Anxiety and Alcohol-Free Living with Samantha Perkins
Writer and speaker Samantha Perkins joins Lorilee to discuss her journey to living an alcohol-free life. They explore the link between alcohol and anxiety, and share their own experiences with sobriety and the pressures and stigmas that surround drinking culture.
Samantha is the author of Alive AF: One Anxious Mom’s Journey to Becoming Alcohol Free and speaks about the impact that alcohol had on her life and mental health.
- On Samantha’s playlist: “Rhythm Nation” – Janet Jackson
- How stereotypical portrayals of drinkers affect our own perceptions of alcoholism
- The connection between anxiety and alcohol
- Coping with childbirth, parenthood, and exhaustion
- Making happy hour any hour and living alcohol free
- Handling the holidays without alcohol
- One tool for our G&G toolbox
Mentioned in this episode:
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Episode 4 – Samantha Perkins
[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey there. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It is a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives.
Before today’s episode, we have a message from our sponsor. The Ground and Gratitude podcast is sponsored by Her Bank. Her Bank by Legends Bank knows that women are busy being the CEOs of their lives and their time is valuable. So Her Bank was designed to offer a banking experience that provides flexibility and convenience with care. This is why I value them as a partner of the Ground and Gratitude podcast. So check out Her-Bank.com online to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is member FDIC equal housing lender.
My guest today is the amazing, insightful Samantha Perkins. She is a writer, a speaker, a mom, a wife, and so much more. She has a BA of psychology from the University of Kentucky and spent 10 years in the mental health profession. Her book Alive AF is a great self published book all about her journey to become alcohol-free. In this episode, we’re going to talk all about sobriety. If you resonate with anything we’re talking about today in this episode, check out our show notes for resources about sobriety. Now let’s get this show on the road.
Welcome Samantha. Thank you so much for joining me and being on my podcast today. I really appreciate it.
[00:02:00] Samantha Perkins: Hey, yeah, I’m so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:02:03] Lorilee Rager: Well, it means a lot. And I know that we, uh, we became friends through another friend and haven’t actually ever met in person, but we did the book club and all of those really fun, fun things. So it’s great to talk about our topic today, being sobriety, because when I first met you, it was just, it was just a book club. So I didn’t, I didn’t, I wasn’t telling anybody, I don’t think anybody but our friend Laura, who we have in common, knew, you know, that I was even struggling with it. So, um, it just really, I loved learning that about you after the fact. And it really drew me to you, so thanks for being here. Yeah.
Um, all right. So the first question I do have is something, I really, really love music and I love to make playlists, so I think it’s important to know, what song is on repeat on your playlist today?
[00:03:02] Samantha Perkins: I love this. So I watched Dancing with the Stars with my kids on Sunday night, or Monday nights and this past week it was Janet Jackson night. And the kids had not heard any Janet Jackson. And I’m like, how have I let this happen? So we have been listening to Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation.
[00:03:19] Lorilee Rager: I was hoping you were going to say Rhythm Nation.
[00:03:21] Samantha Perkins: I even listened to it this morning. So I’m like back to my, I told the kids that I used to dance in front of my mirror and make up dance routines to these songs. And they’re just, yeah.
[00:03:33] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely, that is fantastic. Gosh, I love Janet Jackson and Rhythm Nation. Oh, such a good one. That is a fantastic, I will put that on my playlist, if it’s not already I’ll put it on my, my playlist. Yes. Okay.
[00:03:46] Samantha Perkins: It’s good to return to for sure.
[00:03:49] Lorilee Rager: Oh, perfect. And your kids need to know that. They need that in their lives. Yeah. Good, all right. Um, all right, well, so the first topic I wanted to talk about is, um, so you, you wrote a book and, um, kind of telling your story when, and I won’t try to even pretend to explain it because there’s so much in it that’s goodness and authentic truth about your life and completely vulnerable and beautiful. Um, but part of, a phrase you had in your book that made me laugh out loud was, um, your kind of original cultural, uh, stereotypical mindset of drunks and Ms. Hannigan, you mentioned Ms. Hannigan. Which, I love Annie and I love musicals. I adore Carol Burnett. But it just immediately resonated with me. And I was like, oh yes, that’s exactly what I thought. That’s what I thought a drunk was. Um, so yeah, I thought, I thought we could just start there and just that, kind of, like I said, cultural stereotype of the Ms. Hannigan, Ms. Hannigan’s. You mentioned also maybe a reference about Dirty Dancing, which made me also think about Grease, uh, you know, where there’s also beer and, you know, just, just the cultural side effects and the way. I even have a quote where you have, um, from your book that you said, I believed drunks were sweaty and jobless.
