Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast

William Porter: "Alcohol Explained”

May 19, 2024 Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb Episode 82
William Porter: "Alcohol Explained”
Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
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Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
William Porter: "Alcohol Explained”
May 19, 2024 Episode 82
Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb

Today, we have the honor of speaking with William Porter, the insightful author of "Alcohol Explained." William spent years in the throes of his own drinking career, unknowingly gathering the research and experiences that would later form the foundation of his life-changing book. In this episode William is  generous in his  knowledge and wisdom. 
 William offers a profound perspective on alcohol that has the power to transform lives. Let's dive into his journey and discover the truths he's uncovered.

Williams website: https://alcoholexplained.com/the-author/

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today, we have the honor of speaking with William Porter, the insightful author of "Alcohol Explained." William spent years in the throes of his own drinking career, unknowingly gathering the research and experiences that would later form the foundation of his life-changing book. In this episode William is  generous in his  knowledge and wisdom. 
 William offers a profound perspective on alcohol that has the power to transform lives. Let's dive into his journey and discover the truths he's uncovered.

Williams website: https://alcoholexplained.com/the-author/

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the podcast. Today I have a very special guest, William Porter. William is the author of Alcohol Explained, a book that was a game changer for me. You may have heard of William or his book and whether you have or not, you're in for a real treat today. William is so knowledgeable and just so easy to listen to and to understand. It was through his book that I first realized I wasn't abnormal In fact, my body acted as was to be expected with alcohol but also I no longer felt alone. William's book answered so many questions for me and it was the beginning of my journey to finding freedom from alcohol. Welcome, William, to Not Drinking Today podcast.

Speaker 2:

Hello, thank you for inviting me. It's lovely to be here.

Speaker 1:

It is so good to have you here Now. There's a lot more to William than just that one exceptional book. He's also written a few others which I'll put in the show notes. They're about alcohol and smoking, and William's also a solicitor and an ex-paratrooper. William is from the UK and lives in West London with his wife and two children. William, can we start by you telling us a bit about your drinking days and how it led you to write the book and get to where you are today?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely so I started. I think I started drinking and smoking when I was about 14. Started um. I think I started drinking and smoking when I was about 14. Um, and then I came across alan carr's easy way to stop smoking. I'm not sure if you've heard of that, but I came across that when I was like 16 or so, so still quite young. This was back in the the god early 90s. It would have been um and I stopped smoking eventually, but I obviously I just kept drinking um and I think I sort of kept drinking with his you know his approach in mind. It was quite logical and quite factual and quite analytical. So I think over the years I did a lot of drinking but really thinking about why I was doing it, um, and anyway.

Speaker 2:

So to fast forward the next 25 years, my drinking got heavier and heavier and heavier. I was always a binge drinker, so I drink really heavily at weekends. And then I got to the sort of point where I found whenever I was drinking alcohol I woke up in the middle of the night, which actually I found out there's a good physiological reason for. But I remember reading a book where one of the characters keeps doing this and he started to keep some beers back to drink in the night when he woke up. So I started doing that. So I'd wake up in the night, unable to get back to sleep, and have a couple of drinks to go back to sleep and then that kind of breaks down that door between morning drinking.

Speaker 2:

So when I say I was a weekend drinker, I would literally I'd start Thursday night, friday lunchtime and I would drink through, fall asleep, wake up, drink again, fall, and so I was literally constantly drinking. And the problem is then, nine times out of ten, you wake up feeling awful on a Sunday and start drinking again to get rid of it, and then that leads on to being in a complete state on Monday and ringing in sick, and then, of course, you're sat at home on your own with nothing to do, so you just start drinking again. So it was getting more and more unmanageable and it was February 2014. I sort of clambered out of five or six days of constant drinking. I hadn't been into work, my wife and kids had left and sort of came out the other side of that thinking I can't keep doing this, I absolutely have to stop. So that was, you know, it's a brief gallop through my own story.

Speaker 1:

That is intense and I relate to most of that. I definitely had the 3am wake-ups, but I never reached for a drink and really that's probably only because it never occurred to me. I'm sure it could have easily happened had I continued drinking like I was Now. William, you said your wife and kids had left. That's pretty major. What do you think the final straw was?

