Remastering Relationships: Jeff Jennings | OYNB 103

One Year No Beer Podcast Episode 103 – Remastering Relationships with Jeff Jennings

One Year No Beer is all about changing your relationship with alcohol. But when you do that, you might find yourself dealing with changes in your other relationships as well. How do you maintain a relationship with a friend when the foundation of that relationship is meeting up for drinks – and you’ve stopped drinking? What about your romantic relationships? Is your relationship with a spouse or partner doomed if you stop drinking and they don’t? What’s the best way to get your partner to support you? Is it fair to ask them to stop drinking just because you do?

Relationship struggles are a commonly discussed problem in the One Year No Beer forums. In today’s episode of the ONYB podcast, you’ll hear from Jeff Jennings, a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating and coaching individuals and couples as they work on connecting and maintaining relationships.

“Be firm in your commitment, and if you are committing to an alcohol-free life, you want to communicate that commitment to people.”

Relationship struggles are a commonly discussed problem in the One Year No Beer forums. In today’s episode of the ONYB podcast, you’ll hear from Jeff Jennings, a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating and coaching individuals and couples as they work on connecting and maintaining relationships. 

In today’s interview, Jeff talks about several different aspects of relationship issues that a person might encounter when they give up drinking. Jeff discusses both spouse or partner relationships as well as relationships with friends and others. He explains the importance of clear communication and how to address issues that are likely to arise during your alcohol-free journey.

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Jeff’s email: [email protected]

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Episode Transcript

Chris: Welcome to another episode of The One Year No Beer podcast, I'm your guest host, Chris Laping, sitting in for the incomparable Jen and Ruari. 

As most of you know, Ruari’s father passed away a few weeks ago. Our hearts are with him and his family. I am humbled to be here on his behalf with all of you. 

Just a quick intro of who I am if you haven't listened to my other guest podcasts, I'm the MasterMind Head Coach at One Year No Beer. I'm also a proud Investor and Board Member. Let's get started with this week's podcast. 

Today, our focus is going to be on relationships. The reason I chose this theme was simple. It's very common in the challengers’ group for our members to share questions and posts about the struggles they're having in their relationshipsstruggles that started when they took a break from alcohol. 

As an example, I've read many, many posts from members who are doing an alcohol-free challenge, and they will say, my significant other isn’t supporting me and continues to drink, what do I do?

I'm very happy to welcome this week's guest, Dr. Jeff Jennings, who is a clinical psychologist. In his career, he's focused on positive psychology, resilience, addictions, and he's an expert on forgiveness and relationships. Most important to me, he's been a very good friend since we were teenagers. Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Jeff.

Jeff: Thanks, Chris. I just want to say hello to all the One Year No Beer community and thank you for inviting me to be here with you today.

Chris: This is such a dream come true for me, Jeff. I remember when we were 14 years old, and we would have conversations with the cassette recorder running in the background while we talked about life and girls. It was like our own version of a podcast in the 1980s.

Jeff: I remember that well, goodness. It would be awesome if you still had some of those tapes for us to listen to, but I pray to God no one else ever hears them because nobody would ever take us seriously if they did.

Chris: I know. The good news is when we were young, we would do things like that, and we would say really goofy things that would probably embarrass us for the rest of our lives. The good news is you were a straight-A student, and you did everything you were supposed to do in school. I should have known that we would end up at this point in time where the straight-A student becomes the psychologist and is here to help all of the members of One Year No Beer. Let's jump right into our chat. 

Here's where I'd love to start with our conversation. I'd love to start with something I see a lot at One Year No Beer, which I teased out at the beginning of the show. It seems like at least once a week, I'll see a new member who has signed up for an Alcohol-Free Challenge, but they have an important relationship with someone who didn't. 

As an example, a romantic partner or a really good friend, and the member feels like the other person doesn't support them, that they continue to drink. Sometimes, our members will outright say, my significant other or my friend is trying to sabotage me. Let's talk about that. What can people do when they're in that situation?

Jeff: Yeah, I would start just by saying that this is not an unusual experience, it's probably very common. Quitting alcohol can really be a lonely and difficult journey at first, which is why communities like One Year No Beer are so vital. People really need support on this journey, and that support may or may not come from those closest to them. 

