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Jo Walduck's Journey: Supporting Queer Individuals through Sobriety



In episode 101 on the podcast, I'm delighted to have Jo Walduck on the show, one of her first sober Facebook friends! Me and Jo met in a Sober Facebook Group in 2019. Originally from the UK, Jo lives in France. She became alcohol free in October 2019, after leaving her profession as a teacher and retraining as a coach. After taking 28 days off of drinking to focus on building her business, she realized sobriety had a lot more benefits then she'd thought it would. Since being sober she's navigated her transgender journey, the loss of loved ones, quitting ciagarettes and living with long term covid.



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Jo runs a Facebook sober support Group I'm also a member of called the Deep Duckpond. She also works 1:1 with clients in English and French, focusing on supporting queer individuals through their sober journey. She can be found on instagram @jowalduck and also at www.jowalduck.com. Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


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Transcript


. Intro

Hi friend, this is Alex McRobs, founder of "The Mindful Life Practice" and you're listening to the "Sober Yoga Girl" podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world at age 23 and I never went back. I got sober in 2019 and I realized that there was no one talking about sobriety in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so I started doing it. I now live in Bali, Indonesia, and full-time run my community, "The Mindful Life Practice". I host online sober yoga challenges, yoga teacher trainings, and I work one on one with others, helping them break up with booze for good. In this podcast, I sit down with others in the sobriety and mental health space from all walks of life and hear their stories so that I can help you on your journey. 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 so excited to have my friend, Jo Walduck here on the podcast with me. And Jo and I met in, like early days of sobriety on the amazing internet, The Sober World on Facebook. And I feel like we've been talking about doing this podcast episode for, like, ages. And then things kept coming up and it kept on happening. Here we are. And I'm so excited to have you here. So welcome, Jo. How are you?

Jo

Me too. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so glad that we're finally making it work.

Alex

Yes.

Jo

I'm good. Yeah, I'm good. Today is a good day. We are having a good day. And so yay, smiles.

Alex

So tell us a little bit about kind of where you are in the world, a little bit about yourself.

Jo

I currently live in Leon in France, which is about in the middle of the country'ish as far away from the sea as you can get. And so I'm hoping to move soon to the seaside because the ocean is life and we need to return to it. Yeah. I've been in France for about 15 years. I'm from the UK. I have been sober for nearly 900 days, I think?

Alex

Amazing. Congratulations.

Jo

Thank you. It's ridiculous. I mean, I signed up for a 28-day challenge back in October 2019. And then I was like, fuck it, let's carry on for a bit. And I'm so glad that I did.

Alex

That's amazing. And that's really similar to me as well, you know. I signed up for 28 days and here I am, three years later, which is kind of cool.

Jo

I know. Yeah. I mean, I've been wondering because I work as a coach, so I work as a life coach, as a business coach, but primarily as a sober coach. Like, people working to get sober, but also people then, you know, once they've done the getting sober stuff, it's like, oh, shit, now I need to maintain sobriety, like, I need to remove those things that were kind of drawing me back to the booze. Seeing that as I know you do as well, like, seeing the people in the early days of sobriety and struggling with that kind of thing of sobriety. I'm like, I'm so lucky that I-- like, it was hard, right? As far as shit in the early days, in the early weeks, and in the early months. And I haven't had one. Right. And I haven't gone back to-- I haven't entertained the idea of moderation or anything else. And I'm kind of scared of it. Like, I don't know if many people talk about this. I don't feel like we do. But I think I have, like, a healthy-- I think it's healthy. I hope it's healthy. Like fear of what would happen if I did go back to it.

Alex

Yeah.

Jo

Do you get back or are you on a never again. Like, where are you at?

Alex

Well, I had a few drinks before I hit 1000 days. I don't know if you heard that episode with Sarah Williamson. We did. So she interviewed me on my 1000 days sober and I shared an interview that I actually drank right when I got to Bali.

Jo

Okay.

