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Finding Freedom from Cannabis with Sophie Malouin

Mar 25 2021

This week I had the great privilege of sitting down with one of my childhood friends, @sophie.malouin, and speaking about her journey with addiction to cannabis. (For those that aren’t aware cannabis is a legal substance in Canada where Sophie lives.) This was the first episode having a guest speaking about a substance other than alcohol. I found it insightful how while the behaviors around alcohol & cannabis may have been different, ultimately we were numbing ourselves for the same reasons: unprocessed trauma. In this episode Sophie shares her journey and story and how she quit smoking and found freedom. In doing so stepped into her purpose and passion as a yoga teacher. It was such an honor to have you on the show Sophie and it’s a privilege to be your friend. Thank you for sharing your story with us ❤️🙏🏻.

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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: All right. Here we go. So, welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited for this particular episode because I have a guest who I have known for a very long time. Sophie Malouin is a childhood summer camp friend of mine, and we must have met maybe at like age 10 or something. Known each other for years, and Sophie is another yoga teacher, she is Canadian based. She works for Modo Yoga International which, back when I lived in Canada, used to be known as Moksha, you know it's Modo. And she also does some private one-on-one work, and yoga teacher mentorship, and working one-on-one private yoga sessions. So, welcome, Sophie.

Sophie: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here and I just want to say it's been so cool just to, yeah, watch you grow and evolve literally over the last 20 years which is so wild. So, thank you for having me.

Alex: Thanks. And you, too. It's been cool to see like, our parallel yoga journeys because you were out in Halifax when I was in Kingston. And then, it was interesting because then you came to Kingston and then I was gone to Kuwait, but we are both kind of like exploring and finding our own sort of pathways within yoga at the same time, which is--

Sophie: Yeah. It's so amazing. We have lots of overlap from the Kingston Yoga Community, from summer camp, and just like the yoga community in general. So, yeah. It's so sweet.

Alex: Awesome. So, Sophie, this week is a bit of a unique guest in that all of the episodes thus far have been about sobriety in terms of alcohol. And what I'm really excited about having Sophie on is that it's a different perspective, because Sophie was smoking weed. Is that the word we use for it, weed pot?

Sophie: Yeah. You know, it's actually kind of interesting I want to share this. I made a post using the word marijuana and I actually didn't know a friend of mine reached out and explained that there's like, some racial undertones to the word marijuana, and the way that it was used in particular in the war on drugs. So, really trying to stay away from using the word marijuana and instead using the word cannabis, or pot, or whatever, or whatever floats your boat, really. Those will be the main things that I use today.

Alex: I saw that post actually which is why I was like I just want to make sure I'm using the right word.

Sophie: Yeah.

Alex: That's really interesting. I've noticed a switch to the term cannabis and I wasn't sure if that was maybe in the process of the legalization, or I don't know.

Sophie: I would need to do more research on it, but it was essentially the word marijuana was used as propaganda against pretty much black and brown people who were using or selling pot at the time.

Alex: Oh, wow. I didn't know that. All right. Well, before we kind of get into all that, I was wondering if you could start us off with a bit of a intro into just kind of telling us about yourself, and your life, and your journey, and kind of where you are today.

