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Sober Bliss with Gayle MacDonald

Updated: Aug 23, 2021


In this episode, I sit down with Gayle MacDonald, the founder and creator of Sober Bliss. Gayle is a qualified teacher, addiction therapist, and sobriety coach. She lives in the south of Spain with her husband and two sons. She loves walking, reading and endless cups of tea! She is also a woman who enjoys every single day to the full without alcohol getting in the way of who she really is.

For Gayle sobriety is the greatest gift of life. Since quitting drinking in March 2018, she has embraced this way of life with a joy and passion. She feels like she has been let into the biggest secret in the world which she wants to share with others. Gayle specializes in helping women to create an alcohol-free life that they love, one they are proud of in a way that feels good without the struggle, shame or guilt. You can find Gayle online at: https://sober-bliss.com/product/transform-your-relationship-with-alcohol-and-feel-good-about-it/ . You can also find her on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/sober_bliss/ If you're interested in finding more out about my Sober Yoga community, you can find her at https://www.themindfullifepractice.com . You can also join our free Sober Yoga Girl podcast community to connect to other listeners at: https://www.themindfullifepractice.com/forum/podcast-community


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Full episode


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. This is my first podcast interview I've done in a little while, so I'm really happy to be back here with another guest. And for today's episode, I have with me Gayle MacDonald. And Gayle has been alcohol free for just over three years and she is from the U.K. originally. She's now living in Spain and she is also a sober coach, the creator of Sober Bliss. So I am super happy to have you here. Welcome Gayle. How are you today?


Gayle

Hi, Alex. Yeah, I'm doing very well today. Thank you. So nice to meet you.


Alex

So nice to meet you too finally. I love connecting with these people that I've been connected with, you know, on social media or via email and then finally meeting in real life. It's amazing.


Gayle

Yeah. Well virtual V life--


Alex

Yes.


Gayle

As well. And what I think is so amazing is that-- obviously I'm here in Spain and you know, are all the way over there in the United Arab Emirates. It's just so cool that we can connect.


Alex

It is, isn't it? So let's get started. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about yourself. Kind of your background, who you are and where you're from and sort of your story.


Gayle

Yeah, sure. So as you said before, I am from the U.K. I'm from the northeast of England and I live in Spain, in the south of Spain. I've gone right from the northeast of England all the way down to the south of Spain. I'm in a tiny little village close to Granada, which is in Andalusia. And I've been here since 2004 before I left for Spain. While I was still living in the U.K., I was also a teacher. I know that you wanted to do. I was a secondary school teacher. Language and I still continue teaching a little bit or it's mainly English. I teach English to foreign students and I started that a while ago and I kept it because I really just enjoy this connection. Like what we've got today. I have kept the all. But yeah, living here in the south of Spain, it's just so lovely. I've got two kids and that was one of the reasons why we came over here. Actually to kind of give them a better life because we used to live in quite an industrial part the U.K. and you know, big city. It wasn't great. So we wanted to give them a different way of life. And I think as well, being bilingual was quite important to me. Over the eight languages. And it's just such a huge advantage. I think when a child can speak another language and when they learn it from babies which might you did or just want to anyway, they just absorb it. They're just like little sponges. So that was one of the reasons why we came over here as well.


Alex

That's amazing. So wait, so you taught while in the UK and you're still doing English language teaching, but had you already finished kind of your teaching by the time you were in Spain?


Gayle

Well yeah. I worked in secondary schools in the U.K. I did that about four years ago.


Alex

Alright.


Gayle

So obviously I handed in my notice, finished my last term at school and then came over here.


Alex

Yeah.


Gayle

And I started teaching originally English just in the village before I moved online.


Alex

Okay because I was just curious. I'm talking about being a teacher. I know one of my biggest struggles while being a teacher was I was really anxious about entering the silver sphere and the silver world. And my teaching reputation and what parents would think and what my you know, school community would think. So I was just wondering if there was like any sort of overlap in that. But it sounds like you had kind of finished in the school setting which makes it a bit easier or a bit different. I don't know.


Gayle

Yeah and it's actually really interesting what you say because surely a school would be thrilled to have a teacher who is alcohol free.


Alex

Yeah.


