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Sober Coach and Spiritual Yoga Teacher Emily Kileen

In this episode, I'm happy to have Emily Killeen on Sober Yoga Girl! I met Emily when I was a guest on her Happy Sober Free Summit back in June. Emily Killeen is sobriety coach, spiritual yoga teacher and a transformational retreat facilitator! She believes that connection, community and accountability along with SOME sort of spirituality and health and wellness are essential for sobriety success. After 15 years of bouncing in and out of recovery she’s finally found so much freedom, abundance and joy in sobriety and is on a mission to help others discover their own path to recovery to experience the gifts of living an amazing sober life! Emily created Recovery Revival which is a 3 Month Sobriety Group Coaching Journey for women and also hosts a free Sober Girls Book Club on Tuesday nights which is open to the public and held on zoom of course! In addition she opened an off-grid, alcohol-free wedding venue called Ananda Retreat with her husband in Northern Arizona and soon it will be a wellness retreat as well!

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You can catch Emily at Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at

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: Alright. So welcome back to another episode of “Sober Yoga Girl”. I am really excited to have Emily Kileen, with me here today. And Emily is a sober coach and spiritual yoga teacher. And we actually met a couple of months ago when I was a guest in Emily's “Sober Summit” that she organized. And so I'm super excited to kind of carry on the conversation and hear a bit about your journey Emily. So welcome.

Emily: Thank you so much for having me on here. It's a pleasure to be chatting with you again.

Alex: Really happy to have you here. So let's jump into it. I'm curious if you could tell me a bit about yourself, where you are from and who you are and kind of what your interests are.

Emily: Absolutely. I'd love to share. So right now I live in Northern Arizona and like you mentioned, I am a sobriety coach and a spiritual yoga teacher. I plan on staying in Northern Arizona. I've got 20 acres here on a beautiful ranch property with my husband. We actually opened a wedding venue which is turning into a retreat facility. And it's called Ananda Retreat, which means highest bliss. So that's kind of my highest excitement building the retreat and everything that I have going on here on my property. But I'm originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and I also lived in San Diego and Ocean Beach in the beach for a while. So, yeah, I'm also a sober yoga girl. So when I found you, Alex, I was like, yeah, she's my people. And so my recovery in Sobriety has been a long journey, which I'm sure we'll get a little bit into that. But currently I have two and a half years of sobriety. Solid. And I also love yoga. And yoga has been a huge part of my recovery. So, yeah, that's just a little bit about me.

Alex: Amazing. Cool. So let's get into-- I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about your drinking journey. So when did you start drinking? And how did you start drinking?

Emily: Yeah. So I grew up in a very small town. It's crossed plains outside of Madison, Wisconsin. And I grew up right next door to a bowling--control. He never drinks around me and my mom, which is really awesome. But I grew up with parents who drink heavily and they drank in a social way. So going to the bar, which was next door and then also camping, we did a lot of camping, which for me as a kid, I was like, I get to run around free, you know, I got to play. It was a lot of fun for me. But now looking back, I can see that the parents were getting really drunk, and that you know just I grew up in that culture. That that's what you did for fun. So my drinking began shortly after a health class, when they put drunk goggles on us and I'm walking through the-- down the hallway with these drunk goggles on, I'm like, this is fun. This is silly. This is why my parents drink so much. So shortly after that, on an early release school day, when we got out at noon, I invited some friends over to raid my parents liquor cabinet, not really realizing how long the effects lasted or anything. And I actually blacked out my first time drinking. So I just went balls to the wall. I got sick. I blacked out. My mom came home from work at 05:00, and I was in bed and I was caught and I was in a lot of trouble. So that was middle school. I was 13 years old and I was a problem drinker from the get go. So throughout Middle School and throughout High School, I was trying to be sneaky. And I continued my drinking, and oftentimes I would get really drunk and blacked out. And I knew that I wasn't drinking like my friends. And when I would get the alcohol, there was never enough. I always wanted to make sure that we had like you know, multiple 30 packs. And they're like, we don't need that much. I'm like, yeah, we do. So that's kind of how it started. And for me, it wasn't until I got out on my own when I was 18, when things really started to unravel. Because when I was in high school, I still kept decent grades. And I was on the varsity dance team all four years. And you know, I was a typical high schooler that was a partier but still holding it together. So, that's how my journey started.