[00:05:15] Samantha Perkins: Right, right, yeah. I think for me, you know, when I kind of realized that alcohol was no longer working for me, I was, I had to go back way, way back to figure out, like, how did I get here, and you know, what’s going on? And when I was writing the book, um, I was just kind of unfolding what I grew up thinking. And it just hit me, like, these movies that I used to watch as a child, Annie being one of them. And, you know, Ms. Hannigan, she’s like slurring her speech and she’s like angry looking, stumbling around, and, you know, you can just tell that she’s, um, you know, a drunk. And, um, you know, she is such a stark transition from what you see in like the Dirty Dancing film, which is like everybody having a good time and they’re drinking and they’re dancing and they’re, um, you know, falling in love and all the fun things that you think that go along with that. And so I think I learned a lot about, you know, alcohol and kind of the cultural acceptance of it from, you know, movies like that and TV shows and commercials that I saw. And, um, I really started to believe that, you know, as long as you’re the Dirty Dancing version, you know, the Baby drinking a few beers at a party and you’re not the Ms. Hannigan version stumbling over and, you know, abusing young children, then you’re, you’re okay.
[00:06:37] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. Yes, yep. That’s so true. And, and it just really resonated because the, um, I guess they’re called subliminal messages that we are sent and in front of, as, as children really do, um, you know, in influence us and when we become adults and start to try to figure out who we are, we look back at that and, and you really, you really wrote well about that cultural mindset.
[00:07:14] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. I think that it is just so, um, ingrained in, you know, starting at a young age, just that the messages that you get and receive just by even watching your own family members or, you know, your aunts and uncles or your, your, your friends’ parents, you know, you can just start to get a sense based on their interaction with alcohol, you start to form these beliefs. Um, you know, and back then my parents weren’t really talking to me, sitting me down and talking about drugs and alcohol. Um, it was just like, don’t do drugs, you know. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, you know. And so I think that, um, whatever I started to form in my mind is kind of where, what I believe to be true because no one ever challenged that or told me anything different.
[00:08:02] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And as we, as we become adults and begin to see ourselves and question just anything about maybe our health as we grow older or while we’re having headaches or while we’re having joint pain or, you know, belly fat or whatever it is, we’re annoyed with, it, it seems like I just couldn’t, I couldn’t pinpoint and relate to it being alcohol, like you mentioned, causing any of these feelings, because I also didn’t see myself as Ms. Hannigan. So there was a huge gap disconnect. And, and that’s what I just, your book really brought that point kind of out loud and clear that I didn’t even know it was in my subconscious.
[00:08:47] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. That’s the same exact thing for me, you know, over and over again, I would just assume that if you have a problem with alcohol, you’re Ms. Hannigan, you know? And so I wasn’t Ms. Hannigan, you know. I mean, I was, at times, I’m sure there were times that I stumbled around or whatever, but I wasn’t functioning like her or drinking during the day and you know, all of these things. And so I assumed, yeah, it must be something else. It can’t be the alcohol. And so, yeah, just from this misconception that I had as a child, I brought it with me into adulthood and then fought that for so, so long trying to wrangle with, you know, then what is the problem? If it’s not that.
[00:09:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yeah. And, and yes. Oh, that’s so true. It’s so true because when you start to question, why do you have these aches and pains, or why do you have this crippling in my case anxiety, and, and you wrote about it a lot as well that I really resonated with too. And you said something about going back and I think it’s really important. If you can be curious enough, and really face that fear of looking back at what you’re afraid of. And, um, you also wrote about in childhood being afraid of the dark. And I mean, that was something that I hadn’t thought of either, but I was absolutely terrified of the dark. I mean, like paralyzing fear. Um, and that, so it’s like, wow, those were some of my earliest moments of severe anxiety and I didn’t even know what it was.
[00:10:27] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. I definitely, um, started having anxiety when I was little and, you know, I didn’t have the words. Again, growing up in the eighties and nineties, people, aren’t, weren’t outspoken about mental health in any way. I’d never even heard the word anxiety, you know, um, talked about at all. Um, and so when I, I was having these feelings, I would describe them to my parents, you know it was panic attacks for me, that I was, um, choking, you know, because that’s what I felt, like my throat was closing. And so they, you know, would take me to the doctor and I was actually diagnosed with acid reflux. They were, you know, saying when I, when I laid down at night that I must be having like acid building up and coming up from my stomach. And I didn’t know, you know, I was a child. So, you know, I was like, okay, that must be it. But the funny thing was, as soon as I had a diagnosis and kind of like a plan, I was able to handle the dark and the sleeping a little bit better because it was like, I just needed to know what was going on and I needed some help for it, you know. And that was kind of my first early, um, my earliest memories of just really wrangling with anxiety to the point of, you know, debilitation, um, for sure.
[00:11:40] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, there, there just aren’t, um, when you start to think about anxiety and like you said mental health, which also just really wasn’t, it wasn’t openly talked about and maybe there, there wasn’t a lot of just information in general around it. And even if there were, um, it wasn’t, I don’t remember it ever being focused around children. It was just around adults and maybe it was around some really tragic event that had happened to them or some major trauma that had happened or some substance abuse, you know. So there were all these little labels, but there weren’t, there just weren’t, uh, clear answers really to, to how to figure out what this was or what was happening. And you wrote about it, like I said, a lot in, from childhood to adult anxiety. Um, tell me a little bit about your journey as you began to wrap your head around wellness, um, and trying to think of healthy ways to live, but still with alcohol.
