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Sober Spring with Sarah Williamson, the Drink Less Coach

Apr 12 2021

My “we rise together” post could not be more timely as I drop an episode with my friend Sarah Williamson who is the “Drink Less Coach.” Sarah and I are both Sober coaches who met on a FB group and what I love about Sarah is she created a little online community for a small group of us sober coaches to uplift, support and inspire each other, rather than see each other as competition. Sarah is the perfect embodiment of “we rise by lifting others” and our convo was brilliant.

Listen here.

If you do listen please don’t forget to rate, share & subscribe so the podcast can reach more people it would benefit! Make sure to follow Sarah on Instagram @drinklesslivebetter.

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: All right. So, welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited to have one of my friends on this episode who I have done some sober work and collaboration with in the past. Sarah Williamson is in the UK. She is a silver coach, and she is the creator of Drink Less Live Better. So, welcome, Sarah.

Sarah: Hi. Thank you for having me, great to be here.

Alex: Yeah, how are you doing?

Sarah: I'm doing really well. Thank you, yes. I'm looking forward to and enjoying our sober spring at the moment, the weather is just changing here, and it's lovely now.

Alex: Oh, good. I'm so glad, because you guys had a rainy, you had a cold winter. It snowed for the first time in the UK. Right?

Sarah: Yeah, yeah. We had plenty of snow. Yep, but lots of daffodils, and crocuses, and tulips coming up now, so it feels hopeful and full of color.

Alex: Oh, good. Yay, I'm happy to hear that. Just as it's getting too hot for us to be outside. So, why don't we start off the episode and you can just give me a little bit of background on you. Kind of who you are, what your interests are, and what you do for work.

Sarah: Yeah. So, I'm 43. I'm a mum of two teenage boys. A wife. Got a dog. I'm in Surrey in the UK. And I've spent the last, well, since I've had my children, I've spent a long time working in youth offending, and I've got an interest, I suppose now, my focus over the last couple of years has really become living a sober life and all of the good stuff that that brings. My life has changed quite a lot over the last few years, and it's a big part of obviously, what I do now, but also how I live my own life.

Alex: Cool. Oh, I'm excited to hear more about kind of the sober journey for you. Let's start off with just kind of telling me a bit about when you started drinking, and what aspects of life in the UK kind of influenced your drinking habits.