Alex: And it sounds a lot like when you talk about being kind of a typical high schooler, dancer, who also partied, it sounds a lot like my high school experience. Like I was kind of this straight A kid who was in the choir and the editor of the newspaper and did all this stuff. But I also was just like this wild party girl on the weekend. And so I can kind of-- I can really relate to that.

Emily: Yeah. Absolutely. So my High School was like one town in closer to Madison, which is a College party town. So we would go to the downtown parties. You know, when we were in High School, I'd tell my parents that I was going to the union, which was like a music venue on the lake you know, that I would say I'm just going down there to go dancing. But then I would go to the parties and end up drinking and driving and coming home. I don't know how I never got a DUI. I'm really blessed that I didn't. And didn’t you know get in the car accident, hurt anybody. But yeah, I was pretty reckless, that's for sure.

Alex: And so you mentioned that it got worse when you left home. So how did your alcohol consumption increase over time?

Emily: Yeah. So like I mentioned, it was always a problem. I never really could control my drinking. But when I got out on my own and I was 18, you know I got a fake ID. I was going to the bars almost every night, and I also got introduced to drugs. So I started doing party drugs like ecstasy and cocaine and mushrooms and going to live music and then you know, staying up all night and sometimes drinking the next day. And so that's when my work ethic started to go down the drain. You know I was going to a Tech College, but I remember like you know, waking up and going to school. Like left out even and coming out of class and wondering where the heck my car was. You know I started to lose my job. So as a waitress. And it was kind of a running joke for many years because I've been on this journey for so long that I would lose as a job, and then I would get a better one. So when I was sober, I was so on point and a great worker. But when I was drinking and on a bender, I just didn't care about going into work or anything like that. So that's when it started to you know, in the 12 steps, they say, is it affecting your life and your you know, the things that you know, your obligations. And it certainly was and at that point, my mom had been sober for a while, so I knew about AAA. And so I actually went to my first 12-step meeting when I was only 19 years old. So it was definitely a very serious problem at a very young age. But I wasn't ready to quit. And so I kept going back out, but kept you know, I hang out with my mom, who is my best friend now, and she was my best friend then, too. So we would go on sober vacations, and I was able to still have fun when I wasn't ready to give up the party life. So I kept going back to that, even though it wasn't working for me at all.

Alex: Right.

Emily: Yeah.

Alex: And so what was the turning point for you when you started the sober journey?

Emily: I would say I've had many, many turning points. So, you know, it's really even hard to think back at that time. You know when I went to my first AAA meeting, I think what happened is like we had a raging party, and my parents were helping us move from one apartment to the next apartment. And we were all up all night, and like my parents showed up. And there was, like a ton of people at my house still partying. I think that's probably when I went to my first AAA meeting. And after that, it was turning point after turning point. So I went to my first AAA meeting when I was 19. I am now 36, and I have two and a half years of sobriety. So throughout that journey, there's been so many turning points, you know losing jobs and just like not being able to hold it together. Breakups, just a slew of a whole bunch of really messy things. So I've had many, many turning points. But one of my biggest turning points is when I found yoga, actually, and started my yoga practice, because I love to go dancing and drinking. And like I grew up dancing, like I mentioned. So I found that the yoga, going to the yoga studios, the classes with the music, finding and you know, feeling embodied in my body, and also being with a community of people that weren't drinking because I've always wanted to be around people, even from a young age. You know I mentioned that I grew up in a small town. I would always get everyone together to play night games. And then when I started partying, I was always getting everyone to come to you know this concert or that concert. So I always wanted to be around people. And I found that in yoga. And then when I became a yoga teacher, it really filled me with some passion and purpose. So that was one of the most pivotal turning points, although that was eight years ago. That wasn't the end of my journey. That was one of the biggest pivotal moments, I'd say for sure.