[00:12:46] Samantha Perkins: Right. So yeah, I had the anxiety, I lived with it from, you know, from those, when I was diagnosed with the acid reflux and it kept, you know, I still have it to this day. But, um, I would say after having that, my, my two kids, um, you know, it really got worse. And I think for a lot of reasons, but one, you know, now I’m not just worrying about myself, but now I’m having to have anxious thoughts and feelings about these two, you know, helpless beings that I’m supposed to be in charge, you know? Um, and so I would wake up and I just would feel so overwhelmed. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding my head sweating. And, um, I would start having these horrible, anxious thoughts. You know, just crazy things like, you know, I can’t take the kids to Target tomorrow because what if there’s a child abductor there and they want to get my kids, you know. Talking to you, I’m sure you can relate to this, but someone who doesn’t have anxiety, they just don’t know. And I would like build up these plans, like, you know, what will I do if this happens? And I’m like trying to control and plan for all of these tragic events that, you know, aren’t even real. Just looped thoughts and, um, just ruminating, anxious, anxious thoughts while my body was just having this reaction. And so I was like, I’ve got to get some help. I cannot live like this. You know, this is getting really out of control. And I just kept blaming it on, I must have, you know, I didn’t move my body enough today, I probably need to exercise more, and my diet needs to change, I shouldn’t have eaten, you know, the garlic bread last night with the pasta, you know, it must be carbs, you know.
[00:14:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Blame carbs.
[00:14:29] Samantha Perkins: Exactly. And I’ve got to cut back on my sugar intake and I need to, oh, you know, the self-help stuff. I need to, you know, read self-help books and I need to go to yoga and you know, all of these things, oh, you know, clean my house to make it more zen like.
[00:14:46] Lorilee Rager: Oh yes, feng shui, feng shui.
[00:14:49] Samantha Perkins: It’s the clutter that’s caught making this worse. Meanwhile, still every night, you know, drinking a couple glasses of wine or a couple of beers or both, you know, just not knowing, really just trying to make it to that time where I thought it was appropriate to take some of the, you know, agony away. And, you know, for, at first it did. You know, alcohol was great at, um, taking that, that stress immediately away at first, you know. But I had no idea that that’s what was waking me up in the middle of the night to start with.
[00:15:20] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. Um, the, the carbs makes me laugh because we see them, we went from Ms. Hannigan culture as children to, you know, these crazy diets and Atkins and no carbs and eating pounds of bacon and beer was low carb or almost no carbs, trying to find the zero carb beer. And, but never, ever remotely thinking that that was also part of it.
[00:15:47] Samantha Perkins: Never, not once.
[00:15:49] Lorilee Rager: Not even in it with a doctor’s help or mentioning, and I also, you know, it was on all kinds of acid reflux things and tons of Advil, but trying to get in my water and try to do the 5:00 AM gym and yeah, just, I wasn’t moving enough. And, and it’s funny too, which you talk about, um, quitting carbs, there was lots of support and no pressure. No one questioned why don’t, why don’t you eat bread? Like when you said you weren’t having bread. But when you turn and say, you’re not having a drink or, right now, or you’re just taking a break from alcohol. I mean, the look on a person’s face, it just changes.
[00:16:30] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. And they, and they, I mean, based on my experience, you know, they think, oh, Ms. Hannigan.
[00:16:39] Lorilee Rager: They want to know, ooh, how bad was it?
[00:16:41] Samantha Perkins: Right, like what happened? You know? And I know that because I did the same, you know.
[00:16:46] Lorilee Rager: Same.
[00:16:47] Samantha Perkins: Yes. And so it’s hard to explain, and I know even to this day that there’s a huge misconception around my alcohol use and what I was and wasn’t, um, and it’s based on people’s own experience with there, you know, alcohol use. And, you know, I think they’re always comparing themselves to, well, you know, it wasn’t that bad, so, you know, it, it must be, um, mine is still okay. Or I didn’t get a DUI like she did so I can keep drinking, you know?
[00:17:19] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yes. Um, and then, so you, you begin to looking at those things to go, I’m not that bad, or yes, how bad was it, or I didn’t realize you had a problem, like we have so much fun together. And it was such a part of my identity that I was even scared. I wanted to feel better, but I was even scared to let that go because, can I still go to a party? I mean, can I still socialize with my friends?
[00:17:50] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. It’s so, I think this is what keeps people from stopping sooner, because you just don’t see how you could, you know, be in a social setting at all, because alcohol is just everywhere, always. You, it’s, it’s hard to escape. It’s not like if you quit cocaine, you know where people are like, hey, you know, why aren’t you having cocaine tonight?
