#243 – The Normalization of Abnormal Drinking with Benoit Kim


Benoit Kim describes himself as a ‘third culture kid’. He is the child of Korean parents raised in Paris and America. Alcohol took hold of him when he was young, and he experienced two hospitalizations when he was in college. Benoit talks about his time in the US military and how he came to get sober and become a psychotherapist.

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about this episode

“Drinking alcohol is like playing Russian roulette with fate.” – Benoit Kim

Benoit Kim is a US army veteran, Penn-educated former policymaker turned psychotherapist, and host of Discover More – an Apple Podcasts Top 100 podcast. He pivoted early into the non-profit and policy sector from management consulting upon graduation, then committed to Teach for America (AmeriCorps program) teaching in inner-city Philadelphia before taking a military leave from this commitment and graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania due to a 2017 near-deployment.

In this 2017 near-deployment to the North-South Korean border, I experienced my first major depression and had to acknowledge that perseverance does not always prevail, which catalyzed my venture into the realm of mental health. Then, I worked in the policy sector for a few years after becoming the youngest policymaker in the agency’s 100-year history and, then pivoted recently into the clinical field as an aspirational psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist.

In this episode, Benoit discusses his experiences with alcohol, from binge drinking in college to the realization that his drinking was causing harm in his relationship with his now-fiancé. Benoit also shares how he decided to quit drinking and the challenges he faced in his first year of sobriety. We talk about:

  • Benoit’s unique upbringing as a third-culture kid
  • Challenges of cultural assimilation and navigating your cultural identity as a global citizen
  • The punitive nature of the Korean army
  • Implicit normalization of excessive drinking in college culture
  • Alarming statistics surrounding alcohol-related deaths
  • The complex nature of addiction, as well as the challenges of combating implicit and explicit influences promoting drinking
  • Societal pressure to drink and the stigma faced by individuals who choose to abstain
  • Why Benoit finally decided to quit drinking
  • A crazy night in Philadelphia
  • Dealing with feelings of guilt and shame related to drinking
  • The power of vulnerability in you sobriety journey
  • The importance of self-reflection
  • How therapy allows for the revelation of what is inside individuals
  • How imposter syndrome affects people’s perception of their abilities and success
  • Neural pathways and how they influence habit formation
  • The personal fulfillment and meaningful connections that Benoit found through podcasting

key highlights

A Third Culture Kid

Benoit’s upbringing is as diverse as his roles. Born in Paris to French and Korean parents, he identifies as a third-culture kid. His journey took him from Paris to Korea, then to California for boarding school, and finally to the East Coast for higher education. His mother’s decision to have him embrace his Korean nationality led to a year in Korea, a move driven by her concerns about the hazing culture in the Korean army.


Facing Racism and Ignorance

Growing up in a small town with limited cultural exposure, Benoit faced racism, ignorance, and discrimination. However, these experiences fostered empathy within him, helping him distinguish between willful ignorance and ignorance due to lack of exposure. He managed to befriend some of his peers who used racial slurs, engaging them in non-judgmental conversations.


The Drinking Culture

Around 1800 college students die each year from alcohol-related causes, highlighting the normalization of excessive drinking in college culture. Like many others, Benoit’s drinking journey began in college. Raised in a conservative Christian household, he didn’t drink much until then. This led to binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, missed midterms, and liver damage.


The Road to Recovery

Benoit’s recovery journey was not straightforward. At first, he tried to overcome his addiction through divine intervention and accountability from his partner, but he soon realized the importance of professional help. Therapy acted as a mirror for him to reflect on his behaviors and the root causes of his addiction. It helped him confront his fear of being sober and alone, leading him to seek external validation and fill his days with social events.


Resilience & The Power of Change

Benoit’s sobriety journey is a testament to the power of change and the importance of self-reflection. His story serves as a reminder that everyone’s journey is different, and professional help can be crucial in overcoming addiction.

resources mentioned

Connect with Benoit Kim


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