Sarah: Yep. I grew up in a really small village where there wasn't a lot going on. I probably started drinking in quite a typical British way or certainly the group of friends that I hung out with, you know, we probably weren't that different to a lot of people in my secondary school. It was a case of catching up in the park on the weekends and drinking where either my friends had got older siblings who would buy alcohol for us, or perhaps alcohol had been misappropriated from parents booze cupboards. And certainly, it was a village where the only other buildings in the village, apart from a school and a church, were two pubs. So, I had a job in a pub from probably when I was about fourteen. Quite a few of my friends were older than me, so they were drinking in the pub from an age where I was younger than them, but would hang out with them in the pub and I would pretend to drink coke, but really be drinking something else and they'd be buying me other drinks. And certainly, the laws were not as tight as they are now, so there was no problem with 14 year-olds hanging out in the pub. Well, particularly, because I worked there at that point in time, and it's certainly not like that anymore. My drinking when I left home and started university certainly escalated considerably. It was that opportunity to hang out in the student union that you socialized, you made friends by drinking a lot. I don't really remember, I know there were social activities that didn't involve alcohol, but certainly alcohol was a massive part of the socializing, getting to know new people, and using it as a confidence booster, you know, that Dutch courage thing that I certainly, looking back, know that I never could have considered going out on a university night out and drinking soft drinks. None of my friends would have ever have done that. It would have been, I think, questioned. You know? If as to whether you were on antibiotics or had something wrong with you if you you weren't drinking. So, I started off at university in London, and then I moved down to university in Devon, and they were very similar cultures. Exeter, another big city and again, lots of a big student culture, drinking culture there. And then, I moved back again and started work in London, and my job in London was, there was a whole bunch of us all in our early 20s, all working. The kind of job where you would traditionally have said that you work hard and play hard, and actually play hard was euphemism for drink hard. And so, we worked really long hours, and then we went out, and spent a lot of even more time together, but that time was focused around drinking. And certainly, you know, that was a time in my life where I felt pretty invincible and was able to be out until whatever time in the morning, get the night bus home, have a shower, change, and come back into work, and manage to function at work just fine the next day, and it's the kind of thing I look back on now and think, Yeah. That could never possibly happen now. But, you know, when you're in your 20s, that was what I could do then. And it was what my friends were doing, you know, we all gave each other the permission and the power to do exactly the same. And then I met my lovely husband and in fact, life really changed. After that point, we moved in together and got married. And so, my drinking really de-escalated at that point, but still we enjoyed drinking together at the weekends, and going out with friends, and the going out was more dinner parties or nights in the pub with friends or restaurants. So, a different scale of drinking, a different level of drinking, but it was still certainly a big part of what we did. And then, I had our two babies and certainly had extended periods of not drinking then, probably for the first time since I'd started drinking, so that would have been throughout my pregnancies and the time when I was breastfeeding my boys. And then, I think it just slipped back in very much as part of that mummy drinks culture, and I'm blaming nobody else for my drinking but it was then having friends, you know, with babies the same age as mine, or toddlers the same age as mine where what we did on Friday nights was kick back with large glasses of wine, because it felt like our reward for the end of another week done. And those weeks were so different to our working weeks before we'd had our children, because these weeks with toddlers, some of it felt really hard in a different way, some of it felt you often sleep deprived and often, whether we wanted to admit it or not, there might have been a certain amount of boredom or monotony. And so, it was a different type of drinking for slightly different reasons. But still looking back on it, certainly, more than was good for me or useful to me.

Alex: Yeah.

Sarah: And so, to a varying degree that carried on over the next few years, and now my boys are early teens. And a few years ago, I just decided that I was gonna make a change to the way that I was living. And I was really glad that I did do that.

Alex: Yeah. Oh, it's amazing. You know, I've never heard Dutch courage before. Is that a UK phrase?

Sarah: Well, yes or maybe it is. It'll be interesting to know what the origin of that is, isn't it?

Alex: Yeah.

Sarah: That's quite a common saying here. Yeah, we'll have to google it.

Alex: So, we would say liquid courage when I was a teenager.

Sarah: Okay.

Alex: Which I think is like the same thing. But that, I was like, Huh? I've never heard that before.

Sarah: Okay.

Alex: So, it sounds like you kind of went through like, the almost, like, I don't see normal drinking but like, the way our culture, you know, encourages drinking like the mommy wine culture, you know, I've heard lots about that. I'm not a mother myself, but you even see it in the, you know, the wine glasses that say like, Mommy's Sippy Cup or whatever, and that was definitely a thing in North America and I didn't realize that it was like, you know, global, as well

Sarah: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, and I think, you know, I only have to scroll through my Facebook feed on a Friday from four o'clock with, let me tell you absolutely no judgment at all but, you know, at that time on a Friday, you scroll through and that is all of those memes of, you know, the point at which, you know, I need a glass of wine, and people absolutely using that as a tool at that point in their week. Like I say, no judgment at all because that absolutely was what I was doing. But I was doing it because I hadn't considered the fact that there might have been an alternative way at that point.

Alex: Right.

Sarah: That was the way that my brain was working at that time. And at that time, I didn't have any problem with it. It was what I thought was working for me.

Alex: Right. Absolutely. And then, it just hits a point where it's like, it's not anymore.

Sarah: Definitely. Yeah.

Alex: So, let's talk about that. What was the point that made you wanna quit?

