A Couple’s Journey: Chris and Kristine Laping | OYNB 105

One Year No Beer Podcast Episode 105 – Chris and Kristine Laping

Over the past few weeks, the One Year No Beer Podcast has had several great guests who have discussed things like how relationships change when you stop drinking, the importance of finding self-love and self-worth, and the exhilaration of taking a major leap, like quitting a day job to follow your passion. Today’s episode combines elements from all of those themes in one show. 

In today’s podcast, you’ll hear from host Chris Laping and his wife Kristine Laping about their experiences with giving up alcohol together, as a couple. Chris and Kristine have reached their two-year anniversary of changing their relationships with alcohol together, and they have a lot to say about what the journey has been like for them.

“The reality is, when you do a lookback, now that we’ve hit our 2-year milestone there are some really interesting insights from who we were as a couple when we were drinking, vs. now, when we don’t drink.”

Chris and Kristine discuss the difference in how they handle the kinds of common disagreements and annoyances that all married couples have now that they no longer drink. Kristine talks about her “belligerent drink” and recounts an episode that she would handle very differently today. They also discuss how alcohol can be used as an avoidance technique, and Chris talks about his increased ability to sit in discomfort now, rather than trying to avoid it. 

Chris and Kristine also discuss the tensions that can arise when one member of a couple decides to give up drinking and the other does not, and the value of the accountability that occurs as a side effect of couples deciding to change their relationships with alcohol together. They discuss the things that they’ve done that they probably never would have done if they’d still been drinking and the occasional triggers that each still deals with. Listen in to learn more about Chris and Kristine’s alcohol-free journey.

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Episode Transcript

Chris: Welcome to another episode of the OYNB podcast. I'm your host, Chris Laping. I'm joined today in the studio by my wife, Kristine. Say hello. 

Kristine: Hi there. 

Chris: We're going to build off of the last few weeks. If you've been tuning in to the last few podcasts, we've had some great guests that have ranged from Dr. Jeff talking about relationships and how relationships change when we go alcohol-free. We had Dr. Dominika Uhrikov on the show talking about just self-love and self-worth that has come from taking a break from alcohol. We've also had Clare Freeman, who has shared with us the courage that she got to basically quit the day job and follow her passion.

This week, we're going to actually bring all those elements together because it's our two-year no beer anniversary as a couple. We jumped into this journey together, and we thought that we would share our experiences. Just talk frankly and vulnerably about what we have experienced, and that it would tie in all of those other themes pretty nicely.

Kristine: Yeah. I was on the podcast. I'm glad my name got thrown into that long list of people that you admire. 

Chris: And then I had this really great guest, Kristine Laping, four weeks ago.

Kristine: That episode was more about my personal journey. I think it's really important for people to understand what couples go through. Again, building especially off of what Dr. Jeff had said and the advice that he had given that a lot of times applied to the scenarios where you choose individually to go alcohol-free. There are a lot of couples who choose to go through this together. That's what you and I did. 

The reality is when you do a look back—now that we've hit our two-year milestone—there are some really interesting insights from who we were as a couple when we were drinking versus now when we don't drink.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, it's unbelievable because I think, as you said a few weeks ago when I interviewed you about your personal journey, on the outside, it probably looked normal and fine. We used our professional success as a comfort blanket as to why everything was okay. That, hey, yes, we had this nightcap every night, but we got up the next day, and we went into our successful careers. We did well financially, and we did all of our chores at home. It felt like everything was in control. The reality of it is some of that is probably true.

But I would say that there has been such a huge unlock in the last two years since we jumped into this journey together.

Kristine: Yeah, I want to hear your story. Again, we did have a healthy relationship when you compare it to many, even while we were drinking. I tell people now it's amazing how much our relationship has grown and how much stronger we are because we are alcohol-free. We've done the work to get vulnerable with one another. I always go back to this one story of when we were drinking and how I behaved. I just laugh out loud when I think about it because I would not act that way now.

Chris: Are you talking about your belligerent drink? 

Kristine: Well, yes, there’s a phrase that was used when we would be drinking and Chris would know. He'd say, oh, don't have another one or don't pour Kristine another one because that's her belligerent drink. It was funny because I got so mad when he would say that, by the way. I just wanted to choke him, but it was true. When I had that drink, I would kind of show aggression and I'm not an aggressive person. 