Sophie: Cool. For sure. So, you know, as Alex mentioned, I went to summer camp my whole life growing up as did Alex, so that's how we connected. I am from Canada. So, I was born in Burlington, Ontario but grew up like mainly in Barrie, Ontario which are two cities just outside of Toronto, Ontario. So, if you're not familiar with Burlington or Barrie, not far from Toronto. Yeah, you know, I'll get into more of my story as it pertains to high school, but after high school, I went away to to university. I went out East to Dalhousie which is in Halifax. I mean, that's such a potent time for so many people, you know, for many people, it's the first time that they're leaving their parents home. They're going out to live on their own. Perhaps, there's not as much supervision, and for me, that really was a challenging time. Those four or five years living in Halifax. And as challenging as it was, that was also the time where I started to see the most personal growth and development. And luckily, I've also found yoga while I was at university. So, every year, you kind of get like an agenda at university and at the back of the agenda, there was a one week free pass to go to this hot yoga studio which was then called Moksha and is now called Modo Yoga Halifax. And so, I went with a girlfriend and I grew up dancing and always loving being in my body being embodied. And you know, it really was like a love at first sight kind of thing for me. Modo Yoga is a hot yoga and I love the heat. So, just the mixture of being in my body, being in the heat, it really felt like coming back home. And that's not to say that I went like, you know, full yogi right away. It was a many, many year journey that was actually really interlaced with my journey towards getting free from smoking. So, I'll get more into that in a moment but pretty much right after I graduated university, I went and did my yoga teacher training. And from there, started teaching, and anybody who has been teaching yoga knows that it can be quite the hustle to try to make ends meet when you're just teaching group public yoga classes, which is what I was doing at the time. And so, I was working what felt like, you know, a million different jobs just to pay my bills, and it just became pretty clear that it wasn't gonna work. Like, I wasn't gonna be able to support myself. So, I ended up moving back home with my parents and I got a job at a local library which was amazing, and I really loved working there. And between working there and teaching yoga, I was able to save some money and do some travel. So, I went to India twice. I went to Indonesia with one of our really good friends Leah. You know, that was just such an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about yoga from the birthplace of yoga and Hinduism. So, that was amazing but I found myself, you know, coming back home, kind of like, back at ground zero again, struggling to make ends meet, you know, my contract with the library had come to a close and I was like, What am I going to do? You know, like, how am I going to make this work? Like, it had been at this point I guess maybe four years of me teaching and I just, I hadn't found a way to make it click yet. And, you know, I was feeling some pressure from my parents and from the world just to go back to school and to like, get a job. So, that's what I did. I ended up going back to college and studied to be a paralegal which seems like kind of like a diversion from teaching yoga, but I've always been interested in law. And I really enjoyed studying it like I really, really did. I had some amazing friends. It was really stimulating, really challenging for me. But after about six months in the workforce, I kind of just knew that this kind of work wasn't going to bring me lasting joy and happiness. And once I made that realization, like once it clicked for me, it's like I couldn't get it out of my head, you know, I would show up to work every single day, even though I was still teaching yoga at the time, the yoga studio was actually right below the law firm that I was working at. I felt like, in a way, I was betraying myself and also my potential, and just because I couldn't make it work before doesn't mean that I couldn't make it work going forward and, you know, I got lucky, I got really lucky. And a job opportunity opened up with Modo Yoga and, you know, I saw it pop up on my lunch break when I was working at the law firm and I went to the HR person, I was just like, I have to go home like I'm not feeling well. And I just took the next few days off of work and really put all my effort into this job application, and I ended up getting the job, which was just so amazing. And I don't think that I would have been able to land the job if I was still really in the grips of my addiction and my addictive behaviors. So, that was about two years ago that I landed this job and opened up so many opportunities for me which I'm just so grateful for. And then, in the last year with the Covid pandemic, really, I've gone and I've shifted my offerings which were more group public, you know, outward facing being involved with teacher trainings, and now, just working more one-on-one with people. So, I'm really interested in like doing more therapeutic based yoga and as Alex mentioned, I do mentorships with students and teachers. So, just like really getting into the nitty-gritty of what's going on and you know, it's my belief that our physical bodies like, hold the imprint of everything that we go through in our lives. Like, be it emotional, physical, spiritual. Our bodies hold the imprint of all of that, and I think that yoga is such a wonderful way to release some of that tension that we hold and, you know, for many people who might be listening, the tension, that addiction, and addictive patterns can cause in our body. It's a gripping. It's a real gripping, a real stress. So, it's been, the practice has been paramount for me and my own healing and I've seen it be so beneficial for other people in their own healing, and I just feel so grateful to be able to be that person to facilitate that for other people now. So, that's kind of like a Kohl's notes version of how I got to where I am today in this moment, but obviously, so much has happened in between and I'm really looking forward to sharing more, especially about my journey with pot and cannabis and with you today.

