This Naked Mind (2015) challenges our culture’s love affair with alcohol. It offers matter-of-fact, actionable insights that help free drinkers from its perceived hold.
Introduction: How to get intoxicated by sobriety.
Do you always reach for a drink after a long day at work? Love nothing more than socializing with a glass of wine or a bottle of cold beer?
There’s not anything inherently wrong with enjoying a drink or two – but maybe it’s time to take a step back and examine your relationship with alcohol.
For many of us, alcohol has become a way to cope with stress or anxiety – a crutch to lean on when things get tough. But the truth is, alcohol is a highly addictive substance that can negatively affect our physical and mental health, our relationships, and our work.
Assessing the impact of alcohol on your life starts with tuning into your thoughts and emotions around it. That means asking the hard questions: Why do I drink? What beliefs do I hold about alcohol, and where did they come from?
For some people, reevaluating their relationship with alcohol may mean giving it up altogether. For others who still love the occasional glass or pint, the process doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Either way, it’ll help you confront your emotions and deal with them more healthily.
This summary to Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind is a guide to getting honest about your relationship with alcohol. By examining your beliefs and making more conscious choices, you can break free from alcohol’s hold – and, in the process, gain focus and energy, build more meaningful relationships, and live a happier, healthier life.
Ready to heal?
Alcohol isn’t the path to happiness.
Alcohol is everywhere. From TV ads to family gatherings, it’s hard to avoid the message that drinking is essential to socializing and having fun. And it’s even harder to understand how deeply these messages have shaped our core beliefs about alcohol.
From a young age, we’re shown that alcohol is the key to a fulfilling social life. As we get older, pop culture tells us that drinking is a glamorous act of rebellion. It’s also linked to relaxation and intimacy. In the media, we often see portrayals of attractive, happy, successful people enjoying themselves while sipping a drink.
It’s easy to see why so many of us have internalized these messages – we’re constantly being told that alcohol is the path to happiness. But reality paints a different picture.
Alcohol is addictive, and it can negatively affect our physical and mental health. The fact that it’s widely available and relatively affordable only makes matters worse. And studies have shown that exposure to alcohol at a young age can increase the likelihood of problematic drinking later in life.
But beliefs aren’t set in stone. By becoming more aware of the marketing messages about alcohol, as well as our personal experiences attached to them, we can make more conscious choices about our drinking habits. We can challenge the idea that alcohol is necessary for a good time – and instead focus on building meaningful connections with the people in our lives.
So the next time you reach for a drink, ask yourself, Do I truly enjoy the taste of this, or am I relying on it to have fun and socialize?
In the next section, we’ll look at how becoming more mindful of why you drink can help you break free of alcohol’s grip – and put you in charge.
Mind over matter
Have you ever reached for a drink without thinking about it? If so, join the club. This is typical behavior at a party or a social event – you might be feeling a little socially anxious, and since everyone around you is drinking, you tend to join in without considering why.
The subconscious mind is at play here. And this is important to note because it influences your drinking habits.
Your subconscious thoughts and beliefs about alcohol drive your behavior, even when you’re unaware of it. Say you have a positive association with alcohol – maybe you feel more relaxed or social when you drink. In that case, your subconscious may encourage you to drink more often to experience those positive feelings again. On the other hand, a negative association with alcohol – like feeling guilty or sick after drinking – can lead you to avoid booze … if only temporarily.
Your emotions also play a powerful role in your drinking habits. You might be more likely to reach for a drink to cope when you’re stressed or anxious. Your subconscious mind is savvy – it can pick up on these cues and prod you to drink to manage your emotions.
But your subconscious thoughts about alcohol aren’t just influenced by your direct experiences and emotions. On top of alcohol-focused media messaging, the people you spend time with can also shape your beliefs about alcohol. If your friends or family think drinking is essential to having fun, you’ll probably internalize that belief – and behavior – too.
So what can you do to subvert this drinking loop?
It’s “simple”: you need to get mindful about your drinking habits. That means understanding your behavior, along with the subconscious thoughts and beliefs influencing it. By examining your emotions, experiences, and the people in your circle, you can begin to make more conscious choices about whether or not you want to drink.
This process can be challenging, but it’s worth it. By cultivating self-awareness, you can regain control of your relationship with alcohol. From there, you can challenge the automatic behaviors that fuel your drinking habits and make more intentional choices about if or when, and how much, you want to drink.
