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Meet Sarah, Your Sober Cheerleader



Meet Sarah Stewart, your sober cheerleader! Sarah is a 28 year old in the UK. She works full time as a conveyancer for a property law firm, but in her spare time she creates content for Instagram that shares that being sober is fun. Sarah and I had been following each other for ages on Instagram prior to this conversation, so I was really excited to sit down and chat with Sarah and hear her story.


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Sarah can be found on Instagram @sobersare_. Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


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Transcripts


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

Alright. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am really excited to have Sarah with me here today. And Sarah is in the UK and we have been following each other on Instagram for a while. And Sarah is a sober cheerleader and she has amazing content that is fun and inspirational on Instagram. And so I'm super excited to get a chance to finally sit down with her and chat and hear a little bit about her story. So welcome, Sarah. How are you?


Sarah

Thank you so much for the nice welcome. Yeah, I'm good, thank you.


Alex

Good. And it's super early morning for you, right?


Sarah

Yes. It's about 06:00 AM. So I guess that is. But I'm up quite early anyway, so it's not actually too bad for me.


Alex

Part of the sober thing.


Sarah

Yeah, I quite like an early morning, actually. It's not so bad.


Alex

Yes. No, I totally agree. It's so beautiful. And when you're not hungover, it's amazing.


Sarah

I wanted to get every minute of all the time. I wanted to use it all. And when you're not hungover, it's so nice to wake up early and not wake up early because you're hungover because you actually got time to spare.


Alex

Yeah, totally. So nice. So tell me a bit about yourself. I know you're based in the UK. Tell me a bit more about you.


Sarah

Yeah, 28, live in Hastings in the UK. I have been sober now for 14 months and my decision to quit actually wasn't like a thing that I'd already planned. It was something that-- there was a load of things that built up to it which we can talk about. But my actual sort of decision was just I had another really bad hangover and I said I'm going to have a little break. And it was, I think I said about four weeks. I'll just have four weeks off and see what happens. And then, I did four weeks and then we went into lockdown in the UK. All the pubs and bars and everything shut. So it kind of helped my decision to not drink because for me I was very much a going out binge drinker. I wouldn't drink at home. So it took away the resource to be able to do that. And then it was like six weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks. And I think by the time pubs opened again here, I'd been sober for about four months. So I already had like a good chunk there and I was starting to see improvements and it's just sort of carried on from there really. And I haven't ever stopped.


Alex

Wow. That would have been mid pandemic then, right? The pandemic's been longer than 14 months because as you're talking, I was like, I feel like the pandemic's been two years.


Sarah

Yes.


Alex

So you must have been out of lockdown for a bit and then gone back into lockdown. Is that what happened?


Sarah

So it was October 2020.


Alex

Okay.


Sarah

We had lockdown sort of like restrictions on things about how you could see and what things you could do. And then we had the full lockdown. I can't remember. We already had one before, but yeah, definitely it sort of gone in and back out.


Alex

Yeah, I kind of remember that time, actually. It was like winter of last year because I remember, we were off school for a couple of months, too. And I just remember my yoga classes, but really busy because everyone was in lockdown.


Sarah

Yeah.


Alex

Okay, cool. Amazing. And it's so interesting how you shared-- we'll get more into it, but you hear from people around the pandemic. It's like either the pandemic made drinking better for them or worse, depending on what type of drinker they were, you know. Like, if you're a social drinker, then being in lockdown is like an opportunity to take a break. But if you're someone who drinks alone and isolates, then lockdown could make it worse. So it's really interesting how I've heard it kind of going either way.


Sarah

Yeah, I've heard definitely the same as that. Makes people think I don't want to do this anymore or simply unfortunately if you are someone who drinks at home, I suppose it's now even easier because you're at home more.


Alex

So tell me a bit about yourself. When did you start drinking?


Sarah

So I started when I was probably about 14, 15? So I lived with my mom and dad. My dad was an alcoholic. So when I was younger, I was always aware of alcohol. I knew, like, what it was, and I knew that he was an alcoholic, but I didn't really know what it meant when I was younger. And then, so my mom and dad got divorced and my mum moved away because he was, I suppose, not a very good husband or dad at the time because of you know, problems that he had with alcohol. We moved away and I don't know, I always just sort of struggled to-- I felt like I always struggled to fit in when I was younger. I was a very quiet child. I was an only child, and I struggled with things like making friends and fitting in with things. And I kind of passed from group to group until I was about 14. And then when I was 14, I changed schools. We moved for the last couple of years at school, and I made like a new group of friends and then that group of friends, we all had very similar things in common of perhaps having trauma has grown or when we were younger or single-parent families or whatever. And we all kind of gelled and started drinking together, as I think a lot of teenagers do. And that's where it kind of originally started when I was about 14, 15. And I think it came from a place of, like, wanting to fit in because other people are doing it. So it was like, well, I'll do it. And then that means I get friends by doing it and it kind of went up from there.


