The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Episode 61--Question the Drink with Gray Area Expert Kari Schwear

June 01, 2022 Billy & Brian Season 5
Episode 61--Question the Drink with Gray Area Expert Kari Schwear
The Mindful Midlife Crisis
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The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Episode 61--Question the Drink with Gray Area Expert Kari Schwear
Jun 01, 2022 Season 5
Billy & Brian

This week, Billy and Brian talk to Kari Schwear.  Kari is an executive coach, "gray area" drinking expert, speaker, and author who helps high performers move out of the gray areas in their lives so they can establish healthy boundaries that transforms them from “fine” to fabulous.  

Kari is also a co-author of the #1 bestselling book  The Successful Mind: Tools for Living a Purposeful, Productive, and Happy Life. Kari has been featured on PBS, CBS, ABC and multiple podcasts and radio shows. 

She founded GrayTonic and the Question the Drink for 30 program after her own experience as a former gray area drinker left her frustrated and confused with traditional programs.

Kari is here today to talk to us about the "gray areas" we have in our lives, and what we can do about them.

We ask Kari:
--Tell us more about what you mean by “living in the gray” and how it can have an effect on people.
--Both Brian and I have had issues with alcohol in the past that we’ve discussed on the show, as have you.  Tell us about how you “stepped out of the gray”.
--For the people out there yelling, “But I only have a glass (or two)  a night…what’s so wrong with that!” What do you say?
--When does “living in the gray” cross into something more serious like addiction?
--You do a consultation and a deep dive assessment.  What do those look like?  What seems to be a recurring theme in these conversations that maybe our listeners could reflect on as they listen to this?
--How much of a role does peer pressure play in all this?  Once someone has decided to give sober living a chance, what’s something they can say to help their friends understand that they’re just not drinking anymore?
--Tell us more about Question the Drink and the work you’re doing with that.  How can people participate in that?

Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Topics you want us to cover?
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Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

This week, Billy and Brian talk to Kari Schwear.  Kari is an executive coach, "gray area" drinking expert, speaker, and author who helps high performers move out of the gray areas in their lives so they can establish healthy boundaries that transforms them from “fine” to fabulous.  

Kari is also a co-author of the #1 bestselling book  The Successful Mind: Tools for Living a Purposeful, Productive, and Happy Life. Kari has been featured on PBS, CBS, ABC and multiple podcasts and radio shows. 

She founded GrayTonic and the Question the Drink for 30 program after her own experience as a former gray area drinker left her frustrated and confused with traditional programs.

Kari is here today to talk to us about the "gray areas" we have in our lives, and what we can do about them.

We ask Kari:
--Tell us more about what you mean by “living in the gray” and how it can have an effect on people.
--Both Brian and I have had issues with alcohol in the past that we’ve discussed on the show, as have you.  Tell us about how you “stepped out of the gray”.
--For the people out there yelling, “But I only have a glass (or two)  a night…what’s so wrong with that!” What do you say?
--When does “living in the gray” cross into something more serious like addiction?
--You do a consultation and a deep dive assessment.  What do those look like?  What seems to be a recurring theme in these conversations that maybe our listeners could reflect on as they listen to this?
--How much of a role does peer pressure play in all this?  Once someone has decided to give sober living a chance, what’s something they can say to help their friends understand that they’re just not drinking anymore?
--Tell us more about Question the Drink and the work you’re doing with that.  How can people participate in that?

Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Topics you want us to cover?
"Like" and "Follow" us on Facebook:
The Mindful Midlife Crisis Podcast

Please leave us a 5-Star Review!  Doing so helps other people looking for a podcast like ours find it!

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode!  If this episode resonates with you, please share it with your friends and family.  If you’re really feeling gracious, you can make a donation to Your donations will be used to cover all of our production costs.

Support the Show.

Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis. 


Kari: I know it’s my own program but I got to say, I wish I would have had that program when I quit drinking, it would have been so much better and I attract a lot of high performers so as people that don’t want to even think about going anywhere else and they feel very protected and safe. And that’s the thing, I provide a safe place that they feel that they can share and, in my group right now, I have everything from a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom to a 72-year-old grandma and about four to five business owners running multimillion-dollar businesses in between. I mean, I have a gamut of different people in there and they all bond together because the common ground is they have this one thing and it’s not drinking. They all want to be loved, seen, and connected and that’s what I provide for them.


Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.


Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how are you doing over there, man?


Brian: I’m laudable today, Billy. 


Billy: Oh, really? 


Brian: Didn’t even know what laudable meant, did you, before I —


Billy: I know what laud means and then I just haven’t heard laudable in such a long time. It was actually a vocabulary word back in the day that I used to give to my students, to laud somebody’s accomplishments. So, what did you accomplish, anyway, that we should feel so laudable?


2” Well, I’m actually, this is anticipatory, because laudable means we’re worthy of getting award, I’m seeing some kind of award in our future for this podcast, Billy.


Billy: I love that you just manifested that into existence. That fills my whole heart up with happiness. Fantastic —


Brian: I think you deserve an award, Billy. 


Billy: Oh. Well, thank you. Thank you very much —


Brian: You’re just such a great host, a great host that gets great guests. Tell us about our guest today, dude.


Billy: Yes, absolutely. Our guest today is definitely worthy of praise. Our guest today is Kari Schwear. Kari is an executive coach, gray area drinking expert, speaker, and author that helps high performers move out of the gray areas in their lives so they can establish healthy boundaries that transforms them from fine to fabulous. Kari is also a co-author of the number one bestselling book, The Successful Mind: Tools to Living a Purposeful, Productive, and Happy Life. I like the title of that. I think we’re going to link that into the show notes so people can buy that and so that I can buy that. Kari has also been featured on PBS, CBS, ABC, and multiple podcasts and radio shows, none more important than the one that she’s on today, of course. She founded GrayTonic and the Question the Drink for 30 program after her own experience as a former gray area drinker left her frustrated and confused with traditional programs. Kari is here today to talk to us about the gray areas we have in our lives and what we can do about them. Welcome to the show, Kari Schwear.


Kari: Thank you. Wow. Such a beautiful welcome. I appreciate that.


Billy: Absolutely, absolutely. Brian, I’ll have you know that Kari was listening to an episode of a podcast that she was on earlier and she said, “Oh my gosh, this was the best podcast that I’ve ever been on. It was such an amazing interview.” So I need you to step up your game today, alright —


Brian: Just step it up today. Okay, noted, here we go. Let’s do this. 


Kari: No pressure.


Billy: And I feel like this is something that particularly you but me too, we relate to gray area drinking, if not more so just from our own experiences. You shared your experiences back in episode 5 so I feel like there’s a lot of relatability here for the two of us.


Brian: Yeah, I went sailing through the gray and went right into the red though. I mean, I just went right there. I was like, nah, gray, no, red. Anyway, but I’m back now.


Billy: Yes, and we’re very happy to have you back. So, Kari, we like to have our guests talk about the 10 roles that they play in their life so what are the 10- roles that you play in your life?


Kari: Oh, by the way, I love this question. Yeah, I have a couple of roles. They’re not in any specific order. Can I just start with that? 


Billy: Yeah, whatever you want. 


Kari: So, of course, I’m a wife, almost 33 years we’ve been married now. Yes, I got married —


Billy: Congratulations.


