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Alex Meets Tawny Lara, host of Recovery Rocks


Meet Tawny! Tawny is an NYC-based millennial who writes about the intersection of sex and sobriety. Her work is featured in Playboy, Men’s Health, Huffington Post, Writer’s Digest, Mic, The Temper, Audiofemme, a sex column for SheSaid, and two essay collections: The Addiction Diaries (LaunchPad 2020) and the forthcoming reimagining of Sex and the Single Girl (Harper Perennial 2022). She is the co-host of Recovery Rocks podcast and story developer for the Webby-award winning podcast, F*cking Sober. In this episode I interview Tawny about her sober journey and how she ended up doing the work she is doing now!





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Tune into Tawny's podcast, Recovery Rocks, at this link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/recovery-rocks/id1437414525 . Tawny can be found on Instagram @tawnymlara. 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

Welcome to the "Sober Yoga Girl" podcast with Alex McRobs, international yoga teacher and sober coach. I broke up with booze for good in 2019. And now I'm here to help others do the same. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.


All right.


Hello, everyone. And welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited to have Tawny with me here today. And Tawny is a writer and a podcaster. She is the host of Recovery Rocks, and she is all the way in New York City. So welcome, Tawny.


Hey, it's so great to be here, Alex.


Nice to have you here. And Tony and I have a connection that we did our yoga teacher training at the same yoga school in Bali, me and 2017, and her in to 1018. So we actually got connected together through one of our yoga teachers, which is kind of cool, fun fact.


Yeah. That when you messaged me about that, I'm always excited to connect with another sober person, of course. But then when you mentioned Zona yoga, I was like, oh, my God, I'm even more connected to her.


It's so cool. So tell me a bit about yourself, kind of who you are and where you're from.


I am a writer in New York City, and I grew up in I was born in Northern California and then moved to central Texas when I was eight. So I grew up pretty much I I would go back and forth between Texas and California, but I pretty much grew up in Texas. I lived there for 20 years, and then I've now been in New York for six years. So hopping around the coast and how did you start drinking? I was, you know, it's a very cliche story.


Just introduced to drugs and alcohol at a party, you know, like, it's interesting. Like I mentioned, I'm from Northern California. My father is a heavy metal musician, and my mom was his group. So I grew up in, like, the heavy metal scene. Like, I was around sex, drugs, rock and roll, you know, like, I was around that it was very normal. And even if I wasn't around, it was like, we were watching MTV all the time, like, it was just like this culture of indulgence. I would say, so I just grew up with that being the norm.


But when I was personally, like, it introduced alcohol as something that was possibly for me, was at a party at a high school party. I was going through, like, something really heavy, like something really traumatic. And it was just like, I felt like I had been around it enough. But I was never drawn to it until I went through something traumatic. And I was like, Screw it. Yeah. I'll try it. And it was I was 15. And, you know, I kept binge drinking until I was 29.


Wow.


Yeah.


So I started drinking around the same age 15, similar kind of thing. And stop drinking in my twenties as well. So there's a lot that I can connect to and relate to.


Now I look at a 15 year old and they look like infants, and I'm like, oh, my God. Why are they drinking. Why are they smoking?


I know, totally. So young. And so how did your alcohol consumption increase over time?


You know, I started working in the restaurant industry, which I think was probably my biggest downfall. If any listeners have worked in the restaurant industry, they understand it could be a pretty self destructive environment. And I was a bartender for, like, ten years. So I just it just, like, really escalates when your whole life is in a bar, I just started as a fun thing I did at parties on the weekends. And then it turns into I was never one of those wake up in the morning and start drinking type of people.


And I bring that up because people think that's when you have to stop drinking. So I think that's an important distinction to make where when I did drink, I drink to excess. I would go days, weeks, months without drinking. But when I would, I would black out and I would do stupid things. I would put myself in dangerous situations. So, you know, I think it's important to provide that nuance because we're substance abuse is depicted as someone who loses everything. And that can be the case.


But not always. Yeah.


