Sisters In Sobriety

In this episode of "Sisters in Sobriety," Sonia and Kathleen get into the intricacies of sobriety with the insightful Gillian Tietz from the Sober Powered Podcast. This conversation sheds light on the nuanced relationship between biochemistry, personal experiences, and alcohol use disorder, aiming to provide listeners with a deeper understanding and relatable perspectives on sobriety.

The episode teases out broad discussions on prevalent myths surrounding willpower in addiction, the significant roles of anger management and crisis intervention in recovery, and the biochemical effects of alcohol on the brain. These topics promise to unravel misconceptions and offer new insights into the journey toward sobriety.

Listeners can expect to walk away with key educational takeaways on how alcohol affects the brain, contributing to the challenge of quitting drinking. With Gill's background in biochemistry and her own journey to sobriety, she brings a unique blend of expertise and personal insight, making complex scientific concepts accessible to all. The discussion aims to empower listeners with knowledge on the underlying causes of addiction and the brain's ability to recover, highlighting the importance of support and community in the path to sobriety.

Gillian Tietz, host of the Sober Powered Podcast and a chemistry professor with a specialization in biochemistry, brings her personal experience and scientific expertise to the table. Having started her podcast to share how she overcame her struggle with alcohol using her scientific background, Gill offers a perspective that is educational, empowering, and deeply personal. 

This is "Sisters in Sobriety," the support community that helps women change their relationship with alcohol. Check out our substack for extra tips, tricks, and resources to aid in your journey.

Get In Touch With Gill!

  • [00:02:16] Gill's mission to demystify alcohol's effects on the brain explained.
  • [00:03:33] Gill shares her personal journey to sobriety, highlighting her late start to drinking.
  • [00:04:56] The role of grad school in intensifying Gill's drinking habits.
  • [00:07:57] Discussion on the early consequences of Gill's drinking and her initial denial.
  • [00:09:00] Sonia and Kathleen relate their experiences with alcohol in academic and professional settings.
  • [00:10:09] Gill confronts the reality of her increasing tolerance and its implications.
  • [00:11:34] Examination of willpower in the context of addiction and the myths surrounding it.
  • [00:14:32] Exploring the vulnerabilities and factors that predispose individuals to addiction.
  • [00:17:00] How drinking affects brain adaptability and decision-making processes.
  • [00:19:11] Gill discusses the critical phase of brain development in teens and its susceptibility to alcohol.
  • [00:20:26] Long-term effects of alcohol on brain function and recovery challenges.
  • [00:23:58] The importance of time and lifestyle changes in recalibrating the brain's reward system.
  • [00:25:14] Discussion on activities that may aid in the brain's healing process.
  • [00:28:41] Clarification on the concept of cycles of detox and its impact on addiction recovery.
  • [00:32:35] Gill's stance on moderation versus abstinence for people with a history of problem drinking.
  • [00:34:36] Comparison of the brain's response to drugs and alcohol, and the similarities in addiction mechanisms.
  • [00:35:23] The concept of behavioral addictions and the challenges they pose in recovery.


What is Sisters In Sobriety?

You know that sinking feeling when you wake up with a hangover and think: “I’m never doing this again”? We’ve all been there. But what happens when you follow through? Sonia Kahlon and Kathleen Killen can tell you, because they did it! They went from sisters-in-law, to Sisters in Sobriety.

In this podcast, Sonia and Kathleen invite you into their world, as they navigate the ups and downs of sobriety, explore stories of personal growth and share their journey of wellness and recovery.

Get ready for some real, honest conversations about sobriety, addiction, and everything in between. Episodes will cover topics such as: reaching emotional sobriety, how to make the decision to get sober, adopting a more mindful lifestyle, socializing without alcohol, and much more.

Whether you’re sober-curious, seeking inspiration and self-care through sobriety, or embracing the alcohol-free lifestyle already… Tune in for a weekly dose of vulnerability, mutual support and much needed comic relief. Together, let’s celebrate the transformative power of sisterhood in substance recovery!