Kari: Thank you. Thank you. We definitely had a gray area in our marriage, which is part of the reason why I talk about all things gray, not just gray area drinking, but, yeah. So wife is for sure one. And then, of course, the next one on the list would be I’m a mom. I have two grown sons, 27 and 30, and they’re both just amazing kids, love them both, of course. And then, of course, I’m an entrepreneur, about three years so I consider myself still a young entrepreneur but loving it and just can’t imagine ever going back to working for anybody else ever. It’s definitely where my heart’s at. I’m a sister. I’m a daughter, of course. I’m also a Porsche lover. I grew up with Porsches. My parents had them. They divorced when I was young. They still have Porsches. They’re married to people from the original Porsche club. And I worked for Porsche. So I love the brand. I’m a freak about the brand. No, I do not drive one. I used to and I will have another one and the next one I buy will be my dream Porsche, which is a 992 911 Turbo S, for anybody who knows Porsches, you know that’s a great car. I’m also a race track freak. I love being on the race track. That goes back to being a Porsche lover. My favorite thing to do is to be on the track and I get to do that once a year and I’m actually a pace car driver for a group that I used to work for. So I do that in the afternoon sessions. There’s like four sessions I get to drive and there’s nothing better or greater in the whole wide universe than being on the racetrack driving a Porsche, period. So, also, I’m a future glamma, and I say “glamma” because I don’t want to be a grandma. I worked in the aesthetics world for quite some time and my husband dubbed the name glamma, that someday I’d be a glamma and that started with my son’s dog because I was the dog’s glamma. So I’m a future glamma, just some future grandkids. And then, of course, I’m a dog mom to Frank and I’m a cat mom to my baby boy, Roco, who is 13 years old, God bless him, he’s wonderful. So, yeah, those are my 10 roles.


Billy: I’m enjoying the energy that you’re bringing to this conversation so far. What I want to start with here, because you said you’re looking forward to it in the second half of your life, is more time on the track. So, tell us about how did you get into being a race track, pace car driver and how tempted are you to just put the pedal to the metal and floor it —


Kari: All the time. 


Billy: — when you’re on the track?


Kari: Okay, so I told you I grew up with Porsches. My parents, my mom actually raced when she was pregnant with me so when I tell you it’s in my blood, it’s in my blood for real. And I just have a thing for it. My first car was a ’69 Mach 1 Mustang, like I’ve always been that girl built for speed. For fun, when I was 16, is I would cruise up and down the highway, there was one place a cop could sit and I’d make sure there was two exits in between like two miles apart so right in the center was the only place a cop could sit so I would go from one exit to the other, make sure no cops were there, and then I come back the other direction and I’d floor it, like my Mustang ’69 wasn’t like the most greatest car in the world because this was, I don’t know what year it was, 80 something, so I could only do like 100, but I still drove the crap out of it because I loved it so much. So, to answer your question, I worked for Porsche prior to me starting my business and that was actually the first time I ever drove a Porsche. I’ve never told anybody this story on a podcast before but the owner of the dealership — this is such a great story — he had a pretty rare car at the time, which was a 2016 GT4 and there wasn’t many made that particular year and he had like a really killer one. Well, I started on a Monday, and the next Monday was the track day and he comes to my office, I’ve been there, what? Four days, so this was Friday, he walked into my office. I started on a Monday, he came into my office on Friday and he goes, “Hey, hey, you going on the track on Monday?” and I was like, “Yes, sir,” and he said, “Okay, good.” He goes, “How you getting there?” I said, “I’m not sure, I think I’m gonna be riding with one of the sales guys,” and he said, “Can you drive a stick?” I said, “Yes, sir, I can drive a stick,” and he said, “Okay, good. You’re gonna drive the GT4 down.” I’m like, “Come again?” I was like, “I’m sorry, what?” He said, “Yeah, you’re gonna drive the GT4 down.” He goes, “I’m gonna ride with you, I’m gonna sleep and you’re gonna drive,” and I said okay. So I remained super calm and confident, I’m like, “Yes, sir. Sounds great. Sounds like a good plan,” and I went home and I’m like, “Holy crap, holy crap,” like I literally was freaking out, like I went to church on Sunday and I stayed after to ask one of the pastors to pray with me that nothing would happen to the car because I never drove a Porsche and —


Brian: Took out a little extra insurance, did you?


Kari: Right, and then, on top of that, I haven’t driven a stick in like 15 years but I wasn’t going to tell him that. So the next —


Brian: And you can’t say no to an opportunity like that. 


Kari: Oh, heck, no. So the next morning, we meet at the dealership and he said, “Do you need a tutorial?” I said, “No, get in.” So like I just remained super confident, and deep inside, I’m thinking, I’m dying inside, I’m like, “Please, God, don’t let me stall the car. That would be so embarrassing.” But with all things Porsche, I’m telling you, it just makes you a better driver for real. They’re just amazing vehicles. So we’re driving and I had no — I mean, we were like two miles from the dealership and he looks over at me and he’s like, “Oh, you weren’t kidding, you’re a good driver,” and I was like, “Thank You, Jesus,” because I was like, “Please don’t let anything happen.” So that was the first year when I worked there and then not that year, although I did drive on the track, but not in that car, I drove a 911, an older 911, that year on the race track. The following year, I went down and the guy who normally drives the pace car in the afternoon said, “Hey, you wanna ride with me?” and I was like, “Yeah,” and he’s like, “You wanna drive?” not the pace car but another car and I was like yeah and so he drove with me and he’s like, “Girl, you got this. You’re really good,” and I was like, “Thanks,” and then I went out a couple sessions and I was getting the hang of it really well and he was like, “I think next year, if you keep driving like this, you could just drive the pace car in the afternoon.” I was like, “Okay,” because the afternoon session is a little more laid back kind of, you actually can go faster in the afternoon sessions. So I ended up driving in the afternoon and my boss at the time, not the owner but my boss who I directly reported to, he said, “Are you good? You know what you’re doing?” and at that time, I was driving a Cayenne GTS Turbo — I’m sorry, it was a Cayenne Turbo, and he goes, “You know what you’re doing?” and I said, “Get in.” So he gets in the backseat because a Cayenne’s a four door and I was thinking, “Man, this sucker’s big, I hope I can drive this thing on the track as well as I can a 911,” so I drove the you know what out of that car and he was like, “Dang, you’re really good,” and I was like, “I know, right?” and I was hitting like 100 on these S-turns which you got to be a good driver to hit 100 on these S-turns and he was so impressed so, every year, they keep inviting me back. I’ve done it like five, six years now, they keep inviting me back. And I don’t even work there anymore so I love it. So I get to go every year.


Brian: I got a question about the GT, just for people who don’t know, how much is that car? Just out of curiosity.


Kari: Well, that particular — it’s a Cayman GT4 and most of the GT cars, I mean, they’re all over $100,000. That particular one, I think the MSRP was $130,000-ish, but some of the GT cars are a couple hundred thousand. It depends on the model, like a GT2 RS or a GT3, I mean, they’re up there. They could be up there, $250,000, $200,000, $180,000 range. It depends on the model. 


Brian: Wow. So in addition, there had to been a little pressure like, “Oh, my God,” like you were saying, “I hope I don’t damage this thing,” just for not only embarrassment but for financial purposes. I bet you’re like, “I don’t want to owe anybody $130,000 if I crash this thing —


Kari: Oh, yeah, for real. Yeah. But I’m confident in my abilities, that’s for sure. But, Billy —


Brian: That’s pretty amazing.


Kari: — you brought something up. So I had bought a Porsche, so that was a GT4, which is a Cayman GT version, and I bought a Cayman S, which is not quite as fast but it still was a nice car, it was a 2015, and I drove that on the track multiple times, loved it. I took it to different racetracks and would track it, what we call tracking the car. And then I found myself getting on our highway here in Richmond, Virginia, where I live and the speed limit’s, I don’t know, 55, 60. There was no way — I mean, there was no way I’m driving the speed limit. I would literally take every exit at 100, like every exit, for sure, 100. I mean, I drove 130 on the highway before which I don’t think they can arrest me for saying that that I did, right? But, unfortunately, I did get a reckless driving but not in the Porsche, in my old beat-up SUV down in North Carolina and so I learned my lesson, I had to do the safety course, I got quite the fine, I had to go through all the rigmarole so I’m a better driver now. Now, I drive a heavy SUV and I can’t take the corners anymore. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But, yeah, I ended up selling the Porsche.


Brian: When you’re in those sports cars, doesn’t it seem like 70 miles an hour is like 30 —


Kari: Yes.


Brian: — when you’re on any other car, you’re like, “Oh, God, I can’t go this slow.” I know what you’re — I used to have a BMW so I know what you’re talking about.