Speaker 2:

I think for her the kids were young they were six months and 18 months at the time and I was obviously very drunk in the house, so she just didn't want to be around. So she grabbed them, went to her mum's for a bit, so it was. She came back in the end that's good news yes oh, it's just horrible, isn't it though?

Speaker 1:

because, underneath, most people are really I have found most drinkers are really sensitive, great people and it's just this horrible addictive substance yeah, that's the problem, because when you're waking up in that state, you literally you can't function.

Speaker 2:

You're in such a bad way and you need a drink just to sort of even out and feel normal and it's all you can think about and there's no point. You can't really be forced into not doing it. So I think I had to just go through that period and sort of crawl out the other side and think I can't, I just can't keep going like this, but it's a really deeply unpleasant place to be in when you're there. It's terrible absolutely so.

Speaker 1:

What was it that started you on the journey to write a book about it?

Speaker 2:

so I I had been to AA a couple of, I'd done a couple of stints in AA and I found, in a way, I found it quite useful because it's really you can't say how important it is to sit down and speak to people who've gone through what you've gone through, because most people either haven't or won't admit it and talk about it. So to be able to turn up somewhere where there's people talking about it was quite a huge relief. Um, I found the 12 I don't mind doing stuff if I can see a reason for it um, and I couldn't quite work out how the 12 steps were going to stop me wanting to drink alcohol. Um, and I tried at one point and it kind of felt like I was going through the motions a bit. But anyway, be that as it may, what I kind of discovered was a lot of people in AA, when they were turning up as new members, they were like asking, you know, they had a lot of questions Like why has this happened to me? Why can he or she drink normally and I can't, you know, know what is different with me or this? And I kind of started to realize I had not all the answers, but quite a lot of them, just from um, you know. For example, going back to waking up in the night. When I was waking up in the middle of the night I was like why do I keep doing that when I'm drinking? Because, also, you notice it more when you're a binge drinker, because after a couple of days not drinking I would be sleeping through the night fine. And it seemed to be alcohol that was triggering this middle of the night insomnia. So I kind of researched into it. So this kind of research went on virtually the entire time I was drinking. So best part of a quarter of a century, not with a view to writing a book, but just for my own curiosity really.

Speaker 2:

So when I came to stop, although I didn't have quite all the answers, I think I had a lot of information that enabled me to stop. One of the most important things was I'd kind of worked out how alcohol was affecting me and how it was then making me feel better. And I knew for a fact, again from my own experience, that if I stopped for long enough I would start to feel much better. And I think that's one of the scariest things when you're drinking at that level, because you try and stop and you feel absolutely dreadful. So your immediate mindset is this is how I feel when I don't drink.

Speaker 2:

So when I don't drink I'm going to feel like this forever, and it's you know you can't manage it, you can't maintain that level of panic and anxiety over the long term. But I think, knowing that I've come out the other side of it, that my sleep would get better and I'd feel better than I ever did when I was drinking. That was the kind of thing, and that came from a place of knowledge. You know, understanding the whole dynamic with alcohol is what gave me that certainty that I had to stick with it and things would get better. And then, of course, having stopped, a lot of other things kind of fell into place and I started to build up a picture of probably a very different picture to that to which society generally has about alcohol and drinking. And that's really what the book was about.

Speaker 1:

Wow, you researched the whole time you were drinking. That's incredible and I'm so grateful you did, as I'm sure many others are as well. So you mentioned AA, and I also went to AA for a while. I absolutely loved the community.

Speaker 1:

Like you said, having people to talk to, about someone who understood it meant I wasn't alone. I didn't. I didn't even mind getting up and saying I was an alcoholic. It was a means to an end, and if it was going to help me find a way out, I'd give it a go. So I stayed for a few months, but when I found Any Grace, I knew that was where my heart and soul were and that's where I was going to find the answers and the peace that I needed find the answers and the peace that I needed. So this brings me to my question for you. In AA, it's all about alcoholics and alcoholism, but in my work now and in my life, I don't relate to that. I do, however, believe that we're all different. So this is just my beliefs and what I feel is true for me. What do you feel about the term alcoholic and alcoholism, william, and does it even exist?