Kathleen Killen is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) and certified coach based in Ontario, Canada. Her practice is centered on relational therapy and she specializes in couples and working with individuals who are navigating their personal relationships.

Having been through many life transitions herself, Kathleen has made it her mission to help others find the support and communication they need in their closest relationships. To find out more about Kathleen’s work, check out her website.

Sonia Kahlon is a recovery coach and former addict. She grappled with high-functioning alcohol use disorder throughout her life, before getting sober in 2016. Sonia is now the founder of EverBlume, a digital tool that offers a unique approach to alcohol recovery support.

Over the last five years, she has appeared on successful sobriety platforms, such as the Story Exchange, the Sobriety Diaries podcast and the Sober Curator, to tell her story of empowerment and addiction recovery, discuss health and midlife sobriety, and share how she is thriving without alcohol.

Her online platform EverBlume launched in February 2023, and was featured in Recovery Today Magazine and deemed an ‘essential sobriety resource’ by the FemTech Insider.
The company champions self-improvement and mindful sobriety, with support groups designed by and for women struggling with alcohol.

So how can EverBlume help you meet your sober community? By offering deeply personalized support. Members get matched based on their profiles and life experiences, and take part in small group sessions (max. 16 people). In your support group, you will meet like-minded women, discuss your experiences, and gain confidence, knowing you can rely on your peers in times of need.

Whether you identify as a binge drinker, someone who developed a habit during the Covid-19 pandemic, a high-functioning alcoholic, or an anxious person using alcohol to self-soothe… There is a support group for you!

Current EverBlume members have praised the company’s unique approach to alcohol detox. “No one is judging me for not being sure I want to be sober for the rest of my life” ; “I felt so heard and understood and today I woke up feeling empowered to make the change in my life”.

Feeling inspired? Learn more about the EverBlume sobriety community at, or simply listen to Sisters In Sobriety.

Your sobriety success story starts today, with Kathleen and Sonia. Just press play!

[00:00:00] Sonia: Hi, we're Kathleen and Sonia and you're listening to Sisters in Sobriety. [00:01:00] Thanks for being here. I'm Sonia and I'm with my sister in sobriety. Actually, my sister in law, Kathleen. Kathleen, how are you doing today?

[00:01:07] Kathleen: I am doing really well. Yeah, I'm doing really well. How are you doing?

[00:01:11] Sonia: Good. You look calm and happy today and not as stressed, as I normally have been seeing you the last few months. Thanks.

[00:01:21] Kathleen: Yeah, last few years. Yeah, yeah. I am wrapping up some big things on the professional and academic horizon. So I'm feeling really good.

[00:01:30] Sonia: that's awesome. Yeah, I'm doing good too. I, have a consultation with a psychic today that you recommended. So,

[00:01:38] Kathleen: she's amazing.

[00:01:39] Sonia: never seen a psychic. It should be interesting.

[00:01:42] Kathleen: seen many. She's amazing. Today we're going to continue our conversation with Jill


[00:01:46] Sonia: So today we are incredibly fortunate to have Jillian Tietz from Sober Powered with us. Jill is a truly remarkable person who brings a unique blend of scientific information and personal [00:02:00] experience to the table when addressing alcohol use disorder. And she is an educator and a source of knowledge and understanding for those looking to understand their relationship with alcohol on a deeper level and with a background in biochemistry and a candid openness about her work.

[00:02:16] own experiences, Jill offers a perspective that is both enlightening and profoundly relatable.

[00:02:24] Kathleen: Her mission is simple. It's to help you understand why alcohol affects you the way it does and to unravel the concept of why changing the way you drink feels so daunting. Jill's approach is rooted in the science of biochemistry, making the complex mechanisms of addiction accessible and understandable to all.

