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The Person to Thank is Who You Were on Day 1 with Phil Jordan

May 1 2021

Phil Jordan is a sober coach in the UK, that Alex met on One Year No Beer. In this episode Phil dives into his 25 years working in the health and social care sector in the UK, and how he came to the realization that he was very good at giving out the appropriate health advice, but not necessarily living to those core principles. Now approaching two years without alcohol, he has been through an amazing transformation which has led him to training as a Transformational Life Coach, providing support for health and social care professionals who feel stressed and overwhelmed to explore what is holding them back from living a truly happy and fulfilling life. To learn more about coaching with Phil, he can can be found at

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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 Phil Jordan with me on today's episode. And Phil is based in the U.K. He previously worked in the health sector and now he's a sober coach. So, welcome, Phil..

Phil: Welcome. And it's great to be here. Thank you.

Alex: So, why don't we get started? We can dive right in and we'll start off with you just kind of giving me a bit of background on you and your life. So, kind of who you are, where you're from and I don't know, maybe your job background.

Phil: Sure. Okay. Well, I'm from the Northwest of England in a place called Warrington, which is right and center of in between Liverpool and Manchester. So, it kind of a bit of an overspill of both areas. So, you get people with Scots accents, as they say, and Manc accents, So, it's quite a mix. So, I'm 49. I work predominantly in the health and social care sector. So, working in the NHS, first off started to volunteering in homeless shelters, and then worked in probation, helping people access education, training and stuff like that. And then, I started working in prisons doing the same thing. And around that time in 1998, the British government brought out a huge ten year drug strategy, and I was just in the right place at the right time to move over into the drug and alcohol field. So, very often working with offenders who are trying to get career grades up and go in. Drugs and alcohol is a big factor and barriers to them. So, it was good timing on my part, that I was just about at the time because we brought in a lot of investment, but we just didn't have the manpower to actually work with people and traditionally produce nurses and social workers. And so, I joked that at the time, the complications from drugs work was the ability to help Japan the right way round, which was probably slightly more than that, because I've seen it work with people, but it was all just working with people and their issues, really. So, that kind of set me off on a path that I hadn't really expected. And then, from working in prisons, I finally got released myself in about 2005 working with community did the same thing. So, I had morphed from being a practitioner into the management side and strategic side of managing practitioners, essentially, who worked with people with alcohol problems, and just didn't trust me when I was thinking about this before, it kind of made me reflect that at the time when the drug strategy came out, it was literally all about drugs and harm of drugs. And at the time, alcohol didn't really have a strategy. It didn't really have funding. And any funding that was available was literally for people with chronic conditions, for people who needed medical interventions, needed detoxes. And I do remember a time of sending people away who didn't really have much of an alcohol problem. You know, it was kind of, it's not really a problem because, you're not that really, really well.

Alex: Right.

Phil: And so, when I think back now to obviously where we are nowadays, things have changed and there is a lot more in place. But it just shows that only 20 years ago, unless you had a real problem, you didn't have a problem. That was quite interesting. And I think when I start reflecting on my own journey, and when I reflect on the culture, I'm sure it's the same in other countries, but particularly in this country, unless you're falling down or you're, you know, you start to bleed or you're really, really well, it wasn't really being that way. So, that was quite an interesting reflection. So, I guess that's been the background is really helping people, helping other individuals, rather directly as a practitioner or from a management point of view. So, I've always been in this field of working with people, which I'm sure will go into more detail a bit later on, but kind of alSo, made me reflect on the barriers to professionals who may experience, some people who work in the health and social care sector. And when I say that, I broaden it out to people at the fire service, and the police, and, you know, people who generally care for people, the barriers in the statements that are alSo, faced and I think I've experienced when, you know, get a fixer. And it's slightly more challenging, and slightly more strictly involved in actually identifying, and then seeking help. I remember when I managed an alcohol service locally in the 10 years that I managed that service, there was only one nurse who actually came through the service with an alcohol problem. And I think it was quite telling. I don't know what the stats are on this, but, you know, when we talk about GPs and, you know, a high proportion of alcohol misuse, if you like within certain high stressed professions. But I'm totally certain that didn't reflect in, and he was walking through the door as well.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: So, that's kind of my knowledge base, if you like, in my experience from working with people in criminal justice, really. And then, and morphing into the way that it was sort of funded in this new way forward of trying to treat people more from a health point, if even just their criminality.

