brain is rewired to crave alcohol and obsess over alcohol, doesn't matter what your conscious rules are, that that part of the brain wakes up and the other parts are kind of disabled, eroded, downgraded, then you mix that with stress or wanting to have fun with people. Well, I guess that wouldn't be drinking alone, but you know what I'm saying? And so then comes the next one is what are the dangers, the dangers of drinking alone? Sometimes there's no dangers of drinking alone with a lot of people, but for people such as you and I, we had many dangers.

Chris Scott: Right. So first of all, there's always a danger or an inherent toxicity in any amount of alcohol, and that's what studies show, is that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. That's a fact. And it's useful for anyone who's trying to cut down to find a reason to cut down, that it could be a number one fact.

Chris Scott: Second, as you pointed out, the solution to drinking is not to have rules, rules don't work. I had every rule under the sun. I mean, I had a rule that I would only have tequila when I had Mexican food so I ended up eating Mexican food, a lot of Mexican food when I had that rule. And there's a Mexican place a block and a half from my apartment when I lived in New York and they ended up getting a lot of my money, a lot of which was in tequila.

Chris Scott: I actually ended up... I gave up on that rule then because I didn't just have the rule, but I got mad. I went FU to this rule. And I ripped a few shots of tequila before work once and it felt so good, for some reason tequila had never felt that good. But it's because breaking my rule had become a forbidden fruit, a taboo thing. The solution is to change your biochemistry and to change your beliefs.

Chris Scott: And in other words, change your perspective. I often say start accumulating new experiences with a new mindset. It's your mental diet, but it's also physical rehabilitation on a cellular level. None of these things are effectively done by inpatient treatment centers. I went to one so I would know. There are some, I should say, that are doing a better job, although many just pay lip service.

Chris Scott: But a lot of the topics that we've talked about in the hundreds of episodes that we've had now for this podcast are just simply just blank out. If you go to a rehab center, tell me about amino acid therapy, tell me about holistic recovery. Nope, nothing. It's just the 12 steps and we're going to bust you to free AA meetings and charge you a thousand dollars a day to have a bit. But anyway, I digress.

Chris Scott: I think that the dangers of drinking are obviously going to correspond with the amount, the frequency of your drinking and the amount and the duration, the amount of time that you've been doing it for, because the amount of damage that you're inflicting on your body and generally your life is going to be directly proportional to the amount of time that you've been drinking and how much. So we know on a basic level, when you consume alcohol, it starts to cause inflammation in the gut, causes dysbiosis in the gut.

Chris Scott: And you start to end up with inflammatory cytokines in part because of leaky gut and molecules getting across the gut that shouldn't and to your liver. And then these inflammatory cytokines, pro inflammatory cytokines go up to the brain and start inhibiting neuro transmission. You end up with neuro inflammation, you end up with a foggy brain and bad impulse control. And it's just a vicious cycle, you end up with depression because your serotonin becomes inhibited.

Chris Scott: And then what do you do when you're depressed? What do you do when you're anxious, what do you do when you have too much glutamate, as we talked about before? Well, you become a mess and you drink alone more. And so that's why I was ripping shots of tequila in the morning sometimes before work. And then I had it's like, "Whoops, well now I have to go to Wendy's and stuff my face so I don't smell like tequila."

Chris Scott: So it's just bad habits stacked on top of bad habits. It's like being in a negative spiral and that negative spiral I would include as one of the negative consequences of drinking alone to excess I should say. Anyone who drinks alone or socially or whatever is poisoning themselves to some degree. But to the extent that you drink, you're going to have certain problems.

Chris Scott: And if you drink a lot alone, it could be time to ask yourself why you're doing it. And I got to the point where drinking no longer alleviated my withdrawal symptoms, which is a terrible spot to be because by that point, that's the only reason I was drinking alone as you said. And when you're at that point, luckily I threw in the towel, it was my idea to enroll in a professional detox.

Chris Scott: I have certain views on traditional treatment centers, but I believe that medical detox is a lifesaving thing for a lot of people. There are a lot of people who need to go away for a certain period of time, even if it's just a few days to dry out to, in other words, have medication assist them with detox so that they don't have seizures or other potentially life threatening complications and then you can get a fresh start.

Chris Scott: And it takes a lot of time and work but if you focus on your mental diet and your physical diet, your biochemical restoration, then you can start building new neural pathways, you can start taking pleasure in things that you might not have taken pleasure in before or forgotten how to take pleasure in them and drinking alone can become a thing of the past. And there's even a possibility for some people, and this is a taboo subject, but I increasingly throw it out there because there's so many people who won't even start on this process unless they...