[00:02:42] Today, we're going to be exploring a range of topics that Jill is extremely knowledgeable about, from the myths Surrounding willpower in the context of addiction to the critical roles of anger management and crisis intervention in recovery. Jill's expertise promises to shine a light on these areas, offering new [00:03:00] understandings and pathways forward for those struggling with addiction.

[00:03:04] Sonia: So whether you're on your own journey to sobriety, supporting somebody who is, or just seeking to understand the complexities of addiction, this conversation with Jill is bound to offer some valuable insights and inspiration.

[00:03:18] Kathleen: Jill, welcome to Sisters in Sobriety. We're thrilled to have you.

[00:03:22] Gill: so excited to be here. Thanks for the nice intro.

[00:03:26] Kathleen: So, can we start by you telling us a little bit about your personal journey to sobriety?

[00:03:33] Gill: Yeah, so I Most people you hear that have a problem. They started drinking like 14 And they drank and partied through high school. I didn't do any of that. I didn't even party in college I was a late starter. I actually waited I had like a couple drinks in college But not really I started drinking at 22 it doesn't [00:04:00] matter how early or late you start.

[00:04:03] And I was very comfortable being a non drinker when I was younger. And I just thought, I really believed the stigma as a kid. I thought that drinkers, let that happen to them, that it was a choice, a weakness, a moral failing. I really bought into all of it, and I didn't drink because I didn't see any good examples of drinking. I think I saw it on TV, but the real life examples that I saw were all Drinking to cope, drinking way too much and then having sex with someone that you regret, or drinking way too much and throwing up. And I couldn't understand why people wanted to do those things, so I just didn't do it. But then what changed is I went to grad school.

[00:04:56] Kathleen: Ah, grad school. That just brings you right there, [00:05:00] doesn't it?

[00:05:00] Gill: it, yeah, I don't even have to explain more, like

[00:05:03] Kathleen: like, Grad school. Got it. Check. We understand Jill.

[00:05:08] Gill: Yep, next question.

[00:05:11] Kathleen: Go in. Sorry. Continue.

[00:05:13] Gill: Yeah, but I was the only one. Like in, in college and in high school, I really didn't feel like I was left out or different. I just felt like I could hang too, or go on a date with a guy and he drank and I didn't, and like I didn't care. But in grad school, I really felt different. When I didn't drink and I felt like people weren't going to like me if I didn't do it, too And that's what made me start Trying alcohol because it's very I know like every career people say like, oh, it's a big drinking culture But in the sciences like they drink in the school in Biotech they have alcohol in [00:06:00] the kitchen and they have happy hours like in the actual workplace people have alcohol on their desks In grad school, the professors used to party with us.

[00:06:10] Like, it was really, really normalized. And I was actually the only one. And I thought, like, I'm gonna stop getting invited out. So I just started ordering what the person next to me was getting. I really didn't know. I was so naive. And, uh, it took, it took me a couple times. Like, the first time, that I really drank socially, I didn't have an effect because I just had one little drink over the whole time.

[00:06:40] But the first time that I got a real buzz on, I was like, ah,

[00:06:46] Kathleen: Yeah.

[00:06:48] Gill: there we go. Now I get why everybody's been doing this thing. I've been missing out. And then I was doomed. And then, um, So when you go [00:07:00] to grad school for science, you, it's kind of like a full time job. Like you go to your classes, but then you work in a lab all day.

[00:07:09] So you're really there, you know, like eight, eight to ten hours per day. So we would all go out to the bar afterwards for dinner and drinks or there'd be like pizza and beer events at the school. So I was drinking, Regularly right away and also right away. I didn't understand how much was too much I just kept drinking and I thought if I wasn't drunk in that moment Then I was good to have another drink and I That led me to getting sick a lot, and like right in public, embarrassing myself, and right away it was bad.

[00:07:57] Like I never had that phase where I could [00:08:00] just be that fancy romanticized drinker. It was already like sloppy Jill coming out to drink with you guys. Hang on, like you might have to carry her back, or she might disappear to go throw up, like you never know what's gonna happen.

