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The Wolf You Feed with Sophie Agdhami

Updated: Aug 23, 2021



In this episode I sit down with Sophie Aghdami. Sophie is in recovery from alcohol addiction and now helping others maintain longterm recovery as a coach. She is also a 200 hour trained yoga teacher. Sophie spent a long dark decade (plus some) in the depths of addiction. Successful on the outside in exciting jobs, Sophie was on her deathbed emotionally, spiritually and physically. After waking up one morning during a trip in Indonesia at yet another rock bottom (there were many), she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise herself. A big, puffy, sad moon face stared back at her and her body was physically exhausted from the almighty relapse. She called a family member and was scooped up and ‘poured’ into a safehouse. That was the beginning of her recovery journey, which came with its inevitable ups and hard downs, but was also the start of a new life full of joy, meaning and purpose, free from past damaging patterns and behaviours. Sophie believes that the success of maintaining longterm recovery lies in our daily behaviours and mindset, and attributes her recovery to a variety of methods, including a holistic yoga practice, 12 step, self compassion and forgiveness to release shame, routine, goal setting and forward thinking, and finding her ‘kokorozashi’ - personal life purpose and mission. It's a lifelong, courageous practice that she is proud to be committed to.



Having grown up in Switzerland and the UK, Sophie now lives in Australia with her husky, Echo. She works as a brand strategist and, separately, as a recovery coach, both of which she loves. Sophie can be found at: https://www.thewolfyoufeed.com.


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Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/live-schedule.


Full episode


TRANSCRIPT


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

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl. I am super excited for this particular episode because I have a guest with me who is not only in the sober world, but also really aligned with the path of yoga and yoga work that we do at the mindfulness practice. And so we're curious yoga. So I have with me today, Sophie, who is a recovery coach. She also works full time as a brand strategist. She founded the ""The Wolf You Feed" and she was raised in Switzerland and the UK, but she's currently living in Australia. So welcome to the show, Sophie. How are you today?


Sophie

Hi Alex, so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.


Alex

Welcome. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to be on the show.


Sophie

My pleasure. Absolute pleasure.


Alex

So let's start off by you just kind of giving me a bit of context. Tell me about you, your history, your childhood and how you ended up from Switzerland, in the UK all the way to Australia.


Sophie

Sure. So what-- I was born in Oxford, in the UK. And when I was two, we moved over to Switzerland. So my parents actually my dad is Iranian. My mum is Swedish. They met in the UK and for work, my dad's then you know, had to move to Switzerland. So I've got two brothers and a sister and the six of us went to Switzerland. We were there for about 10 or so years where we grew up and had an amazing childhood. You know, lots about outdoor, skiing, snowboarding, lots of fun stuff out there was in the mountains. And then I moved back over to the UK when I was about yeah, it was about 12 years old and I was there through secondary school. College, went to university and had a few jobs in London. But after a few years, I'd done some-- I'd done a lot of traveling around the world. And my sister had been living in Australia. So I visited her a couple of times and she had a partner over in Melbourne at one point and had decided that I just really was ready for change. Quite a lot of that was to do with my sort of addiction journey and feeling like I really needed a bit of a reset. And so I went through the process of getting a visa, which took a good 18 months nearly two years to get done. Finally got that through and then made the move. So that was just over two years ago, May 2019.


Alex

Oh, wow. It's amazing.


Sophie

Yeah.


Alex

And you never looked back. You've been there ever since?


Sophie

Ever since. Yeah. And actually I had lots of plans to go back and visit regularly but obviously with Covid that's changed things a lot. So in my first year, I did quite a lot of travel around regionally in Victoria, which is where I am. I'm about 20 or so minutes away from the Great Ocean Road. So lots of you know, beautiful scenery and adventures to be had around there. So the first year was spent doing lots of adventuring and then covid sort of came into play. Just as I was about to go to Bali on holiday. Decided not to go, which is probably a good thing because I'd probably still be here to still be there now. But then obviously that put off any plans, any sort of travel back to Europe. So I've not actually been back since I got here, which has been quite challenging. Yeah.


Alex

Wow, that's hard.


