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1000 Days Sober - "The Further I get from my Sobriety, The Closer I Must Stay to It" with Sarah Will

Updated: Jan 25, 2022


This January I celebrated 1000 days sober! Also, truth bomb: I had three drinks in November. In this episode my lovely friend Sarah Williamson interviews me on my sober story, celebrating 1000 days, the blip and what I learned from it. Sarah has been my friend since early Sobriety and she is also a sober coach.


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You can catch Sarah at: https://drinklesslivebetter.com/. Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


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Transcript


Intro

Hi friend, this is Alex McRobs, founder of "The Mindful Life Practice" and you're listening to the "Sober Yoga Girl" podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world at age 23 and I never went back. I got sober in 2019 and I realized that there was no one talking about sobriety in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so I started doing it. I now live in Bali, Indonesia, and full-time run my community, "The Mindful Life Practice". I host online sober yoga challenges, yoga teacher trainings, and I work one on one with others, helping them break up with booze for good. In this podcast, I sit down with others in the sobriety and mental health space from all walks of life and hear their stories so that I can help you on your journey. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.


Alex

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am particularly excited about this episode. So today I have Sarah Williamson, the "Drink Less; Live Better" coach on the show. And Sarah is a good friend of mine. We've known each other since the start of our sober journeys, and she was actually on Sober Yoga Girl in the very beginning, as one of the first few episodes, and she shared her story. She's also done Instagram Live with me. She's done lots of workshops with the Mindful Life Practice, so I'm sure she's a familiar face and voice to many. And today we're actually going to be turning the table. So Sarah had an idea to come on the show and interview me, so I'm going to turn it over to Sarah, who's going to be interviewing me about my recent 1000 day sober.


Sarah

Yeah, fabulous. I'm so excited. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. When I saw your post saying that your 1000 days was coming up soon, I just thought it is the most amazing celebration. Big numbers like that are so exciting. Whether you choose to clock along, doing one day at a time, or whether you have big goals in mind, or whether you have decided to say, I'm never drinking again, wherever you are on that journey, picking out those numbers and celebrating them is so important. So massive. Congratulations. How does it feel?


Alex

Thank you. Oh, my goodness. When you're just talking about that, I was just having flashbacks to, like, when I first started my sober journey, and I didn't even think I could make it to 28 days. I did not even think I would get-- I remember 90 felt like a big deal. One year felt like a big deal. And so to be at 1000 and I would look at people with these big numbers and think, like, how did they ever do that? And it's just amazing to be here now. Yeah.


Sarah

To be one of those people. It is fabulous. Yeah. Massive. Congratulations. So obviously one of your specialisms in the podcast is asking people about what brought them to the beginning of their sober journeys. Can you give us a quick version of what brought you into the place where you were 1000 days ago?


Alex

Yeah, absolutely. So I quit drinking in April of 2019, and I was 27 years old. And at that point in my life, I had been living in the Middle East for a while. And I was in Kuwait, which is an alcohol-free country, for a couple of years. And then I was in Abu Dhabi, which is kind of like a party city in the region. And there's a lot of ladies' nights where women can drink for free. There's a lot of brunches where people drink on the weekend starting at noon. And I had already been kind of a party girl. And this situation I found myself in, plus so much--you know, you go through so much when you're an ex-pat. Homesickness, culture shock, you know, you don't have your community, you lose your people. And I think there were just so many things happening that accelerated my drinking to a point where I just was really struggling. And I had been struggling with my mental health a couple of years prior to quitting drinking and was actually for a long time prior to quitting drinking since I was a teenager. And I was put on meds. And obviously, the meds weren't really working because I was drinking so much. And so when I decided to take a break, it just felt like everything in my life was going wrong. I was really depressed. I was broke. I was so unhappy. I didn't like my job. Everything was going wrong. And I was like, okay, I'm eating well, I'm a yoga teacher. I'm exercising. What is making me so unhappy? And it was obviously like I knew it was the alcohol for a long time prior to finally quitting. And so I think I was Googling often like, how to quit, do I have a drinking problem? And I started to see targeted ads for One Year No Beer, which is how we met. And what I loved about One Year No Beer was that for the first time in my life, I was seeing sobriety being positioned as cool, fun, positive, and for anyone to do. I remember there was one guy's ad that kept coming up on my page, and I don't think his face was in the picture, but I remember reading the description, and he just described himself as, like, a city guy going out for beers, every day after work, not an alcoholic, decided to quit drinking. So much happier and healthier type of thing. And they were people that I could see myself in because you know, according to society, I was functioning very well, and I was holding on to a job and doing a good job. And no one would say, like, you have a problem, right? And so I did not see myself in an AA room. But One Year No Beer was a community that I saw myself in. So I signed up for their-- I think I actually tried to do it on my own for a few days. And then I signed up for their 28-day challenge, refused to join their Facebook because I was so ashamed. Was in their slack group for a little bit. Then I got on Facebook, and that was just like the game-changer, like seeing all these inspirational people connecting with people, making lifelong friends. There are people that I met in that group that I am so close with today, you being one of them, and it just completely changed my life. So I did 28 days, 90 days, a year, two years, and you know, now basically my work full time is around sobriety, more or less. So it's pretty amazing. It just transformed my life.