[00:08:17] Sonia: Wow.

[00:08:18] Gill: And Yeah, so it was, it was grad school, but I was, I was like just walking around so vulnerable.

[00:08:26] I feel like even if I didn't go to grad school, I would have tried alcohol eventually and it just worked so well for me that I decided to do it all the time.

[00:08:37] Sonia: It's so true though. I think Kathleen and I both have the grad school experience and we used to Host all the new residents like in my orthodontics residency it was always hosted at a bar like this was a faculty sanctioned event and Yeah, and I think too in the sciences it's so male dominated too that sometimes I felt like that was my way to [00:09:00] like hang And if I wasn't drinking then I mean let's be honest I had a full blown drinking problem by the time I went to grad school, but it was a way to Fit in.

[00:09:09] And Kathleen was in PR and you guys, you had drinks at your desk. Who does

[00:09:13] Kathleen: Yeah, we had a bar cart that would come through on Fridays that would like give us as we worked our insane hours. Here's a martini. Yeah, yeah.

[00:09:22] Sonia: So, Jill, so that disconnect, so you're like working in biochemistry and then you're experiencing the biochemical results of alcohol. When did you finally put these two things together. when did you start thinking about your drinking and then what you were doing professionally? how did those two intersect eventually?

[00:09:43] Gill: So I, I became a daily drinker by the end of that first year. And then I started questioning my drinking the following year when I noticed my tolerance went up. And that's when I didn't [00:10:00] go to like how does alcohol affect the brain, like what's going on here? I went to you're a freaking loser. Why can't you control yourself?

[00:10:09] Everybody around you can. What is your problem? I went there and I stayed there for a really long time and I was that person that knew better because I worked in biotech. I used Transcribed spray bottles of ethanol to sterilize surfaces. Like I, I was working with it every day and I would join sober Facebook groups or something.

[00:10:37] And even that didn't alert me like, Oh, you're joining a sober Facebook group. Who does that? Frickin problem drinker. Even that, I'm like, I can figure out how to moderate and everybody would just be like, alcohol is a poison. Once you know that, you won't want to drink it. I'm like, you don't understand me.

[00:10:58] Ugh, get out of [00:11:00] here. So I feel like it made me a lot more resistant because I knew better and all of that stuff that works for a lot of other people. There was a block for me and I just dismissed it right away and stayed in my pursuit of moderation.

[00:11:20] Kathleen: hmm. So can we, can we venture into the topic of willpower then? So what led you to question willpower in trying to moderate your drinking?

[00:11:34] Gill: Well, that's what you see when you start looking into it, that it's self control, that, you can just use willpower. It gets compared a lot to dieting, so I made that comparison in my head, like, oh, if I could just, not eat, If I eat chips every night and eat more salad, then I will get [00:12:00] the results that I want.

[00:12:01] So I can just apply that to my bad habit of drinking. And it just wouldn't work, no matter what I did. So, when it doesn't work, you blame yourself. And that's where I stayed stuck. So I just really believed alcohol was this fancy adult drink that cool people drink. And if you took it too far, it was your fault.

[00:12:30] I didn't understand that alcohol actually changes the brain to then keep you stuck taking it too far. I just thought it was me. And that made me really hate myself. And when I finally quit, I just wanted to understand, is this actually my fault? Do I just have no self control or willpower? Or was there something else going on?

[00:12:57] I had no idea that something else [00:13:00] could be going on. I just really wanted to know, like, why? Even if it was that I was a weak willed loser with no self control, I just wanted to know the truth. Just tell me the truth. So I started reading about it. And it's a lot to read, but it's been very empowering to learn that it's, you can't always compare it to other bad habits, because it's affecting your brain chemistry so much.