If a person has been drinking for 5, 10, 20 years, a lot of their activities, habits, and relationships over time have come to center around consuming alcohol. 

The decision to live alcohol-free for any period of time, whatever that might be, is really an individual decision. Just because you have decided to make this decision, you can't necessarily expect all the people around you to make the same decision at the same time. It would be great if that were the case, right? If everyone joined in with us and could support us in that. That's not likely to happen. 

The thing to recognize is when two people are in a relationship for any length of time, they become accustomed to interacting with each other in a particular fashion. Think about your relationships for a second. You probably have that one person you always act really silly around. You have that person you always act serious and intellectual around. You have that one person you tell certain jokes to that you don't tell anyone else. 

If you've been drinking with someone for a long time, you've developed relationships with people where drinking is just the norm. Like I said, people become accustomed to relating to you in a particular way. If you change something about yourself—as significant as going without alcohol—it's not only going to change a lot of aspects of your own life, it's going to change the nature of your relationships too. 

While we would like everyone to be immediately supportive of our decision, some people just simply are going to respond negatively. Here's where some perspective can be helpful. One thing to be aware of is the negative or unsupportive response is not because there are some horrible people in most cases. It's most likely that they are afraid. They can be afraid of a lot of different things. They might be afraid of losing the relationship. They might be afraid of having to try to relate to you in a new way, and they're not sure how. Or they might be afraid of having to look at their own habits. We don't want to necessarily see areas in our own lives that might need to change. 

Now, unfortunately, what happens is it doesn't come out as fear. It comes out possibly as anger, defensiveness, attacking you, or maybe even shaming and ridiculing you. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel helpful at all. 

It's important to remember that change is hard for everybody. Think about how hard it is for you for a moment. If you are trying to change longstanding habits, especially around drinking. It's going to be hard for others around you to change as well. Now, the other thing to be aware of is that when a person quits using alcohol, it's like shining a light onto a problem drinking.

Chris, you and I, we both grew up in the state of Florida. Most people know Florida for Disney World and sunny beaches. But if you grew up in Florida like we did, you know that Florida is also home to what has to be the world's largest population of cockroaches.

Chris: So true. I thought you were going to say it is the largest population of alligators, but even better—cockroaches.

Jeff: Well, here's the point of that. If you know anything about cockroaches, you know that they run from the light. When you walk into a dark room and you flip on the lights, what happens? Can you answer that? 

Chris: Yeah, they run like hell.

Jeff: They scatter, exactly. Now, I'm not trying to compare your friends and loved ones to cockroaches here, even though you may be thinking that of them yourselves at this point. Maybe some of them, I'm not sure. What I'm trying to convey is that people, like cockroaches, will scatter from the light if they are not ready to make that choice for themselves. 

If you are asking them to be respectful of where you are in this journey, then you're going to have to be a little respectful of where they are as well. If they're not ready to follow you on your journey, that's okay. You need to just communicate your boundaries to them and seek support from other sources who are on the same journey as you.

Chris: I also wonder if part of this is that we sometimes overtly perceive that people have a problem with the drinking. Kristine and I were having a conversation about this in the last 24-48 hours. We were thinking about how oftentimes, we in our heads say, well, they love us because… 

My friends love me because I'm really fun, and I like to go out and drink with them. My friends love me because when I drink, I'm really funny and interesting. Which, ultimately, when you are hanging out with people who are drinking and you're not drinking, it turns out that you're probably weren't as fun and interesting as you thought. 

I guess the point is we get these perceptions that they love us because… Perhaps we're just a little bit more paranoid that they might not love us the same, or that they might be actually trying to sabotage us. That may be just a story we're telling ourselves in our head. Does that make sense when I say that?

Chris: Yeah. I totally agree with you. I think alcohol in all of our lives serves particular functions. A lot of times, those functions are social—helping us feel more comfortable in social situations. The term social lubrication is often thrown around. 

We might actually believe that it's the alcohol that makes us funny, makes us more likable, or makes people want to be around us. You're right. That paranoia, if we're not drinking, can really start to develop in our minds, and we start assuming things about what other people are thinking about us. When in fact, they may not be thinking those things at all and often probably aren't.