Sarah

Yeah. When you said just then about refusing to join the Facebook group because of the shame? Was that because you thought somebody might see you in the One Year No Beer Facebook groups that you knew or was it to do with something going on inside for you rather than external people?


Alex

I didn't worry about anyone finding me in the group? I worried about people on my Facebook page seeing me liking or joining a group. Because I used to see the One Year No Beer post and I would see people like them that I knew. And I would be like, oh, that person must have a drinking problem, you know. It was just me judging people. So I would see like, oh, that guy liked that post. He must have a drinking problem. And so then, of course, if you are in that judgmental headspace towards other people, then you're going to think that people are out there judging you when in reality, I don't think anyone was looking at Facebook. Even if-- what I've learned now is like, I thought everyone in the world knew about One Year No Beer, right? And I talk about it, and every day there are people that have never heard of it. And what I realize now is the ads are probably being targeted at me because I was searching for how to quit drinking. So even if I joined this codified, like, I think it was called OYNB was the Facebook group. So even if someone saw Alex joined, they probably, oh, I don't know what that is and scroll by. Right?


Sarah

And you're so right about how clever the ads are, you know. I absolutely was one of those people who Googled, you know, where is my nearest AA meeting? I wanted to know. I wanted somebody definitively to tell me the answer to the question, Am I an alcoholic? Because I wanted an alcoholic to be defined for me by if you drink three gin and tonics on a Thursday night, one bottle of wine on a Friday night, if you drink four cocktails plus I wanted an actual formula that equaled yes, you are or no, you are. And I didn't want to identify as an alcoholic. You know, labels absolutely have the right time and place, and you should call yourself whatever feels good for you and whatever empowers you. But that's exactly the reason for me why One Year No Beer popped up in my feed, too. And I think you know, I've got loads of stuff to say about social media that isn't necessarily always the most positive stuff. But also here is a way that social media showed up really positively in my life.


Alex

Me too.


Sarah

One of my main issues when I first decided, my initial decision was to go in big style and do one year, and I specifically wanted to call it my alcohol-free experiment because I was going to experiment with it and I thought I was going to go back to you know, where I was before and carry on drinking you know, with a different mindset and drinking less, but I thought I would go back to drinking. I think that whole thought that I was sure I was being miserable and lonely and boring. And what came out of that Facebook and that community was that opportunity to see, oh, that doesn't have to be the case. Right. Okay. And also thinking that you know, the people that might be alongside me on this journey might be, I don't know, not like me or something. And actually, what a joy, you know, to find other people who are in every single way different and also some people who are really similar. And the thing that we've got in common is just so fabulous. Yeah, it's a positive thing. So I know that you are a day counter like me. My two favorite day counting apps are "I am Sober" and "Try Dry". I use Try Dry before, but the one I use now is I am Sober and I like it to mark out my celebratory points. I like having a goal marked, a number with a double zero on the end of it, and you know, one day a triple zero maybe. I think it is helpful when you're in those early days and not knowing whether you can string together you know, those three days, those five days, those seven building up to a month. You know, being able to actually see it and celebrate it in black and white in front of you is useful. So you started off with the 28-day challenge and then moved on to 90 and then into a year. Are you always working towards a goal or have you said, I'm never drinking again? What's your way of thinking about it?


Alex

I actually don't even day count anymore. I don't have the apps anymore and I'm never aware of what day I'm on just because--


Sarah

Oh, I thought you did?