Kari: Yeah. Oh, I love speed. I love noise, I love the waaaah, waaaah, yeah, I love that. Like I don’t want to ever drive an electric car, there’s no fun in that, like I want to hear that engine roar, you know? So, yeah. 


Brian: Going to move you.


Kari: Yeah, love it.


Billy: Here I am driving my Hyundai Elantra, just, meeeee, my little four cylinder, it gets me from point A to point B so I just like a good little cruiser, just nothing too outlandish, nothing too powerful because, listeners, you know that wouldn’t be me at all. I won’t even know what to do with a car like that.


Brian: I think we should call that The Mindful Midlife Crisis Mobile from now on. And I think you need some kind of magnet for it.


Billy: No, no, no, no, no. The Porsches are like the stereotypical midlife crisis car right there. So but at least Kari, she was working for a Porsche, like this isn’t a midlife crisis, this is a passion. 


Brian: This is a passion. No, this goes beyond that, yeah.


Billy: Yeah, that’s fun. That’s awesome. And I feel just like your own bravado is perfect for the Porsche, like it suits you well, Kari —


Kari: Oh, it’s perfect —


Brian: I got another question then to follow up, just to let our guest really get to know you here then. So, are you a pure adrenaline junkie then is this just an avenue to the adrenaline or —


Billy: That was a question I had too.


Brian: — this passion, like do you skydive or do any of that other crazy shit?


Kari: I have gone skydiving, yes, and that was on a total whim —


Brian: Somehow I knew this.


Kari: So, yeah, that was only about four or five years ago. My whole family, we went to Florida, St. Augustine, and it was a random Friday morning. I mean, this is how my life is. So my husband goes golfing. He’s like, “Hey, babe, I’m gonna go golfing with such and such in the family.” I’m like, okay, cool, have fun. My kids call me and they’re like, “Mom, what are you doing today?” It was kind of our second to last day on vacation. I said, “I don’t know, probably either just hang at the pool or something.” And they’re like, “You wanna go skydiving?” And I’m like, “Yeah, let’s go.” And I had a rental car so I’m like, “Where are we going?” He’s like Jacksonville, which is an hour north. I’m like, “Cool. Let’s go. How do we make the appointment?” “I’ve already taken care of it. We just need you to drive.” Okay, right, typical kids, like you pay for the gas and drive us there and we’ll be fine. So we get there and I’m like, holy cow, I’m actually going to do this thing. Let me tell you something. It was the tiniest little plane I’ve ever seen in my life and they crammed me and my guy who I was tandem with, and my son and the guy he was tandem with in this tiny little plane and there were literally like no seats in the plane, you’re literally crouched down. 


Brian: It’s just a fuselage. 


Kari: Oh, yes, a fuselage, that’s exactly it. And I’m thinking, I’ve never been so terrified in my entire life. Like as we kept climbing, I’m thinking, holy crap, like I’m actually going to jump out of a plane, like this is happening. And, of course, I’m praying the whole time —


Brian: Oh, I thought it was because you — the plane was so rickety that you wanted out. 


Kari: No —


Brian: It was the anticipation from the jump.


Kari: Oh, it was a combination of everything. I’m thinking this is the most insane thing I’ve ever done. So, of course, I’m praying the whole time on the way up there. I’m like, “God, please don’t let me die,” like the whole thing. So I jump out first with my guy and then my son and I got to tell you, free falling was badass. It was so cool to be free falling, but when he pulled the cord for us to, you know, with the parachute and kind of more float down, I will never forget that feeling I had when I looked out, I can’t even describe to you, I have my eyes closed right now trying to describe this. It was as if I was not me and that I was in another life and that everything was so surreal. I can’t even describe it. As you’re floating in the air, which it doesn’t even feel like you’re falling, it literally just feels like you’re floating and everything is so crisp and there’s nothing in between you and nature, you and the air, you and the cloud, you and the views, and it’s just you, like when you’re on a plane, you’re in a plane. This is like the air is hitting you. I can’t even describe. It was euphoria to me. Absolutely euphoria. So, yes, I did skydive. But am I an adrenaline junkie by nature? Not really. I love speed. The car thing? Yes. And would I skydive again? Yes. But I don’t think I have like an overabundance to fill a need to be an adrenaline junkie, per se. But I do like roller coasters and things like that, so, yeah.


Brian: I don’t know. I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit because you asked God for help once, twice, what are the other stories where you had to ask God for help? Because I know these are going to be good too. 


Kari: Oh, man, that’s every day of my life. No, for real.


Brian: Because it sounds like you’ve hauled in a couple of favors lately or throughout your life.


Kari: Oh, gosh, no. I will say God is a big part of my life so every day I’m like, even before we got on, I’m like, “Oh,” because to be honest with you, I’ve had a pretty long day. I know I sound like high energy but I was really tired before I got on here so I will say like, God, give me strength to get, like give me the right words to say and get me through it. So, I don’t know. I can’t do anything on my own. Honestly, I feel like he’s —


Brian: I don’t know, is there any bigger a thing than God, though? So we ended up there so I think that’s as big as it gets. You can take us to the next segment, Billy. 


Kari: Yeah.


Billy: I was going to say you’re driving a Porsche and you are skydiving so you are well on your way to being a glamma. So what we’ll do is we’ll take a quick break and then when we come back, we’re going to talk to Kari about what it means to live in the gray and what steps you might need to take in order to come out of that gray area of life. 


Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. 


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If you’re listening somewhere safe and quiet, close your eyes and slowly inhale for four, three, two, one. Hold for seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Slowly exhale for eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Let’s do that one more time. Inhale for four, three, two, one. Hold for seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Slowly exhale for eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Go ahead and open your eyes. You feel better? We certainly hope so. And now back to the show.


Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with executive coach Kari Schwear. Kari talks about gray area drinking. You can find her at And we were just having a conversation following up from that first segment and I was asking you, Kari, I told you that I didn’t necessarily believe that you weren’t an adrenaline junkie but you said, “No, I’m a rebel,” and maybe some of that rebellious nature is what came out in your drinking when you were younger. So, can you tell us what your drinking story is and how you decide to move away from that lifestyle?


Kari: Oh, yeah. So, really, I talk about all things in the gray area and my story really starts when I was seven where I started to identify that I’m not like other kids. I’m definitely different. I was very peculiar about a lot of things. And it was one summer afternoon in St. Louis, super hot, super humid, I’m playing jacks by myself, nobody was around, I have an older sister, six years older, she wasn’t around, nobody was there, and I’m thinking, “Really? Is this all there is to life? Because if so, this isn’t that great. I think there should be more to life than this. I feel like there’s got to be more to this.” And that same year — oh, before I move on, I will — and then at that same moment, I’m thinking, “I’m seven, like what seven-year-old starts thinking about contemplating life on such a big way?” I remember thinking like I don’t think like other kids, I don’t think I think like other kids. So at that same age, this was the mid-70s, by the way. You can do the math, I’m 55, if anybody wants to know. And my mom’s best friend, Gladys, lived directly behind us and Gladys smoked cool cigarettes. Well, dang, I wanted to be cool. So I took one of those bad boys. Oh, yes, I did. And I went down to this lake and I remember taking out the cigarette that I had stolen from Gladys with a pack of matches and I remember smelling it, like you would smell like back and forth with my nose. And I was like, “Oh, that smells really good. I’m gonna light this bad boy up,” and I did. And I didn’t hate it. So I ran home that day and I found my mom in the kitchen and I declared to my mom, “I’m gonna be a cigarette smoker.”


Brian: At seven. Amazing. That’s amazing.


Kari: Oh, yeah. Oh, it gets better. And she was like, “No, you’re not,” and I was like, “No, for real, I am.” I said, “No, Mom, I’m serious. I’m gonna be a cigarette smoker,” and she’s like, “No one in the family smokes. You’re not gonna be a smoker.” I’m like, “No, I’m gonna be a smoker.” So I became one. Okay, no, not at seven —


Billy: At seven.


Kari: Come on, Billy. Come on, Brian. 


Billy: You’re a rebel.


