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"Understanding Friends versus Friends who Understand" with Elizabeth from Life Outside the Bar

May 18 2021

In this episode join me and my guest Elizabeth where she talks about her experience with alcohol from a very young age to finally quitting after a lot of stops along the way. She also shares the importance of finding support from people who went/are going through your same sober journey.

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Make sure to follow Alex's journey on instagram @alexmcrobs and join her yoga, meditation, barre and coaching classes at

Full episode


Intro: Welcome to the “Sober Yoga Girl Podcast” with Alex McRobs, international yoga teacher and sober coach. I broke up with booze for good in 2019 and now I'm here to help others do the same. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.

Alex: So welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am super excited this episode to have Elizabeth with me. And Elizabeth has an Instagram account, "Life Outside The Bar". She is a sober blogger and we've been connected on Instagram for a while but we actually have not met in real life until right now so it is super nice to meet you.

Elizabeth: So nice to meet you Alex.

Alex: How are you?

Elizabeth: I'm so good. I'm so excited to meet you. I know we've talked a lot on Instagram through our DMs and just on our posts back and forth that we've never had this opportunity to actually have conversations with each other, so I'm really excited for it.

Alex: Yeah. It's super cool. So let's get started. Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself? Give me some context into like, who you are, where you're from, and kind of what you're all about?

Elizabeth: Wonderful. So my name is Elizabeth. I am from Maine, Northeast of the United States. And I have been alcohol free for two and a half years, almost three years. August 2018 I decided to stop drinking and that was quite a long time coming. And so I'm pretty happy that this time really stuck and we can get into that more in detail in a bit. But, yeah, I started my Instagram last summer during the middle of the pandemic. I had actually only discovered Sober IG during last summer, so I was almost two years alcohol free and I had just discovered Sober Instagram almost at two year mark.

Alex: Were you on Instagram and you just hadn't entered the Sober Instagram world yet?

Elizabeth: Yes, I've been on Instagram for a long time but I haven't been-- I had no clue about Sober podcasts. I didn't know about Sober Quitlets. I didn't know about Sober Instagram. I didn't know any of that stuff existed. Besides, you know, like I knew probably there was some AA content out there but I had never done AA even, so I was flying pretty solo for a while.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I think I found the podcast and I kind of dove into this sober world, this new sober culture. I see it as new. I'm sure it's been around for a while. But, yeah, that's how I got into it and I was like, you know, I have a lot of things that I need to express. I didn't come onto Instagram to be a coach or a mentor or anything like that. I just still had a lot of things that I needed to express about my sobriety, my mental health history and story. So that's why I chose to start my Instagram.

Alex: That's so cool. I think I had a similar experience in that or I don't want to say similar but when I quit drinking, I joined One Year No Beer and I didn't know that there were other sober voices, I guess? Like I just was kind of submerged in that one which is great. But I can't remember when I came across it. It might have been someone recommended to me the unexpected joy of being sober. And once I read that book, she had a list of Instagrams. I think that's where I found them all. And yeah, once you're in it, it's just like opens up your world.

Elizabeth: It's really wild because the first almost two years of my alcohol-free journey, this time around I only had a therapist and so I didn't have sober friends I have my husband who is actually alcohol free but, you know, he's pretty introverted so he doesn't really need to connect like I do. I'm very extroverted and I love to interact with people. And so I had my therapist who is sober and we connected there but I didn't have people to connect to. That's really missing that in the community.

Alex: Yeah, and I can't believe that you've only had your Instagram for less than a year because I feel like you're just a staple of like the Instagram world. So, it's amazing. So let's kind of start with like your drinking history. So when did you start drinking and like what kind of influenced your drinking habits?

