Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC

262. Laura McKowen: Navigating Perimenopause, Alcohol, Food, and Midlife's Challenges

December 27, 2023 Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC Season 14 Episode 2
Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC
262. Laura McKowen: Navigating Perimenopause, Alcohol, Food, and Midlife's Challenges
Show Notes Transcript

In this second episode of season 14, I have a thought-provoking conversation around midlife experiences, alcohol, and personal growth with bestselling author Laura McKowen.

We explore the challenges of perimenopause, menopause, and the impact of alcohol consumption on women's health.  We cover it all, from the intersection of food and alcohol struggles with hormonal changes to the spiritual reckoning and opportunities that come with midlife. Whether you're struggling with food and alcohol during this stage in your life, are sober curious,  or just asking yourself some of the big midlife questions, this episode is for you.

Topics Covered:

  • Introduction:  Why this episode? Why Laura McKowen? And quick disclaimer
  • 3:55: Laura's perimenopause experience so far...
  • 9:47:  Work-life balance, shifting mindset, and newfound contentment
  • 14:53: Navigating body changes and exercise struggles
  • 18:21: Exploring the impact of food on glucose levels
  • 24:03: Unacknowledged grief: from addiction to menopause
  • 35:14: Empty nest and drinking?
  • 39:38:  Anger and "going mad" in menopause
  • 45:56: "Moderate" drinking in menopause?
  • 52:22: What is your relationship to alcohol?
  • 54:18: Cheryl Strayed exploring her own alcohol use
  • 56:00: How to experiment with not drinking
  • 01:05:05: Navigating life's changes with grace, compassion, and acceptance
  • 1:13:19: Predictions for the future of alcohol and menopause

Guest: Laura McKowen is the author of the bestselling memoir, We Are The Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life and Push Off From Here: Nine Essential Truths to Get You Through Life (and Everything Else). She has written for The New York Times and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Atlantic, the TODAY show, and more. In 2020, she founded The Luckiest Club, a global sobriety support community. Laura lives with her daughter and partner on the North Shore of Boston.

Mentioned in this episode:

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00:08
Ali Shapiro
Hello insatiable listeners. Welcome to the second episode of season 14 where we are talking about all things alcohol and midlife with the incredible Laura McGowan. Laura is a bestselling author leading sobriety thinker, and now with this episode three time insatiable guest. One of the many reasons I keep having Laura back on is her rare ability to somehow both keep us connected to our emotions and simultaneously rise above them. This allows an acknowledgement of what is happening, but also to rise above it so that we can name it and have the healing begin. You'll see what I'm talking about when you listen to this episode. Of course, it also helps that she's the real deal and an incredible person. I also appreciate that Laura understands alcohol and body image issues have deeper root causes and that she speaks from deeply rooted personal experience. 


 01:09

Ali Shapiro
With about 50% of my clients now being sober, I understand how many women struggle with alcohol, and I also know perimenopause and menopause can bring up all your stuff. So I had Laura on to speak to why this stage of life puts pressure on sobriety can trigger a relapse or, for many women, can increase their drinking. We'll discuss alcohol's effects on perimenopause and menopause symptoms and overall health. Beyond the conversation on alcohol hall, however, what really stuck with me days after we recorded was our discussion around the spiritual reckoning that comes with midlife, the surprising grief in some cases, but also the opportunities. Before we begin, I should also probably clarify something because I know these types of conversations and labels could be charged for some listeners. 


 02:07

Ali Shapiro
In this conversation I talk about the extreme thinking around food, and I label it as diet culture and body positivity. But what I'm really talking about are the diet culture and anti diet culture extremes in which body positivity is usually in anti diet culture bucket. This came up in the context of Laura sharing how past body image issues have resurfaced for her and what she's done to change her eating and exercising to feel better, including the mindset shift that's supporting her now. One key nutrition shift for Laura has been to focus on blood sugar because it affects so many perimenopause and menopause symptoms and your health. 


 02:50

Ali Shapiro
If that's a topic that interests you, I invite you to my next find your flow when it's all in flux salon on Wednesday, January 10, in this free gathering, I'll teach you about blood sugar control so you can cut through all the nutrition noise and overwhelm. I'll provide a nervous system framework that can guide you as a starting point for what foods may work best for you. Join us at Backslash Flow. Now on to our show with Laura McGowan, the author of the best selling memoir we are the Luckiest, the surprising magic of a sober life, and push off from here nine essential truths to get you through life and everything else. She also writes the excellent substac titled Love Story, and in 2020 she founded the Luckiest Club, a global sobriety support community. Now on to the show. So welcome back Laura. 


 03:49

Ali Shapiro
You are one of insatiable's like top guests, so I'm so grateful that you came back to talk all things perimenopause and menopause. 


 03:57

Laura McKowen
Yeah, anytime. I love talking to you. 


 04:01

Ali Shapiro
So you have an excellent substac love story. It's one of the few I pay for. I recommend everyone become a contributor. You've been sharing how you have been perimenopause for a few years. You believe. Do you have any updates around that in addition to what you shared there? 


 04:18

Laura McKowen
I definitely am. I know that it's not like, is this happening or is this not, am I or am I not updates? I have started to. Well, I got more extensive blood work done. I'm starting to pay attention to things I was never paying attention to before and to look at the way I eat, especially differently based on having a perimenopausal example and the way I exercise. I read Dr. Stacey Sims books, which I found to be super helpful. I know you also talked to her, having her on. 


 05:00

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 05:01

Laura McKowen
And I found her to be extremely helpful in understanding the impact of hormones on how we eat, how our bodies respond to exercise, sleep, really every part of our functioning. But as someone who has always exercised and been an athlete my whole life and tries to am on a continual journey with how I eat, to support myself and to not be super rigid about it, but also to support my brain and the things I need to do and want to do and the energy levels I want to have and the life I want to have. I have learned that I've been doing a lot of things sort of wrong for this phase of my life and that's kind of where I am today. I'm definitely in a super learning mode. The symptoms that I haven't experienced a ton of hot flashes. I've had sporadic. 


 06:05

Laura McKowen
So that's great because I can only imagine what that's going to be like for me. I'm a hot person, run hot anyway. So I look to that as being probably one of the worst things, but I'm not super into that yet. I had to get an IUD, sort of manage the way that my period changed, the way that the symptoms. That's probably the biggest area where I felt a significant change was my periods got really irregular. They were intense, the cramps especially. But the bleeding was so heavy. I always had a very kind of regular, no big deal period, and it got to be a very big deal. And it would take me out for a week and a half, two weeks because I would also have migraines afterwards. And so I got an IUD about six months ago. That's helped a lot. 


 06:57

Laura McKowen
So I'm just, like, in this big learning phase and trying to be nice to myself through the process because it's very frustrating. 


 07:06

Ali Shapiro
I love that you asked that because I have some questions coming up about how you're relating yourself differently. Yeah, I love that you balance that fine line of how I've been exercising, eating has been like, what works pretty much before won't work now. And I think so many of us, we grew up, especially us being gen xers, we grew up around food and exercise. Conversation was in the weight loss like, meaning matrix. But I really think now at this time, we have to take it to the health. Like, this has to be about health. And I've noticed so many menopause resources don't even want touch diet. It's like if you say anything, you're becoming diet culture. And I'm like, but it's so important to manage symptoms. But we have to get out of, like, a truly health. 


