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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hey, gang, the stereotypical depiction of fighting addiction makes it seem deeply unpleasant, white knuckling, sweating it out, detoxing, going cold turkey, you get the picture. This applies to classical addiction and also to the less dangerous, but nonetheless troublesome, unhealthy habits and compulsions that we all wrestle with. My guest today takes a very different approach. She aims to harness the pleasure centers of the brain as a way to help us handle addictive habits.


And controversially, she does not believe you need to go cold turkey on alcohol, which is the main intoxicant she has targeted. Her name is Annie Grace and she is the author of a very popular book called This Naked Mind. Shout out to my friend and colleague Steve Baker, the executive producer of Nightline, who's gotten a lot out of Annie's work and turned me on to her. This episode is the second in a two part series we're doing this week on addiction, because during the pandemic, alcohol abuse and drug overdose deaths are way up.


If you missed it, go check out Monday's episode with the Buddhist teacher, Kevin Griffin, who's done a lot of work to combine the Dharma and the 12 steps.


Speaking of the 12 steps, many people in the AA community are quite critical of and Grace and she will address that in our conversation. We also cover in this conversation her personal story and why she now drinks as much as she wants do, which in her case turns out to be nothing at all.


We talk about the connection between her approach and Evelyn Tremblay's intuitive eating, and we talk about her thoughts on working with other addictions, including nicotine, gambling, shopping, pornography and video games. One other thing before we get to the episode, we would really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to help us out by answering a survey about your experience with this show. We take the show really seriously. We care a lot about our listeners and we are always looking for ways to improve.


So please go to 10 percent dot com forward slash survey to do us a solid thank you. All right, here we go with Nancy Grace. Anna, Grace, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it. Yeah, so happy to be here. So how would you describe your approach and how is it different from. You know, traditional AA or 12 step work, so I think there's a few really key differences, and one of those differences is that it is all based on positive emotion.


So when we want to do something, when we actually change our desire for something, for instance, you never desire something that you don't see has a benefit. And so a lot of my work is like you empower through education and then you actually change your desire.


And for whatever it is, whether it's alcohol or people apply my work to other sort of habits or addictions. When you have a different desire, it becomes almost effortless. Now that in itself does take work to change your desire. Of course, it doesn't happen instantaneously. You don't go from thinking drinking is the best thing in the world to be like, no, I never want to drink again. But that's basically the method of the approach. And then I'd say there's another interesting aspect, which is that it boggles my mind that everything in our society we don't really approach is black or white.


So you're not 100 percent successful or if you miss one day of exercise, you're a failure. Yet in this conversation around, you know, the whole recovery sobriety conversation, that's how we're approaching it. It's very black and white. There's no gray, which I think eliminates self compassion. And I'm such a firm believer that self compassion is the catalyst to change.


So I don't know much about I had my own struggles with substance abuse, but I never went to a or did the steps. So I'm speaking from a position of I'm just going to admit it right now, like almost blotting out the sun level of ignorance. But my understanding is, you know, you get up in the beginning and say, I'm an alcoholic and you get a chip at a certain point, and then if you've relapsed, you kind of have to give your chip back and then you earn a new one or something like that.


Your approach is more like, you know, you develop.


A different relationship with the substance or the activity, wherever the addiction is, you know, alcohol, shopping, whatever, and there isn't some rule forever that you can never have a drink again or that you can never hit up Bloomingdale's.


Yeah, exactly. And how the brain works is such that when you give it those rules or those ultimatums, it becomes rebellious and suddenly says, hey, will that thing you just said, I can't have guess what I want. I want that thing. You know, as soon as you decide you don't want French fries or aren't going to eat, shouldn't eat French fries, all you can think about is French fries. And so it's actually very counterintuitive to go and create these rules about never again.


Not to mention you're not going to know you're successful until you're dead. I mean, that's the reality of it. If you say I'm never drinking again, when can you win that conversation? You really can't. And so I believe that it's much more impactful and empowering to actually build on things you can win. So, all right. I'm going to just have one glass of wine and see how that goes. And then if it doesn't work, that's hugely telling.


If it does work, then that's something to celebrate. But then you can really start to get curious about, well, why doesn't it work? And I think that curiosity literally is probably the if there was a cornerstone to the approach, it would be curiosity.


Getting curious about our behavior instead of judging our behavior allows for just this opening of hope and possibility and ha, OK, well, why am I doing this in the first place? We make so many judgments of ourselves and those judgments are mostly just because society has said something or because our brains are telling us that we should or shouldn't be doing something. But we never take the time to get really mindful and say, OK, well, why am I doing this to begin with?


What happened? Why is this different? In my life, I used to just be able to take it or leave it. And now I feel like if I leave it, I feel bad for myself. I'm in a place of despair. What gives? What changed? And that curiosity, I think, leads to all of the questions we need to ask to actually, as you said, change the relationship with the substance.


I think it might be helpful at this point to get pretty granular on how this works. And maybe a good way in here is to tell your story. Yeah, I'd love to do that.


So so growing up, go way back to the beginning because it's kind of fascinating. And I know we have something in common in our background, but I was raised by a Chubu, a Jewish Buddhist on the back of a mountain, ten thousand five hundred feet in a tiny little log cabin. So there was no running water, no electricity. We had to snowmobile to get there in the winter. It was solar panels and an outhouse, all sorts of stuff like that.


And my parents didn't drink at all. And so I didn't really have this cautionary tale around alcohol. I then went to college and I was just like, take it or leave it.


You know, somebody offered me a drink. Maybe I'd have one, maybe I wouldn't. But it wasn't a big deal. Moved to New York City. I remember my first day on the job. I worked for a bank and they all took me out for drinks afterwards and I didn't know what to order. So but I'd watched a lot of Sex in the City. So I was like, OK, I'm gonna order a cosmopolitan, which apparently wasn't actually the drink in vogue in real life.


But they just humored me and I ordered my Cosmopolitan. I got the bill and it was twenty five dollars. And I was like, this is ridiculous. I'm twenty six years old. I'm just out of college. Two drinks is fifty bucks.