Elizabeth: So, I actually started drinking in middle school. We're really young. My extended family is full of alcoholics and I always saw alcohol around me. I saw active partying drinking. But my parents actually don't really drink at all. So I always thought they were the black sheep and, you know, as a kid you're kind of like, are my parents weird for this? Like, what's going on? And so I always saw it. I always had access to it even though it wasn't really in my house. I always had access. And then I had friends whose parents drank a lot too. So I just saw it around me. And in middle school one day, I came home from school and was at a family member's house and they had alcohol out. They weren't home and I decided to try a little bit of vodka and orange juice, like I'm talking a minuscule amount tiny bet which is probably awful because it actually just gave me a tiny bit of buzz and I felt that like feeling that I guess joy buzz feeling that you get when you only have a little bit and that's all I had and I continued to do that for quite some time. I would come home from school and sneak just a tiny bit just get that little buzz. So I didn't have that big negative reaction the first time I drank like a lot of some people do where, you know, they go to some high school party and they have this, you know, binge drinking and then they realize it's not good. I actually had an effect where I was like, oh, this is completely fine. I only had a little. I'm fine. And, you know, it just was around me in, you know, middle school and high school and it just became like fairly routine. I started to socially drink in high school, you know, with friends and at parties and things like that. But like I said, my parents never really drank so I never had conversations about alcohol.

Alex: Right.

Elizabeth: And the effects because I didn't see it from them. Yeah, so that was interesting part of my history where a lot of people don't relate to that. Maybe they didn't just drink by themselves for the first time. Only a little bit.

Alex: Yeah, that's really interesting.

Elizabeth: Anyone who I've connected with all that which I'm not really happy that happened. I was pretty sneaky as, you know, a kid, middle schooler, high schooler, and I found that like connection. I don't even know what brought me to try it really, maybe it was people talking about school, you know, partying started to get, you know, popular and something just made me want to try it and I did it. I had a positive reaction which led me down having alcohol in my life a lot.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: When I was-- by time I was, you know, in later high school I was still drinking by myself but not just a little bit. I was, you know, hiding alcohol in my room and my parents would be upstairs and I'd be getting drunk by myself. And, you know, I had a lot of like depression from all of this because alcohol is a depressant plus your teenage... And so drinking by myself I would get depressed and then I would hide my depression and it was just a bad cycle that I was really in for a while.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: ... high school. Yeah.

Alex: And so how did your drinking then like accelerate over time?

Elizabeth: Yes. It definitely did. I had just always had that like need for alcohol to be around. And, you know, I had a best friend in high school. We would just-- we'd love to get drunk together and I had access to alcohol easily. After I got out of high school, you know, I continued to drink and I was getting to a point where it was, you know, the self-medication.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And I wasn't even 20 yet and I was drinking as self-medication for all these emotions I felt that I had no place to vent to. And I actually had a-- I would call it a rock bottom. I've had a few rock bottoms but I had a rock bottom where I was told by an ex that I had to stop drinking.

Alex: Wow.

Elizabeth: And I was-- I don't know if I was 19 or 20 at the time. But at that point that was my first rock bottom where people were telling me, you can't drink. Like, you just, you can't drink. That was the first time I was alcohol free. I decided to do that for six months prior to being 21. I'd already done six months alcohol free.

Alex: Wow.

Elizabeth: I've had a long relationship with alcohol and I guess like the sober curious life, I had no term back then but I had always knew that alcohol wasn't the best for me especially mindset I was in. And I would try times where I would not drink for a week and try to limit myself or there was times where I would, you know, do a few months like that time and I didn't know that this whole term sober curious was out there or even, you know, young people being sober was a thing or even, you know, a cool thing.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I think that's cool.

Alex: It is. So what made you-- so you said you had one break with drinking when you're 21, did you have more before like this stint? I don't want to say this stint, but like becoming sober long time ago.

Elizabeth: No, I understand. Hopefully it's not a stint. Hopefully this time it's, you know, lifetime for me. So yes, I had other times where, you know, I tried to stop drinking and things like that but it wasn't until I had the opportunity to go to Kuwait. And as you know, Kuwait's a dry country.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So prior to going to Kuwait, I actively chose to stop drinking. Of course, you know, I couldn't drink in Kuwait but I was, you know, going between different countries and things like that so I could have drank them. I actively decided not to. I needed that mental break, that physical break, and so I stopped drinking then for another seven months but came back to the U.S. and I just had one thing after another happen in my life and, you know, I leaned back on alcohol as a self-medication and it turned out to be one of the worst years of my life after that, that extent of not drinking just because things were happening and instead of addressing it and healing what was going on, I was self-medicating and I had the worst anxiety during that year. I just couldn't sleep at all and when I would, you know, couldn't sleep I would decide to drink and things like that and it just was this awful cycle I was putting myself into.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And then about a year and a half after I got back from Kuwait, I actually went into this alcohol free stint. This time I've been alcohol free. So it really was about a year and a half to two years in between like each of my different times of being alcohol-free and I think, you know, the third time's a charm. And this time I didn't just not drink. I actually sought, you know, mental health help out. I went to start seeing a therapist and just actually got the emotions I was holding in for so long and I was self-medicating against out which was a huge thing. I don't-- I think a lot of people say this but it's not always about the alcohol. It's about, you know, what's inside yourself, what you're dealing with when you are abusing alcohol? That's very true for me.