3; Give me a break. I waited ’til I was older. I was 11 when I started smoking. Give me some credit. I waited ’til I was 11. So every day, after school, this was seventh grade, I would smoke. I mean, we would smoke before school at the bus. Now, remember, this is the 70s and people were smoking all the freakin’ time. I mean —


Brian: Everywhere too. Restaurants, cars, planes, you could smoke on planes back then.


Kari: Oh, my gosh, like crazy. Actually, this might have been 1980 by this — like somewhere around there, ’79 to ’81-ish, while this was going down. So, not only that, I was smoking weed every day after school with some kids and, in all seriousness, those were the worst years of my life between sixth grade to ninth grade. Horrendous. I went to 12 different schools in nine years. My parents divorced, I moved around a lot. I was beaten multiple times. I was sexually abused. I mean, I had a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff happening at that time so I was just a mess. But I think this is a good part of the story because a lot of people can relate, whether, maybe not my story but we all have some sort of trauma in our life, whether it’s big T trauma or little T trauma, I had a mixture of both. I carried a lot of that rebellious nature and I wore it as a victim badge, which part of that became my identity. So not only did I declare that I was a smoker, I also declared around that same topic that I’m a rebellious kid, that I get into trouble, that I’m not liked, that I’ll never fit in. I created so many narratives for myself that that became me to the core. And this is — really a lot of the clients I work with, this is what happens is that they claim an identity for themselves so we place these narratives and then we live out that truth. And so that’s what was happening in the background in my unconscious mind which was running my life. So this carried on well into my adulthood and I got married fairly young, I was 22. In my 30s, I was working in the restaurant business as a food and beverage manager and when I was a food and beverage manager, part of my job was to purchase the wines for the club, I was at a country club, and I became very snooty about being a wine connoisseur. I thought I knew everything there was about wine. And so it wasn’t a drinking thing, it was my job and it was I was a wine snob and so I wore that badge for a while, like I’m just a connoisseur, this is my life. And my husband started making comments, like, “Oh, I’ve noticed that you’re drinking at home,” and I’m like, “Yeah, what’s the big deal? They drink in Europe, get over it. Everyone drinks in Europe every day, what’s your problem?” Well, his mom was an alcoholic and, around the same time, she was abusing prescription medication so he was very well aware of what addiction looked like. So he started questioning my drinking and I wasn’t overly doing it but it was consistent, one to two glasses every day kind of a thing. Well, this carried on ’til we moved from Pennsylvania, because I had moved from St. Louis to Pennsylvania and then Pennsylvania to Richmond, where I’m at now, and when I moved to Richmond, that’s when things started to shift because there was a lot of stress and pressure. We just moved from family, we moved from three states away, I’m moving my kids, one was still in high school, hated us for moving, the whole nine yards, had to get a new job, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The stress increased; therefore, my drinking increased. And I really disliked one particular job and that’s when my drinking started to also increase. And my husband said, “You know, I’m getting worried about you,” and I was like, “Don’t be,” and at the same time, I started a wine club in my neighborhood. How fitting, right? Because that’s what you do to justify it. And we all started to drink. I mean, we were just, always, every weekend, and it was just one big party and fun all the time. I mean, everyone was having fun. My husband was having fun. So then it became okay. Until it was not okay, meaning I started to recognize that I didn’t like the way my relationship with alcohol was going. It wasn’t so much about the amount, it was about the consistency, it was about the reason why I was drinking, it was acknowledging that I was correlating my stress and unhappiness to why I was reaching for a drink and I started getting honest and I stayed in a contemplation stage for two years of maybe I should question my relationship. And, finally, I had my own enough. I didn’t have a rock bottom, most gray area drinkers don’t. They’re not forced to quit. If you looked at me from the outside world, I had it all together. Again, this is a huge gray area for many people because they are extremely professional. I hold myself well, I live in a nice house, I drove a nice car, had the marriage, the kids, the whole nine yards, successful, making six figures, like everyone would just go, “Wow, she’s got it going on,” but there was this deep unhappiness inside. So it wasn’t enough to quit drinking, which I did, and the only avenue that I knew at that particular time in 2016 was to go to AA. So I went I went to AA. Great program. Loved it. Wasn’t a good fit. Wasn’t a good fit for me because, again, I didn’t see myself as an alcoholic nor did I identify as being an alcoholic and I wasn’t severely abusing to the point where I could say that I felt like I was an alcoholic and I didn’t know what I was so I stayed in this perpetual fog, if you will. I had stopped drinking but I’m like I still don’t know what the heck I am, who I am, what I’m doing. I was still unhappy. The drinking was a symptom that I had gotten rid of but I still had this deep core unhappiness. And that’s when I worked with a life coach and, at that time, he said — let me rephrase that. He’s not a life coach. He is a badass men’s coach, a physician that I worked for that said, “I don’t even coach women.” I said, “Exactly why I want you to coach me.” And he changed my life. He is the reason why I’m here today doing what I do, because he planted the seeds for me. He said, “Kari, I think you’re gonna be a coach someday, I think you’re gonna start your own business,” and at that point, I was working for Porsche and I’m like, “I’m never leaving here. I got my dream job. Are you kidding me? I love it here.” And he said it, “And I think you’re gonna share your story with the world,” and I said, “You’re smoking some serious crack, because that’s never gonna happen.” I said, “I’m never gonna share my story, my drink. Are you kidding me? I’m never gonna tell anybody how much — like what? Seriously, you’re smoking something.” Well, like all good coaches, they see things that you can’t see. They see well past into the future, they see your blind spots, they see your potential, and that’s what he did for me. He planted these three seeds. Without them, I didn’t even know what they meant until I went to start something at my church, a small group, very long story very short, didn’t work out, left the church over it, my girlfriend called me that same day and said, “I don’t know why you’re waiting for the church to start something, just start something on your own,” and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll show that church. I don’t need them,” and that is literally how this business got started. So I never sought it out like I’m going to start my own business someday and be an entrepreneur. Nope, that thought never crossed my mind. It was sort of this evolution of things. I feel like I was called to do this work. And I’m so grateful for the church for poo-pooing my idea of starting something there, a small group, it was going to be on gray area drinking. Oh, I left out a part of the story that’s important. I heard the term “gray area drinking” on a podcast right before that whole church situation and the girl who I was listening to was describing her life and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s me. That’s me. I was a gray area drinker.” So, for the listeners, a gray area drinker is somebody who’s in this wide space between socially drinking and severely abusing alcohol. They typically don’t have a rock bottom. They’re in this wide spectrum. There are four types of drinkers: the abstain or a teetotaler, the social drinker, the gray area drinker, and someone who’s severely abusing alcohol. Those are the four types of drinkers there are and I didn’t know where I was. So, there are three categories to alcohol abuse disorder, mild, medium, and severe, and gray area would fall in the mild to medium. And so when I learned this term, I thought, holy cow, if I can just tell everyone what gray area drinking is, maybe I could get people to raise their hand before they get too far into their addiction, that then I can help save them. So I was on fire. I mean, like fire, fire, fire that I wanted to start something on my own to get this message out. And then over a period of time, the business has evolved into multiple things. I’m more of an executive coach now but I do have a dedicated program to gray area drinking, yes. 


Billy: So we just had a really fascinating conversation with marriage coach, Deanna Bryant, and one thing that she talked about that saved her marriage was reflecting back on her family’s origins, getting a better understanding of the origin stories of her family. As I’m listening to your story, and, Brian, I’m curious to your take on this too, you talked about the badges you wore and your identity as a drinker, and I know what mine were, mine were I was the fun guy. People really liked me when I was drunk. I was way funnier. I let loose when I was drinking. I would say the things that nobody else would say. I would do the things nobody else would do. And, listen, I’m the youngest in my family and I’m the only boy. You know what that means? I love attention. Man, I love attention. So drinking brought a lot of attention to me and it allowed me to embolden myself to do things that brought attention, that got a laugh, that sort of thing. So, as I’m listening to you, that’s really an aha moment for me. Brian, I’m kind of curious, what do you think your identity was as a drinker? I know you talked about that being a musician maybe played a little bit of a role in that. 


