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When I Learn About Others, I Learn About Myself with Abi Feltham, Sober Influencer

Updated: Sep 2, 2021


I'm super stoked for Abi Feltham to join her in today's episode! Abi Feltham is an addiction recovery advocate and content creator from London. Through her funny and often relatable videos, she strives to reduce the stigma surrounding people with addiction issues. She shares the highs and lows of her addictions and recovery, aiming to give hope to those who are struggling and make them feel less alone. In this episode, Me and Abi chat about Abi's journey back packing around the world, becoming sober, and how she became a Sober advocate.




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To follow Abi on Instagram you can find her at @abi.feltham. 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

All right. Hello, everyone. And welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am super excited to have Abi Feltham here on the show with me today. And Abi is a Sober Influencer, has a ton of followers, makes hilarious reels, and that's how she's kind of come up on to my feet and been really inspiring to, like, sharing your journey. So thank you so much for being on the show, and I'm really happy to have you here.


Abi

Hi. Thanks for having me.


Alex

So Abi is in the UK and I would love to hear more about kind of who you are, Abi. Like, your story. Tell me a bit about yourself, where you're from and all that stuff.


Abi

Well, yes, I'm in the UK. Yeah I'm in London. This is only, like a recent development in the last year. Essentially, I spent the last ten years backpacking around the world. Yeah. Just basically partying around the world, just going around on adventures and not having any responsibilities and doing a lot of drinking.


Alex

Wow. I did not know that.


Abi

Yeah. It's only, like, yeah. It was only the beginning of the pandemic that I came back to the UK and then got sober. Yeah. I lived in Laos for, like, four years. I lived in Cambodia, Australia, US, Canada, like yeah.


Alex

Amazing.


Abi

Well all around.


Alex

I was in Laos in 2019 right before I got sober. I did a little you know, the typical backpacking through Southeast Asia thing, that people do and the party and then they go to hostels, you know.


Abi

Yeah. I was there in 2019. I lived in Vang Vieng for like, four years.


Alex

Wow. That's the place where you raft, right?


Abi

Yeah. You do the choosing.


Alex

I'm sure we bet that because there was like-- there were like two bars there, right?


Abi

Oh, right. Yeah. I definitely probably might. I worked at those bars in 2019.


Alex

So I'm sure we met before my--


Abi

I guess we did.


Alex

Wow. That's so cool. And so you moved back to London and at the start of the pandemic was that due to everything going on with the travel restrictions or what prompted that?


Abi

Well it kind of it coincided with a mental breakdown.


Alex

Okay.


Abi

So it was kind of like, I want to say, good timing.


Alex

Yeah.


Abi

Like I just had this awful mental breakdown like lots. I kept on hitting rock bottom. Like I was an absolute mess and my life was just like crumbling around me. And it was just like, my own mental health issues and my drinking and my drug taking had really taken this toll on me. Yeah. And I was in a terrible place. And then it coincided with a pandemic and I was just so reluctant and so stubborn to ever go home and like sort myself out. Like I was like, no, I'm going to travel the world forever, even though I was absolutely miserable. But then the pandemic here, and then everyone was going home. A lot backpackers of going home. Everyone was kind of like losing their jobs and bring them back in with their parents and stuff.


Alex

Right.


Abi

And that kind of gave me the kick to actually go home and face my problems.


Alex

Right. Wow. And so, yeah. I guess a lot of those bars that were probably real tourist places like were people losing their jobs that were working in those bars because there just weren't tourist coming or--


Abi

Yeah. Well so at the time I was in Canada. I was living on Vancouver Island. I was working at a barbeque restaurant, and I had just lost my job for drinking. Like for being black up drunk at work. But then, like, two days later, everyone else lost their jobs because it's pandemic.


Alex

Wow.


Abi

Yeah. So I kind of, like, I tell people now that I lost my job because I was black out drunk. But at the time, I was like kind of embarrassed and I was still coming to terms and everything. I was still very lost. And I was very unsure of myself. And I was very insecure. So I just told everyone it was because of the pandemic.


Alex

Yeah. I mean, it was good timing for--


Abi

What? It was. It really was.


Alex

So tell me a bit about yourself like growing up. How did you start drinking?