There was this one time when I must have had my belligerent drink and you and I were arguing about something. For some reason, I had your phone which was your work phone. I just whipped it across the room. I was so mad at you and I just whipped it across the room, having no care about the fact that it's an expensive device. It was work-issued.

Chris: It went into my closet. 

Kristine: Yes. We could not find it for days. The reality was is it bounced off the carpet and into the pocket of one of your suit coats.

Chris: The inside pocket of one of my suit coats. I’m like, she couldn't have done that. If someone said, I'll give you $1 million right now to bounce that phone off the carpet into the inside pocket, by the way, of a suit coat that I didn't wear very often at that time.

Kristine: What's so crazy about that is a) I can't even remember what we were arguing about. That story is such an example of that kind of thing happening more than once, and it's because it was fueled with alcohol. Where now, if something is irritating me or you said something that I wish you wouldn't have said with the words that you chose to say, I react differently. That's a perfect example of what relationships can be like with alcohol versus without.

Chris: Yeah. I think that recurring tension and conflict can occur in a relationship around the same subject. The same subject will just set you off every time. I know that for me on this journey, we would argue a lot because I would be so expressive of my discomfort. I was really cold and we live in Denver, Colorado. 

In wintertime, you can get 10 inches of snow outside. Kristine grew up in Michigan, which is one of the coldest states in the country. She'd be perfectly fine with throwing on the snow boots, a coat, and going for a walk, and I wouldn't want to go outside because I was uncomfortable. That kind of thing would create tension and conflict because, of course, it meant we weren't going to be able to spend time together. 

Even though it came out as, oh, Chris, you're so soft and you just don't like being uncomfortable. What you meant was I just want us to spend time together. You’re really not willing to put a coat on, a hat, and a scarf? Again, I think one of the biggest changes for me personally is I have learned to soak more in discomfort. I think alcohol is just an avoidance tactic that we use when we're uncomfortable, and that's the go-to. 

Something is stressful going on at work, and the go-to is to have a glass of wine. Something stressful going on with the kids, the go-to after they go to bed is to have a glass of wine. It's cold outside, therefore, I'm not getting as much time with you. There's this unspoken tension. We don't know why it's there. It's there because we're just not spending time together, and the way I deal with that is a glass of wine. 

These recurring conflicts can happen in a relationship. That's where I love the notion that when Ruari and Andy started One Year No Beer, he just took a break from alcohol and saw alcohol for what it is. It wasn't an abstinence program. It wasn't, hey, you got to sign up for life and not ever drink again. Just take a break and see it for what it is.

What it is—oftentimes, even if it's not directly related—is maybe one or two steps away related to why there's conflict in our relationships. In this case, arguments about me not being able to handle discomfort, I would have never pinned that on alcohol prior to taking a break.

Kristine: The other thing that's funny, that giving up alcohol has impacted us. This is going to sound scandalous, but the bedroom. Think about how much body heat I used to give off. You used to complain about it.

Chris: I would have to get up in the middle of the night and go to a different bed sometimes because it was so bad. Your body was just radiating extreme heat. It seemed almost unhealthy.

Kristine: Well, I'm sure it was unhealthy because that doesn't exist today, am I correct? 

Chris: Totally. Yeah, you're correct. 

Kristine: That is insane. For years we talked about it and never once did we say, oh, I bet it's the alcohol. That was a pleasant surprise. That was a win from all of it, for sure.

Chris: We kind of just jumped in. Maybe we should put some structure to the conversation and just go back a couple of years ago to the decision that we made to take a break from alcohol. What was going on in our life at that time in our relationship with each other, and maybe just share with everyone how we made the commitment to go alcohol-free. I know you talked about this in the podcast four or five shows ago. I think we should revisit in case people didn't hear that.

Kristine: Yeah, you had read a blog that was written by Andy. The whole premise of that blog was elite athletes don't drink because, well, they want to be elite. If you want to be elite in your job, why would professionals drink? For anybody who knows you who might be listening to this, of course, that is like the dog whistle for you.

