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"By Helping Others you Help Yourself" with Daniel Sencier of Sober Inspired Pirates

Apr 23 2021

Daniel is a British expat living in Thailand. He created a Facebook group in 2016 called Sober Inspired Pirates, which is one of the biggest and best run free Sober Facebook groups out there! In the episode Daniel and I talk about the need for community on a sober journey. When I asked him his advice, Daniel suggested helping others and offered the wisdom: “When you help others, you help yourself.”

I loved this advice - as I said to him in this clip, I’ve had several guests on the show and asked their advice, and no one has mentioned helping others. But I realized in reflection that helping others has been a key part of my sobriety, and Im sure a lot of my podcast guests Sober journeys, too.

This timing could not be more perfect as I am about to launch a new a Sober Curious Yoga Teacher Training - specifically for those passionate about helping others create & sustain an alcohol free life.

It will be an eight week program with two hour live sessions with me each week, followed by some homework. It will count as a 30 hour Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Course (YACEP) if you are a yoga teacher. But you don’t need to be a yoga teacher to join. Any relevant background in the helping field, as well as personal experience with alcohol free/yoga lifestyle is what matters. If this sparks your interest, stay tuned! 🙏🏻❤️✨ So excited for our continued growth!

Listen to the full episode here!

If you enjoyed this episode please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and share the podcast so it can reach more people that it will serve and benefit.

For more information about Sober Girls Yoga, and Alex’s coaching, meditations and yoga classes, join her on

Full episode


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: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am looking forward to having Daniel Sencier on today's episode. Did I say it right?

Daniel: That's right.

Alex: Yes.

Daniel: And it’s almost there. Well done, Alex.

Alex: Thank you very much.

Daniel: It’s great to be here.

Alex: So, Daniel is the creator of Sober Inspired Pirates which is a Facebook group that I think has like 5, 000 members in it now.

Daniel: Yeah, about 5, 400 now and flying up there.

Alex: It's incredible. And so, we first met in, I think it was like maybe September 2020 when I was looking for new Sober Facebook groups to be part of, came across Sober Inspired Pirates which is an amazing free Facebook group and Daniel does an incredible job kind of keeping it active, and keeping it moderated, and keeping people really engaged. So, I think it's one of the best Sober Facebook groups out there and I wanted to have him on the show to kind of learn more about him and his journey. So, welcome Daniel.

Daniel: Thank you. It's great to be here, Alex. And from one hot country in Thailand to another one where you are.

Alex: Yeah. So, you're my first guest actually that's on like that side of the world, like everyone has been, you know, Europe and North America onwards, so you're my first guest and you're in Thailand which is super cool.

Daniel: Yeah, we have big problems getting moderators for over this side of the world, you know, we could do with more in the Australia-New Zealand bracket but we're working on that.

Alex: I saw your post about that the other day actually. Why do you think that is?

Daniel: I suppose our main base is the UK and I'm not sure why that is either. It can't be just because I'm from the UK, second America, but Australia and New Zealand are just I suppose lower populations, but they get up first in the world and, you know, when I get up here in Bangkok, the only people up for the Australians and New Zealanders.

Alex: Yeah. Well, you know what, I actually haven't had any Australian or Kiwi clients at all as part of the Sober Yoga Community. I think I had one intake call with one, then it just didn't kind of go through. But yeah, majority of people in the sober world seem to be in North America and Europe, so it's interesting that you've kind of noticed that pattern as well in your community.

Daniel: Yeah. That's strange, because they're friendly enough people.

Alex: Yeah. Maybe that'll be our goal to get some on. Anyway, can you kind of intro by telling me a bit about yourself, you know, who you are and how did you end up from the UK in Thailand.

Daniel: Well, because I'm 70 this year, I'll give you this short version, because it's a long story really. Because I was born in London, but I was brought up by my grandmother in Southern Ireland, so I always think of myself as Irish. After school in England, I joined the army and I spent time in the military and then, as an aircraft engineer. Then I ran pubs and clubs for 20 years, so I've certainly seen the drinks industry from the inside and wasn't too pretty a picture a lot of the time growing up through that. But I ended up in Bangkok because my wife is an international head teacher, and we were finishing off in South Africa about six years ago, and she said, Do you fancy living in Thailand? There's a job here. And I thought, well, I said yes but I thought, Well, she won't get it because she's too old. But, sorry Beverly, but she applied and she got it, and what I didn't realize at the time in Thailand, it's an advantage to be older. People have more respect for you.

Alex: Oh, wow.