Alex: Right. And I think we share that in common as well, because I also found yoga while I was still drinking. And then that for me, well, I mean, I carried on drinking for a long time after, before I did find sobriety, but I think we're similar in that aspect of our journey as well, too.

Emily: Yeah.

Alex: So tell me about what was it about this-- you know you have two and a half years now. So what was that two-- what happened at the two and a half years that made you, like, this time be--the time you quit?

Emily: That's a good question. Because before that, I had a year and a half. I have gotten into this beautiful property, built this off-grid home. My husband quit drinking with me, like things were really coming together beautifully. But I was working so hard and stretching myself then. And I still had something in the back of my mind that maybe I can just go to a music festival, like once a year, just rage, because I liked my sober life. I loved it. But I still wanted to let loose every once in a while. And so one night I decided that I deserved to drink. I deserved to let loose. And I got really drunk on my own, so drunk. Because I hadn't drank in a year and a half. And I was like, this is my night to get wasted. I was so sick the next day, I was sick that night. I was sick the next day, I was sick the next day. And what I realized is that, I deserve way better than this. The reason I was drinking is because I deserved a drink. But the life that I had created for myself, you know, teaching yoga, building this wedding venue, all of this stuff, and what happened? Well, a it wasn't fun, b it was you know, I got really sick and c, is not what I deserve. You know, I was living that double life. Like you said, you were teaching yoga and then you know also drinking. I had been doing that for so long, so I was ready to just take off the armor and just let go of the concept that I got to let go or let loose by drinking. And that was pretty much the main turning point, just getting real with myself, that it's not working anymore, and I deserve so much better than this. Yeah.

Alex: And so what were the tools that help you when you were quitting? What do you draw on?

Emily: Yeah, I've got a few. So movement has always been super, super helpful. So yoga, getting out into nature, going on walks. That's one of my highest tools. Another one is connecting with other women and sobriety, which I've been doing for a long time, but just kind of releasing the party lifestyle. What I tell myself is that I had my years to party, like I had a lot of fun you know, there was a lot of shit show moments as well. But I've had my time party and I'm ready to grow up and kind of create my new life. And then the other two tools that are super helpful. And I love to share this one. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired, the halt method, and so really just taking extreme self care. And a lot of times when we feel like we want to drink, we're one of those things. So I've always got snacks around, I've got coffee, I take my bedtime really seriously because being tired was one of my biggest triggers. And then also hungry. You know, a lot of times when we feel like we want to drink, we're just hungry. And if we can have a snack, then the urge goes away. So the halt method was super helpful and then just playing the tape forward. So just get really real with yourself because our brain likes to trick us you know. Well, maybe I can just have one glass of wine and pausing for a moment and being honest and being like, am I really just going to have one glass of wine? No, I'm going to drink the whole bottle. And then I'm probably going to be going back to the store for another bottle. I'm going to get wasted, probably getting an argument with my husband. And then how am I going to feel the next day? So also, speaking of the next day, I like to plan you know going to the farmers market or going to a yoga class. In those times when I was still struggling, luckily, I really don't have the desire to drink anymore. But setting yourself up for success and planning something fun for the next day and really just realizing like, I don't need to go out and rage on Friday and Saturday night, because what I really enjoy doing is going to yoga, and the farmers market, hiking, doing those things that feel good. So, yeah, there's been a lot of tools, but those are a few.

Alex: I love that. You know I think that's the first time I've heard the halt method and I was thinking in my head, and there-- and I was like, wow, that's so insightful. So I'm gonna hang on to that one. And I love what you said, too, about just like playing it forward and then also planning something for the next day, because if we have something that we want to do where we're not, we can't be hang over for it. It really makes a difference.