Gayle

As opposed to having one who drinks. Not that, you know, it's something that you would not advertise. But yet there's the anxiousness and movie that you just described about what would people think if I say I'm not drinking anymore? And really, I think it should be the opposite. I think we should be celebrated for doing what we're doing because it is a positive thing. And that's--you know, kind of the angle that I conform in my coaching and the work that I do because it should be something that we all celebrated and congratulated for. Yet there's this shame and stigma still lingering there. Which I think makes it more difficult to be open and sometimes more difficult to start a journey in the first place. Because if we're worried what people might think of us.


Alex

Yeah, one hundred percent. And you know, I have my sober yoga community and I know that this fear was like I had it too for so long. I was actually afraid of even doing a testimonial for the sober program I was part of because I was afraid of people coming across it and it becoming gossip. And I have quite a few teachers in my sober community. And I see that fear in many of them to some are okay with it. Like I know I have one principal of a school who just like shows it from the rooftop. Like you telling all her teachers that she's sober which is amazing. And then I have some who are like very-- you know, confidential and private, which of course we like, respect. But I see that fear, which it just seems so, as you say, like it should be celebrated. It should be something that you're proud of. And yet there is like there's a little bit of stigma around it.


Gayle

Yeah. It is. Really. Which is such a shame because as you know, living alcohol free it's such a great thing to do and hiding it feeling ashamed of it, it's-- it kind of goes against. Well, living alcohol free to me anyway, means, well yeah that is the understandable fear and shame what would people think?


Alex

And the other thing I wanted to mention, when are you talking about being in Spain? I traveled to Spain, if you-- a long time ago now, actually was five years ago. Back when I was still a party girl. And I actually I didn't have a very good experience there, but I was partying so hard when I was there. Like I had been living in Kuwait for a year where it was complete alcohol was completely illegal. All of a sudden arrive in Spain. And I just was drinking so much that I was just I got myself into some pretty negative situations. And anyway, so I keep seeing myself. I did not travel to the south of Spain. I did a little bit of a north Spain. I went to a little small villages, which I can't remember the name of. And I started in Barcelona and I ended in Madrid. But I keep saying to myself, I need to go back and redo this trip sober because I went to Paris a few years later. It was my first vacation sober and I was really afraid of going because I had this whole concept in my mind about Europe being a place where you drink wine. And I was like, what am I going to do in Europe without wine? And my trip to Paris was like, incredible. It was like one of the best vacations of my life. So I keep saying I need to go to Spain sober so that I can--like, redo the whole thing and do it with kind of like a positive memory. And so if I come, I'll let you know.


Gayle

Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. No, I was just going to say Spain is kind of the land of sanguine and fiesta and fear and tapiz. It's that whole of kind of culture. Isn't it? Then that was probably my downfall really, which we can get into in a minute. We'll yeah, if you come back and do it sober. It --you've noticed such a different...


Alex

Yeah. And even and just like because I was so hungover, like we all know the anxiety and the mood swings and like all of the impacts of alcohol. But you know, I wasn't able to cope with the negative things that had happened to me. I got pick pocketed one night and then another night I just ended up in a really I got into a car that wasn't a taxi, basically. And it was a really scary experience for me. And I ended up jumping out of the car because they wouldn't stop the car. It was very scary. And I just you know, in reality, these things happen everywhere. And I've learned over time. But had I been sober, I'm sure, like, first of all, I wouldn't be out at 3:00 in the morning by myself getting into cars you know, but I also would probably be able to process it in a way that wasn't so I probably wouldn't be feeling so low, you know. And so anyway, I'm sure I would have a different experience. I came back.


Gayle

Yeah. Yeah, you would.


Alex

All right. So let's jump into I want to hear about your drinking career. And so how did you start drinking? What kind of influence your drinking habits along the way?