I'm not doing this anymore. And so I just didn't go out to the happy hours and I actually got promoted and I had a boss take me aside and say, Hey Annie, why aren't you showing up at these happy hours? And I was like, Oh, I just don't really drink. Oh, no, no, no. That's not what it's about. It's not about drinking. It's about networking. It's about showcasing your ideas. We're all too busy during the day.


And I was like, all right. So I actually went in with literally a method. I said, OK, I'm going to do this right. I'm not I was very ambitious, very concerned about my career. I'm going to have a glass of wine and then a pint of water and I'm going to just switch back and forth, make sure I never get tipsy. If I ever got too tipsy, I would go and sneak into the bathroom, throw up the last glass of wine just so that I could keep drinking so that I was never, ever drunk.


And in fact, when I stopped drinking, people would say, well, you weren't the one I was worried about. We never saw you drunk because I was so intentional about it. But alcohol is something that as much as you want to be intentional, it's literally addictive.


So fast forward I'd come home from work, my apartment in Brooklyn. I'd look at my tennis shoes, I'd look at the bottle of wine. I'd be like, oh, that's easier to relieve my stress.


After a hard day and ten years later, two boys at home traveling all around the world, I'd been promoted to global head of marketing and I was drinking literally two bottles of wine pretty much every single night. And if I had to have a day off, it was sad. I felt bad for myself. I had this sense of self-pity. I was trying to make rules to drink glass, breaking those rules, really losing trust with myself.


And I was actually coming back from London. I was in the airport in the bowels of. Heathrow just had gotten off a train. I was very upset with myself because it had been a very busy week. I was bringing the worst of myself back to my family. They deserve so much better. I was in tears and something in me just decided to ask a new question. I had literally been asking the question, what's wrong with me?


Do I have a problem? Am I an alcoholic? And those questions were so terrifying and so shaming that I just drank more to avoid the pain of even answering those questions. And so I asked myself, I'm like, why is this different? Why did I used to be able to take it or leave it, you know, have a drink, not have a drink, who cares what changed? And so I went ahead. I made a list of every single reason I drink.


And I made myself two promises. I was going to treat myself with compassion no matter how much I was drinking.


So I literally made a decision to keep drinking, yet treat myself with compassion and curiosity and then to find out why I was going to dig into every single one of my reasons from it relaxed me to it helped me loosen up the bedroom to it was good for my sales career, all of these things.


And I was going to find out if they were true. And that journey took me about 13 months.


And I had this huge list of all of this data, the science. You can just go and download scientific reports at this day and age. It was brilliant.


I was so bowled over by it. And I remember walking out of my office one day looking at my husband and being like, OK, well, if you want to get drunk with me again tonight, tonight, because after this, I don't want to drink anymore.


My desire had changed. I didn't want the substance anymore. And so we did. We split a bottle of wine. And aside from one little experiment, which I'm happy to tell you about, that was it that was six years ago. And so I had all this data and I was like, well, other people need this.


So I just made this very dirty PDF, figured out how to post it in some chat rooms. And twenty thousand people downloaded it in two weeks. And I started getting letters from all over the world with people saying, hey, that's help me too and you should make this a book. And so I was like, OK, so I figured out how to self publish and then eventually became traditionally published because it did so well.


Tell me about the title. Yeah. So the title is The Snake in Mind, and it was super fun. And I was reading your book down during this entire journey, by the way. So you are in the acknowledgments of my book, which is this is just the coolest thing to be on here live just to say.


But when I was reading 10 percent happier and I had this horrible perception of meditation that I was failing at it, that it was awful because my parents did it so much, I tried to learn at a young age.


Yet when I was going through this whole journey and becoming really mindful of things, I was in LaGuardia Airport and I saw the book just in the window of the bookstore. And I was like like it was so realistic, the title. So I was like, yes. And so I picked it up. I did not even know it was about meditation. So it was brilliant in that way too, because I wouldn't have picked it up. But these sorts of things started to happen.


And I was reading your book and one morning I was reading the back of my cereal and it was burning a granola and it had no preservatives, no chemicals. And I was like, that's what I want.


Like, I want my mind to be naked, like I want it to be as if it was born. I want to set the reset button on all of these bad habits that I put into it, all of these false beliefs, all of these things that are driving my show that are really subconscious at some level. I believe that alcohol relaxes me. Like I believe the sky was blue. I was never even questioning it. And I just felt like I wanted a reset.


I wanted to go back to how it used to be. And so this naked mind was really that combination of how I was born, didn't need alcohol to relax, didn't even alcohol to have fun at a birthday party, wasn't even thinking about alcohol and just really living in this pure way of how my mind was meant to be.


And that kind of art came together in the title. Got it.


So going back to the 13 month research project. Can you say more about what it was you were taking an inventory in your own mind? Questioning your assumptions about what alcohol did for you and then testing it in the real world, it sounds like, meanwhile, looking at all the studies around alcohol addiction, and it feels pretty sort of neat and tidy that 13 months later you came out and you said your husband. Right. This is my last night.


And then you were with the exception of the experiment that we'll talk about, you know, it's kind of good to go. I guess I need to hear a little bit more about how exactly that happened.


So it was neat and tidy after six years of a big, fat mess. And I like to actually talk about that a little bit, because our perception, especially when somebody comes out and they're like, I've made this change and this is amazing, we don't know the history that went into that moment of change.


And although change I think does happen in a moment, there is this moment where the shoe drops and your have this new awareness and things do shift. Before that, there was so much pain and so much suffering. And so some of that suffering was me saying, OK, I'm not going to drink until Friday night, just on the weekends, and then not being able to keep that promise or I'm not going to have more than two glasses of wine and then waking up at 3:00 in the morning and just panicked, trying to count how many glasses I'd had the night before and being unable to count them and wondering what did I say, what did I do?


