In today's episode, Alex finally sits down with a longtime Instagram friend of hers, David Golding, aka @sobercoachdubai. David Golding is a British recovering alcoholic and gambling addict, who went on to work for The Priory Clinic in the UK – where he had been an inpatient – as a Peer Supporter in the Addiction Treatment Program. In 2022 he based himself out of Dubai and launched Sober Lifestyle Coaching in the Middle East. In this episode, David shares his story, the pivotal moments in his journey, and some of the different services and ways he works with people. Check out David's work at: https://sober.ae/
Hi, friend. This is Alex McRobbs, founder of The Mindful Life Practice, and you're listening to the Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world to the Middle East at age 23, and I never went back. I got sober in 2019, and I now live full-time in Bali, Indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking, start yoga, and change their lives through my online Sober Girls Yoga community. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl Podcast. I actually don't often film these episodes live in person because I'm often interviewing people that are around the world. But today I'm actually here in person with David Golding, who is Sober Coach, Dubai. I was going to be like, I'm here with Sober Coach, Dubai, but I'm here with David. And David moved to the UAE and started doing sober work right around the time that I was leaving and we somehow got connected. I think it might have been through Christiana. You're Christiana? Yes, I did. I think she told me about you and we got connected and I've just been following along with the work you do. I'm really looking forward to hearing more about your story today and how you ended up doing the work you're doing.
Bless you. It's a great honor to meet you, actually, because, again, you're somebody that comes into your life and you don't know them very well, but from afar you go, Gosh, they're really making a difference and they're doing things and I admire what you're doing and you're very nice and lovely about it. So yeah, it's lovely to see you finally.
Thank you so much. And so you were sharing before we started that you... Tell us a bit about your career before you ended up doing what you're doing now.
Yeah, okay. Pretty varied. I'm 58 now and I had five separate careers. I grew up, my father was an alcoholic, and I just remember that this isn't to blame him. He shaped me. Of course, our environments do shape us. But I do remember him being very angry and very violent man. I grew up being very intimidated, very scared and full of fear. That was part of my growing up fear. That was actually something that stayed with me all my life, fear. It took me a lifetime to figure it out, but that was always a thread. Fear and anxiety, not fitting in, not understanding who I was. But I found alcohol at 11 and I would go out drinking. Of course at that age, social anxiety, that would melt away. Give me three or four drinks and I could talk to girls and I thought I was funny. All of that went away and I just became a drinker all the way through. I also gamble from the age of seven. So where I grew up in the seaside in the UK, there was a place called the Pavilion and it had slot machines and video games and all that thing.
I would steal money at seven years old, spend my pocket money, go there after school, go at the weekends. So even as an early teenager, gambling and alcohol were a huge part of my life, and then they just carried on. I went to university and studied nuclear physics. I became a software engineer writing computer code for the British military. I then moved into banking. I lived in Switzerland and Sweden. I lived in the USA and I had a green card for a while. The truth was that I'm reasonably smart and I could work hard, but I'm that work-hard, play-hard guy. I was always a big drinker, always, always a big drinker. I recall around the age of 23 that I was still in control of my drinking. My very first job, my boss said very early on, only about three months in, David, you seem to have a lot of Mondays off. We're going to warn you now. If you keep having these Mondays off, we're going to kick you out. I remember thinking, Gosh, I can't lose my job. Then I just drank on Friday and Saturday nights. But of course, that was blowouts, Phil.
That was serious binge drinking. I didn't know that that even existed as a term. But that was my reward for not drinking the rest of the time, for working really hard. My reward always was to drink. There was really no other reward in life. It was work and drink, work and drink. That was pretty much it. There'd be relationships and I'd have a girlfriend and I would pick a girlfriend that was also a big drinker. My life was around the pub, all of my friends were drinkers and that was me. That persona at 22 was the same persona at 54. That just carried on. There was probably a significant change in my life. I got married and had some children, I got divorced and I started a business in 2007 that skyrocketed. In the next 10 years, the company turned over two billion. I had access to unlimited amounts of money pretty much. I was a multimillionaire. I say that because it's lots of people's dream to have enough money because money gives you choices. You can choose to do what you want to do. Yeah. The trouble is me, when I was doing what I wanted, oh, that's disruptive.