Chris: I know. At the top of the show, I was talking about how functional we looked on the outside, and I described it all related to work. I didn't even talk about just the fact that we had a great relationship and that looked normal. Everything grounds back to work for me all the time. 

Kristine: You love what you do and that's amazing. That blog really spoke to you. I had tried several times to wean myself off the amount of alcohol that I had been drinking over the years. As I was aging, I was having health issues. I was getting closer to the age where you have a change of life. I had a breast cancer scare, and alcohol is one of those factors that are not good for the system. It was the last thing for me to try to see if it moved the needle. I said, yeah, I'm in with you. 

We did 28 days. Then, we tried to moderate and that didn't work. Then, we did the 365 and here we are. We’re at our two-year milestone. 

Chris: Two years. Again, we had functional careers. We had a functional relationship. Your health scares were definitely top of mind for us.

Kristine: Which, by the way, for anyone listening, it's funny because I was one of those people where I could have a single drink and have a hangover the next day. My body was starting to reject alcohol and screaming very loud. 

Chris, on the other hand, is like Ozzy Osbourne and could drink a ton and wake up the next morning at 4:30 AM, work out, and be drinking coffee, not dehydrated. It was insane. Despite the fact that he wasn't having any health impact—that he wanted to make this life change—I want to thank you for that. I think you taking that first step was such a spark for me. I think realistically, I've had more benefits than you. Even though you've had benefits, I think it was a huge differentiator for me.

Chris: Now, one other part of the story I think everybody should know about is that back in 2015, we both quit our day jobs. We were doing really well financially. Some people thought we were insane to leave those careers. We did that to write a book together, a leadership book that's called People Before Things. We didn't know what to expect when we did it, but we wanted to start our own consulting company. I wanted to do speaking engagements. We wanted to sell copies of the book. 

We had, again, a very functional relationship where we would take on a goal like, hey, we're going to quit our day jobs and start something new. We jumped into that book journey, which went way further than I think either one of us expected. It resulted in about three years of book tour kind of work, doing a lot of speaking engagements, meeting thousands of people around the country, which was just an awesome experience.

One of my clients at that time made me an offer to join the company full time. That the kind of work that I specialize in, the kind of work that I talk about in the book was a real need for them. At this point, I had left the company that you and I started together. You were continuing to move the business forward. I was back in a day job (so to speak), and we made this decision to jump into the alcohol-free journey. 

When you talked about the 28-day challenge earlier based on Andy’s blog, I was still at People Before Things, at our company. When we decided to jump in for real, I was in this day job in an environment where alcohol was normalized.

Kristine: Yeah, because of the industry like drinking at work, celebrating at the end of the day, celebrating at town hall meetings, and going out to dinner. Alcohol was a very normal part of that job.

Chris: Yes. I would travel for board meetings, and people that affected my success would be there. I was very self-conscious of not drinking, which I think you and I realize later when people get past their first drink, they're not even paying attention to the fact that you're not drinking.

Kristine: I can't remember exactly where we were on our alcohol-free journey, but you came home and said, we have an upcoming board meeting in New York City or something like that. At that time, you were feeling awkward even pretty long into the journey and you said, I think I might drink, but just when I’m at these company events. I remember saying to you, you can do that but I can't guarantee that I'm going to support it. I think that you're going to come home, you're going to have alcohol on your breath, and I don't know how I'm going to react. 

Maybe I'll be okay, and it'll be a non-issue. But maybe I'll be disgusted because now if I smell even anybody walking around me with a glass of wine or something—the smell that I used to love—I find it repulsive. I remember just being like, oh, okay, this could be a really interesting turning point or challenge for us. But, ultimately, you decided not to. 

Chris: Well, that's the accountability of doing this in a relationship. Dr. Jeff talked a few weeks ago on the podcast about relationships evolving. That when they have alcohol as a foundation, I don't think alcohol was the foundation of our relationship, but it had a strong presence.

Kristine: What I would say is it became a hobby. We'd go on vacation, we'd go to the wine country. Gifts, we'd buy new alcohol glasses and decanters. It became a hobby.