Alex: You know, I think you're So, right on something there about like, the stigma of helper's receiving help. There's like some idea that the healers need to already be healed. And I know, like, I faced it myself as a teacher, just this real fear of what is gonna happen if the parents of my students come across this, and I just hit the point where I'm like, I just have to accept that they're going to, and I hope that they don't judge me. But I totally can relate to why people would be So, afraid.

Phil: Yeah, and completely. And I have two significant things for me when I worked in prisons. I didn't realize how institutionalized I was into prison life. And then, when I started working in the community, one of the first things I ask people is who's got keys to the place? What's the locking up decision? You know, I was very much ingrained that way and it kind of is the same with thinking about someone who's a nurse, who's having to admit to a problem, that there's So, many layers to this thing because your identity is as a carer. So, it's almost your own internal barriers that say, I should be all right because I'm the professional and this is the patient. So, I'm all right. You're not. All right?

Alex: Right.

Phil: So, there's that. But then there's also, I mean, my experience of being a manager in H.R. is that people are afraid to go to H.R. to say, you know, they've got policies, don't get around great policies that say that encourage, that will support you in things. But there's just still this stigma around how that would look and, you know, how you'd be viewed by your colleagues. And then, can you imagine being in their shoes then having to sit through an assessment with a nurse?

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: You know, just all these things that, but I think it actually starts with the notion that say, a mental health worker with ideas about mental health problem, you know, and it's really hard, and the other thing that I learned that came to me when I joined one of the amazing, ... alcohol support groups, which I think you met once or twice. I realized after a few months that I was talking like a professional. I was there for help, and I was talking like a professional. And I was giving out this advice, and I almost like putting stuff on the back of my knowledge and understanding and knowing what people should be doing. And I really had to, as opposed to the clarity of getting up to about 50 or 60 days, I had to really realize that actually I'm here and I'm one of you. I'm part of this. And I almost had to strip away the ego of being a professional. It was great because it was really freeing. And I just didn't know that that's what I was doing when I first started it. So, again, that institutionalized thinking of being professional is actually really patronizing and really noble, you know, and really kind of, no doubt, the stuff I was saying is the right stuff because it's training, but at the same time, if it was me receiving that from something, I'd be almost thinking like you just think you are.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: So, it's been, so, that kind of things was really good in the sense of knowing you're trying to really acknowledge you've got an issue yourself or a problem yourself. And in my experience, it goes from a minimalized kind of view of the problem. Yeah, I need to probably do something about this. I need to be a bit more healthy. I need all the things, a nice, safe ways of introducing yourself into addressing the problem, to actually realizing that actually, everyone in this group who speaks for me and then speaking about me, as well. So, that was quite a powerful realization for me. I'm totally free and as well. Get that ego out of the way. It's really good.

Alex: So, tell me more about, let's go into like, your story with drinking. When did you start and like what influenced your drinking?

Phil: Well, again, it sounds like a story that's been told many times before about upbringing, really. My parents, interestingly, they never drink in the house unless people come around and then they write hosts. And they used to joke we would go into the garage where they just got out of being useless with the arrived drinks when I was drinking. Just wouldn't have been there. But we have to check the cell by day and drinks, because they just have them and just never touch them.

Alex: Wow.

Phil: You know, honestly, I mean, bottles and bottles of red, and if I could go back three years, I got to be there and pilfered the lot.

Alex: I always think about people like that. When I go to people's houses and they have like, so many bottles of alcohol and I'm just like, Who are you? For me, it was like my bottle would be empty. You know, I would be on the next one. I'm like, how do you have a shelf full of bottles? But anyway.

Phil: I dread to think how long I may have stayed up because I was a binge drink, and I could just keep going and going and going, so that I would have met my match with my parents... So, yes, they weren't really an influence on my drinking in that sense. You know, the typical things, 12, 13, which somehow managed to go for a pack of fairly cheap low and go to a party or, you know, what you call it, where you're from, what used to call it pylon, that somebody is, he simply get wind that someone's parents were out for the evening or even, at best, they were away.