Daniel: You've more credibility. Everything about the job market is better in Thailand if you're older. Whereas in the UK, when you get to 50, you can forget it and by 60, you're in an old people's home.

Alex: Yeah. Wow.

Daniel: Yeah. So, I didn't know what to do when I arrived in Thailand, so I started a CELTA course and decided to teach English. But then, I took up writing and I got a few jobs and I found that I was far better as a writer than a teacher, because whereas a teacher, you have to be up there and answer the questions straight off. Maybe it's an age thing, I'm not much good at that anymore. Whereas with writing, you can take your time and if you go wrong, you can start again and it's the final product that's important. And up until Covid, I was making quite a good living out of writing.

Alex: Wow. And then, what with Covid did writing just, was it an industry that was impacted?

Daniel: Yeah. The job market just dropped for everybody here because Thailand locked down, and to be fair, it was a real lockdown here. And I wrote for a lot of the hotels, the hospitals.

Alex: I got you.

Daniel: All those budgets just went. So, I went down to very little work which was lucky at the time because Sober Inspired Pirates was in a huge growth time.

Alex: Right.

Daniel: And if I'd have had to do that work and keep the pirates going, I simply couldn't have. So, that's a problem we've got to face soon as work picks up. How do I keep the pirates going and build my workplace up again?

Alex: Oh, the balance. I know what that's like.

Daniel: Yeah.

Alex: So, tell me about how you started drinking and what do you think influenced your drinking habits throughout your life?

Daniel: Wow. Well, being the first five years of my life in Ireland, I mean, there's no country in the world that personifies drinking alcohol as well as Ireland does. I mean, have you ever been to a country without an Irish bar? I mean, it's everywhere. And there's a tradition in Ireland, well, there is in the part of Ireland I was brought up in that when you're old enough, you go with your grandfather down to the bogs that feed into the River Liffey. Now, that's where the Guinness Brewery draws its water from. So, you wee into the fogs there which drain into the Liffey, and you become forever part of the Guinness. Now, that was at the age of five.

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: So, I was already embedded into the alcohol culture and it just goes on from there, doesn't it? You go into any country and the drinking culture is so, well, in the 60s, it was stronger still. But everybody, when I was young, either smoke, drank, or both. Usually both. And if you didn't, you were some kind of a freak. So, I was drinking from the very earliest of ages and have done right through life, I mean, I drank my way through military life. I can't remember most of it.

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: God knows how they train me as a soldier. Yeah, it's always been there and that's the problem for people in the public now. It's getting away from that culture. It's almost impossible. You know, during lockdown in the UK, alcohol was considered an essential item.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: You're on a loser, aren't you straight up.

Alex: And I heard that like the alcohol, I read the statistics in the UK like alcohol sales jumped 50% the first week of lockdown.

Daniel: That's right, yeah. And same in America, Australia. All those cultures, alcohol sales went through the roof. And here in Thailand, it was opposite. They're not great drinkers and alcohol was banned for two months, which most of the expats really suffered during that time. I think they were at home trying to brew their own.

Alex: Sounds like my time in Kuwait.

Daniel: Yeah. It's everywhere, isn't it? I was even listening to the radio the other day. They were trying to make out that in a very artistic way how wonderful it will be when the golden nectar returns, you know? We're doomed trying to stop people drinking. We're just gonna concentrate on the people who want to.

Alex: Seriously. Yeah, exactly. So, tell me about how did your drinking escalate over time?

Daniel: Like I said, I drank right through my army career. But when I was in engineering, I started to have young children that didn't stop drinking. I was never a drunk as such, not the stereotypical drunk. But there was always drink there, and you get different types of drinks. Some people, some drinkers turn to falling asleep, don't they? When they've had too much drink. Some start to get really punchy and want to hit everybody in sight. I was lucky I was the type that fell asleep very quickly, and if I drank too much, I'd be sick. And I knew how much I could drink, so it's almost like a mechanism in my body that said to me, Look. I'm gonna look after you because there's no way you can drink too much. But you've probably seen yourself, people in bars knocking back the shots one after the other enduring all night.

Alex: Absolutely.

Daniel: And you think to yourself, My god. How do they do it? And they're still standing and still laughing and singing and dancing. I guess the damage is going on inside there, but I used to envy those people in a way because they could go all night on the drink, but I don't know. I'm still around it. Yeah. So yeah, it escalated on up, I think I was 55. I don't know why it was just a bit of a milestone in age, you know, when I thought to myself, I wonder what it'd be like to be a non-drinker?