Alex: Wow. Okay. I loved listening to that.

Sophie: Thank you.

Alex: Because I feel like even like we were close as kids, as summer camp cabin mates, but I feel like as an adult, I have not actually sat down with you and like heard your journey. And I feel like as I'm listening to it, I draw so many parallels. It sounds like you just almost had this like innate thing within you like, almost like this inner knowing that like, yoga was your, I don't know if you would call it your dharma, I say that yoga was my dharma and I just feel like you went through a similar path with that. And then, also just like the grip with cannabis, I almost called it marijuana, with cannabis, it just sounds like it's been parallel with my journey with alcohol too. So--

Sophie: Yeah. And you know what? I'll say about that is that, for me, smoking kept me in my low self-worth behavior. Right?

Alex: Yeah.

Sophie: It was this way that I almost punished myself, and in order for me to step into this like, high self-worth person to be like, Wait, I actually deserve to have a career that I love.

Alex: Yeah.

Sophie: And I can make a living doing this, even if it's extremely difficult. But I couldn't do that as long as I was getting up every morning and getting high, because there was no space for it. And I subconsciously was telling myself, No. I'm worthy of these low self-worth behaviors. Right? And every morning when I wake up, and I don't smoke, or I don't drink, or I don't do something that like, limits me, I'm saying, Yes. Like, I do deserve those higher, greater opportunities, and I'm acting in a way that's in line with that. And that's really important, especially as yoga teachers, because we're like the role models for the students. Like, you need to be really aligned and really integrated in your truth, and if you're not that translates, you know, even subconsciously that translates. So, yeah, being a yoga teacher is like my greatest challenge, but also my greatest privilege because it means I have to wake up every day and walk the talk and not just talk the talk, and that's the hard stuff as you know.

Alex: Yeah. I love that. Okay. So, tell me more about your journey smoking cannabis like, when did you start and kind of what aspects of the culture you were around in Canada influenced that?