Who did I say it to, what happened having these moments of gray in my memory and through all of that, having this very deep cognitive dissonance. So this desire both to drink more because I believed it was the key to relaxing. I believed it was the key to having fun and to drink less because I looked around me and I'm like, this is a problem. I am not feeling good. I feel hung over. My husband is wondering what's happening with me.


I'm having holes in my memory of I did said stuff that I don't recall. And so these conflicting sort of desires inside me existed for about six years and it was so painful.


And I think you can overcome that inner conflict and inner conflict is so interesting. If we say we were walking in the street and we see somebody fighting across the street, it's going to cause a body response for us.


We're going to be like, oh, intense.


We're going to feel it right. If we are in our own home and fighting with someone we love, we're going to feel it all the more. But most humans most of the time are fighting with themselves in their own mind.


Yet we don't even register that that's a problem. And I think that that problem is one of the biggest, most painful problems of any addiction is both wanting to do more and less of something at the same time.


And so I had this whole messy history. And then through the research, I had done two really amazing things. I ended that inner conflict because I said, hey, you know what? I'm going to drink as much as I want whenever I want, and I'm just going to let myself drink. But I'm going to make that commitment to myself that I'm going to let myself off the hook and I'm going to learn. And so I through that process, I would learn things that were so mind blowing.


So, for instance, one of them was alcohol is both a depressant and a stimulant that's really unique for a substance. Well, first, we'll talk about the fact that it's a stimulant, it's a stimulant when you drink it and your blood alcohol content rises and that creates all of these very nice, euphoric feelings in your body. And that's kind of like the buzz that everybody drinks for. You feel good, you feel relaxed, you feel kind of a new lease on life.


Now, that lasts for about twenty minutes. And I've had so many people, I timed it. I've had so many people. Time at eighteen to twenty two minutes is about how long that lasts. That's when your blood alcohol is rising. Then your blood alcohol peaks and it becomes the depressant and it starts to leave your body. And when your alcohol is purging from your body or leaving, first of all, it lasts for two to three hours.


But second of all, that's very uncomfortable. You feel uneasy, you feel tired, you feel anxious, you don't feel good in your own skin. And so all of these really negative emotions, your body is starting to release cortisol during this period, which is the stress hormone.


You are exchanging twenty minutes for two to three hours. Now, we don't really know this because as soon as that twenty minutes is up, we're like, oh, where's my next drink? And so we sort of go for another drink after we finish the last one and we can keep that going for a few hours. But then we're sleeping off really the most depressed part of it.


But overall, cumulatively, it is adding stress into our lives. And so when you see something like that, it's really hard to reach for a glass of wine to relax me after. I know that's true.


I'm just imagining there are people listening to this from the AA community and thinking I was to quote the 12 steps helpless in the face of this substance. No matter how much education you gave me, I could not have a healthy relationship with the substance. There's no way one drink leads to blackout.


Yeah, and I think that that is really worth mentioning. And according to the CDC said the Centers for Disease Control, 10 percent of excessive drinkers are coming. Addicted, and that is, if you think about it, if it's 10 percent of excessive drinkers, it's a very small percentage of the overall population, but it is probably the percentage of the population that we think of as getting sober and in recovery. And, yes, don't mess with it.


There's no amount of probably learning that is going to overcome a physical chemical addiction. But 90 percent of excessive drinkers are experiencing what I was I mean, I could stop drinking for days, weeks at a time with no physical withdrawals whatsoever because I wasn't chemically dependent on the substance. And yet I was emotionally very dependent because I believed that it was so key to relaxing or having a good time or anything that I was doing. Really. I mean, I had this mantra that was what's the point?


If I can't have a drink and I don't trust people who don't drink? I was so entrenched in this drinking culture that I really thought that not drinking was an anathema. I thought it was just horrible to exist that way. And why would anybody do that yet?


I was miserable in other ways. I was waking up at 3:00 in the morning. My sleep was being disrupted. I was wondering what I said or did the night before I was harming my relationships. I had an instance that's so heartbreaking to me where my four year old son, I said, hey, come here, come sit on my lap. And he came over and he got on my lap and then he looked at me and he got right off and he goes, No, Mom, gross.


You smell bad and your teeth are purple. And I was just like, Oh gosh. But I wasn't chemically addicted, so I didn't have to, quote, get sober and never drink again. But what was there for me? There's this huge gray area that we're just not talking to.


And I think another way to think about this is. Right now, if you are worried about your drinking, so I would talk to my doctor and I'd be like, you know, I wonder if I'm drinking too much. And because my doctor would ask me, well, how much you drink and say, you know, a few glasses of wine a night, sometimes a bottle. And he was drinking about the same amount.


So it was no, no, I think you're fine as long as you're not suffering withdrawals and go ahead and leave. And if he did give me advice, it was to go to AA and so to go to AA, just to walk in the door, you have to say I'm an alcoholic, as you alluded to earlier, which is this label that most people aren't jumping for joy to label themselves with. And so the barrier to entry into that conversation that I'm an alcoholic, that I have to get sober is so huge that it literally in some ways was a conversation that I was unwilling to have.


And it kept me from exploring it. And one of the things that I'm most passionate about is, yeah, this is not for the 10 percent chemically addicted. It might help you with some of your thinking, but it's certainly not going to help you when you need a detox situation or inpatient rehab situation.


Absolutely not. However, for most of us, 90 percent of people who are drinking excessively are not chemically addicted. And so to approach it with this black and white narrative that you have to get sober forever and you have to declare yourself an alcoholic and take on a label, it's really counterproductive to anybody just wanting to change their drinking or their relationship with alcohol.


And so for the 90 percent, you're saying, one option is to do what you did, which is and I'm still trying to wrap my head around exactly how it worked, but it seems like you really got curious about what are my assumptions about alcohol? How is the practice of drinking at this level actually showing up in my life? What does the science say? And through 13 months of careful looking, you kind of landed at what might seem like a neat and tidy conclusion, but was actually a hard one.


Yeah, exactly.


And again, we don't do something we don't believe provides a benefit. So through that research, which I wouldn't have been able to undertake if I was still in that very painful cognitive dissonance place of beating myself up, using these weapons of shame and blame against myself, judging myself for my behavior, there's no way I would have had the mental freedom or capacity to even ask these questions.