Chris Scott: Basically, they won't start on the process if we tell them that you can never drink again. And it is kind of a myth that everyone who's ever been addicted to alcohol can never drink again. Statistics show this. There's a certain number of people. Actually it's like not a negligible percentage of people who eventually drink again later. Most of them decide that it's not worth it.

Chris Scott: They might have lost their taste for alcohol. I've been served accidentally, I can say I'm in that category. And a lot of people find that they can have it sporadically, but that it's not all it's cracked up to be, it's not the substance they remember and maybe they have it once a year. Maybe they take a sip of champagne. And some people of course do get re-addicted but that's what I think biochemical restoration is for, that's what I think mindset reframing is for.

Chris Scott: In order to get to that point of transcendence, I think that you need to reframe alcohol as the toxin that it is. And then you rehabilitate yourself to reclaim the freedom to do what you will with that knowledge, and with that automatic reaction such that you're not being led down a rabbit hole or an increasingly negative spiral towards addiction for the rest of your life. It doesn't have to be like that. So for a lot of people, an indefinite break is necessary, medical detox is necessary, but you don't have to focus too much on lifelong abstinence in my opinion.

Matt Finch: Right. That's why I love that saying. And also don't like... I both love and dislike the saying of just one day at a time, but it does make a lot of sense rather than I can never drink again forever, that the way of just for today and NA, it's just for today and AA it's one day at a time. And then people can actually create their own of phrases too. It doesn't have to be exact, it can just be somebody can reframe it for their own personal life and situation of, okay, maybe it's one week at a time, maybe it's one day at a time.

Matt Finch: Oftentimes at the meetings, when you first get in there, people say it's one minute at a time or one hour at a time. And that's a lot more present moment focused, that's a lot more kind of accepting and that's truly surrendering where, okay, I'm just going to focus on not drinking today. Then people don't get overwhelmed with the whole rest of my life, what if this happens?

Matt Finch: It's not really logical to think of about it over the span of your whole life too? Who knows what things are going to be like 10 years from now, five years from now, 20 years from now. People don't know what they're going to be like, what their life's going to be like, what society's going to be like, if we'll even have alcohol, if they've created a bunch of cures that they can just tweak your genetics a little bit or take out some certain brain cells or implant something.

Matt Finch: I have a new client who's doing... He had been doing the Sinclair Method. He learned about it from, what's her name again? What's her name, Chris? Claudia Christensen? Claudia Christian? So he watched her TED Talk and was like, "Wow, this looks great." So he signed up for the Sinclair Method and then he hired me to be his coach. And it's funny because just out of the blue, I think you might remember it was probably a week before Christmas, something like that and I was like, "Oh I got a new fit recovery coaching client."

Matt Finch: And it was no one that he even talked to me on the phone or emailed me. He just found one of the coaching pages and bought a package. And anyways, he had listened to our podcast and loved it and he got kicked out of AA. They can't kick you out, but his sponsor said, "You can't come back here anymore because you're doing something that's not a part of this program."

Matt Finch: Naltrexone, it's not psychoactive whatsoever. And I know personally people, while I don't hang out with them anymore, but I know so many people that go to AA meetings that are on painkillers, are on all sorts of psych meds, psychoactive medications. And so I couldn't believe that his sponsor said, "You can't come back here anymore, I can't be your sponsor, you're not allowed here." I was like, "Wow, holy moly. That's just so militant."

Matt Finch: That's not just big book thumping, that's like taking the philosophy into your own hands and being a total tyrannical dictator, like who made him the leader of AA? So anyways, where was I going with that? Oh yeah. Turns out the Sinclair Method is turning off that or giving him a part in his brain that he didn't used to have. When you and I first met Chris, not too long after that, I wrote a desk post for your fit recovery blog and it was on something like why can't I stop drinking once I start?

Matt Finch: And I was talking about how a lot of people get to either start with that or they get to the point more typically to where they start drinking and even though they want to have one or two or three probably, and no more, soon as they start drinking, it could be 9:00 PM at the bar and you only want to go have two with your buddies or drinking alone in this situation.

Matt Finch: You want to go have two drinks at the bar alone, you have work at 6:00 AM the next morning, you got to wake up at 5:00 AM. So you're like, "I can't have any more than two. I got to be home by 10:00 PM, latest or 9:30 even." But despite all those best efforts, as soon as the alcohol starts to go down, you keep drinking. This used to happen to me, this would happen to the client I'm talking about.