Abi

Well, I have-- I don't know. I've always been a very intense person in the way that I feel ever since always really little, real young. Always felt emotions really heavily, really intensely, and I've never been able to manage them. I've learned now I've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It's something that in any kind of inclination been with me my entire life. I heard remember being very young and not being able to manage my emotions and not-- I don't know, things would really affects me.


Alex

Right.


Abi

Like, I would watch other people and then like something would happen to them and they'd be able to brush it off. My emotions just really had an effect on me all growing up and through into my teens. And when I discovered drinking so it's Britain. Like, there's a big drinking culture and like pretty much everyone starts drinking when they're teenagers. Like it's a through normalized thing it is. Like really ingrained in our culture, like for binge drinking and teen drinking. Like, it's kind of like weird if you don't do it. And it's just normal in families, really. And then so when I started drinking like, I was like, oh, this numbs me. Like it made me feel a bit more normal and I cope a lot better. And I could manage myself because like yeah, my emotions were so intense because yeah I was numbing myself. And I really like that feeling. I loved it. And yeah, I kind of like I've always been a very adventurous person as well. And drinking go to parties, and kind of like that sort of glamorous size to, like, drinking a parting, I guess you can say, like, took me on lots of inventions and I love that as well. So to me, alcohol gave me so much confidence and it made me feel peace myself. And it like took me crazy places. And I went to crazy parties and was doing crazy things. I just thought I was having my best life.


Alex

Yeah. And this sounds a lot, you know, I can really relate to that because I also had a mood disorder. Growing up and it was diagnosed and I was told, you know, to stop drinking and I just kept drinking on these men's-- and I also kind of felt emotions in extreme. And so I think that is what I really like about alcohol is that kind of numb me out from all of that.


Abi

Yeah, really similar. Similar relationship with alcohol. Yeah.


Alex

And so tell me about how did your alcohol consumption increase over time? Did you find you know, I have a similar kind of not exactly the same with your journey and that you know, I lived in the Middle East, but I was traveling all around the world on these holidays and vacations. And just I found at the partying tourists lifestyle just really amped out my drinking. And I'm wondering if you kind of felt that influence your drinking or how did it grow over time?


Abi

And I just kept on drinking. I think I noticed, I guess, like, quite early on, I had a different relationship to alcohol than other people. Like other people would maybe go to parties and they have, like, a few drinks. But I'm guzzling.


Alex

Right.


Abi

Right guzzling. And then I think I moved to London when I was 18, moved out home in London by myself and just threw myself into the party scene there. I guess, I don't know. Like, I remember going to house parties when I first moved to London. And, like, we'd all be drinking and stuff. And then in the morning, like if we all kind of like, passed out at this house party of the next morning. Everyone wake up and be like oh, I'm so hungover and I'd wake up, I start drinking again. Like, yeah. And then I start drinking alone a lot. Like when I was kind of like in my early 20s, when I was in London. I left London when I was 23 to go traveling. And then that was my, like ten years abroad, essentially. And yeah, I just I found like, like you said, like a party lifestyle.


Alex

Right.


Abi

Before I went traveling there I was like, I was doing a lot of drugs. I was drinking a lot. Like I just always wanted to be around it always. I didn't want to have a day where I wasn't around drugs and alcohol.


Alex

What was the turning point for you? I know you've described kind of the mental health breakdown and then moving back to the UK. What was the turning point for you in which you decided to choose sobriety? Like was that something that you realize once you lost your job? Was it something that happened over time in London? Tell me about that.