[00:18:12] Lorilee Rager: Yep. The waiter at the table is not like, come on now. Are you sure? You wrote that in your book where they’re like, do you want to drink? Are you sure? I’ll just leave the menu here. And if it’s okay, and they won’t go, I’ll just leave it here in case you do want some. You just don’t have it.
[00:18:26] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. So it’s hard to see a life outside of drinking if you’re, you know, used to doing it. Again, like, you know, for me, it was everywhere. Kids’ birthday parties, the farmer’s market. It wasn’t just like the bar. And, you know, I think that, you know, if, you know, a baby shower, brunches, um, all of the things. So it’s like, how can I go to these functions and be the person that doesn’t drink? And will the people that I hang out with still want to be my friend? And, you know, it’s really, really terrifying to think about navigating that.
[00:18:57] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And you, um, you talked about, which I related to as well, when you did go to your first, you know, I think it was a neighborhood thing with, with your cooler of LaCroix’s, um, holding that can as a shield and, and realizing you did the same thing with, with beer or a beer bottle or alcohol you had with you.
[00:19:21] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, I realized the first time that I went out to like a social thing without alcohol, I like downed six LaCroixs. And I’m like, what, why am I drinking so many LaCroixs? LaCroixs aren’t even that good. And I realized just behaviorally, you know, drink to my mouth, you know, um, every time the mood changed or I talked to a new person or somebody says something funny, I mean, I’m just using this as like such a kind of social buffer, I guess, in those settings. And I had done that for so many years. I couldn’t even put my hand down, even when it was a LaCroix. It’s just so crazy to think about.
[00:19:59] Lorilee Rager: Yes, I do the same thing. And I remember getting really into Topo Chicos after deciding to get sober. And they were glass bottles so I felt a little fancier, I felt like I could do it. But then I drank the entire 12 packs, you know, and I was like, oh my gosh. I mean, this is like a bladder buster. What am I doing? But I probably consume just as much beer on a hot summer afternoon, uh, with friends, because I was, because it comes back to that anxiety that I had as a child in general of just the social setting and making sure everybody was okay and comfortable. And so I wanted to drink to take that edge off.
[00:20:40] Samantha Perkins: Absolutely. Yeah, and I felt good. I mean, I was the person always offering more drinks to people. I felt good when everybody was drinking and having a good time. Like that was telling me, okay, this is where everybody’s happy, it’s okay. You know, no reason to be anxious right now. And so, yeah, it’s just crazy, um, that alcohol and anxiety have such a strong connection.
[00:21:04] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And, and you, you mentioned even Googling and Googling, which I did as well, because you can’t find that. You seriously cannot connect that. And it’s, I felt like I was, uh, in this continuous loop of trying to feel better and do better by going to the gym and drinking more water, like getting in my hydration all before five. Because at five, you know, we definitely we’re going to change what we were drinking.
[00:21:33] Samantha Perkins: Yes. I mean, I switched to, um, at the end of my drinking, I switched to gin and water, oh, with lime. Because, and I, you know, I said that the water would be hydrating, you know.
[00:21:45] Lorilee Rager: I did the same thing with Tito’s and water.
[00:21:47] Samantha Perkins: So I wouldn’t get as dehydrated and, you know, try to ward off the hangover, I guess. Um, so yeah, just all of the things that I was trying to do to, you know. And, you know, meanwhile, I think about Laura McCowen, of course I love her work and she’s an amazing sober enthusiast, coach, and all the things. But, you know, I read the quote from her, “drinking is like pouring gasoline on your anxiety”. And, you know, I just was like, wow, like, it doesn’t matter what the things that I do today, I can go to the gym and eat all the kale and drink all the water and change it up my whatever, but if I’m still drinking, it’s just not going to work, you know. And you’re right, you cannot find information. It’s really hard. I even, I mean, I’m, I’m always researching this stuff and, um, you know, like writing about it a lot, I know all this stuff, but it’s even hard for me to like pinpoint, um, you know, articles or science that can, can help that. It’s just, you have to dig for it. You’re not going to find it on your Google search. You know, “am I an alcoholic?” It’s not popping up.
[00:22:51] Lorilee Rager: Because it’s just not, you don’t check those boxes of, like you had said, um, you haven’t missed work in the last, you know, eight days, or eight days out of the last 14. Like the quizzes, I wasn’t, I wasn’t passing those quizzes, which I guess passing them meant I was an alcoholic, I got. And I was, and yeah, and I loved how you said, “eat all the kale”. Yeah. I would eat all the kale and still have a roaring, raging panic attack the next day. And there just was not a connection to that, you know, maybe it was three very, very large pour glasses of red wine. I’m not saying it was two or three bottles. Yes, I’ve been there and split that and went that far too, but even just the two or three glasses. Um, so I, I think, and you had mentioned too something I think that was really important about just becoming a woman and getting married, but things that happen to us, like, um, the exhaustion of childbirth and spinning out as a new mother and that level of exhaustion.
