top of page

My Role Model - Uncle Ric‪k‬

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Feb 24 2021

The first four episodes of Sober Yoga Girl have dropped!! I had so many great interviews this past week that I couldn’t wait to launch them all in one day! I will be promoting each episode individually over the next few days but I want to start with this one - I had my uncle as my first guest, Rick. He has inspired me on my sobriety journey.

In this episode we talk about the culture with friends & family around social drinking in Canada and have some laughs about family gatherings and vacations. Listen as we go down memory lane of stories and vacations shaped by alcohol, the lifestyle he had while drinking & after quitting, and all the changes he has noticed because of his sobriety.

Thank you uncle Rick for doing this for me! Click the link to listen!

Don’t forget to rate, subscribe & share so it will reach others who would benefit.

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. So, welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited because this is actually my first episode that I'm having a guest on. And when I thought about who I wanted to invite as a guest, the first person that came to mind is my Uncle, Rick. And my Uncle Rick, you might have noticed I did an Instagram post about what an inspiration he has been for me on my journey being alcohol free. And so, I'm super excited that he's here today to make an appearance. So, hi Uncle Rick.

Rick: Hey. How are you?

Alex: I'm good. How are you?

Rick: Doing great. Looking forward to talking to you. Any chance I get an opportunity to see or talk to you is fantastic, and Happy Valentine's Day.

Alex: Happy Valentine's Day. Yeah. My uncle is on the other side of the world. He's in Ontario and I actually haven't seen him in over a year now, which is wild.

Rick: Yeah, it's unfortunate but we're going through right now, I certainly look forward to seeing you soon.

Alex: And we're so lucky to have Zoom. It's so great.

Rick: Oh, yeah. For sure.

Alex: All right. So, the reason why I wanted to have my uncle come on the show is because I think that he has an amazing story to tell about his journey with going alcohol free, he'll tell more about it. But just to get us started, why don't you tell me a little bit more about who you are and where you're from, just so the audience can get to know you?

Rick: Okay, thanks. Well, my name is Rick and I'm in Oakville, Ontario, about 35 minutes - 40 minutes west of Toronto in Canada, and I'm still a working guy, I'm 64 years old. I've been working at the same company all my life, and I'm a commercial and construction sales manager. So, a lot of my interactions daily are with high level customers in the construction industry and the electrical industry, and it involves a lot of entertaining, both at lunch, dinner, and sporting events, like hockey, and baseball, football. So, a lot of socializing and along with that comes other things that we'll talk about later.

Alex: Yeah, cool. And my uncle is like the, he took me to all these sporting events when I was a kid. And so, I have most of my memories of, you know, the Blue Jays being with my uncle. Came out to Abu Dhabi, took me to my first formula one races. So, yeah, that's some of my best memories of him.

Rick: Great.

Alex: So, tell me a bit more about when you started drinking and what did you think influenced your drinking habits?

Rick: Well, when I was 18 years old, that was the drink the legal drinking age in Ontario, and in fact, when I was in my 18th year, it moved to 19 but those of us that already turned 18 were still allowed to go into the tavern, restaurants, and the beer store, liquor stores here in in Ontario. But back when I was 18 years old and younger, although I really didn't have a drink many times before I was 18. But boy, when it was your 18th birthday, it was a big deal to go into the tavern and some of your friends were already there who were 18 years old, and geez, my parents been drinkers, social drinkers. So, it was around us all the time, our family members were too, and any family gatherings we had, lots of alcohol. Beer? Yes. But more liquor back then for the adults or the older people than myself. I was only ever a beer drinker. No liquor really to speak of, and really never wine, but it was the thing to do. We couldn't drink at sporting events back then but you could go to taverns, and to friends houses, and it was just what people did. I really didn't know a lot of people back then that didn't drink, very rare that a person didn't drink or at least didn't try it out and make a decision, but a lot of peer pressure too, so that's why I say most of the people I knew drank at some level.

Alex: Yeah. And I think I can totally relate to that. Definitely, when I was in my late teens, it was like a big culture in Canada amongst peers and, you know, family events, not just ours. Like if you're at another family's barbecue for example, everyone was socially drinking there too, so it was just a big integral part of Canadian culture.

