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Amy Pope, Sober in Dubai


In this episode I connect with Amy Pope! Amy Pope is a Change Coach, Meditation & Embodiment Facilitator and developer of a conscious movement mediation called “Let’s Shake & Flow”.


Amy has been living in Dubai since 2015 with her husband, alongside a grumpy elderly cat and a very lively rescue cat. After working in the London insurance industry for over 15 years, she moved to Dubai and set up the regional office of an international Recruitment Agency.


Following the sudden death of her Mum, Amy made many changes in her life - she first stopped drinking alcohol, which opened her eyes to a whole new way of living. Amy felt drawn to study to become a Certified Life Coach and Meditation Teacher. Amy believes in the possibility that everyone can “become the change” and is dedicated to enabling people to do exactly that.


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You can learn more about Amy and her offerings at: https://www.becomethechange.co. Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


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Full episode



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.


Alex

All right. So welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am super excited to have Amy Pope with me here today. And, now Amy is based in Dubai, and I don't often have other guests from this region, the UAE. Most of my guests are elsewhere, like you know, Europe and North America. So it's really nice to have another UAE guest here. And Amy is a change coach, and she also does a form--she's a meditation facilitator, and she's created her own kind of practice called "Shake and Flow", which you will tell us more about later on. But welcome, Amy, I'm so happy to have you here.


Amy

Thank you. So lovely to be here. Lovely to meet you as well.


Alex

So I'm always interested to know how people end up in Dubai. So how did you end up here?


Amy

Yeah. So I moved to Dubai in 2015 because my husband was already here working. He'd already been here a few years. So I visited quite a few times but hadn't made the actual move, because it was a big decision to make. Moving away from family, friends, job, you know. It's a big deal. But I did. I made the decision in 2015, and I flew over here with a potential job offer and also my two cats. So they were with me on the hold. I was thinking about them the whole time on the flight for seven hours, worried about how-- would they be okay. And I got here and the first thing I did was just want to find my cats. And we were running around and we had to go through quite a lot of red tape, lots of offices, lots of admin things to fill out. And then I got taken to this massive warehouse and there was quite empty, actually, I remember it being quite empty. And then in the middle of this really big warehouse, my two cats were just there in their carriers and I was running up to them. And there were some workers around and they just came up to me and they said, what are they? And I said, cats? And it was just really funny. It was my first real experience of Dubai. I think they thought they might have been quite an exotic animal. They were quite plump. They were well-fed cats from England. So that was lovely that I brought them here. And I used to work in the insurance industry in London. And like I said, I've got a job offer pretty much straight away here. But it was put on hold as well really quickly, which was a real shame. And then I waited and waited for that to come through. And then it just didn't happen. So I then looked for another job and got that very quickly as well. They instantly offered it to me on the spot. But they then said within literally the same breath, we can't hire you immediately because we do not have enough visas.


Alex

Wow.


Amy

So yet again. Yeah, I was kind of up against a bit of a wall and had to wait again. But I waited for a while. And in that time because I wasn't working, I was kind of trying to meet new people, socializing. So I got really into the Dubai kind of lifestyle, the nightlife, the ladies' nights, which they are a lot of here. I was you know, drinking quite a bit, not having to worry about getting out to work. So I got really into you know, the ex-pat lifestyle very quickly. But then a few months down the line, I was given luckily, an opportunity to work with my sister, and we set up a regional office here of her recruitment agency. So I did that for a few years, which I absolutely love doing. And although it was a completely different industry to one I'd worked in before you know, I was in insurance for so long, I never thought I would do anything else. And then this came along and I really realized that actually, you can change your career at any time at any age. And it really is possible. So that was really awesome. And that's where I ended up in Dubai.


Alex

Wow. And you know, when you talk about the ladies nights and the brunches, I honestly feel like people who don't live here don't get it. And describing the complexities of this region, like I had someone-- I actually interviewed someone last night and she asked me about drinking in the Middle East. And it's just so interesting. You know, I was in Kuwait when I first moved out here. And in Kuwait, alcohol was completely illegal. And so, like, the brunch was not a thing. But we would fly out of Kuwait and come here to go to brunch on the weekend. And the way I think it is, is because the local culture is not--you know, alcohol is forbidden. I don't think they have the same education, awareness, and progressive laws, the same way that countries that have had you know, alcohol abuse for, like, you know, 100 years in Canada. So, for example, I know in Canada they can't sell unlimited drink packages. You can't start drinking at noon. You can't give women alcohol for free, like these things you cannot do in Canada, and that's to prevent things happening, like, you know, the state I got in. And of course, you know, it's everyone's responsibility, how they indulge. But I do think here because there are less preventative laws around it. There's just so much wildness that people just back home can't even imagine. It's like you're in an all-inclusive resort on vacation forever. That's how I described it.