 07:56

Ali Shapiro
So I love that you connected it to your brain and sleeping, and that was my experience, too. 


 08:01

Laura McKowen
Well, it happened out of necessity because I hit a wall with, okay, all the things that worked before really aren't working. I'm not just impacted a little bit, I'm impacted a lot. Like, I don't feel good anymore. And so it becomes about health because it kind of has to, but then also it becomes about health because I think it's just a product of getting older. So if I put on some weight, am I really going to go through the process of what I went through in my teens and try to fight my body, or am I going to genuinely look at this through a different lens? But it's continually challenging for me. It's not easy. 


 08:55

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. No, it's not. I'm also curious. I related so much to you saying about the exhaustion and the fatigue and cutting back on work. I'm through menopause now, but I have not picked up my pre perimenopause menopause pace. I just can't because of cortisol. 


 09:11

Laura McKowen
I hope you never do. 


 09:12

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, seriously. No, I look back on that and I'm like, who was I? I mean, it is such a traumatic transformation when you just can't push because you don't have progesterone and estrogen and some testosterone to help you. So are you still slowing down? 


 09:28

Laura McKowen
Yeah, for sure. I would say I feel the same way. I'm not through menopause. I could be in perimenopause for another five years or more. I don't know. But I have slowed down a lot. Instead of. I look at my work window as very short during the day. The part of the day that I'm functional and on and my brain's working well is really about eight to noon. And that's real. That's just what I can do. And, of course, I have all kinds of other things that I do before then and after then that involve family and my daughter and home stuff, but I keep it really light, and I don't over schedule myself anymore. I don't do a bunch of meetings. I'm really much more mindful of that. 


 10:23

Laura McKowen
And that has been an evolving process of just learning, of coming more into my career at this stage, accepting a concept of enough money, enough success, enough book sales, enough whatever it is. I'm not just ambitious for the sake of ambition anymore, and that is something that just happened. It doesn't feel I had to make choices, but it feels like it's been a product of probably hormones in the background, just like I don't have that same ra that I used to. 


 11:03

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, I totally hear that. In fact, this is going to be a question for later on, but I'll ask you it now is that I find that some of the stuff that we haven't or have worked through resurfaces in midlife. And for me, I didn't have my food to. I don't have food issues anymore, but I had to address my last advice, which was overworking. And a big part of that was the story attached to my overworking was, like, in order to be successful, I need to be exceptional, and so I have to work really hard. And to change that story, I had to really get clear on what is enough around money, and we're both self employed, so that's, like, a tricky. The boundaries are a lot bigger than if you're in a corporate job or a nonprofit. 


 11:47

Laura McKowen
Totally. 


 11:48

Ali Shapiro
And it was like, really being like, am I going to let this control me? Need to always work so hard. But what has come up for you that maybe you were avoiding or has resurfaced because sometimes other come back. 


 12:05

Laura McKowen
Yeah, the work thing, for sure. I don't know that resurfaced. 


 12:12

Ali Shapiro
It was new for me. 


 12:14

Laura McKowen
Okay, so you didn't recognize that you. 


 12:19

Ali Shapiro
Were overworking, and I was in postpartum the same time I was in menopause because of. I had. I know. It was like three years of the abyss. 


 12:30

Laura McKowen
Oh, my gosh. 


 12:31

Ali Shapiro
But I just couldn't keep it up, and I kept trying to and failing, and so I used my own truce with food process because it's really stubborn change of. Like, why are you feeling so awful that you can't work more? Why do you think you have to? This part of this is your own making. What part? Do you have control over it? So it was the first time where I physically couldn't just override my body's needs to just continue working. 


 12:59

Laura McKowen
Yeah. And then in hindsight, you look back and you go, wow, that was a problem. 


 13:03

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, exactly. 


 13:05

Laura McKowen
That was filling something in me. 


 13:09

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. Well, for me, it was like I was bullied for my weight. I was a late bloomer, so I know that early on, I was like, well, if I'm not going to be the pretty princess, I'm going to be the smart, successful, ambitious one. So it was like, okay. But I didn't realize to what degree it influenced hardworking. Because everyone encourages you to be hardworking. 


 13:31

Laura McKowen
Yeah. And there's also nothing wrong with hard work, but it's hard to figure out what's healthy and functional. 


 13:40

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. And when does it make sense or when does it make sense to slow down? Like having flexibility, rather than. I just always have to be working. 


 13:47

Laura McKowen
Right and feeling anxiety when you just take off, release the pedal, a little bit of your effort, and feeling anxiety about that. Feeling like you're not doing enough, feeling like there's something wrong, you're not contributing. You're not as much of a person. You're not special. Yeah, I don't think mine. I'm sure part of this has been tied to. I know part of it has been tied to menopause, like I talked about. I just can't go as much as I used to. But that isn't something that resurfaced, really. It's more. I have been constantly evaluating that part of myself since I got sober. Really? I would say the part of me that has a tendency to overwork, that very much over identifies with my work personality, my work Persona, and that's just been a constant evolution. But it didn't resurface. Body issues resurfaced. Oh, yeah. 


 14:53

Laura McKowen
Eating disordered eating. I didn't have flares of an eating disorder, but I returned to a place with eating and monitoring of my body that I hadn't been doing. Oh, my gosh. Since my 30s, early 30s, because my body started to change in ways that I couldn't manage doing the things that I had been doing, and I started to freak out about that. And I would say I'm kind of in that right now, like, figuring that out, doing different things. I started weightlifting about a year and a half ago. That was really a result of that. It was like, I'm exhausted, for one, and I don't want to run anymore. My body will not run anymore, which was my thing for so long. All these movements kind of. It's almost like when you get pregnant and, like, chicken tastes chicken. You can't have coffee. 


 15:59

Laura McKowen
Your body just rejects it. My body just started rejecting certain forms of exercise. It's just like, no, that's over. And so I started to explore other things, but I also was doing it to try to figure out how can I stop my body from changing in ways that I don't want it to change. 


 16:20

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. And how did you navigate that? Because were talking about polarized thinking before we hopped on here, and I find that in the diet. So for so long, we've had diet culture and then body positivity, which is basically like restriction or eat whatever you want. And I find that menopause is this reckoning time of the middle path, which is what we do in truce with food, which is how do we make food about health, not about even about all this restriction or eat whatever you want, but really the moderate middle. So how are you balancing making it about health and not just about weight? 


 16:58

Laura McKowen
Because I don't know. I'm in that right now, and I don't have, like, a clean answer. I bet in maybe a year or two, I would have a better ability to look back. 


 17:11

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 17:12

Laura McKowen
But I do know a few things. I started doing things that I hadn't done in so long, like stepping on a scale. I had to go find a scale like the scale. I didn't even had it. I didn't weed myself for years. And then there I am. Scale. Every morning, thinking about food as the impact it's going to have on my weight, I noticed that I started doing that versus just eating and seeing how I felt. And so I had to kind of go to the extreme a little bit and then realize and remember how not good that feels for me, how restrictive and tight and unhelpful and consuming that is for me. 