Alex

Well, you know what it is? My app ran out of storage. My phone ran out of storage. So I deleted the app. And then the only reason I actually knew I was 1000 days. So I really, really counted the days in the early days and it helped me so much. But I actually only knew I was 1000 days because my friend Emma, who was my first sober friend ever, came on my yoga retreat in September and it was her 1000 days. And I knew that she was three months ahead of me. So I was like, oh, I bet my 1000 days is going to be around New Year's. And then the coolest thing ever was that, so Emma came on my yoga retreat in Abu Dhabi for her 1000 days. And then just by the way life worked out, I came to Bali, decided to go back to the UAE, plan a yoga retreat. And then I was like, I think it's on my 1000 days, which was really, really cool. And she came on that retreat too. And so we got to celebrate both together. So that was actually how I knew my thousand days were coming up. I am aware of the years, you know. Like I say, I'm almost three years or whatever. I don't know the months but yeah, I think it just kind of settled into normal. But I 100% was a day counter for the first probably 100 days. Definitely.


Sarah

And so now have you got in mind to be five years sober or never drink again or are you not even thinking about it?


Alex

I don't even think about it. I'm just like I'm sober. I don't think I would say never. I would like to. I would love to say that I'm never going to drink again but I'm afraid that I'll say never and then I'll do it.


Sarah

I absolutely cannot bring myself to say never again. And the reason I can't say it is because what a massive lie it's been for me to myself in the past. So with every hideous hangover the following morning, obviously, the first words out of my mouth were always never again. And I said that so many times that my brain knows for sure that is a lie. So I don't want to say those words out loud I suppose ever again because I said it so many times and it was a lie. But for sure I don't have any intention of drinking at any point in the future. And I think you know, to come to the place of saying I am sober or I'm alcohol-free or I don't drink or whatever the words are, that work for you. That's an empowering, lovely place to be, for sure. So I'm interested to know before you got to your 1000 days in recent times when you've been really steady with your decision, have you ever entertained the thoughts of going back? You know, it's a big conversation within the circles we work. Have you ever thought about going back to moderating your drinking or having a one-off drink every now and again?


Alex

Yes. So in my last few months, I had a pretty challenging time. So things were-- I had quit my job as a teacher in July and was trying to set up my life in Abu Dhabi and it just was not going to plan. Nothing was working out for me. The apartment wasn't ready for any to move in. The residence visa didn't come through. So many things were just not going right there. And so I ended up making a big decision to leave Abu Dhabi in October and come down and try out life in Bali. And then things in Bali were a bit hard because I didn't have a place to live yet. I didn't know anyone. I was like in this little villa in town and then things with the business were just slow and they have very much massively picked up back again in January which is great. And this is just the ebb and flow of life, right? And I've worked in the yoga industry long enough to know that this happens every year at the end of the year. Right. And so things were just really, really hard, and I actually wasn't doing any sober work at all at that point, really. I had pre-recorded a bunch of episodes. I had passed on the sober one-on-one coaching role to someone else in the community. I was doing a lot of business coaching, so less sober work. And we weren't doing any sober curious yoga challenges. Everything had just kind of fizzled out in the sober world. And I don't think I ever thought I would like to moderate because that's nothing I would ever want. But I found myself at a hotel in Bali, and I actually drank. And it was a really interesting occasion because I went away for like a week to this resort that really reminded me of the resorts in Abu Dhabi and this person that I ended up drinking with and I only had three drinks. But this guy that I ended up sitting with was also, like on a sober journey. And he was also drinking, and it was really interesting to be sitting with him and having this conversation. And so I ended up having three drinks, and I went back to my hotel room, and I don't know if I was-- I don't think I was really drunk because I wasn't hungover, but I woke up in the morning and just felt low. And I had gotten eight hours, like nine hours of sleep, like my regular sleep. I just was tired and I just was low. And I just was like, I couldn't do anything that I had wanted to do that day. And I just felt like, oh, my God, not why they do that. I didn't feel guilty. I wasn't beating myself up. There was no like, why did I do that? I actually think it was really good for me because it then brought me to this point that I'm out here, which reset me. And I think I had forgotten how all of these amazing things in my life right now, my health, my wellbeing, my energy, all of these things are from sobriety, right? They weren't always there. And I think having the whole experience was a really good one because it has shifted what I'm doing right now. And I've had burst back into the sober stuff. I'm running a couple of sober challenges. I'm running two sober yoga teacher training, doing this program on yoga and mental health. So I've gotten really, really submerged in it again. And I don't know if that hadn't happened, would I be pivoting back to what I'm doing now? Yeah.