Emily: Yeah. Absolutely. And actually I just thought of one other thing. I want to add another pivotal moment. I went to outpatient twice, once in California and once back in the day in Wisconsin. And a pivotal moment was when I went to this place called Connections, and they made it a priority that you not only came to the group meetings, but that you hang out with other sober people outside of the group. And it's called Connections. So really starting to-- I had this mindset that everyone that’s sober is like a loser or dorky, which is funny, because now I call myself happy, sober and free. And I totally embrace this life, but really stepping out of the comfort zone and hanging out with people, doing sober things and trying new things, that was really pivotal, too, because it can be a lonely journey. So many people you know, first, we try to get sober on our own. You know we don't want to reach out for help right away, but it's hard to do on our own. So reaching out and being in a community is really helpful. Yeah.

Alex: Absolutely. So you mentioned kind of the role at yoga played in your journey. Can you tell me more about that? Like you say that your spiritual yoga teacher, what does that practice look like for you?

Emily: Yeah. So yoga just when I started going to the classes was really, really you know, powerful. Being around other people who weren't drinking, I actually found that a lot of other people-- even more so when I got to Arizona, just going to yoga classes and saying, hey, I'm sober. I'm meeting other sober people at yoga rather than going to meetings. So you never know how people are going to show up in your life. So that's been one thing. And then also, when I decided that I wanted to become a yoga teacher, I learned a lot more about the yoga philosophy. So practicing non-attachment and non-judgment and non-harm and self-love and all of those things that are so important as a person in recovery and then just continuing with personal development. Yoga is so supportive in that way as well. So, yeah, I mean I feel like doing the yoga teacher training was really powerful and just learning a lot more about the philosophy. Which when I was going to the classes, I would hear a little bits and pieces, but diving into the training was really powerful for me. Yeah.

Alex: Absolutely. And it makes such a-- it’s so amazing when you can apply though that philosophy to your life. And, you know, I'm like, you like, I could just geek out on it forever. So--

Emily: I bet.

Alex: And so I'm going to share the links to where everyone can find you in the podcast episode. You mentioned before we started about the retreat that you're setting up on your property, which is like absolutely amazing. And I think that's so incredible. Can you tell me more about sort of what's the work that you do now as a yoga teacher and a coach?

Emily: Yeah. So. Well, I'll start by talking about my property. So my husband's a wedding photographer and a videographer. So we had this dream of building a wedding venue and a wellness retreat and sometimes having weddings and sometimes having wellness retreat. So a couple of things happen. One, we built some of the stuff on our property without getting permits, and we got in trouble with the county, so they actually shut us down. So we're working on getting some of the permitting fixed. But the other thing that happened is before we got shut down, we had nine weddings, and they were beautiful. But people get really drunk at weddings. And so we're both like, I don't know if I want to do this. Then Covid happened. And so we're like, well, we're closed Covid’s happening. Who knows what's going on anyways. But through that process, we decided if we do open up as a wedding venue again, we're going to be an alcohol free wedding venue. Maybe we won't be a wedding machine. And we'll just have less weddings. But that is what we are going to do. So meanwhile, I also have been doing wellness retreats, yoga retreats for quite some time in Sedona. And I'm ready to start creating that space on my property. And so we are building glamping tents with really luxurious beds and making them really cute and boho style. And so I'm starting to create the retreat space on my property, and it's 20 acres. The stars are so beautiful, it’s so peaceful out here. And so now I am also a sobriety coach. So what I've been doing is hosting these-- I have a group called Recovery Revival. It's a three-month group coaching program, and we meet on Zoom. But now all these women want to meet in person. So I was like, hey, I'm having a retreat. And so I actually have two fall retreats that are sold out. I'm so grateful. So, yeah, I'm doing Recovery Revival, which is helping women take their life in sobriety to the next level. And then I also have “Sober Girls Book Club”, which is free. And that's for anyone who's even sober, curious or sober you know, 20 years, someone just joined that has 38 years of sobriety. And that's what’s so cool. You just keep to keep working on ourselves, and it's so powerful to bring women together. So those are some of the things that I have going on. My Instagram is So I've got a lot of amazing content there. I love to connect with individuals on Instagram. So, yeah, that's what I have going on.

Alex: It’s so amazing. As you’re talking, I'm like, I want to have my wedding there. To my imaginary partner that doesn't exist.