Brian: It was different for me, yeah. I was never unhappy, you know what I mean? I was never — I always had my head, I always knew who I was and I never really had a lot of emotional problems or anything. It was just when you’re around it so much. We were playing a lot back in those days. We were playing sometimes up to five times a week if it was busy, so every night was an occasion to have alcohol. For me, it was really a physical dependence because it’d be just like, “Oh, I’m playing.” And tonight, to feel good on stage, you’ve had a couple beers, get in the zone, that zone just moves on you until it becomes a physical addiction. So that’s what I went through. It just takes a little bit more to get where you’re going every night, you know what I mean? You build up a tolerance. And one or two beers or a shot was good at first. But when you’re five years into that, it’s not the same anymore and it kind of turns the tide on you. So that’s what I went through. It was more — I never associated — I did associate it with a good time but I’m from Wisconsin, dude, it’s socially acceptable over there to have a Bloody Mary Sunday morning, you know what I mean? So it was just in the culture I grew up, it was fine. 


Billy: Yeah, that’s the same with me too growing up in small town Minnesota is that your restaurants, we didn’t have restaurants, you had bars and that’s where you went for brunch —


Brian: Yeah, exactly.


Billy: — is you went to bars so to be to be surrounded with alcohol at the age of seven, eight, nine, ten years old was very common place for me. I kind of have an admission here. So, usually, I do a sober school year where I don’t drink during the entire school year and then, in the summer, I can have one or two drinks now and then, right? This year, because I haven’t been in school, because I’ve been traveling. I’m like, you know what, I’m going to just go ahead and have drinks and just let it go. And I got to tell you, one, when I was in Portugal especially, the drinking didn’t affect me because there was a mood around it or there was a mood around Portugal that made me feel at home and made me feel comfortable and a lot of it was just social, but now that I’m back here and I’ve had a drink here and there, I don’t know that I like it. I think even if I never ever go back to school, I am just going to say, from Labor Day through Memorial Day, those are going to be my sober months and then if I’m going to have a drink, I’ll do it in the summer here in Minnesota. And that’s kind of how I’ve operated and I’ve always felt really good in those sober months and I’ve not allowed myself to get carried away and I’ve been able to manage myself in the summer months when I do have a drink or two here and there. I had to learn how to drink responsibly because I didn’t drink socially, I drink to get drunk. Like it was Friday, Saturday night, have one or two drinks? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. If I’m going to have a drink, I’m going to get —


Brian: All of them. Drink all of them.


Billy: Yeah, exactly. 


Brian: Yeah, that’s the way it was, yeah. Oh, yeah.


Billy: I’ve had to learn how to be a social drinker and be okay with one or two but I want everybody to know this now, so that listeners and followers of us on Instagram to hold me accountable, like today’s February 1st, I had my last drink last night and, moving forward, I’m going to Mexico next week sober and I’m going to — I don’t know where I’m going to be in March, April, or May, but wherever I am, it’s going to be sober because I just feel like I’m kind of in this —


Kari: Gray area?


Billy: — limbo of — well, yeah, I’m in limbo, I’m in this gray area of my life, which I think is in — I think I need a clear headspace in order —


Brian: I was just going to say that.


Billy: — to figure that out, you know what I mean? 


Brian: I was just going to say that. 


Billy: So I think that brings up this question here, like what does it mean to live in the gray? Because you’re talking about gray area drinking, what does gray area living mean? What does that look like? 


Kari: Yeah. So the reason why I told you that seven-year-old story about is this all the risk to life, really, it’s about living in this in-between, mediocre-type existence where you’re in a perpetual fog. You’re in a marriage or a relationship that you’re not happy but you feel like you’re tied to that person because you have kids or because it’s just easier to stay together than it is to have the tough conversations or go to counseling or get a divorce because of the kids, whatever, fill in the blank. Could be with your job. You’re in a career that you got the benefits, you have the four weeks of paid vacation, and you’re 50-something years old and you’re going to be retiring in 15 years, there’s no way you’re rocking the boat right now, you might as well just suck it up, buttercup, and just finish out your time so you’re settling. It’s literally settling is a good way to put it. And then —


Billy: Everything is just fine. 


Kari: Yeah, it’s fine. It’s not really fine. When we say we’re fine, that’s complete BS. There’s no such thing as just being fine. And, on Instagram, I did a Reel last week or so and I said, “Stop saying the F word. Stop it. Stop it, stop it,” because fine is one of the biggest F words we can say because there is no real explanation to saying you’re fine because that’s average. Who wants to be average? Who wants to be status quo? Who wants to be not living with purpose or clarity or living on fire? It’s just like you’re settling. You’re saying, “Yep, this is as good as it’ll get.” That is not where somebody really wants to be. They don’t. They can say that but they don’t. They can be in their comfort zone for so long but that’s not thriving and where we’re meant to be. So that’s one thing I’ll say. But how do they know? It’s just getting honest, listening to that inner voice, like how do you really feel about your life? Where in your life do you have a gray area? We all have one. So I think I mentioned I had a gray area with my husband there for a while, where our marriage was a little like I wasn’t happy and we had to work through that and it’s a good thing that we worked through it. I mean, we were not going to throw away a 30-year marriage. There was no way. We plowed through it. And we didn’t have to stay together because of the kids or anything like that. No. You can’t be with somebody that long and just not have feelings for him, right? So we had to go through this gray area together and a lot of it was just us getting back on the same page. That’s it. So there’s multiple gray areas. Yeah. 


Billy: Did you work with somebody on the outside looking in to your relationship? 


Kari: That is a great question. The answer is no, because I’m a coach and I’m connected to literally hundreds of coaches. I’ve been in multiple masterminds and bigger groups and spent over a hundred grand on my education to be where I’m at today. So between all of that, I’ve had quite the onslaught of connections so we always felt supported. If I needed to have outside help, did we see somebody specifically for that? No. But what we did do is we took a lot of the advice that I give to clients and we really worked at it. A lot of it is communication, a lot of it — one thing that we did do is we completed a deep assessment which is what I do for my one-on-one clients and we overlaid our results for us to better see each other, because a lot of times, that is the problem. When we don’t feel emotionally safe with our partner or in any relationship, it could be a working relationship, a parental relationship, but if we don’t have that emotional safety, you’re not going to be able to have the best relationship because you’re not allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You’re always putting up the guard or the armor and as soon as something happens, you’re both pulling out your arsenal box and pulling out your biggest guns so you can blaze at each other. And that’s what we do when we feel under pressure. We want to protect ourselves so we move into this protective state. So, the answer is no but we were very lucky and very blessed that we worked through it. 


Billy: I think that requires a lot of trust on your husband because you’re using an assessment that you use and, at any point, was he like, “This is rigged against me, you’re using your materials against me so you could get your way.”


Kari: Yeah, actually, no. So I’m glad you brought that up, for real. This is a really good point. The assessment that I use is a third party so when I do it for my clients, I pay a third party to do it and so I had this third party run both of ours together and it’s done manually, a piece of it, so that manual piece was done by the people that I work with and they presented it that way and they’re the ones who conducted the call. So, normally, I conduct the call with my clients. They conducted the call with us. So it was completely on the up and up but that’s a good question. That’s a fair one. Yeah.


Billy: Kind of going back to this idea of gray area drinking, I have spoken about my objection to mommy wine culture in the past, much to the dismay of the mommy wine culture listeners out there, so I’m curious for the people out there yelling, “But it’s only one glass a night, what’s so wrong with that?” what do you have to say? Or even what do you say to me who creates an exception for the summers? 


