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"How Do I Vacation Sober?" with Kevin Bellack, the Sober Ginger

Updated: Aug 23, 2021


Kevin Bellack is an accountant by day, sober and mental health advocate by night, known as The Sober Ginger on Instagram! Kevin and I have been corresponding back and forth on Instagram since I offered a yoga class for 1000 Hours Dry in March 2021. Kevin had recently been on Sober Vacation, as have I, hence we decided to meet up and do an episode on the topic! The first sober vacation can be a stressful experience for newly alcohol free people, and as the post-covid world opens up, more and more individuals will be facing this challenge. Join us as we talk tools and strategies for your first vacation alcohol free.


listen here.


Follow Kevin on Instagram at @thesoberginger and also at @1000hoursdry. UAE residents, I'm planning a Sober Soul weekend coming up in June! Join me for a weekend getaway of yoga, meditation, art, and alcohol free beverages at the Al Ain Rotana hotel. Find out more information at: www.themindfullifepractice.com/sobersoulweekend


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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.


Alex: All right. Hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited to be here with Kevin Bellack today. And Kevin is the Sober Ginger on Instagram. He is located in the States in Cleveland, Ohio, and he is an accountant by day, known as a Sober Ginger on Instagram. And he's doing some recovery and life coaching work now. And he'll tell us more about that, but is super nice to finally meet you and have you here. So welcome, Kevin.


Kevin: Hey, Alex. Yeah, it's great to be talking to you live. I know we've exchanged messages for a while, but it's good to finally talk to you in person, kind of.


Alex: Yeah. And so Kevin is involved with-- he's a co-host of 1,000 Hours Drive, which I had Kayla from 1,000 Hours Dry in way back one of my earlier episodes. And so Kevin and I have been messaging on Instagram because I did a yoga class for them. And so that's kind of how we got connected. So why don't we start off by you just kind of giving me a bit of context, like tell me a bit about yourself, who you are, kind of where you're from, what's your sort of story?


Kevin: Okay, yeah. So I am 41 year old accountant in Ohio. I've been in Cleveland for, ever since college. I grew up in Pennsylvania and then went to college in Cleveland and just got a job here. My then girlfriend moved out here and we got married. And so we live here with our teenage daughter. So that's where and that's where-- I'm sorry I was going to go into, like that's kind of where my, like drinking career started because I never really drank prior to college or anything like that like, you know, be here and there. But really, you know, college is where that all started for me. I know as a lot of people, I think do. I don't know if I'm going to get into how that kind of like.


Alex: Yeah, I just want to say, first of all, I can't believe you're 41. You have, like, the sober glow.


Kevin: Yeah, that's exactly--


Alex: Like, you look like on your 20s.


Kevin: Yeah.


Alex: So.


Kevin: Somebody is like, somebody said your age is in reverse. I'm like, not really, but it's just like I aged myself really quickly towards the end of my 30s before I, yeah, went sober. So.


Alex: Yeah. It's amazing--


Kevin: But thanks for that.


Alex: It's amazing to see how sober, like, just makes people look more youthful because it's like--


Kevin: Yeah.


Alex: You just kind of get back all those years.


Kevin: Right. It's just that we have that look where you're not, like, just zoned out or dead tired or--


Alex: Totally. Exactly. So, yeah. Why don't we jump into tell me about your drinking? Like, how did you start drinking?