Rick: Yeah. And it wasn't people falling down drunk and driving off when they shouldn't be driving. It was just all social and I recall, yes, when you were a teenager and we were at the cottage or at family events, there was drinking involved, and I remember both you and your sister on one of the very first big vacations we took to Mexico. Us all drinking together and I'm not sure if you were, I don't know what the drinking was age was in Mexico when we were there, but I think maybe you were of legal age at home but maybe not in Mexico, but I don't recall.

Alex: Yeah. I definitely, I remember that too. I think I was 19 or 20.

Rick: Okay.

Alex: At that point.

Rick: Yeah.

Alex: But I'm--

Rick: And even then, we were-- it was just social. I mean, it was, you're immediate four people in the family and me, and I think on that whole trip, but it's very memorable still in to me that not a lot of over drinking went on. I can remember one morning both you and your sister were a little tired when we went to Chichén Itzá. That was because we had to wake up earlier than we expected all of a sudden, so all of us were in a bit of a fog but-- So, that was my early influences or how I got started. My family and my friends were all social drinkers and it just seemed a rite of passage.

Alex: Yeah.

Rick: To drink, and in my case, beer, because most of my friends were drinking beer and the tavern was right across the street from where we grew up. Directly. I mean, it was less than a two-minute walk.

Alex: Oh my goodness. That Chichén Itzá morning was probably one of the worst days of my life because me and my sister had been out so late, like probably till 2 a.m., and then we got woken up at like 5:00 to get on this bus and we had to drive for 13 hours. And I remember, distinctly, my first vacation when I was not drinking alcohol anymore when I was in Paris, and I remembered just being like, This is what life is like when you're like not hungover at a tourist site, like this is amazing because so much of my adult life had been, you know, you go on vacation, you're having some drinks, and then you're tired, and then, I mean, that Chichén Itzá was like the worst, but there were other mornings where you just don't feel great and you're seeing this spectacular sight, but you're just feeling like under the the weather.

Rick: I did too bad because Chichén Itzá itself, I mean, I think it's a UNESCO site, I mean, it's a big deal, and it was really-- I was really impressed and I really didn't wanna go, not because anybody was hung over it which I would just wanna stay at the pool, but I can remember your mom and dad convincing, No. You got to go. This would really be great. So, they got a ticket for me and I went along. And boy, I'm really glad they did because even today I still think about it. But I do remember people on the bus were not very fresh.

Alex: Yes.

Rick: And on that trip, part of it was gonna a tequila farm. So, here again--

Alex: Was it?

Rick: Yes. We went to that diving site about the caves for swimming in the caves, and we went to a tequila. I'll call it a tequila farm but it was a tequila making place where you could test all the tequila you wanted.

Alex: Oh my god.

Rick: Even in that atmosphere, alcohol was part of the of a tour we made for the day.

Alex: That's so funny. I don't even remember that probably because I was like, passed out on the bus being like, I'm not drinking any tequila. But that is too funny.

Rick: Yeah.

Alex: So, what do you think made your drinking kind of escalate over time? Or did it escalate?

Rick: I don't know about that. Well, let's see, let's determine what escalate means. When I was 18 or 19, some beers on the weekend, not very often would I drink during the weekday. Certainly not when I was in school. And when I started working, originally, the position that I was in and I'm still working for the same company today. So, I've worked at the same company all my life. It's a worldwide organization. A lot of employees and a lot of opportunity to move up, which I have, and each lift I made became more interacting with customers, and socializing, and a lot of that being in sales and operations involved lunches, dinners, and the sporting events I talk about. A lot of golfing with customers. I enjoy golfing, and a lot of drinking on the golf course, a lot of drinking at lunch back then in my industry, and maybe in a lot of other industries too, but a lot of deals were cooked at lunch, or you just met with clients, prospective clients or good clients, and there was always drinking involved. I didn't really drink a lot at lunch but on the evening, ones it started to become more than just weekend, I have a couple of beers at dinner that go to a baseball, few beers at the baseball game. And then on nights when I wasn't entertaining, there was always, my friends at the tavern or at a bar and hey, I love that. I love the socializing, lots of guys, lots of girls just hanging around, having fun, laughing. And if you weren't there, they'd get you, as soon as we got cell phones, I guess we're going back into the 90's here. People were phoning, Hey, where are you? You're not at the table here. We're waiting for you, we've already got your beer on the table. So, I mean, off my door, I was maybe already on my way from work, also traveled a lot with work, Alex, across, not so much across North America which I did in a couple of positions, but across Canada a lot, so in hotels a lot, and on my own for dinner sometimes, and I'd have a couple of beers with dinner. And all of a sudden, without even noticing it as the calendar is rolling, I'm drinking beer every day. And as I said earlier, the beer drinker, not really any liquor at all. Even at weddings, I wouldn't drink champagne or wine. Just wasn't for me. If we wanna call that escalating, which I guess it is, I probably was having beers four or five times a day until towards the end of me drinking. I was having beers probably almost every day.