 18:04

Laura McKowen
And then to bring it back to the middle and the middle looks, it's tricky because if you are experiencing real hormonal changes, you have to educate yourself about the way food impacts your hormones. And so you do have to watch and notice and monitor, at least for a while, so that it's like I had to reeducate myself again on food through a different lens. And that lens, for me was, okay, how do foods impact my glucose, like blood glucose? Because that is what I learned, is like a challenge for a lot of people in menopause. Is your hormones change such that your blood sugar gets dysregulated and you know this. But, like, dysregulated blood sugar is the cause of all kinds of problems. 


 18:59

Laura McKowen
And if it goes way up and way down, if you're having all kinds of spikes, I mean, that affects your energy, it affects your sleep, it affects everything. So it's like, okay, rather than calories or macros or any other measure of food, I'm going to just look at how foods impact my blood sugar and try to keep it at that. And that has been a place where I can find a little equilibrium because I am paying attention to what I eat. But through this particular lens, I love. 


 19:32

Ali Shapiro
That you said that, because that's what we do. In truth, with food, it's like I give people two different experiments of just two different types of meals, and then I have them track their energy, their anxiety, their focus. And so you're tying it to health and those immediate wins rather than weight, because people start to realize that 50% of their emotional eating is actually deregulated blood sugar, which is what you're describing. 


 20:00

Laura McKowen
And you've said that to me. I've heard you say that. But I wasn't experiencing enough pain from the way I was eating to really make a change. I mean, I would, at times we've talked about sugar, you and I, before, and I've had problems with sugar, and I would address that, but kind of through the wrong lens. 


 20:23

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 20:28

Laura McKowen
Again, I wasn't experiencing enough of the pain to really approach it differently. And I felt. I feel so much. There's also. I swear there's like a spiritual reckoning that happens in these years. It's not just physical. It's not just emotional and your moods. It's spiritual. I think Brene Brown talks about something about midlife being, like, the point where you have a reckoning, where you're like, is this, we're not fucking around anymore. For the first time in my life, I've been actually aware of my mortality. Like, I think about dying. I never thought about dying, but I think about dying. 


 21:14

Laura McKowen
The fact that I'm going to die, the fact that I only have a certain amount of time left, the fact that my daughter is 14 and she's going to be out of the house, and I'm thinking about this second half of life, and that causes this very. This causes a spiritual shift, or it. 


 21:30

Ali Shapiro
Has for me, 100%. And I wonder, has anything one thing that came up for me, like I said, I was postpartum and went through early menopause at the same time because of my cancer treatments. But I thought I was kind of work through my history of cancer and all the eating issues it caused and health issues, but I felt there was kind of this grief of like, oh, postpartum was so hard for me because of what the cancer treatments actually did. And, okay, you're not going to have the protective benefits of estrogen for eight years that other people do. And kind of reckoning with everything else. Up until that point, I'd been able to reverse. I healed my gut. It was an invitation, the pain, into creating truce with food and understanding the deepest roots of emotional eating. 


 22:20

Ali Shapiro
But I found this spiritual grieving and reckoning. Have you found anything about that with your alcohol use or sobriety yet? 


 22:29

Laura McKowen
Oh, yeah. I mean, that happened. That's like a part of the recovery process that's rarely ever talked about. But what I realized I was going through pretty early on, a period of deep grief about the future that I wouldn't have, that I imagined I would have as a drinking person. No matter how romanticized and fantasy like it was, I had to grieve that. I had to grieve the identity of being a drinker and all the things that I thought it would bring me. And that was a total spiritual reckoning, for sure. A grief process. And once I understood that's what it was, and once I named it as that, it changed things for me because I gave myself we need permission and we need to feel valid in our experience. And that is something that definitely happened to me through sobriety. 


 23:31

Laura McKowen
I talk about it a bit in my second book and push off from here, that it's in the chapter called it's unfair that this is your thing, because we have, like, a grief matrix in our culture around who's allowed to experience grief and who we acknowledge grief for and who we don't. And then there are levels within that of who gets the most grief. Like, if your parents die and they're elderly, they're in their 90s, say it's like, yeah, of course you're going to grieve, but that's a lesser grief than a child dying, for example. There are all kinds of things that we give permission for folks to grieve for, and we understand it and we acknowledge that. 


 24:26

Laura McKowen
And that's an important part of the process as a human to being able to process your grief, is that it is validated and acknowledged and accepted. But for something like the example of giving up alcohol, like an addiction, there's about zero allotment of grief or compassion for that loss, if people even see it as a loss, because this is something that we still have it on a moral issue, for one. But also, people usually see it as you're, like, hurting other people when you're doing it, and it's also hurting you. So why would you be grieving something that it looks on the outside to be so clearly destructive? Another analogy would be someone who is in an abusive relationship. Why would they feel grief about this? Why would it be hard to grieve something that is so ruinous and destructive? 


 25:23

Laura McKowen
So this is a little bit of a tangent, but I think it's important because there is, I think, an equivalent grieving that goes on in perimenopause and menopause because you're grieving the person that you were, the ideas that you had about life, about your body, about your femininity, about your sexuality, about your kids. I mean, who knows? It includes everything. Your personality, because you've experienced these states of mind that are so different. How many women say, I don't even recognize myself. I don't even know who this person is. Right? And so there's this whole grief process, of course, that we have to go through. But if it's not acknowledged. My mom never talked about menopause. She's like, yeah, I guess it was okay. I don't know. We just kind of went through it. And every woman of her generation has said the same thing. 


 26:25

Laura McKowen
I've never heard a woman my mom's age talk about it in any way that felt real to what I am experiencing and certainly what my friends have experienced who have gone all the way through it. 


 26:38

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 26:40

Laura McKowen
So, yes, the answer is, I have felt that spiritual reckoning grief process in sobriety. And I think it absolutely applies here for menopause. But it's so not understood or appreciated or acknowledged in culture. 


 26:59

Ali Shapiro
It isn't. And I think especially in America, where most of us grow up, you can be anything. You can do anything. And it's like at this stage, you've made choices that have closed certain doors. Part of being going through menopause early. My own grief was like, I was essentially choosing to have one child by starting later in life, but I didn't know that because of the cancer risk. And so it was like, oh, that biological door is shut. And so it's like this sifting of, to your point, even like, closed doors, I guess not just our bodies and our beauty and all that stuff, although that's important to acknowledge so much. 


 27:41

Laura McKowen
But also, I think you're so right. 


 27:45

Ali Shapiro
The myth of, like, you can do anything, be anything. It's like you have to reckon with reality. Like, no, we all knew. Like, I knew I was never going to be a basketball player. Right? 


 27:55

Laura McKowen
But that's not the things. Those aren't the doors. It's like a more of a metaphorical thing. Yes, like, oh, all these doors are. I don't have every option available to me anymore. The future is not totally wide open anymore. I mean, that's part of thinking about my mortality for sure, is just, oh, this is limited. Yeah, I don't get to go on forever. I'm an enneagram seven, and that's kind of a devastating thought experience to have that the future is not wide open. We'll be right back. 