Alex: What would you call it? A piling?

Phil: Pylon.

Alex: That's so funny. I'm learning so many words from speaking to people all over the world. Another one I learned is Dutch courage. We don't have that.

Phil: Dutch courage?

Alex: Yeah, we call it liquid courage in Canada.

Phil: Liquid courage. Okay. That's a bit more literal, isn't it?

Alex: A little bit, yeah.

Phil: Just left with Dutch, you're just being, what connotations could you bring from Dutch. So, yeah. So, we used to, I used to go to them places and drink before cans, but even then when I think back, I would get, I get crazy drunk and, but I'd get quite emotional as well. I'd be quite upset and certain things would happen where the next day I'd be like, absolutely mortified, that, you know, I made a fool of myself and stuff like that. So, there was some kind of emotional thing that seemed to unleash on me when I was younger, which opened. So, my journey started a couple of years ago. I never really thought about that, and what the significance was, because, again, this didn't happen to everybody, but it happened to me.

Alex: Right.

Phil: You know. So, like where some people don't seem to have a problem with drinking. I did. So, it's just something that was unique to me. And, you know, when I thought about more about childhood trauma and stuff like that, it kind of, puts it in a little bit more. So, this was, the alcohol in some ways was releasing something from me which, you know, you can imagine as a 13, 14 year old, you don't know what the hell you going on anyway. And I just thought I just embarrassed myself and I can't handle my drink. So, that was quite interesting. And then, when I was sorted that was any normal child would in the U.K. And I then started working in a bar. We got a local bar again, which was the community. So, everybody that you knew went to the local bar, but not quite the same now. With more like restaurants and they like children and stuff like that, where this was, where you'd go to socialize and probably from 15, 16. I always look very young. Anyway, I was looked about three years younger than I was. I remember going to my 18th birthday and a coach used to coach trips to nightclubs somewhere and it was my 18th. My fear of not getting into my own 18th was huge. I had to buy 18 bunches all over me just in case there was any kind of question. Let me be a coach on my own. So, I worked in bars and got into being 18 and actually working full time. Pretty much put three in the afternoon to late in the afternoon was my shift Monday to Friday, and you'd get all the workers coming in. So, the guys who were proper grafters like bricklayers, and plasterers, and things that come in and three or four pints every night. It also got the guys who were maybe insurance men and stuff like that in suits you'd come in, and it was just that culture of the men coming in, having a few pints. And quite often, you know, the understanding was that the wives didn't really know that this was kind of, it must have been obvious to the wives. The wives must have known that every night this is what happens, but probably, the kidology just letting him have his little piece of his secrecy, you know, so, it was brought took around that has been the norm and almost something to aspire to as well.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: Is this what men do? So, yes, that was kind of my introduction to alcohol. And then, just, you know, again, probably said many times, everything happens with a drink from that now.

Alex: Right.

Phil: I did take a diversion away from alcohol, when I, and probably about the same time when I was studying A-levels, which I never got a qualification because I just simply didn't do any work. I think I used to go away to college, and just playing pool and stuff like that, and just hang out. And my generation is about 1999. It was like the best for music. No, the Manchester scene, the Happy Monday, Stone Roses, Shower and all that stuff was going on, but also, acid house and said, dance music and ecstasy and all that stuff. So, I took a bit of a diversion away from alcohol, because strangely when I got into that crowded and taking amphetamine and ecstasy and stuff like that, go on like a big three day binge and not sort of drop. No alcohol involved whatsoever. If anything, it was almost like looked down upon in the culture that you'd be 15:35 if you had been enjoying yourselves, and you'd see some drunken guy who just looked disabled and you just didn't associate with them. So, I was kind of able to say that I didn't really drink for that period of time. And then, I guess when I sort of moved into settling down and having kids and you move into a slightly more civilized kind of way of socializing, don't you?

Alex: Right.

Phil: Family and friends and people with kids themselves where you have nice bottle of wine or a few beers and what have you? And I just found that that just became quite routine for me, even when we went socialize and used to come home from work. I work all the way through. Always worked fairly responsible jobs, but I was still able to, you know, in the way we've got European football on. So, you know, an excuse to drink. Weekends would start on a Thursday, usually, you know, it's almost like Friday's a bit very relaxed day at work. So, I can probably cope with a hangover in work and then just the weekends here. So, that was kind of my routine for quite a long time.