Amy

That's a really good description of it. It's just available so freely, which is also such a strange thing to say. But it really is. But you're right. It's our personal responsibility. It's very easy to get carried away when everything is so you know, there and everyone is on a holiday kind of we're almost like we're on permanent holiday here.


Alex

Totally.


Amy

You know, we live in a very warm country, you know, the beaches they were there. We have these hotels on offer. It is a great life. There's no doubt about it. And then there's this whole part of it that comes with it. If you want to go down that route, which I did for a long time and it wasn't healthy for me you know, ultimately. And that's where I've got to in my life to just kind of switch it up, which I'll get to as well because you know, it's all well and good going out and starting brunch at 12:00 and that drinking until I think it's usually about three or four hours you get, but very rarely people stop. And I know I certainly didn't. You know, it would carry on. You'd have the extra coupons for some half-price drinks and let's carry on. And it was hard to stop, which is what happened to me. And my party would be potentially 12 hours and then the hangovers would just be days. It wasn't like I got myself into any particular trouble or anything like that. It was just the general feeling of it and not really been able to control myself. I think it's a big factor there.


Alex

Yeah.


Amy

And my relationship probably did suffer from it as well, because you don't realize it at the time because you know, let's just have a great time and I just love the party. But then yeah, when I reflect back, hold on. I treated my husband like this. Or you know, maybe I wasn't really fully there with my friends and things like that. So yeah. Now I know because I don't drink anymore, that it's not the right journey that I wanted to be on if that makes sense.


Alex

Yeah, absolutely. And so you came in 2015, which is actually the same year that I came to the Middle East, which is cool. So how long were you in the ex-pat drinking scene? At what point did you stop? And what was that like?


Amy

Yes, I already was a big drinker. There's no doubt about it. I drank a lot in the city of London. I worked there for many years and that was you know, big life, and it was a bit of my lifestyle. But when I became an ex-pat, it definitely sketch up a gear for sure. Like I said, the ladies' nights and things. The turning point for me was actually when my mum died very suddenly and it was a real shock. That was in April 2019. She was 68. She had no indication that she was unwell whatsoever. If anything, I thought she'd be you know, around for so long and living with me, maybe later in life when I live in Ibiza, which is my spiritual home. She even used to send me an apartment, so I knew that she was really out for it as well. But when that happened, it was such a shock and I needed to change. I knew something had to give, something had to change for me to be able to actually cope with the loss and the grief that was coming in so freaking fast, and I just thought, this is what has to go. It has to be alcohol. And so I made this big decision that alcohol was just going to you know, obviously, just leave alcohol behind. And it's really interesting, actually, because my mom really was worried about me partying a lot. She always used to worry. And used to actually say, I never thought she'd stop--you know, I thought she'd stop partying. And my reply would always be never going to happen. You know, laughing, smiling at her. And now I can actually say I have, you know, I did do it. And that's another thing. I really wanted something good to come out of her you know, sudden death and passing. So what I did, I bought the Allen Carr book "How to Stop Drinking". I'm not sure if you've heard of that.


Alex

Yeah, I have.


Amy

Which I bought, and I actually put it off reading for a while because I knew I just knew it was going to work. I'd actually used this book to stop smoking a few years before. I just knew as soon as I read it, that was it. It was done. It was almost done before I started reading it, you know. That was it. And I literally have not looked back. So that's been two and a half years. Yeah.


Alex

Wow. When was that that you quit because I also quit in 2019? So when did you quit?


Amy

May 16th is the day.


Alex

Wow. So I quit on April 13th. That's so interesting. We have really parallel stories, and that we came into the Middle East at the same time. We quit drinking around the same time. So that's kind of cool.


Amy

Yeah. What was yours, like, what happened when you started, when you stopped then? Do you have a trigger as well that we all need sometimes?