Keep in mind that this self-reflection isn’t a one-time event – overcoming alcohol’s influence on you will be a lifelong practice. By continually examining your thoughts and beliefs about it, you can foster a healthy, long-term relationship with the substance.
Along the way, you can decide if you want to enjoy it in moderation – or quit drinking altogether.
Moderation in all things
Totally giving up alcohol isn’t the only solution – in fact, it may not be the right choice for you. For some people, the goal is to be able to enjoy alcohol in moderation without the negative consequences of excessive drinking.
Here’s where the concept of mindful drinking comes in.
Mindful drinking involves setting clear boundaries and limits around your drinking habits. It’s about being really honest with yourself when it comes to how much you can drink without experiencing harmful side effects – and sticking to those limits. It also entails becoming more aware of how alcohol affects your body and mind, and adjusting your new habits as needed.
For instance, if you’re noticing that alcohol makes you feel anxious or depressed, you can choose to drink less – or avoid it altogether in certain situations. Alternatively, you can limit yourself to a specific number of drinks per occasion or have designated alcohol-free days.
But mindful drinking isn’t just about setting limits. It’s also about being more present, and actually enjoying the experience of drinking rather than simply consuming alcohol to get drunk or cope with stress.
What does being present mean in this context? Well, for one, are you really savoring the taste and aroma of your drink? And two, are you engaging in meaningful conversations and activities while drinking?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mindful drinking – what works for one person may not work for another. Finding a balance that feels right for you is important. But a general truth remains: setting clear boundaries around alcoholic drinks allows you to enjoy drinking in moderation, without any negative consequences.
The concept of mindful drinking isn’t about depriving yourself of the pleasure of alcohol – it’s about finding a way to enjoy it healthily and sustainably. As you become more mindful of your drinking habits, you’ll be able to avoid problematic drinking altogether.
But what if you’ve practiced mindful drinking and now want to quit alcohol for good? Lucky for you, that’s what we’ll cover next.
It’s OK to quit.
Say you’re done with alcohol. You don’t see its benefit in your life anymore. You may have even attempted to stop drinking a few times – only to realize that it can be a challenging, lonely process.
But it doesn’t have to be! With social support, self-compassion, goal-setting, and healthy coping mechanisms, you can quit alcohol for good.
First, let’s talk about the importance of a support network. This may take a number of different forms – maybe it means joining an online support group, or seeking out friends and family members that have changed their relationship with alcohol. A strong community can offer encouragement and accountability as you navigate the possibility of complete sobriety.
Second, it’s crucial to cultivate self-compassion when you’re quitting alcohol. We’re often our own harshest critics, and it’s easy to feel discouraged when we slip up or make mistakes. Maybe you’ve committed to sobriety, but now and then, you find yourself having a drink after a tense social gathering. Remember to treat yourself with the utmost kindness in situations like these. By understanding yourself and not passing judgment, you can build resilience over time – and stay motivated to continue changing.
Setting realistic goals and celebrating your progress toward sobriety is also important. Changing your relationship with alcohol is a process, and it’s important to acknowledge any victory, big or small. Each time you say no to a drink is just as important as an extended period of being sober. With this mindset of accomplishment, you can motivate yourself as you work toward your overarching goal.
Finally, it’s essential to hone long-term coping strategies for stress and emotions. Rather than using alcohol as a band-aid solution to numb or avoid difficult feelings, practice mediating your problems through healthier activities like meditation, exercise, and creative pursuits. You can also seek professional support when needed.
Remember to be patient as you reduce your reliance on alcohol – slow and steady wins the race.
Sobriety and self-commitment
As we’ve mentioned, altering your relationship with alcohol is an ongoing process. To experience lasting change, it’s important to approach it with patience, openness, and self-compassion.
That involves staying connected to your motivations – and remembering why you wanted to eliminate or reduce your drinking habits in the first place. Do you want to show up better in your relationships? Are you working on a project or skill that requires deep concentration? Reflecting on your values and goals makes it easier to stick to sobriety.
A commitment to long-term change also requires an openness to continuous learning and growth. You don’t just stop observing your behavior patterns and beliefs after a year of sobriety – it’s a daily practice involving affirmations and mindful activities like meditation or exercise. In this way, change becomes an ongoing opportunity for personal discovery.
Permanent sobriety also requires discovering purpose and meaning in life beyond alcohol. Don’t know where to start? At the end of each day, ask yourself what part was most exciting, or when you felt happiest. The goal is to identify your passions and interests. Once you have the answers, pursue and seek fulfillment in those activities.