And so one of the keys was to stop trying to stop drinking and to let myself off the hook, which is so radical. I certainly hear about that on a regular basis. And I think that that was so vital because I wouldn't have had the mental capacity to get curious if I was still stuck in that shame and blame. But at the end of the day, every single reason that I said I drink for the taste, I drink to relax, I drink because it makes things more fun.


And I would show myself through this really compelling scientific research that those things weren't actually true. So I didn't desire it anymore. And at the end of the day, human beings, we do what we feel like doing. There's some really great research out by Dr. B.J. Fogg about positive emotion and about how it's not time that creates habits. And those things are correlative, but they're not causal. It is actually emotion that creates habits. And when you can create positive emotion and I would consider curiosity a positive emotion, hope, obviously, determination, those sorts of things.


So it's not positive as in the rah rah, let's everybody be happy. But just that opening for this isn't doom and gloom. Those things are shown scientifically to be more productive in creating change.


And so that was my process of just examining all these very logical, very conscious reasons that I was drinking and showing myself that that wasn't true.


And so then when my desire changed, it was neat and tidy, even though it was very hard won because it was really like, oh, I really don't want to do this anymore.


You said before that your radical stance of I'm not going to tell myself I need to give this up forever. You said you hear about this all the time. Meaning what? You've got critics who say, no, you've got it wrong.


Yeah. Yeah, I have people letting me know that I'm going to kill people and that, you know, by saying that they can make their own decisions.


And I firmly believe that we're all adults. If I tell you to never drink again or I don't tell you to never drink again, you're going to make your own choice. That's not on me. And so for me to just say it just for lip service, I don't think it's actually serving anything. So I'd rather just tell you the truth, which is that a lot of people can change the relationship with alcohol without getting sober. And that's actually a good thing, because the more people know that and know that's a possibility, the more people are going to be curious about the conversation before they have to, quote, get sober or go into recovery.


What's interesting with you is that you are gathering that you wouldn't call yourself sober.


You don't drink anymore, right?


I don't drink any more, but I wouldn't call myself sober. And there's a few reasons for that. I just I'm generally anti label no matter what, because the label just give somebody permission to judge you based on their set of criteria. And, of course, the label alcoholic, that is exactly the same thing.


And also, I do think, although it's much less now, but I do think that if I was going to tell my brain, oh, you can never, ever drink again, my brain would rebel to some degree, I don't know, six years in that that's happening as much, but certainly in the early days.


And so, no, I don't call myself sober. I drink as much as I want whenever I want. I just haven't wanted to have a drink in six years now. Right. Right.


Your work reminds me a little bit. I don't know if you're familiar with this person, somebody who's kind of an important person in my life, Evelyn AA, who's the one of the co creators of something called Intuitive Eating. And yes. Are you familiar with this? I love intuitive eating.


So do you see maybe you could talk a little bit about why you love it and whether you think there's an overlap here?


Absolutely. So discovering intuitive eating for me was pivotal in my life and I had pretty much stable weight for most of my life until I had my third child at age thirty nine and I could not just get back in control. So I said, right, I'm done having babies. So the first time in my whole life I decided to diet and I was going to do the Kitto Diet and I did the diet for three months and I lost twenty pounds.


It was great. I was really excited until her second birthday party where I had a piece of cake and the floodgates opened and I just started eating normally again or what I considered normally I was still a pretty healthy eater and I just gained all that weight plus ten more pounds within two or three months. And so my body completely rebelled from that sense of deprivation. And then I struggled for two years after that to try to maintain this. And I just got really discouraged.


I felt like, what is wrong? Why can't what happened?


And when I picked up her book and read it, it was so enlightening and it was so in sync, because when we create this sense of I can't, the body says, but why? When we create the sense of especially with food, starvation, the body undernourished. And so, of course, it believes I'm going to fight for myself and I'm going to eat everything in sight.


And so it's been a journey for me, certainly as it is for everybody to get back in touch with that intuitive nature. But I would have considered myself an intuitive eater for most of my adult life until I started dieting.


And I think dieting was one of the you know, I'm glad I did it in hindsight because I really am happy to have the clarity around it that there isn't some sort of quick fix, at least for me, because if you're not going to maintain something like Kaito for the rest of your life, it's just not going to work. And some people are super happy to maintain it. And I think then it becomes a lifestyle that's a whole different conversation.


And usually I would argue that those people happy to maintain it, have created some sort of positive, determined emotion around it in order to sustain that. But for me, it wasn't that way. I was doing this specifically in order to lose weight very superficially, and there was not positive emotion around it. I was feeling deprived every time somebody was having something carbohydrate filled and I wasn't able to. And so it rebounded in a big way. So finding her work was just huge for me.


Do you see overlap with your work?


Yes, because it's the I wouldn't say the exact same approach, but her book is riddled with science. I mean, I think she has two hundred and twenty some studies about why this works. Our brains are so suggestive, but there's so much more suggestive when we have, quote, proof.


And if you can say, OK, these studies make this true, it is so much more helpful for her, specifically our subconscious beliefs to be malleable and change. And so the book is so filled with science about why it works in the first place. And then the core premise that actually getting to peace actually feeling good about what you're doing. And enjoying your food, in my case, of course, you can just stop drinking alcohol if you don't want to drink alcohol, you can't stop eating food.


So it's different. But enjoying the food and that's one of the core tenants of intuitive eating is is actually enjoying it. And being mindful of it, I think is very, very similar because it's no longer this sense of dieting or I'm not going to allow myself that. Now, I do think it's a journey because you kind of go through this rebound phase of, OK, well, now that I've allowed myself not to be on this strict diet mentality, I'm going to eat everything.


I mean, I like lots of cookie dough, which was, she says, eat the foods that are most tempting to you.


And cookie dough was my one. It's like kryptonite. So I had a lot of cookie dough, but eventually cookie dough stopped being tempting.


I was like, wow, this is amazing.