Speaker 2:

yeah, so there's a huge amount of. That opens up an awful lot to talk about. I think the I use the word alcoholic and alcoholism in my book, which I wrote in 2015 so quite a few years ago now and the the word alcoholic and alcoholism has fallen out of favor a bit. I kind of used it just to describe alcohol dependency, but the reason it's fallen out of favor is because it kind of puts the problem on the individual. You're talking that you are the alcoholic and obviously we don't use similar terms to smoking. You know you're addicted to nicotine and I think there was a lot of history behind which I don't think we need to go into all the detail of it, but it was seen as a personal problem, so either a spiritual or personality failing. Then it was a genetic failing, but always the emphasis has been on the individual having the problem. I think what we're understanding more and more now is that's not the case. It's an failing, but always the emphasis has been on the individual having the problem. I think what we're understanding more and more now is that's not the case.

Speaker 2:

It's an addictive substance and if you take enough of it for long enough, you will become addicted to it. It takes a long time in comparison to other drugs to get addicted to, so I don't want to go down a complete rabbit hole here. But one of the key parts of addiction is your subconscious, and I'm using the term subconscious here in quite a specific and quite a narrow way. People quite often refer to the subconscious as anything they do that they don't quite understand the reason for, but I'm using it in a very specific and narrow way, which is a part of our brain that automates reactions. So we have instinctive behavior, okay, and some instinctive behavior is genetic. We're born with it, and an example of that is blinking when something flashes towards your eyes quite quickly. So if you have a baby and you flick towards their face, they will blink. It's to protect the eyes. They're too little to have learned that it's. They're born with it. They're born with this instinctive behavior. But there's also learned instinctive behavior, and an example of that I think I give in the book is when you're driving. So when you drive, obviously you extend your right leg to slow the vehicle down okay, because that's pushing on the brake. Then if you're a passenger in a vehicle and the driver's driving either too fast or too close to the vehicle in front. You're feeling nervous. You find your right leg keeps tensing. Okay, because you're. It's an automated reaction. However many hours you've been driving for, however many millions of times you've tensed your right leg to apply pressure on the brake to slow the vehicle down, your brain's learned and absorbed that and it's triggering that automatic reaction. But you're not born with it. You know, if you put a baby in a car and start driving too close to the vehicle in front, it's not going to start trying to break the vehicle. It's learnt.

Speaker 2:

So what happens with addiction is, when you take a drug, your brain creates and excretes a huge array of chemicals, drugs and hormones, things like adrenaline and cortisol and endorphins and serotonin. All of this stuff is naturally occurring in your brain and it's a very complicated process. But your brain works by way of something called homeostasis, which is a balance of all these things. So when you introduce alcohol, which is a sedative, your brain takes steps to counter it. Okay, so it's changing so that it can work under the stating effects of the alcohol. But when the alcohol wears off, then there's like a corresponding feeling of anxiety.

Speaker 2:

And now how I think of it. You know the old-fashioned weighing scales, with like a bar hung in the middle and the two baskets. If you think very briefly, like very simply, there's sedatives, which calm things down and relax us and anesthetize us, and then there's stimulants which wake you up and make you feel more alert. If you imagine your brain's the weighing scale, and it's got stimulants in one basket and depressants in the other. So when you take alcohol which is a depressant, it tips up in that way. So your brain puts some into the stimulant basket to weigh things up, but when the alcohol wears off it then tips the other way towards the stimulant side. So that's why I say when you drink alcohol, whatever sedating effect it gives you, there's a corresponding feeling of anxiety.