Alex

Yeah, it's so common. Such a common experience. I was just thinking like the culture we grew up in, like me in Canada, but you in the UK, it's like people just did it as teenagers because that was what everyone was doing and you don't even question, right?


Sarah

Yeah. Because it's like, well everyone else is doing it and my friends are doing it and I don't want to be the one that's saying I don't want to do that and if you don't, you're actually the one that's the odd one out.


Alex

Yeah, totally.


Sarah

Yes, sorry, go ahead.


Alex

Oh, you go ahead.


Sarah

Oh, yes. I was just going to say so that was kind of-- must have been about 14, 15 drinking. And then, pretty much every-- we would drink every weekend and then we would also then start-- we drank a few times like in the weeknights, and then I'd miss school and just things that as a teenager. At the time I thought it was funny and it was kind of cool to be a bit rebellious and I think it was almost coming from a place of like wanting attention, wanting something. Notice me. I'm the only child. Me and my mum had a bit of a tense relationship growing up. So I think it was almost like, look at me, look what I'm doing kind of thing. And this went on for about 18, drinking a lot and rebelling and doing different things. And then when I moved out, when I was a little bit younger, when I was 18, I had my own first flat and I just thought it was great. I've got my own space, I can do what I want, I can come and go when I want but that only fueled things because then I was 18 I could go to bars and clubs and I have my own place so I could go every weekend and I can have parties when I want and I could have people back to my house and then it kind of just gave me even more free reign to carry on with the drinking.


Alex

So how did it escalate over time?


Sarah

It's one of those things. So I started drinking the smaller things like wine and we had like Lambrini and cider and the things that you could get your hands when you were younger because that's all we could get. I remember quite a few times being having to stand outside shops when we were like 16, 17 and asked people to go in the shop and buy alcohol for us because we didn't buy any--and it was just what you could afford. We were only teenagers, it was like a bottle of wine or a bottle of cider or something. And then when I was 18 and I could start going out properly, we were going to bars and then that's when I started really trying spirits and shots and different things and I learned quite quickly on, that my tolerance was quite good so I could drink more than some of my friends, which meant I could then stay out longer with friends. And it kind of all just evolved as the more I drank, the more fun I felt. And the more-- I felt like I had people around me because it was like I adopted this persona, most of this party girl. And it was like, oh, Sarah is always up for fun. Sarah's always up for a laugh and a night out. And then I felt like I could never drop that because it almost became expected of me. It was just one of those the more I did it, the more I could do it. So then it was almost like I kind of lived to that. Every Friday, Saturday, that was what I wanted to do. I couldn't even think of doing anything other than going out and having a drink. I just would think, what else does everyone do with their weekend? And I never had anyone to tell me, no, that's a bad idea. Or, no, you shouldn't do that because my friends all did it. Everyone in my circle that I surrounded myself with did it. And I was kind of comparing and like, well, everyone else does this. So clearly I don't have an issue. Everyone else is out binge drinking, and going out every night or on the weekend. There was no moment for a long time where I really thought that I had an issue with it.


Alex

Yeah. And I can so relate to that because I feel like in my-- that was like the social circle that I surrounded myself with you know when I was in high school and University. And so it was just normal. It didn't make me seem like there was anything abnormal about me because that's what everyone else was doing.


Sarah

Yeah, exactly. And I think it's that thing, isn't it? That you compare yourself. I don't know if you've ever read Catherine Gray's book.


Alex

Yes.


Sarah

And I think something there she says about comparing it to other people, it's like all the time my friends have done that, then it's fine. And then even if it goes up a level like you've had a blackout, it's like, oh, but my friends also had a blackout. So it's not just me. And there's always something to compare yourself to.


Alex

Right. Yeah, exactly. You're like, oh, that person you know, actually had to go to rehab or had to join AA or whatever. Okay, I'm not that bad.


Sarah

Got to that level. Yeah.


Alex

Totally.


Sarah

Yeah.


Alex

Tell me about what was the sort of the turning point for you?


