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Sober Yoga Girl: Dry AF Talks with Ben Pavliha

Updated: Aug 30, 2023


Hi, friend. This is Alex McRobs, 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. All right. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl Podcast. I am really looking forward to be sitting down today with Ben Pavliha. And Ben and I met a few days ago, but it feels like it was a long time ago because in that time we met in person in Dubai. We recorded live episode for Ben's show, which is Benz Dry AF Talks. And then since then, I have flown to Toronto. I spent a day in Amsterdam. It's been five days, but it feels like a while. I really enjoyed being on Benz's show. He's also a sober coach and he's located in Dubai.

So I thought it would be cool to have him on my show and hear about his sober journey and how he got to where he is today. Welcome, Ben. How are you?

Thank you so much, Alex, for having me. Indeed, Sunday feels like ages ago when we met, even though it's four days ago. But I did also really enjoy having our conversation on Sunday and getting to know you a bit better. I think you have a fascinating story. Yeah, I'm just super grateful for you to be having me on your show as well now. So looking forward to this.

And how long have you been sober for?

I have quit drinking in October 2020. So it's roughly two years and a half right now. Amazing. And yeah, never looked back since that day. Still, so far, the best decision I have made so far in my life. I feel like maybe until I will start having kids or something more important than that, it will still be the most important decision. But until that time, I think it will stay like that. I love that.

I love that because I don't think I've ever met someone who's like, I regret quitting drinking. I really wish I were still drinking right now. Everyone's like, It's the best decision I've ever made.

True. By the way, how old were you when you stopped drinking?

How old was I? I was 27.

Okay, so we stopped at a very similar age. I was 26.

Oh, wow. Are we the same age? No, you're two years younger than me then.

Yeah. So I'm going to turn 29 in July in one month.

Okay, cool. I'm 31, so two years younger.

Yeah. I feel like on average, it's still quite a young age to quit drinking. I actually get that a lot because a lot of people, when I tell them that I'm only 28, soon to be 29 and that I quit drinking when I was 26, they're all a bit shocked in a sense that, Oh, don't you feel like you're missing out on life right now because you have quit alcohol at such an early stage. But to be honest, I think in those 10 years that I was drinking, I was drinking so heavily and I have gone to so many different parties and so many wasted nights, so many hungover days that I don't feel like I have to explore more when it comes to alcohol. So I don't feel like I'm missing out. And I assume you feel the same.

Yeah, but I'm wondering, the people who say you must be missing out, those must be people that still drink, right?

Yeah, 100%. Of course.



I meet people in sober Facebook groups and I say that I'm sober and I'm like, 30, those people are always like, Wow, I wish I quit drinking when I was your age.

Yes. Actually, my dad wasn't an alcoholic as well. He stopped drinking when he was 55. So that was three years before me. And he also said to me when I decided to stop drinking that, Gosh, I wish I would have done what you have done at 26 when I was 26. So yeah, I think we've made the right decision.

Yeah, I think so too. So tell me more about your childhood growing up. What was that like growing up with a dad with a drinking problem?

Yeah, it's a good question because if you would have asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would just straight tell you that I had a perfect childhood. No childhood trauma. Everything was perfect. Everything was amazing. My parents were great. But actually, since I stopped drinking, Itried to go to a doctor. I also started to attend therapy. That was after I actually stopped. Then I realized that a lot of the patterns that I had and that I still have that were then seen in the way I was drinking were actually from my dad, of course. So my dad, when I was growing up, he was absent quite a lot because he was a successful lawyer. Then when he went into corporate law in a very successful business firm back in Slovenia. So he was traveling all the time. And part of his job was also drinking because of all the networking events and business lunches, business dinners. So it was that aspect. And the second aspect is also the fact that my dad was my hero. So I was really looking up to him. So when I would see him coming home late nights in his suit, grabbing a drink, his favorite drink was Jack Daniels with Ice, to me, that seemed like a proper true man.