[00:13:27] Sonia: what is the truth

[00:13:29] about, yeah, about willpower and addiction? Because I also get, I get really worked up when I hear the term moral failing. I get really hyped up. And so, yeah, could you explain to us what the

[00:13:41] Kathleen: Mm hmm.

[00:13:42] Sonia: behind willpower

[00:13:44] Kathleen: Jill. Tell us

[00:13:47] Gill: Do you have 10 hours?

[00:13:49] Kathleen: I wish we did because I would really wanna know everything.

[00:13:54] Gill: I feel like the more I investigate, the more I'm like, whoa, look [00:14:00] how much I'm learning. And so it's never ending, the amount that can be learned about it. But I'll tell you a high level summary of it. Some people start out really vulnerable. Like me. Super vulnerable. I'll use myself as an example here. So, childhood trauma, lack of connection, your parents not modeling healthy coping skills for you.

[00:14:32] even worse, showing you that drinking is a coping skill, all of those things. So if you grow up and you don't know how to handle any kind of emotion, you're extremely vulnerable. Trauma can change the brain to make us more sensitive to the rewarding effects of drugs and alcohol. So they feel better. If it feels better, you're going to probably do it more.

[00:14:59] Some [00:15:00] people have genetics that make them. process alcohol really, really well. So, I was a daily drinker. I had the genetics of a person that can process alcohol quickly and get me prepared to drink again within 24 hours. I've never, ever, no matter how much I've drank, had a multiple day hangover before. Never, and I, I had no off switch, so I would just keep going and going and going. If you're someone that has multiple day hangovers, you just don't process alcohol as well as I do, and my other daily drinking crew. So you're less likely to join us in daily drinking. You're more likely to become a binger just because of how you process, so all of these vulnerabilities we bring into our drinking. Also, who you hang out with, and what you observe other people doing. [00:16:00] Like, if I didn't go to grad school for biochem, and I didn't observe people drinking to deal with stress, like, there was one moment I had a really bad day, and I was crying in private, and these girls brought me a red cup and a bottle of tequila, and I learned in that moment, this is what people do.

[00:16:24] when they're upset. So we have all these learnings, too, in the beginning of our drinking. So I was a very stressed out person. Why wouldn't I just drink every day to deal with my stress? Like, isn't that what adults do here? So all of these vulnerabilities come into it, and then you start drinking, and that makes you more likely to develop a problem.

[00:16:51] But everybody has a different brain. Some people's brains are more flexible and adaptable. So they're more likely [00:17:00] to kind of realize that they've got a situation going on. and take steps to correct it. Other people, like most problem drinkers, are very inflexible, and not very adaptable at all. So we're gonna go hard, and then we're gonna blame ourselves and everybody else, and then we're gonna keep going hard, and we're gonna keep believing that we can change it, even though a thousand and forty three times we haven't changed it at all. So it's all those things. And then the more you drink, the more alcohol heightens your emotions and makes them more intense, the less resilient you become because you never deal with anything in a healthy way. So as soon as something happens, you run straight for alcohol. And it starts to shut down your evolved brain, like your prefrontal [00:18:00] cortex, and your ability to really, like, process anything, and make a good decision, and bring in past experiences, and you, and weigh the pros and cons.

[00:18:10] It makes us live on autopilot, so then Something happens, the less evolved parts of the brain detect it, react to it, and they're like, Oh, alcohol, done. And it never really comes up into the part of the brain that can think. So we're just walking through life reacting all the time and being impulsive. And then when you try to stop drinking, All of these adaptations make your regular life feel like it sucks, and it's boring, and unfulfilling, and sad, and like no one's gonna like you anymore.

[00:18:46] Sonia: Yeah.

[00:18:47] Gill: So there's, there's a lot, but I would say it's the vulnerabilities that we start out with before we even start drinking that have the biggest impact. And also [00:19:00] importantly for the people that start at like 13 or 14. Your brain is still developing at that age. So think I was doomed the whole time.