[00:24:01] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, I definitely had postpartum depression with my first and I, you know, I remember looking at my husband and thinking, what have we done?
[00:24:13] Lorilee Rager: Me too. Me too.
[00:24:16] Samantha Perkins: I mean, the baby is just so needy and I’m so tired. I cannot. And it’s funny because I had a friend who, she had like an older, you know, maybe like a two or three year old, and she said, this is not your life. And I just remember holding onto that thinking like, maybe she’s right, maybe some, you know, the tide will turn. But in those moments you just feel, so, I mean, it is so overwhelming. And I know not every single person has that experience, but I do think those women, especially predisposed to mental health, anxiety, and depression. I mean, it can just be so brutal. And nobody’s talking about that, you know?
[00:24:54] Lorilee Rager: No, they’re just bringing you wine and champagne and diapers and sitting with you. And, and man, that combination was so dark and damaging for me that I’ve not actually really talked a lot about it, but even like, my body felt like it had been through some severe trauma with C-section. And, but then that pressure to be the perfect mother, um, and nourish them, I, I ended up choosing not to breastfeed because I wanted to drink so bad at night as a relief. And I didn’t want to dare do that to hurt my child. And, and it was just, in looking at those choices where alcohol was the only thing I thought that would give me rest in peace and relief, when it would just make the next day even harder.
[00:25:44] Samantha Perkins: Right, yeah. I can relate because, well, I was breastfeeding and I remember reading all these articles about how like the oats and some beers could help increase your milk supply. So since I would be drinking this stuff, and of course, then I’m so much more tired and then I can’t come out of it. I mean, it just made things 10 times harder than they needed to be, I mean, just way harder. Um, and looking back, I just, I can remember feeling so helpless. You know, I would sit on the floor when my son turned, you know, like when he still couldn’t walk and he was like maybe six or seven months old, so he’s just basically sitting up, aand he needs you to be by him so he doesn’t hit his head. And I would just sit there, you know, drinking wine or beer, because it’s not like you can leave, you can’t do anything. I felt like I was held hostage to, you know, and so it just, it was like the thing, the only thing that would, what I thought would bring some sort of relief.
[00:26:43] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And you felt, not you, I felt, I’m thinking, and I also felt at the time that I was the only person in the world that felt that way because I thought everyone else was absolutely loving their child with completely clean hair and swaddled, beautiful, powder fresh smelling child in this cozy, you know, bubble bath experience, and that I was the one over here on the floor with a drink and the child completely just feeling alone. And why, why can’t, why can’t I figure this out? Why can’t, or you said something about find a rhythm to my life. Once this new human was here.
[00:27:25] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. It was, I felt the exact same way. Just very alone and ashamed. You know, I didn’t want to tell people this is really hard for me. I mean, I felt like I just, I’m supposed to know what to do. I can’t ask for help because then I’m a bad mom, you know? I mean just all of the things. So yeah, combination of ashamed and exhaustion. I mean, it was, it was really, really a hard time.
[00:27:50] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And I, and I just remember drinking through it and thought, well, looking back, it’s like, oh, when were, when were the earliest moments that I, um, used alcohol to, to numb and stop those worry and shame and feelings, and it’s just really eye opening when I read your book just to see you felt the same way at some of those same moments and yeah, I don’t think I ever told anyone.
[00:28:15] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, there was a distinct time when I realized like the alcohol went from like being something that you did out with your friends to like something that was a coping skill, you know. I mean, you know, something that would get you through the long dark miserable night. I mean, I’m laughing because I mean, it’s a horrible place, so I’m not making fun. I’m just, that’s what I thought in my head, like, this is what I’m going to do in order to survive.
[00:28:42] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, and I do the same thing. I mean, I laugh and use humor at the most uncomfortable things. And looking back. I mean, I, I do think it’s comical when I look at all the other things you wrote about that I agreed with that, that you tried to do. I mean, we, we ate the kale, we drank the water, we bought the best diapers, we bought the best pack and plays, the most expense, like we bought and did every possible right thing, or what we thought was the perfect thing. But then you sat in the dark and drank at it instead of just, just really taking better care of ourself and really being honest and, and that community aspect of it.
[00:29:24] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, for sure.
[00:29:26] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. So, um, another thing I was going to ask you about is, you had said it earlier too when you were looking at the checklist that, you know, you didn’t have a DUI and you didn’t, you didn’t do cocaine, you just had anxiety, bloating, and headaches. And when you Google that, you know, there’s nothing that says, you know, quit drinking alcohol. But can you tell me the story a little bit of how you, you went through that journey? Uh, what, what drove you to finally quit just based on your symptoms?