Sarah: So, I definitely didn't have any kind of rock bottom, and I think that that whole rock bottom thing is such an interesting concept. I really, there's a book I've just read actually, it's Bryony Gordon her "Glorious Rock Bottom" is a fabulous read. And that idea that when you hit a really really low point, then you've got something to really push up from, and this is the point, your foundation if you like, from rebuilding what you want to do going forward. And I never had that. I would describe what I had as a series of small realizations, and those realizations definitely came in the form of hideous hangovers, or walking home and bouncing off a hedge, or waking up with an unexplained bruise, or smashing a glass when I was washing up at night or, you know, lots of what I would describe as small things, nothing that was particularly significant. But as all of those things added up together, I became more and more uncomfortable with what I was doing, and I remember waking up many many times where I would say, Right. Never again. But I would never actually mean never again. Never again only meant until the next time. And definitely did that, you know, WhatsApp text exchange friend, message thing with friends that I'd been out with the night before where we would all be waking up in the morning and telling each other how dreadful we felt. You know, not doing that again, you know, and not going there again and whatever. And then, I think it just happened for me one more time that felt like the straw that broke the camel's back, and that was the time when I went, Yeah. No, I did say never and again and I really mean never again. So, I used a tool for about, probably about six months or so, where I decided I was going to be a different person when I went out with a particular group of girlfriends and we used to either do a big night out in a pub, or we would get together around at each other's houses, generally on a Friday night, probably about once a month or so, in a big style way. When I say big style, I mean drinking a massive amount way. And we would get together head down to the pub and I used this tool for a while of saying to myself, clearly otherwise they'd have thought I was a little bit strange, I am the person who drinks two glasses of wine in the pub. And I use that as my mantra walking down to the pub, I am the person who drinks two glasses of wine in the pub. I am the person who drinks two glasses of wine in the pub. And I went a really long time with that working okay for me.


Alex: Wow.

Sarah: So, we used to drink wine in the way of ordering bottles of it, so there was a constant flow of the wine and glasses being topped up and you never really got to see how much wine you drank until you knew it was far too much and, you know, because in a pub, they take away your empty bottles, you also don't see what's been put away, so you don't think, Oh dear, we've already drunk two bottles. You just carry on. Anyway, that worked out okay for me, until it just didn't, and I hit a point where I was drinking a glass of wine in the pub one day and I thought, I don't think I actually like this. I had that realization of maybe it was a bottle of wine that wasn't what we usually ordered or I don't know, but I definitely just thought, This just doesn't taste good, feel right. And I was then on a zoom com with some people who were in a course that I was doing at the time, and we were talking about the changes that we wanted to make in our life. And this would have been in October 2019. I said, Oh, I've got a really big goal. It's coming in the future and it's gonna be in 2020. So, I'm just kind of getting ready for it now. I've got three months to, just over three months to prepare myself and get my head in the game, and then I'm gonna go with it. And they were saying, Oh, what's your goal? And I said, Oh, no. I can't tell you what the goal is. I'm still just getting it ready in my head. And other people were declaring what their goals were for now, you know, they weren't talking about a 2020 goal in general, and it was different goals around lifestyle, well-being, nutrition, exercise, various things, and then they came back, and they went like, Sarah, can't you tell us what? No-no-no. I cannot say what it is. I'll tell you when I'm ready but it's not now. And they left me alone for a little bit, and then someone else said, Oh, come on. You know, this is killing us. What is your goal? And I said, I'm really really scared if I say it out loud then I'm going to have to do it, and my fear was by speaking it, I was going to really have to put the wheels in motion, and I did not know whether I would be able to do it. So, I got ground down and I said, Okay. My goal is that I'm not gonna have an alcoholic drink in 2020. And honestly, it was silence. It was, you know, what a zoom screen looks like, and it was various faces just looking at me with completely blank looks on them because, Why? Why would you choose that? What on earth are you thinking? And of course, it was all of the stuff about, you know, have you got a problem then, you know, why are you coming up with that as a goal. And I suppose that was part of my fear of speaking out loud was the judgment and and I don't mean, you know, that group of people are a lovely group of people. Of course, they weren't standing in judgment, but it did just seem like I was saying something that other people couldn't possibly have understood. And of course, you know, as you and I'm sure you would have a similar feeling to me, it's alcohol is that thing that if you say you're gonna stop drinking it, people do wanna know why from you. And if I were to tell the same bunch of friends that I've decided to cut back or stop my crack cocaine habit, they'd have been utterly supportive. They wouldn't have questioned why. That made it sound as if I do have a crack cocaine habit I don't actually. But nobody would question that as a bad thing. Whereas you say you're gonna stop drinking and people really wanna dig down sometimes and find out why. So, once I had spoken it out loud whilst it terrified me in that moment, it was so good to get it off my chest. And what then happened, it was a switch flicking in my brain because I went from I'm not gonna have a drink in 2020 to very quickly questioning why I was waiting till 2020. And so, I actually stopped drinking not long after that conversation, and went into 2020 with a dry stretch under my belt already.