[00:19:11] Like, I just had a lot of vulnerabilities. Any moment when I started drinking would have been the start of the problem for me. But some people may be somewhat, like, quote, normal, but they start drinking heavily at 14, and then alcohol changes the way that their brain develops, and it makes them much more, like, 50 percent more likely to develop alcoholism.

[00:19:37] an addiction to alcohol because alcohol has influenced the actual development of their brain. So that's why you see a lot of people with addiction who started around that age and then alcohol kind of groomed them as they grew up.

[00:19:54] Sonia: I feel really comforted by the idea that alcohol groomed me. I do. I don't know why it makes me [00:20:00] feel better.

[00:20:01] Gill: It's not you! You don't

[00:20:04] Sonia: I was like 14. What was, but I think too, for me, like, I had all those factors, right? Like the trauma, the no one modeling, coping mechanisms, I think I was probably born with a baseline of anxiety.

[00:20:19] And so, so what are the long term effects of alcohol on brain function?

[00:20:26] Gill: Yeah, and this is why a lot of people can't get out of the loop. So alcohol makes us insensitive to consequences. This is something I'm actively learning about. Some things take me like a year to think about it, put it away, think about it again, um, but with a normal bad habit, you start to detect that it's a bad habit and not a good habit, and then you're like, Oh, I should stop biting my nails, or I should stop [00:21:00] eating ice cream every night.

[00:21:01] And you just take steps to change it, you break the bad habit, you move on with your life. With alcohol, it makes us really insensitive to the consequences. We don't, we don't think they're from alcohol. We think they're from us. Like, oh, I'm just an anxious person. No, it's because you drink your butt off every day, and then you have 3 a.

[00:21:23] m. anxiety from your drinking. Maybe you are an anxious person too, but maybe it's not as bad as it is with the alcohol in the mix. So, we protect alcohol at all costs, even though it's the cause. Uh, it also, it changes the reward system. nothing is ever going to be as rewarding as drugs or alcohol.

[00:21:48] So, it expands the scale of your reward system. Like if, if you think about natural rewards on a made up scale of [00:22:00] zero to a hundred, maybe vacation is a 70 and eating a good meal is a 50. Taking a walk outside is a 40, something like that. Drugs and alcohol are a thousand. So now our scale expands to accommodate 1000 because you can't have.

[00:22:23] Your brain blasted with all of this dopamine and all these other neurotransmitters that are stimulated by alcohol and drugs without your brain adapting to it. So the brain adapts and then now your scale is out of a thousand. And when you try to stop drinking, natural rewards, like, don't matter at all.

[00:22:47] They don't even make a little blip for you. And that one takes a long time to recover. A lot, like, all the physical stuff can recover well. or make good progress within that first month. [00:23:00] Your ability to think clearly and start to use your brain again will recover around 60 days. But this reward system adaptation can take a lot longer, like three, three months to a year, depending on the person.

[00:23:16] So now you're walking around and just like nothing feels good. And everything feels like a waste of time. It's like why even bother going on a walk? And then eventually people will start to feel like wow, look at the sky. Look at the flowers And that's when the reward system recalibrates

[00:23:38] Kathleen: interesting because it's like, such an interesting point because it's almost like when someone's getting sober from drugs or alcohol, they almost have to stick with it until and sort of know that they're nothing's going to be as pleasurable for a while until that, that reward system in the brain recalibrates.

[00:23:57] Gill: and that

[00:23:58] Kathleen: Yeah, it sucks.

[00:23:59] Gill: [00:24:00] But it will recalibrate it will And regular stuff like that's the goal right that your actual life You Is good and rewarding. Like a lot of people will come to me and they'll be like, okay, sure. I can't drink anymore, but how else can I turn off my brain at night? And it's like, well, you know, you can't.