Chris: Yeah. What Dr. Jeff was talking about is when one of you makes a decision to do that and the other doesn't, it causes all kinds of tension. It seems like the other person is not being supportive of you because they continue to drink. The reality of it is they didn't sign up for that. If they actually look like they're sabotaging it and trying to get you to drink, it's not them trying to hurt you. It's that they're scared they're going to lose you. 

One thing I want to emphasize here in your storytelling, Kristine, about me considering should I drink for work, this was one of the really important advantages of doing this as a couplethe accountability. I can just remember when we were having that conversation, it deeply hurt me that I may be hurting you by saying that. I also just thought about, if I just start drinking and normalizing it or alcohol's in my breath, as you say, is just going to take you down that road with me. 

This is an advantage of doing this as a couple. Even if you just get your partner to sign up for just 28 days, and you take a break together for 28 days. That will provide so much context. I think tying it all together, the Dr. Jeff conversation about this and even the Clare Freeman conversation about quitting the day job, it's funny how with alcohol being a foundational element to the industry I was in and just sort of the corporate executive life, how much that became an influencing factor for me to decide to jump back into our business together and to quit the day job a second time. 

One would think you quit the day job the first time, that that would be the hardest thing to do. The reality of it is it doesn't necessarily ever get easy. It's never a good time for anyone to quit their job. If you're sitting there thinking, boy, I really want to pursue my passion, but it's a really bad time with COVID. It's never a good time. 

Kristine: Especially in a pandemic.

Chris: This is the defender, which if you took the MasterMind course at One Year No Beer, you would know what that means. This is the defender and Kristine being the rational, practical one.

Kristine: When you host these podcasts, you're usually the one asking questions. Can I ask you a question?

Chris: Yeah, please. 

Kristine: Okay. In our relationship, is there something that we've done alcohol-free that previously we would have either never tried or we would have thought was just downright dumb? Like, I can't believe I'm doing this, but we enjoy now that we're alcohol-free? Can you think of how that might have changed?

Chris: It's funny because we did not plan this conversation in a detailed way from a storyboard perspective. We're sitting in the studio right now recording this and she's really staring at me. Now I feel the pressure of getting the answer right.

Kristine: I don't have anything in mind. If you think that you're going to be wrong in your answer, that is not my intention.

Chris: I'll just riff on this for a minute or two and we'll see if I can stumble upon an answer that's at least directionally

Kristine: Satisfactory?

Chris: Exactly. The first one, I guess as children, we think the whole world centers around us. There's kind of a childlike mentality I'm going to bring to this answer because the world doesn't center around me. I'll tell you what, that trip to Iceland to meet up with Ruari, Jen, and a bunch of One Year No Beers, that would have never happened when we were drinking. Well, first of all, it would have been awkward if we were drinking when we get to go and meet up. 

Getting on a plane and crossing the Atlantic Ocean for me is a scary thing for all of the years that I have flown for work. I would never let flying get in the way of my career. I'm terrified of it. I'm just a white knuckle passenger. I can't overcome it, no matter how hard I've tried to read the books and rationalize it. 

I lived in Iceland for two years, so certainly at one point in my life, I had been on a plane and gone over to Iceland. Of course, I've traveled internationally for work but for a personal trip.

Kristine: Yeah, you would have usually made excuses. You do it if you were getting compensated because you take your job as being a provider for the family very seriously. Whenever it came to personal trips and flying, a lot of excuses were made and somehow, an idea of a trip would just get put to bed really quickly.

Chris: Totally, but that trip was wonderful. It really was wonderful. It was the first time we met Ruari and Jen in person. I felt like I had known them for years. The energy that Ruari emanates is so incredible and the same with Jen. Talk about a world-class athlete. Jen is the model citizen for that. I think that was something that we wouldn't have done. 

Then, I think about a lot of behaviors that have just changed, that are not this big, sudden, drastic get on a plane, and go to Iceland for a few days vacation that are just everyday things that I think we do a little bit more. I would say we became better pet owners. 

On our journey together, we lost our dog, Oscar, pretty early, but we had taken a break from alcohol. I think at that point about 90-100 days. I think about how my relationship with the dog changed.

Kristine: It really did.

Chris: I think it was our relationship with the dog. Really, Kristine, you were carrying the burden of taking care of him. Sometimes there's stress and anxiety with, God, I got to get home so I can take the dog out. We started taking on that responsibility more together. Even when it was still just you, I don't think that stress and anxiety level was still there. 