And that is something that I can connect you as well, because I was never, like, the morning drinker. And I was a teacher all throughout the time that I was having a problem with my drinking. And I think the people have such a head space of, like, you have to hit rock bottom before you get help. But I think it's Bell Robertson who says you can hit a low bottom so you don't have to get all the way to rock bottom before you you recover.


Yeah. I mean, it's to be, like, completely reductive, like, you don't have to become morbidly obese to get healthy or to change your diet. Like, your life doesn't need to be at risk to make a change. That's all I'm trying to say.


Yeah. And that's a great example.


I mean, I guess you could even argue your life is at risk. You know, my life was at risk during those, the decade and a half. I never had, like, an official rock bottom. But you could argue that I was living in a rock bottom because I was not taking care of myself.


And when you're blocking out and putting yourself in those vulnerable situations, pretty scary.


Totally. Yeah. I think about some things that I used to do. And I'm just like, how did I live through this? Why did I put myself through this? I just want to hug that little girl and be like, you don't need this.


So tell me about what was the turning point for you. Then when did you decide to start with your silver journey?


Yeah. So also, like, a super anti climactic story. I mean, I'm at a pub and Soho downtown Manhattan, and I'm hanging out with some friends and we're having drinks. I think I might have had, like, three or four pints over the course of a couple of hours. So it was a pretty light light event for me. But I was talking about how I don't have enough time to write. And my friend was talking about how she doesn't have enough time to audition. But there was something that really snapped in me when I left the pub because I went into the pub and it was daylight.


And then I left the pub and it was street let. There was something in that switch of like, you just spent 4 hours talking about how you don't have time to write in a pub. It finally clicked, I guess. And I felt it just felt different. Like I woke up the next morning and I was just feeling kind of groggy and didn't go to my workout. I just like, I just looked in the mirror. I was like, this isn't cute anymore. Like, what are you even doing?


Like, you moved to New York to be a writer. Why are you just talking about it so that I didn't realize it at the time. But that was my my last drink.


Wow. And that's so interesting that you say that because I feel that so many people, it's like something that for me, it was something I suddenly realized when I was sober. I was like, wow, I have so much more time. It was an amazing thing. And I've accomplished more in two and a half years than I did in my whole drinking career. But you're the first person I met who said that that was something that occurred to them in the moment of still drinking. I was like, wow, I don't have time because this is what I'm doing with my time.


A huge kind of like, AHA, moment.


It really was. And I I decided to, you know, being a writer who likes to do social experiments, I decided to keep myself accountable by giving up alcohol. For one year. I was about to turn 30. So I was like, great. I'm not going to drink alcohol for this year, and I'm going to blog about it. And so that will keep me accountable for both writing and not drinking. And, you know, here we are, five and a half years later, and I'm still sober, happily sober. But in that year, I really learned that, like you were saying in sobriety, you realize how much more time you have often more money because you're not getting wasted anymore and you're not spending money on drinks and then the stupid drunken purchases anymore.


So I just, like, about halfway through it just felt I was just like, I'm not looking forward to the end of this year. I was like, this is great. So I just never went back to drinking. And, you know, the blog has since turned into documentary and a podcast. It's amazing freelance writing career and writing a book. And it's so ironic because I quit drinking because I didn't have time to write. And now all I write is about sobriety.


That's amazing. That's an amazing story. And I love how it happened just so organically. You're like, this is going to be my accountability thing. And now it's just evolved and grown. And here you are.


I mean, I feel like you have to approach a creative project like that. You know, if you have a particular goal for this, I mean, I guess it doesn't hurt to have a goal for something, but it's like you can't hold on to that so tightly. You really have to trust that things are just going to work out the way they're going to work out. And you really only have control over yourself and how you react to things. But I think that was a big difference for me because I was so, like, obsessed with goals, goals, goals before and the fact that this just happened because I was open, you know, like, it felt.


It's just not really validating.


That's amazing. So tell me more about what different tools you use in your early days of sobriety to help you. I know the writing helps you stay accountable. What else was kind of in your toolkit?


Yeah. So I did not go the traditional a twelve step route. I've been to a handful of meetings, and I'm so happy it's an option. And it's a free support group all over the world. I think that's amazing for me. I really resonated with yoga and meditation and writing the blogging, of course, but also, like, journaling, like, just for myself and just getting exercise was a big one. Like they say, you have to replace when you give something up, that's that big. You have to replace it with something else.