Alex: Yeah.

Rick: Certainly, more days in the week than not, and certainly on the weekends. Because if I wasn't out with clients, I'd be at the bar down the street, which is still down the street here and I still have good social friends there, I played golf with them. I still go in there. But that's where we'd sit around and watch sporting events whether it be golf, baseball, or hockey, football, auto racing. So, that's, I kind of went the long way of telling you how it escalated and I still go there, but not every night and maybe twice a month.

Alex: Yeah. That's one of the things that I admire about you is that you, like I remember when you came out to Abu Dhabi and, you know, it was like a party week because I was still drinking at that point and you were just kind of driving around me and all my friends who had been drinking, and you were just still so much fun and totally the exact same like, you know, gung-ho adventure, down for everything, even though you were no longer drinking. And I think that's a really great way to be is like, you know, nothing changed in you, and you're able to kind of just maintain the friendships with people that are still drinking, which is great.

Rick: Yeah. You know, I have seen people in the past who quit smoking, for example, and became a real advocate for people that quit smoking, and would really give the business to somebody who was smoking and I mean, I'm not a fan of people smoking either. Never have smoked. But I'm not gonna preach to somebody to quit smoking. I may have in the past but I'm not to the degree that as some smokers are like. And the same thing with drinking, when I stopped, I stopped for a couple of days. All of a sudden, the calendar was at two weeks and I hadn't had a drink. I wasn't going to the bar at that point. I was staying away. I don't have a problem with people, my friends drinking. Not at all. It's funny that when I stopped, I was taking a break, and take a few days off. Boy, after a couple of days, started to feel pretty fresh in the morning. After about a week, I weighed myself and I lost a couple of pounds. I said, Wow. You know, maybe you should watch what I'm eating here for a few days, see if I could lose a few more pounds. And that's what I did, and then all of a sudden, I think it was your sister or your mom, I can't remember. When I had talked to them at one point where I had lost some few pounds, they said, Hey. Why don't you get a Fitbit, which for those, I'm sure everyone who's listening knows what a Fitbit is, but it measures the amount of steps you're taking when you're walking or running. And so, I bought one and all of a sudden became kind of a disciple to walking, and all of a sudden, I was losing more weight. Kind of thinking back to sitting in the bar there for two or three hours after work most nights, and I think it was a combination of drinking beer and not moving, except to get up and go to the bathroom because that's what beer does to you. And then, come home and have something crappy for dinner, and then go to bed on a full stomach, and wake up hungover, and go to Tim Hortons in the morning, or the coffee store and get a coffee, a double double with a donut for breakfast. So, I stopped that cycle, so I think at that point, I was still taking a break from drinking, but now I was exercising by walking but also watching what I was eating, and not sitting around on a bar stool three hours a day. So, I was starting to move, and then at work, I started, at the office, started to move around. I wasn't sitting at my desk all the time. I was down in the plant or I was down with customers out on the road with some of my staff and go out for lunch with them, but now I was eating salads while they were, you know, eating french fries and drinking beer with their customers, and I don't say anything to the people that work for me either. I'm still signing their expenses with, you know, having drinks and stuff like that. But we don't really do that at lunch anymore here in Canada or in Ontario, anyways, in our industry, it's just not the right thing to do. Drinking and driving has always been wrong, still is today, so we're watching that. But fast forward, all of a sudden, I was months without drinking. In the beginning, got calls from friends and calling me a, Web, get down to the bar here. You gotta have, come on, come on. Then all of a sudden, it was, Wow. You haven't had a drink for three weeks. Wow. And then after five or six weeks, oh boy, I wish I could do that. You know, my colleagues and friends were saying, Boy, I wish I could do that. So, without them knowing it, they were encouraging me.