Chris: Yeah. If I summarize your answers, to some extent what you're saying is, hey, you've taken a break from alcohol. Your friends may not be ready for that. Your significant other may not be ready for that. You've had this relationship in this context of a relationship that was something different, and perhaps drinking was a foundation. Just because they're not ready for it doesn't mean they're sabotaging you.

Jeff: Correct. 

Chris: It just means they're not ready to be on that part of the journey with you.

Jeff: Absolutely. That's where you have to distinguish between them not being ready and them not being supportive are actively sabotaging you.

Now, there may be cases where they are actively trying to sabotage you, and that's another conversation. Just because they're not going to stop drinking with you, that doesn't necessarily mean they're being unsupportive or trying to sabotage you.

Chris: On that topic, this is a great segue because I think I have an example of sabotage. I just want to say to all the listeners out there that there's a reason for you to have sensitivity around this. Relationships and connections are important. It is important to know how this decision you have made to take a break from alcohol is going to affect and impact those relationships. I want to show a degree of care around this conversation and some empathy. 

In the first part of this discussion, what we're really talking about is people not supporting us versus sabotaging. This was a good segue, Jeff, that you brought up. Here's an example of where I think there may be sabotaging going on. Maybe from your expert opinion, you'll see it differently. I've read posts from members such as a situation where a husband bought alcohol on the way home. He actually purchased alcohol that he doesn't even drink, it was her drink of choice.

What do you do when someone you love does something like this? Would you consider that sabotage? If so, what's the right way to respond to that?

Jeff: That's a really, really good example. Going back to what we were just talking about, I think it helps to start with perspective. Admittedly, I'm going to say upfront that this may not be easy. It's easy to look at that situation and say, this person is actively trying to sabotage me, or this person really cares nothing about me because they're doing this.

The truth is, however, they're probably not reacting against you. They are reacting against change. The fact that you're changing is likely scaring the hell out of them for any number of reasons we mentioned before. The nature of the relationship is going to change. They might be afraid of actually losing you because of this.

I would encourage people not to immediately jump to this thought that this person doesn't care about me. This person is trying to sabotage me. Instead, think of it, okay, maybe they're not pushing against me. They're pushing against this change because they're scared and something is going on for them.

Now, starting with this perspective will help you approach the situation in a much healthier way. Rather than becoming angry, attacking your partner, or something like that, and it evolving into an argument, which could probably be very triggering for you to want to drink something like that. You can communicate your needs and boundaries while also trying to understand what your partner might be experiencing. 

I've heard it said that choosing sobriety or alcohol-free living can look really selfish at first, and necessarily so. In the beginning, a person really has to focus completely on their own sobriety. Again, your partner may not be ready to jump on that bandwagon with you right away. 

It might be helpful to ask your partner how they are feeling. What are they experiencing? What's going on for them as you're making these changes? Try to understand their perspective while also clearly communicating your boundaries and needs. You can say something like, “I understand this may be hard on you as well, but I really need you to honor my choice to stop drinking alcohol for X period of time and not bring home my drink of choice.

Chris: Yeah. When Kristine and I made a decision together to go on an alcohol-free journey or to take a break from alcohol, we had so much more success because the two of us were in it together. We had both tried independently along the way to stop drinking. But we were less successful just when we were even seeing the other person have the drink of their choice. This wasn't even a case of us bringing the favorite alcohol to the other person. 

When I think about Kristine and I, I feel like if she came home with my drink of choice, I would probably get really, really, verbal with her. You know me, Jeff. I get very emotional about things, very emotionally charged.

Jeff: I've never seen you that way.

Chris: I'm hearing you say that's probably not the right way to go. That I need to assume more positive intent. Again, assume that if she were to do that, she's really perhaps rebelling against the change itself and not necessarily trying to take me down into a rabbit hole?

Jeff: Right. Ask yourself, is this person really trying to harm me intentionally? If it's somebody that cares about you and that you've been in a relationship with, they're likely not trying to intentionally harm you. They're reacting against change. Maybe they're not ready for that change themselves. 