 28:38

Ali Shapiro
It's that time of year again. Truce with food. Trust in satisfaction, not restriction. My six month group program is open for registration through January 31, 2024. I only run truce once a year, and I keep it small so that you get the best of both worlds. My individualized group, individualized attention, and the benefits of an intimate, supportive group. So spots do tend to fill up pretty quickly. We begin February 1, 2024. Perhaps you've struggled with food for years and suspect that the solution isn't somewhere out there in some passing fad or yet another restrictive diet. You sense that a deeper change is necessary, and midlife is a great time to address this deeper change. Over the years, I've guided hundreds of satisfied participants through this program. 


 29:38

Ali Shapiro
So you get the benefit of a refined curriculum that not only meets you where you are, but guides you to where you'd like to be. We cover a lot of ground in this comprehensive six month program from learning what foods are best for you now, not when you were 20 or last time. Something worked for a short time to discovering the root cause of why you fall off track with your healthy eating. And this includes why falling off track makes sense. Not that it's the problem, but it's the thing to understand and work through. These are results that will last and require no white knuckling. No one's got energy or time for that midlife, especially if this sounds like it might be a good fit for you. 


 30:21

Ali Shapiro
Join me for a completely free, no strings attached sneak peek in my find your flow when it's all in flux salon series on Wednesday, December 27, January 10 and January 24 from twelve to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and bring any burning questions from this season so that you can get them answered on this call. Sign up for free@alyssapiro.com hello and no worries if you're listening to this after the three part series has already started. Once you sign up, you'll receive access to a limited replay of what you missed. I hope to connect with as many of you who listen to this show as possible at this series. Once again, visit alishapiro.com/flow for more details. Now back to the show. Yeah, it's not. 


 31:21

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, so I'm going to switch to with all of this coming up, and I want to switch more to alcohol, so. 


 31:30

Laura McKowen
Okay. 


 31:31

Ali Shapiro
A study published in 2017 in JAMA Psychiatry, they were examining the drinking habits of adults between us adults between 2001 and 2013 and found that high risk alcohol use, specifically women consuming four or more drinks in a day on a weekly basis, rose about 58%. And while men drink more than women, research indicates that gap in the genders is narrowing and women who were not excessive drinkers were more likely to transition to excessive drinking in the early perimenopause and postmenopause stages. And then I dm'd you this that a book I was reading. They said a 2021 finnish study found that one telltale sign of menopause, one telltale sign that menopause was imminent was participants women increased their alcohol consumption. And then you wrote that about 75% of the people in your communities are between 50 to 75. 


 32:36

Ali Shapiro
And you said, I used to think it was because alcohol had run its course, but instead I've become increasingly convinced that the hormonal changes caused by perimenopause and menopause are a far bigger catalyst for onset and progression of alcohol use disorder than anyone realizes. So what do you think is happening at this transition that is causing so many women to start drinking, relapse or increase how much they drink? What are you noticing in the women around you going through this stage of life. 


 33:10

Laura McKowen
Yeah, I'm so glad we're talking about this. I'm obviously not a doctor. I can't speak to the exact science, but I can speak to the sort of psychological things that I see. We've talked about a bunch of factors already. This sort of unambiguous grief, it's called where you feel a lot of grief, but you can't say, well, it's about this one thing that's really painful and really stressful, and people, we seek relief when we're in pain. Kids leave the house. So a lot of times, women in my community, they will be in that transition period where their kids have already left or they left a few years ago, and that's when they noticed that their drinking really ramped up, and it typically coincides with menopause. And so you've got this empty nest thing going on where there's just a lot less to do. 


 34:20

Laura McKowen
A lot of people who put their primary identity or significant part of their identity into parenting now have to reconfigure their sense of identity because that is just so different. There's a lot of mourning that goes on there. I'm not saying it's this way for everybody because some people weather it differently, but a lot of people feel grief around that and sadness and sort of uselessness and depression. And similar to the period of life when you become a mom and drinking ramps up around with your peers. Drinking ramps up at that age group, too, because they're getting together more socially, they have more time on their hands, they have more time for social things. They have time to take big trips. Their kids aren't home, so they aren't doing the things that you do that sort of create the scaffolding around your life. 


 35:20

Laura McKowen
When you are an active parent of younger, you're always a parent, but your kids aren't at home anymore, and so you're not doing all those things that you were. Even just the fact that there's these other people in your home and you're paying attention to them that's not there. And so your attention, you just have this void. A lot of people do start drinking out of boredom. A lot of people start drinking out of depression, from depression. And obviously, these feelings and conditions can all be exacerbated extremely by hormones. So you're in this huge shift in how the hormone levels in your body and decreased levels of estrogen, for example, can cause so many issues in the body and also mentally anxiety, depression, and so on. 


 36:17

Laura McKowen
And so it's like this perfect storm of things that are happening, but people aren't necessarily putting it together with, oh, these are contributing to me reaching for a drink. Right. They're just doing it more. And some folks may have had a predisposition to addiction already, and they just didn't know it. And some folks just get drinking. Just alcohol does what it does, and it's an addictive substance, so they become very addicted quickly. And so there's all of that going on. A lot of people will just plain report that. And these are other people's words, not mine. They just started to feel crazy. They started to feel out of their body, like their life didn't fit anymore. I hate my job. I hate my spouse. I hate my home. I hate everything. And I don't know why. I just hate. I have rage. 


 37:14

Laura McKowen
And they use alcohol to medicate. It is an accessible, socially acceptable thing to do. It's the easiest thing to do. And sometimes people who didn't even have a taste for alcohol will start to drink because their tastes change. Like, literally, their body changes. And so they're like, oh, okay, I'm a wine drinker now. I actually like wine. I look at it very much akin to the phenomenon of motherhood bringing on drinking with all those hormonal changes and the drastic life changes that happen to the change that happens in menopause. It's just different circumstances. 


 37:58

Ali Shapiro
It's so interesting that you said the rage, because when the Israel Hamas war broke out, I did a grief circle for just the grief were all feeling. And I brought in Stacey Ramsower, who is a somatic experiencing practitioner. And in the grief circle, she opened it up by saying, if you don't have a whole, healthy container for someone to witness your grief, it goes to anger. And then if you don't have someone to help you with your anger, which is really unresolved grief, and you don't have that healthy, whole, sacred container, it becomes rage. And I'm just thinking about 100%. It's like this grief. We probably don't even have a name for it. Like you said, being able to give it a name in sobriety helped you understand what it was. And then you don't have the hormonal buffers, like, even not having progesterone. 


 38:51

Ali Shapiro
And women are already twice as likely to struggle with mood disorders like anxiety, depression. So it's like this crock pot of. 


 38:58

Laura McKowen
Yeah, the rage is really fascinating. I mean, that's a well documented, well told story throughout history. Is women going, quote unquote, mad in these years. And again, I don't know the science of it, but even if you look at the story of the crone, the phase of the women's life where they become a crone or an elder, the story of the crone, there's many things, but one of them is not presenting a false self anymore. And I think personally, that anger is like the mechanism that you need to get yourself there, because if you're not going to put on a false front anymore, if you're not going to pretend anymore, you'll often see women stop wearing makeup, shaving, their hair going gray, just dropping this whole thing, this performance of beauty that they just can't do it anymore. 