Sarah

And I guess, you know, it's so easy for us to say the words. I say the words regularly. You know, the further away you get from your day one, the more distance that you put between now and your last drink, the more stuff changes for you. And absolutely, I would never lie. And say it's all going to be positive, you know. Going sober is not the magic bullet that I'd like to promise people that it is. You know, there's still all of the other stuff in life that carries on. But it just goes to show, doesn't it, that you could be any distance down the road and there will still be those points at which we need to learn something new. We need to do a little experiment. We need to check in with ourselves. What's going on? Are we on the right path? Are we set out and doing exactly what we want to be doing? It's all learning, isn't it?


Alex

Yeah.


Sarah

So you said, leading up to the 1000 days, the three months before with the hardest. And obviously, you've outlined some of the stuff that was going on for you in that period. What were you doing or what weren't you doing that was diving into your sober toolbox? What were the things that on reflection, looking back, you could have perhaps helped yourself with a bit more?


Alex

I think I've realized a lot about-- so I was in this villa that I was just kind of temporary living in. That I didn't like that much. And I was sort of looking for a new place to stay. I ended up finding this yoga retreat center, which I moved into, which I was going to live in. And now I've actually made a decision to just work with them and live off-site because I think it would be better for me-- right now it's kind of operating as a co-living space. And so there's a lot of people around and there are people that are drinking. And I think it would be better for me to have my own little space. And also the yoga retreat center doesn't have bathtubs, and I need to have a bath every night. So I have made a decision to find my own place. But one of the elements of that, actually. And as I'm sitting talking to you, I have this digital vision board on my desktop, which I made last night in a workshop with one of our teachers. In the past few years building a business because I was working my job and doing my business, I just didn't have time to cook. And so I was actually on a meal plan in Abu Dhabi, which was wonderful. So they would deliver me delicious vegetarian meals. And I was eating really well. And I'm just so in the habit of not cooking. And this is one thing when I look back on all the things going wrong in that first little time in Bali, one was that I just have not literally haven't cooked in years, but I also didn't really have a nice kitchen. It was kind of like a temporary place I was living in, you know. Last night when I was making a vision board, I went all the way back to my early days in Sobriety, and back then before I started the business, I was really into cooking. And that was when I became vegan. I would make all these delicious things, like vegan shepherds pie, vegan tacos, vegan lasagna. I would make these smoothie bowls, these, like, really yummy desserts, like sugar-free peanut butter chocolate things. And I looked at that, and that is actually one of the things that went into my decision to get my own little villa, because I was like, I really need a nice kitchen, and I need to start cooking again, and I need to start taking care of myself and eating well. And this is what I was building up to was getting to this point where I didn't have to work two jobs, and now I have time to care for myself. Right? And so it's like, why am I not doing that? I moved to Bali, and then I wasn't doing any yoga classes, which is just ridiculous because I literally moved to Bali to be beside this yoga studio in the jungle. And it goes to show how you take things for granted, you know. So towards the end, after the alcohol incident happened in Bali, I was like, okay, I really need to shift. And I got really lucky. I moved into the retreat center, and they had a vegan chef. And so my nutrition just got reset from that, and I felt way better. And then I started doing my yoga every day. And the one thing is that I teach so much yoga that I'm so active in my work that I don't think I need more of that in my life, but I need to be prioritizing, like, meditation or breathwork or chanting or any kind of healing for me, that is for me, that's not me facilitating for other people. And so that became towards the end of my time in Bali. I was like, okay, I do this every day. I go to the studio for myself, and then I also eat well. And it's funny because I then traveled to Dubai for Christmas, and I again slid back into this junk food thing. Luckily, I didn't drink at all, which I think shows a lot of strength because I was living with my friend, who had literally so much alcohol in his house. And he even went away for a week. And I was like, I could drink some, and he would have no idea. But I felt really good about myself. I was like, hey, I did not drink at all. And so that wasn't a problem, but the food thing was a problem. And so getting into starting my new life in Bali, I'm like, okay, this is the time. This is the checklist. These are the things that I want to do. And I have this beautiful vision board to kind of keep me on track.


Sarah

Lovely. I love it. Yeah. And I think recognizing that we need to change gear every now and again that we can't keep on doing the same thing and expecting different results. That's not just how life works. Just because we've had a model of working for a certain amount of time doesn't always mean that that model is going to work forever. And that doing that work, that inner work and discovering for ourselves what needs to change and then actively making the change is so important. And we just never know when that stuff is going to come out of the woodwork. It could be at any point along our journeys in our lives. Yeah. There's a question I'd like to ask you related to a quote that you put on the post that I referred to earlier. You said, "the further I get from my sobriety, the closer I must stay to it". Tell me more.