Sophie: Yeah, for sure. So, the first time that I ever smoked was grade 8 graduation and, you know, looking back, I just think like, Wow. I was so young. Right? I was so young. And it didn't really become more common until high school which is quite common for most people. And in high school, it was very social. Like I would do it with friends at parties or with my girlfriends, we would kind of just like sneak out and go and smoke. And it was like an act of rebellion, you know? I'm the youngest child, also a Leo in astrology, so just like, fiercely independent, rebellious, like, kind of rejects authority for better or worse. And so, I found myself, you know, doing a lot of those things. Smoking, drinking at a young age, which again, it was common, especially in my friend group. And I think, in Canada, in general. Right? Like if we think back, before pot was legalized in Canada which was in 2018, it's like, any time you were watching a story or like a television show, or a movie, and pot was in it, it's like pot was either coming from California or Canada. Right? Like, there was just kind of this idea that Canada is a little bit more like, hippie granola, which is which is true in some places, especially out West. Maybe not so much actually in Ontario, but weed is a really big part of the culture here. Even before it was legalized. Even if it was like a little bit more, let's call it underground. So, for me, the issue with pot didn't really start until I moved away from home. And you know, I had more freedom which meant more room for exploration. And also, like I was really, lucky really privileged growing up that I had it pretty easy, like in high school, I had an amazing group of friends. I had the support of all of the women from summer camp, and I felt like I had a really safe container of support to navigate the things that I was going through. And then, when I moved out East for university, you know, I moved away from so many of my friends. Like, I knew two people when I moved out there. And part of what bonded us was that we came from the same high school, and we kind of had these same patterns, like we would all go out, and drink, and smoke to be social. So, that was the pattern that we took on as a group, and therefore, that was the kind of people that we attracted when we were meeting new people in university. And so, for the first year, you know, like I would smoke on my own, but I would say it was still more, let's call it in control. Even if some of the behavior was a little bit problematic. And then, in second year I started dating a new guy. And looking back, you know, the relationship just had bad news written all over it. He also dealt pot which made it really convenient for me to smoke pot and, you know, I went through a really tough time in my second year university, and I essentially severed connections with my best friend, and my roommate, and also my boyfriend who was living with us at the time, and it really was a heartbreaking and deeply traumatic experience for me, and I didn't have the tools to cope with it. I didn't have any tools to how to handle these really big feelings that were coming up for me for the first time, you know, a lot of people are familiar with like feeling really low and depressed, and feeling really anxious. And for me, I was feeling those things for the first time and I felt really alone. And so, I found a lot of comfort in smoking. And when I was high, I was numb. So, I didn't have to feel the things that I was feeling. And so, it became my way to cope. And I think, that's really common and that's something that I really wanna highlight like I really do believe that addiction is like, addiction is the result of unprocessed trauma. Right? Like, addiction isn't necessarily the problem, it's the reaction to the problem. And the actual problem, the root of the issue, is the trauma. Right? I was talking to my boyfriend about this earlier. It's like, happy people don't do heroin. Right? People who do heroin or who are addicted to heroin I should say, often have some really deep wounding. And I think the same is for any substance, anybody who drinks heavily, smokes heavily, does any drug heavily, it's like the drug isn't the problem, it's a coping mechanism, and it's a really good coping mechanism at first because it's like, I don't have the tools to feel this really big thing, so I'm going to cope by using this substance. And that works until it doesn't work anymore. You know, until your addiction and the substance overtakes your life, and that's what happened to me. You know, I wouldn't go anywhere where I couldn't smoke, and like you have to keep in mind this is before pot was legal, so it's not like I could just go out with my friends, and then, go down the store or go down to the store to pick up a joint, like you had to think about where you were going to get it. So, I wouldn't go anywhere I couldn't smoke. I couldn't sleep without smoking. I couldn't eat without smoking. I wouldn't go to class without smoking. I wouldn't go to work without smoking. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I would need to smoke to go back to sleep. And so, what started as this like, maybe, let's call it healthy coping mechanism just totally overtook my entire life. And it took my personality away from me, it took a lot of really close friends away from me, it took my family further away from me, because I could see that I was struggling but I couldn't tell them why I was struggling because I didn't even know, because I was just so numb. For me, I was also going through an eating disorder and the two were really linked, like a lot of people think like, Oh, if you smoke, you'll eat and that's true. But when you smoke a lot, you also lose hunger. And so, it was like a way for me to, like to starve off my hunger, literally. And so, those two things are really interlaced for me. And really, that second year was it was extremely challenging, and I am grateful that I did have a slight foundation built in my yoga practice. So, I would get to the studio maybe once a week and even if sometimes I would show up and be stoned, it's like I would sometimes see this little glimmer of hope of like, what I could feel like if I was sober. You know? And normally that was like by the end of the class, I had like sweat everything out. My high had worn off, but I would see these glimmers of what it could be like. And that was just the beginning. For me, my story isn't one of like, on this day I woke up and I stopped smoking and I never have since, it's been a lot of back and forth. My identity was really wrapped up in smoking, I'm sure you can relate to that, you know, as someone who goes out and parties and drinks a lot, it's like that's almost who you become. And so, I knew myself as being the pothead, my friends knew me as being the pothead. And so, even if I knew that I didn't want to smoke, it was almost easier just to say yes, because that's what everybody expected of me, and that's what I expected of me because that's the only Sophie I knew at the time. And so, for a long, long time it was easier to say yes than it was to say no. And for me, what ended up happening, there was a lot of on and off. So, pretty much from my third year in university to my fifth year, there was a lot of back and forth like, I'm sober and now I'm back. I'm smoking and now I'm not. I'm up and then I'm down. And it was a really long journey for me and it took going home and having the support of my family who, you know, did not allow me to smoke weed in their house and I had to go home and almost close myself off from my friends and not my family, my friends for a little while just so I could like, get my two feet on the ground and be like, Okay. This is who I am without weed, and this is who I want to be. But I actually am not strong enough to go out to a party and to say no yet. So, I like, had to close myself off for a little while and really one of the greatest blessings of my life was reconnecting with my boyfriend who has a very similar story to me. But when we met, you know, it was really important to him that he was not with somebody who was drinking heavily or doing any kind of drugs, and I found myself just in this in this position where I was like, Okay. Do you want to be in a happy, loving, joyous relationship with somebody else and with yourself? Or do you want to stay in the thralls of your addiction for who knows how long? And I'm really grateful that he, in a way, encouraged me to make that choice and being with him has been so supportive. And now, I'm in a place where it's easier to say no than it is to say yes. And that took a long time but I know now, who I am without weed, and that took like years. That took a long time to figure out. I feel like I'm just stepping into who I am without it. And now, it's just so much easier for me to say no because I know what's at risk if I say yes. Like, I'm not one of those people who can dabble lightly, like I'm just not. And I respect that some people are, but for me like, it has to be a no because if it's not a no, it's a yes. And then, that one time yes turns into a yes all the time, and it's a really dangerous cycle. So, that's kind of the overview of my addiction that really played out over the last 10 years, you know? And I can say now that, since I've been with Matt, I've been sober. And so, that's, we've been together for four years, and there's been a slip up here and there, but not for a long time. And I feel really grateful just to have my two feet on on the earth, you know? And and know who I am, and be really confident that I'm not gonna fall back and slip back into that place that I was in before.