Alex

Do you know what it was? I was really struggling with my mental health and it was really bad. And my life was kind of like, so I came over here I was a teacher. I didn't like teaching at all. I was just kind of that was my job. So I finished my degree, and that was what I was doing. I wasn't very happy. When I was in Kuwait it was really bad. I was in a really toxic work environment, and I got very fortunate and moved to Abu Dhabi and was at a very lovely school. Amazing work environment, amazing colleagues, amazing campus. It was all good. And I got really into the brunch life. And I kind of hit this point maybe, I think it was a year and a half after I made this shift to Abu Dhabi, where I said, you know, everything is right in my life right now, everything I wanted. And why am I still so unhappy, you know? And I looked around and I was like, okay, I'm broke. I'm working out, like, because, at this point, I was a yoga teacher. I was working out, like, five, six days a week, doing all different kinds of things, spin, bar, pump, shape. And I still didn't feel very healthy. I had no money. I was really depressed. And I kept kind of started Googling, like, how to quit drinking. And I started receiving targeted ads for "One Year No Beer". I just saw these amazing stories of people have transformed their life. And so there was a period of time where I could not quit because you know, the ex-pat life. You know, I had a trip to Norway. I had a trip to Southeast Asia, special Olympics was coming out. Friends were visiting. I was going with my mom to Morocco, so I was like, I can't quit. And then on the trip to Morocco, I just kind of was like, you know what? After I get on the plane, I'm going to do, like, a 30-day break. And so got on the plane was like, okay, this is day one and two weeks into it, I was like, wow, I never want to drink again. It was just that extreme. I was like, wow, I'm so much happier, so much healthier. You know, everything. My life just transformed. And now I'm like, why would I ever want to go back to that? You know. It wasn't so much of a big trigger. As you had. Like, a life-changing moment. But for me, it was just a big build-up of, like, there's got to be more to life than this, you know.


Amy

Absolutely. And that's the thing that you mentioned about reasons. We have so many reasons why not to. You can have so many, like, my friends coming to visit, especially as we live in this world. You know, I've got these plans, these plans, and there are just so many reasons not to. But once you do it, it's only one reason to do it. And that's because it is amazing to have an alcohol-free life. And that's why I do it. And that's why I've continued to do it. It's not been you know, completely easy, you know. There have still been wobbles. And time is when I've just gone oh, gosh, you know, do I really want to not drink? You know. I was even around on the first actual brunch that I went on, that I didn't drink at. That was a bit tricky, actually. I had a bit of a physical reaction to being told by my friends that I might as well get the alcohol package because it will be cheaper than having the nonalcohol package. Now, in their eyes, it was completely reasonable to say that to me. You know, absolutely. But I just had this complete anxiety meltdown because I thought you know, I'm being told to have the alcohol package when I don't want it anywhere near it. If that makes sense, I just didn't want to have it. And it ended up being absolutely fine. And I had a great time. But it was just a physical reaction to, no, I don't even want that option to be given to me. So that was quite a big-- it was interesting to see how I physically reacted so much to it.


Alex

Yeah.


Amy

I did learn from it. That was in the early days. And also, I don't know if you've ever been to Georgia?


Alex

No, I haven't.


Amy

So Georgia is this incredibly beautiful, lovely country. And I went there about three months after I stopped drinking. And I really struggled there because you would not think it. But there's just wine everywhere. It's home to the oldest wine ever discovered, I think, 8,000 years ago, there's advertising for it. As soon as you come out of the airport, there's like a giant boarding of wine bottles. So it's just everywhere. And it's sold and drunk on the corners streets. And they absolutely love wine. That's one of their favorite things, I think in the world. And our hotel room even had the keyring was a wine cork. That's how much they love wine there. And that was my big drink. I basically loved wine. And I spent most of my time, especially on that trip. Just channeling this quote that was in the book called "The Sober Diaries" by Claire Pooley. And she quoted she did a misquote from Kate Moss. And it was "wine doesn't taste as good as being sober feels". And I just remember replaying that quote over and over in my mind thinking, It's okay. You know, this is so much better to feel this way. And I got through it. And I will go back to Georgia as well because it's so incredible. But it was quite a sensory shock, I think, to do that.


Alex

That's hard. Vacation sober is really hard in the early days because it's like, well, for me, it was like I was used to drinking and I was terrified. I actually almost canceled my first vacation. I was going to Paris. I almost canceled it because I was like, I can't do it. And I got really fortunate. This is a really crazy story. I met this guy in Morocco with my mom in the Sahara Desert, and I had already booked a flight to Paris, like, for three months later. So I met him when I was still a drinker, and I booked a flight to Paris maybe like, 100 days later. And he was like, oh, stay at my house. And this is like, this 60-year-old, like, physics prof, this Parisian man. And at the time when I met him in Morocco, I was like, this guy is so boring because he didn't really drink. And he just wanted to talk about science and art. And this guy is so boring because you know, I just wanted to get drunk. And then 100 days later, I was like, wait, this is actually the perfect person to have a vacation. And so I got really lucky and that he invited me to stay at his home, and he took me around. And I had a very, like, art and cultural experience of Paris. And it really helped me stay sober because I think if I was on my own, I probably would have ended up wanting to drink, you know. So that was my first vacation experience. But I totally get, like, how hard it would be and how hard it is for some people.