One other behavior, I know it might sound so random to the listeners. Okay, we talked about Iceland and we talked about walking a dog. The other one would just happen right there. I hear you laugh more than I ever heard at the beginning of our relationship.

Kristine: I know, which is crazy because if you look at pictures of me as a little girl, I look so freaking happy.

Chris: Biggest smile in the room, light up any room.

Kristine: I remember in even junior high and high school, just being really silly. Then, there was this whole period of my life where I just got all down to business and all responsibility. You're right, I laugh way more now.

Chris: I can't even begin to describe the difference. Just like deep gut laughing. It happens when we're playing games with the kids, just having dinner together, or on a walk. As opposed to like, hey, we are watching a stand-up comedian and so you're gut laughing. I'm like, wow, gee, I haven't heard a laugh like that in a while. That's probably what it would have been like before alcohol. It would have been rare. 

I think there have been so many wonderful side effects that range from these little things all the way up to the big things. Honestly, our story is not unique to us in this whole situation. Other people describe this on their journeys of taking a break from alcohol.

Kristine: Yeah. It is amazing how so many people share what we're trying to articulate. I hope we're doing a good job of it. What I think is important—Clare shared this in her episode, her podcast, where she was talking about when she hit her one-year mark. There was a little bit of, oh, is this it? I think it's different milestones for different people and how they feel. I will tell you that when we hit our two-year mark, I feel like we are at a place now where I'm like why?

Chris: Would we ever go back?

Kristine: Yeah. Even in the first year, if I'm completely honest with myself, I still had times where I was like, I don't know. Maybe I'll have a drink one day. Maybe when our kids get married, I'll celebrate with champagne, or maybe on our 50th wedding anniversary—if we were still alive, then that’d be awesome—maybe we'd have a drink. But right now, I can honestly say, why would I do that? Why would I put that into my system?

I don't know if you feel the same way. The further away we get from it, it's just the natural gifts of life, I’m more aware of them. I think, why would I want to mess that up with alcohol? 

Chris: Totally. The way I would describe it is every once in a while, it'll enter my brain that a glass of wine might be nice or a sip of whiskey might be nice. I can't even tell you now, I am so conscious of when that happens. I just stop myself, where did that come from?

Kristine: Well, that is true. I'm sitting here talking about a big game, but we do still have some triggers that after two years of alcohol-freewhat's one trigger? I know you're going to say it.

Chris: Country music. 

Kristine: Country music, man. Every time it comes on or I think, oh, I can listen to Miranda Lambert or Keith Urban. I can't. First of all, all the lyrics talk about drinking, right? I guess not in Keith Urban because he's a sober individual, but that's a trigger.

For you, you used to cook a lot and you used to drink wine while you cooked. That's a trigger for you. Unfortunately, I'm kind of the lone soldier in the kitchen right now. 

Chris: You're so good in the kitchen, though. 

Kristine: I'm sure. You'd say that even if my dinners were just boring rice.

Chris: I think it does enter my mind every once in a while, but what's different now than ever before is it's almost like what Dominika talked about in her podcast. It's almost like I have too much self-love to do that now. 

Just like in our relationship, I would never, ever throw our relationship away for a one-night pleasure-seeking affair. I'm sure everyone listening to this will say, well yeah, that's easy for you to say when she's sitting in the studio with you, big guy. Honestly, I would never do that. There's nothing that would happen in one night that would be worth throwing away a lifetime for. 

That's the way I feel about this thing with drinking now. I would be cheating on myself and throwing it away (so to speak) for this one night of what?

Kristine: For couples, what's important—and I think this is important for individuals who maybe don't have a partner that they're going through this journey with either—is it takes work. That's the one thing that I think a lot of people think of, I just don't drink, these benefits will come. There will be benefits that come with just removing alcohol, for sure. You and I have immersed ourselves in this.

We have daily habits where every morning we get up. We get up early so we can do this and we prioritize the time. We get up and over a cup of coffee, we just talk together as a couple. A lot of times we are talking about things that prioritize our relationship and continuing to be alcohol-free. The benefit of that comes into that conversation a lot of time. Then, a lot of times, most days we go on a three-mile walk together and it's the same thing. We're engaging in conversation about this stuff. 