Abi

It kind of came out of nowhere. Like it had been like something I knew I was an alcoholic for a good few years. Like I'd come to the terms with the fact that I was an alcoholic a good few years before I decided to get sober. But I was just like, I was fine with it. I was like, okay, I'm an alcoholic. I'm a functioning alcoholic. And that's how I live now. But and I just I didn't want to get sober. I just had no interest in not being an alcoholic. I was very depressed and really self loathing. And I was like, I'm going to be an alcoholic. I deserve it. I deserve to live my life this way because you know, I just hating myself so much. I was like, okay, this is me. This is my lot in life. So I just continued and masked all of my feelings of depression and stuff. And like, I try to had toyed with the idea thinking like you know, I should probably stop drinking because it is a lot of the cause of a lot of my problems but I didn't. I have this thing about escapism. Like I'm always, this is like my ten years traveling the world. You know, I'm always trying to escape things, and I've always ran away from my problems instead of facing them. And if I just kept on drinking, then I wouldn't have to face my depression. I wouldn't have to face my self loathing and all that. And then I had in like 2019, 2020. I didn't. I just kept on hitting rock bottom. Like, things weren't getting better every time I thought they couldn't get worse, they did. I was living in New York at the time with my boyfriend, and that relationship broke down because of essentially because of my drinking. Because I was blackout drunk every night and just an awful person to be living with. Like an absolute nightmare. My boyfriend kicked me out. I moved to Canada, move it a friend there. And then I immediately met this guy who was recovering crack addicts. And he was also really depressed. So he was like, oh man, I was a crack addict and alcoholic, both incredibly depressed. We kind of like, collided. And we were both like, let's do it. Let's take each other down. And like, yeah, we just went on this, like, massive bender. I started smoking crack. I was in a really bad place like that. I was just taking a lot of drugs and not caring about what happened to me. I had absolutely no interest in whether I live or die. And then I moved from the city that I was in. I was like, oh, my God. I have to stop this. Like, I'm actually a crack head now. Like, I have to end. So I left the city to get away from him. To stay away from the drugs and the moved on Vancouver Island. And I was like right I'm going to start this new life. Everything's really fine now. But it wasn't. My problems just followed me.


Alex

Yeah.


Abi

Like nothing got better. Like I just thought like okay, reaching new place, I'm going to recover. No, I just my drinking got so bad. I was living by myself in a trailer. And I was just drinking so much. And I was really depressed, really depressed. And then I tried to kill myself. And then I ended up in a psych ward for three days. And then I got fired for my job, for being drunk. And it's just for one thing after the other. And I was just like, oh, my God things are not getting like better. And I just--like I said before, I just had no interest in whether I live or die. And then in the pandemic hit I went back to the UK. And again, I was a mess. I was back at my mom's house, and I just being back at home, being back in my childhood home. I kind of started reflecting on everything. Everything that happens, like, especially that last year. And just everything is like, the same behaviors kept on repeating themselves. Like, I noticed throughout my life like nothing ever got better because I was still going down this route of ignoring my problems. And I wasn't helping myself in any way. And then I just had, like an epiphany I guess. It was like a little voice, saying in my head, like, it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to live like this. Like, it can be better. And I just like-- it was then I realized like it's-- I can't have a happy future with alcohol in my life. Like, it's impossible if I want to live. I decided I did want to live. I decided I wanted to spike my life. And if I was going to do that, I would have to get rid of alcohol and drugs. Like, that can't be part of my future. And I have to take control. And that's when I decided that I wasn't going to drink again.


Alex

Wow.


Abi

Yeah.


Alex

What a powerful story. And I can relate to so many different elements of that. Like I certainly had this escapism thing of, like, you know, my life is falling apart in Kuwait. So I'm like, I'm just gonna restart it at Abu Dhabi. And I'm like, it's gonna be better because alcohol is legal there and I can drink and I'll be happier. And you know, you had a point suddenly where you realize like my problems are gonna follow me all around the world. No matter where I am unless I face these problems, they're gonna be with me. So you know.


Abi

It took me so long to figure that out.


Alex

Oh yeah, me too.


Abi

When I did that, I was like, okay, this is how it works.


Alex

So how did you-- what was your sober journey like? Did you join AA? The 12 stuff like what was-- what were the tools that helped you in recovery?


Abi

So I am-- as I was at the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was locked down. Right? Like this is like day one of quarantine, the entire world was locked down. I did attend a couple of meetings on Zoom, like AA meetings on Zoom but I only went a couple of times. And for me, I just decided I was going to do it by myself. I've always been a black sheep. I've always got against the rain. I was like, I'm just doing myself. And, yeah, that sparked off a journey of a year of self discovery and learning. I just love myself learning who I was. I had no idea who I was because I spent so long. Like yeah, numbing myself with drugs and alcohol. I had no idea like, who I was, what I liked. Like, I just-- I had lost all sight of myself. So yeah, it was a year of getting to know who I was. And yeah, I did. For me, my tools were yoga, a meditation, breath work. I went through like a spiritual journey as well as getting to know myself. Yeah, kind of learning how to engage with the world in a way that I could actually relate to.