Kari: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So here’s what I’d say to that. If you think it’s a problem, it’s a problem. If you don’t think there’s any problem whatsoever, and here’s the key to that because, cognitively, you could say, “Yeah, no, I’m fine. There’s no problem,” but deep down, if you have that intuitive voice that’s speaking to you like, “Maybe I am drinking a little too much,” if you’ve ever had that inner voice, you need to pay attention to it. This is so much less about how much you’re drinking as opposed to why you’re drinking and also how you feel afterwards, if you have any guilt behind it or if you’re justifying why you want to drink. So, for me, for example, we went on our 25th wedding anniversary to Napa and Sonoma Valley because, really, I just wanted to go there to drink my butt off and go to all these amazing wineries while I’m —


Brian: I did the same thing.


Kari: Right? So it’s like that’s the kind of stuff I would do. I revolved my evenings around wine. Obviously, my whole 25th wedding anniversary was revolved around it. So when we start doing things like that, then we need to really pay attention. I’m not opposed to alcohol. I’m not on a vendetta against alcohol. Am I in favor of it? No, of course not. I think there’s no amount of alcohol that is considered healthy. Now, being said that, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that a woman, to be a moderate drinker, could have, and I hate to say the word “could,” have up to one standard drink per day and a guy can have up to two standard drinks per day. Now, what is a standard drink? Ha, ha, ha, this is where it gets fun. A standard glass of wine is only five ounces. Let me tell you, when I was drinking, my standard class was more like eight or nine glasses — nine ounces, rather. So now you’re talking close to I’m drinking two glasses when I’m saying that’s one so we have to be careful with that. So, one standard drink per day for women, two for men. And then for beer, it’s 12 ounces unless it’s a craft beer or malt liquor, it’s 8 or 9 and, of course, hard liquor is an ounce and a half. So we have to be honest, how much are we really drinking? And I don’t even like the word “moderate.” I hate that because we can confuse the word “moderate” with healthy, like, “Oh, it’s okay,” and there’s no amount of alcohol that is considered healthy. And before I have my wine lovers out there going, “But, but, but, Kari, there’s all these reports out there that wine is good for you,” it’s the resveratrol that is in the wine that is good for you and I hate to bust your bubble, please don’t hate me, don’t hate the messenger, you can buy that in a pill form, I kid you not, as a supplement. So there is no amount of alcohol, please hear me with that. It just does not work well with our bodies, it disrupts our sleep patterns and especially as we hit our later years of life, 45 and older, our hormones are changing dramatically. It affects our sleep. We lose, as guys and women, we lose testosterone and this changes so much for us and how we feel our energy, our sleep is disrupted. I mean, there’s so many things. And yet, we will blame everything else on something outside of the alcohol because we’re so protective of it. So when that starts to happen, you want to pay attention. You want to be really listening to your inner voice. And, by the way, there is a quiz that you can take. I have two websites by the way, I have, gray is G-R-A-Y here in the United States, just in case, because I know they’re r G-R-E-Y but that’s more of an English spelling. So and then also Both sites have a quiz on it. Gray Area Drinking is the first thing you’ll see. It’s a fun, intuitive, interactive quiz that you can take to see if you fall in this gray area so I invite you to check that out because that would be very helpful for someone that might be questioning and not sure. 


Billy: Yeah, and we’re actually going to give everybody here an opportunity to do that right now because we’re going to go to break and then, after break, we’re going to continue talking to Kari about living in the gray and question the drink. 


Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. 


Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you’d like to contact us or if you have suggestions about what you’d like us to discuss, feel free to email us at or follow us on Instagram at @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we reference throughout the show. Oh, and don’t forget to show yourself some love every now and then too. And now back to the show.


Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with executive coach and gray area living specialist, Kari Schwear, and we’ve been having a wonderful conversation about what it means to live in the gray, what it means to be a gray area drinker, and, off air here, Brian just kind of had a revelation and so this is a fantastic celebration. Brian, what do you want to share with us? 


Brian: I did. As I was reflecting on what you were saying, Kari, I realized I am coming up on 10 years not having a drink. It was right around Christmas of 2012 so —


Kari: That’s amazing. 


Brian: Yeah, it’s really — I can tell you, without a doubt, the last 10 years have been way better than the previous 10 were. Here we are.


Kari: You know, I want to ask you, so what do you think has been the greatest benefit that you’ve noticed in your personal life? 


Brian: Oh, my relationships are better, everything’s better. I appreciate life more, I think. You can be more purposeful when you don’t have that. For me, it was like a burden. It’s what you thought about all the time, like I was in a state where I was smuggling booze around. I had water bottles of vodka everywhere. So, to not have to worry about all of that was really — it’s remarkable. And life almost slows down a little bit and you get a bit of a better look at it. 


Kari: Yeah, so here’s, for me, and tell me if you feel the same way, Brian, it’s almost like when you were drinking, at least for me, I can say this, and for my clients, I’ve heard this too, it’s almost like you’re in a fog, you’re driving in fog, you’re living in fog, and all of a sudden, the fog’s lifted, you could see for miles, you could see in living color, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is what it’s supposed to be? I forgot this is the life.” 


Brian: Because of the physical thing, not having that, your body feeling good. I started working out, my body feels strong now. It’s such a difference. My energy levels are off the charts compared to what they used to be. There’s no way I could be doing what I’m doing right now with all these bands and professionally and podcasts and all this stuff if I was drinking. There’s just no possible way to do it physically. So I’m glad to be doing what I’m doing. 


Kari: Yeah. And, it’s funny because I quit drinking literally the same week I interviewed at Porsche and it was because of that job also that really kept me on the straight and narrow, if you will, because I thought, “Man, I need purpose for my life and this is a really hard job.” I mean, I didn’t have any experience as an F&I manager. I mean, I was going into a higher position at a dealership level with no previous experience and I thought, man, I was in school for it, I enrolled to learn, get my own education on it and it was tough. And I thought, gosh, there was so many nights where I would come home from my previous job and if I had work to do, I had to do my work first because as soon as I poured that first glass of wine, I called it my F it switch and, yes, F, it stands for you know what. I literally didn’t give a rip and I couldn’t function to the optimal place I needed to be. So there’s no way I could have done that job, there’s no way I could be running a business if I was still drinking, it’s just not possible so I think we get so clouded and that becomes our norm for so long that when we do quit, there is this — AA refers to it as a pink cloud, that you feel so freakin’ good because you haven’t felt this good in so long and that you’re on this like pink cloud floating and then, of course, the next time something major happens, a death in the family or, I don’t know, some guy cuts you off in traffic and you’re just really ticked off, it’s an excuse to drink. So it’s learning all of those tools on how to self-regulate, how to understand how your brain works, and really how to move yourself out of that triggered response before you act. That is exactly the work that I do with my clients because, otherwise, we’re white knuckling it, willpower is never going to get you there and it’s about disrupting those patterns and creating new ways of thinking and we all have different paths to get there. AA is a wonderful program, like I mentioned, wasn’t a good fit for me, it’s not a fit for everybody. I’m not a fit for everybody. And I don’t look at myself as a sober coach or a recovery coach. Matter of fact, I don’t love those words, I don’t use them in my business. I’m all about having that person discover, rather than recover, why they’re drinking, help them understand their brain patterns, help them rewire the way that they’re thinking, empower them by creating a new identity, claiming that for themselves so they feel better. Matter of fact, my group program, which is Question the Drink for 30, that is so much centered around their life in general, like 70 percent of it is more about them bonding together and their life and dealing and how to deal with life and 30 percent is about the drinking, because the truth is is that most people aren’t drinking just because they like the taste. We’re either chasing a feeling or we’re running from a feeling. It’s one of those two things. So I’m glad to hear that you’ve —


Brian: That’s accurate.


Kari: — you found all this beautiful benefits from not drinking.


Brian: You know, actually, I would say because of the nature of my addiction, because it was very physical for me, once I found what my body felt like good, I developed a strong aversion to alcohol, like I don’t have that connection anymore in my brain to it feeling good. I’m like, “That’ll make me feel awful,” so I don’t even like it, so I’m not even tempted anymore, to be honest with you. It’s not even something that crosses my mind anymore, any more than if you don’t like Brussel sprouts, how often do you cross them out, you know what I mean?