Sophie

Yeah. So I moved here with my dog, Echo he's a husky so he came with me. So he's my family rock over in Australia. But everyone else is back in Europe. My little brother actually is in L.A., my mom's in Spain, my dad and my older brother in Switzerland and my sister in Switzerland and in the UK at the moment. Say--


Alex

What a global family.


Sophie

Yeah, my neighbor calls me United Nations.


Alex

That's amazing. Well, I'm glad that you have your dog Echo, with you because I know how hard it can be. I've been separated from my family for the entire pandemic as well. And I have a cat, Princess and she has been kind of an anchor for me through this. So--


Sophie

Yeah, they're amazing for that, aren't they? I think I've seen her actually on your Instagram.


Alex

Yeah. So let's get a little bit into your journey with alcohol. When did you start drinking and how did your relationship unfold with drinking over time?


Sophie

Yeah. So drinking for me started quite early. Early teens, I'd say, sort of secondary school age in England. Sort of, yeah, probably 14 or so. Alcohol had already always been a part of my life. It was something that was in my family drank not in an excessive way or anything like that, but it was just always around. And maybe someone had a beer or wine with dinner or all that sort of stuff. So it wasn't anything that was new. But in England, it's fairly cultural to have alcohol you know, around even from an early age. And so when we would have school discos and things like that, that would be the opportunity at our age to sort of, you know, at the time it would be sharing a beer. Probably very minimal amounts, but with fairly strong effects. So that was the introduction to it. It's sort of just seemed very normal, you know, it wasn't a bad crowd or anything like that I'd fallen into it was just very normal and everyone seemed to do it. And that carried on through college and then university again. And that probably got a little bit stronger in many ways you know, at legal age as well to go out to bars and things like that. Everyone doing the same thing. And when I finished university, I-- I've always been into food and restaurants and things like that. And I decided after university that I would-- I really wanted to go into a pub and restaurant management. And that was a little bit of a springboard really for the drinking career because you're surrounded by it constantly. And even if guests are coming in maybe once a week and have a couple of drinks, you're around. Every single person is coming in so that, you know, every lunchtime, every evening. So it got very normal to get people to drink or offered a drink or finish a shift and have a few more of the wine down, all of that sort of thing. And actually, I also worked in pubs in my teens. It was a very natural environment to be around. And you know, having the bar there all open and all that sort of thing. It was just very normal. And I got very accustomed to being around very drunk people or people would say that we're just doing it socially. So it was just the norm.


Alex

Yeah.


Sophie

And I think every time the tolerance obviously grew you know, having a drink just became the norm. But from the other aspect as well it's a very stressful environment. You know, the hours are very long. It's very hard work. You know, physically, a way to relax after a shift can be to have a few drinks to sort of release a lot of that. But on the other side as well, when you have a day off, which it can be quite rare, it sort of make up time for the weekend that you know, I felt I had lost. So on a Monday or Tuesday which was a day off essentially it would be "okay, what could I-- what can I go and do? You know, I'll go to a restaurant and I'll do what people always do when they come to this restaurant. So that's where all sort of started and we started to get out of control as well to be honest because that's where the volume grew quite substantially.


Alex

Right. I can imagine being in a work environment where you're around it all the time. Like I hear of so many people who talk about working in you know, the alcohol industry in some form events or whatever and it just becomes so the norm. And as you say you know, these guests might be coming in one or two times a week but you're you're the constant you're there every day around and part of it.


Sophie

Absolutely. And also what starts to creep in is the realization how quickly you can get through a hangover because hair of the dog you know, a drink the next day is so accessible and easily available. So what started to happen was you know, on the hangover days struggled through a hangover until it was an acceptable time to have a drink to kind of you know, get rid of the hangover sort of top up essentially. I suppose that's what's happening in the blood, isn't it? But that time got earlier and earlier. And because it was so accessible and actually because a lot of people in the industry are in a similar boat. It starts to get quite normal to then go "oh, should we just have the Bloody Mary this morning". You know, and so suddenly drinking in the day can become drinking in the morning. And so actually instead of sort of topping up and then by the evening I was feeling fine and good again and the cycle would then continue. That's probably where it really started sort of ramping up that sort of part of my life. I actually then left that industry because it was just too much and very unhealthy mentally and physically. But the drinking remains obviously, it was sort of part of the lifestyle then.