Abi

Right.


Alex

Wow. And so you're one of the first people I've talked to that has done it on their own.


Abi

Yeah.


Alex

Which is really impressive. Like, I myself I didn't do AA or the 12 steps either. It didn't feel the right fit for me. I mean, I was someone on my own, but I was part of one year, no beer. So kind of had that online community and support. Did you have any communities like that? Or--


Abi

No, not really. There was when I was I guess, maybe like four months four or five months over. I moved to Greece for the summer with my mom has a house out there. So I moved to Greece with my mom. And I was in Greece for four months. And there-- although I didn't meet any other sober people, I met a group of amazing women. Incredible women who are very are nurturing. I spent four months doing yoga and going to women circles and getting to know these like yeah, incredibly like, spiritual and wise women and just talking about things. And learning about other people. I always found that when I learned things about other people, I learn more about myself. So although none of my interactions with them were like sobriety based. It was all in leaning into that notion of self discovery. And yeah.


Alex

Yeah. Which sounds really similar to the kind of work I do. I do a lot of like, Sober Yoga program, Self Discovery journaling. And that really sounds like my toolbox for recovery as well.


Abi

Absolutely. It was complete accident as well. Like, I had a home. Like, before I went to Greece. Like, I've been doing a lot of yoga. I've been doing a lot of meditation. I had such an addictive personality. I definitely got addictive to meditation, for sure. I was doing like three hours of kind of Kundalini yoga a day. I was unemployed as well.


Alex

Right.


Abi

What else I going to do?


Alex

Yeah.


Abi

But. Yeah, it was really intense, but it really helped me. And then like yeah, just by accident, I met these women in Greece. Like, I'm a firm believer of you track the energy that you put out. Like when I was depressed mess. I attracted another depressed person to my life. And then ended up on crack. Like, when I was-- when I had this positive energy and I wanted to heal myself. I attracted healing people into my life. Yeah. It was really amazing.


Alex

Yeah. Oh. 100%. And it's kind of like I've been thinking a bit about the sober dating world lately and how when I was first in the very beginning of my sobriety. I felt like there were no sober people in the world. But it was because I was still attracting the same type of people that I was attracting when I was a partier. Right? And the longer that I'm in the sober world, I realized that there's so many of us like people are showing up in my life every day that are part of the sober community. You know, you or like other people connect with on Instagram. So pretty amazing.


Abi

Yeah. Absolutely.


Alex

So what was the hardest part about becoming sober?


Abi

Facing my problems. Facing my mental health issues for sure. I guess I spent them the first few months of sobriety just crying. Just I think I was lucky. I don't want to call the pandemic love, but I guess I had the luxury of time and space during my early sobriety because of the pandemic because I was at home and I was alone. And I had a lot of time to like reflect. Yeah. I spent the first few months crying like and I gave myself that time to just wallow. Like, I had a lot to mourn. I was grieving my old life, but the older person I was. I was experiencing lots of feelings around shame and guilt. And things I've done and the things I put myself through. Like, I felt very bad to begin with just thinking like oh, my God why did I do that to myself? Like I put myself so much trauma. Yeah. That was the hardest thing you definitely was to heal myself to face up to-- yeah. So basically I look myself in the mirror because I've been avoiding that for so long.


Alex

Yeah. And that is such a big part of the sober journey that we don't realize. Like, it's people just think that becoming sober is like stopping drinking. And I feel like people who haven't been on the sober journey don't understand is that it is literally like, you think you just put it on the drink, and then it's literally this deep dive into so much other like it goes so beyond just the word sober.


Abi

Is that so true. That's so true. Yeah.


Alex

I was on a podcast episode recently to where I was talking about my yoga journey. And someone said someone compared it to yoga as well saying you know, it sounds like Yoga is really similar in that you show up and you think you're doing a stretch and all of a sudden. You're like doing kundalini yoga for 4 hours a day. You were like--


Abi

Exactly.


Alex

So much more to it than just like the poses. And I thought like a nice comparison.


Abi

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. That mindfulness.


Alex

Yeah. So tell me about-- okay, so at the start of the episode, you said that you weren't telling people when you first lost your job. You know, you weren't talking to people about the fact that it was because of your drinking problems. And you know, you got to this point now where you're being open about it. So how did you switch from being more like private about your sober journey to becoming you know, now you're a sober influencer of all these followers, sober blogger. So what changed along the way?