Alex: Oh, that's amazing. Four years. That's huge.

Sophie: Yeah. You know what? It really is like, I don't think that I would have any of what I have now if I was still stuck in that. I definitely wouldn't have my relationship, which is one of the most precious parts of my entire life, you know, I can say for certain, I wouldn't have that. I wouldn't have the job that I have now. I was thinking, like when I first got this job two years ago. I was thinking like, because we work from home, I've always worked from home even before the pandemic like, I wouldn't have been able to trust myself to not get up in the morning and smoke. Right? Like I just, I would have totally wasted away my entire career. And so, yeah, it's been amazing for me to see just the blessings that have come through since letting that behavior go.

Alex: Yeah. And I enjoyed listening to that because it's like, the behaviors and the tendencies are different, obviously, like there's things that I can't relate to like, you know, you're talking about waking up in the middle of the night and smoking to sleep, like that's not a behavior that I had with alcohol. But the general theme, like whether the behavior is different, the theme is the same which is that it's being used as something to like numb my experience and ultimately, just held me back from my potential.

Sophie: Alcohol, like how you get a hangover from alcohol. The same is true when you smoke. Like, you wake up, you feel foggy, you feel lethargic, like, I would get these gnarly headaches like, you don't get to wake up and enjoy a new day from a clean slate. You're still carrying over the effects of the night before which is very similar to drinking, for sure.

Alex: Yeah. So, I have a question for you about pot and like the yoga culture in Canada, because I feel like I told you, I never really got into pot. I did smoke it a few times in, probably in high school, and always, it was in the context of me already being drunk. And then, I just had a horrible experience. And so, it was never for me but I do remember like my friends would sometimes smoke before coming to a class, and I'm wondering like, Is that a big part of Canadian yoga culture?