Alex

Right.. Yeah. So tell me about like-- so where was a point when you started to think you know, maybe I need to quit or maybe I-- what was that sort of turning point for you when you started to realize that it wasn't healthy?


Sophie

Yeah, good question. And actually it started creeping in where people would start commenting things. You know, "oh your drinking really quickly" or "do you remember what you did last night?" And at the beginning, I could laugh it off as a kind of a one off but those one off's became very frequent. And I was noticing myself that I was having these blackout memory losses. But still, it wasn't enough. So I kind of had this. It was a sort of deep, dark, sinking feeling that I knew something was up but I didn't have enough drive to go. Okay, that's too much. I'm going to stop. I think the alcohol is taken over by that point. And I was looking for every reason not to stop and that it could be other things. You know, maybe it's just an allergy or maybe I just need to slow down and all those sorts of things. And because other people are commenting on it. It actually started to bring on some shame around the drinking. And my coping mechanism with that was instead of cutting out the drinking, was to start doing it secretly. So, for example, if I had dinners with friends to get to the level that I wanted to be at with my drinking or you know, the effects of the feelings of the drinking. I would have a quick glass of wine in the kitchen before we sat down so that I would feel like I was drinking super quickly during dinner. But I was at the level where I was feeling comfortable and confident in my sort of jokey in a relaxed state of being. And that's actually when that kind of secret drinking started to, you know, get quite extreme because I realized I could carry on doing something that I perceived as something that I loved without anyone judging me for it.


Alex

So it was like the comments that people made and then the secret drinking. And how long did it go on like that, that you were drinking secretly?


Sophie

A long time actually. A few years because it just seemed in my mind like I was managing it.


Alex

Right.


Sophie

And because I felt like I was managing it, I felt like I had control over it.


Alex

Right.


Sophie

The reality is I really didn't. But you know, because I had that feeling, I was in a false sense of security that it wasn't an issue because everyone, not everyone, some people were still mentioning it. Close family members, close friends, but generally on the outside, I wasn't coming cos as I started coming across. So I kind of felt like I was back in the safety zone. And however, with tolerance is you know, growing and growing the amount the volume that was happening at was growing as well. So it became this kind of well, horrible secret, really. And with that shame grew. And unfortunately as a result of the shame, I was wanting to block it out even more. So the cycle just went in circles really.


Alex

And so was there a big turning point or a moment when you just decided, you know, enough is enough?


Sophie

There were many. And I tried many times. There were a few times where that did happen. Where you know, either I sat myself down or I got myself into a really dodgy situation or a friend or family member would sit me down. And that would be a turning point. And I would-- I sort of went through the book of, you know, all the different options. So cutting down, cutting down for a week, just like drinking on Sundays or after 7:00 p.m. or just one glass. But inevitably, as you can probably imagine, you know, those rules started getting very bendy and they ended up being very rubbery and, you know, ended up just what would happen actually, is I would do it for a period of time. You know, even up to a month complete abstinence. But then the celebration would come and I'd be like "hey, cool. I just done a month that means I haven't got an issue. Let's go to the pub". And then that would be the start of quite a big relapse session that could last for a couple of weeks or a month. And then I'd go through the cycle again. So that happened quite a few times. Not the greatest results because each time it seems to get heavier and harder and you know, both in the way the amount that I drank but also the effects that I felt afterwards. And because these effects we had were getting stronger and more extreme in terms of hangovers. The anxiety, all of that sort of stuff, I would then naturally start turning to drink again to pull me out of it because it was habitual by that point. You know, it was my complete crutch and I relied on it to pull me out of ironically, how I got into that situation. So I was on this roundabout and there was a point actually where my older brother came over and met with me. And we went away for the weekend and we had a really amazing chat. And you know, he really voiced his concerns. And that's when I agreed to go to a rehab and do a month at rehab and kind of got this. I got to the brink of exhaustion and physical health and all of these things. And yeah. So I decided to go and I went to a rehab in Thailand for five and a half weeks. Which was a very difficult, challenging, yet amazing experience and definitely the beginning of my recovery journey which was four years ago, coming to four years ago. It wasn't the beginning of my abstinence though, but it was certainly the beginning of my recovery. And I'm actually a real believer in celebrating recovery rather than just the abstinence because it real strength in getting onto that journey. And I sometimes feel like when there's even those celebrations to mark an occasion of abstinence. I think the beginning of the recovery journey is the real marker because in life we all fall over at points and it's about getting back up again. And if we kept resetting the marker at zero every time we fail. I don't think it would be the biggest or most empowering way to look back at all the hard work that we've done. So rehab was definitely my marker of the beginning of recovery. And after Thailand, I had a stint of you know, a really great clear minded, incredible journey and clean drinking. There was then a relapse. I got back on the horse. I tried to remove all the shame. I had lots of support around, which was great. You know, a lot of things got add through the rehab process, through treatment. There's a lot of encouragement to talk to people, family, friends that you know, have been affected along the way as well. So a lot of air had been cleared. So I felt much more open and able to talk to those people when it happened rather than going back into the shame cave, as I call it. And that really helped me get back up. I was in actually Indonesia at the time and I remember looking in the mirror and almost I just couldn't recognize my face. I looked really sad. I had this big puffy moon face from too much alcohol. Really bloated and physically just felt really weak and it was a real-- it was a real crash moment, and that was at that point I called a family member who was fortunately Indonesia at the time, and he picked me up. And that's when I was in more of a sort of safe house environment and I met recovery coach through him. Actually started going to a few 12 step meetings. And yeah, that's when it really ramped up again. And I saw the value of this sort of holistic approach of having a recovery coach in Indonesia. Have you been to Bali?