So when I was growing up, I think I got this idea of what it is to be a true man from him. And then he also went to politics. The drinking in politics went even further. So the pattern that I received from him was definitely not the best one when it comes to drinking. And I was also overly attached to my mom, of course, so I was a proper mama's boy. I still am, of course, but hopefully in a lesser manner than I was in the past. So when I came to my teenage years, I think I was drunk for the first time when I was 15. This is when the patterns from, let's say, my dad came out. And also this is when I started to rebel against the fact that I was so attached to my mom, because obviously when you're a 15, 16-year-old guy, you want to be seen as a macho guy, not some little shy kid, which I was, that's super over the attached to his mom. So in those teenage years, alcohol gave me everything that I didn't have. It gave me confidence, gave me the ability to be super social, to not be shy anymore, to talk to girls, to be loud, to actually be someone, to be able to play guitar and sing better, which I was trying to do, at least in my head.

And so that was basically the start of my journey.

And how did your drinking increase over time?

At the beginning, it was a weekend thing, but it was almost every weekend, to be honest, from the get-go. I started drinking with my two best friends, and they're still very good friends of mine right now. We formed the band together, and this is when we started to hang out. On a weekly basis, we would have band practices, and then every weekend we would normally go out. From the get-go, we were drinking quite heavily. So part of that was also the fact that we were producing our homemade wine at home. I had free access to unlimited wine since early age. In my teenage years, high school, it was normally once per week during the weekend, but we would get drunk. We would never drink for the days. We would never drink to just have a couple of drinks and enjoy ourselves. It would almost normally go to a certain blackout. Maybe there was a blackout for two hours or it was a blackout that we would be drinking, and then the next day you would just wake up in your bed. That was the start of it. Then in university, I moved out of my parents' place for the first time when I was 19.

You can imagine that the first couple of years were just terrible because of the fact that I didn't have any rules. The week and the drinking started expanding to, I would say at least three to five times per week. At that period, we were also experimenting with some other substances and other drugs, not just alcohol. Then at age 21, I decided to make a change. My way of running away from myself, seeking for help, was to move to another country. I moved to UK, which in hindsight was not the best decision. I'm sure you've been to UK plenty of times. They have a massive, massive drinking culture. I moved to UK when I was 21, and actually that was the start of my, let's say, a broad experience because after that I moved to the Netherlands, to Poland, to Italy, and of course lastly to Dubai, but that was already when I was sober. But looking to my past experience, I feel like I was always running away from myself and running away from everyone else because I just couldn't face my inner demons and I couldn't face with the fact that I actually had a problem with alcohol.

But yeah, long story short, after the student years, I got my first real proper job. I had a few student jobs before that in Slovenia, but I got my first proper corporate jobs in Amsterdam, working for Philips in marketing. They're a huge company, a worldwide company, but obviously coming from the Netherlands, they had a huge, massive headquarters. This is when I finally thought to myself, Okay, I'm not a student anymore, so it's time to get serious. I'm finally going to be earning some money, so I assume my behavior is going to change. But the complete opposite thing actually happened. So my drinking worsened even more. I would say this is actually the period living in Amsterdam for one year where my drinking got to a very dark place where I started lying about my drinking. Before I would need to go out with my friends, I would drink a couple of beers before going out. When I would go home because everyone, let's say we left the party at 3:00 AM, I would come home and still drink by myself. The next day I would wake up hungover. I would start with the beer just to get over the hangover.

So all of these things like drinking by myself, drinking the next day while hungover, sometimes before work, got to a very dark place in Amsterdam. Sorry, there was a lot of information here. I tried to be short, but yeah. No, I.

Love it. I was just thinking, as you were sharing that you were moving to all these places and you were running away from yourself and the fact that you had a problem, I was blown away by the fact that you've had this insight and self-reflection at such a young age. I didn't know that you were two years younger than me, and I just feel like the insights and self-reflection and then the changes that you've made, it's very inspiring and amazing for being so young and then also... I don't want to be a generalized man, but.