Matt Finch: Start drinking, then all of a sudden 10:00 PM comes along, 11:00 PM comes along. You've had six beers. Here it is, 1:00 AM getting close to closing time and you've had like a 12 packer. You've had a bunch of mixed drinks and shots. You met a bunch of people there and started having fun. Then all of a sudden, you're hungover like Kelvin next morning, what happened? I was only going for two.

Matt Finch: They don't have the buzzards, bells and whistles, alarm system in a default alarm mechanism telling you, "Okay, you've had two beers, 9:00 PM, time to go." Once people start drinking that are in this certain category of people, drinking eventually with them disables those alarm systems where other people can go, "I'm going to have one or two and go home." They're able to do that.

Matt Finch: Some of us lost that ability somewhere down our drinking times, somewhere down our drinking careers, if you call it. And that would happen to me all the time. I didn't have those alarms going up. I would constantly put myself in these horribly dangerous to utterly stupid situations. So he said with the Sinclair Method that he's using, now he can go the bar, and like recently for the past probably a month and a half, I think he's been on it, he's only had a bunch of alcohol like six or more on a few occasions, most times he's able to have between two and four beers with a meal and then all of a sudden he'll stop drinking.

Matt Finch: And the last time he was saying after two beers and eating dinner at a bar and grill, he was like, "I'm kind of over this. I don't feel like being here anymore," and he just left. And he said that never happened before he started doing the naltrexone therapy with the Sinclair Method. So that medicine for his biochemistry and situation installed, reinstalled in his brain, the bells, buzzards, alarm system, whistles going off in his head like, "Hey, this is not cool. I want to go home." This is where before it was like this automatic thing that start drinking alcohol, then alarms don't go up. So just wanted to put that in.

Chris Scott: Well, yeah, I want to zoom in on something that I think is probably especially pertinent for people today, which is the phenomenon of drinking alone because suddenly you can work from home and it doesn't matter how you look in the morning. Maybe you have a Zoom call, but you can turn off the camera if your eyes are bloodshot or whatever. And it does doesn't seem like a big deal.

Chris Scott: It seems like you deserve it because it's been a hard year and whatever, depending on where people live, there's certain restrictions on what you can do even to this day. And it seems like a potent stress reliever which alcohol pharmacologically doesn't really have stress. It actually and overall it vastly increases stress. So I'm going to give some free ammo for anyone who's in this situation and a free ammo for belief system change and hopefully an incentive to try biochemical repair as well, nutrient repair.

Chris Scott: But if you've ever used an Oura Ring or a WHOOP strap or an Apple Watch or anything that tracks your heart rate and then you drink, you'll know that your heart rate is much higher on nights after you drink. I've found this with clients because I've started recommending to private clients, coaching clients for fit recovery who have these device like pay special attention to a couple things so deep sleep, your REM sleep and your heart rate.

Chris Scott: And on nights that they drink, usually in the beginning of coaching for those who are still drinking, because there are some people who just want to feel better that maybe they've quit drinking but they're deficient in neurotransmitters, but on nights that people drink, they'll wake up the next morning, feel unrested and they'll notice that their deep sleep and, or REM sleep was obliterated in a directly proportional way to the amount that they drank and that their heart rate was way higher than it should have been.

Chris Scott: And that's not out a coincidence. I wish that I'd had one of these devices back when I drank because I used to wake up and go, "Damn it, why am I not rested? I slept for 10 hours. I feel like dog shit. What's going on? Now I have to try to get my belt over my swollen stomach and shave my swollen neck. It was always right under here." I had like a gobbler when I drank and I was-

Matt Finch: Both of your necks.

Chris Scott: It was terrible. It was like a fat gobbler thing. And it's just terrible and my heart rate would be going too fast and I'd feel jumpy and I'd hope that I didn't have a meeting that morning. But even if I only had a Zoom meeting. If I asked myself a thought experiment, like yes, a lot of my anxiety was about having to physically go into work, but would my experience really have been better or more relaxing if I just drank and hung out on my couch?

Chris Scott: And the answer is no because I did a lot of drinking on my couch and I could not relax. I had a phenomenon called nervous exhaustion, which is terrible. Now I like to hang out on my couch with my dogs and have some adaptogenic tea and some CBD and few sparkling water and a whole mix of things, maybe some reishi mushroom and some dragon herbs and whatnot, maybe go in the infrared sauna that I got during the little lockdown phase here so I wouldn't kind of go crazy.