And my first six months of sobriety, I ran a half marathon, which I would never do now. But that was like I had all this energy and all this anxiety and all these new feelings that running definitely helps at that phase.


Amazing.


Yeah.


I can totally relate to that. Just like a period of time or that window in which you just, like, doing so many Emily Duce posted, like, you take up all these random hobbies and sobriety, and now you're like a salsa dancing, like, horoscope reader. Whatever you like back.


Exactly. It.


Yeah. That's amazing. What was the hardest part for you about sobriety? I.


Think I didn't realize this at the time, but with some perspective. I think the hardest part was that I didn't find some sort of peer support until about a year in and that I didn't realize it was hard at the time. But I can now see that what I was struggling with. I had just moved to New York. I was a five month New Yorker when I quit drinking, so I didn't have my friends and family weren't close they were all back in Texas. So everyone that was around me was pretty new in my life, and none of them were in recovery.


They were normal drinkers. So I realized by me not finding a therapist or some sort of peer support, everyone around me kind of became my defacto emotional support animal. And that was a horrible place to put those people in. And I can see that now because I didn't realize what I needed. And since I approached Sobriety as a social experiment, I didn't think I had a drinking problem. So I wasn't, like, in recovery. I was just not going to drink and see what happened. I really missed that first year of sobriety is so important.


And so I felt like mine was just busy, like, creating content, not really processing those emotions as I probably should have. It's kind of roundabout answer, roundabout answer.


And how did you eventually find that peer support? What we got like.


Well, I started with the therapist about a year, about nine to ten months into Sobriety. I got a therapist, and that was huge. That really helped me learn boundaries and appropriate conversations to have with my friends and family and how my friends and family could help. And instead of just pouring everything on to them, and then I shopped around like I found there's tons of support groups, like, if A is not for you, there's so many. So I Googled, and I just tried different, different things that worked for me.


And I found something that resonated, and I can't recommend it enough. Like, if you're listening and you're on the fence and you're like, no, I don't need peer support. I guarantee someone in your life wishes that you had at least a therapist or someone to talk to that was qualified to to support you through this, you know.


Yeah. It's so true. It's so true. And I I also didn't have a lot of live connection until later on in my sober. Actually, when I founded my community, that was my first live sober connection. And I again, I didn't realize how much I was missing it, but it's just like being in a room of people who get it. And if you were living in a culture that's dominantly drinkers, then you're not going to find that in your regular community, right?


Yeah. You need even if it's just one person like you really just need someone to feel solidarity with, or at least there's podcast. There's books there's. At least there's a lot of resources. So if you don't want to go, like, a peer support route, there's tons of other people at least talking about it. And sometimes listening to a podcast can kind of be, like going to a Zoom meeting. Yeah.


Totally amazing podcast out there or audio books. I got Barton quit let audiobooks.


Yeah. Exactly. And that is so great. Because when I got sober five and a half years ago, there wasn't, like Quintet was like an emerging genre. It wasn't the thriving genre that it is now, you know, like, there was a handful of stories that I felt that I resonated with, and it was predominantly male dominated. And now it's just like a bunch of awesome women talking about alcohol free life. And it's a great time to question your relationship with alcohol.


Totally. There's so many good resources. And I keep saying one of my clients that I should make a bookshelf because people are always recommending stuff. And I have this vision of creating a bookshelf web page, putting all the recommended books on, and I just haven't gotten to it. It's on my to do list, though, because they're just love out there.


Well, you're going to have to leave space, too, because there's so many coming out. Yeah.


Totally. So tell me about your writing. So you talked about how your writing started as just kind of, like, accountability. And now I know you do a lot of writing about sex and sobriety. So tell me about that.


Yeah. So, you know, in early sobriety, I found myself well, you know, Italy, Sobriety. You meet yourself, you're meeting the person that you were hiding from. For me, it was 15 years, you know? So there's a lot there. And for me, a big part of that was sex and sexuality and repress sexual trauma and just things that I didn't want to deal with and drinking, quote, help me procrastinate on that. But then when you stop drinking, it's like, okay, I guess I kind of have to. I mean, I guess you don't have to face your problems.