 40:03

Laura McKowen
And I think you have to have anger is sort of. I mean, anger exists to protect your boundaries. It exists to restore your sense of self. And I think in this period of time, the anger comes up because women are looking around and going, I can't tolerate the things that I was able tolerate. I can't tolerate the dysfunction in my marriage. I can't tolerate my home. I can't tolerate this career that I was just, like, swallowing and forcing myself to do. It just doesn't fit anymore. And there has to be a mechanism to push you through that so that you reclaim this new identity or claim this new identity, this sort of crone phase of your life, second half of life, afternoon of life. There's different words in different realms of psychology and philosophy, but I think the rage has to come up. 


 40:59

Laura McKowen
But it's also very deeply uncomfortable for women to feel rage and to feel anger. And if you don't know how to do that and you don't know how to process it, which most people don't, you're going to medicate that. It doesn't present well to the outside world. It doesn't feel great. It's scary. And so you're going to reach for something. You're going to reach for something. And alcohol is there. 


 41:23

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. As you go through perimenopause, how has it wrapped it in your continued sobriety? Since you're not using that, do you think that it's made this transition easier, or are there any ways that you can imagine that not drinking has made perimenopause more challenging? 


 41:41

Laura McKowen
Well, I can't think of any ways that not drinking has made it more challenging. No. I think I feel extremely fortunate that I stopped drinking in my late 30s because I can only imagine how much harder it would be to go through this and try to get sober. I'm very grateful. I don't have to do that. I just caught, like, my breath, just caught thinking of that. And I know so many women who are having to do that. I don't think I'm far enough in to have total perspective on this yet. But I think that sobriety getting sober prepared me for any major life transition. So it is certainly helpful with this because I know how to be with myself. I have a lot of tools, I have a lot of community. I know what works for me. 


 42:37

Laura McKowen
And I also have a lot of really healthy habits built up because I can't get unwell. I've just had to learn new habits. I've had to shift some of my old ones and learn new ones, both because the way that I was doing certain things, like I said, with eating and exercising, just wasn't working the same way. And because some of the things that I used to do, they don't fit my life anymore. But it's only helped. Yeah, the other side of that. So we've talked about why people would go towards drinking, but there's the other side of what alcohol does to the body and the mind that would just exacerbate all of this. Right. Alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol impacts your health in really significant ways. So people who are already experiencing frustrations in their health are going to experience more. 


 43:32

Laura McKowen
It also is very correlated with anxiety. So a lot of women experience more anxiety in menopause. It's like one of the primary markers is just more anxiety, even if you have not been anxious person before. And alcohol is just going to light a match on that. 


 43:49

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, well, this kind of dovetails into a moderation question, because there's a lot of conflicting information when it comes to moderate drinking and the health benefits, not the health benefits. And my sense is that at least part of the problem is the line between moderate drinking and heavy drinking is so thin, and it's a slippery slope. But moderate alcohol consumption for women has been defined as up to one drink per I. And I'm not trying to trivialize one drink, but I know a lot of my clients, they find it hard to have just one cookie, and then they open up the bag. And I see that happens a lot with alcohol. And I'm just going to give a little context. 


 44:31

Ali Shapiro
According to the North American Menopause Society, consuming two to five drinks a day during menopause is considered excessive and may harm a woman's health. Drinking any amount of alcohol is linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. We know in menopause, alcohol makes breasts denser, which can increase breast cancer. But there's also esophageal cancer, colon cancer. And I know you've been researching this a lot, too. And I also want to say the center for Disease Control, the CDC, defines one drink as one and a half fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled alcohol. Five fluid ounces of wine. 


 45:16

Laura McKowen
Do you know how small that is? That's why I'm saying that 5oz of wine is tiny. 


 45:23

Ali Shapiro
That's why I wanted to. I'm glad you said that because I think people think I'm having goblet glass, but it's like, actually three glasses, right? 


 45:30

Laura McKowen
It would be like two fingers of wine in a wine glass. 


 45:36

Ali Shapiro
Oh, my God. I don't drink, but oh, my God. I feel like people get like four times that much. So that's just. 


 45:42

Laura McKowen
Oh, at least. Yeah. 


 45:43

Ali Shapiro
Eight fluid ounces of malt liquor and twelve fluid ounces of regular beer at an alcohol content of about 5%. So what are your thoughts on alcohol for moderation around moderate drinking? 


 45:59

Laura McKowen
Yeah, I don't have any sort of problem with people drinking at all. I just feel like they need to know what they're doing. Kind of like informed consent about alcohol. And we haven't really had that for a long time because the big alcohol now has come out that they wrote and created and directed and approved a lot of the messaging that was put out there about wine being healthy for the heart and wine being a great way to relax and wine moderate the idea of moderate drinking itself. And so I would say to women who are struggling with the symptoms of menopause, alcohol will certainly, any amount of alcohol is going to certainly exacerbate every single one of those symptoms, first and foremost, because it jacks up your sleep. 


 47:04

Laura McKowen
We didn't even talk about that, but that is the number one thing, and that applies to everybody but women in menopause. In the menopausal years, sleep is often a big issue, and you don't need any more problems. Alcohol. One drink of alcohol will disrupt your sleep considerably. There's a great. You should probably link it up in your notes about the Andrew Huberman podcast on alcohol is really helpful information about the true impact of it on your to be. It's not because I think drinking is bad or because I think people who drink are bad. It's more alcohol is not friendly to menopausal bodies. You can tolerate it a little bit better when you're younger, but it is very unfriendly to the ways that our body changes in menopause impacts hormones, it impacts sleep, it impacts mood. 


 48:11

Laura McKowen
And I always say I'm like a finely calibrated machine. I have to have you pull one string and a lot of things fall apart. Right. So if I was someone who was wondering about this, I would take a two to three week break from alcohol and see how your symptoms improve. A week isn't enough. Two weeks is probably the minimum. And if you can do a month, great moderate drinking. So there's conflicting information because the CDC will say one drink per day is what is moderate for women. And then you have that other stat about two to five drinks being, like, considered heavy use heavy for menopausal women. But in the past three years, it's come out that there's no amount of drinking is safe for your health. So the safe level of drinking is actually zero. 


 49:14

Laura McKowen
So that's, like, all I have to say. There's no morality issue here. Again, there's no, like, if you do it, you're bad. I get why people would drink. I get that people love wine. I get that they love the ritual of drinking in certain occasions, but drinking as sort of de facto, this is what I do when I have dinner on any night of the week is not going to work the same way it used to in your twenty s and thirty s. When you're in your menopause years, it's really going to jack you up. 


 49:52

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. And I surveyed my community about what they wanted to know for this season, and several people said that giving up alcohol ended their hot flashes. 


 50:03

Laura McKowen
Yeah. 