Sarah

Yes. This went on for many years of just constantly-- I felt like there was a little part of me deep down that really felt like you're messing your life up. Like you're just doing so many wrong things that you shouldn't be doing. My mum and my nan were less impressed. And as I got older, they'd been trying to talk to me and say, I really think you should sort your life out, basically. And I didn't want to listen. And I got in trouble with the police and I fell out with friends and I started to have more blackouts. And it was clear that my drinking was taken more of a dangerous pattern of binge drinking. It wasn't now just I couldn't go out on a Friday night saying have two drinks. It would be I'd go out on a Friday night and I'd go all the way through to the Saturday morning, the very early hours, and it was having more and more nights like that. It started to escalate that every night out I couldn't remember things. I was blacking out, I'd lose my phone, I'd upset someone and constant, these patterns of behavior. When I was about 19, 20, I think. I haven't seen my dad since I was about six? I hadn't seen him at all. We just completely cut off contact. And then when I was about 20, I got a message from this Alcohol Support worker saying he was working with someone to match the descriptions of what my dad would be. And he's been looking for his daughter. And basically, am I interested in talking and swapping details to see if it is that? And we swapped details and we kind of spoke for a while and it turns out the person he was working with was my dad.


Alex

Wow.


Sarah

So I hadn't seen him, say for 14 years at this point. And he went over the history and it turns out that after my mum and dad had divorced, my dad had kind of carried on drinking, got into a spiral and it's gone on for years and years until he eventually passed out somewhere and someone had taken him to hospital and then he's gone into rehab and he's been sober for about five years. And I just remember feeling like my whole world was like shit. I don't know what to do with myself now at this point. And it made me-- I didn't quit drinking at that point. But I think that started the seed of wow. It went to that point. It shows what alcohol can do. I mean, this person lost his whole family and you know, had to go to rehab and all these different things. And it made me really think, well, that could happen to you if you carried on down that same path. That planted a little seed. We had a sort of relationship with my dad. It was awkward because it's been so long and so much time had passed and he had liver and kidney damage from the years of drinking. He'd also developed a form of dementia so he could remember all the long term, which is how he knew he had a daughter and he knew he had someone to look for and he had family and things, but he couldn't retain short term information. So if we'd have a conversation, he'd forget it about the next day. So, yeah, it was bittersweet. I had my dad back because he was like my absolute hero when I was younger. I didn't realize until I was older and stepped away from it really what an alcoholic meant and what all these things were and you know, the damage he'd caused that when I was younger, I just thought he's you know, my dad. I was like a Daddy's girl. Yeah. We had a sort of relationship and repaired stuff as best that we could. But it was bittersweet because I say he had these things wrong with him. He couldn't remember things. So it just was very harrowing. And it just kept reminding me of this is all caused by alcohol, alcohol, cause all of this. And then he passed away about just over two years ago. So it was about six months after he passed away that I didn't have that light bulb moment of, okay, I should take a break. And I still didn't ever think of it as I need to stop drinking completely, but I had a moment of I need to have a break, so I'd have another bad night out. But I think subconsciously I think it all started from that and kind of just little seeds of the doubt until eventually almost had the wake-up call I needed as to you need to actually do something now.


Alex

Wow, what a story.


Sarah

There's a lot of-- coming in there.


Alex

Yeah. Oh, my goodness. It's just what you've been through has been so like, that must have been so hard to lose your dad and then have him back. But like in the way where you know, with the short-term memory and not being able to retain conversations from the day before, like, that must be so difficult.


Sarah

Yeah, it was really hard. And so from when I first started seeing him to when he actually passed away, I think it was about five years there. And I look back on it now and I think when that first happened, that probably should have been the wake-up call of like, wow, you should now sort it out right now. If anything, I think it made me go further into wanting to drink and party and stuff because it was almost like any time anything stressful happened or I had grief or anything like that, I didn't deal with it. I didn't face up. I just had a drink because that was the easiest thing to do. You can swallow down your feelings. And instead of maybe having therapy or talking to someone, I just went out and had a drink. And I think I went the opposite way. And I was like angry at the world and these cards I've been dealt and just a bit of a pity party. That's not fair. And yeah, I think it's only then, like I said, as time went on and I saw how early actually was and the kind of things it can have. But then it starts to have seeds of doubt of, okay, maybe going down the exact same way. And going off the rails and drinking more isn't going to solve anything or prove anything. It's actually just doing exactly the same kind of thing that he did. And you need to do something you know, different from that.