That's not great. I don't make good choices. By the time I'd been drinking for 30, 40 years and having found cocaine at the age of 42, now I was just indulging myself. Pretty much what I was trying to do was just mask the feelings that I always had, which I couldn't identify, I couldn't name, but the feelings were disconnection, isolation, fear, worry, generally not knowing who I was. So even though I'd functioned as an alcoholic in lots of different careers and been around the world, there was never really a time where I can look back and think David was happy. I didn't know who David was. I didn't know what the purpose was of life or what the hell I was doing or why. But I would get up and get on with it and work hard at work thinking, Well, if I work hard and I'm successful, then that surely would bring some happiness. But it never did. Because those things are fleeting and they're not worth self-worth, peace and serenity. Took me a lifetime to find that until I found recovery in 2019. Wow.
What's your sober date?
18th of September 2019. Okay, wow! That took 10 years of trying and failing and trying and failing. Now, I always really admire people that walk in off the streets who are alcoholics anonymous, they just walk off the street. Now I needed to go to rehab and also the people that might go to rehab and get it first time. That wasn't my journey, that wasn't me. I first went in 2009. I started my company in 2007. By 2009, I had Ferraris and money and I was blowing my brains in. That was the time I'd just got married six weeks before I'd got remarried and I'd realized that I was drinking way too much. I went to rehab. I didn't tell them that I was taking cocaine though. I think I could admit that I was drinking a bit too much. I think that's what I said when I arrived. David, why are you here? I think I drink a bit too much and I think I was hoping that they would teach me to drink like a gentleman. Interestingly, I since admitted this to the rehab. I actually volunteer there now as a peer supporter on the addiction treatment program.
But when I went back in 2014, I had to admit that my dealer would turn up at the rehab. While I was trying to get clean and sober, I was taking cocaine and I'd be staying up all night. Then I would crash. They actually thought I was suffering from bipolar because I was manic, because I was off my tits on cocaine. Then I was depressed and crashed because I hadn't slept for three days. They didn't know that. I kept it secret. They thought that I suffer from bipolar. That's, of course, the only clinical thing that I think that they could put the finger on. Well, I loved that. I loved having a diagnosis that I was bipolar. In happy days. That's what's go wrong with me. But I couldn't be honest and say, Actually, no, I'm taking loads of drugs while I'm in rehab. Yes, I was completely insane in that decade, really struggling to just to cope with life, becoming overwhelmed very often. For me, when I became overwhelmed, I would run away and I would run away into a bottle, a bag, and a behavior, alcohol, cocaine, and gambling. For me, they always came together.
I would never really buy cocaine during the day. I would get drunk and then it would be a great idea to buy some cocaine. Then when I'm up for three days, I would gamble all night and then get psychosis and then want to die. When I did that for 10 years.
What was your pivotal moment? What was it that led you? You said that you went to rehab the first time. How many times did you do rehab? Was it just two times?
Three times, and a couple of mistaken rehabs in between. I think I actually went to rehab about five times. But the three that I count were the three where I completed the 28 days. There were two other times when I just left. Wow.
Was that all in the UK? Yeah.
What do you think made the time in 2019 stick?
Yeah, okay, that's a great question because people ask me, What made the difference? Why did you get it then? I think in the early days I used to talk about surrender. There's this notion that we surrender. My interpretation of surrender, I call it dropping hands, because when you drop your hands, you drop your head. It's like an act of humility. I've surrendered to this. I think I tried to surrender. I tried to surrender before in 2009 and 2014 that I had a problem that I needed help. It was never a complete surrender. Okay, so why didn't I surrender before? It's probably the first question. I think it was based on two or three things, I think. Initially, I didn't identify with anybody else. In 2009, I'm a multimillionaire. There's people in the room next to me, and frankly, they're not the same as me. I'm very different. I'm extremely successful, intelligent, articulate, I'm pretty famous, and you're a bit of a loser. Even you take heroine. I would never take heroine. That arrogance, that massive ego, not identifying with that, and that was what held me back, probably for the first five years. The second time was after I tried to take my own life, and maybe we'll cover that later.