Chris Scott: I can't imagine how crazy I would've gone if I was drinking during this pandemic because I remember how crazy I went when there wasn't a pandemic. But I'm not saying that the pandemic is something that would've made me drink. What I'm saying is that the alcohol makes a stressful situation a hundred times worse because it keeps you from resting. And sleep is our emotional therapy, it's like our inbuilt evolutionary emotional therapy. That's what they found.

Chris Scott: A wonderful book called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD. He talks about the fact that without REM sleep, you start displaying symptoms of bipolar. And they think a lot of mental illnesses probably stem from various disruptions in certain phases of sleep, especially REM and deep sleep. So by drinking, you're disrupting those. He also says in that book that just one drink can severely inhibit REM sleep. We know from other studies that just one drink can decrease physical recovery from exercise by up to 30%. So that sounds like a disaster.

Chris Scott: I don't not drink because I've been focusing on not drinking for seven and a half years. For me, it's a no brainer because I like my sleep. I'm protective of my sleep. I love my dogs. I have a king size bed. I don't even let them sleep in my bed, they sleep in their beds on the floor because I don't want my sleep getting messed up. The last thing I want to do is pummel myself with toxic alcohol and have a high heart rate, have an imbalance in my GABA, glutamate, feel like crap the next morning, be putting eye drops in and have my blood sugar all screwed up so I have to run to Wendy's.

Chris Scott: I don't remember the last time Wendy's seemed like I could good thing to eat, but it sounded like a great thing to eat when I was ripping shots of tequila in the morning. And anyway, that was a bit of a spiel, but my point is alcohol is not a good stress reliever except in the first 20 minutes after you do it. So I guess if you're really living in the moment, 20 minutes at a time, you can keep drinking, but the end result of that tends to be physical dependence.

Chris Scott: If you're in that state where you're only living for the next 20 minutes, then that's a dangerous place to be. And it's best to try to open your mind a little bit, take a bird's eye view on your life. If you can't do that, it could be because you're already becoming physically dependent and I would say the solution is nutrient repair and also in conjunction with that, doing some psychological reframing, some cognitive reappraisals that some people might call it, starting to look at your life differently, but also know that this is a sort of addiction generally is a psychological deception.

Chris Scott: Of course, it's layered with real neural pathways and real biochemical imbalances, but it's a deception that puts some activity that other people see as kind of maybe irrelevant or fun occasionally. That's how I see shopping or eating. There're all sorts of things that are addictions for people. Some people have compulsive hand washing. I like washing my hands, I don't feel compelled to do it.

Chris Scott: And I think there's a parallel there with the OCD and addiction as well. But the solution is to try to rewire your brain, rebalance your biochemistry, reset your beliefs. And if necessary, take some time to really de-stress, be kind to yourself, be compassionate to yourself, treat yourself the same way you would a friend who had an issue and was earnestly trying to figure it out. And you can figure it out. It's not something that needs to be an intractable problem for the rest of your life.

Matt Finch: Awesome. Well put. That brings us too, I'm glad that you mentioned the pandemic, that brings us to the next index card, how the pandemic lockdown solitary drinking phenomenon happened. And it happened early on too. I remember you had said some research, I'm not sure if you remember it early on, maybe a couple months after, the two weeks to flatten the curve got extended.

Matt Finch: There was new research that had come out, maybe it was longer than a few months after saying how I think more than 50% of mothers that were homeschooling their kids were drinking at home. Maybe it was drinking... Yeah, something along those lines. And of course the statistics have just gone up and up and up with even people, professionals, lawyers, doctors, people that are doing tele legal stuff, telehealth, where they are working from home not interacting with people.

Matt Finch: It has enabled people to be able to drink more alcohol or use more drugs because they don't have to drive into the office and traffic in the morning, they don't have to drive the next day. A lot of people could be in their pajamas. And so that made drinking alone at home much easier to do where if you got to get up every day and shower and shave and put on clothes and drive to work and be around other people, people are going to be much more cognizant the day before in most situations, unless they have severe alcohol use disorder, in which case they're probably just drinking throughout the day to avoid getting sick.

Matt Finch: But yeah, I definitely wanted to throw this one in here because when it comes to drinking alone, drinking by yourself, this solitary drinking, we at least in America and I'm sure many other countries as well, many other places in the world, Australia, the UK, and so many other places, this pandemic that has just gone on for what? We're coming up on two years now, I don't think there's ever been more people in the world with alcohol use disorder and people that have been drinking alone at any other time in history most likely.

Chris Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Someone sent me a meme, probably it could have been a year ago, but it was kind of funny but it was also kind of sad. And it was like a kid's work from home play set. And it was like a... there was a little desk and a little fake laptop and then a little wine glass and a fake bottle of wine with some like... And I think one of the wine glasses might have been broken or something out of frustration break the wine glass.