Gayle

Yeah. I was probably a late starter. I feel like. I wasn't a rebellious teenager or anything like that. I didn't really drink through high school or university that much. It was kind of when I got my own home. I first bought my house in my early 20s. And it was just the adult thing to do to have a wine rack in the kitchen and all of that. And obviously I used to come back from school from teaching and I would have a glass of wine to unwind from the day and do the marketing and the planning for the next day. And it stayed like that for quite a while. You know, it was moderate. It was sensible. And when I got pregnant with my first son, I had to probably a year-- 18 months off when I was pregnant and breastfeeding and everything. And then went back to work and it slowly crept back in again the evening between the weekend. But still, you know, it wasn't anything to be worried about as such. And when we came to Spain, I suppose that's when it kind of started to unfold really. We spent our first few months in Spain living in a caravan. We bought a cave house which needed renovation. And we do a lot of the work ourselves. So at the end of the working day, we would have a few cold beers in the evening. And as we said before, Spain the very social of-- kind of culture that we would go out to meet the locals and practice our Spanish. I don't know how good it was after a few beers you know, we thought it gave us confidence and we thought we were fluent after a few drinks. And then it just kind of went from there, really. And then I got pregnant again. I had more time off and probably when my youngest son is 11 now. So when he was about maybe, I don't know, four or five, it really ramped up. Because as I said, we lived in a cave where we lived was quite isolated. It's very extreme where I live. So really cold winters, there wasn't a lot to do. And I suppose I just felt lonely in a way. And I had these two kids to deal with and it became my way of my way of coping, my way of escaping, my me time, my grown up time. And it just gradually crept up. It went from being you know, a couple of beers in the evening to I would have a beer of whole past two when we got the kids back from school. And that was kind of a split in the day. I suppose--I would go from the morning doing a bit of work to the afternoon shift. And I like to say, well, we're just doing basically all afternoon. Sometimes I would have to have a little siesta because I had too much and then I would wake up and just do it all again. So, why it happened gradually? All of a sudden, I found myself in the position where I was just drinking daily and I was at home doing good. If we ever went out, then I would be careful. I wouldn't really drink that much because I wanted to get home safely, if you like. Where I was at home, I was safe. And you have anything happen, then someone will put me to bed or, you know, I didn't have to get home. To my drinking was very firmly rooted at home. I mean, was being drunk, you know, the friends that we had or drive, some of them didn't have kids. So they were you know, quite a few late nights and it got pretty much out of control basically towards the end even with two kids at home. Yeah, it wasn't good.


Alex

Yeah. And that's often how I think most people have a similar experience in that. Like no one starts out drinking and planning to drink every night. And it just kind of it escalates like it just builds and all of a sudden you end up looking back and you're like, wow, I don't know how it sort of got to this point.


Gayle

Yeah. It just kind of creeps up on you, doesn't it? And that's the nature of alcohol, I suppose it's addictive. And you do kind of develop a tolerance to it. So obviously you need more to get the same effect and then you develop a dependence on it. To me, I wasn't physically dependent on alcohol and I did drink mainly beers, wine occasionally, but I couldn't really cope with wine that used to send me off and do stupid things. We weren't necessarily stupid drinkers either. But even so, I did develop that strong emotional dependence on the beer and the wine at that time. You know like, I felt like I couldn't do anything unless I had a beer in my hand and I would walk around the house often with a beer in my hand all day.


Alex

And so tell me about like what was the moment that made you decide to quit?


Gayle

Okay. Well, I had a previous experience apart from my two pregnancies where I stopped for six months. And I think it must have been some spontaneous sobriety or something because I was stood in the bar, we had a ball, you know okay? And I was stood in there and I had some sherry. And I hate Sherry, but that's all we had. I think it was mid-January. So, you know, I wasn't doing by January or anything. I was drinking the sherry and I say I don't really want this. And that was it, for six months. It didn't bother me. I didn't think about it. It was just, you know, no alcohol. And I felt amazing. And then something happened and what it was. And gradually I went back. But always in the back of my mind, I had that experience. I remembered what it was like to not drink and to feel good. And I always wanted to get back to that place and I didn't really know how. And I kept trying. Nothing was really working. And then something really awful happened. But unfortunately, I didn't stop after that moment. Such was the shame and the guilt around what I'd done. And I took a few months after that for me to stop drinking. And how it happened was my husband actually said, "oh, this is getting out of control. I think we're drinking too much." The atmosphere at home wasn't great because when we were both drinking. We would it would just end up in arguments. And it wasn't really-- it wasn't a nice home atmosphere. And he'd obviously been feeling that way, too. So he said, "okay, I'm not drinking tomorrow". I was that okay. And there was still some beers left in the fridge, so I obviously had to finish those beers. I couldn't leave them in there. So the day after that, I woke up and I thought, well, if he's not drinking, then I can't really drink. And part of me was like, oh not ready for this. Why are you saying it now? Not prepared. And the other half of me was like "Oh, thank you". I-- you know, this is what I've been waiting for. This is what I needed. And it just went from there basically. So it was kind of not forced on me. But the fact that he'd made that decision, it made sense to me to make the same choice. So yeah, it just, it carried on from there.