Alex: Yeah.

Rick: And all of a sudden, let's move forward six months. And by the way, I'm almost four years without having any alcohol whatsoever. But after about six months or so, and you haven't seen some of the people, people will start to comment, that I had lost, well, actually, some people said, Is there something wrong with you? We haven't seen you for a while and you look like you've lost some weight. So, people started to notice and that encouraged me as well to continue on my different lifestyle of exercise, eating properly, and not drinking. I lost a dirty pile of weight in the first 18 months or so. Well, I lost about 80 pounds. A lot of that was from me not moving around. I know there's people who drink who are athletic. You know, that's their metabolism, I guess, is different. But that was kind of my journey, short form there. Been away from it for four years, almost four years. Actually, March 8 will be four years. I used to have a calendar on my desk and I would count the days that I haven't had a a drink, and I would tell people that to the point where I started to become, I feel like I was preaching. And so, I stopped doing that unless someone asked me, Are you still not drinking Rick? No. How many days? And then, I'd have it handy, Well, it's, you know, 1245 days but I'm coming up on four years. I can tell you, I was in the bar about stop five or six months ago, and the girl that was serving beer, I know her quite well, she, Rick, can you hand this beer over to Brian? So, she handed me the beer, and I can tell you, it felt pretty good in my head. It felt very natural to have a cold beer in my hand, and everyone looked at me away, and then I passed it over. I took a little sniff of the beer first. I'm like, Boy, that smells good. I passed it along. I really haven't felt like I wanted to have a beer since I stopped but it doesn't bother that my friends drink. And when you mentioned that when we were in Abu Dhabi, we went to a lot of concerts while we were there as part of our formula one package. And yeah, everyone in your car there had been drinking and, you know, what I've become a driver to some when I go golfing with my friends, we usually take one of their vehicles, and they hand me the car keys and I drive back. I don't mind that. I drop everyone off, I'm happy I can do that, because it means my friends are safely at home.

Alex: Yep.

Rick: Again, well, one thing I promised myself, once I had hit a certain amount of time of not drinking that I wasn't gonna preach to people to stop. I'll support people who have stopped, but I'm not gonna encourage people to stop. I think everyone's gotta make that decision on their own and I think there's no cookie cutter way of doing it. I think, if someone wants to stop, they have to wanna stop.

Alex: Absolutely.

Rick: I don't think someone can say to you, You're drinking too much. Or, You should stop drinking. We all know that that's not, you know, someone tells us to stop singing because you're horrible? You're not gonna stop. I don't got the same parallel but people who wanna stop drinking need to make that decision on their own. There's ways to help you, but when I stopped, I stopped for two days and all of a sudden, two days became a week, then a month, and then six months, and then it just kept going.

Alex: Yeah. That's amazing. That's so, and I really try to encourage that too with, not necessarily in the same manner, but I always say to people, you know, it's very daunting to say, I'm quitting forever. And then you might be setting yourself up for failure if you then have a drink later on. So, I feel like doing little chunks, you know, 28 days, 90 days, like rather than, you know, just saying, I'm gonna take a break and explore this, is a great way to do it rather than, you know, I'm definitely never gonna drink again. Because you never know, like you say, you know, you could decide to have one later on.

Rick: Yeah. I went actually over the last 15 or 20 years. I went, and this isn't a big time, but the first time I stopped, I said, I'm gonna stop for a few weeks and just clear my head. I stopped for 55 days. And there was no target, but it wasn't me quitting. It was me taking a break. It's 55 days. And then, the next time I did it, I did it for 108 days. The numbers stick in my head because I was counting them on the calendar.

Alex: Yeah.