Speaker 2:

When it wears off. It's an unpleasant feeling. It makes you feel uptight, stops you sleeping, all of that. And there's two ways you can get rid of it. One is to wait a few days for your brain chemistry to get back to normal. But of course, as you and I know, there's a far quicker way and that's just to take another drink, because your brain's geared up to work into this under the sedating effects of the alcohol. But the alcohol's gone. So putting another drink in is the quickest way to sort of rectify that balance as soon as possible. That's the great pleasure regular drinkers get from their daily drink. That lovely feeling of calm and relaxation is just countering the feeling of anxiety it's caused in the first place. So every action there's an equal opposite reaction. So whatever calming effect you get from an alcoholic drink, you get a corresponding feeling of anxiety when it wears off.

Speaker 2:

Okay, and that's true of most drugs, so nicotine as well. It's the other way around. It's a stimulant, but when it wears off you feel out of balance, you feel a bit groggy, not really with it, and another dose makes you feel normal again, so bright and alert, and it's a nice feeling to relieve it. So that's the mechanics of the physiological side of addiction. But of course people don't get addicted immediately. You know, I started smoking for quite an extended period. I smoked only at weekends, without, when I was out with my friends. So the question is then well, are you saying that that chemical side, that physiological side, wasn't kicking in? And the answer is it was. Every dose of nicotine or alcohol was causing that corresponding unpleasant feeling which another dose would get rid of.

Speaker 2:

But the problem is, there's lots of reasons in life why we don't feel good. You might just have a bad night's sleep, you might have an argument with your partner, you might have a bad day at work, bills you can't pay, the kids play it up, and most of the time we just get on with things. We don't feel particularly good, but we just have to get on with it. But with addiction with drugs, this very specific feeling that can be relieved by another dose of the drug after a period of time, your brain starts to relate it, the subconscious starts to tie it all up and when this specific bad feeling kicks in, your brain interprets it as I want another dose of the drug, when you've had enough doses, so that your brain makes that link. You are, in inverted commas, addicted. That's when you have to keep doing so that your brain makes that link. You are, in inverted commas, addicted. That's when you have to keep doing it and you can never backtrack because it's learned behavior, okay.

Speaker 2:

So the problem here is so, if you think about it, the brain, so the subconscious, works by cause and effect. So the cause being you taking a drug and the effect being when it's felt, when it hits your bloodstream, because we feel the effects of the blood when it hits our bloodstream. So when you've got substances like nicotine, there's four ways we can get a drug into our system. We can inject it, we can smoke it, we can snort it or we can swallow it. Okay, in terms of how quickly it takes to hit our bloodstream.

Speaker 2:

And, don't forget, you feel the effects of it when it hits your bloodstream. Obviously, injecting it puts it straight into your bloodstream. Snorting it and inhaling it, it goes into your lungs or your sinuses, where it's then immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. So it's very quick. But when you drink it, it can take up to or swallow it like a pill. It can take up to 20 minutes to go into your bloodstream, so it's a slow up. Um, and on the other side of it, have you heard of something called a half-life of drugs?

Speaker 2:

oh, I haven't so the half-life of a drug is how long it takes for the amount of it to drop to half in your system. Okay, okay, so you've got I don't know you. You know you drink a cup of coffee with 100 milliliters of caffeine in it. The question is, how long does it take to drop to 50? And you measure that as the half-life.

Speaker 2:

Now nicotine, for example, has a very fast half-life. It's two hours. So when you smoke a cigarette or hit a vape you get that very marked increase and it drops off quite quickly. And then you have have another dose and so it's really noticeable. It's quite that up and down quite quickly. So your brain very quickly learns I need another dose to get rid of that bad feeling and the addiction takes hold quite quickly.

Speaker 2:

But with alcohol not only do you drink it, so it goes up very slowly. It's got a five hour half life, so much than nicotine. So if you think, with alcohol you've got these slow ups and slow downs, so it takes years, often decades, for your brain to make the link. So this is one of the reasons people always thought there was in inverted commas an alcoholic, because there was something wrong with them. Somehow. It's because some people addicted. A lot people can drink for years and not become addictive addicted but that's purely because of this, the way we consume alcohol and the way it wears off, so it can take years and years to become addicted to it. So I think, as I said, it was a question with a lot of kind of concepts so interesting, yeah, yeah but this is the thing, you know.