Alex

And you've been alcohol free ever since.


Gayle

Yeah.


Alex

Wow. So you sound like me. I feel like there's like two types of people. There's people that, you know, have to slowly kind of wean off of it and sort of go back and forth. And then there's people like I was the same way. I just rip the Band-Aid off. It was like Okay, that's it. I'm sober you know and I was just so I don't know. And I think that might be more reflective. I don't know if you would relate to this, but for myself, it was very much like I had wanted to be alcohol free for a long time. But I-- it's like I'm very stubborn. And when I say I'm doing something that I'm doing it. And so it's like I would never say I'm going to quit until I knew I was gonna quit. And so that might have been part of it. But as soon as it's like I'm going to quit, it was like, there's no looking back.


Gayle

Yeah. Absolutely. And in some ways, while it can be quite scary thinking of it like that, it's easier than trying to modulate or wean yourself off or cut down. Simply because of the nature of alcohol you know, it's addictive. Obviously the more you have the more you want. And I find because I tried obviously to moderate and all the rest of it. But it's like okay, well, I'll just drink on Saturday and Sunday and that might work for a while. But then Saturday becomes a Friday and then Friday becomes Thursday and all of these little new rules that you make up with. So they just go out the window and the people I work with, people I talk to all have the same experience. And I think that addictive part of our brain like, "yes, this is a good idea". Just do it slowly. It'll be fine. You can moderate. But really, I think if you want to get the full benefits of alcohol free living, however long you want to do that for, you have to go all in and otherwise you won't experience it fully. I don't think. And it's kind of like, rewarding yourself with the very thing that you're trying not to have which is a contradiction, I think well, it totally is. Yeah. And it makes it more kind of puts alcohol than on a pedestal, if you like. And I don't think it deserves the credit that we give it. So yeah, I totally get what you're saying. Just rip the Band-Aid off and jump in with both feet because it is so much easier than trying to moderate.


Alex

Yeah, absolutely. And you said something there about, I can't remember what you just said. But it reminds me of something my-- one of my leaders in sober curious yoga school, Lee. She said to us yesterday in one of our sessions that from control you get freedom. I think you said you're rewarding yourself with the thing that you're trying to stop yourself. That's what you said. And that reminded me of what Lee said, which is like are controlling yourself but from that controls where you got the freedom. And it's so true, like you think that you're taking something away, but you're actually bringing so much you know, joy and peace to your life.


Gayle

Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.


Alex

So tell me about the process getting sober. What was difficult about it? What was easy about it? What was that like for you?


Gayle

To be honest, at first it was quite boring. I have to say that I literally spent two months on the sofa, eating cake drinking tea and watching the television. Because I didn't know what else to do. And I think I needed that time just to sit and get used to not drinking in my environment.


Alex

Yeah.


Gayle

The thing that really helped was I suppose, my mind set because I'd made the decision that I wasn't going to drink no matter what. And that really helped because then it was like okay, well, I'm not drinking no matter what. So whatever happens, however I'm feeling I am not gonna drink. And then it was sort of the what am I going to do instead? And that was a challenge. Making that decision and telling myself that I just wasn't going to drink was really freeing, actually. And as soon as I made that decision, and I often quote Michael Jordan here and he said "Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again." And it was like that for me with drinking and made the decision and honestly thought of drinking never entered my head again. I just knew I wasn't going to do it. And that in itself with just such a great feeling because that internal chatter had gone. You know, the wine which and all of that was just gone because it wasn't an option anymore. But then we see the challenging bit with, well, what am I going to do instead? All the usual associations, like Friday night, the weekend. When it's hot, it's cold, it's raining, it's sunny. I'm going out, I'm staying in, you know, all of that. I had to figure out what I was going to do instead. And in the beginning, I didn't really know what to do. So that's why I just sat on the sofa. Basically and we had two dogs at the time. We've only got one now, but I used to walk them quite a lot. And that was really helpful in getting out of the house. Especially if I was struggling or if I was having a craving, then I would just walk the dogs and get out of the house. And I would always feel much better when I came in. So it started slowly and it was you know, pretty boring. I have to admit. But that's fine. You know, that's what I needed. And that's what I did.