Alex

I'm obsessed with Bali. It is my favorite place in the world. I love it.


Sophie

Yeah. As a yogi, I'm sure you understand when I say like yoga there. It took on a whole new level. You know yoga for me before that was arsenal practice.


Alex

Yeah.


Sophie

For fitness and things like that. And while I was in Bali, I really fell in love with the true sense of how important it could be in my life. And so that's where the recovery really strengthened. And I then went back to Europe and saw family and friends, and it was a very difficult time because it felt like I was walking back into the shame cave. You know, that all of the the bad stuff had happened in Europe.


Alex

Right.


Sophie

And so I felt really ready to move to Australia. So I made plans and packed up my stuff. There was still a little a waiting around and sort of planning and things like that and other reasons to be in Europe but then made the move. And yeah, I think for me, Australia has been a really solid space to be in recovery. There's obviously a big drinking restaurant culture but there's also an amazing outdoor healthy coffee shop, cafe walks on the beach kind of lifestyle. And that's the one that I harnessed when I got here. Fortunately, there was a studio right opposite my first apartment. I was there every morning. I was in touch with people in recovery. You know, all these sorts of things. And it just felt really strong while I was here.


Alex

Oh, that's amazing. What an inspiring journey and story. And I particularly like what you said about you know, celebrating the whole journey. Not just full abstinence because I think I know I have so many clients who just beat themselves up when they've had a slip. And it's like you have to think about you know like I'll give me as an example. I quit drinking in 2019, in April 2019. And after I made it through a year, I actually had a couple of occasions where I had a beer on a staycation. And I am a sober coach and people said I ended up talking about it on social media. And some people said you know, you're not sober. And I'm like "well, I'm not binge drinking at a bar every day of the week like I used to two years ago. So I personally don't think having one beer on a staycation changes this journey that I've been on". Right? And we get so shamed for I mean obviously, I don't want to make it into a habit of drinking and I have to make a plan so that I am staying on this sober path and right? It's only happened on two occasions but there are so many people that take that as like "oh, my God, it's over. I'm starting again at zero". And it's like in reality, you have put in so much work to get to where you've been and we need to celebrate all of that and not just the-- and not just kick ourselves for falling. Right? We all fall sometimes.


Sophie

Absolutely. And it works in so many different areas of life. You know, if you've been focusing on nutrition and then you have a piece of chocolate cake. It's not-- it doesn't raise all of the hard work that's gone into it. With my recovery you know, if I'd mentally if I told myself on back to zero you know, it would have erased all of that hard work that I'd done. So I-- and I celebrate and I really am proud of myself for all of that hard work that did happen. I think I heard you mentioned on one of your podcasts that you did one year no beer.


Alex

Yeah.