Kevin: Yeah. I mean, you know, I started, I played two years of sports in college and then I was in a fraternity. So, you know, that kind of always, I feel lends to, you know, the weekend binge drinking with everybody. And so that's really, you know, how my entire college career went. Actually, my first real time getting drunk and sick and all that was on a recruiting visit for football, for college. So I was still in high school and I went to the school and stayed over, you know, a bunch of players and then just hung out and we end up going to party. And so that was my introduction, I guess, to college life. And I made the most of it then, I guess, and just kind of set the bar for how I was going to act, I think the rest of the way, unfortunately. But yeah, I mean, it was a lot of a lot of binge drinking, a lot of, you know, not really, you know, too much in the week. But, you know, whenever there is any kind of party or any kind of reason to drink, we were, you know, drinking all night. And that kind of then, I feel continued into my early career as an accountant because, you know, that has a lot of deadlines, a lot of stress, a lot of, you know, a lot of young people, you know, just doing a lot of work, you know, all hours of the night and weekends, and so, Bloustein, we would after that, we would go out and do the same binge type drinking all the time. And then, I got married fairly young, I guess, for today's standards at 24, and we had our daughter when I was 27. So, you know, it kind of was, you know, college was a lot of binge drinking, then early career, and then once got 27, I kind of, you know, our daughter was born, I changed jobs, I was at a corporate job where she was a little bit less stress and a little less deadline driven. Well, actually the first year was a bunch times, but after that is less deadline driven. So, things kind of seem that even out, you know, I ran a marathon like three years later and, you know, so I was doing stuff and I was staying active and I was not drinking as much, you know, I was still doing, but when I drank, it was still, you know, binge drinking on the weekends was my main kind of way I went about it. But then slowly, as my 30s crept on, you know, you get more responsibilities at work and more stressors happen. Then I would come home and have a drink, you know, to relax and then, you know, that would be two drinks, and then I would still, you know, drink a bunch on the weekends. And there's a football game on tonight, I'll go drink for that. And, you know, it just slowly, my binge drinking on the weekends slowly kind of filtered into the week.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And then, we had a big project at work in like 2015 time frame. So, I, you know, was working basically all the time for that. All hours of the day and night, and that's how I, you know, a lot of stress and my only real coping mechanism, looking back on it, was to drink. Like I didn't, you know, I tried to fit in, exercise here and there, but, you know, that wasn't a priority for me. And when I you know, I didn't journal, I didn't meditate. I didn't do any of that stuff.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And so, drinking became my coping mechanism. And then, slowly, you know, I was just doing it every day when I got home and had to have a drink and then I'd keep working. And then, after I stopped working, then I would just have a couple more at night. And then, 2016, our project was done. But now we have to implement it. You know, it just kind of just led from one thing to the next. 2018, we were targeted for acquisition, our company, and, you know, so I was on that project and, you know, it's just one thing after the other like that just kind of snowballed and my drinking snowballed along with it. And I don't blame, it's not I blame work for doing that.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: It's just I blame my own, you know, lack of awareness or coping mechanisms for it. And then, got to the point then where in 2018, you know, I ended up getting bloodwork done and that kind of put my doctor into like, Hey, your liver enzymes are a little high, let's get an ultrasound done. And so, get an ultrasound and came back, you know, fatty liver and, you know, even that. So, I'm like Okay. Well I need to cut back and then all throughout 2018, just kind of my mental health kind of started declining because everything started, you know, work just kept piling up and all these, you know, my weight was increasing. My, you know, I was having these health problems kind of come up, my blood pressure was through the roof, my head liver problems, which then made me, in my head, I kind of was like worried, like, Okay. What's gonna, you know, the big C then, right, there's cirrhosis or cancer.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: That's when I started like, really thinking, like, How do I fix this? But not knowing how to fix it, not knowing what to do. And that's really where I got to, that was like kind of the end of my drinking. That's how that kind of shaped up and kind of how where I got to start asking questions of how I can handle these stressors, how I can change, how I can do that, and trying to figure it out coming up short for months, actually. I don't, you know, in my personal life, I don't know anybody who went to AA, I don't know anybody who openly spoke about going to AA, so that was really the only thing I thought about was as an option. And that's where I kind of, you know, I'm like, well, I read about it and I just didn't click with the whole higher power and powerless and all that. Even though I was powerless at the time I felt. That's how I felt.


Alex: Right.


Kevin: Like saying that and believing that for the rest of my life, for my better sense to me. Because of that, I just kind of said, no, I'm not gonna do that, but I have no other options out there. So, that's where I was at the end of 2018.


Alex: Yeah. When did you finally like, when did you quit and how did you quit? How did that happen?


Kevin: So, 2019 started and we actually went on a Disney cruise and it was just like it was after New Year's because it's cheaper after New Year's, because it's super expensive. So, we went on like a five day cruise and, you know, just had a couple of islands in that. But, you know, Disney cruises too, they have alcohol but they don't have, like, the unlimited drinking packages like some other cruises. And so, you know, at the end of the week, I get my bill and it's like $800, $900. And I'm the only one that drinks out of the three of us. So, it's like, all right, that's a lot. Granted they're inflated prices. So, I felt it on that kind of vacation. And then, I came home, and I was already thinking about it, you know, towards the end of 2018 that I need to do something. I was reading "Recovery" by Russell Brand. I was reading "The Heroin Diaries" by Nikki Sixx. I was just finding books that, you know, I didn't know Kidlet existed. I didn't know Sober Instagram existed. I was just trying to figure out what to do. And I always try to, Russell Brand's book for kind of giving me the thoughts that got me to where I am like, because I can't remember what step it was to see just kind of, you know, reframes the steps, the 12 steps, into kind of his own modern day spiritual kind of thing. And the one is he said, Are you on your own gonna unfuck yourself? I swear on here.