Speaker 2:

For years people have looked at it and said well, look, lots and lots of people drink without a problem. This small number of people drink with a problem. Therefore it must be the problem with the individual and not the drinker. Whereas actually now we understand the mechanics, we know that anyone can become addicted to alcohol. It just takes time and obviously the more you drink, the more likely you are to become addicted. Because if you're constantly waking up feeling awful and you start drinking in the morning, you very quickly become addicted.

Speaker 2:

Your brain makes that link very quickly. Most people don't, you know. You said yourself you didn't even think about drinking when you woke up in the middle of the night. It's just not something we do. And in the same, most people don't think about drinking in the morning. When people have a couple of bottles of wine or a few drinks the night before, they wake up feeling awful, they're tired, you know they've got that anxiety and a drink would make them feel a whole world better. But we just don't do it so it doesn't enter their mind, which kind of brings us on to craving a bit. But that's just another aspect of addiction. But that's why, um, alcohol takes so long to become addicted to. So I think that's what we're understanding now. That word alcoholic and alcoholism was assuming there was a problem with the individual, whereas we know now that isn't the case. If you drink enough, anyone can become addicted, if they drink enough regularly enough.

Speaker 1:

That is just so interesting and I love how you explain it all. I think it's also really important for people to understand that anyone can become addicted. It's also really important for people to understand that anyone can become addicted and that doesn't mean you need to be nightly drinking or daily drinking. It can be binge drinking, drinking every few days, it can be being not able to give up when you want to. So, in regards to the amount of time it takes to become addicted, would it be quicker or slower? The amount of time it takes to become?

Speaker 2:

addicted. Would it be quicker or slower if you started out as a binge drinker? What you normally find with binge drinkers, it's a different process and in some ways it's quicker, in some ways it's slower because you and I weren't drinking all week. It's not taking that long, gradual buildup. But when we do drink because we drank a lot, you would wake up feeling pretty bad. Because you know when I was giving that example of the weighing scale, if you think and you know and I said as well, for every action there's an equal opposite reaction.

Speaker 2:

If you have a glass of wine, the sedating effects fairly minor and the anxiety that kicks in afterwards will be fairly minor.

Speaker 2:

If, like you and I, you're drinking six, eight, a dozen drinks, that's quite a lot of intoxication and that's quite a lot of anxiety when it wears off. And of course, if you're, that's friday night. So if you're waking up saturday afternoon you start drinking again, that first drink will really make you think, oh, I feel so much better because you've got all that residual anxiety. That's the chemical hangover from the previous drinks. So again, it's really noticeable. But the benefit you and I have, I think, as binge drinkers and I certainly found this because I would regularly stop and I'd feel rubbish for a few days and then I'd start to feel gradually better. Like I say, that ingrained in my mind that the first few days a week were going to be awful. I knew I would come out the other side of it, whereas when you're drinking regularly, you're constantly in that cycle and you don't quite know how good you will feel when you finally come out the other side of it.

Speaker 1:

Yes, that's very true. I specifically remember in my younger years drinking Thursday, friday, saturday nights and knowing I'd feel pretty good by Tuesday and it was easier for me to have longer breaks. And then, with pregnancy, it was easy not to drink at all back then. But then after my third child, my early 40s, my drinking ramped up and I went from having one drink per night for a while and then over the next few years it increased to over a bottle and then finally to two or more bottles per night, and that was when I knew it had gotten out of hand. But that was the tail end of my drinking. I'd always known that binging wasn't good and from my first drink ever, at 18, I was a binge drinker. So I knew it wasn't good.

Speaker 2:

But when I could see the amount I was drinking each night was increasing, I knew there was an issue or an addiction it's the nature of it, because you know, as your brain you know, the first time you ever have a drink as a teenager. You've never encountered alcohol before, so one or two drinks completely knocks you out, whereas your brain learns. Your brain's a great adapter and it adapts. And it adapts by releasing more, more stimulants and doing more things to try and counter the sedating effects of the alcohol, with the event the effect that it becomes better and better at countering it, so you can drink more and more. But you need more and more to get the same effect. So if you're drinking to get this level of bars, you're constantly having to up the dose in order to get there, as your brain becomes better at trying to counter it yeah, so that's the tolerance building.