Alex: Wow that's amazing it's incredible how sometimes even just speaking you're like speaking you're we're talking about this earlier speaking what you desire or you want can like put it into reality absolutely and and alongside that I'd always say writing it down as well is a powerful tool that bring hand connections, so all of the different ways we can bring a, you know, our reality into being we we should try all of the ways through the kitchen sink at it yeah, so tell me more about like once you did quit drinking what were the main benefits you experienced, so for me I had spent quite a bit of time feeling not quite a hundred percent but I couldn't put my finger on it particularly and I thought that my the reason I didn't have as much energy as I wanted was because I perhaps wasn't eating as well as I could do or being hydrated enough or doing the right kind of exercise I wasn't sleeping as well as I could do and and I was blaming actually anything else that I could possibly think of, so I was thinking that my hormones were fluctuating all over the place I was thinking it was because I had certain worries about my family going on at the time with some health issues that were going on, so I was feeling it was an anxiety about that I was having moments of total brain fog and thinking that that was hormones as well I remember one day I said to myself I looked out of the window and there was a fire engine going past and I said to my son oh look quick quick come quickly come and see the the the and I was pointing at the fire engine and looking at my son and I had completely forgotten the word for fire engine and I was pointing at it and seeing the thing and I did not know what the word was and I had this horrible my body ran a bit cold in that moment and I thought well that is it I've got Alzheimer's or dementia or clearly some sort of something is going horribly wrong in my brain and definitely catastrophizing all of these other things and thinking that there was something that was wrong with me and interestingly when I stopped drinking all of those things went away all of them, so I suddenly started sleeping, so much better and the stuff that I thought had been a symptom of fluctuating hormones wasn't at all anything to do with that my brain where I definitely was feeling like I was struggling with my memory over certain things all gone away and and it was one simple thing it was one simple thing and I just find that in itself, so interesting because I could have gone down a route that was all about I did have a conversation with my doctor about my worry about what was going on in my brain and she is supportive and wonderful and would never be dismissive but she was very reassuring but of course one of the things that she didn't say to me was why don't you consider drinking a bit less because we don't say that people as a as a recommendation for their health and well-being we're more likely to say how about eating a bit better how about making sure you're hydrated how about doing some exercise when would you ever expect your doctor to tell you why don't you just knock the the wine habit on the head for a while and see how that feels that's just not not what we're programmed to to hear in the uk, so anyway it was a really positive that the benefits were they came some of them came quickly and some of them came over a slightly longer period of time and, you know, when you're describing that I just got shivers because I had this thought of like, you know, I've done 15 episodes now this podcast and everyone seems to have had, you know, a different thing going on with them, you know, whether it's their sleep whether it's their blood pressure whether for me it was like my mental health and hearing, so many of these different things all just being tied to this one factor it's almost unbelievable you're like how is it that we haven't figured this out yet, you know, absolutely yeah yeah yeah and to know as well and and this isn't a criticism but to know as well that we can go to our doctors about any number of things that might be wrong with us and and the alcohol conversation just wouldn't feature just wouldn't be part of of the conversation, you know, there's that part where I see we absolutely should be responsible for ourselves as well as, you know, accepting what we put into our bodies in terms of eating good food and, you know, whatever tools we use around our mental health but but really to consider give consideration to just changing that one thing can lead to, so many more benefits yeah absolutely okay, so tell me about, so since you've become sober you're now developing silver coaching and courses, so what inspired that and tell me about the work you do there yeah, so I think once I had gone probably about maybe about eight months without drinking where I had set my original goal as being 2020 without having a drink when I'd first started out I thought oh, you know, just wait until the 1st of January 2021, you know, I'll be really desperate for a drink by then and it will be fabulous and my birthday's the 4th