Alex

Yes. So that was a big realization I had just around the whole thing. And you know, at the point that it was going on, I didn't want to share with anyone on social media that I had had drinks because I knew that what would come out would be people being like, well, you're not really sober, you know. And there actually was a sober influencer who shared recently on their social media that they were drinking and people were like asking for refunds for their program. And I don't know if you saw any of that happening on Instagram. It was pretty awful. And it made me really put into perspective of like, okay, we are all on this healing journey. And it's not a competition. I'm not better than anyone because I'm 1000 days. No one's worse because they're at one day. And you really see this. People come into sober spaces and say, oh, I'm just one day, I'm just ten days. And it's like, no, no, no, there's no just like, we're all sober. And this is just the point when you you know, started your journey and whatnot. And so I feel like there's a lot of judgment around, like, okay, you're back at day zero if you had a drink. But what is going to give me momentum going forward? Because there are so many people who are like, oh, man, I'm at a low day count. I'm just going to drink again. And then they're just in this cycle of back to where they started. Right. And I know for me, what is going to keep me moving forward is being on day 930 or whatever. It's not going to be okay, I'm on day zero and I'm starting again. And I also feel that my whole journey started a thousand days ago, you know. And so the blips along the way don't define it. And so this was something that I was like, I don't feel ready to share about. It's been like a couple of months now. It was a few months. It was definitely in November. And in my reflection, this is what I was kind of alluding to in that piece of a post without sharing I had a drink. But the further I get from that sober date, the closer I have to stay to all of it. Right. And so actually this month now, so I'm leading the two 30-day challenges, and then two Sober Curious Yoga Teacher training, and all of them in week one. Do list your reasons why. I've now hosted four sessions where we've listed our reasons why we're sober. It's so beneficial to do that at any stage, you know. It's like you should be doing that all the time and your reasons are going to evolve and you're staying close to them and you're remembering, you're anchored into, like, why am I on this journey? And I feel that a lot of people, the further they get along, think like, okay, the healing is over. I won't say I thought the healing was over, but I definitely didn't think that I had to be prioritizing this part of my life so much. And I see now that I do because I want to stay on this journey and I want to stay moving forward. So the further along I get, my intention is to just keep like, I'm going to do a 30-day challenge every single month. Even if one person signs up, I'm going to be facilitating it with them because that is going to help me stay sober.


Sarah

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that opportunity to help other people. That's why some of the sober Facebook groups work really well because it's about the cheering on. And I think on this in this piece of work we do in our lives, it is really useful to see that there are people right alongside us and we're holding their hands metaphorically, and there are people up in front of us by years and years or by just a little bit, and we can see them and be inspired by them. And then there's also those people coming behind and we absolutely reach a hand out for them and pull them forward. You know that is part of the kind of big, squiggly, lot journey of it. Massive spaghetti that is actually you know, in the middle of it is us wanting the same success for other people whilst enjoying our own success at what we're doing. Something you just said just now about when you were talking about you know, resetting and people saying, oh, I'm back to day zero. And whether you know, people in the field in which we work, people refer to having blips and slips and resets and relapses or lapses. You know, there's all kinds of different language around it, whether that kind of thing is truly useful for you to pull into your day counting or keeping track. Just last night, I was reading a book by somebody, an author that I happen to like, and I suddenly remembered that I read a book that she'd written years and years ago. And in this book that she, I said years and years ago, sorry, it was in 2016. It was five, six years ago. In this book, the central character has a situation with alcohol going on. And in bed last night, I was reading this other book by this author, and suddenly my blood ran really cold because I remembered reading the previous book. And that book is the one that did plant the seed for me of stuff needing to change in my life. And I had completely wiped it out of my mind. I had completely forgotten about it. And so whilst I would say to you, you know, 2019 was the year that I chose to stop drinking, 2016 was the year that something shifted in me. And so it took me a long time from there to do anything about it. But having that kind of realization last night that my commitment to myself started way before I ever thought that it did. And that journey you know, from 2016 to 2019 was tiny, tiny pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and often one step forward and two or three steps back and sometimes you know, blowing stuff up for myself. You know, and all of the things that I learned through those years are the things that brought me to right where I am now. And I think not losing sight of the fact that it can be difficult on day one, but it can also be difficult you know, in the year 22. We shouldn't lose sight you know, in the work that we do. We should never lose sight of that fact.


Alex

Absolutely.


Sarah

And so I've got a question for you. Who are your sober superheroes? Who are you looking at? Whose steps along the road are further than you are who inspires you?


Alex