Chris Scott: And I mean, I think that's a sort of a commentary on the state of society during the COVID lockdowns. And with female, I know professional female alcohol addiction rate had already increased by 50% in the years leading up to the pandemic. I think it went from like... I don't know, 8.5%, 9% to 13 or so percent, and so now who knows what it is. I don't know the last time that I've checked these rates so I don't want to say numbers because even if it's only been a few months, the rate of change right now and deterioration is probably potentially exponential.

Chris Scott: But the alcohol sales rates are through the roof, the rates of people drinking alone, through the roof. I think at some point I saw it was like 50% of people, you might have said that statistic, and I don't know what it is now where they answered yes to like, do you tend to drink alone during your working hours? Like just half of all people. And I don't know if that was in America or globally.

Chris Scott: And then the rate of people drinking more than they're used has gone up. I think for the first time in history, sales of liquor have actually exceeded beer sales. And so don't quote me on that because I don't know where... I can't recall the exact study and it could be wrong. And I also suspect that it might not be hard liquor per se, but it could be things like where is everyone drinking now, the sparkling water spiked with vodka or whatever they put out, it's malt liquor seems gross, but everyone's drinking that now.

Chris Scott: So maybe that's why. Maybe that tilted it in, maybe it is hard liquor in there, I don't know. But anyway, that's kind of interesting that most people were drinking beers back to medieval times. People were drinking AO because they couldn't drink the water. Now all of a sudden, you have more people drinking hard alcohol or stuff classified as that than beer. Probably not a good thing. Wine sales-

Matt Finch: Spirits.

Chris Scott: Or spirits, right? We know that alcohol has been classified as a necessity for places with lockdown restrictions and so there are all sorts of interesting statistics out. What I worry about now is something that we've discussed before on the podcasts, that there is an epidemic of people who if they don't need help now, if they haven't hit so-called rock bottom, not that you need to hit rock bottom to change your behavior or repair your biochemistry, it's never too early or too late, but there are a lot of people who are on their way and eventually we can see some kind of crash.

Chris Scott: And it's not helpful now that the economy doesn't seem to be in the most stable of spots, I guess, depending on who you talk to or where they're from. But there's a lot of hesitation to seek help for whatever reason and that's generally not a good thing. I was hesitant during a relatively good economic time to seek help because it just seemed inconvenient. I didn't want to take time out of my day to day. If I could go back to myself then and say, "Look, get help now, go to professional detox. You're going to figure it out."

Chris Scott: When you earnestly try to do something good, very rarely does something bad come out of that. And I think it was Jordan Peterson who said, when you earnestly try to pursue, and I'm paraphrasing, when you earnestly try your best to pursue things that are good, then the universe tends to reconfigure itself such that those things become more accessible to you. And I thought my world was over in 2014 when I decided to quit drinking and detox and I basically lost my job.

Chris Scott: It was kind of mutual, I was relieved that they didn't want me back. But I thought this is it like my life's over, but at least I get to live. And now I look back at my life that I thought was glamorous then and I think that was such an empty shell of a life, I had no idea. But if I could go back and do it at 23, instead of 26, 27, would I? Absolutely. And I'm sure there are a lot of people listening who are a lot older than that. I was pretty young.

Chris Scott: I had a relatively short, a decade long, but extremely intense period of alcohol addiction. And there are a lot of people who have been drinking for 30 or 40 years. It's never too late in the same way that it's never too early. And if you're one of those people who got caught off guard totally by this pandemic and first of all know that you're not alone because there are ton of people in your shoes, a lot of people probably aren't admitting it.

Chris Scott: But it's not a bad idea to put your life on hold and figure out yourself. That's a potential benefit actually of the work from home environment, is that it might actually be easier than before to less conspicuously get help for a problem. And there are online courses and of course, some people do need to go away for a while, but this is what we do. We hope to reach people over podcasts. I like to say that we provide entertainment for people folding their socks because that's usually when I'm listening to podcasts, but a podcast can change your life, an online course can change your life, supplements can change your life, be proactive, be positive and be patient.

Matt Finch: We should end on there.

Chris Scott: Let's do it, that's good.

Matt Finch: We talked about the other stuff, we talked about ending the cycle of drinking alone, we talked about resources for quitting drinking alone.

Chris Scott: Yeah, I think that's good.

Matt Finch: What's the length on that, 40 minutes? Seemed like it was pretty lengthy.

Chris Scott: Let's see. Yeah, let me stop recording.


Author

  • Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

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