Alex

And I think having a fear of moderation is probably a really good thing because for me it was like I just got really far away from my sobriety and started doing like all this other stuff. I was no longer doing-- I wasn't doing a lot of sober work in the fall. Like I was doing a lot more kind of business coaching and, you know, yoga teacher trainings and, yeah, and I had a few drinks and I felt horrible, not guilty. I don't have any guilt. I don't have anything going on there. I was just literally physically like it just you know, your body is so clean of alcohol for so long and then you just have three things and you're like, I've been hit by a truck and my mood, I feel my mood and that's just like having this awareness. Like I noticed my mind going down and it was nowhere near the lows of drinking because it was just one time, but yeah, and I definitely have times when I still think about it, I romanticize it. And so I think a fear of moderation is great, but it's me.

Jo

I mean, I guess it's whatever works. Yeah. I remember talking-- I was talking with my therapist who was also sober a couple of--a few weeks ago and I was talking about a time that when I was at uni, my mom hardly ever drank and doesn't really drink at all anymore. And she came to visit me at uni and I got her shipments. Like we drank so much wine and we had an amazing time because it was this uninhibited, like a raw connection that we had both struggled with before and that we had both struggled with afterward. And I remember when I was telling my therapist about it, I was like, this is weird. This is the first time in over two and a half years that I'm talking about alcohol as a good thing. And it's like that kind of social lubricant and what have you. And she was like, yeah, I mean, it does have some good points. Like it's easy to demonize it. Not that it has some good points, but it serves the purpose.

Alex

Yes.

Jo

Right?

Alex

Otherwise, why would we do it?

Jo

Otherwise, why would we do it? Why would pretty much all nations, all cultures, why would we go to it? And I was like, oh, yeah, okay. But then coming out of that session went back into sober coaching. Somebody and I were like, oh, yeah, all right. Alcohol was a helpful tool, 20 years ago with my mom. And it is not a helpful tool for me now. And so, okay, alright. I'm not going to go into the romanticizing of it in 2022 for Jo today, but it was helpful for me, you know. It served its purpose 20 years ago.

Alex

Yeah. I love that. So tell us a bit about your-- like, what was your life before you got sober?

Jo

So I was a teacher. I was an English teacher. English as a foreign language, English as the subject, communications. I ended up working a lot in order to pay for the lifestyle that I felt that I needed in order to cope with how much I was working. So if you can see the recipe for burnout in there, burnout meets like, active addiction. Yeah.

Alex

Can I say I love the way you describe that because I feel like it describes me to a T. Like I was like tutoring, teaching yoga, teaching at school, working 24/7 so that I could afford the partying on the weekend to cope with what I was doing myself.

Jo

Exactly. And it's just such a negative spiral and it's so hard to see your way out of it, you know as with most things, it spirals.

Alex

Totally.

Jo

So I lived in Paris for eight years and, you know, Paris as a young person. And Paris as a single person. Like, it was amazing. It was super, super fun. It was party, party, party, work, work, work, and leave. Like there was all of that. And then I moved to Leon and kind of had-- it was a smaller life, you know my schools were local. I was very local in the restaurant, like near my place, in the bars. Like, I knew everybody. Everybody knew me. I was smoking a lot, I was drinking a lot. And my small little life was kind of fine. There were the niggling thoughts at 03:00 in the morning when you wake up and you're like, what am I doing with my life? Or when you wake up at 12:00 on a Sunday and you can't remember your name or the person next to his name or, you know, where did I put my brain last night? I can't find it. Oh, no. I think I left it in the bar. There were a few of those moments too. And I ended up actually leaving teaching for a whole bunch of reasons. But I learned how to put down a boundary. And I was like, you know, if I'm going to renew my contract for next year, this is what I expect. This is what I want. And they said no. And I said, okay, fine, then I'm going to go. So I left and retrained as a coach, drank all my way through the training. Didn't think about you know, what is alcohol doing because it's normalized everywhere. But particularly I feel in France, you know, it's not the stereotype that I think all of the Americans think of when they think of, you know, the two bottles of wine at lunch or whatever, but it is very much normalized. But my best friend at the time had gone. She was sober for-- who was like a drinky, drinky friend. She'd had a few sober-- Sober October, tried Dry January, and what have you. And she ended up coming to a party of mine. She came down from Paris and she was sober, I don't know, six months, maybe a year. And she stayed up and hung out with us until 03:00 in the morning and showed us how much fun you can have while still being sober. I was like, oh, maybe this isn't a horrible idea. And so just after like a week, maybe ten days after I graduate, after I got certified as a coach, I was like, okay, my friend says that when you stop drinking like you have all this energy, you have a clearer head. Like a clearer head, you have clearer thoughts. It was like, okay, I'm setting up my own company to work for myself. I'm going to give myself a month break to give myself all of this energy, to give myself this time, this whole duration. I'm going to see if I can do a month off. And I did. And that was October 2019.