Kari: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. That’s really good. That’s really, really good to hear because a lot of people still struggle, even if they quit. I’ve been alcohol free for five and a half years and I’m like you, I just don’t have a desire whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I smoked for 37 years. I have more of a random out-of-the-blue moment of wanting a cigarette. It doesn’t happen very often, I’d say it comes maybe once a year where I’m like, “What in the world?” like where’d that come from and I was just talking to a client today, a client of mine that does smoke and I said, “Listen, one thing that helped me when I quit was just pretending I was smoking, having my two fingers up to my mouth, breathing in and out like I was breathing in —


Brian: The habit, the physical habit, yeah.


Kari: The physical habit. And what I found and why that works so well, for those that do smoke or even drink, by replacing something that’s beneficial for you, in this case, the benefit of doing that was actually getting oxygen into my body and that is the fastest way to self-regulate yourself is through breathing so one of the things I really work within the group and with my clients is we take really controlled, deep, deliberate breaths before every session and even on the group calls. It’s part of my methodology, it’s part of my training. I really want them to know that when we can breathe, we calm our central nervous system, we move out of this protective state that we’re in into an expansive state, and we can do this simply by breath. And when we realize what a gift, what an absolute gift that we have available to us, that’s free and it’s easy, you could do it anywhere, and I challenge, my clients are like, “Kari, I just don’t have time.” Like, listen, you don’t have time not to do it. You have time when you go to the bathroom, you have time when you’re at a stoplight, at a stop sign, every hour, in between calls, you have to pump the brakes in order to slow down to speed back up. So the whole act of breathing is a big piece of it too. And just that, pretending I was smoking is what helped me quit because every time I had that craving, I needed to fuel myself with what can I do to get rid of that feeling and, eventually, it becomes the new norm or the new habit that you’re not smoking or you’re not drinking or you’re not binge watching Netflix all weekend or you’re not overeating at every little thing. I mean, we can change any habit, we just have to know why you’re doing it, knowing the cues, the triggers, the response, changing all of that. That’s what I get to do. 


Billy: Kari, you just summed up like four of our previous episodes with that last piece right there —


Brian: That’s pretty amazing.


Billy: That was very well done —


Brian: That’s good work right there, Kari.


Billy: — a great segment on breathing with Kolin Purcell and Anna Schlegel and when you talked about, “No, you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate,” we heard that from Sarah Rudell Beach in episode 4 so thank you for bringing all of that back around. This is why — listen, the people that we have on the show, they all share similar brilliance and it all connects to each other in some way. One thing I wanted to ask both of you, and here’s what I’m going to say, me doing a sober school year is not on the same level as what the two of you have done by going sober for five and a half, ten years, like I’m well aware of that, this is me trying to relate in some way, shape, or form, and you were talking about the sleep piece, the two things that would keep me up at night back in the day were either my drinking or working with students, like just being an educator was so stressful and I’ve had this opportunity now while on leave to be able to sleep without doing either one of those things and yet I’ve just continued drinking through the summer. So now I’m really looking forward to these next four months here where I’m committing to not drinking and getting clarity in my life. I wanted to talk to the two of you, because I know how important this is to me how much the role of peer pressure plays in all of this. When I did my first sober school year, I remember it was October and, Brian, we were doing that benefit show for Lilly, our friend Pete Bourbon’s niece or cousin or whoever she is, and that was when I had just declared that, okay, I’m going the rest of this school year — actually, I said, “I’m gonna go 180 days sober because I was going to turn my life around,” right? It was very symbolic. But I can remember being at our friend Matt Hazard’s house and Pete Bourbon was there and they asked me, “Hey, do you want a drink?” and I said, “You know what, I’m not drinking anymore. I really wanna sober up here,” and what they said next made all the difference. They said, “Good for you, man.” That made all the difference to me. So I’m curious, for the two of you, who were your cheerleaders? How did they support you? How important is that role in peer pressure when it comes to, especially as adults where it become socially acceptable to go out for happy hour and have a drink here and there, what role has that played for the two of you?


Kari: So, for me, in the beginning, because I didn’t know what I knew, I didn’t know what I know now, so if a listener is wondering, “Okay, yeah, I wanna try this thing but oh, my gosh, I’m so scared, like how am I gonna tell others and I’m not drinking?” First of all, if you don’t make a big deal about it, nobody else will. That’s number one. Second thing is nobody really gives a rip if you’re not drinking, it’s more about them so here’s what I advise people to say. If you’re out someplace, is to get in your mind, know where you’re going, have preparation about it, have a plan, like have an idea what you’re going to drink, know the lay of the land, and then have an escape route if you feel uncomfortable. And part of that is if somebody says, “Can I get you something to drink?” you could simply say, “Yeah, I’ll have a club soda for now.” The “for now” is like the key here, because what they’re hearing is, “Oh, they might have something else,” and then when they come back around, if they do, you can just say, “Oh, no, I’m great. Thanks,” and, again, if you don’t make a big deal about it, nobody else is going to make a big deal about it. The other thing that I’ll say is the tide is turning. We are starting to see a different culture, which is I am so grateful for, the sober curious movement, the non-drinker movement, the sober community is really, really starting to gain some speed. There are so, so many alternatives out there. There is phenomenal non-alcoholic beers out on the market and I’m saying like they are killer. They taste just like the real thing, if not better. Amazing, like I love a good NA beer. There’s also — I was a wine drinker. Unfortunately, they have not perfected an NA wine but there are some really good close ones. Surely is one. Luminara is another brand that I like. There are some decent ones out there that don’t taste just like grape juice but you can find some alternatives. There’s other really fun stuff. Curious Elixirs is another brand that is out on the marketplace now. So you can either buy these for like a home party or take them somewhere or you can simply ask the bartender when you’re out to make something for you or ask if they have an NA beer. Most places have NA beer and most of them are having more than just O’Douls. There are some really good ones out there, like I said. But preparing and planning. And, again, here’s the other key to this. A lot of habit change has to really — you have to be able to look at your environment and change your environment if needed. And, yes, that means changing the people that you’re hanging with. Sometimes, the people become toxic after a while and it’s okay to let people go. They’re in your life for a season. It doesn’t mean they’re in your life forever. We have friends that come and go and it’s okay. They’re there for a purpose and when you’re not feeling like they’re serving you anymore or they’re bringing you down or they’re holding you back and they’re not challenging and up leveling you or edifying you or building you up, it is time to let them go. And there’s an awesome Tyler Perry video out there with Medina, the character, and it’s called Let It Go. If you just Google “Tyler Perry Let It Go,” you will watch that skit, it is freaking hilarious and it is so on point with what I’m trying to say about people will come and go out of your life for a season. So it’s true, though, you got to let people go. It’s the toxicity. That includes environment. So if you’re in a soul-sucking job, get out. I mean, you can’t do that with all family, I get it. You can make some adjustments. You have a choice. Oh, that’s the other thing I want to say. It’s a choice to drink. If you’re a gray area drinker, it is a choice to drink. So instead of saying like, Billy, when you go to Mexico, “I can’t drink,” or, “I’m doing the sober thing,” dude, change your whole verbiage to, “I’m choosing not to drink.” It’s so much more edifying to you and empowering because you are ultimately in control.


Billy: I appreciate that. Thank you for reframing that for me.


Kari: Sure. How about you, Brian? Did you find…


Brian: You know, I didn’t think a lot about peer pressure or anything. When I was going through recovery and everything, I didn’t —it really didn’t matter to me, to be honest with you, like what are people going to think of me, that type of thing. Or to your point, Billy, if you’re not drinking, yeah, I would say not drinking, you don’t even have to worry about it. I mean, just say, “No, I’m good. Give me an orange juice.”


Kari: Yeah. 


Brian: I mean, I don’t think people even really — there are some people, I guess, maybe that do judge but I guess I never did. If people weren’t drinking, I’d be like, “Oh, okay, cool. Yeah.”


Kari: And you know what, I’m finding when people do say that, they actually are really proud of you, like they said, “Oh, good for you,” your friend, actually there’s an admiration because, deep down, I got to tell you, not everybody loves to drink. They just drink because they feel like they have to, it’s the peer pressure in this society. 