Alex: Yeah. And it's interesting how it like, we get exposed to at a young age, and then it just kind of like, I found with a lot of people, it just kind of like accelerates over time. But at least that's what happened with me. Like it, you know, I never started out as a teenager thinking that I would drink every night. And by the end of my drinking career, I was drinking almost every night. If I wasn't drinking, it was because I was like hungover or tired or.

Phil: Yeah. And I think I said, I've developed a joy for making videos now that I never had before during this joint, and the alcohol free world, if you like. I actually made a video for myself. It was over a year ago and I did it because I was so fearful of doing video.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: You know, when you get into that mode of pushing yourself and doing the thing that you're scared of, and, you know, I jokingly say that my first video, which I still go, I look like I'm reading the ransom note from my kidnapers because I'm just so scared and so, and that it's not painful to watch, but I can just see where I've come from with it. So, I was just doing one the other day, and I was talking about drinking generally. And a lot more videos now don't really focus on drinking, so I don't know where this come from. I think it was a Monday morning. I've been for a run. It was sunny and I was just thinking, this is just life. This is the best life. And I was then thinking back to what Mondays had always felt like when I was drinking. But I remember just telling the story of, I think my drinking was starting to get out of hand when, you know, I'd be, say, Thursday night at to dinner for drinks in the fridge myself. It get to 9:00 o'clock and I'll be thinking, I'm getting out. Now, from having eight drinks in the fridge, two or three drinks in, I'd be thinking about running out. And so, I would then go out to the local corner thing that was just down the road, and I find, probably, it's going off 9:00 to 10:00 o'clock, So, I could probably only feasibly drink them. And then, another four, but I say eight drinks, eight cans, and at least four in the car. I'm going for in. So, that part of the time, it was probably well realized thinking he really need that and, you know, bring these in but no doubt a secret stash as well.

Alex: Wow.

Phil: So that I could do that, and that just became kind of, you know, I didn't know that it was sneaky, but at the same time, I didn't really say, you got a problem here or are you worried about this? No, I was just kind of, I almost felt a bit like, cheeky with it, you know, and so, you could go. But yeah. So, it just reminded me of when I was thinking about when things escalated, it was just in those little moments like that.

Alex: Yeah. And you know, I can so relate to that because the one time in my life when I had a partner move in with me, I remember, and it wasn't even at the point where my drinking was the worst it was, like it was, how long ago was it? Maybe five years ago. I was twenty four, and I remember him moving in and my worry was, Oh my god, he's gonna know how much I drink because, you know, at the time when we were drinking together, it was like, you know, we just drink on the weekend. And meanwhile I was drinking like every night and I remember consciously cutting back for a period. And then, I would always be making excuses, like I would be like, Oh, I've had a really bad day, that's why I'm having this drink. And like, I'll be so happy when he went out with his friends because then I was like, I can have a drink. And at the time, that didn't really, I didn't read that as a problem. And in retrospect, I'm like, that should have been like my first kind of warning sign.

Phil: Yeah. And I also love those what I call the three license ones are the legitimate license one. So, for example, if I drank on a Thursday, got through Friday, Okay. But then, Friday evening, maybe even meet in the pub and drink then and then. Saturday, there'd be some legitimate thing, I mean, a wedding was a perfect one because you're allowed to drink and 12 and no one pulls a face on. No one duties that or on a Sunday, go into a christening. It was almost like, This is great. This is allowed. This is a nonjudgmental kind of drinking event. If you sat at home at 12 o'clock on a Sunday and started drinking, that doesn't look right. Doesn't it? But if you're going to an event, it suddenly allowed it to happen. There's no judgment from my partner. There was just nothing. It was almost like a legal license, that's sort of I used to kind of see it.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: So, yes. So, it's just interesting when I look back on it, there were plenty of warning signs along the way really that there was something that I was probably losing control of. I was just going to say with the video, it became funny at first. You get a video in and you get like acknowledgment from and it's like, Oh, that's really good. You know, a bit like post on and someone kind of resonates with it, and then go into do another one, and not really getting some response and again, a little bit of ego kicking in and going, This is better than the last one. It's like a bang bring it out. And if something is going, and I remember just thinking after a while doing these videos, what are you getting from these videos yourself? What am I searching for with these? And in the end, I wasn't healthy to do something and then look for the praise or that kind of validation. So, I then started to do them talking to myself and do them to reflect for me, for myself. And if anything was a response to a reaction to it, that was good. But that wasn't the point in doing that. And it just interest me, because I'm starting up my own thing and I'm thinking of content, I've gone back through just to save all my videos, just to look through them, to see anything, you know, that's a value that can kind of think about again. And I've got over 90 videos with about 540 minutes of stuff.