I'm just trying to feel.

It's just like a real depth of self-reflection to be a young guy.

So that's pretty interesting. Yeah. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Actually, funny enough, I get that a lot actually, and mostly from the opposite sex actually. I feel like I was almost forced into this in a way, because when I decided to stop drinking, I didn't... There was not any other solution for me. It was either I continue like that and I lose everything that I have and potentially drown myself into that or I stop drinking. I'm actually now thinking back, I'm super blessed that I had this experience.

Yeah. So tell me about what was the leading up to that decision to quit drinking to get sober? Yeah.

So to paint you a picture before the actual last event, in those 10 years of my drinking, I had... And besides these moments in Amsterdam when my drinking got really dark, I had a lot of painful moments when it came to disappointing my family, my friends, my partners, disappointing myself, self-sabotaging on every specter, also having some problems with police, having a lot of car accidents because of my drinking. There was a lot of pain associated throughout these years. When I was in Amsterdam, it was the first time that I realized that I actually have a problem with alcohol. It was the first time that I was also thinking about going to an AA meeting in Amsterdam, but I was too scared, so I didn't go in the end. That time when I was living in Amsterdam, my best friend, who is four years older than me, he actually stopped drinking. He had a similar problem like me, but let's say slightly less severe. He stopped drinking mainly because he was preparing for Iron Man, and then he just turned that into a lifestyle. So it was February 2020 when I moved to London because I just got a new job.

So again, I was running away from Amsterdam because Amsterdam was the problem, not me. I go to London in February 2020. Obviously, we all know what happened in March 2020. The COVID pandemic happened. So after two weeks of living in London, I got fired and I moved back to Slovenia to my hometown after eight years. So I moved back with my parents. So that was quite a shocking event. I had one choice or let's say two choices. One choice was, Okay, I don't have a job. It's pointless for me to actually try to find a new job right now because it's COVID. No one's going to hire me. I can actually drink every day right now with my friends and have fun. Then the second choice was something that I did. It was commitment to myself that I will stay sober until I find a new job. This is what I did. It took me 88 days, so almost three months to successfully find a new job with Dyson, at which I'm working right now. During that time, I was hanging out with my best friend who was also sober. Our bond was super, super strong.

So after three months, I find my new job. I had one month and a half of free time until I actually started with my new job in Milano in Italy. So for one month and a half, of course, what what I did was I drank almost every day. So this is when I could see the difference between being sober almost three months and then drinking super, super heavily for one month and a half. And during this period, my relationship with my best friend completely died, let's say, because we would make plans and the next day I would be hungover and I would just tell him basically to fuck off in a polite way. One day he just stopped talking with me and I was super, super shocked. After one week, he called me and he told me that if I continue with this behavior, he will not hang out with me anymore. And slowly but surely we will completely drift apart. And yeah, he will not be my friend anymore. And he caught me in the perfect moment, I guess, because I was feeling so down and I guess I needed to hear that because maybe in some other moment, I would just tell him to fuck off.

But in that moment, the thought of not having my best friend in my life anymore because of this tractively packaged poison that we were drinking, it was just mind-blowing. So this is when I decided to actually make a massive change. Again, I will really try to be short and concise here, but after that, I moved to Milan. I started my new job. No, I didn't decide to quit drinking yet. I said to myself, Okay, let me try to control drinking. This is what I successfully did. For two months, I could only have one drink, two drinks, and everything went well. My best friend was actually proud of me. He said, Man, good for you. If you can do that, that's great because you're not hurting yourself. You're not hurting everyone else. It's okay. You can have one or two drinks. Then after two months of being in Milano, living in Milano, I got completely, completely wasted. It was in the middle of a week. The next day I wake up and I tell to myself, Okay, that's it. I will never beat this demon inside of me. No way. That was the last time I have touched alcohol in my life.