Rick: And then at 108 days, I know I went to Chicago for a trade show with one of my colleagues. One of the guys I work with who just retired a couple of weeks ago. He didn't drink at all. Well, he had one or two beers a month and we were in Chicago, and he goes, Rick, take a beer. He was from Quebec, say Fred Jackson. Take a beer, I have quit for 108 days, I got up at a gym with him and we had worked out and we went for dinner, Take a beer Rickety. And so, I did. And I guess it was a little bit of peer pressure at that point. And at that point, I wasn't quitting or stopping.

Alex: Right.

Rick: Yeah, it's possible to stop for a while. I mean, if you choose to stop for, Hey, I'm gonna stop for two months. Well, I mean, you see the results in two months. I mean, both in your body, in your mind, I find my memory is much better. I don't have a great memory to start with, but boy, am I finding that my memory is much better than it was when I was drinking. I'll tell you, I get up way earlier every morning and I stay up much longer. I'm a healthier person.

Alex: Yeah. And it's been, the transformation has been so inspiring. Like, I remember it was particularly noticeable for me because I was in Kuwait when you first gave up drinking or I don't wanna say first, because I do remember occasions throughout my childhood or teenage hood. Mostly, what I remember is being at an all-inclusive resort with you and you would say, I'm off the drink. And I would probably try to pressure you because this was when I was legal drinking age. I would try to pressure you to drink with me and then I remember one occasion, I remember seeing you in the airport, going to Jamaica for Christmas, and my sister said, Uncle Rick's there, and I couldn't see you. I was like, and that would have been the first period of time when you had given up, the first time I had seen you in a long period of time. So, maybe it was that first year that you weren't drinking and you just had lost so much weight, like it was just, you look so, and it's also like just the glow in your face, you know, like you just look like 10 years younger, you know.

Rick: Yeah. That was probably when we were at Montego Bay.

Alex: Must have been, yeah.

Rick: Yeah.

Alex: So, I know--

Rick: Yeah, that was Montego Bay. Sorry, go ahead.

Alex: Oh, nothing. I was just gonna say, I know that you have said that you don't like to give advice. So, maybe not advice isn't the best question, but what is the biggest like, learning or insight or the best things about going alcohol free, from your point of view?

Rick: I think I'm much more active. I don't feel like a slug all the time. I'm very active. I can't sit still anywhere, so I'm always moving which I think has kept me, or as I get older, allowed me to be much more mobile than other people my age or even younger, because, I don't wanna say I'm running because I'm not, but I'm walking about 16 kilometers a day which maybe, one kilometer is running. So, it's all walking but aggressive walking, I find it work. I'm much more productive working. Unfortunately, during Covid, I'm working from my house right now. But still getting, I'm very productive and I'm just not lazy, which beer made me lethargic and lazy. So, I think I'm a much more productive person both in my work life and and my personal life. I mean, I was out shoveling snow last night. I went tremendous snow here in Oakville last night over-- We're pretty close to a foot of snow. We're talking imperial measurements here. And I went out again and shoveled this morning and I'm not even, you know, not even coughing and puffing at all. I look forward to go out and doing that stuff. So, I think just being a healthier person, mind you, when I stopped drinking, I also became very physical and I called out my form of exercising. I think I have a lot more energy and I'm a lot more productive since I have stopped drinking.

Alex: Amazing. And I would agree like, the same for me. Productivity, health, I, like you, I also lost a lot of weight when I quit drinking, and it wasn't-- For me, I was already a very active person but it was purely just the alcohol, and then as you said, you know, the doughnut the morning after, all the food you're eating around the pub with your friends. So, yeah. No, I've noticed all the same benefits as well.

Rick: Yeah. If the other thing is what we, you mentioned the food there, I mean, I lived to take out lifestyle.

Alex: Yeah.

Rick: I mean, you know, he'd come home and have a, let's go get a pizza. And instead of having two slices, I'd eat the whole thing.

Alex: Right.

Rick: Or have a submarine sandwich or some chicken. You know, all stuff, it's not necessarily bad for you if you have it in moderation, but if you're living that lifestyle of eating crap, and a bag of chips, and doughnuts, and cookies, and all that stuff. I just, I don't, I cut all that stuff out and I don't miss it