Like I said earlier, it's shining a light on an area in your own life where that feels uncomfortable for them, and they're resisting that. It feels like they're resisting you or pushing against you, but it's probably some kind of internal struggle they're having in the situation. 

Being able to see it from that perspective might help to temper your own emotions a little bit. Like you said, getting highly charged and going after them in that situation probably is not going to result in the desired outcome.

Chris: For sure. When we kicked off this discussion, I should have said that the way I'm really organizing this conversation today is really following the path of our members on their alcohol-free journey. 

These first two things that we talked about in terms of what do you do when you feel like your friends or your significant other is not supporting you and that they're drinking? Then, the second question around what do you do if it's not a support thing and it feels like they're sabotaging you? These are questions that generally pop up new in the alcohol-free journey for our members. 

So I want to transition the conversation now to a little bit further down the road. I'm thinking this is more about the 60-90 days into the alcohol-free journey. People get further down that road, and it's common for them to express that their friendships or their romantic relationships are becoming less relevant. Or that the foundation of the relationship was alcohol, and that with alcohol gone, the relationship seems fractured.

Is there a good way to know when we need to break up with a friend or a romantic partner, or when we should just keep working on the relationship?

Jeff: Yeah. We talked about how at the beginning of the journey, there may be a lot of people in your life who are going to be supportive. You shouldn't be surprised if some people you've developed close relationships with will push against it. 

However, over time—that's going to vary from person to person—the people who do truly care about you should start to come around. What does that mean? Well, it doesn't mean that they have to stop drinking altogether themselves to support you like we were talking about. You shouldn't expect them to. Again, that's their decision, their journey. It does mean that they are going to respect your decision and work on the ways they can support you on the journey. 

One important question to ask is are you seeing that in the relationship over time? Is your partner, your friend willing to be flexible and at least alter some of their behaviors to support you? 

Some of the things I've heard couples do in this situation where one is not drinking and the other one still is they agreed not to keep alcohol in the home anymore. Or, if they're living together, the person who still drinks might buy a separate mini-fridge and keep their alcohol in that. So the person who’s not drinking doesn't have to see it every time they open up the refrigerator. 

Another question, are they respectful when they speak to you? Are they offering supportive statements? Or are they badgering you about drinking or degrading you about choosing not to drink? 

A couple of other important questions. Are you able to connect with them in other ways that don't involve drinking and still feel close to them in the relationship? That's really important. Are you able to enjoy other activities together that don't involve drinking? These are questions you can be asking yourself to really try to determine what is the quality of this relationship outside of drinking. 

On this journey, we all probably have a combination of relationships that are meaningful beyond the use of alcohol. We have relationships that probably developed and only consisted around drinking or consuming alcohol. 

In my own journey, coming out of that period of substance use in my 20s, I knew there were relationships in my life I immediately needed to sever. There are also a number of relationships in my life with very dear friends who were still using substances on some level that I wanted to maintain. The people who really cared about me didn't stop using right away themselves, but they did try to support me and my choices at the time.

Chris: That must have been a really fine line between people that were using that you knew for a fact you needed to sever those relationships, but then there's another group of people who continue to use and you seem comfortable maintaining those relationships. What's the dividing point of that line? Is it all there that you just talked about, or is there even more to that?

Jeff: Yeah, it was some of what I just talked about. Some of it was just knowing myself and knowing these relationships. Some of the relationships I developed, like I said, developed solely around the use of substances, and those were unhealthy relationships. Really, I had no relationship with those people outside of using those substances. 

The people that I chose to maintain relationships with were people that I had a relationship with really before that. Maybe we did use some together, but there was much more substance to the relationship than just using. Even though they continued to use, like I said, they were respectful of my choice and weren't using it in front of me. They were actually even protective of me to some degree and tried to keep it away from me.

Chris: It's such an interesting dynamic to observe. I have a group of friends that I used to work with a number of years ago. We have this tradition. Once a year we get together, and the guys drink and smoke cigars.

We've been doing this for years and I've been on this alcohol-free journey now for at least two years where we've gotten together. Now, prior to me not drinking, I didn't smoke cigars and I never felt like I was on the outside of these guys because I wasn't smoking a cigar. I was really apprehensive when I showed up the first time where not only would I not be smoking cigars, I would not be drinking. I actually started thinking, maybe I should just try to smoke the cigars. That would feel less awkward. 