It was October 2020 in Milan or in Italy. And yeah, I never looked back.

Wow! Congratulations. That's pretty interesting to me, your way that you… The fact that you were able to be sober for those 88 days leading up to getting a job and then going back to drinking and then being able to control your drinking. It's interesting to me because I don't think I ever could have done either of those things, like stopped myself for 88 days with a certain goal in mind or controlled it by just saying I'm going to have one drink a day or.


It was. So it's interesting to me that you were able to quit for that period of time and then manage it for that period of time. But I guess it shows that always that idea of moderation. I guess it works for some people, but you can maintain it for a certain amount of time and then there could be just one thing that sets it back.

Yeah. You know what's interesting is that this was actually the third time in my life that I've done alcohol-free challenge period. So the first two times were, I think both 45 days and 50 days were the first year of my university and the second year of my university because that were the 45 days that I was like, Okay, I have to get my shit together. I have to study for the exams. I knew if I touch alcohol, I would ruin everything. But I do feel like in this period, it was not that hard for me because I knew that I would come back to alcohol. So the idea of me not having alcohol ever again in my life, that was such a scary thing that I could have never imagined. And also during all these three alcohol-free periods, I was not hanging out. I was not so much besides my best friend. I was not going out and socializing. I was not going out on dates because I was super scared of that. I could have never done this without alcohol, sorry. So I think that that was a difference. I know you mentioned in the podcast that we did previously that you went on a 28-day alcohol-free challenge and then you actually extended it.

So before that, you never had any other alcohol-free challenges?

Never. I could never, ever do it. I remember people would do dry January or sober October, and I would be like, How are you doing that? I could never… The only time I can remember being sober for an extended period of time was honestly, when I was a teenager and I would go to summer camp for a month or something. I remember I didn't drink. There was one month I didn't drink when I was 17. That was one time. Because I remember I went on this school trip to West Africa to Benin. The summer before I had gone to Italy. And in the Italy trip, it was not with my school. And it was a school trip, but it was this company and I knew that I could party and it would be fine. They wouldn't do anything. But my school was really strict on alcohol consumption. And if you were caught drinking, you would lose all of your extracurricular roles, which were really important to me because I was the editor of the newspaper. I like singing in the choir. And so it was so important to me that I was like, I'm going to be sober this entire time.

And so it was like, I think I was in Africa for five weeks. I'm pretty sure people were drinking, but secretly, and I could have. I was living with this host family and they would offer me shots of alcohol and I would always just be like, No, because that mattered to me more than the idea of drinking. But even when I talked about having a drinking problem, people that are in yoga were like, How did you be sober on a yoga teacher training? Because most yoga teacher trainings, if you're going to a traditional yoga teacher training, nowadays I see alcohol on trainings and I'm like, Okay, I don't know what's going on there. But the ones that I've been on, you have to be sober. You sign an agreement, I'm going to be sober the whole month. But I drank. I drank on every yoga teacher training I went on. I would go on my days off. I knew the right people that wouldn't wrap me out. And at that point, I felt like I'm an adult. I've paid to be here. I wasn't drinking every night, but it would be like I would look forward to my days off where I would drink.

And so I don't think I ever had more than a week. And I remember a couple of weeks of my life when I was sober, a couple of weeks. I went to Kuwait and my first week in Kuwait, I didn't drink just one week. And then my first week in the UAE, I didn't drink either because literally seven days. And then I found the bottle shop.

By the way, because I never asked you this question, were you ever drinking, like some people say, drinking for the taste or just for having a drink or two? Or were you always drinking to get a buzz and actually to get a bit drunk?