All of that to say that in these two years, removing alcohol was the spark. I think we've then put these other habits into play that I am just so happy where we are today. I would have never imagined that our relationship could have gotten much better because based on previous relationships I was in, we already had like this great relationship, but it's only gotten better since going alcohol-free.

Chris: Yeah, it's a major unlock. I'm the head coach of the MasterMind program—for all of you listening that didn't know this. We talk about this in MasterMind. It's not that the clouds part, the angels sing, and we have this big breakthrough moment in our life. What happens is we make these very small and tiny improvements in our day-to-day lives that make us just 1% better. 

You stop drinking or you take a break from alcohol, and now, you become more conscious of what you're consuming from a food perspective. When you become more conscious from a food perspective of what you're consuming, now you have the vibrance, the vitality, and energy to get out and move more. When you get out, you have the vitality, and energy to move more, it results in you actually sleeping harder. When you sleep harder, you wake up in the morning refreshed, and now you spend this quiet time that you're talking about. And then when you have that quiet time and you find your place in the world during that quiet time, now you're ready to love and be loved. You're ready to go out and connect.

That's the journey. That's the journey we've been on for the last two years. I think […] students where we're focused as students on all of this. What can we learn about our day to day habits? How can we get better, stronger? 

You hear many coaches of elite and professional athletes talking about the fact that they just work on those marginal gains as a coach. By the way, the athlete accepts and embraces those marginal gains. If you tell an athlete, hey, you can get 1% better by doing this little tweak, every athlete jumps at that chance. 

I think that's what this has been about. I think alcohol is more than 1%. I do think it's a much bigger foundation, but then I think it opens up to continually add another 1%. 

I was just telling you yesterday that I saw this great preview for The Game Changers, which is all about being vegan. We're not vegan, we're pescetarians. I would say we very rarely eat fish relative to everything else, but we're not straight up vegans. I could watch a preview like that and say, oh, I want to try that. I want to do that. It doesn't at all scare me because of the self-discipline and motivation that came from taking a break from alcohol. 

Jeez, if you can take a break from alcohol, you can do just about anything. It's been an awesome journey.

Kristine: Yeah, for sure. Two years. I hope that we're still just doing the self-discovery as each milestone comes at us, which I think we will. Again, to your point—just being a student—I love the learnings that come from the One Year No Beer community. That's part of it. It's not just about the alcohol piece. I love all the different concepts that have been introduced to usmindfulness. Practicing mindfulness, that's been huge for me. Focusing on our sleep, like you said, challenging us to move consistently. It's just been a great journey.

Chris: Go back to your question earlier about, hey, what are we doing differently that we would have never done before? You're an introvert. You would have never let me put a microphone in front of you. Twice in what, five weeks? Thank you for letting me do that. 

Kristine: Yeah, you're welcome. 

Chris: For all of you listening out there, thanks for hanging in there and listening to our story about two years of taking a break from alcohol and taking a break for good. I just want to invite you as I did a few weeks ago when Kristine was on the show that hey, we love meeting new people. We're both in the challengers’ group on Facebook. Definitely say hi to us or feel free to connect with us on Facebook. 

For those of you who are listening to this that are not in the OYNB challengers group, please find us on Facebook and connect with us. We're happy to meet new people.

Kristine: Again, I want to just say to the people out there who are in a relationship and they're the ones that have the courage to want to take a break and do this challenge, again, introducing that to your partner as a possibility. Hopefully, they are open-minded to it. Again, in our situation, Chris was that spark, and it was exactly the spark that I needed. His strength, his courage—he was my lighthouse. Look at me now, baby. 

Chris: Oh, I like that. The lighthouse. I'm going to use that. 

Kristine: That's an Andy phrase. I didn't just come up with that.

Chris: As I close out, let me just say to Andy and Ruari, you have two people here who are extremely grateful for the journey that you are sharing with the world. You have affected so many people like us. Just from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much. 

To all of you listening, thanks for listening to another episode of the OYNB podcast. I hope that you make it a great day.

Kristine: Bye.

Chris: Bye.

 

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