Well, I showed up to the first get together, and the guys had already ordered me soda water with lime in it. I honestly never felt once like I was being judged for not drinking. I never felt like people were nudging me to drink or nudging me to smoke cigars. Yet, I have other friends that I tried to do the same thing with. The second I would show up and not drink, it was just constant nudging. Again, it didn't feel like it was very supportive.

I started to ask myself this question that you're talking about, which was hey, maybe the foundation of this was never a friendship. Maybe the foundation of this relationship—just to use the example you use—is just using.

Let's say we do realize we're in a bad relationship. As Dane Cook would say, the relationship becomes a relationshit. What is the best way to do that? What is the best way to say to somebody, hey, I don't think this is serving either one of us well?

Jeff: Yeah, well, there's an old classic American song called Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. It's never easy when you have to end the relationship for some reason or another. I wish I had a simple pain-free process for breaking up because I'd be a multimillionaire right now if I did. Unfortunately, one doesn't exist. But there are some things you can do to perhaps make it a little bit smoother. 

I would recommend, one, is focus on the destination that you were trying to get to. Keep talking about yourself, keep the focus on you, and what you're trying to accomplish. Number two is focus on your changing values and desires for your life. Again, what you're trying to accomplish, what you want to achieve, and how things are changing for you. Then, three, focus on your changing needs when it comes to relationships. 

In other words, it helps to keep the focus on you and how your needs have changed rather than placing the focus or blame on your friend or partner and what they might be lacking. At the end of the day, when you're ending any relationship, you don't really want to leave someone feeling even worse about themselves. Now, sometimes that's unavoidable and you can't prevent that no matter how you break things off. 

If at all possible, you want to try to leave someone feeling inspired to be the best version of themselves. They may not be able to feel that at the moment. They might be in pain because the relationship is ending. Even so, you can potentially inspire them and be a catalyst for change in their lives by how you set the example for how to take care of your ideal self.

Chris: You think it's possible to end that relationship and come back to it in the future? When I think about back in the future, I'm talking about you coming back 5 years or maybe 10 years from now. Would it be selfish of me to want to try to reignite a relationship that someone has had plenty of time to get over me (so to speak)?

It's like, okay, Chris just told me to take a hike, that we don't have anything in common anymore because he doesn't want to drink. They've moved on and now suddenly—5-10 years later—I try to rekindle things.

Jeff: That's going to really depend on the relationship. I don't think there is anything selfish, necessarily, about reaching out to someone down the road and checking in on them and say, hey, just wanted to check in, see how you're doing. I know it's been a long time since we talked. How is life? I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It shows that you still care about the person and want to generally know what's going on. 

I think a lot of people—or maybe not a lot of people, but at least some people—if the nature of the changes you have made has impacted them, at some point you might be hearing from them down the road. Three, four, five, or however many years down the road they're coming back and saying, you know, I really wasn't ready at the time. The choices you made, the changes you made in your life really got me thinking. Over time, I decided to stop drinking, or I decided to make these certain changes in my life as well.

It's great when we have those stories where someone actually might come back to us and express appreciation for making a change that maybe did inspire them to change themselves. That doesn't always happen. Like I said, it's nice when it does and it feels good, but that can happen as well. That's why I think it's important to try again to leave that person as intact as possible because if they're struggling too, the last thing you want to do is just heap more shame or guilt onto them.

Chris: That's really good advice. Now, let me turn the tables for a minute. What we've been doing is talking about relationships that are likely built on the wrong foundations. They're likely not nurturing us or growing us and making us stronger. They're pulling us down. 

Let's turn the tables and let's talk for a couple of minutes about relationships that are positive, healthy, and people who will likely be a part of our lives for a very long time. What's your advice on how to pivot (so to speak) and build deeper connections that have a new alcohol-free foundation? 

I'm asking this question especially for men who I've worked within the MasterMind program who have expressed that they want to change their relationship with a specific friend. That they believe the relationship could be a very strong one, but they feel awkward about broaching that topic with that friend. What's your advice for people in that situation?