Some of us choose to. And I did. I went down that journey of, like, sex and sexuality and learned that my relationship with sex and with, like, love interests or left interests was often dysfunctional. And I used sex as a form of validation in a very similar way that I use drugs and alcohol, you know? So all of that is to say, I was going through this and there wasn't a ton of resources on sex and dating in Sobriety specifically. So I like to say that my work now about sober sex and dating is really like for younger me because I was so lost and I didn't know where to start.


All you hear is don't have sex the first year, don't date the first year. That's really the only advice that you're given, but it's like, but then what? And then what if I don't wait the full year? How do I talk about dating? How do I talk about dating without alcohol? How do I talk about how do I ask for what I want in the bedroom without alcohol? Like, all of these really scary things came up that I didn't know I struggled with. So that's really where all of my work is now is just being that resource.


And there's still not a lot of conversation about it six years later.


Well, it's a very vulnerable topic. I imagine it's very vulnerable for you. And I admire that because I definitely am not there to to be talking about it myself. But I can so relate. And I think everyone many people who are on the Silver Journey have had similar experiences.


Yeah, absolutely. The more I talk about it, the more responses like that that I get or, like, I get DMs like, thank you for having this conversation. People asking me questions of, you know, how do I tell the guy that I'm seeing that I don't drink alcohol? I want to ask my husband to do this, but I don't know how to do that without a glass of wine first. And I'm just like, wow, people are starved for this conversation. You know, totally. Even people that still drink, you know, like, that's what my biggest surprise was that I thought that the conversation was really just going to be, like, sober folks or at least sober curious.


But there's people that, like, have a, quote, normal, healthy relationship with alcohol, but they're interested in this work because they're like, oh, yeah. Like, I use alcohol is liquid courage. Sometimes I'd love to not do that like that's blowing my mind that those people are interested, too. Yeah.


Oh, that's amazing. And you mentioned your book that you're working on writing a book. What is that about?


Yeah. I'm writing a book about sober sex and dating and relationships. The how to guide that I needed six years ago. I'm finally writing it. So, yeah, I'm excited.


That's amazing. What stage are you along in that? How is that process?


Very beginning stage. So stay tuned. But it's something I've committed to for, like, 2021. I drastically cut back on freelancing, and I'm just, like, I'm focusing on book proposal, getting an agent. Really, like, selling this book. That's my 2021 vision. And then, you know, that's where all my energy has been. So send all the good vibes.


That's amazing. And you also host Recovery Rocks. So tell me a bit about that.


Yeah. My friend Lisa Smith, and I she is the author of Girl Walks out of a Bar. She was a lawyer in New York City who had a cocaine and alcohol addiction. So that heard a memoir about her experience. So yes, she and I co host, and it's called Recovery Rocks because we talk about recovery in rock and roll. Lisa and I met on Instagram, and we just really clicked. And I think our podcast resonates with listeners because, you know, Lisa, she's 20 years older than I am.


She comes from that traditional, a twelve step background. And I'm, you know, millennial who's doing my own thing. But the great thing about it is that we're coming from different perspectives, but we're always meeting in the middle, like, we very rarely disagree. I think listeners are seeing that there's so many different ways to get sober. There's so many options. And I think having two different perspectives from different age groups provides some nuance to the conversation.


That's amazing. And I'll definitely have to check out Girl walks out of the bar. I haven't heard of that one.


Cool.


And what is your I guess you kind of mentioned your book is coming up, but what is your vision for your work in society? Like, where do you want to take it?


I'm writing this book on sober sex and dating, so I would just love to keep I hope that this is the first of many books about sober sex because it's like, like, everything there needs to be multiple books and multiple people having these conversations. Yeah, I think it's an important topic, and I would love for more people to have it and for people to read the book and share it. And kind of like I was saying about the blog, like, you can never really have, like, a specific goal or idea.


I guess you can have an idea of where you want something to go, but you can't be so laser focused on it. You can't obsess on that. I can really just pour my heart into the book and trust that it's my best work and hope that people receive it.