 50:04

Ali Shapiro
And so it's like, oh, my God, complete sense. Yeah. I was like, yeah. Because the stress on your body, blood sugar, deregulation, contributes to hot flashes, all that stuff. So that's another plug. So there's a rise in people who are sober curious. I would love your thoughts on this trend. And do you have any advice for people who are like, this conversation has really got them thinking? I know you said two to three weeks to give up. Do you have any thoughts on sober curious and any other beginning steps? 


 50:35

Laura McKowen
Yeah. So I think the sober curious, we'll call it a movement, is great, because when I got sober ten years ago, there was one conversation, if you were an alcoholic, you needed to stop drinking, but if you were not, if you were a normie, you were fine. And it didn't really matter how much you drank. If you didn't fall into the alcoholic category, you were fine. And if you were going to get sober, it was sober and you were going to go to AA and you were going to have to go to meetings for the rest of your life. And that was the path. That is not the world we are. And that's amazing. People talk about alcohol, more alcohol as just a discussion point. Like, what is your relationship to alcohol? Is a question that would get asked. 


 51:32

Laura McKowen
Now, commonly that doesn't get asked. That never would have been asked before. Like, my friends would rather talk about anything than talk about drinking because we protected it so much. Right now, people are having those conversations. This generation that's coming up drink less than. Are drinking less than Gen X. So I think it's millennials drink less than Gen X, certainly. And then Gen Z is not even on the cusp of. Well, I don't know how high they go, but I think of my daughter as Gen Z, so she's not of drinking age yet, but they're less interested in alcohol. So I think that's all an effect of this. Talking more about alcohol, about sobriety, about sober curiosity, about taking breaks from drinking. There are now, like, four months out of the year that have sober themes. 


 52:22

Laura McKowen
So there's dry January, there's dry July, there's sober October. People will do experiments where they'll stop drinking, and it can be based on their health interests or just a challenge. Right? It doesn't have to because you have a problem, whereas before, the only reason you would ever think about your alcohol use or try to moderate it was because you had a problem. So I think sober curiosity is amazing. I think it opens the door for a lot of people to look at their drinking that would never qualify for the rooms of AA, or that maybe don't even need to stop and be sober completely. They don't have to have 100% abstinence, but they can look at their drinking in a mindful way and say, is this working for me? Do I want this? Do I like it? Is it just something I'm doing? 


 53:09

Laura McKowen
I mean, you often don't know. So many people will never understand how drinking is actually impacting them because they have never taken a long enough break from it to feel what it's like to not do it. Right. It's like if you have had this baseline of sugar for the past ten years, which alcohol is, you don't know what it feels like to not be doing it. You don't know what it's like to truly have your whole brain function, to have your full capacity on a Sunday morning. Because most Saturday nights say you stay up and you have three glasses of wine with your partner, and you watch a movie you just don't know what. You don't know what you're missing out on. There's the known things. 


 53:56

Laura McKowen
The people that have problematic drinking kind of know the ways that they're being impacted, but the people who are more in that gray area don't even really know how they're being impacted. So I think the sober curious thing is excellent because it allows people to have a conversation without making it a big deal. 


 54:16

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. It opens up the binary of addict or so that. 


 54:20

Laura McKowen
So on that front, I think it's great. I think the best way to. Well, there's an article that I will point people to, which Cheryl strayed wrote a piece in her substac newsletter, which is called dear sugar, and I believe it's paid. So I don't know if there's a paywall against. You might want to check. But she wrote a piece called the problem without a problem. And it was her response to someone who wrote in, concerned about their drinking. And Cheryl has been on her own journey of evaluating her drinking. And she wrote about that, about how she was one of those people that had never really had any big outward consequences because of her drinking. And no one ever said anything to her about it. It was never going to be a problem to her. 


 55:13

Laura McKowen
Or looking in from the outside, no one would ever say anything. But she drank wine sort of every night, glass two, sometimes three. And she loved it. She had said, I love drinking. I can't imagine giving it up. But then she had, like a health thing. Go on. She got Covid and she kind of just, this voice came to her and was like, drink less. And she followed that and learned all kinds of interesting things about who needs to quit drinking and who doesn't. And this whole sort of false binary, the real impact of drinking, what healthy drinking actually looks like. And so she's basically down to nothing. And she talks about that. 


 55:55

Laura McKowen
And she didn't have to go through, like, what I had to go through was to get sober and go into a recovery process because she didn't have the problem that I have. So I want to say all of that to say, you don't need to worry that if you look at your drinking, you are going to have to take on some label or that you're going to have to go to meetings for the rest of your life, or that you're going to have to be sober. Call yourself sober. There's a big gray area in there, and the best way to take a look at it is to not drink for a period of time. But not just not drink to talk about what you're going through as you're not drinking. So maybe do it with a friend, maybe join a group. 


 56:42

Laura McKowen
There's a group that I learned about from Cheryl called Sunnyside, and it's for more moderate drinking. So it's people that are just curious about mindful drinking. It's not about total abstinence, although I guess there's some people on there who are abstinent, but it's a community for people who want to be mindful about their drinking. So go to places where you can have these conversations, because a lot of people in our lives may not be willing to have these conversations because they want to protect their own right to drink. It's still a touchy subject for know. 


 57:15

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, and we'll link to all of those in the show notes, the Huberman, Cheryl's piece, and Sunnyside. But also Laura has the luckiest club, which she should plug. I've taught there. I love the people in the luckiest club. 


 57:26

Laura McKowen
Yes. 


 57:26

Ali Shapiro
And I feel like it's a low risk way to explore just because you don't have to be sober to be. 


 57:33

Laura McKowen
You don't have to be sober. But we are an abstinence based community, so you're welcome to be there and listen and learn for people who are trying to get sober. But we are a place where we say the requirement to be there is any amount of desire to get and stay sober. So there's no requirement. There's no, like, if you aren't sober within six months or in a year, then you don't get to be a member here. It's more like that is because it's a very different conversation to talk to people who have an alcohol use disorder versus someone who just. It's like a lifestyle change. It's not working for them. They're different conversations. 


 58:18

Ali Shapiro
You had an excellent piece, everyone. Check out Laura's substack love story about kind of the continuum of recovery. And there they can be different processes for different people depending on. 


 58:31

Laura McKowen
Yeah, I think it's called the false binary of problematic drinking. 


 58:36

Ali Shapiro
Yeah, I love that you mentioned connection, too, because I think, again, in America, it's like everything. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, do everything individual versus, like, you can't get through this stuff. Whether it's food, alcohol, overworking, anything. You need a healthy voice of support and sharing what you said, sharing what you're going through. I think that's so important to realize you're not alone because it is a big deal. 


 59:04

Laura McKowen
Like alcohol is a big part of our lives, in our culture. And so not drinking, it can bring up some stuff. Yeah, it just can. My fiance stopped in 2020 because he read my book, and he's pretty health conscious. So he was just like, I don't want to do this to myself anymore. And he is the rare bird that just stopped and was like, I'm good. But he also has me as a partner, so he has incentive. Well, no, it wouldn't have lasted for him to all this time, but more so. I mean, I'm not pushing on him to drink. There was no conversation or processing that needed to happen in our house. But I bring him up because most people, it's a little bit more than that. 