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it can like manifest in so many different ways. I think I wrote something on Instagram once. It's like alcohol was never the enemy and for us it's alcohol but for other people like the emotions that they're dealing with might show up in like disordered eating or like an addiction to something else, and so I think you're definitely right in that. It's often like an emotional issue that we're kind of coping with in the best way we can.

Elizabeth: Right. And I completely agree with that. You know, I'm almost three years alcohol free and I've worked through a lot of the, you know, emotional turmoil I had from childhood and, you know, the things I never got to work out because I was self-medicating, you know, middle school, my early 20s. And, you know, now I guess if I had a drink of alcohol, nothing I'm planning on it. But if I did, I don't think my reactions would be the same because it's not necessary that alcohol. It was the emotions that the alcohol brought out because your inhibitions are down. But after learning all the science about what alcohol does for your body I'm like, oh, I'll just stay away. I think this is too much.

Alex: Tell me about like back when you were kind of in your coming towards this time that you quit drinking, what was it that made you finally say like I'm, you know, I'm done.

Elizabeth: Right. So I had started leaning toward the Craft Beer World as this like, you know, outlet. There's a community there. There really is a community in the Craft Beer World. And there is, you know, so many different things to try and then a lot of people look at beer as it's not as bad as if you're drinking vodka every day. Right? Which is not true. I mean, if you're drinking beer every day it's still alcohol every day. And so I was really deep into this Craft Beer World. I was actually out in Denver and I was by myself on a work trip and I was visiting all these breweries. And between drinking too much, being emotional, and probably the elevation, let's be honest because I'm from the east coast at sea level in Denver's mile high city, right? I had an emotional breakdown while I was drunk by myself in a city that I had never been to before. And I, you know, called my now spouse and I was like, I just don't want to live like this anymore. I don't know what this all this is. All this feeling I'm having. I'm like, I'm just done. And at the time, you know, I was saying some things that were extreme. And luckily, you know, I didn't act on any of those extreme thoughts or anything like that. I ended up just like passing out my bed, you know. It was that time where I had noticed that this wasn't a new thing. I had, you know, extreme thoughts, extreme emotion swings, extreme just heaviness when I got drunk. And I saw this isn't just about the alcohol. This isn't, you know, just trying to be a part of a community, a beer community. This is just too much, too much more and I need to address these emotions. When I got home, I had actually, I had brought 30 pounds of beer back with me in my suitcase.

Alex: Wow.

Elizabeth: That's how, you know, I had like an obsession.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Because I brought beer home. Like, I could have just drank it there and then not hadn't brought it home. But I had started seeing a therapist the following week or two after I got home, and I started talking. I was, you know, not going there dressing alcohol. I was just trying to focus on like, why am I feeling all these emotions? And she had brought up the idea of, well, you're very emotional. She had noticed from our conversations that I was very interested in, you know, Craft Beer. She said, maybe you should try not drinking for 60 days. Just try it. And I said, we'll table that idea. It's like, no, probably not. I actually cried when she brought up the idea. I cried.

Alex: Wow.

Elizabeth: Thinking about not drinking which is a sign there.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And so I decided to wean myself off alcohol which, again, is not something I hear a lot of people talk about. But I decided I wasn't going to buy beer I liked. I would only buy crappy beer.

Alex: It's so interesting.