Sophie: Such a great question. Ever since weed has become legalized, definitely. Like you see, it's like the blaze and yoga. And I have mixed feelings about this because on the one hand, I think if that's what it's gonna take to get somebody in the door, you know, a joint before, or there's a lot of like, the beer and yoga classes, if that's what it's gonna take to get somebody to show up to yoga? Okay. You know? Because I think that what brings people to yoga isn't what makes them stay. So, often times people come to yoga because they're like I wanna be fit. Right? And they don't end up staying necessarily because they want to be fit, there's a million different ways you can be fit. They stay because of the mental benefits that they get from it. And I think that the same can be true for when we see that intersection of weed and yoga. If people are coming to yoga for the first time, and the only reason why they're coming is because I can get high first, it's like, All right, you know, that's cool. It's getting your foot in the door. On the other hand, you know, I think where I'm at, personally, in my practice and in my teaching, it's to become more intimate with what is true, you know? So, to become more intimate with the present moment like, that's my goal as a practitioner and as a teacher of yoga. And this might be a little controversial for some but I just don't think it's possible to be present or to be intimate with what is true, if you're higher or if you're drunk. And so, I'll explain that a little bit more, you know, I think that when you're high or you're drunk, it's like you have a filter on, right? It's like an Instagram filter. And so, what you're experiencing may be true to you, right? But you're seeing through the lens of being drunk or of being high. You're not seen through the lens of of being sober and being clear.

Alex: Yeah.

Sophie: So, for example. If I'm stoned and I'm in my parents house, and my truth is that I'm really paranoid because I think my mom knows that I'm high and I'm gonna get in trouble. So, yes, that's my truth. But the greater truth is that my mom might even be downstairs watching TV, not at all thinking about me being high. And in fact, you know, my paranoia is the result of the filter, and not a result of the facts. But you can't see the facts when you're high or when you're drunk. And so, I think it gets really risky when we start to mix yoga with substance use. Because if the goal of yoga, like it is in the eight limbed path of yoga, is full enlightenment, full immersion with what is true, I just don't know if you can get there well while drinking and smoking. I just, I couldn't get there, you know, and maybe if you do get there, it might be a false sense of enlightenment or full immersion into the truth. So, I feel two ways about it. And the other thing that I wanna touch on where it gets tricky, especially with pot is that, a lot of people use pot as medicine. You know? And I really don't want to discount that because I think that there is a place for pot as medicine. You know, if somebody is, for example, quite sick with cancer or struggles with chronic pain, I think that pot can be helpful. It's been proven to be helpful. But what's important is like, in Ayurveda, which is the sister science of yoga, any medicine can become a poison. And what makes a medicine a poison is the dosage, right? So, if you're saying that pot's your medicine but you can't do anything without pot, then maybe you need to rethink it. Because maybe your medicine is actually turned into a poison and is keeping you trapped, rather than making you more free. Right? And then, if we're looking at pot as being a medicine, I think that we also need to really consider that Western dominant culture has this tendency to take from less dominant culture. Right? So, there are so many lineages that use cannabis as plant medicine but what's really different about using marijuana as plant medicine and using marijuana to numb is the way in which you interact with it. And at Plant Medicine 101, as I'm just beginning to learn about is, you ask the plant for permission, you know? And you have to be really humble to ask a plant for permission. You also need to be willing to listen and and be willing to hear. And so, I just ask anyone who smokes, like when's the last time you've asked the plant permission? Right? And given the plant enough time to communicate with you. And I know that might sound a little bit out there, but let's make it a little bit more organic for people. So, if you forage mushrooms, you know, Foraging 101 is you look around and you see, Okay. Am I taking the last mushroom here? Is there is there enough opportunity for this mushroom to regrow and repopulate? And also, does this mushroom want me to take it? And there will be a knowing in yourself. And so, a few years ago this was probably two or three years ago, I hadn't been smoking for a while and I thought, Maybe I can, maybe I'm at a place where I can engage with Marijuana or, sorry, Cannabis, in a therapeutic way. And so, you know, I was taking a bath and I had been doing some research around plant medicine and I asked the plant. I said, Okay. If I'm in a place where I can use this plant in a therapeutic and medicinal way, I don't know if I'm saying that word right.

Alex: Yeah.