And I'll tell about the experiment that I alluded to earlier, because I think that this is really one of the places that it is very in line with intuitive eating.


So about forty five days, 60 days, I don't remember exactly after I kind of had that first walk out of my office. I'm done drinking. I don't feel like I want to drink again. I started to get really curious because nothing had changed.


I looked around me, all my friends were still drinking, everybody was still having so much fun with alcohol.


And I started to think, OK, I overreacted. I overthought this. This is actually fun. There must be something good here. Maybe I missed something. And so I just started to get this really deep sense of curiosity. There's so many things in our experience that are completely coupled with drinking. So if you go to a sporting event, it's coupled with drinking. And so you say, well, it's not going to be fun to go to a football game unless I'm having a few beers.


Well, how do you know? Because you haven't gone to a football game in your adult life without having a few beers. So, so many things were coupled with drinking. So I knew I didn't want to just have a drink at an occasion that I was having fun at anyway. And I was like, that wouldn't be a fair test. So what I did as I locked myself in my bedroom with my iPhone and two bottles of wine, I set up my iPhone on a tripod and I felt myself getting drunk over the course of like four hours.


And I wasn't being social. I wasn't I think I let myself listen to music or something, but I wasn't going to be doing things that would be fun otherwise. And the whole point was I was going to record and tell myself in the camera how it felt to get drunk. Was this actually fun? Was I actually enjoying this experience?


And I couldn't watch the videos for years? I do watch them now. I actually share them in my free challenge on the twenty eighth day of the challenge.


But there was nothing there. It was not actually inherently fun to get drunk. I remember the room kind of got a little bit fuzzy. Things got weird around the edges. I had that little few minutes of euphoria that quickly went away and then in the videos you see me starting to snap at my kids. I start to get mad at the dog who's barking in the background. All the light goes out of my eyes. I start to make jokes that I think are funny and are not funny.


It was really difficult for me to watch.


And I think that that experience, just to equate it to the cookie dough, she encourages you to actually eat it and notice. And when you're not depriving yourself of something and before I was like trying to get alcohol down as quickly as possible because there was this big part of my brain saying, you shouldn't be doing this, you're doing this too much and all this guilt. And I was just trying to get it in so that I would assuage the guilt and I'd numb my brain a little bit and I'd feel better about it.


And all of a sudden, I'm not. I want to understand how this feels with the cookie dough. I want it. Does this really taste good?


Is it really worth eating ten tablespoons of cookie dough in a row?


Does it really make me feel good? And so when you start to get curious and mindful, which I get, I just believe ties so much into ten percent happier in all your work, you get really conscious to the reality of it.


You don't have to convince yourself anymore.


And I think that's one of the things that now, through my intuitive eating journey, I look around and I can eat it if I want, but I don't always want it.


And that's OK too. I don't feel this sense of, oh, I better have it because I'm not going to get it later or I'm going to make a rule for myself and it's going to all kind of blow up in my face that doesn't exist in my mind anymore.


And same with alcohol.


I feel like, yeah, if I, if I wanted to have a drink, I'd have it, but I don't want it because I'm just so present to the reality of it. It's funny with the intuitive eating from me, the. And maybe I'm not as far along. I still am very tempted by a bowl of ice cream or anything, I mean, a bunch of cookies or whatever. I've made a big turn in that I don't hold off because I think it's going to, like, not look good on me, you know, that I'm going to somehow gain weight.


I'm in a much more relaxed space there.


What stops me is often what I've heard described as the fundamental self compassionate question, which is what do I need right now? Or as Evelyn would say, is this the kind moved from my body? And I know that if I have a bunch of I did this the other night, I actually kind of lost contact with I was kind of eating without really paying attention. One of my specialties around the house I make for the kids and some of the parents is vanilla ice cream with crushed up Oreos in it.


And I was eating it and I kind of I wasn't paying attention and I had more than I that I really actually even wanted. And then I was kind of hopped up for a few hours. It didn't feel good and didn't feel great the next day. And because I was just like in my dotage have become quite sensitive to everything I eat. That's a long way of saying for me, it's not so much that I'm not tempted.


It's that the self compassion kicks in when I'm at least when I'm awake and says, yeah, you're not going to feel good if you have this.


Yeah, I think that's very similar for me. I mean, there is certainly some temptation, but there's this instance of.


I would describe it, OK, this is kind of a difficult thing to put into words, but I'd walk into the pantry and or whatever the case was, whatever the temptation was, walk into the pantry and just before thinking have ingested, you know, a few handfuls of if it was potato chips. And I think what the curiosity it's almost introduced this moment of, huh, do I really want this? And often I decide. Yes, less often than before.


But it was that moment of that little window of even having the ability to question it wasn't there before in general. And I think that is kind of what you're saying of asking that really great question of do I really want this having that moment to question it where before it was just hurry up and put this in my body because I don't want to question it, because then the answer might be no or I might feel guilt. And I think that's so much of the rebound we experience is the guilt.


If a behavior is completely coupled with guilt, we're just going to try to do it as quickly as possible and then almost not think about it, because we're so afraid of the beating ourselves up, which I think was exactly where I was with alcohol.


So much self-loathing and just shame and browbeating and why are you doing this?


And I got there with food as well. And I think that her work has really helped me. Yeah.


Have that little moment of if I'm going to do this, I'm going to decide to do it and then I'm not going to chase it with two hours of guilt.


So what is the role of self compassion in your work? It is the number one thing, although you said curiosity was so either way, maybe they're both they're tied for number one.


Yeah. All right. That's fair. They're tied for number one.


I think curiosity awakened self compassion because when we stop long enough to say, why am I doing this? We realize that we are doing often the best we can with the tools we have, we just may have been given the wrong tools.


And so through self compassion, if you put down those weapons of blame and shame and guilt, you are in so much more of a present place to be curious. So I do think that they go hand in hand.