[00:24:21] Like that's the goal, is for you to like your actual life. Not to have to escape it or turn it off or check out of it. Sometimes we all get stressed and I like to binge reality TV shows just like, and that's great. But every day or multiple times a week, like that's not the goal and you just have to trust the process and that's why support and listening to podcasts and hearing other people's experiences is so important because that stage can be really depressing and demotivating if you feel like you're trying so hard and you're still not at that happy [00:25:00] sober point.

[00:25:02] Kathleen: So, so are there any, it sounds like there aren't necessarily activities that can speed this up, but are there activities that can help rebuild, like help recalibrate that? Or is it just time?

[00:25:14] Gill: Time is the. biggest factor, uh, and how much you've blasted your brain. before you got sober. So something I've been investigating a lot recently on my show is multiple cycles of detox and how that, that both sensitizes the brain more, it increases cravings, it makes us more sensitive to cues, so it really can keep you stuck.

[00:25:44] Because every time you go through withdrawal, you stress out your brain. It's a, it's a lot of stress on the brain to, to have to get sober from drugs or alcohol. So the more times you put your brain through that the tougher your [00:26:00] recovery is going to be. Does that mean it's not worth it? Of course not. But that is a big factor.

[00:26:06] And I drank for seven years. If 30, your recovery may look a little bit different than mine did. I remember gratitude and looking at the sky came back for me around six months. So everybody's a little bit different. I do believe that there are things that can speed it up. think there's a lot of research on the benefits of exercise.

[00:26:33] And brain health. So, you don't have to, like, go do CrossFit or Orange Theory or something intense. Just take a walk for 20 minutes every day, and that's enough. And walks can even reduce cravings. So if you're in the beginning and you just want to drink and you don't know what else to do, just go walk it off.

[00:26:54] I walked eight miles a day when I first quit drinking because I didn't know what else to do. So I walked [00:27:00] around and listened to podcasts. So that does really help the brain and it helps strengthen good connections in the brain. So alcohol weakens the connections that let us.

[00:27:12] Think things through, make a good decision, think about our long term goals, think about our values, and exercise can strengthen those parts. So, that can come back online faster, eating a healthy diet is always a positive thing to do, and social connection. Connection with others can be really fulfilling and rewarding and also validating.

[00:27:37] If you're at 75 days and you're like, Man, I'm working so hard. Why is this not better? Screw this. I should just drink if I'm not going to feel better and then you see someone Who's celebrating six or seven months, and they're like, oh I got through that hard part And I'm so glad that I stuck with [00:28:00] it.

[00:28:00] Happy six months to me. I'm living my best life It's just keep going guys that can also really help.

[00:28:07] Sonia: somebody actually mentioned to me who was listening to your podcast, that concept of cycles and that the more times, you attempt to quit, the harder it gets. And, and remember when I quit smoking, they would say, oh, it takes the average person like seven attempts to quit smoking.

[00:28:24] Drank for 20 something years and then just stopped and then I never did have a slip, and I'm always like, well, no, slips are good. Slips teach you a lot. But now I think maybe, I'm going to rethink that idea.

[00:28:41] Gill: so let me clarify So, it is multiple cycles of withdrawal, but the reason it's bad and stressful for your brain, you can think of it as multiple cycles of adaptation. So when you drink, you don't have that first [00:29:00] drink, and then your brain does all these changes, and now you just have a huge problem and you can't stop. That took a long time to form. Like all the anxiety and the reward system changes and not being able to think things through and use higher order things. That all took a lot of time. When you quit drinking, you go through withdrawal because it's a big shock. Your brain's like, oh my god, I don't know how to function.

[00:29:29] without alcohol helping me out here, but then the adaptations continue for years and years and years, but a lot of them in the first year. So it's like a cycle of adaptation. If you're sober for three months and your brain has done a lot of healing and then you have a slip and you drink for one day, you did not ruin Three months of healing and one day of drinking even [00:30:00] if you just like you're so hard You just go for it.

[00:30:03] You're really you're in it to just blow up your life that day One day of drinking is not enough to cause all those adaptations to happen again It would be the people that they drink For a long time, and then they stop for three to six months, and then they drink, and they stay in it for months again, and then they stop for a few months.