Jeff: Yeah. The first word that comes to mind is intentionality. You have to be intentional about building a new foundation. That starts with communication. You want to communicate to the people who are really important to you that you want to develop a new, healthier relationship with them in this. This requires a degree of vulnerability and probably provokes some anxiety.

That’s the biggest challenge for men. Like you're saying, that might be the biggest challenge right there is being vulnerable. Making themselves vulnerable and communicating that they want that. It's going to require us to step out of our comfort zone and take that risk. We all have concerns about how people are going to respond in that situation. What are they going to say? Are they going to reject me? All of those things are possible. 

You'll also find out right away who really cares about you and who doesn't. It can be a good litmus test, too. The people who don't really care about you, well, you don't want them in your life anyway. The sooner you find that out, the better. 

The other thing I'd say is to recognize that it's going to take a little bit of time too. Remind yourself to be patient with the process. You and the other person involved will need time to perhaps acclimate to a deeper connection and a new way of relating to each other. 

Going back to what we were talking about earlier, you become accustomed to the relationship being one way. If that's changing, it's going to take a little bit of time to get used to that. There also may be circumstances where you have to do some repair. If you've done things to damage that person or hurt that person, you might need to take time to re-establish trust and relationship. The biggest thing I would say is to give yourself and others a lot of grace during this period of transition.

Chris: Really, really good advice. Again, this is something that comes up in the 60-90 days part of the journey. At the beginning of the journey, we have people who instantly are affected by us taking a break from alcohol. That, again, was us talking about feeling like people are either supporting or not supporting us. Are they sabotaging us? 

Then we get a little bit further down in our journey and we start to recognize that, hey, I need to reset my compass in my life. This taking a break from alcohol stuff has really resulted in a lot of positive changes in my life. Therefore, I need to be very intentional about my relationships, and I need to evolve the relationships that are worth hanging onto, that make me feel strong, that build me up, that are productive, and I need to be assertive and kind. The kind truth to the friends that I'm going to have to break up with.

Now, I want to transition the conversation into 90 days and beyond. What a lot of our members experience at this part of their journey is they start to experience this feeling like, hey, this is more than taking a break from alcohol. This is actually going to be a permanent staple in my life, and I'm actually not sure that I'm ever going to drink again. Now, it feels like I got to get out there and make sure the world understands where I stand with this

In the parts of the journey we've been talking about so far, these are the people that are closest to us. But now we need to get out there and make sure that the world knows. What I see, by the way, is that people start to worry about this. They're worried about how the broader audience of friends is going to accept this news. Do you have any tips for listeners on coming out to their friends and why it's important to do that? 

Again, I hope I'm making sense in the way I'm setting this question up for you. I'm processing the, hey, I've told my best friend Jeff that I am not drinking. That the relationship matters to me, and I want to evolve it. That we have a foundation that goes beyond drinking.

Now, I'm thinking about my whole Facebook community. Do I need to go out and make a proclamation to that group of people? Or at work, do I need to make a proclamation to all of my work friends, hey, I need you guys to know I'm out on this alcohol stuff?

Jeff: Yeah. That's really important. For one thing, it's going to be really natural to feel some anxiety around that. Like I just mentioned previously, we worry about how our friends and people around us are going to respond to us oftentimes. That's very natural and very normal to be nervous about that or anxious about that. The importance, though, of communicating it, can't be overstated.

You have to set the boundaries upfront with your friends and be able to set new expectations at the outset. They need to know your plans and your commitment to an alcohol-free journey so they can support you in that and possibly even help hold you accountable if need be. 

Now, how to do that is going to vary person to person based on who you are and the nature of your relationships. You may communicate this all in one-on-one interactions. You might communicate it to a group of friends at one time, or you might choose to go out and announce it on Facebook.

I had a close friend of mine, now a very dear friend of mine die from alcohol-related reasons. That's when I started an alcohol-free journey and decided to go a year without drinking. I went ahead and announced that to my close friends, but I announced it on Facebook too to have that sort of public accountability. That can be really helpful sometimes to do something like that. How you do it is going to really depend on you, and that's something you want to give some thought to. 

