I don’t know about you, but it seemed like as soon as the clock hit midnight and champagne popped to welcome the year of 2022, that same champagne was quickly dumped down the drain to signal the start of Dry January. Women (and men) were evaluating their relationship with alcohol and decided to take a month off from cocktails. The conversation around sobriety is more present than ever, and this guest will have you thinking about your own habits, along with the mental health considerations that come with it.
Amanda E. White is a licensed therapist and the creator of the popular instagram account @therapyforwomen. Recently, she’s been examining and educating on the topic of sobriety, but her work extends beyond that – She’s dedicated to making therapy accessible and serving women with mental health resources through her therapy practice and online.
By the end of this episode, you might be thinking about your own relationship with alcohol and sobriety, your mental health, and you’ll gain some actionable advice for accessing the therapy that’s right for you, whatever your goals might be.
Why We’re Exploring Sobriety Now
I asked Amanda why it seemed like this year, 2022, we saw a huge spike in talk about Dry January (AKA choosing not to consume alcohol for the first month of the new year) and why more women are exploring sobriety. Her insight totally made sense to me.
“I think the pandemic has really impacted people. They found themselves drinking a lot more so I think more people are in a place where they’re kind of recognizing that maybe cutting back on their drinking, or questioning if it is something that they’re interested in that they haven’t been before,” Amanda told me.
She also explained that women are drinking more as the result of strategic marketing, “Over the past 15 years, big alcohol companies have recognized that women especially were kind of an untapped market. So they started advertising to women directly to try to get them to consume more alcohol and as a result, more women than ever have been drinking before.”
With the spike in drinking, there’s also been an increase in the awareness or the questioning of its impacts. Amanda explained, “More women are realizing that this isn’t helpful and we’ve learned more about the science of alcohol and really how it can negatively impact our mental health.”
Alcohol and Mental Health
Amanda walked me through some of the mental health considerations that come with consuming alcohol. We have heard about the impacts alcohol has on our liver, but it impacts our brains, too. She explained, “Tne thing we don’t talk about is how even having just one drink shifts and causes a change in your brain and can impact your mental health.”
“We often will drink for stress relief, to feel better, to kind of wind down at the end of the day,” Amanda continued, “But what happens is when you take that drink, it’s a depressant. Your body and your brain always want to be in homeostasis, so what happens is your body produces anxiety chemicals, essentially, including cortisol to bring you back into homeostasis, to bring you back into balance.”
From there, the issues compound, “Then you digest the alcohol, it leaves your system, but you’re left with those anxiety hormones and it’s really why the next day you often feel ‘hangs-iety’. You can feel anxious the next day. So if you’re someone who has anxiety or depression, or is prone to it already, it’s a really important thing to know so that you can make informed decisions.”
Curious about Sobriety?
“Our culture says everyone should drink unless you have a problem,” Amanda summarized the issues and stigma our culture assigns sobriety so clearly, “It almost makes people feel like, well, I can’t not drink, or I can’t question my relationship with alcohol because then I’m admitting that I have a problem.”
If you’re curious about exploring sobriety, Amanda has some advice for questions to ask and steps to take, starting with what NOT to ask yourself.
“The first question to not ask yourself that stops people is asking the question ‘Am I an alcoholic or do I have a problem with alcohol?’ And that’s normally where people go first,” Amanda continued, “Instead my recommendation of where to start is ‘Would my life be better without alcohol or if I drank less?’”
Amanda explained that analyzing your consumption of alcohol through the lense of how it potentially impacts other areas of your life is a great place to start because it opens up the dialog with yourself without stigma or assigning shame. Think about how alcohol impacts your relationships, sleep, mental health, and boundaries. Would your life improve in those areas without alcohol?
More from Amanda White
This is only brushing the surface of what Amanda White digs into on this episode of the Goal Digger Podcast. I hope you’ll press play for the full conversation about alcohol, sobriety, mental health, therapy, and all things in between.