[00:30:28] It's the start and the stop that does it. So, I know a lot of people, like for me, I had a ton of day 1's and day 0's where I didn't even do the first day at all. And I did a week once. Like, those I don't think, like a week of not drinking isn't really, your brain's not gonna adapt that much during a week.

[00:30:50] So when you go back to blowing up your life with alcohol. You're not really doing that much damage. The damage is still present. So it's the cycles [00:31:00] of healing, and then adapting again, and then healing, and then adapting to alcohol again, that puts all the stress on the brain that causes the issue. And in terms of increased cravings and strengthening cues, that does occur.

[00:31:20] if you drink during withdrawal. So like the people that will, they'll quit, they'll do four days, they'll drink again, they'll do three days, they'll drink, they'll do six, they'll drink. They strengthen their cravings because we say alcohol helps me relax. It's how I have fun. It's how I stop being bored at night.

[00:31:40] I don't know what else to do. Really, what's happening? is you drink in withdrawal and your brain's like, Oh, that anxiety can go away if I drink alcohol. That uncomfortable feeling that I feel all the time, that can go away if I drink alcohol. So we [00:32:00] trick ourselves and we make excuses, but it's actually the brain learning that alcohol relieves withdrawal.

[00:32:07] That strengthens and intensifies the cravings. Uh, the back and forth isn't gonna do, like, a crazy amount of long term damage if your brain hasn't really healed that

[00:32:18] Sonia: that is so helpful. Thank you for, thank you for clarifying that. I have a question because I know for me this has changed a lot, over time, but what, how do you feel about moderation versus abstinence and has that changed for you over time?

[00:32:35] Gill: I'm very anti moderation. My husband can moderate. If you can actually moderate, like, you do you, live your best life. But I don't think that someone like me could moderate. I think a lot of people can control the obsession, but the [00:33:00] obsession is still there. The goal is to not be obsessed with it, and that's not a choice at all.

[00:33:08] Like, we're not choosing to think about our drinking 24 7. So even if you can have one drink and stop, like, is it worth it if you're gonna think about it all the time? And I feel like with problem drinkers, yes, the brain heals and recovers, but it never forgets. If alcohol is the solution for you, That path, you, you dug that path so deep in your brain, sure you can fill it in, uh, moss can grow on it, like it can get run down, but you can easily dig the same path back out if you start drinking again.

[00:33:52] So maybe you quit for three years and then you're like, ooh, I'm cured. I'm just gonna drink a little bit. And you [00:34:00] moderate for three more years, but then something stressful happens in your life, or something bad, and you lean on alcohol a little bit, that's enough to reactivate the path. So I feel like, why even bother if you could get stuck like you were again? But, I don't think that everybody has to get sober, I don't think that everybody's like a little bit addicted, I think most people can just have a drink and Knock hair and move on. Normies.

[00:34:32] Sonia: I agree. I told Kathleen they're called normies. So,

[00:34:36] Gill: Frickin normies.

[00:34:39] Kathleen: Is it the same Jill with drugs? Like, is it the same mechanisms that happen in the brain when it's drugs as opposed to alcohol?

[00:34:49] Gill: Like all the changes that I was describing? Yeah. Yep, it's all very similar. And same, so, behavioral addictions are also the solution. Like [00:35:00] gambling. you can't moderate gambling after you're addicted to it. It's, it's become a solution for you, like a way to check out of your life. And unfortunately with some things like sex or food, you do have to learn how to kind of moderate those things, but they all change the brain and become the solution.

[00:35:23] But the more coping skills that we can learn and practice, the less vulnerable.

[00:35:31] Kathleen: Okay, that's super helpful.

[00:35:33] Thank you for listening to Sisters in Sobriety and we'll see you next week when we'll share part two of our conversation with Jill Teets. You don't want to miss it.

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