Brian: Oh, yeah.


Kari: It’s become — I mean, we have been habitualized by society and pressure and everything that we have to drink in order to fit in. It’s how we celebrate, it’s how we do everything, but that’s, like I said, the tide is definitely changing and it’s turning and I’m so grateful to see that happen.


Brian: Even I would say the same thing about recovery too, not just not drinking but coming out and saying, “No, I don’t drink and I abused alcohol, I shouldn’t do it.” People are like, “Oh, I’m really glad you realized that,” you know what I mean? They don’t judge you, they’re more like, “Oh, yeah, that was probably a good move.”


Kari: Yeah, exactly. 


Brian: You know, it’s not a bad thing. 


Kari: Well, you got to own it and I think this is the thing, when you’re first in it, you’re like, “Oh, my God,” it’s like having a big zit on your face when you’re a teenager, you think everybody sees it so it’s like when you first quit drinking or quit smoking or quit doing whatever, you feel like you have this big badge across your forehead when you walk into a room like, “Oh, my God, she no longer drinks,” or whatever and nobody knows. it’s just you. It’s all about you. 


Brian: Exactly. 


Kari: It’s changing the way that you’re viewing yourself and changing the narrative and the story that you’re creating, because a lot of it is just psychological that you’re thinking people are thinking this and they don’t really care.


Brian: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Spot on, Kari, yeah.


Billy: So, Kari, can you tell us more about this Question the Drink 30 program that you have going and how can people participate in that?


Brian: Oh, my God, I love this program. I’m so proud of this program. It started last year, it was under a different name, it was Try Dry for 30, and then I found out that there was a company in the UK that had Try Dry trademarked so I had to change the name, but I had a Question the Drink trademarked already so it’s QtD for 30 for short. So it is a 30-day program and I have people that continue on. This current group I had in February, more than half continued into February because they loved it so much. So it’s such a great group. So we meet every week for an hour via Zoom. We have a tight Voxer group so everybody participates daily. I put in some inspirational pieces in there and then everybody chimes in throughout the day so everybody’s supporting one another. It’s online modules and lessons so we kind of follow the module 1 is week 1, so forth. So it starts the first of every month so we start fresh the first — like today is the first day of February’s group, and it’s amazing. I mean, it is life changing. Absolutely life changing. So I just love this program. I know it’s my own program but I got to say, I wish I would have had that program when I quit drinking. It would have been so much better. And I attract a lot of high performers so it’s people that don’t want to even think about going anywhere else and they feel very protected and safe. And that’s the thing. I provide a safe place that they feel that they can share. And in my group right now, I have everything from a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom to a 72-year-old grandma and about four to five business owners running multimillion-dollar businesses in between. I mean, I have a gamut of different people in there and they all bond together because the common ground is they have this one thing and it’s not drinking. They all want to be loved, seen, and connected and that’s what I provide for them. Yes, while we’re working on their drinking and their habits and everything else, so it’s a phenomenal program. I couldn’t be more proud. Thanks for asking. 


Brian: It really sounds amazing. 


Kari: It is, thank you. I love it. And it jazzes me, gives me so much energy. I mean, I have my one-on-one clients and my one-on-one clients pay me very well and the group is very affordable but I get so much energy out of the group, I just love it. It’s so much fun. 


Brian: I can see why. 


Kari: Yeah.


Brian: That’s amazing. 


Kari: Thanks.


Billy: So, Kari, we’re going to get you out on this, you do your deep dive assessments with your clients and just curious what those look like a bit but, more importantly, what seems to be a reoccurring theme in those conversations that maybe our listeners could reflect on as they’re listening to this conversation that we’ve had today?


Kari: The assessment that I do is the one that I referenced earlier. We really look at their cognitive thinking, their behavioral traits, their personality traits, and then I take that information, along with this third party company, and it helps me to better see them and coach them. And a lot of that does tell me where their pressure is and I can look at their behavioral emotional levels and so we start there. I look at what their main focus is to work with me. Most work with me for six months or longer. And we really start off with this roadmap for them, for each individual person, so the one-on-one clients, a whole different level, there’s a concierge level, they have me in their back pocket 24/7, I’m very devoted to my one-on-one clients, and for that reason, I don’t take more than a certain number on at one time. That happens with that. And then the theme is always pretty much the same, which is what I just said, there’re some places in their life where they have been either not seen or they’re missing a connectiveness to themselves, they are trying to find that confidence, and I don’t care how successful they are, because money, I have, like I said, I have people that are millionaires, that run multimillion-dollar businesses, and they literally don’t have the self-love and the self-confidence and they thought that by getting the material things, it would then make them happy and that does not make someone happy. So the bottom line here is the lack of self-love. It is really looking at themselves in the mirror and finding a way to fill that hole that they have inside, which, by the way, was my story, which is why I feel called to do this work, which is why it’s so much bigger than drinking. It’s seven years old, I had a hole. That hole grew and grew and grew. Alcohol tried to fill it, the material things tried to fill it. It wasn’t until I worked on myself at a deeper level and decided to throw myself into the self-development and get the education that I have and all the certifications and the training and blah, blah, blah to get to this point and it took all of that to find it, which is why I’m so passionate about helping my clients see it for themselves because we can’t always see our blind spots. Just like that first coach said to me, “Kari, this is what I see for your life,” that’s what a good coach does. They see past the blind spots. They can see the future for you and they pave the way because they want to get you there, like I always think of myself as in bowling, you ever go bowling as a kid and they put up the bumpers so you don’t get a gutter ball, I’m the bumpers to someone so it’s like I’m not there to direct their life but I am there to push them back in the center lane so they can hit their targets.


Billy: Well, if this conversation has you examining whether or not you are a gray area drinker or even if you’re just living your life in the gray, we strongly encourage you to check out Kari at There is a free quiz to determine whether or not you are a gray area drinker you can check out as well. Kari, I want to thank you for sharing your story and sharing your insights. And, Brian, I want to thank you for sharing your story and being vulnerable. Usually, you just kind of are back there giving your two cents and I really want to thank you for being vulnerable again and sharing your story again with our listeners.


Brian: Man, I don’t mind talking when I know what’s happening. Usually, you guys are just talking so far over my head, I’m like okay, but when I can relate, I can contribute, man.


Billy: I think both of your experiences and particularly you, Kari, when we booked you on the show and I went through your website and I listened to some of the episodes, it gave me pause to really think about do I need to continue socially drinking during this leave? I think it’s getting in the way of me actually finding clarity. And you and I talked about before, like what is it that I want to do with this podcast and how do we want to make this grow and that sort of thing, what is the purpose, and you asked my why and I’m pretty clear on the why, but I’m not clear on the how. And so, again, I want to thank you for providing a roadmap to some clarity.


Kari: Oh, that’s so awesome. Thank you for sharing that with me. Listen, it’s called Question the Drink for a reason. It’s not quit the drink. Question your relationship, question the drink, question why you’re doing it. The second thing is, Billy, is that when you are thinking about the how, know that life is always working for you, and if your why is big enough, deep enough, and you have a grasp on that, you ask really good questions, you’ll get really good answers and the how will start to reveal itself. I’ve turned a corner in my business because I stopped worrying about the how. I don’t care about the how. All I care about is fulfilling my values, which is having faith, having trust, and knowing that abundance will come, and I don’t mean abundance with money, although that, of course, is a lovely thing to have, but I’m talking about abundance in providing value, abundance in making an impact. So it really comes back to your why. If your values are there and your intentions are there, then everything else starts to fall into place and we don’t have to worry about it because life is always working for us and the how will start to reveal itself. Like there’s no such thing as accidents or serendipities or coincidences. It’s all part of the master plan. And when we pay attention to that master plan, oh, my gosh, life becomes so much easier if we just surrender and trust, so that would be my last word to say. 


Brian: You are wise.


Kari: Yeah.


Billy: Yeah, and you really have no idea how much I needed to hear that so I greatly appreciate that. So, for Brian, for Kari, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.


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