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: I couldn't remember. I just thought, Wow. You know, curious non-drinker, what would that be like? And I read Helen Carr's book at the time, and I thought, well, I thought too long, because it was another 10 years before I took any action, you know?

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: I was well into my 60s when I thought ,I'm gonna have this golden year because I just want to know what it'd be like. And in 2016, well, 2015, I'd already tried 30 days alcohol-free, and then 90 days. But I really struggled with those, because 30 days, there was always that, I can't wait to get to the end of 30 days to have a few drinks. And it was the same with 90 days really, but the year was much easier to do because it was so big, you know? I went into it really confidently and didn't drink all that year, and it was just fabulous being a non-drinker, you know, that was my golden year. And that was the year I started the pirates as well.

Alex: Wow. You know, that's interesting because I often hear the advice or I say to people, you know, it's easier to take it little by little, you know, like give it a month, give it, you know, two months rather than say a big thing like, I'm not gonna drink for a year or I'm not gonna drink forever. And it sounds like for you, it was the year was actually easier and it just kind of shows how like, you know, people can quit in all different ways, there's all different shapes and like sizes of doing this, but like, for me, one year would be like, Oh my god, I could never have committed to that. Right?

Daniel: Yeah.

Alex: And so, that's really interesting. And you're right, because everybody is different on this journey. Everybody is so different and copes in so many different ways, and that there's no one-size-fits-all in this. It's in your mind. It's how you deal with it. How you interact with other people and taking their advice. It's such an individual thing. You've got to find out what works for you.

Alex: Absolutely. So, tell me about, well, you kind of mentioned, you know, at age 55, you started thinking about quitting, and then it was age 65 when you decided to actually take action on it. But can you tell me more about like, what was it that made you curious about taking a break from drinking?

Daniel: I suppose I'm curious to have all the experiences in life. That's why I've traveled so much and done so many jobs, and I think the first time was it was when I saw One Year No Beer. I remember that logo stuck in my mind and I thought, One Year No Beer? I wonder what that would be like? And I inquired and I actually joined One Year No Beer at the time. I had a bit of a fallout with him unfortunately, because I wanted to, there was things in the group at the time that I didn't agree with and I was trying to change things within the group, which was a bit naughty of me because if you're in someone else's group, you shouldn't do that. If people try and change my group, they don't last very long. But, you know, we all welcome input, but don't try and change us from what we are to something you want to be. So, One Year No Beer cast me out. They blocked me, and I woke up one morning, and I likened it to being on a beach, a deserted beach. And I looked up the beach, and in the distance, I could see some others who'd been thrown out as well. There was about 50 of us who they ejected all at the same time.

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: So, I got together with a lot of those and we formed our own group. And we decided to call ourselves One Year No Beer Pirates. We didn't want any more than just us, because we just wanted to do that one year without beer as a group, that was it. But I don't blame them at all. I would have done the same if I was them. And after we'd finished that year, we went along still called One Year No Beer Pirates, and we went along for a couple of years gathering other people, which was never really the intention because we just wanted to do that year initially. And then, eventually, we changed our name to Sober Inspired Pirates just so we could be completely separate from the brands, and our relationship with One Year No Beer is pretty good now, so I'm pleased about that.

Alex: Yeah. I just actually had Andy Ramage on the podcast the other day. He was an amazing guy.

Daniel: Yeah, he is a lovely guy.

Alex: Yeah, he is.

Daniel: Yeah. Really nice guy.

Alex: Wow. So, that's kind of cool. Kind of shows the story and, you know, it's been five years and now it's grown to be such an amazing, just like free community for everyone to be part of, which is I think awesome.

Daniel: Yeah.

Alex: And you get a lot of, there's a lot of Sober Facebook groups, and I'm part of a lot of them, and what I've noticed about Sober Inspired Pirates is like upkeeping a Facebook group is a lot of work. I have my own Facebook groups and they're not very, I must admit they're not very active, because I'm not very good at like engagement and moderation, and like, all of that stuff that comes along with it. And so, it's really impressive that you're managing to do it on a volunteer basis, like kudos to you. That's huge.

Daniel: Yeah. It is. Keeping the group active is really, really important. And when I looked at the statistics last week, well, we're always roughly between 70% and 80% active, which for five and a half thousand people's huge.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: There's other groups out there without naming any that have got over 20, 000 members and only one or two moderators. They don't need them because nothing ever happens.

Alex: Right.