Alex: It's explicit.


Kevin: It's too late now. But as I said, I said it. I was like, Oh, I should check first.


Alex: Have you listen to Kayla's episode?


Kevin: No, but I can imagine.


Alex: A lot of F bombs.


Kevin: I listen to part of it. Yeah, that was a while ago.


Alex: It's such a good episode. Oh, my God. It's so inspiring. Anyway. Yeah. Permission to swear. Go for it.


Kevin: Are you on your own gonna unfuck yourself. And that was, that's kind of, I remember, I was listening on audiobooks while I'm driving and I remember just sitting there. I paused it when I heard that. And I'm like, That's it. Like, I can't do this on my own.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: I've tried to do this on my own so many times and, you know, I'm the one that always wants to, you know, whether it's at work or, you know, my personal life, like, I'll take care of it, I'll do it and I'll go and do it, or I won't. And if I don't, then I'm just like, Well, I guess I can't do that. That's how I've always been and say, Okay. Well, I'm not gonna drink this month. And three days later, I drink. And it's like, All right. Once a month. Maybe I'll try again next month. Not tomorrow, not today, like next month. But ultimately, I got to the end of that book and I was like, I'm not, this isn't jiving with me, the whole higher power and that kind of stuff. And it does for a lot of people and it helps a ton of people. But it just wasn't something I was willing to commit to because I didn't think it would help me. Looking back on it, would it have helped me? Yeah, I believe it would have. But, you know, not even knowing where to go or what to do, I was just like, what are my other options? So then, I started looking at like therapy. Also, didn't know anybody who was in therapy. And, you know, so it's like, What the hell do I do? And I'm fairly lazy. So, if I have too many barriers to entry or to keep doing something, I won't. You know, I'll do it for a little bit, but then I won't do it. If I have to drive 10 miles to the gym and it's not going to happen. But if I have to drive one mile, Okay. Maybe it'll happen a little bit more frequently. So, I went online and I found Therapy Through Better Help.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And I just I kind of, what got me to the end in order to sign up like, I was looking at it, I knew I had looked at it, I just hadn't pulled the trigger and didn't think. I'm like, Maybe I can figure this out. And I remember buying a bottle of whiskey on a Monday night and I bought a whiskey, I had wine, I had other stuff at home. And I remember drinking that Monday night. And probably took down about half the bottle, maybe a little bit more. And then,0 I came home Tuesday and I was like, all right, well, I'm going to have a bottle of wine because I'm going to open up the wine tonight because, you know, it's year end. I'm busy and stressed. And so, I open up the bottle of wine because I didn't want to, because I knew if I drank the whiskey, I'd finish a bottle of whiskey and I open up the bottle of wine. And once I opened up a bottle of wine, I knew I was going to finish the bottle of wine. I finished the bottle of wine, but I wasn't done yet. So, I went and drank straight. You know, I had a glass of whiskey then.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And then eventually, I finished a bottle of whiskey too. And then, I kind of just, that's when I, as I was put in that last glass and I still drank it, but I was like, What the fuck am I doing? Right?


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And, you know, I kind of was just sitting on the couch by myself and everybody's asleep. And once again, I'm out here just drinking and I don't know why anymore. And I just broke down and started crying. I was like, I got to change this. And this has to, I can't go on like this. I already knew that a fatty liver. I already know my blood pressure is 150/95 and the cholesterol's through the roof and I'm overweight and I'm stressed out and all this stuff. I'm like I can't be like, this is like, we're getting to the point here where there's a heart attack or something that's going to happen that is a real wake up call or not that all these other things aren't wake up calls. So then, I kind of just, I knew I already looked at Better Help, and I'm trying to, I can't remember what other ones are out there. But so, I just went online that night and signed up and I just felt like kind of a weight lift off of me. Until I woke up the next day, then I was like, Oh, I'd better tell my wife about this. Which obviously, she's supportive, but that was a stressful for me as well.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: Because then that's admitting, right? That's admitting. Before that, even though I'm ready to see what's going on or maybe see, maybe not totally understand what's going on, but, yeah, that was, so it took till that was Tuesday and it took till Friday night to tell my wife.


Alex: Wow.