One of the first things that you learn picking up my book is that actually your brain is doing exactly what it was meant to do and the brain is responding to stress in a way that's trying to relieve stress. And substances like high fructose corn sirup or gambling or alcohol create artificially high dopamine response in the brain. Dopamine is the learning molecule. It encourages us to do that thing again. And by the way, do that thing again in order to survive.


And that's kind of the role that it has. So it's linked to all of the things that we find pleasurable. But when it's over, stimulated our brain, creates a false association of I need to do that again in order to survive. And that thing is the addiction, whatever that addiction is.


And so when you learn that you're not broken, you're not morally flawed, you really have just fallen into this trap where your brain says, do this thing again in order to survive and you awaken that sense of self compassion, saying, wait, I have responsibility here, but blaming myself isn't going to be incredibly helpful.


And when you put down that blame, I think that's the doorway. That is the place where we can walk through and say, OK, now that I've put down that blame, I have the capacity to learn some of the things that I, I can learn in order to change my relationship. Yeah, and it can be really helpful, too, because I would imagine. I'll just speak from my own experience, when you're trying to regulate your relationship with a moderate or modify or make healthy your relationship with any substance or behavior.


That has a potential to be addictive, it's probably not going to be. Without ups and downs, and so if you make the downs worse through just, you know, unremitting. Self laceration, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Yeah, I'd like to talk about and I I don't know exactly how this works with the computer, but I like to give this analogy of how computers learn to play chess, which is basically that they're programed with the basic rules and then they just start making moves.


And the vast majority of those moves are incorrect. But you don't hear the computer saying, oh, my gosh, you're so stupid.


I can't believe you moved that way.


And they're not beating themselves up for that incorrect move. They understand that the incorrect moves are part of the journey.


So just very specifically, in that delicious sounding vanilla ice cream and Oreos, you're awareness now and your level of, oh, my gosh, that didn't make me feel good because hopefully it's delivered with minimal guilt, actually facilitates the wellness journey going forward. Whereas if you just separated yourself from that or beat yourself up or made it such a painful experience, I think that in my experience, that actually makes us do more of the behavior we don't want to be doing.


Yes, yes, so you used to be and when I say used to it, it's not that long ago, six to 12 months ago, I would overdo it on dessert or salty snacks or whatever. And because I can be pretty sensitive to things that might mess up my sleep and then I feel awful the whole next day and I would triple down on the Awful by beating myself up and then I might self medicate the awful by doing the same thing again the next night.


Now I kind of look at it and it takes some sort of inner gentle cajoling to get there. But I kind of look at it is like, all right, yeah. You've learned something here. What did I do last night?


That was probably a little misstep that I might now be able to teach myself not to do is I stop paying attention. While I was eating the dessert and I ate that, I was actually looking at my phone, which is, you know, totally disconnecting from the experience. And then I ended up having too much and it had some mildly deleterious results. Is this how you would describe your overall?


Because we're talking now about intuitive eating, but is this what I'm describing how you would talk about or operationalize the this naked mind approach to alcohol, to shopping, to all the sorts of addictions that you apply your approach to?


Yeah. So in the community, in this naked mind community, we actually talk about it as a data point. So it's not a relapse. It's not, you know, falling off the wagon. It's a data point. And it's celebrated to some degree of OK, cool. Well, now what did you learn? And the whole community, I would say, rallies around and said, don't beat yourself up. It's totally OK, you're here.


And the first thing we celebrate is that people come back. I don't have firsthand experience with AA. I went to one meeting before I published my book just to verify, you know, some of the things that I was saying, because I do discuss AA as it was the approach that is most known to this problem. But I don't personally have experience with it. But I have people who have told me that often when somebody disappears from meetings, then, you know that they are relapsing because it is the one drink creates a lot of shame.


And like you said earlier, I believe you lose your chip. And so your streak is broken. And it is in scientific terms, they actually call it the what the hell effect, which means, OK, well, I've had ones I'm going to go ahead and have eight and maybe be on a multi day bender. And I don't feel like I can show my face again in that community when the community and the self compassion and the grace for yourself and the additional dose of curiosity is why it happened in the first place is exactly what you need.


So the first thing that happens is we just celebrate people showing back up and there's never a sense of, oh, you should have or why didn't you? Or you should know better.


And because I think people have read the book who before they are in in this community, it's just a Facebook group.


They all speak sort of the same language around this as these data points should really be celebrated and be a jumping off place over and over. It doesn't matter how many times. I mean, we've had people have it's day one again, post at 60, 70 times, and then now they're four years alcohol free and just couldn't be happier. But it took that and that wouldn't always be welcomed, I think, in other environments. Much more of my conversation with Annie Grace right after this.


Staying informed has never been more important, information is coming at us faster than ever. So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Milkie from ABC News. And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes. Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favorite podcast app.


I hear from D.J. Cashmere, who's producing this episode, and he talked to you before we did this interview just to do a pre interview, D.J. sent me a little note beforehand to prep me for the interview. And one of the things you mentioned is that you are actually increasingly interested in.


Working on addictions that don't involve alcohol. Yes, I've just submitted to my agent the first draft of this naked mind for nicotine. I don't have a tobacco story myself. So I partnered with a coauthor who has that story to adapt the approach. And I'm really excited about it. I think that it's going to be phenomenal for people who struggle with vaping.


We talk a lot about vaping and tobacco, and I would love to do other things.


This snake mind is so much based on my own story. I really do feel as if that story element is important to normalize the behavior and help see yourself in somebody else's experience. So I wouldn't want to write any of these books without a coauthor for things that I have not struggled with. But yeah, I'm really excited about the nicotine. And then I do hope to move it into other approaches. And we're also doing efficacy studies where the early results are just phenomenal.


I mean, it's really working for people. And I knew that anecdotally because of the responses I get.


But this idea of and the science backs it up self compassion scientifically is one of the cornerstones to lasting change.


So when you approach it with self compassion, positive emotion, curiosity, these types of elements, the only way you can really kind of fail at it is by giving up and leaving and because it facilitates staying in the conversation until staying in the tent you want to make until and because the goal isn't necessarily sobriety. I don't know about tobacco. I assume that it would be pretty difficult to just smoke a cigaret on occasion. But people do certainly drink a glass of wine on occasion and consider themselves very happily free because the goal is freedom.