Alex: Wow.

Phil: So, like I said, I like doing the occasional video, but there's a lot in there. So, but yeah, again, it's just another level of, supposed, signifying kind of building confidence and losing some of that kind of, you know, when you can't bear to hear your voice on the tape or you can't bear to see stuff, you just don't want to be you. You know, it just makes you cringe and stuff. So, it's been really kind of something that is a perfect signifier for me of this transformation, I guess.

Alex: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I can remember the first time I ever talked into my camera on Instagram. I remember just being terrified about it. And now I just do it all the time. But it's certainly a hurdle to get over, like just to get used to yourself being like out there, isn't it?

Phil: I've got you. In fact, just accepting yourself a bit more, I think, because, you know, we've got our own little funny quirks and things that we do, and it's just kind of getting past those sort of things that I think is also a little bit in aligned with the journey and self discovery and acceptance. So, I think it's, and it's certainly work for me anyway.

Alex: Yeah. So, tell me a bit about your journey quitting. Like, what was that like? What was the final moment when you decided that you were gonna quit drinking?

Phil: I think, for me, the final moment came in a weekend when I'd just been at it for when I think about it, probably, one of a number of days and I don't know about other people, but when people wake up in the morning, the last thing they can think about is a drink, because that just makes them feel sick and it's hangover. And so, I wouldn't have that feeling, and actually got way out of that second or third day drinking. I'm starting to get that kind of thing where it would really quench me, and within a drink I'd say, I'll be right as rain. So, I just turn this over and over, and I will consume in morning and just feeling horrendous. I get a few warning signs. I've done 40 days the previous October. I don't 40 days until free on my own. And that was based on somebody saying to me in August, make some comment about me drinking on a weekend away. Ironically, they were really drunk when they made the comment about that I was drinking too much. And stubbornly, I said, that's not a problem. I could stop, that I'm gonna stop. I'm not gonna drink till my birthday now that was 40 days away. So, I did it.

Alex: Wow.

Phil: And it was kind of great in some ways. But at the same time, all it did was prove to me that I was in control this situation, which meant that I then, yeah, the 40th was my birthday, and then I just went all out and just had a great night and everything, but it just then escalated even more after that. So, it worked against me because it told me that I knew what I was doing. I was in control and actually, it wasn't the case. So, just another weekend, more regret, more shameful behavior, just things that I'd wake up and feel awful about myself, just came to a head that some day when I decided that this was it, and that the amazing Andy Ramage, who I listened to the podcast, by the way, is absolutely...

Alex: He's so inspiring, isn't he? That's incredible.

Phil: What a guy. And it was at the time when he was making these little videos in the woods.

Alex: Oh, yeah. I remember that.

Phil: Yeah. And he just kept popping up and I was thinking, this guy's insane. He's telling me that it's half 6:00 in the morning, and he's happy to be alive. And he just kept coming back to me and coming back to me. And I've always said it felt like it was calling me. It was almost knocking on me and saying, We're here, just waiting for you. Just take your time when you're ready. We're here. So, that's when I signed up. So, I signed up. I went straight for the 365.

Alex: Wow.

Phil: And that all or nothing kind of mentality anyway, that.

Alex: Yeah.

Phil: If I do it 28, I'd be disappointed that I didn't do it in 90. If I do it in 90, I'd be disappointed that I didn't do it in 365. That was my kind of mentality. So, straight for the 365. And yeah, just took it from there, really. Wanted to do it for a while, and I don't actually think I consciously said I want to, I just knew it was in me somewhere.

Alex: Yeah.