Alex

Wow.

Jo

Yeah. And thank fuck. I did.

Alex

Yeah. So, you know, your story is so interesting to me because I feel like most people do it the other way in that they get sober and then decide to become a coach. Do you know what I mean?

Jo

Yeah.

Alex

I just think it's so interesting how you were in coaching first and then the way you went into your sobriety, it sounds like you already were seeing the benefits? You know, the way you've just framed that is like I'm going to give myself time and give myself energy. Whereas I don't think I was thinking that way. Like I was like, I'm depriving myself of the greatest joy in my life.

Jo

I mean, it was 100% that was there too, of course. And I mean, I can remember students asking me like, what do you like to do in your spare time? And I was like, well, I like to drink at this bar and I like to drink at this cafe and I like to drink at this restaurant and I like to drink at home. Because that was it. Like everything revolves there. Because it does. It can do when you're in those kinds of circles when you're in that kind of life. But yeah, I mean, you know, thanks to years and years of therapy, various things, and the coaching training, yeah, I think there was already that kind of mindset shift of, alright, there are going to be parts of this that suck, but we are still choosing to do it. So let's focus on the parts that don't suck quite so much. Which is helpful.

Alex

So tell me about what happened next. So you became a coach, you left teaching, became a coach. Did your 28 days sober. How did your life change in sobriety?

Jo

So then after about 40 days, I think? I quit smoking and I was a heavy, heavy smoker.

Alex

Wow.

Jo

So that was the 1st of December and then on Christmas of that year. So about two and a half months sober. There were a couple of things over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where essentially people were asking me if I was trans. Like one person was uninhibited mentally, and the other person was uninhibited alcoholicly? And so, they both thought that it was a question that they could ask, which you know, most people tend not to ask those kinds of questions to complete strangers. And so the person who asked me on Christmas Eve, I kind of brushed it off, and I was like, I don't really want to talk about this with you, strange person on the street. And then on Christmas Day, there's a whole story, possibly for another-- a different episode. But my answer was yes. Right? And the answer came clearly to me.

Alex

Wow.

Jo

That yeah. Do you know what I am? And I mean, I've known. I've known for years. I've known for decades. I knew that I wasn't a man? That I wasn't that thing that people saw me as or the box that they put me in. But it didn't feel bad enough. It didn't feel bad enough to do anything about it, right? To do the blowing up of life that comes with-- or that can come with speaking your truth and then acting with it. And so I had the realization literally that day, like, that Christmas Day, I was like, I can either recognize this and honor it and stay sober and come out as trans and let the chips fall where they do, or I can go back to drinking and pretending that it's fine and that I don't care. That felt like a really clear choice that night. And it was a really easy choice. I was like, I like who I am when I'm sober. You know, it's only two and a half months sober. But, you know, number one, we don't say only, ever. And number two, that was enough. It was enough for me to see the potential and the possibility of life, in authenticity, in integrity. And so I came out, like, within a week, I told everybody because, you know, I was 35, and I was like, fuck it. I've been pretending for long enough. And so the chips have fallen in various places. As a British person living in one of the most bureaucratically, annoying countries in the world, living through Brexit and epidemic and transitioning, that's not been easy. It hasn't always been easy with my family. And then, as you know, so my dad and my stepdad both got sick. Both of them struggled to an extent with me being Jo, with me being out as trans. And they got sick, and they both suddenly died. Like, have died in the last six months. And so sometimes, like, a question that does come back to me is if I could rewind three years ago and just think, don't get sober. Don't get sober. Don't have that realization. Stay in the mud. Stay like, in the midst where it's kind of fine. It's not great, but it's all right. Would I do it in order to have a better relationship with them towards the end of their life? And the answer is no. Sometimes, of course, the answer is yes, right at 02:00 in the morning when I'm berating myself for being a terrible child, but not very often. The benefits of knowing your own truth and living it, like on purpose. Oh, my God, they're uncomfortable.