Speaker 1:

You need to drink more to get the effect, and it only happened to me in the last few years of my drinking. It was measurable One glass made me tipsy and then, over a few years, it was one or two bottles were needed for that same effect.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you're drinking to hit that effect, aren't you? Yeah, and it feeds in as well, because when you're doing it every night, as you wake up with that residual anxiety, you need more to counter it. So if you've got two bottles worth of anxiety, one glass of wine isn't going to touch the sides. You need to have a serious amount in you to even start to relax again.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what a horrible cycle, isn't it? Oh, it is.

Speaker 2:

The trouble is when you're in it. It's so hard to see, because it's when you're drinking that you feel all right and it's when you're not drinking that you feel awful. So you really get sucked into this thing of feeling like alcohol is the only pleasure you have in life. I did a post on Instagram long ago and it was the analogy was like and this is how it felt like to me. And it was the analogy was like and this is how it felt like to me.

Speaker 2:

It's like as a drinker, as a heavy drinker. It was like I was on a stormy sea holding on to a raft, and the sea is like life and all its ups and downs and all the stuff it throws at you. And the raft was alcohol and you're kind of clinging on to it and it's the only thing that's keeping you kind of afloat in this crazy storm driven sea. And someone's saying stop drinking is like saying to let go of this raft and it's really difficult to do. But when I did it, what I found was I was actually only standing in like two foot of water, so I was like clinging onto it, thinking I needed it, and actually when I let it go, I didn't need it at all.

Speaker 1:

Yes, that that describes it perfectly. So you mentioned earlier that once you have this addiction, you can't reverse it. So what changes in our brain when we give up, and is it easy to fall back into old patterns? And what do you think about moderation? Is it possible for someone who is or was a heavy drinker to be able to moderate successfully?

Speaker 2:

Yes. So the problem there is, it's learned behavior. You know I was talking about that instinctive but learned behavior, and the problem is like to give an analogy. You know you're an intelligent person. If you'd never come across the concept of maths before, I could teach you in a few minutes the basics of maths. I could teach you like numbering one, two, three and four, and I could teach you that two plus two is four. That would be the work of a few minutes, but I could never unteach you that Once I'd given you that knowledge, you would have it for life. Because it's true, it's just, you can't lose knowledge that you've got.

Speaker 2:

When your brain makes the link between an unpleasant feeling that kicks in when one dose of a drug wears off as needing another dose of that drug to get rid of it, it's a hunger for it. So, like you have a drink, it wears off your brain saying I want another drink. It's interpreting it as I want another drink or a cigarette or a vape or whatever. When you've learned that you can never unlearn it. So you can quit drinking or vaping or whatever, for you know weeks, months, years, decades, but as soon as you take another dose it will wear off, leaving an unpleasant feeling, and your brain will jump in and say, oh, I remember that feeling and I remember exactly how to get rid of it. So it's theoretically possible to moderate, and some people do do it, but it's not what we think it will be, because we imagine it, you know, like nonchalantly pouring a glass of wine, having a couple of sips, having a nice buzz off it and then just putting it to one side and not wanting a glass for another few days or weeks or whatever. But the reality is timing it, wanting it, not having it because it's not the right time. Then you have it. It goes far too quickly. You want another one, but you're not allowed it and you're dominated by alcohol as much as you ever were when you're drinking. Okay, you're not drinking so much and you're not intoxicated so much, but it's just there all the time waiting for that next dose. And that's the reality of moderating. And it's the same for, like smoking, most people when they smoke or vape not everyone, but a lot of people they start, like I did, just smoking at weekends or evenings or whatever, and it just grows and grows and grows, and then the, the first choice with that, and it's the same with alcohol.

Speaker 2:

The usual nature of drug addiction is experiment, learn to enjoy it. It becomes necessary. And then we start to realize we're addicted, so we need to do something about it. And the first thing we do is try and moderate or cut down. And then only when we realize we can't do that do we quit.