of January, so that's gonna be that birthday in the future is gonna be some kind of big deal and, you know, how I'm gonna socialize I mean obviously this was not allow it this was not thinking about a global pandemic at that particular point as I got further away from the last day that I had had a drink I came to realize that really this was a lifestyle change and where I thought I had put a time on it it was actually turning out not to feel like that anymore that it really was becoming a part of who I was. And so, at that point I started to consider all of the tools that had really helped me in my alcohol-free journey up until that point and also the things that had not been helpful at all and started to think about if I had been in my position when I was back in the previous October wondering how this thing would ever be possible for me and feeling very doubtful about whether it could how I could other help other people in that situation myself and I was thinking about how my future self could have helped my past self if that if you if it was possible to clone yourself and time travel I could have really used in the early days somebody to help me see that the vision I had for myself was possible and not only possible but really enjoyable, so that is what Kate then has led me down the coach down the coach down the path of doing several different trainings some retraining doing lots of new learning and then being able to put together packages where I offer group training programs and also one-to-one coaching and I have been loving doing this and meeting you has been part of that lovely journey as well and and and seeing that there is such a such a movement now for people to start making this kind of change in their lives and I really believe that where we start to talk about this kind of positive change that we've made in our lives without talking about all of those things that potentially you might think that you miss like how am I ever gonna relax without alcohol how will I have fun without alcohol how will I socialize how will I be courageous how will I connect with my partner all of those things to be able to show them to be able to show the world that it's possible to do these things not only possible but enjoyable it gives other people the opportunity to see that what's possible for someone else might be possible for them yeah absolutely and it's, so inspiring, you know, what you said I really resonate with that concept of you being able to like your future self would have been able to help your past self and I think often that is what we that is like our I don't know what we bring to the world is like what where we experience a lack of support in our lives is where we wanna create the support for others, you know,. And so, I find that really that really inspiring yeah yeah I love it, so if someone were interested in quitting drinking and I'll post all the links to all of your info in the episode and everything, so that our listeners can find you if they're interested in learning more about what you do but just to finish us off if someone were interested in quitting alcohol what advice would you give to them my advice would be to be bold be brave it feels like it's gonna be a big deal in your life or for me that is how it felt for me it felt like I might have had to make being sober my full-time job at one point in the past I felt like this was gonna be a massive mountain this was gonna be something to endure this was gonna be something to get through and once I'd made that decision to do it and I'd spoken it out loud actually it became none of those things. And so, making the first step was the hardest step and after I'd made that step the pathway cleared for me. And so, all of those things that might be going in your round in your head about how will my friends judge me and, you know, how will I ever achieve the xyz things that alcohol brings me don't worry about those things now don't worry about them and make the first move do it boldly do it bravely look for the support that you might need and go for it oh Sarah you're, so inspiring that was amazing advice I'm grinning I know people that will be listening to this audio won't be able to see but I'm just like grinning because I just feel, so I just I don't feel, so inspired by your message thank you and is it, you know, it's lovely, you know, being in the the work that we do in we're, so lucky to be able to see each other and point each other out and celebrate each other and be inspired by each other, so that other people can see that happy place yeah yeah absolutely oh well thank you, so much Sarah this has been an amazing episode I really appreciate your time and I'm looking forward to kind of following your journey and seeing kind of where the sober path takes you lovely likewise thank you, so much it's been a real joy thank you all right bye.

Outro: Thank you, so much for tuning into this episode of Sober Yoga Girl with Alex McRobs. I am so,, 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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