Wherever you are on your path toward sobriety, don’t forget to be gentle with yourself. Remember, you’re human – and humans make mistakes. Rather than pressuring yourself to be perfect, approach lasting change with kindness and compassion. Treat yourself with the same tenderness you would offer a friend.
It’s only a matter of time before you realize you’re more resilient than you think – and your naked mind, without alcohol, is your best source of strength.
You can change your relationship with alcohol, no matter where you are in life. Whether you choose to give up alcohol altogether or enjoy it in moderation, it’s important to approach your drinking habits with mindfulness, intention, and self-compassion.
By leaning into your support community, embracing ongoing learning and growth, exploring your intrinsic motivations for happiness, and cultivating a lifelong gentleness with yourself, you can fully enjoy the present – fully sober.
About the author
Annie Grace has had a unique life from the very beginning. She grew up in a one-room cabin without running water or electricity in the mountains of Colorado and then, at age 26, became the youngest vice president in a multinational corporation. Success, however, led to excessive drinking and the possibility that she might lose everything. Annie recognized her problem but chose to approach it in an entirely new way. Annie’s program has been featured in Forbes, the New York Daily News, and the Chicago Tribune. Annie is successful, happy, and alcohol-free and lives with her husband and three children in the Colorado mountains.
Psychology, Health, Nutrition, Mindfulness, Happiness, Society, Culture, Nonfiction, Self Help, Personal Development, Mental Health, Alcohol, Memoir, Science, Addiction, Addiction Recovery, Twelve-Step Programs, Healthy Living, Diet, Fitness, Relationships, Alcoholism Recovery, Reference
Table of Contents
1 This Naked Mind: How and Why It Works 5
2 The Drinker or the Drink? Part 1: The Drinker 21
3 The Drinker or the Drink? Part 2: The Drink 32
4 Liminal Point: Is Drinking a Habit? 39
5 You: Simply Naked 43
6 Liminal Point: Are We Really Drinking for the Taste? 51
7 You: Polluted 57
8 Liminal Point: Is Alcohol Liquid Courage? 70
9 Oh S#*%! We’re Stuck 77
10 Liminal Point: Drinking Helps Me Loosen Up and Have Better Sex 90
11 A Quest for Sobriety 96
12 Liminal Point: I Drink to Relieve Stress and Anxiety 105
13 The Mystery of Spontaneous Sobriety 113
14 Liminal Point: I Enjoy Drinking: It Makes Me Happy 121
15 Defining Addiction: Part I 129
16 Liminal Point: Is Alcohol Vital to Social Life? 142
17 Defining Addiction: Part II 148
18 Liminal Point: It’s Cultural. I Need to Drink to Fit In. 156
19 The Descent: Why Some Descend Faster than Others 163
20 Living a Naked Life in Our Society 172
21 This Naked Mind 189
22 The Secret to Happily and Easily Drinking Less 203
23 The Journey: “Relapse” 222
24 Pay It Forward 226
This Naked Mind has ignited a movement across the country, helping thousands of people forever change their relationship with alcohol.
Many people question whether drinking has become too big a part of their lives, and worry that it may even be affecting their health. But, they resist change because they fear losing the pleasure and stress-relief associated with alcohol, and assume giving it up will involve deprivation and misery.
This Naked Mind offers a new, positive solution. Here, Annie Grace clearly presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us. Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, this book will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture, and how the stigma of alcoholism and recovery keeps people from getting the help they need. With Annie’s own extraordinary and candid personal story at its heart, this book is a must-read for anyone who drinks.
This Naked Mind will give you freedom from alcohol. It removes the psychological dependence so that you will not crave alcohol, allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). With clarity, humor, and a unique blend of science and storytelling, This Naked Mind will open the door to the life you have been waiting for.