Speaker 2:

Because logically, you're sat there thinking okay, I'm drinking two bottles of wine every night, but six years ago it was just one glass, so surely I can go back to one glass. You can't because your brain's geared up for two bottles. Now you've got that part of your subconscious kicking in, so as soon as one drink wears off you want another, and another, and another. But logically you think you should be able to go back to it. And of course, when you're drinking or smoking heavily or more heavily, you don't.

Speaker 2:

Part of you doesn't want to quit.

Speaker 2:

Part of you can't imagine going through life without this substance, to kind of take the edges off things. So part of you doesn't want to. So there's always going to be that toing and froing and it feels like moderating is like the kind of the compromise I don't have to quit, but I'm not going to get all the bad. Unfortunately it just doesn't work that way. But this is one of the heartbreaking things about drinking is, when people realize it's a problem, their first, most of the time thing is to try and moderate it, and that opens up years of trial and error and frustration and misery, as it constantly goes wrong, as it does for most people. Like I say, it's theoretically possible because no one makes you drink. And if you say, right, I'm only drinking one drink a day or a week, fine, but it doesn't work because you want more and you're not going to be happy while you're sat there wanting something you can't have oh, moderation, you said it opens up years of trial and error, and it was years for me.

Speaker 1:

I didn't want to let go of alcohol, so moderating was my answer. Now I know for me that the thinking about drinking you described that in itself was hell and not worth it, but moderating just didn't work for me. I was always going to end up wanting more, and now you've explained why my brain is wired for two bottles and that won't change. But I think moderation is something we all try or at least think about before we quit.

Speaker 2:

It's one of the reasons. Going back to what we were talking about before, about an AA standing up saying I'm an alcoholic, because it's reinforcing the fact you cannot have another drink again. Because logically like I've said already, logically you feel like you should be able to, because years ago you drunk a lot less and you think, well, if I just get in the habit of drinking less, I should be OK. Obviously it's addiction. Habit doesn't work that way.

Speaker 2:

But to stand up and say I'm alcoholic is saying I'm different to other people, I can never drink again and that's why that is quite a powerful thing and people become very heated when you suggest there's no such thing. Because that's the thing keeping them sober. Because if you say there's no such thing as an alcoholic, their brain immediately goes to okay, I can drink normally again. They're opening that door, whereas for me I know I can never drink normally again. It's not because there's anything inherently wrong or different about me, it's just I have a history of quarter of a century very heavy drinking and I triggered certain things and associations in my brain that I can never reverse. So I'm not going to ever drink again.

Speaker 1:

Oh yes, I'm like that too, and I'm a supporter of all ways people choose to stop drinking and what they want to call themselves. Aa has worked so well for many people, and that's brilliant. If someone wants to stop drinking and they find a way to do that, then that's a win.

Speaker 2:

We're really lucky these days to have options if it works, it works, and I would never knock a system that's helping people, because that's ridiculous. Um, so what? I would say if it's working, it's working, don't absolutely do not worry about it. I kind of think of recovery. I often say it's it's like a buffet rather than a fixed menu, so you should be going in. Everyone is different and one approach might work well for one person, one approach might work well for another person.

Speaker 2:

Most of it can take bits out of everything. Like I said, there was bits in ai I really liked. I've read a huge amount of quit lit and I don't think there's a single one I've read that hasn't had something in there. That's abuse. So you can pick and choose your own, your own thing. I think the only dangerous thing some approaches do which I do disagree with is when they say if, if it doesn't work, you're doing it wrong, try again, whereas I think what they should be saying is if it doesn't work, try something else, because there's an awful lot out there and, like I say, most people will benefit from a mishmash of bits and pieces from all different things. So it's worth trying a lot and, you know, building your own bespoke sobriety oh yes, it's a buffet, not a fixed menu.

