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Your Story May Become Someone Else's Survival Guide with Xanthe Grace

May 6 2021



On my first day joining a sober Facebook group in 2019, I read a post written by a woman who was on day 511. She wrote about going on an airplane journey without drinking alcohol. I was on day six or seven sober at this point. I had been a Canadian living in the Middle East for nearly five years, and as a result spent a lot of time in airports and on airplanes, always with a drink in hand. My ritual was getting thru airport security and taking a picture of a beer beside my passport and boarding pass and posting it on Instagram. Anyone else?


I remember reading this woman’s post thinking “how on earth has this woman made it to day 511? And how has she not drank on airplanes for over a year?”


I don’t even think I commented on the post because at that point I was too embarrassed to even speak about my own sober journey, but I never forgot the post. I couldn’t remember the woman’s name, but every time I was in an airport or airplane for my first year sober, I always thought of her. “If she can do it, so can I.” Her story became part of my survival guide.


When I myself was around 500 days, I told that same story on the same sober Facebook group, mentioning I couldn’t remember her name - and someone tagged her. It was @xanthegracehealthcoach. Sure enough, she said it was her and I added her on Facebook. She was so touched that her story became so significant to me. We’ve stayed in touch.


Last month, I got to sit down with this beautiful soul and interview her for an episode of Sober Yoga Girl. 🙏🏻❤️🎙 It was amazing. Her story became part of my story, and she didn’t even know. All she did was write it out.


When you’re ready, share your story. You might not know who it touches at the time. But someone might circle back over a year later (as I did to Xanthe) and tell you - “Thank you. That story became part of my survival guide.”


Catch this episode out now! I am soo excited for it - it’s a good one! Thank you @xanthegracehealthcoach for being on the show!


Listen here.


If you enjoyed this episode please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and share the podcast so it can reach more people that it will serve and benefit.


Xanthe is currently taking one-on-one clients for health coaching and can be found on Instagram @xanthegracehealthcoach and at www.xanthegrace.com. Make sure to follow Alex's journey on instagram @alexmcrobs and join her yoga, meditation, barre and coaching classes at www.themindfullifepractice.com.


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. So welcome back to another episode of "Sober Yoga Girl". I am super excited to have Xanthe Grace with me here today on the podcast. Hi Xanthe.


Xanthe: Hi there, hi.


Alex: So Xanthe is a health coach and she has been on a sober journey for-- How long have you been sober now?


Xanthe: Three and a half years now.


Alex: Three and a half years. That's amazing.


Xanthe: Yeah.


Alex: And I'm super excited to have Xanthe on the show because she was an important person to me in the start of my alcohol free journey and I'll kind of tell this story. So I, when I first quit drinking, I joined One Year No Beer. And I remember logging on, on the first day which was maybe a week into my sobriety and the first post I saw was Xanthe's post. And I remember Xanthe was on day 511. She had been in an airport and she wrote a post about being in the airport for the first time without drinking, right? That was what the post was about?


Xanthe: Yeah. I had been a few times. It was my first long-haul flight, my first long-haul flight alcohol-free, yeah.


Alex: Okay. And I remember seeing it. And so when I quit drinking I was actually on a flight myself. I was on a flight back from a trip in Morocco to Abu Dhabi and like I'm an expat so I've lived in the middle east for six years now and , you know, I was in, grew up in Canada and I was also living in a country where alcohol was illegal so I became really obsessed with like getting on planes and drinking on the plane on the flight out of the country. And so for me alcohol and planes was like a really big trigger and I remember seeing your post and being like, how did this woman do this? How did she go on a plane without drinking? And I kept it in my head for so long as like this was such an inspiration to me and then I never said anything about it. And then I was on day, I think I was hitting around day 511 or day 500 and I wrote a post on One Year No Beer talking about your post and just saying, you know, of course I had seen you in One Year No Beer over the course of the journey but I just couldn't remember who had originally made it, you know, I didn't know anyone and someone commented being like, that's Xanthe. And it was just so cool because, you know, I'm sure for you, you were just telling your story and you just didn't think how it would impact someone, but for me it was like I thought of you every time I was in an airport after that and it just meant so much to me. And so it was really cool to get connected with you, and then we became Facebook friends, and then when I started the podcast I'm like, I have to get Xanthe on here. So that's kind of how we ended up here.


Xanthe: Well, I mean, how amazing to hear that story and as you say, I mean, you know, I have traveled a lot in my life and I do have family around the world. So, you know, I was the same in airports. It's just travel. It was just the way of doing it, you know, getting into that habit. So it was just such a revelation to sort of experience it without alcohol. Thankfully alcohol-free beer was what got me through but it's just so wonderful to hear how that sort of post, you know, which obviously meant a lot to me but how it just sort of, you know, you just sort of totally connected with it and it's just wonderful. It just, you know, makes me think.


Alex: Right. And, you know, I remember maybe about six months ago coming across someone's post and they made a post about, you know, going to the hair salon and for the first time not drinking and I remember finding it so strange because I was like, you know, I've never drank in a hair salon. And then I was thinking, you know, different cultures have different things and there's probably places in the world where that's a thing. And for someone else who that's their trigger, you know, that story would be significant to them. And so it just shows how like, you know, we all have such different associations with alcohol. Alcohol means different things to us in different scenarios and like, just by telling our personal stories, you know, might not connect with everyone but it could really become meaningful to the people that it does connect with.