 59:56

Laura McKowen
If you are in a partnership where both of you drink together and it's kind of a thing that you do and a ritual that you have, it's going to change a little bit when you don't do it. If your drinking habits are the same oftentimes. Also, there's one partner that never really drank that much and one who sort of does, and the person that stops, there's no impact because the other person never drank that much anyway. And so it's just like, oh, good, okay, now we're both just, like, not drinking much. 


 01:00:22

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 01:00:22

Laura McKowen
So I just want people to be aware that it's not a nothing. It can be a big deal. 


 01:00:29

Ali Shapiro
Oh, my God. Totally. So I'm going to just circle back a couple more questions you had talked about. Like, I'm so glad that I am not trying to get sober at this time. And for me, having gone through the menopause transition, I was so grateful to have done my own truce with food work, because the core of that is learning to be, like, a wonderful friend to yourself. That means compassion, honesty. I know you're big on that. And encouragement with ourselves when we're struggling. Right. It's easy to be nice to ourselves when things are going our way, but when things are really hard. And for me, I don't love that you're going through it, but that you brought up the body stuff. 


 01:01:09

Ali Shapiro
Because one year postpartum, I was going to the doctor to get a referral for plantar flascitis, and I got on the scale like you, I hadn't weighed myself in, like, ten. I mean, the midwife center had me weigh myself when I was pregnant, but other than that, and I was 30 pounds above my pregnancy weight one year postpartum, and I was like. But I didn't spiral in shame because I had separated my worth. Yeah. I was curious, though, because I was like, I'm not binging. I'm not emotionally eating. But ultimately, I was able to challenge, like, okay, because I had plantar flashitis, I had low immunity, I had insomnia. That was the biggest symptoms. I didn't have hot flashes. And then the mood. I had the mood stuff going on. 


 01:01:51

Ali Shapiro
So I also was curious, and I know that weight and health overlap in some places, so I was able to get curious and have that kind of compassion. And you had mentioned being compassionate towards yourself, and we talked about some of the. Okay, I had to go to the other extreme of, like, maybe I was weighing myself and looking at my food. But what emotional strategies have you been able to use because of recovery and sobriety during this time? 


 01:02:19

Laura McKowen
Great question. Yes. One of them, the biggest one for me is writing things down, journaling. And it sounds so boring and so almost cliche, but I'm telling you, that has been my biggest tool for anything emotionally challenging that I go through. But for this, too, writing down the thoughts that are going on in my head, how I'm feeling about it, way things are changing, the emotional ride it's taking me on, it just helps so much to get it out of your body. And when I get it out of my body and onto the paper, I can see how mean my thoughts are, and that helps me go, oh, I see what's going on. I see what's going on. I see that this is like a coping strategy. I can see that I'm trying to get control over something that I can't control. 


 01:03:14

Laura McKowen
So that's one. Another one is a practice of goes back to the control thing is this practice of surrendering to things I can't control, which is a very critical part of sobriety. I'm sure people have heard the serenity prayer. It's often attributed to a. But it doesn't come from AA at all. I just happened to say it in there. But God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can. Wisdom to know the difference. If there's one piece of spiritual advice that I think is the catch all for anything that we're coming up against that is painful, it's that realizing that I am going through a major life transition, that much of which that I can't control. The nature of bodies, of life is change, and it moves towards entropy, like we're all dying. 


 01:04:20

Laura McKowen
And that sounds so morose, but that actually helps me a lot. It goes back to the conversation that you and I were having about. Not everything is open anymore. And I think, although that sounds depressing in a way, I think that's why people that get older, that's like the happiest years of their life, because. 


 01:04:47

Ali Shapiro
They'Re. 


 01:04:47

Laura McKowen
Accepting where they are and because the idea that the future is wide open, that everything is possible, they don't appreciate what's actually happening now when we feel that way. 


 01:04:58

Ali Shapiro
Right. 


 01:04:59

Laura McKowen
Because there's something to strive towards, there's another direction to go to. We have all these options open. So am I picking the right one? I can have a do over. It's very not present oriented. You're living in the future or you're living in the past. So how that impacts me now and how that applies to this is realizing that I am part of a process that is going to happen no matter what. I'm going to keep getting older, my body is going to keep changing. And there are things, I can either approach that with a lot of resistance and a lot of force and pushback, or I can approach it like I had to approach sobriety, which was with a lot more grace, a lot more compassion, and a lot more acceptance of just like, where I am. 


 01:06:01

Laura McKowen
That was the only way to get through sobriety, was to keep it in the day, to not get tripped up on what might happen down the road, to take care of myself in the now. Sometimes that means going for a long walk. But I'm not doing it so that I can burn calories. I'm doing it so that I can mentally take care of myself so that I can be present for my daughter or make it through the rest of the day. 


 01:06:34

Ali Shapiro
Right? 


 01:06:34

Laura McKowen
So it's just a shift in priorities. When you have had to go through something that requires you to keep it in the day like sobriety does, you learn that skill and you learn that is the only thing that's ever happening right now is this moment. And so I think a lot of when we're in pain or when our bodies feel out of control, the scariest thought that we have is this is never going to end, it's never going to change. And so it's really helped me in this process to remember that's all a future trip. The only thing I can control is what's happening right now. So that also pulls you into your body, and it's like, are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you thirsty? Do you need to move? 


 01:07:32

Laura McKowen
And that's just such a different orientation than like, oh, my God, I ate this and I'm gaining weight. And now I have to go work out for 2 hours because I'm going to gain the weight just puts you in, and that is all about future tripping, right? I'm going to get fat. I'm going to get uncomfortable. I'm going to hate my. That's all out there. But it's helped me so much to just, there's a lot of things I'm saying all at once, but it's helped me so much to basically, it comes down to bring it back into the present moment, like what's happening right now. Write some things down. That's how I can actually figure out what's happening. How do I feel? Like, what's really going on? Because this isn't about my body. This is about wanting control over something I can't control. 


 01:08:22

Ali Shapiro
I freaking love that you said that. Because in truth, with food, what I help clients connect to is when they start feeling fat. I'm like, fat is not a feeling, but they're able to connect. They're feeling fat when they start taking risks in their life, when they feel out of control. Right. One of my clients was like, oh, my God, I'm realizing all my body stuff. She had her own business. She's like, all my body stuff's coming out because I just put myself out there. And there's such relief in realizing it's not about the body, it's about the risk that you want to take or you're not taking because you think you'll have thin privilege or less risk if you take it. The other huge thing. 


 01:09:00

Laura McKowen
Wow. 


 01:09:01

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. It's so fun for people to. And I feel like this is where I get frustrated when so much of the body image conversation is about, well, loving how you look. And I'm like, but it's this deeper wanting control over, even though we really want to take risks at the same time. So it's like, really connecting that, like, oh, when does my body stuff come up? Or my desire to drink come up? What are those triggers? The other thing I love that you just said right now was like, okay, we're all dying. This is menopause. When you're writing in the now and you're also being with what's real, which is part of why I love your writing, is you're not making it about you. And so much around drinking and body and food is like, I'm the problem. 