But that time I went back, and I think it was probably about pain. By then, I had experienced another five years of pain. I remember at that time, people would say, David, you're back again in five years. Five years is a long time to be lost in the madness with all the consequences. I tried to take my own life and got divorced again. I remember somebody saying to me, Have you not had enough pain yet? I remember thinking, Gosh, yes, I have. I have had enough pain. I really had enough pain. Let me tell you the pain that I experience every day is just awful to the point of trying to take my own life. I left in 2014 and was stayed clean and sober for about a year, but then fell off the wagon again. I realized then it wasn't pain. It wasn't pain that stopped me surrendering. So what was it? I think I finally figured it out. It was a lack of hope. It was hope that I finally got in 2019. The hope came from admitting that I'd had enough pain, admitting that I really was an alcoholic addict, admitting that I was the same as everybody else.
I wasn't better than anybody else, but actually finally admitting I'm allowed to get clean and sober. I'm worth it. I'm worthy of getting clean and sober. But actually, the people that I'm now looking at who are clean and sober, actually, I admire them. It's possible that these guys who did get clean and sober, Gosh, maybe that could be me. Could it really be me? After 10 years of failure, I think I finally said, Right, I'm done. I'm really done now. I can't carry on anymore. I'd accepted that David Golding, version 1 did not work. It just did not work. He was 54. He'd had two divorces. He'd nearly died four times. And all the paraphernalia and money, that was nonsense. Here was a man that was utterly broken and I wanted to know how to rebuild myself. I wanted to know what was wrong with me in terms of character, and I wanted to build a new David. I knew that if I didn't do that, I was absolutely a dead man. But the thing is, I wanted to live. I did know that. I did want to live and I did want to be a better human being.
I think I wanted to finally find a place where I might wake up in the morning and be content and realize that when life throws things at me, I won't get overwhelmed. Life isn't fantastic every day, and I say, Now, most of the time I'm mostly okay. Well, I don't think that's bad for somebody who wanted to die. I have a pretty amazing life. I'm extremely grateful. My wife is back with me. She's amazing. I'd be dead again if it wasn't for Christina. My children are back with me. Everything is wonderful. But I think this is a very long answer, but the point was I didn't have hope. I didn't think that it was possible for somebody like me. Until finally, I thought maybe it is possible. I think when we work with clients and when people look at their own lives, the first thing is to look at yourself and understand the consequences that are going on. Maybe you've had enough of the consequences, maybe you have had enough of the pain, but what might hold you back is thinking that you can do it, and actually, you can. Everyone can. Took me 10 years to find that out.
I love that answer because when I was around 100 days sober, I had an opportunity to... I met one of my idols and recovery. His name is Ralph Gates, and he wrote a book about yoga in his sober journey. But anyway, I was on a training with him, and I had to write a talk about something I'd learned in the last 100 days, and I couldn't figure out what to come up with, and I ended up going with this theme of believing in your potential. I talked about how people always say, How did I maintain my sobriety that time after so many years of thinking about it and saying I'm going to stop and then going back? It really was... It's like another thing, like hope. It's believing in my potential and seeing that potential beyond that present moment.
Completely. There's probably one other thing for me that got me into the rehab, and I know what that was. That was an emotion. This isn't part of everybody's journey. I think the common things of most people's journey, I think, are looking at the consequences and having hope. Have you had enough pain is their hope. But for me, why did I end up going back in 2019? Well, there was an incident, and I don't mind sharing that incident, which was that I'd split up from my wife, my lovely wife that I'm married to. Basically, I'd picked arguments with her on purpose so that I could leave, so that I could carry on drinking and drugging because it had come to a crescendo. It was all out in the open and I made her very ill. I'd picked an argument. I'd moved out, I'd rented a house. It was empty. There was nothing in this house and I'd moved into it. I remember thinking, What on earth have I done? I'm 54, I'm in a bloody empty house. I'm not with the woman that I absolutely adore and I did, but I just couldn't cope with life.