Abi

Well to begin with at the beginning, I was honest and open with the people I was close to like my loved ones. That's also something that was really important to my journey was being open and honest. And so I did. Yeah I told like, my family and I loved ones, that I was gonna get sober. I was like I got a problem and I'm in a really dark place. And I'm gonna get sober. And like yeah, everyone was just like wow, that's fantastic. Like, everyone knew, everyone who was close to me knew that I was an absolute mess and I definitely had problems with alcohol. I don't know if I realized that was an alcoholic. I definitely knew that I was like struggling. And then yeah, I do keep it quite private. Just in a first few months. There one of the things that helped me in sobriety as well was gaining a hobby. So like and this is something that I recommend other people to do as well when they first enter sobriety. And I get a hobby like to get something that you can put your energy into, something you really enjoy doing. Something like, if you're creative person like a creative thing, something you can channel your emotions in and you can set goals and stuff. And for me, that was Instagram. I started a fashion Instagram. It's the same Instagram with the account I have now.


Alex

Oh wow.


Abi

So yeah, the account I have now is actually really interesting. Like, it goes back to 2011. It's the only Instagram account I've ever had. So if you go right to the beginning, it's like 2011, and you can watch me travel the world through active addiction.


Alex

Wow.


Abi

And then when I decided to get sober but I turned it into a fashion account. Yeah, I got real-- I love clothes and I love style and make up and everything and photography as well. So I got really into kind of a fashion community on Instagram. Yeah, I loved it. Like especially again, we're in lock down. So it gave me an excuse to like, get dressed and make up. Yeah. And I learned about photography and lighting and stuff, and it was really fun. I met loads of really cool people who are still my friends today. And yeah. And then through that like I had started when it was all fashion stuff. I was open about the fact that I was in addiction recovery and that I was sober. Well, but it was just like thing I would just mention it every now and then.


Alex

Right.


Abi

And then after about a year of doing a fashion account, I kind of I felt like I've completed it. I was like okay, the fashion Instagram world has offers has given me everything that I can offer. I've completed my project now and then-- by that point, I had posted a few videos about sobriety and about recovery and they go in like, people were really positive about it. And I was like oh I wonder if people would be interested in seeing more of this stuff. So yeah, I started on posting about it and being like look, this is me. I'm a mess. I'm in addiction recovery. But let's talk about it. And people responded. And then-- yeah, I've always been quite and open person anyway. I'm an over sharer, like, definitely. And, you know, that's pretty much how I started being super open about it. And kind of I think there is a space for that on social media for being completely honest about the highs and lows of a sobriety. Yeah.


Alex

Yeah. I had-- so that kind of sounds little bit similar to me and that I had my Instagram for ages, too. It's not the first one I had because I had one. And then I had a yoga one way back in the day. But I was always paranoid about my social media because I was a teacher before I was doing this work full time. And so I had a few photos of me drinking alcohol. You know, and then when I decided after a month sober I was like okay, I want to start working on a career full time in yoga but I can't have any of this content of me with alcohol. So I went through and there were maybe like 10, 15 posts over the full time at me drinking and I deleted them. And it's funny because then it you look through my social media. It looks like I just never use all of a sudden on day nine, I share for the first time that I was sober. And then it became you know, like something that I became more courageous about sharing and now it just kind of happened over time. Like you said like, I posted some things I got such positive feedback on my sober journey and then I realized that this is something that is really and you know, I didn't know anyone that was sober when I started doing it because people don't talk about it. And so to find come across people that are similar to you and you feel like you're not alone. It's like it's huge.


Abi

Yeah, absolutely. So I was like really shocked when people were responded to my sobriety content.


Alex

Oh my God. Your reels are so good. I love them. But--


Abi

Thank you.


Alex

If your reels. And I'm like, okay, I need to get this girl in the packet. That's so good.


Abi

Thank you. I have a lot of fun making them. I made them and I watched them back and I'm like, I am such an idiot. I love this.


Alex

There is one person in the sober community. I can't remember who it is, but she has a mocktail costume. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about.


Abi

Oh, I think I've seen her pop up--