“You have given me my live back.” —Katy F., Albuquerque, New Mexico
“This is an inspiring and groundbreaking must-read. I am forever inspired and changed.” —Kate S., Los Angeles, California
“The most selfless and amazing book that I have ever read.” —Bernie M., Dublin, Ireland
Video and Podcast
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview
3:33 a.m. I wake up at the same time every night. I briefly wonder if that is supposed to mean something. Probably not, probably just a coincidence. I know what’s coming, and I brace myself. The usual thoughts begin to surface. I try to piece the previous evening togeth- er, attempting to count my drinks. I count five glasses of wine, and then the memories grow fuzzy. I know I had a few more, but I’ve now lost count. I wonder how anyone can drink so much. I know I can’t go on like this. I start to worry about my health, beginning the well- trodden road of fear and recrimination: What were you thinking? Don’t you care about anything? Anyone? How will it feel if you end up with cancer? It will serve you right. What about the kids? Can’t you stop for the kids? Or Brian? They love you. There’s no good rea- son why, but they do. Why are you so weak? So stupid? If I can just make myself see the horror of how far I’ve fallen, maybe I can regain control. Next come the vows, my promises to myself to do things differently tomorrow. To fix this. Promises I never keep.
I’m awake for about an hour. Sometimes I cry. Other times I’m so disgusted that all I feel is anger. Lately I’ve been sneaking into the kitchen and drinking more. Just enough to shut down my brain, fall back asleep, and stop hurting.
These early mornings are the only time I’m honest with myself, admitting I drink too much and need to change. It’s the worst part of my day, and it’s always the same, night after night. The next day it’s as if I have amnesia. I turn back into a generally happy person. I can’t reconcile my misery, so I simply ignore it. If you ask me about drinking I’ll tell you I love it; it relaxes me and makes life fun. In fact, I’ll be shocked if you don’t drink with me. I will wonder, “Why on earth not?” During the day I feel in control. I am successful and busy. The outward signs of how much I drink are practically nonexistent. I am so busy that I don’t leave room for honesty, questioning, and bro- ken promises. The evening comes, the drinking starts, and the cycle continues. I am no longer in control, and the only time I am brave enough to admit it (even to myself ) is alone, in the dark, at three in the morning.
The implications of what it could mean are terrifying. What if I have a problem? What if I am an alcoholic? What if I am not normal? Most terrifying, what if I have to give up drinking? I worry that my pride will kill me because I have no intention of labeling myself. I am afraid of the shame and stigma. If my choice is to live a life of misery in diseased abstinence or drink myself to an early grave, I choose the latter. Horrifying but true.
What I know about getting help, I know from my brother who spent time in prison. Prison in the U.S. often involves Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings. He says you start every meeting ad- mitting that you are an alcoholic powerless against alcohol. He says they believe alcoholism is a fatal illness without a cure. And I person- ally know self-proclaimed alcoholics who, rather than finding peace, fight a daily battle for sobriety. It seems miserable in our culture to be sober. To live a life avoiding temptation. Recovering appears syn- onymous with accepting life as just OK and adjusting to a new reality of missing out.
The idea of recovering seems to give alcohol more power even, and maybe especially, when I am abstaining from it. I want freedom. It’s now clear that alcohol is taking more from me than it’s giving. I want to make it small and irrelevant in my life rather than allowing it more power over me. I want change. I have to find another way. And I have.
I now have freedom. I am back in control and have regained my self-respect. I am not locked in a battle for sobriety. I drink as much as I want, whenever I want. The truth is I no longer want to drink. I see now that alcohol is addictive, and I had become addicted. Obvi- ous, right? Not exactly. In fact, in today’s drinking society, it’s not obvious at all. Admitting that alcohol is a dangerous and addictive drug like nicotine, cocaine, or heroin has serious implications. So we confuse ourselves with all sorts of convoluted theories.
I’ve never been happier. I am having more fun than ever. It’s as if I have woken up from the Matrix and realized that alcohol was only dulling my senses and keeping me trapped rather than adding to my life. I know you may find this hard, if not impossible, to believe. That’s OK. But I can give you the same freedom, the same joy, and the same control over alcohol in your life. I can take you on the same journey—a journey of facts, neuroscience, and logic. A journey that empowers you rather than rendering you powerless. A journey that does not involve the pain of deprivation.
I can put you back in control by removing your desire to drink, but be forewarned, getting rid of your desire for alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is going against groupthink, the herd mentality of our alcohol-saturated culture. After all, alcohol is the only drug on earth you have to justify not taking.
Experts imply that it takes months, even years, of hardship to stop drinking. A tough riddle can make you crazy, taking forever to solve. But if someone gives you the answer, solving the riddle becomes ef- fortless. I hope this book will be the answer you are looking for.
I offer a perspective of education and enlightenment based on common sense and the most recent insights across psychology and neuroscience. A perspective that will empower and delight you, al- lowing you to forever change your relationship with alcohol. And remember, sometimes what you are searching for is in the journey rather than the destination.