However, you personally define that. And so, yeah, I'm really excited about these other approaches beyond alcohol. How do you apply it to nicotine?


As you just said, you don't think somebody can just randomly smoke a cigaret once in a while? So I guess you do have to tell people you've got to go cold turkey.


I don't actually tell anybody they ever have to go cold turkey as much as it is a very compelling argument of all of the facts around why you think you like to smoke and what is really happening. So you think you like the taste of a cigaret and then that gets very thoroughly deconstructed and encouraged to actually test it yourself. And so having your own experience with it or you think that it's relaxing you, one of the key things about nicotine that's fascinating is that you have that smoke, you have that increase in the euphoric feeling instead of 20 minutes, like for a drink that's maybe two to three minutes and then it's depleting out of your body for the next hour or so.


So most of your desire for another cigaret is actually just predicated on the cigaret you had before. And that's why chain smoking can be so quick.


And so when somebody knows all this information, there's no ultimatum because again, I don't think that that's helpful for people. But you understand that, you know, with alcohol, the best way to control it is not to do it, because every time you do it, it's just like sugar every time you have sugar. I know for me, if I have a little bit of sugar, I want a lot of sugar.


If I stay away from it entirely, there isn't a desire there. But if I have a little a little turns into a little more and a little more, and then eventually I'm kind of back where I used to be.


And so it is much more there is some element and I realize this is a bit complicated, there is some element of, yeah, you might want to stay away from it, but not from a place of because you should or because there's a rule, but from a place of I understand why. I understand that if I have one drink, as soon as the blood alcohol content is decreasing and the substances leaving my system, my body is going to want another drink, whether my mind does or not.


And when you understand that it is much easier to stay away from that first drink or that first smoke or whatever it is because you're working and this is right back to the Buddha, you're working through the pleasure centers of the brain. You're saying instead of wagging your finger and telling somebody to give up something they desperately feel in their marrow that they need, you're saying check it out, see if you really need it. Yeah.


See if you really like that feeling, that taste of the cigaret. See how long the feeling really lasts and what does it feel like after the two to three minutes of nicotine exhilaration wears off, et cetera, et cetera, much more sort of experiential driven by positive emotions rather than puritanical renunciation.


Exactly. And it is by not only understanding what that next thing might do to you, but also understanding the second order consequence. So if I have this one drink, I might feel good for 20 minutes. I might feel bad for two to three hours, but it will definitely make me want another drink. If I have this one smoke, it will awaken a desire for another one and then making a decision with all the information. One of the thing that's kind of mind boggling to me is that although we have disclaimers on cigarets, we don't have any disclaimer on alcohol at all whatsoever.


And I'm not I don't believe in necessarily prohibition and I'm not into changing the laws or anything like that. But I do feel that we know more generally about the side effects of Advil, for instance, than we do about the side effects of alcohol. Collectively, as a society, we're not looking into it. And so I'm not against drinking. I just believe that I wish in my experience I knew more before.


I just was like, right, my career is important. So I'm going to start drinking multiple glasses of wine every single night. If I had some indication of kind of the second or third order consequence of that decision, I might have made a different choice. I might not have.


But I think my job is never to police, but rather to educate.


But it sounds like there are some addictions where we don't have to. Completely renounce food, for example, you can't completely renounce alcohol, you're saying it's possible to have a drink once in a while and feel free, and then there are those where, like nicotine, where we may there may not be a healthy relationship with a substance like that.


And where does something like gambling or shopping fit?


Well, first of all, just on the food thing, I will say in my own experience, my journey with food has been so much more complicated and fraught than my journey with alcohol. And I don't know that I would ever feel qualified to write a book on food because it is there's so much more nuance because you do have to do food. You can't not. So just throw that out. There it is by far, I think, the most complicated relationship that we have.


But in terms of gambling and shopping and even I'd throw pornography into this for people struggling with that. The really fascinating thing about those addictions is they work mostly the same way. However, there isn't a toxin that you're ingesting that is putting the brakes on. So if you drink too much alcohol, you will puke, you will throw up or you will pass out and you actually physically can't ingest anymore. So there's breaks, same with any drug, any substance that you're externally ingesting.


However, even with a first person shooter video game, you can get that dopamine hit boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, over and over and over.


Same with gambling, playing the slot machine, clicking through images on the Internet, whatever it is. And there's no external substance that is toxic that's telling your body not to do this. So there's no external breaks. So often the addiction can happen faster and it can be a little bit harder to unwind because that relationship with dopamine say, hey, that thing, you just did do that again, by the way, in order to survive is happening at a much more frequent basis.


If you look at first person shooter video games, for instance, back when we were hunting, gathering, hitting a target was a huge rush of dopamine. But you'd hit a target one in 10 times and you'd have to go and gather your arrows or your knives or whatever the case was. Now, you can just hit the target hundreds of times in a minute. And how quickly that happens is staggering compared to when you actually have brakes, often with alcohol, the slippery slope.


There are some people who fall into it right away. And there are some aspects around this of self medication. When we're self medicating for something, it does become a much faster slide.


But when you're just drinking socially, it takes a very long time to actually develop some sort of addiction because there is some very natural breaks and you drink too much, you're going to feel bad. And we all know that. Whereas with the shopping, gambling, things like that, you don't actually have that physical element. So where does that leave you then?


Can you give when you're talking to or working with people who are addicted to shopping, gambling, video games, porn, can you create the same sort of.


Healthy moderation that you can with alcohol, or is it more like nicotine where it's like, no, there's just no healthy dosage?


I think most people who create any healthy sort of moderation, even with alcohol, do so after a period of abstinence. It's very difficult, I think, with any substance to go directly from being a regular user to being an occasional user.


And so the success stories that I've had with alcohol are after six, nine, 12 months of not drinking, going back and dabbling.