There might have been time... I might have been a time when I had one beer, but not often. There were the times toward the end of my drinking when I would go... I taught yoga in this gym in Abu Dhabi where there was a pub upstairs. And I remember we would go for a beer after my yoga glasses or after working out at the gym. And I think sometimes I might have one beer, but I don't think... I mean, maybe I said I was drinking to the taste, but I'm pretty sure I would go home and drink at home alone after. I think I was drinking to be drunk. I was drinking to be buzzed. I was drinking to be drunk. I definitely didn't often blackout. I did blackout sometimes, but I would just drink enough to get really drunk, but I usually could get myself home safely. I don't think I ever got to an extreme of really dangerous situations. And it might have been my tolerance level of alcohol because it was pretty high by the end of my drinking, for sure.

Yeah. And I also, when I'm discussing with different people about this, specifically with blackouts, maybe there is also a genetic predisposition to that as well. But I don't have any scientific evidence for that.

Yeah, because there's definitely people that were more susceptible to it. I remember there were like, there was one friend in high school who was always just like, she was just always completely out of it. There was one girl I worked with in Kuwait who I remember we would just like, she would come along and you would just look over and she would be asleep on the wall. What's going on? I'm like, That would never happen to me. There's definitely certain people who I don't think they were drinking anymore than others. It's just their body or brain or whatever.

Yeah. I mean, we all have an allergy to alcohol, right? It's just the severity of the allergy is different for everyone, I guess.

Absolutely. Okay, so October 2020, you decide to quit drinking. Were you part of the 12th step? What did you use as your resources for sobriety?

No, I was not part of the 12th step. So as mentioned before, the only time I was considering going to an AA meeting was when I was living in Amsterdam. But yeah, October 2020, I'm living in Milano. And what I did actually just before that, I actually read a book called The Easy Way to stop drinking by Alan Karr. You read it?


Okay, nice. Actually, he got famous for his book The Easy Way to stop smoking. I was a bit doubtful about this book, to be honest, but I was like, Fuck it. It can't hurt. And to be fair, what I've read in this book made so much sense, and it just confirmed the fact that I truly want to stop drinking. But it also gave me faith that I can actually live without alcohol afterwards. Because I was super fearful and insecure about living without alcohol. Because for me, actually, quitting alcohol in that moment was super easy compared to all the things that I had to go through afterwards because of the fact that I had to rebuild my whole life because everything before that I was doing with alcohol. So everything besides work and going to the gym and working out, all the social aspects of my life and all the moments where I was feeling stressed or I couldn't deal with my own emotions, I was managing that with alcohol. Let's say I was hanging out with friends, I was drinking. I went on a date, I was drinking. I came home from work and I was stressed, I was drinking.

I was feeling lonely and sad, I was drinking. I was feeling happy I was drinking. I felt like a little kid when I stopped drinking alcohol because I was like, Oh, wow, I'm 26 years old and I don't know how to control and manage my emotions. I didn't know what to do. So it was a process of opening up, I have to say. I'm super lucky in that sense that I was able to discuss this with my father, who stopped drinking three years before me. So when I stopped drinking as well, we really bonded over that. So he was sharing with me his experience. I was sharing my own experience. Then I was sharing my struggles with my best friend, who was one of the main reasons that I actually stopped drinking. And then it was like a positive domino effect. My other best friend, he stopped drinking around two months after me because he just saw that it had such a positive effect on me and he had similar struggles. So it's not a coincidence that my two best friends and my dad, we were all alcoholics. But I'm super proud to say that we, all four of us, we still do not drink and we see that as a lifelong commitment.

So I would say to anyone also who will be listening to this, having a support group around you and having like-minded people that you can share about your emotions, your fears, your insecurities, saying that, Oh, my God, I'm going to meet this girl tonight and I'm sober and I'm super, super scared. Even though I should be this macho man, but I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I always did it drunk. It's like I'm going on a first date in my life. It's like I'm 17 again. So being able to be vulnerable and share that with other people, it was probably the key to my recovery and still the key to being alcohol-free these days. So yeah, that would be a short answer.