[00:30:02] Samantha Perkins: Um, yeah, I would Google, I mean, I guess, subconsciously I knew it had something to do with the alcohol because I would Google, you know, am I an alcoholic? You know, and I think going back to what you said earlier, it’s so important to say that, you know, this wasn’t three bottles of wine a night. You know, sometimes I totally went overboard on the weekends or whatever, and I would get really drunk, but I mean, I’m talking about the two glasses of wine or the, you know, two beers and the half glass of wine right before I passed out into my bed. You know, it wasn’t, it doesn’t necessarily, it wasn’t always a massive amount of alcohol, but you know, I would Google, am I an alcoholic? And, um, of course, you know, the checklist didn’t apply to me in any way. Um, but I, I typed in this horribly vain sentence because I was thinking about how maybe if it were the alcohol, like, how would I be able to live my cool life that I’m living, where I go to breweries and I drink, um, you know, fancy beers that are brewed with orange slices, and all this yummy stuff. How am I going to live my cool life, you know, if it is, if it is, if it is the alcohol? And so I Googled, um, this is very sad, but this is where I was at the time, um, cool people who don’t drink.
[00:31:16] Lorilee Rager: I love it.
[00:31:17] Samantha Perkins: I know. Oh my gosh. And so, you know, I stumbled upon this blog where, this was the first time I’d ever heard someone talking about living alcohol free being like a freedom from anxiety, mental health issues, you know, all of these things. Um, you know, she was making it sound like cool not to drink. And I was like, huh, interesting. Um, and so I read and read and read and read and just let her words really, um, her name is Holly Whitaker, um, she just was taking such a different approach to, um, you know, what it’s, she was basically, she had all the things that I was hoping alcohol would get me. You know, she was living this life, um, that just sounded so great, versus what I thought being alcohol free would be which is miserable and lonely and sad. And so I was, felt really, really encouraged by her.
[00:32:13] Lorilee Rager: Yes. I’ve read her book, um, is it Quit like a Woman? Yeah, I read Laura’s book first in your book club, which was absolutely life-changing. I mean, I stopped drinking that day, the day I read that book and got on your, your, uh, book club zoom that night and, um, then red Holly’s next. And it was just like you said, it was so interesting to look at the, the wellness side of it, where we had tried so many other things and then looking at alcohol in the science side of it as a chemical in your body and things like that. And, and really again, I was, I was just sitting there full of anxiety, bloated, with raging headaches and, uh, couldn’t take enough Advil and the Xanax wasn’t really helping, you know, like I thought maybe it was at the beginning. And so, yeah, I knew when you had said that. And did you also read another book? Um,
[00:33:15] Samantha Perkins: This Naked Mind.
[00:33:16] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, This Naked Mind.
[00:33:17] Samantha Perkins: So that was what Holly, when I stumbled on her blogs, that was the first book that she read. So I like instantly ordered it. You know, I, I basically emulated, whatever she did. I’m like, okay, you know, she, she seems like someone that I can relate to. First of all, she was a female, you know, she wasn’t even a, she, I don’t even think now that she has any kids, but just like being a younger woman, you know, someone who had just recently gone through this, I felt like, you know, I could relate to her. And so I ordered This Naked Mind and yes, this is where, like, she really started with the science and how alcohol impacts, um, anxiety. And I just was like, my mind was blown. Like things I’d never heard before. And I was, so I believed her, you know, I just, whatever it was, maybe I just wanted so badly something to tell me, you know? And so I just, I, I believed what she was saying and I knew that when I drank my anxiety got worse. And she explained everything from waking up in the middle of the night, you know, the sweating, my heart beating fast and why that was happening to me and, you know, why my ruminating thoughts were so much worse after drinking and, you know, just all the things. And I just was, I mean, I just was so happy to have found her work.
[00:34:35] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. And the, what gives me hope, uh, in, in like having conversations like this with you, so honest, is to say that yeah, we were looking at it from the approach of what’s wrong with my anxiety or what is fueling my anxiety. It wasn’t this rock bottom that is the labeled again, the say Ms. Hannigan again. Like we, you know, you just, you really brought forth, um, that approach. It, wasn’t an AA meeting in a dark basement with paneling, secretly sitting in shame of something. And I’m not knocking that because Lord knows we all have our demons and different approaches to how we get better. But it was, it was just a really refreshing way to meet you and see somebody who I, again, thought was like me and, and was, was able to look at it just from a completely different angle, completely different perspective.
[00:35:37] Samantha Perkins: Right. And I think because my mental illness happens to be anxiety and not depression, you know, when you’re anxious, I couldn’t let it go. You know, like I couldn’t let this feeling go. I mean, when I was feeling anxious, I was thinking about feeling anxious. And then when I wasn’t feeling anxious, I was worried about when I was going to feel anxious again.
[00:36:00] Lorilee Rager: Yes. I so relate to that.
[00:36:01] Samantha Perkins: So it was just so encompassing. So, you know, I think like the rock bottom was just, I had to have relief, you know? And, and I think that it was just a desperation in my own personal mental health. Yeah, but from the outside looking in, everything was just fine. You know, there wasn’t, weren’t any warning signs or, you know, no one knew that I was, you know, struggling with my mental health, you know, in the way that I was, because that is part of being an anxious perfectionist is making sure that no one knows that you’re struggling in the way that you are. Um, just, I feel now nothing but gratitude for having anxiety that led me to that because you know, my anxiety is not just, I mean, it’s so much better, but so are tons of other things in my life because of sobriety, you know?