Speaker 1:

I love that. I, too, have taken so much from all different avenues, quit Lit, including yours and Annie's books. They were my best friends when I started on this journey, and now there are podcasts as well as all sorts of different programs. Gosh, I'm an alcohol recovery coach. Most people haven't heard of that. Gosh, I'm an alcohol recovery coach. Most people haven't heard of that. So, william, if someone came to you and asked how to stop drinking or the best way to stop, what advice would you give to them?

Speaker 2:

So for me it was the knowledge that did it, it was the understanding and I think for me, understanding how alcohol worked, just being curious and wanting to understand it, it ticked that box for me. But interestingly, I think in doing that you start to understand that a lot of the supposed benefits of drinking are false. So you quite often, a lot of people will say if you want to quit smoking, drinking, vaping, you know, make a big, long list of all the reasons you want to quit and sort of grit your teeth and concentrate on those reasons. It's actually for me more powerful to make a list of all the reasons you want to keep doing it and why you think it's going to be hard to stop, and then do a real deep dive on each of them and see if it's true or not. You know, just to.

Speaker 2:

I know we're drawing to an end now, but you know, very briefly, a big thing is it relaxes me. Well, it doesn't, because it wears off, leaving a corresponding feeling of anxiety that then needs another dose and another and another. So it's not relaxing you, it's doing the complete opposite and as your brain releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and adrenaline although mentally you're dulled your body goes into overdrive, massive stress mode. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, so it's doing the opposite. So you know, and, oh, I need it to enjoy a night out again.

Speaker 2:

When you start to understand how the brain works, how your brain releases endorphins which make you feel good when you're socializing, you start to understand that you don't need it. So for me, I would say the first thing don't even worry about stopping, get the information first. You don't need it. So for me, I would say the first thing don't even worry about stopping, get the information first. You don't need to quit, like for me. I was thinking about alcohol and my sobriety was slowly building up for probably 20 years before I actually quit. You can start building that knowledge. So I would say get curious, start to really understand the dynamics, because for me, that's how it unlocked the door for me.

Speaker 1:

I love that. Advice curiosity, research, learn as much as you can about alcohol and what it does to your body. Get the information first. You don't need to stop drinking to start the process, and all of that's been a huge part of my success and challenging the beliefs I had around alcohol, like you said, like needing it for relaxation and confidence. So the work I've done in through this naked mind was so effective at helping me change my thoughts and beliefs. No one could convince me now that alcohol has any benefit whatsoever. William, I could keep you on here for a couple more hours at least. It's been so informative and interesting listening to your wisdom and knowledge. I'll have to get you back on the podcast, but before you go, could you just briefly tell us about Alcohol Explained 2?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so very, very briefly. So when I first wrote Alcohol Explained 2? Yeah, so, oh, very, very briefly so when I first wrote Alcohol Explained, I sent it to a load of agents. No one was interested. So I self-published it on Amazon, which was all right, because you can just upload a document and it's there for sale.

Speaker 2:

So as I was stopping and learning more and getting into contact with people, I was updating it quite regularly. But then a lot of people started asking about an audiobook. So I got an audiobook done, but then, which is fine, but then that stops you being able to update it. So I thought, well, it's fine, I'll keep writing, keep doing my blog posts, and when I've got enough to that I think I want to do, I'll do like a second edition and get it re-recorded. So I correlated all this stuff, um, and it was like another book, so it was too much to do an update, so I ended up doing a second book. So it's almost it's not quite like this, but it it's kind of like more about being sober and staying sober than the actual mechanics behind addiction.

Speaker 1:

It was a fantastic book and for anyone looking for information on alcohol, if you're starting on the research or if you're sober and looking for more support, check out william's incredible books alcohol explained and alcohol explained too, and, as I said earlier, he's also got some other fabulous books on nicotine and diet and fitness. He's a wealth wealth of knowledge. Thank you so much for being our guest on Not Drinking Today podcast. It's been an absolute pleasure, william.

Speaker 2:

No, thank you so much for inviting me. It was brilliant, thank you.

Alcohol Explained
Mechanics of Substance Addiction
Understanding Alcohol Addiction and Recovery
The Reality of Moderation and Addiction
Building Sobriety Through Knowledge and Curiosity
Alcohol Explained 2