Kevin: And actually, she was sitting right here and I was sitting in a chair there with a glass of Bourbon and we were talking for 20 minutes. I didn't hear a thing she said, because I was just sitting there thinking in my head, How am I gonna say this? How am I gonna say this? I told her, I'm like, What would you think if, you know, if I went and saw a therapist, you know, and just and then like, it's like the cat is out of the bag and she's obviously like, I think anybody who wants to work on improving their health, that's great. Like, I'm all for it. And so, then again, it was like a weight lifted. And that's kind of how I got to at least the start of this pack.


Alex: Wow. And so, that was in, when in 2019? Is it still the early?


Kevin: Yeah. January 2019.


Alex: January. So you're just a few months before me in terms of sobriety. I quit drinking in April 2019.


Kevin: That's not that. And my last drink was April 29.


Alex: Okay.


Kevin: April 28 was my last drink. Yeah.


Alex: Okay. So we're in the same range then. Mine is April 13th.


Kevin: Okay.


Alex: Yeah. Cool.


Kevin: Yeah, because I think that Friday night, I drank that night, but then I went, after that, I went like 60 days without drinking. So, that was my first real stint into, you know, with the help of a therapist and other things, that was my first real stint into it. But then, I was like figuring out, Okay. Well, where the hell is this going now?


Alex: Right.


Kevin: I still don't know what I'm doing.


Alex: Yeah. And not everyone's path always has little detours, you know, I don't think I've ever met anyone who was just like, Okay. I'm going to quit. All right, I'm sober. There's always kind of loops and ins and outs and, you know.


Kevin: Yeah, definitely.


Alex: So, tell me about like, what was it like quitting? What was the hardest part? What were the challenges?


Kevin: So, like I said, I went like 60 days there, but the whole time. So, I had the help. I had my therapist and we met once a week. And then, the big thing, for me, that helped, was being able to message her.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: Being able to pick up my phone and go into the app and just like, you know, it's 11 o'clock at night. I know she's not going to read this until tomorrow, but just typing out, like what I'm feeling or the urge I just got or being able to just process it, because once I hit send, then I could go in and delete it, but there's always a chance she saw it already. And it's just that it was that accountability factor for me.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And biggest challenges I think we're just my emotions, really. Right? Because what I realized really quick was I drank for every emotion and, you know, if I got angry, my daughter was pissing me off because she was, you know, being a brat or whatever. I felt like my hand might shake, like going for the glass, like I felt that urge or, you know, if I was stressed from work, like, I remember messaging my therapist being like, I think I just said to myself, you know, it was a Friday, and I just said to myself, like, I'll drink tonight. Like, just that stress that was like, breaking that automatic response to everything with a drink was the toughest part. Like, interrupting that cycle was hard and for me, a lot of it was writing about it. And that's kind of where my whole love of journalism started, was with that app, because I could just pour out my thoughts.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: And I know a journal I think is supposed to be more for yourself and all that. You can't share it with people if you want. But that was, you know, for me, I needed that accountability. I needed to put what was going on in my head out there to someone for the first time ever, because like I always say, like, I was fine, I was good, I was okay. Like, that's my response for everything. I never really processed anything or I kept everything in like, everything I felt was on me to do or to be responsible for which it wasn't true, but that's just how I was felt, whether it's work or personal or family or whatever. Whether financial stress or work stress or whatever, you know, it just kind of all felt like it was on my shoulders and I kept it all in, and then I just drank it all down for so long that it was just so cathartic just to tell somebody that, like, what actually was going on in my head. I mean, that was huge for me. But also, another challenge I had, which I think was part of your question was, I was never like, I'm never drinking again. I was like, I was always, Okay. When am I going to be able to drink again? That was always my thought in the back of my head until, you know, I kind of, it was hard, because the forever was a lot of my thoughts back and forth was like, How am I gonna do this forever? Like, every vacation, I'm going to turn 40 this year. Like, I'm going on vacation in April. I'm going to, I'm not going to drink there. I'm not going on vacation ever again. I'm at my 40. I'm not gonna drink to this, to that, those thing. You know, you just started a downward spiral that hung me up a lot.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: My brother was the first one who said, like, you know, he was very supportive of all this. And, you know, I'm very thankful for that because, you know, him and I were drinking buddies for so long that he was the first one to actually say, like, Well, you know, maybe you just shouldn't drink ever again. And I just kind of like, What? Like, really? You're saying that like, this is just unexpected but it was almost like giving you permission to think about it.


Alex: Yeah.


Kevin: Which was helpful. Which everybody knows and everybody has permission to think about, I've never drinking again, if you