[00:36:52] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. That’s so funny to say that because of course the podcast is called Ground and Gratitude because I stay full of gratitude now because of these, you know, my inner weirdo. Like I’m embracing it. Um, this anxiety has taught me so much and it’s made me be a little kinder to myself and a little gentler to myself. Um, and yeah, I really resonate with that.
[00:37:19] Samantha Perkins: Yeah, for sure.
[00:37:21] Lorilee Rager: So there was something you had said, and I thought we could, we could talk a little bit because it’s the holidays. Um, which, there’s holidays year-round, you know, 12 year calendar, I know that. But I wanted to talk a little bit about, you know, handling the holidays for anybody that may be, you know, in that sober curious realm, um, or Googling, if you had any tips. One of, one of the things I’ll say before you start is, as you mentioned, which I really loved in your book, is you started to enter your house in a different way. You started just to not sit in your drinking chair. And I, I did that same thing and I didn’t realize I did it, but I thought that was a great tip too. But can you, can you tell us a little bit, anything you think about when you think of, you know, handling the holidays?
[00:38:12] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Well, first I have so many thoughts on this, but first I just think that if you are Googling or if you are getting curious, like that’s totally fine. I think that people think if they are curious or if they’re Googling that, that means that they have a problem. And I’m just trying to get the word out there to everyone that like being curious about your alcohol use does not mean that you have a problem, you know?
[00:38:34] Lorilee Rager: Exactly.
[00:38:35] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Like it’s such a, it’s so good for you to be curious about the things that you’re putting into your body, you know? So I definitely want to tell people to, you know, continue to explore that curiosity. And that doesn’t mean, you know, you’re curious and that you have to stop drinking that minute. But, you know, just when you walk into a party or a work, um, celebration or a family Thanksgiving, you can ask yourself, like, do I really want to drink right now? Or am I just drinking because everyone else here is doing that, you know? Um, would I still want to come to this thing if alcohol weren’t involved? Because I think a lot of times, yes, we use alcohol to get us through all this crap that we don’t even like to do in the first place.
[00:39:15] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely.
[00:39:16] Samantha Perkins: Yes. And so, um, you know, questioning like how, the role that alcohol plays, you know, while living your normal life. You know, you don’t have to like wake up and say I’m sober living for the rest of my life. I think it’s just good to get curious about it. Um, and yeah, so for me, I just had to, I couldn’t sit in the chair with the side table that could reach my drink because it’s not going to work. So I went back to my bed, you know, because I didn’t have a nightstand at the time. And so I would, you know, I couldn’t have held a drink in my bed and so it just felt like a different thing. And yeah, like I’d never went back out to the outside table. I have like little outside patio table. I’ve never went back out there. That part of the house is dead to me. You know, because that is just where I used to sit and, you know, try to, you know, relax and those kinds of things. So, you know, just changing it up in ways like that are really, really helpful. And, you know, I think there’s so much decision fatigue with people and your, your brain, there’s a lot of science around this and I won’t get too scientific here, but, you know, your brain loves how fast alcohol works. It loves that it floods your, your, um, your brain gets a flood of the feel good chemicals. And so if you’re like, ah, should I have a drink or go for a walk? Your brain’s going gonna say, you should have a drink, you know? Cause that’s going to work way faster and better. And that’s what it likes more. Yeah. So you want to go ahead and plan to have a walk, you know, instead of asking, should I have a drink? There’s a lot, when you tell your brain, I’m going to go for a walk for happy hour today, instead of, you know, deciding at happy hour, um, you can really get ahead of things.
[00:40:57] Lorilee Rager: You said decision exhaustion.
[00:40:59] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. Decision fatigue.
[00:41:01] Lorilee Rager: Decision fatigue. I know that. I’ve never heard of that, but I know that.
[00:41:05] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. So when you’re going into the party or the work function or the holiday gathering, you know, you want to go in telling yourself ahead of time, you know, I’m going to, take with you the drinks that you want to have, like the LaCroixs or, you know, the sweets and stay out of the kitchen or the bar where everybody’s drinking and, you know, find ways to take deep breaths. You know, I used to like go outside and be alone for a few minutes, or I would go to the bathroom and just be like, okay, you know, I can do this. Okay. It’s been one hour and I’m still not drinking. You know, it’s just those little things, um, because I think a lot of times people think that they’re going to just do exactly the same thing that they did before minus the drink. And that’s it, it might work, but you’re going to have to use a lot more willpower and it’s going to be a lot less satisfying. So you have to find some replacement behaviors, and things that will kind of fill you up in ways that the alcohol used to, you know?