I called my sons, and my sons at the time were about 18 and 22, and I called them round and said, Boys, can you come round? I don't want to be on my own. It was a Saturday night, and my sons came round and, Well, that's a party now, isn't it? For me to feel better about the situation I'm in, I think I want to have a party. That's the only way I can cope with the horrific feelings I've got of the loneliness, the isolation. I've done it to myself again. I bought a load of booze. The boys had a couple of drinks, but I was really getting smashed. Wine was my thing. I was probably two or three bottles of wine in. Then I had the genius idea of buying analytic cocaine. I called a dealer, got 10 grams of cocaine, and then this is the moment. I went into the kitchen and I racked up a load of lines of cocaine. I called my sons in and they were horrified and I said, You will not be a man unless you know how to take cocaine. Let me show you. That gets me upset because the emotion is disgust for me.
I think of all the other things that had ever happened to me, I don't think I was ever quite disgusted with myself to that level. My son's left and I thought, Oh, my God, what have I done? I actually went into the garden to hang myself. I thought and I heard a voice and it just said, Don't do this. You've got two lovely sons. What are you doing? I called the rehab the next day and said, I need to come in and I need to come in tomorrow. Now, this is the rehab that I've been to twice before. I turned up and a lovely lady called Jill said, David, you're back again. What do you want? What do you want of this day, this time thing? She wasn't rude, but what you want? I said, I want peace. You know the fantastic thing about that rehab, and that's why I volunteer and I always will, they didn't say, get out. They didn't say, you're a failure. They didn't say, you've tried and failed for 10 years, so we give up on you. They never gave up on me. They were right not to because I got it.
I knew then what I needed to do. I had enough pain. I was utterly disgusted with myself. It wasn't that I hadn't caused enough pain for my wife, gosh, I really had, and all the other impacts. But I think just for me, racking up lines of cocaine and trying to tell my sons to take it because somehow you'll be a man, it's completely twisted, thinking very, very ill, thinking I was very ill. That for me was the springboard then. And turning up and seeing people that were getting well. Actually, there was a gentleman there called Stuart who was a peer supporter. I met him. He was in there with me five years before, and he was the guy that I looked up to and I thought, Bloody hell, you got that. Remember I said at the beginning about people that get it first time? No, I didn't. Why have you got it? And I have not. I asked him that. He said, Because I listened and I did what I was told. I went, Okay, I'm done. I'm done. Whatever you tell me, I will do. And I did, and I still do. I still do today.
There's things in my locker that keep me on the straight and narrow, and I do those every day because we say yesterday's shower won't keep me clean today. The things I did yesterday, they're not going to last. I need to do them today. They're not massive things. They're things like, Why don't you just be nice to people? Why don't you be kind? Why don't you be humble? I get on my knees and pray and I do things for people and I volunteer and all those wholesome things that I never did for 54 years. I never did any of those things. But now I see the value in them and continue to work in recovery and working with other men that need help in recovery. That, for me, is amazing to be able to work in a field where you see people get well. Gosh, it's unbelievable. It brings me to tears really often and tears of joy. I don't think I understood what tears of joy were. My wife laughs at me sometimes, actually, because you know the phrase jump for joy? Yeah, I do that. I actually jump up and down and people think, Oh, my God, look at him again.
My children go, Stop it. Now I'm jumping for joy because I want to.
I love that. Wow! I just want to thank you so much for sharing such a vulnerable story like that. That just made me so emotional. I think for a lot of people, there's so much shame wrapped up in those types of stories, and so you don't hear them and they don't share them. And then people who have had an experience like that feel very alone. I know a lot of the people that I work with are mothers and have a lot of guilt over what I've done to my kids, how it impacted my kids. I think by hearing your story, if anyone's listening who has that guilt, they can hear like we've all had these moments. Actually, that's a good question for you. How do you reconcile that? Have you talked about that with your sons? Have you moved through that? What was.