 01:09:47

Ali Shapiro
I have shame versus, wait, this is the reality of what's happening. 


 01:09:53

Laura McKowen
I'm going through a very human reaction. A challenging environment. Yeah, and a challenging reality. 


 01:10:03

Ali Shapiro
That everyone, so rather than isolating ourselves in shame, everyone is going to go through this. Because I think that's where, at least in my work, it's the shame that gets people like, I'm wrong, my body's changing, and it's my fault, I didn't restrict enough when it's like, no, actually that's not going to work for you anymore. But your point about let's be here with the facts, I think can help us separate. This isn't an me thing, it's a universal experience. And like you said, a normal human reaction. 


 01:10:37

Laura McKowen
Yeah, that's totally how it had to work for sobriety, too. I always say I couldn't hate myself into getting sober. 


 01:10:44

Ali Shapiro
Yes. 


 01:10:44

Laura McKowen
And you can't hate yourself into going through menopause and being okay. You're going to make it more painful. The harder you clamp down on it and resist the reality of what's happening, the more painful it's going to be. And also, I couldn't get that there with sobriety. And I tried and I tried. So it's like a portal that we have to go through where we come up against human limits. We just come up against our limits and there aren't a lot of places where we have to do that. There's a lot of ways through and around these thresholds, but this is one of them that isn't. It's like an equalizer. 


 01:11:28

Ali Shapiro
Yes. And I love that you use the word limits and even talking about people older in life, because again, I'm raising a four year old right now, and I'm realizing how he may have a temper tantrum against my boundaries, but me having the boundary actually makes him feel safe. Right? Like, I can handle his tantrum, whatever it is. And I think we're like that with adults, as, like adults. If someone says, write anything, it's like, give me some constraints. You know what I mean? And creativity thrives on constraints. I think knowing about our blood sugar and gut health gives us constraints of like, oh, this can show me what works. And I think limits aren't necessarily a bad thing. 


 01:12:09

Ali Shapiro
And they can be that fire in perimenopause and menopause of like the pattern of being mean to myself, trying to whip myself into shape through hatred and shame. It's just not like you're going to hit a wall, and that's a good thing because it's going to force you to change. 


 01:12:24

Laura McKowen
It's a good thing. I don't trust anybody who hasn't hit that wall at least once because I mean that seriously. 


 01:12:33

Ali Shapiro
Me too. 


 01:12:34

Laura McKowen
They don't have compassion for the human experience. You're not really talking about the reality for most people if you're still talking in those terms where you think that you can control everything, right. It's just a matter of willpower. You're not living in the world of people's humanity. You're just not. And you're going to hit your own at some point. Probably. 


 01:12:58

Ali Shapiro
That's how I know people are very young or very new into their coaching career because it's kind of like anything's possible. 


 01:13:06

Laura McKowen
You just have to dream it. 


 01:13:08

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. All right, one last question. You tend to be ahead of the curve with knowing how norms are changing. What predictions do you have for alcohol and menopause in the future? 


 01:13:19

Laura McKowen
Great question and thank you. I think the younger generations are going to drink less and more. We'll say mindfully, drinking isn't going to be the de facto thing that they just do. And I think because this generation that's going, say, into menopause now or in those years or just past those years because we lived in alcohol soaked culture for longer, I think it'll take a bit longer. But it's also the population that is seeking recovery the most. That's by far the largest population in my community. And so I think we will start to see a huge continue really to see a huge sea change in how in the sort of conversations that women of this age have around alcohol. I think it's going to be a lot more. 


 01:14:19

Laura McKowen
I think there's going to be kind of like a revolution for that generation around menopause and alcohol and that it's not answer, that it is adding gasoline to this fire. Because what we're talking about, like what were just talking about, this sort of portal that you walk through and this is like an initiation. I think that menopause is one of the initiations that women go through in their lives, and I think we will go through it differently and there will be more consciousness because of it as we rely on alcohol less. And I think it will be more consciousness through it and because of it, because alcohol is going to be seen as distracting from that process, too. So I think it's an exciting time. I think it'll be slow moving. 


 01:15:17

Laura McKowen
I think we're not going to see huge, massive shift in that all of a sudden. But it's already started. Women are leading this sort of open, inclusive, out loud conversation about recovery and not drinking. Women are leading that, at least in the US. And I think that will significantly change how we experience menopause. 


 01:15:44

Ali Shapiro
I love if, I just love that because instead of people turning to drinking or even eating disorders actually start to increase. 


 01:15:54

Laura McKowen
Right. 


 01:15:54

Ali Shapiro
It's like we can actually talk about the threshold that this is. 


 01:15:58

Laura McKowen
Right. 


 01:15:59

Ali Shapiro
Yes. And the power in that, because that's another thing you need around thresholds is you need ritual. You need ritual witnessing, like, yes, this is happening. 


 01:16:11

Laura McKowen
Yeah. There's such opportunity and power, like you just said, that can come from an initiation. Right. It doesn't have to be a destruction or it doesn't have to end at destruction, which it does for a lot of women. It does. These menopausal years are seen as sort of the end of something and only an end. And I think alcohol has contributed to that more significantly than people realize. And I think without it or less of it in that process, there's going to be a different experience. 


 01:16:48

Ali Shapiro
Yes. I love that. Anything I didn't ask you that you would like to add? 


 01:16:53

Laura McKowen
No, this is great, as usual. 


 01:16:56

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. You're going to have to come back on because I know people are going to want to know how you're working through your body stuff and your food. Yeah. 


 01:17:01

Laura McKowen
I'll have more to say about that in like a year. I'm very much kind of in it now. I'm not really suffering, but it's been a surprising thing to have resurface. 


 01:17:11

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. I just love, though that rather than ignoring it, you're actually taking it and connecting it to your health, because again, our generation defined health as just weight, but you're like, no, it's so much more than that. So you're on the right track. You're going to be fine. 


 01:17:26

Laura McKowen
Thank you. 


 01:17:27

Ali Shapiro
And we will link to all your stuff, but tell people where they can find you. 


 01:17:30

Laura McKowen
Yeah, my website is lauramawan.com. My substac, which is where I'm writing, doing all my writing now, is love story. It's on substack. You can find that from my website, though. And really the only social media I'm on is Instagram. And you can find me there by my name. 


 01:17:47

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 01:17:47

Laura McKowen
And then my books. I have two books out there. 


 01:17:50

Ali Shapiro
Yeah. 


 01:17:50

Laura McKowen
Tell people we are the luckiest, which is the sobriety memoir that came out in 2020. And then push off from here is a foundational sort of structure book of how you can approach change. It's focused on sobriety, but it really relates to any kind of transformational change that you go through. 


 01:18:10

Ali Shapiro
And your next book is coming out. 


 01:18:12

Laura McKowen
My next book is another memoir. It will be about relationships, about love addiction. I call it my second. And sobriety. And that will be out in 2025, though, so it's a ways out. 


 01:18:25

Ali Shapiro
Okay, good. I'm sure that date will come fast. 


 01:18:28

Laura McKowen
Yeah, I know. 


 01:18:30

Ali Shapiro
Thank you so much for your time, Laura. We covered a lot of ground. 

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