[00:42:06] Lorilee Rager: Yep. I love that. Changing up your routine, it is, it’s just huge. And you don’t realize it’s such a small, such a small thing. I, I think in, in the early days when I was trying to really, you know, test the waters on, on this anxiety connection to alcohol, I remember also being like, you know what, um, I’m not going to go straight home after work when I would and, you know, sit down at the same chair. I’m, you know, I’m gonna, I’m actually gonna stop at the grocery and walk every single aisle and pick out something new to eat, or something like that. Or take off an extra 30 minutes early, and like you said, really plan to go to the gym. And I remember, I drastically changed my work schedule, which feels, I say drastically, it was 30 minutes. Like I changed my Workday to 7:30 AM to 4:30 so I could get to the gym on time. Speaking of anxiety, I was terrified that we traffic and I wouldn’t get there to the five o’clock class. So, I mean, I changed my, my company business hours just to switch up that routine. Cause I knew, I began to learn that was the hardest part of my day, so I started to wind down. So I just think it’s a really, really good tip. Um, you also say, the joys of it, uh, of now, uh, of living this freedom, um, you said that, um, that happy hour is any hour now.
[00:43:37] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Yes. I love, you know, I spent so much time waiting. You know, just waiting for the time that I can have the relief and I can even, there’s this, I can remember times when there would be this great song on the radio and I’d be like, oh, I can’t wait till I’m drinking again I’m going to listen to this song, you know, instead of just listening to the song.
[00:43:56] Lorilee Rager: Just listen to the song.
[00:43:58] Samantha Perkins: And so now I listen to the song and it’s happy hour, you know. It’s just so much less waiting and it’s so much, it’s so freeing and yeah, I love it. That, and I do, I like to drink mocktails. And so I can have one right nowif I want to.
[00:44:14] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely.
[00:44:15] Samantha Perkins: There’s no more waiting. I can reward myself. Yes.
[00:44:19] Lorilee Rager: It’s so true. That’s huge. It would be, yeah. If I could just get to five o’clock, if I could just get to Saturday, if I could just. Instead right now it can be happy hour. You can absolutely do something that will make you get that same, is it dopamine?
[00:44:34] Samantha Perkins: Yes. Yes, exactly.
[00:44:35] Lorilee Rager: That that will give you at 5:05. Yeah. And retraining that, um, it’s just, that’s really a beautiful thing to think of. So I love it when you said that too, very, very much. Um, okay. Well, the last question is, which you’ve you’ve really actually just did, but you’ve given us so many, so many good takeaways. Um, but what would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox, um, for our listeners? Just as something maybe that gets you grounded or helps with gratitude or gets you through a hard spot or something you say every day?
[00:45:12] Samantha Perkins: Well, for me, I, you know, I think about gratitude all the time. And so when I’m feeling anxious or when something’s going on, you know, I just try to be, um, as grateful as I can for just the smallest things, you know. Like, I love that I have my warm, soft blanket on right now. And I love that I have coffee every morning cause that’s my favorite thing. And I love that I, you know, I’m so grateful that I’m not sick today. I mean, just these little tiny things to interrupt the anxious thoughts or the, you know, the dooms, the doom thinking that like, oh, I’ve got this work project and it’s going to go really badly and, you know. Um, so I try to just be like, I’m so thankful that, you know, Lorilee asked me to be on this podcast and you know, like I get to do that with her, even though I’m a little bit nervous, you know? Those kinds of things. And it helps to just reframe for me a lot. And so Brené Brown says, “interrupt anxiety with gratitude” and I try to do that as much as I can, um, on a regular basis.
[00:46:11] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Oh, I love that. Interrupting that thought because I’ve, being such a ball of anxiety too, I just resonate with that. Something to interrupt it. And it made me instantly just think of like, before I hopped on here, the sweet hug I just got from my son. And I mean like, ooh, just instantly brings my anxiety meter down. So that’s great.
[00:46:32] Samantha Perkins: Yeah. And you get to notice the things that are like the small things and how important they are and how good they make you feel if you’ll just take a minute and let it happen, you know? So that’s what I love.
[00:46:44] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. Oh, so good. Well, thank you so, so much for being on here today and sharing and being so just honest and, and laughing. I mean, who knew that it would be such a laughable and such a joyous conversation to talk about this hard stuff. You make it, you make it fun and feel less, uh, weird for, for me.
[00:47:07] Samantha Perkins: Thank you so much. You’re awesome. This was such a great conversation.
[00:47:11] Lorilee Rager: Thank you, Samantha. We will see you soon.
[00:47:13] Samantha Perkins: Okay. Bye
[00:47:21] Lorilee Rager: Thanks again to Samantha for bringing the joy into this really important and impactful conversation about being sober. Thank you for tuning in to Ground and Gratitude. You can find more info about the show and resources to help anyone curious about sobriety at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time, please, for some more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude.
Ground and Gratitude is produced by the Kelly Drake and AOMcClain LLC.