There are some things that I think are good to keep in mind. One, be straightforward about what you're doing. Tell people directly whether that's your closest group of friends or everybody, let them know. Don't try to hide it or be discreet about it. Tell them what you're doing. 

The second thing is to be clear about why you're doing it and why it's important to you. You want to communicate your reasons for taking this course of action and why it matters to you. I think a lot of times if people understand the why, they're less likely to give you grief about it. Nobody was going to give me grief about stopping drinking when one of my closest friends had just died.

Chris: Yeah. If they did, that's a good candidate for breaking up with that friend.

Jeff: Exactly. That would be a good enough reason right there to think, yeah, this person really doesn't need to be a part of my life anymore, probably.

The third thing is to be firm in your commitment. Don't hem and haw and be like, well, I'm thinking about doing this, or I'm going to try this for a little while and see how it goes. That just gives people an in to either try to talk you out of it, or they see you two months later at a party and be like, you’re still doing that new drinking thing? Come on, have a drink with me. Be firm in your commitment. If you are committing to an alcohol-free life, you want to communicate that commitment to people.

The last thing is to be nonjudgmental. In other words, you don't want to come across like you have arrived at some new state of enlightenment, and you feel sorry for all your poor friends who are still stuck in darkness. You want to be sure to come across with an air of humility, not an air of superiority, at least if you want those people to stick around for a while.

Chris: I think that's such good advice, and that is so tough. I think about people who get really excited about going vegan. It's like one of your friends who you've just seen them at like some picnic mow down on a huge rack of barbecue ribs. The next week, they are vegans, and they talk like they've been vegans forever. They're just excited about it. They're excited about this change in their life. 

You see people do this with religion, in some cases. They find religion. They're super excited about this enlightenment. They go out, and they start proclaiming it to the world. I think it probably is really hard when you're taking a break from alcohol and you see all of these unlocks happening in your life. It just feels like you have got some sort of enlightenment and you want all your friends to experience that with you.

Jeff: Absolutely. I think that's part of our human nature. When we make choices in our life that feel good to us, we want to be celebrated for those choices. We want other people to recognize what we're doing, especially if we feel good about it, if we feel it's important. If it's meaningful to us, we want everyone to feel the exact same way. One, because we don't want to be on the outside. We don't want to be the odd one out, the oddball.

Two, for the people who are closest to us, we want to feel that they're going to affirm us, they're going to love us, and they're going to be there for us. The problem is, a lot of times, in our effort to have that, we can come across as being judgmental. We can come across as being too pushy. We can start trying to push those values onto them because we want them to join us on this journey. We have to recognize that they may not be ready for that.

I read something not too long ago that I thought was really good and really helpful. It said, keep your eyes on your own paper. It's like when you're in school, don't be looking at anyone else's papers. Don't be trying to cheat off them. That happened to me when we were in eighth grade. I don't know if you remember that or not. I got busted cheating on a math quiz looking at my neighbor's paper.

Just worry about yourself on this journey. Focus on you. You don't need to change anyone else. But you can, with humility, be an example to them and talk again a lot about why this matters to you, why it's important to you, and how it's changing you, but also communicate your love to your friends and your acceptance of them.

You're not trying to change them. This is a choice that I have made for myself. I want you to know that. I hope that you can support me in that and just affirm that. Know that I accept you for who you are too.

Chris: What I hear you talking about is it's the classic case of letting your actions do the talking for you. You take a break from alcohol. It creates an unlock in your life. Perhaps, there is enlightenment that happens. When you're just doing you and you're living your life in a way that is upstanding and admirable, someone else might look at that and be really inspired and motivated. They actually open the door for you by coming up to you and saying, hey, what's changed? What's changed here?

I know when I came out (so to speak) to my work friends, that was the hardest thing for me to do. It was hard because there were deeply personal lies in terms of why I needed to take a break from alcohol. It was hard because when you're at work, it's when you have the highest stress moments that occur to you sometimes, and you're not always the best you. It was like, well, how do I put these pieces together and tell people, here's why I'm taking a break? I really am trying to unlock a lot of things in my life. Of course, my behavior at work has got to show that there's something different. 