One of the methods that I use is what I call the non negotiables and lengthening strategy. So non-negotiable are OK if I do this again, here's a line that I refuse to cross. And maybe one of those lines is I refuse to have my memory stolen from me. So gray areas in my memory from the night before I refused to ever throw up again because of drinking. I refused to ever be drunk again. That's some people's non-negotiable. And if I do that, I'm going to put myself in a time out, another period of abstinence for a certain amount of time in order to kind of reset the body, because there is that physical component and it's very nuance holding yourself very gently.


Should you break that non-negotiable or that period of abstinence, you have to hold yourself very gently and realize it is just a data point and you are learning from it.


I mean, the brain is super complicated when it comes to this stuff, and it will convince you that things are a good idea that aren't a good idea because of these, you know, habitual patterns that we have. And I think that that is a great approach to doing it.


But I would also say is very, very difficult to go from regular use to never again use. That's a very difficult transition to make.


So the balance there is you have non-negotiable, but you don't want to make it so punitive that the what the hell mode kicks in.


Yeah, exactly.


And so just getting back to things like shopping and gambling after a period of abstinence, do you find that people can develop healthy relationships with those activities? Yes.


And often it's because they've made the activity mean something different. So usually when somebody is escaping into something like shopping, you're going to shop and whether it's for groceries and then you're just overdoing it in the grocery store, you need to buy stuff.


Most people are buying things, but when you are making it mean that this is my me time, this is self care, this is escape. And even if that's a subconscious meaning that you've given that behavior, it creates a completely different experience with it.


The key aspect to all of this that we haven't kind of covered yet is that when somebody falls deep into addiction, there are things that they are medicating or numbing or escaping from.


And usually people don't fall really deep into problems. Social drinking as example. It usually happens when somebody is trying to escape from some aspect of their life. So unless you do the work on the things that you're trying to escape from, which just to say your book, 10 percent happier or so pivotal for me in that work of making my brain a place that I actually wanted to exist in without running away from and actually could have peace with it.


And if you don't do that, work all of the rest of this stuff, it will probably creep back in. But if you do that work and then the shopping doesn't mean this escape and this solace and the shopping is just shopping. Yeah, of course you can start to do it again, but you have to do this underlying work at some level.


You mentioned efficacy studies before. Is there any data to support this naked mind approach?


So the data hasn't been peer reviewed yet, but we have a free challenge. Call it the alcohol experiment, which is just a free 30 day challenge where you go through the mindset shift that everybody loves a challenge and 75 percent reduction in alcohol for the average user, which is the the only real stat we have so far.


But I've been working with a researcher and a university out of Australia to do a lot more efficacy studies on this. And it's really promising. I mean, I think one thing that will never be able to study very effectively, but that I know at a gut level is that people are willing to enter this conversation and explore their relationship with alcohol where there are not willing to enter a conversation that's centered on sobriety. Are there things that I should have asked but didn't?


Well, one of the frames that I think would clarify things, because I want to make things clear and I realize that that is important is. In this naked mind approach, we focus on three layers of belief and some of these beliefs are conscious and some of them are subconscious and the beliefs are the layer of substance.


So what you actually believe about the substance? So I believe that alcohol is going to relax me. I believe that shopping is my escape, whatever that belief is about, the thing that you're doing and I'm using substance, but we could throw gambling and shopping in there because it is still having the same mechanisms in the brain. And then there's a belief about society. So if we stick to alcohol, those beliefs sound like I'm not going to fit in at this dinner party without a drink.


I'm not going to be able to be even in marriages. People feel like their marriage has been based on drinking from the very first date. And so they are very concerned about how is this going to go in my intimate partnership or relationship without drinking. And so these are the beliefs about society that we need to unravel, overcome, go through the process. And then, of course, there's the deepest layer of beliefs and those are our beliefs about self.


And those sounded for me like I'm not going to be able to make it through the day with my three kids without drinking, or I don't feel confident enough in my own body to loosen up in the bedroom until I have a few glasses of wine because I had these deep beliefs about myself and my worthiness.


And unless you take all three of those layers and kind of deconstruct them, you're still going to find yourself not in a place of total freedom. So a lot of the work, especially in the alcohol experiment, is very much about the substance. Once you know that, the thing that you think is relaxing you, isn't relaxing you, you don't want to do it anymore, that's not that difficult.


But if you were also drinking to escape a key aspect of your life and you were feeling that deep level of pain that you wanted to numb and you don't fix that alcohol will numb you.


They used to use it in surgery so you would reach for a drink, even though consciously and logically you're like, I know this isn't going to fix it in the long term, but I just need this quick fix of escaping this emotion in the moment. And so if you don't kind of handle all three levels of beliefs, I mean, the snake in mind is really about awakening the self compassion and curiosity to a point where you are willing to go into all of your beliefs around the substance, around how you work in society if you're not doing it and around yourself.


And then I think on the other side of that, which is I would say that very we said clean, but I would say messy, 13 months of my own journey and then previous six years is I did that work.


And so then it was clean because all of that work had been done. But people enter at all different points in the journey and then need to assess, OK, where am I and what do I need to work on? But once you've done that work, you don't desire it because you see that it's futile. You don't want that anyway.


So just to sum that up, the. These are not behavioral hacks, this is deep work, deep work. Yes, yes, that was a very helpful clarification.


Andy, thank you so much for doing this, really appreciate it. Now, thank you for having me. Such an honor. So much fun. Big thanks again to Annie, really appreciate it, chatting with her and thanks again to my friend Steve Baker, who suggested we have her on this show is made by Samuel Johns, Jay Cashmere, Maria Wartell and Jen Point with audio engineering by Ultraviolet Audio. And as always, big. Thank you. And shout out to Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen from ABC News.


We'll see you on Friday for a bonus. We think America's finally ready for this, a show by black people, for all people about the black experience in America. It's time to go there. Coming Tuesday night on ABC, Soul of a Nation. All the pain, all the joy. Unafraid, funny, beautiful.


And there will be news coming to ABC Tuesday night at 10:00. So some of this is coming and I hope you'll watch Soul of a Nation.


I'll be watching.