Elizabeth: And then I put rules on myself. Okay, you can only drink on the weekends. Okay, you can only drink, you know, one or two at a time. And so I like, I limited myself as the weeks went on and I was finally able to start my day one in August. So Denver was June, and then I started my day one in August. So I had to wean myself off alcohol. I would not have mentally been able to just stop even though I needed to. But I was to invested in this idea that there's a Craft Beer Community that's super supportive of you. And, you know, I had all these friends and, you know, all this. But when it came down to it, I was having these emotional breakdowns and I didn't have friends to turn to in the Craft Beer world. You know, the whole idea of, oh, it's you not the alcohol kind of was a mentality. And I needed to find support and she was giving me support. She is in my therapist and that's what I clung to. I was like, okay, like she's here for me and I'm going to try to listen her advice.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So.

Alex: Wow. That's such a unique story in many ways, like I don't remember-- I did a lot of therapy as young person and I don't remember a therapist ever suggesting to me to stop drinking. So I think that that's like really amazing that, you know, the therapist that you were paired with was able to spot that.

Elizabeth: Right. And I had, you know, randomly stumbled upon her name. I just searched therapists in my area and I sent her a message. She had called me back and I was doing this all while. I was in Denver while I was having this, you know, heavy time and it just happened to be that she was sober and it just happened in what I needed. Not nowhere in her description said that she was focused on substance abuse. That's not her actual focus and so our paths crossed and I'm very fortunate for it because, you know, like you said not a lot of therapists do bring up that. Because like you, I had gone to therapy since I was teenager and not once had I ever been told to drink alcohol.

Alex: Yeah, me too. So after I got sober, I actually, I had a counselor who, again, it was like we just crossed paths and she was doing her practicum placement for her masters in counseling at my school. Like, she was a parent at the school and was doing her hours counseling teachers. Honestly, it was like the biggest blessing ever and she was just like upstairs for me and she was sober. But I had already gotten sober, like I had already quit. I was like 10 days in and she disclosed that to me and that was like massive but it was, again, I think it was like we just happened upon each other at the right time and maybe she would have suggested it to me had I, you know, encountered her before. But before her like I had never come across it. So that's really lucky I think.

Elizabeth: I thought it was pretty amazing too because, you know, she's in her younger 40s and I really look up to her. Look up, I mean, she's not that much older but, you know, I hadn't seen a lot of younger women--

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Being alcohol-free. I had the stereotype that it was just a bunch of, you know, old men sitting in a church basement.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And, you know, your life is going to be talking about your troubles all the time. And, you know, I try to talk about all things on my Instagram not just the negative parts of, you know, my past but the positive parts about, you know, being alcohol free and things like that and trying to change the idea and the stigma of what alcohol free looks like. so I was very fortunate to find her.

Alex: Yeah. And I also love how, like, I love just hearing how everyone's story is so different and like I myself, I don't think I ever could have weaned myself off of alcohol like I was-- I'm just like a rip the band-aid off type of girl. And so it's amazing to hear just kind of like how different strategies work for different people and like that's totally okay.

Elizabeth: It is, yeah. And, you know, when I was thinking about this, I was like I think about leaning myself on and off and such. I was like, well, I've tried this before. Like, let's be honest. I've tried the cutting back for a week or two here but I didn't have accountability before and I think that was the biggest thing is I had someone who was like, so how's it going this week?

Alex: Right.

Elizabeth: How's it really going? And that's why I feel like, okay, this is what I'm trying this week and this is how it's going. And the accountability piece was huge because I tried for so long to do it on my own.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: The other two times I was alcohol free I didn't have resources. I did it on my own.

Alex: Just so hard.

Elizabeth: It didn't work because I didn't have the accountability.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Alex: So tell me about like, the process of like, once you finally quit like, what was hard about it? What were the best parts about it?

Elizabeth: So what was hard about it was I had this whole lifestyle that I once had and then, you know, I started to wean myself off and that took about, you know, a month and a half, two months. And then my whole world was different. I was like, oh, actually I'm not gonna go out to the brewery with you. I had to shift how I did things. My friends and, you know, the different activities I did with my spouse and, you know, our close couple friends and the things we did because, you know, our worlds revolved around beer and drinking.

Alex: Right.