That like? Yeah, of course. Yeah, absolutely. Part of my recovery journey, and we do that with clients as well, and I recommend it for everyone, there's two concepts. Well, the first concept is about clearing the wreckage of the past. We tackle all those things, and that's tough. That's about getting honest and that's about looking at the things we did, the things we said, and sometimes the things we didn't do. For example, there were so many times I didn't turn up, turn up to things for the children. Now look, I can sit here and beat myself up forever. That's not going to do any good. But I'm not also not going to write it off. Now, the things that I did, I own, I, and I accept. How do I reconcile that? I was very ill. I was extremely ill. I was a full-blown addict. I know that when I take drugs, my brain chemistry changes. I can tell you that I did things when I was high on drink or drugs that I wouldn't do sober. But I still wasn't there. I still wasn't a good father. He was there and in the moment and mindful.
You're right, I've sat down with my sons many times and talked about it. I talked about the honest truth about how I feel about that. If you're a 12-step advocate, it's step nine. It's about making amends. Because sorry and thank you actions, they're not words. You've got to do things. I spoke to my children about that and spoke to them. But there's another aspect of that, which is looking back at the person that I was and accepting that I did those things, but reconciling that that was then. I'm not that man now. We say there's all sorts of phrases that I've got, which is look back, don't stare, don't forget. Because I tell you another reason I don't want to forget. Somebody I know quite famous said, I hope I never get too well that I forget, because then I'm in trouble and I know what he means. If I dance out of here thinking, That's me. I've got addiction licked. I'm no longer an addict. Well, where the hell am I going to go with that? That puts me at great risk. Now, I'm actually quite happy to accept some fundamental truths. Alcohol is not my friend.
It just isn't. If I have one, I'll have a thousand and then I'll die. That's in there because I've got the memories. But I also, Alex, I will not carry around yesterday like a ball and chain around my foot. That is not going to help me, so I've got to find a way to forgive myself. Forgiveness, the word that we do about forgiveness is really important. Really important. You're talking about mothers that feel that they've shameful things or things that they're guilty of. I do some work with that, the way that we talk about the difference between shame and guilt. I'm guilty of doing some things, but I'm not a bad person, I'm almost poorly. I hope this comes across okay. People might not like it, but I joke sometimes and say, Look, if you gave Mother Teresa 10 grams of Coke, she's not going to be Mother Teresa anymore. She's just not. Sometimes give yourself a break. If you were pissed and you said and did something, own it, don't minimize it, and don't just say sorry and walk off. No, we've got to own it, but actually accept that that's some of the things that you did.
They were part of yesterday. I don't give a shit about yesterday, I really don't. Because my yesterday, I didn't upset anyone. I didn't cause any chaos. I tried to be the best person I could be. Today, I can walk the earth a free man today. There are no alcohol handcuffs. I don't have to apologize to anybody for anything that I said or did. If I mistakenly say or do something, I'll apologize straight away and mean it, by the way, because I don't want to live like that. I don't ever want to go to sleep at night on an argument or feel that I've let somebody down. I just don't want to live by those principles. I've got better principles now. That, for me, is where the peace and the happiness comes from. The happiness is fleeting, but peace and serenity, they're with you. They can be with you a lot of the time often in your core. I think you all understand that. That's probably what you teach and what you speak about. The principles of being at peace and finding that place where you're really okay with yourself, and then it means you're probably going to be okay with everything else.
I think you've got to love yourself somehow.
Wow, you are such an inspiring person. Really. I hadn't heard you speak before. We've just had this digital friendship, and I'm commenting back and forth, and I'm just blown away by you right now. What you've been through and how you overcome it and who you are today, it's just so inspiring.
Bless you. Thank you, and the same thought, but isn't that a good advert for why online social connection is not human connection? We've got loads of relationship.
Fundamental, real relationship. Even down to the brain chemistry, I will skip out of here. My oxytocin will be flooding my brain and I feel better. I've had a lovely time. I've gotten to know somebody a lot better and I feel great. I don't get that from a text message.
It's so true.
You've got to be around human beings. Now, the difficulty with that is if you're somebody who struggles being around human beings. And that was me. I was scared. I didn't know how to come across. I spent 54 years scared, genuinely scared. And so you can see that in my recovery, I had to work on lots and lots of different things. By the way, they weren't difficult. They're not hard concepts to get around. We end up changing our thinking. But the truth is takes and practice. Really takes on practice. Same as anything. I like to talk a lot about how we form habits because I think fundamentally at the root of addiction is all about the way that the brain forms habits and what we do. People have a