Daniel: But they're just big, especially the ones linked to books. Because they've told their books, so they get them big first person in the group, and everybody just sits in the group. Nobody does or says anything. But our group is so active and we've got so many special interest groups. Well, we call them Different Ships, you know, we've got a book ship, a gardener ship, a parent ship. We've got 30 different ships of special interests, where really active admins keeping really good social groups running as part of the main ship, because you're on the main ship still, even if you're in one of those groups. And it works really well, but it is a lot of hard work, and you really do have to keep people on board, and it is full-on, you know? Full-on.

Alex: Oh, absolutely.

Daniel: I'm just grateful, I've got a brilliant captain in Mo and Lou, that they both really helped. Without them, I think would have sunk by now. But there's also loads of other admins who I could mention who, without their input, their ships would die and the main ship would be a lesser place. So, yeah. Hard work doesn't quite cover it.

Alex: Oh, honestly, I'm so impressed with you because I have, it's been my goal to get active Facebook groups going and I run three, and they are just like crickets like, because it requires so, it's like another job, and I just don't have, I mean, maybe when I quit my full-time job, that might be something that I do have the time for, but definitely, not right now. So, kudos to you for managing that so well.

Daniel: Yeah. Thanks, Alex.

Alex: So, are you alcohol-free now?

Daniel: Right. That's a really good question because I'm sort of, I'm a vegetarian but not a vegetarian. Right? So, I don't like the idea of eating meat. You'll see where this is going in a minute, but if there's meat in my food when I'm out having a meal, it doesn't bother me. Now, I'm the same with alcohol now. If I thought I could never have another drink for the rest of my life, it wouldn't work for me. I would immediately think, No way. Who are you to tell me even speaking to me, you know? You can't stop me from drinking if I want to. And I've got this constant battle with this imaginary person. And so, when the waiter brought a complimentary drink at the end of a meal last week, and gave it to everyone else at the table, I drank it as well. Now, it was alcohol. Big deal. I can drink it if I want. When I was in Japan three years ago, I had a glass of sake. I was terribly ill afterwards, but there was no way I was going to Japan and not trying sake.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: You know?

Alex: Yep.

Daniel: So, I'd like to think of myself as alcohol-free, but I'm also free to do what I want and I do what I want every day, and that usually 99 times out of 100 does not include any thought of having alcohol. But I never put that pressure on myself that I say I will never drink again, I'm a non-drinker. Look at those people over drink their drinking, how terrible they are. I'm just one of them, you know?

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: So, yeah. Like we said at the beginning, different ways for different people, but that's the way I handle it. It works for me, but I won't go over religious on it.

Alex: Yeah. And, you know what?

Daniel: If I buy a mouthwash and it's got alcohol in it, so what?

Alex: Yeah. And, you know what? I like that because it shows, I actually posted on my Instagram the other week. I don't know if you would have seen it that I've actually had two beers in the time that I've been sober. And so, I think it's like, you know, it's not one-size-fits-all, and it's like, you know, you're showing that you have done what you set out to do, which is like, you had one complimentary drink and you're not over drinking, you're not binging, you're not making an excuse to like, I'm gonna drink all the time now. And so, I say like every person, everyone's journey is totally different, and it doesn't make you any less of like one of the pirates because you like had a drink of sake, you know?

Daniel: Yeah, that's right. If you ask me to guess how many of the five and a half thousand pirates drink alcohol now, I would probably say quite a large percentage, because most of them are still on that journey of cutting down, giving up.

Alex: Right.

Daniel: But they're certainly not five and a half thousand sober pirates.

Alex: Absolutely. And it's like a sober curious, I've actually been thinking a lot about kind of reworking my, because I call Sober Girls Yoga, and sometimes people hear that as like, I can't be part of this because I'm not sober and I've been thinking a lot about, you know, rebranding it Sober Curious, just so that it's more inclusive because as you say, you know, you know we have 50 women at active as part of the challenge, but I would say probably at least maybe 10 or 15 of them have been, you know, starting and stopping and experimenting and, you know, and that makes them, we're all part of this bracket of people that are trying to change our relationship with alcohol, that's it. It doesn't matter who has more days. It doesn't matter who's been completely sober the whole time. We all want the same goal.

Daniel: Yeah, exactly. That's why we went for Sober Inspired Pirates. It's one of our admins, Mary, came up with that name because that was the initial, SIP, as well.

Alex: Love it.

Daniel: Sober Inspired Pirates. That doesn't, we're sober inspired. That's it.

Alex: Yeah. Love it. So, in the time periods that you have been alcohol-free, what have been the main benefits that you've experienced?