Elizabeth: The community. That was difficult. My husband didn't go alcohol free until six months after I did. And so I saw my therapist once a week and that was my support system. But other than that, you know, it's pretty much on my own and that was, it was hard in that aspect because I didn't know where to turn to when I had these, you know, milestones. I was like, yes, I hit my 30 days and it's like celebrate by making myself a pizza or something, you know, like I didn't have a lot of people to celebrate with. I had told my, you know, my best friends and stuff. But, you know, they are and were supportive and always will be, but until you've lived it, until you've been like, yes, you did 30 days. That's awesome. I've done 30 days or, you know, whatever.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You don't really know and actually had my best friend. She's actually now 130 days alcohol free. And she said to me after the first between 30 to 60 days something around there she said, wow, I am sorry because I never realized how hard this actually is.

Alex: Wow and I supported you but I didn't know when you were saying like, I just did 60 days. I just did 30 days. How big of a deal that was and, you know, she's now hitting these milestones. We went out for her 100 day.

Alex: Wow.

Elizabeth: You know, milestones not that long ago and I'm really proud of her. But yeah, it took a long time for even, you know, friends or my spouse to catch on and like see what was going on. So that was pretty hard to have that not as much support as I would have liked. But I didn't know there was so much support on the Instagram.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: So some of these people who are doing their first day and, you know, they're saying, they're telling people on Instagram and they have this community and all these different resources. That's awesome. I love it. I love the community because like once you find this community, like you will be, you know, flooded with love and support.

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I love it. I love it so much.

Alex: And it's so important like, you know, especially for me, I think I had a similar experience of like all my friends in Abu Dhabi were party people and like they're great people. There's nothing wrong with them but they just could not engage with me about what I was going through because they just didn't get it. And, you know, there were no celebrations. There was no like acknowledgement of milestones and so I was very fortunate that I had One Year No Beer as like my community. And since then it branched into like the wider internet. But yeah, oh god, I can't imagine doing that alone like that's so hard.

Elizabeth: Yeah. It was quite difficult. I didn't even really celebrate any milestones. I celebrated like my 60 days, I like, made myself good dinner and I got dressed really nice. And, you know, I was just parading around my own house. In my one year, I think my spouse and I went out to dinner possibly but like I don't even remember. Yeah. I didn't tell people on my Facebook like about-- I didn't actually open up about being alcohol free to my personal Instagram and my personal Facebook until I was two years alcohol free. That was the first thing that I made. And once I opened up, not only to the Sober Instagram but to my real life, I realized there's way more support out there than I was allowing myself. I was thinking these people they won't understand. You know, they're not going to support me. They won't care. All these things. And at my two years after I announced that I was alcohol free for two years, I had people coming out of the woodwork. You know, people I hadn't talked to since high school. People who, you know, follow my Instagram page and they're not necessarily alcohol free but they're always sending me supportive messages and, you know, commenting on posts. And, you know, just praising me and, you know, relating to me. Maybe it's not necessarily them but they have a sibling or they have, you know, a parent who is an alcoholic or things like that and I think that's been a huge-- that's been a huge blessing because I was so scared. I think there's a lot of shame that sits with people who have, you know, troubles. When you start to open up you're afraid people are going to demonize you. You're afraid people aren't going to understand or they're going to judge you. But in reality, like it actually brought more closeness with my friends, my family, people I barely know. And because I spoke up, I've had several people, you know, come to me and say, hey, you talked about being alcohol free. I tried it. I'm now, you know, six months sober or whatever the case may be like. These people didn't actually attempt to alcohol free life until I started sharing about it on my personal life which is amazing because the people I'm like, oh, they wouldn't care. Why would they care?

Alex: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You never know what people are thinking. And a lot of people do care and they care for personal reasons, for themselves, and they want to change their lifestyle. That's really cool to see.

Alex: Yeah. That's so true. It's like you-- I did a post on this recently about how, you know, one woman's Facebook post that inspired me and I actually never even commented on it. And it was like a year later that I was able to kind of track her down through this Facebook group and, you know, that's a perfect example of like I was, you know, I was seven days sober. So I have the courage to say how meaningful it was to me and I think sometimes we don't even know who we're impacting. But like, having the courage to share your story is just-- it's touching people whether, you know, you know it or not.

Elizabeth: Right. And I love the expressions like recover out loud and--