Alex

Wow. Oh, my goodness. I just got such shivers. Thank you so much for sharing and being so vulnerable. Yeah, wow.

Jo

It's a lot. Yeah. And, I mean, thank you for holding this space, and thank you for holding, you know, hands throughout time-space, as we have done over the last couple of years. And I think it's important, particularly within this sober world, you know, a huge amount of pressure and editing. And when you get sober, you can still go out five times a week and you can still have all the friends, and you can still go dancing. And you're going to have all of this energy and all this money and perfect skin and perfect relationships, and you're going to get an amazing job and be a coach on top of it because everybody becomes a coach. Everything's going to improve, and you're going to feel amazing. And it's like that can be true. But also life is still life. And so since getting sober, I have lost people through death and through, you know, relationships, friendships ending. There has been a huge amount of sadness. There's been loneliness, there's been pain, there's been fear. And all of that hard stuff pales in comparison to all of the benefits.

Alex

Right.

Jo

And I think that's-- if we do focus, like we were saying before, if we can find a way to focus on the benefits and on the positives while honoring at the same time how hard all of the hard stuff is, it makes it all worth it.

Alex

Yeah, absolutely. So tell me about the sober coaching that you do now. How do you work with people? What do you do? Do you have a particular niche or do you work with everyone?

Jo

So I want to work with all of the trans people who have a problem with alcohol.

Alex

Yeah.

Jo

I mean, like, I'm saying that jokingly, but also it's true. Hello, trans people or potentially trans or gender questioning or gender-nonconforming people like, come and hit me up. Yeah. I think there's so much work to be done still in the queer community?

Alex

Yeah. 100%.

Jo

There's a huge amount of predatorism. Can you tell she's an English teacher? Predatory behavior, like the fact that fucking big alcohol sponsors, all of the Pride events.

Alex

Yes. And I feel like it's such a thing in the experience that I had in the Pride community when I was living in Canada, I just felt like there's such an association with partying and drinking in that community. That was the experience I had. It wasn't my direct friends, but it was like a close relationship of mine. And I just feel like that makes sense, that big alcohol sponsor so much of that. And there's so much of a role it plays in the culture, it seems.

Jo

Yeah. And I think, I mean, you know, no matter where the origin of the problematic relationship with alcohol or other substances, whatever that particular journey has been for you like a lot of us in the queer community have integrated trauma. We have PTSD, we have all of those things that, of course, are going to send us towards numbing, towards social liberation, towards, like, also, because it's what we see on TV, in the media, like, in the culture. It's like, okay, well, if you're gay, like, this is what you do. If you're queer, this is what you do. And so breaking that mold and like, that is something that I want to work on more in terms of creating safe spaces for particularly young, queer people that don't just revolve around alcohol, that they don't just revolve around boozing drugs. I mean, that I guess will be more for, like, the activismy things. So a lot of the sober coaching, the one-to-one sober coaching that I do tends to be close hand-holding for people who need help kind of getting out of that negative spiral and stopping it and then turning it around into a positive thing. And then more often it's going to be working with people who have done, like, that initial 100 days. And they're like, I'm really tempted to go back to booze because when I'm drunk, I forget that my husband is a dick, or I forget that I hate my job or I don't care so much about the fact that I'm trans and I haven't told anybody.

Alex

Yeah.