Daniel: The main benefit I like is just having a clear mind all the time. You know, all day and going out in the evening without, I remember, but once you have the, well, for me anyway, once I had the first drink, there'd be a kind of a haze that start to hard to describe, you know, it's almost like you've had an anesthetic and I just love being clear like I used to like the feeling of having a head full of alcohol, I now have a like, having a head full of clear. And so, that's the main thing, sleeping better. Sure. It's so easy to sleep now. I could sleep forever and that's about probably a bad thing to say. But generally, better health all round. I suffered quite bad with eczema, that's better as well. It's not having to worry when the shops are gonna close because, can you buy, are you gonna be in time to buy this bottle that you need on the way home? In Thailand, they have set times when you can and can't, and a lot of my friends sort of they're always looking at their watches thinking, Oh, you know, will I be on time to get to the supermarket before the alcohol window comes down, yeah.

Alex: I remember that feeling.

Daniel: I can honestly say that there wasn't anything bad about not drinking. It was all good.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: So, you know, it's a win-win-win-win-win, and for the people around you as well, for your family, for your kids. It's just a win. Big win.

Alex: You know, I've heard it said before, I don't know who it was that originally said this, but there's this quote that goes around the internet that, "No one ever regrets quitting alcohol.", like, I've never met a person who is like, Oh, I really wish that I kept drinking. Everyone's like, Oh, it was the best decision I ever made.

Daniel: Yeah. Same with drink and smoke.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: But yeah, it's a good move and it's one that so many people on our ships are so glad that they made, you know, they put little testimonies up sometime, it's wonderful to hear just how much their lives have changed and how pleased they are with themselves.

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. So, what is your kind of vision for Sober Inspired Pirates in the long term? What do you want it to become?

Daniel: That's a really difficult one, because we've covered some of that already, Alex.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: And put in that we've talked about if the initial intention was to be so small, only a small group of us and I never intended it to grow big. And as it grows big, it takes so much time, and because of Covid, I've been lucky with time. But the other thing that annoys me, I remember a couple of years ago, I was talking to, you know, you said you were talking to Andy from the One Year No Beer.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: The other director, Rory, I think is. We were talking, he was leading me through what it would be like for my group on his experience from growing One Year No Beer, because they started out free.

Alex: Right.

Daniel: But the minute they started to charge, they had to start charging because they had families to feed. That become their full-time job.

Alex: Andy told me the exact thing, yeah.

Daniel: They had no choice but to charge.

Alex: Right.

Daniel: And yet, nobody wanted to pay, and it infuriated Rory, I know. And he said, You wait and see. And everything Rory has said has come true because I'm at a point now where we are so big, I must put like, probably 30 hours a week.

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: I'm on here three or four hours a day.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: Either answering private messages or messages on the site, inventing new things, doing new things, and you know, we try and remain free to all. But having said that, we've got I think it's 85 people now who contribute a small amount every month as patrons, and it brings us an incoming of about $300 a month. Now, even that's very small because we've got website costs, different monthly costs like Buffer and Canva. We boost Facebook posts. We've just paid a huge amount of money upfront for some pin badges, which if they don't sell, you probably won't see me again. So, there is a lot of expense involved and yet when I asked on the site, which I do every month, if I asked pirates to contribute just one pound or one dollar a month, not a week, just a month. Can you imagine how small that is?

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: I give that amount to homeless people in Bangkok almost every day.

Alex: Wow.

Daniel: Every day. But out of five and a half thousand pirates, only 85 are willing to contribute one pound a month.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: I mean it can't be because they're mean. It's not possible. It must be because they just can't be bothered to go to the computer, Oh my god, it's gonna take me at least 10 minutes to set up this standing order thing for a pound a month. And it does great with me, you know, because there's perhaps two or three hundred pirates who give everything in support.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: Everything. All the time. Most of those give the support money as well, and the rest are quite happy to just take and take and take off and without giving even one pound a month, but often without giving any support to others either.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: But for me, going into the future with this, that I carry that like a pile of bricks.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: And I'm not quite sure. It's almost good to talk about it, because I can play this on my site one day and people will know how I feel. But going into the future, I don't know where it ends because as my writing picks up.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: Sober Inspired Pirates, I'll be able to give less time to. Our admins have only got a life shelf to be fair. We haven't had, I mean, Mo has been with us for two years, but over the past five years, I've lost so many regular admins. When they leave, I have to pick up the pieces and try and sort that out. I only see a massive shipwreck ahead unless something changes.

Alex: Yeah.

Daniel: I mean, if everybody gave a pound a month. One pound. One. Less than a packet of peanuts. Then, problem solved. We could have paid some paid admins perhaps.

Alex: Yeah.