It was funny. I remember someone came up to me probably about a year into the journey, high pressure, part of the workday, big meeting, and something happened in the meeting where this person expected me to basically lose it—lose my temper—and I didn’t. He came up to me later and he said, “You're so zen these days.” Believe me, I am so far from Zen. I don't even know how far I could describe being away from zen. But it was, to me, the first outward sign where someone was noticing a behavior change that came from taking a break.

Jeff: Yeah. That speaks a lot more volumes than you talking about it, right?

Chris: Totally. This conversation is a good reminder that there's a gentleman I like to read. His name is Patrick Lencioni, and he uses the phrase that relationships are messy and complicated. They can be messy and complicated. And at the same time, know the importance of connection and deeply personal relationships with people in our lives and how it impacts our happiness and fulfillment. We have to work through these messy and complicated things. 

Is it okay to call it messy and complicated when I refer to relationships? Is that okay?

Jeff: Oh, absolutely. Just think about us as individuals. We're messy and complicated individuals. Our emotions are messy and complicated. Our behaviors are messy and complicated. When you put two people together with all that going on, it's going to be messy and complicated, right?

Chris: That's funny. Well, I'll tell you what, Jeff. I am grateful for our messy and complicated relationship that over the years has evolved since, again, being 13 or 14 years old and in the 1980s. You think about all of the generational things that have changed since then, I'm so grateful to have you in my life. I'm grateful that you let me put this microphone in front of you today, and I'm grateful that you were willing to sit down and offer your expertise to everybody.

Jeff: Well, I feel the exact same way. I'm thankful for our friendship, the journey that we have been on, and that we're now doing this together. It's really exciting. I’m just thankful that you had me on. I hope I was able to offer something of value to the community. Just want to encourage everyone in their journey, and encourage them to keep going. I want to give my condolences to Rauri and his family as well.

Chris: Well, our wives, families, and friends are probably really happy that you and I got through a podcast and didn't say anything incriminating about one another. 

Jeff: I appreciate that. There's probably a lot you could have said. I appreciate you holding back. Yeah, I made it a point to do that as well.

Chris: I do want to mention before you leave, Jeff, that you and Jessica—your wife, run an online relationship coaching practice. It's called Relationship Remastery. Relationships are messy and complicated. For all of you listening to the podcast, if you're interested in exploring that further, they run five-day connection challenges.

Kristine and I did the connection challenge. It's funny because we pride ourselves on having a strong relationship. That connection challenge really was a great unlock for some very deep conversations that I think further strengthen the bonds in our relationship.

Jeff, really quickly, will you let the listeners know the best way to sign up for your free five-day connection challenge, or to get in touch with you if they want to explore this stuff further?

Jeff: Sure. Probably the two best ways to contact us is either through our Facebook group, which is Relationship Remastery. You can join our private Facebook group and reach out to us through that way with a direct message or something. Or you can email me directly at [email protected]

If you're interested in hearing more about any services that we offer, or you're interested in taking the challenge, we can give you that information and talk with you further about that. If you're interested just a free connection call to get on the phone and talk about where you are in your relationship, strategize a little bit about what next steps you might need to take, and what might be helpful for you; we're more than happy to set that up with you as well. Again, the best way to do that would just be to reach out to me directly, [email protected]

Chris: Thank you, and thank you, friend, for being on here with me. It was really good to catch up with you. 

Jeff: Thank you. I enjoyed it, and it was great to be here. 

Chris: I am so happy to have been a guest host on this podcast for the last few weeks, and that you all have been very kind to me listening in. If you've made it this far in this podcast, I appreciate you listening all the way through. 

I just want to invite any of you listening, if you'd like to connect with me in the Challengers group, don't be afraid to reach out. I love to meet new people, and I'm happy to support you wherever you're at in your journey. 

Also, just want to invite you to consider a MasterMind in the future. MasterMind is an awesome six-week course that helps you reset your compass. It's so natural in your alcohol-free journey to get to a place where you know for a fact alcohol is going to be out for good, and you just start asking, what's next? That's what we explore in MasterMind. It would be an honor for me to be able to coach you and support you on your journey. Don't hesitate to reach out to me about that. 

With that, thank you again for listening. I hope that you make it a great day. Bye.


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