Emily: He's coming.

Alex: So amazing, though. Honestly, that's incredible. And so beautiful to just hear how your life has opened up and transform since you step into you know, who you're meant to be. It’s very inspiring.

Emily: Thank you. Well, and I just have-- part of my spiritual journey has been not knowing exactly what I believe in. And I was brought up Christian, Catholic, and then I got into the law of attraction. You know energy is everything, I'm going to manifest it all. But the way that things have been unfolding, especially in the last couple of years, I'm like, there has to be a higher power. Like, this is all divine timing and even the challenges like the county shutting my business down, which was so heartbreaking. Like I spent so much time, energy and money building this. But then I see. I'm like, maybe I'm not supposed to be a wedding venue, you know, I’m just trusting the process. And I think all that for my yoga practice, just really learning to trust the process. So, Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate your kind words and I’m trusting the process. And I'm along for the ride.

Alex: It’s beautiful. I love it. So I have one last question for you. What advice, well, actually, it's two questions. So the first is, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start a yoga practice?

Emily: If you want to start, then definitely start. I hear so many people that are feeling a little bit nervous about going to a yoga studio, self conscious. And one of the first things that we learn is non-judgment, and people aren't looking around for the most part. So just do your best, and it's great to start. There's so many resources online. I know, Alex, you have online platforms with yoga classes, so start on your own and just start where you are. And so just start is the main thing. And if you have the strings pulling at your heart and you want to start, there's a reason for that. So, don't wait any longer. Just do it. So that’s my feedback on that.

Alex: Love it.

Emily: Was there another question?

Alex: Yes. Question two is, what advice would you give to someone who wants to stop drinking?

Emily: Oh, okay. It's time to stop if you want to stop, and it doesn't have to look perfect. It can be really scary to think about stopping forever. Most people don't wrap their head around that. So start where you are whether it be a 21-day challenge, a 30-day challenge. But just give it a try, because the life that you're living, if you're feeling like you want to stop drinking is not the life that you're meant to be living. There's more for you. And it can be scary trying to figure out what exactly that would look like, but it's magical. So reach out to some other sober individuals. Reach out to Alex. Reach out to me. Don't do it alone. Try this you know, one of Alex's courses or you know “Sober Girls Book Club”, and just dive in, meet other sober individuals. I mean, I think I'm pretty cool. I think you're pretty cool. So there's a lot of sober women, sober men out there, just a community waiting for you. And so don't do it alone. Reach out, stay connected and just give it a try. You never know until you do it, right?

Alex: Yeah. Really good advice. And I love how your sober and your yoga advice were kind of similar. Just do it. Like if you want to do it, now is the time. And I love that.

Emily: Yeah. Well, life is now. So, I mean, whatever you want to do, if you have the thought to do it, like make it happen. I mean my life has been super messy, and I'm an entrepreneur, and I really learned that it gets to be messy, and it doesn't have to be perfect. And so if you feel a calling on your heart to do anything, whether it be sobriety, starting a business, doing yoga, like why wait to do it now? So, Yeah. Kind of my philosophy.

Alex: Awesome. Well, Emily, it was so awesome to sit down with you and to hear your journey. I know the last time we chatted, it was kind of more about my journey. So it was really cool to kind of flip the table and hear about you. And I really hope that one day, when Covid ends and when travel is more possible that we actually meet, and maybe I can come to a retreat at your place, because it sounds absolutely phenomenal.

Emily: Thank you. I would love it. And I would love to get over there, too. So we'll cross our fingers that that's happening in the future. And I'm just so grateful to be on this podcast and to be connected with you, because I feel like we have so many similarities, but yet so many different things that we're offering, too. So I totally believe in collaboration over competition. And thank you so much for having me today.

Alex: You're welcome. Take care, Emily. See you soon.

Emily: Okay. We'll see you soon. Thank you.

Alex: Bye.

Emily: Bye.

Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Sober Yoga Girl with Alex McRobs. I am so grateful for every one of you. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next one and leave a review before you go. See you soon. Bye.

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