Amy

Absolutely. Yeah, but you're quite right there. It does completely change your holiday. You know you do become more open to wanting to experience the country you know more culturally rather than the party aspect. I used to always drink on the first day because I just got so excited. That was like my big thing. Excitement. And I said the next day was always a bit of a write-off, but then we'd kind of change it up, you know. I've kind of mixed it up, but it was always alcohol. You know, from the moment you get to the airport, you know, the drinks start flowing and on the plane, the drinks are flowing. It's really interesting. I remember the first kind of time I did business class and they offered me the champagne, which is you know, I would have always loved it. And I just thought, no, I don't want that. Just give me some orange juice. And I was so aware and so conscious of the fact that drink is so freely again available on these trips, on these flights. You know, you have a bar on the incredible A380, but there's you know, a bar where people will go and sit for hours and hours. I've done it once before myself, and you arrive at the destination feeling absolutely terrible. Now when I arrive anywhere, I feel you know, maybe a little bit tired, perhaps depending on the flight time, but just ready for the trip rather than thinking, oh, my God, I need my bed.


Alex

Totally.


Amy

Yeah. Gosh holidays, hey. Well, we can have more than now anyway.


Alex

Yeah. So tell me about-- okay, so that was your trigger to stop drinking and what was like the hardest-- so two questions, the hardest and the best parts of the sober journey.


Amy

Yes, the hardest was I think when I mentioned it, really it was just the first. Doing the first things of anything I think is probably the hardest thing. You know it's the first holiday, the first time you go out with your friends when you're not drinking. That's definitely the hardest thing. Sometimes might suggest don't go out with people so much at the beginning perhaps, if you can avoid it or at least drive. But if you feel like that's strongly about potentially drinking, but once they're done, they are done and you can put them out of the way. There are definitely a lot more best things about it than the hardest things. There are just so much amazing things of not drinking. I even actually set up a Sober Instagram account. This is in July 2019. I ran it for about a year or so to basically have accountability and to mix with you know, like-minded people that were going through similar things. And it was a real, reasonable benefit that really helped me at the time. I was really glad I did it. I was anonymous. I did come out and introduce myself near the end, and at that time I listed around 50 things that I found where I learned along the journey, which I'm not going to list here because like I said, there were just so many. I found 50 so easily. But the few top ones I would say is never having a hangover does not get boring. I can't say that enough. It really doesn't get boring. And also getting to know who you are. That was a really wonderful experience for me. I always used to think I was such a party girl, and that was all I was. You know, that was my identity even. And it was a bit scary to lose that identity. But I found out so much more about myself and my confidence grew. And yeah, like I'm now facilitating meditations and shaking events regularly and doing classes. It's not something I ever thought I would be able to do in my life. So that was quite a big deal. As soon as I removed alcohol as well, I just started focusing on my wellbeing, and that was something I had never, ever done before. I began to develop yoga practice in a way that I'd never done before again and discovered meditation and just really fell in love with that part of the journey and my eating habits as well. They naturally just started to change. It was like kind of one thing started off a trickle of like others, like a domino effect. And by the end of 2019, I became vegan and I'd lost almost 20 kgs in weight as well. It was a whole big change outside and in. Yeah.


Alex

Wow. And the same thing I was vegan for a while in my early days in Sobriety. Now I'm back to vegetarian and I also lost a ton of weight too. I just naturally wanted to move my body, I wanted to exercise, and then it just kind of went from there.


Amy

Absolutely. I used to love yoga before I stopped drinking, but I never used to be able to really focus on it fully because I was there so many times but I would wake up and have a bit of a hangover. I just can't go today. You know, the connection just was not there. And the moment that we removed this, I don't know how to describe it as it's just this kind of numbing part of us. We become like everything, I see things more clearly. Everything became just like, wonderful and the world is oh, hello, world. There you are. It was mad and I just became more connected to myself as well. It's been really unique. I mean everyone's journey is obviously special and unique to them, but it's been wonderful and I cannot overemphasize what a wonderful way is, living without alcohol in it. And I know I have friends that have stopped drinking but may go back to having the odd drink here and there. I'm not sure if you have your drink here and there. I know quite a few people do, but for me, I don't actually feel the urge or the need to, I just don't want to. So that's where I'm kind of at two and a half years down the line. Who knows where I'll be in five or ten. You know.


Alex

Yeah.


Amy

You just got to be in the present, haven't you? Sort of how you feel now?