Xanthe: Yeah. I know and that's why sharing these stories is invaluable. It really is.


Alex: Totally, yeah. All right. So let's kind of dive into-- so let's start off by you kind of giving me a bit of background on you, like who you are, where you're from, kind of what your interests are?


Xanthe: Yeah, sure. Well, so my name is Xanthe Grace and I'm 53 years old. I'm mum to a 17 year old boy and I would say, I'm a bit of a health nut. It's just something that I am just passionate about and I have been really all my life actually, I love to eat healthy. I cook healthy. I just love going out for meals though so in restaurants, but obviously we haven't been able to do that for the last year. So I've actually had to learn how to cook, you know, cook myself and I think it's one upside of maybe the pandemic for me has been that I've actually sort of become almost good at cooking. I never love it but, you know, I've certainly-- my repertoire has improved and I've always had a passion for traveling. And I was thinking about this Alex. Funnily enough, my first ever trip abroad was when I was 15 and I went to Abu Dhabi.


Alex: Seriously? Wow. That's such a random place.


Xanthe: So what it was, I was at boarding school and it was a school friend and her parents taught at an international school in Abu Dhabi and invited me over in the Easter holidays. And this was in 1982 and I was 15 years old and I took my first flight abroad on my own at 15 and had, you know, 10 days in Abu Dhabi. So that was incredible. I'm sure it's changed massively.


Alex: So much. Yeah.


Xanthe: But that really sparked my passion for traveling. So, you know, it's just something I've always done. I now live in Dorset which is on the South Coast of England and I'm very lucky I live close to the sea. And I've lived here for 14 years now. Going back, you know, my childhood, I had a really happy stable childhood. I was very lucky. My parents were farmers and I grew up on a farm and I have two younger brothers. And, you know, we just had a lovely childhood and my parents were very hard working and the business grew. And we had a tennis court, we had an indoor swimming pool, you know, we had a very lovely childhood. So, because often I think people maybe think, you know, there's problems, childhood problems, and, you know, that create this problem with drinking. But for me, it was just a lovely, I had a lovely childhood. And then 13, I went to boarding school. My parents decided that it was the best education that I could get so I was sent off to boarding school which I didn't love. I had kind of mixed feelings about it because it was very strict in those days. It was lots of rules and I just didn't really sort of like enjoy the rules. But, you know, it was what I did. My brothers were send, it sounds bad, send to way school. They went to boarding school. So, that was kind of my, really my childhood. From there, now I've worked in various jobs. I've worked in Town Planning. I worked in a State Agency for a while. I worked in a Research Institute for a while. And then laterally, I've trained, a retrained and become a health coach. And as I say, I've traveled a lot and my brothers now live abroad. I have a brother who lives in Florida still and he's been there for 35 years. I have another brother who lives in Melbourne in Australia so I, you know, there's a lot of traveling that goes on hence the post first place.


Alex: Yeah. That sounds like it's people on like in all parts of the world. Australia, States, UK.


Xanthe: But to take it personally that my brothers live the other side of the world, you know.


Alex: So let's talk a bit about your drinking. So how did you start drinking, when did you start drinking, and what kind of influenced your drinking habits?


Xanthe: Yeah. So I was just, you know, obviously coming on here and it's so interesting because you start sort of thinking about all really. And so growing up I would say, you know, drinking really was never something that was I was around particularly. I had-- my only living grandparent was this really strict like victorian lady, who she was really scary actually quite frankly. I was terrified of her and, you know, sort of no kind of vices really. And my parents themselves just, they just weren't really sort of drinkers. I mean, they were big entertainers. They used to have-- they used to throw like really big parties. We had pool parties. And they offered alcohol but it was just not really-- it was never really anything sort of, you know, extreme. But my first experience was when I was about 15 and my dad-- we had lots of damson and trees on our farm. And I remember my dad deciding that he was going to start brewing damson and wine. So he's like picked all these damsons and he made it into wine and we had like a big wine cellar. So as a celebration, he invited my aunties over. My dad had five sisters. I had five aunties. So they all came around and we opened up the damson and wine. And he gave me a glass and I drank it and I just thought, well, it was lovely. It was very sweet. And anyway, so we were sitting there chatting, you know, I'm sitting chatting there with my aunties and after a couple of hours, they were sort of like getting ready to go home and sort of stood up to go home. And one of them nearly collapsed and basically, it was so strong, this wine. But it was so sweet so they were knocking it back and they I just remember kind of like disappearing into the yard to sort of and to get into their cars to drive home which obviously we wouldn't do nowadays. But in those days we were in the middle of nowhere so they were more likely to come across a cow on the way home than another, you know-- but, you know, I think that as my first memory and it was just like a really harmless, you know, a harmless amusing time. So that was sort of, that was probably my first experience. And then when I was 16, you know, I was still at boarding school and you'd have a few drinks, you know, friends over and everything. But really, there was nothing. It was just normal. It was just normal stuffs, you know, we'd do at school. So that was that. Then when I was 18 really, finishing school, my parents emigrated to Florida. They sold up the farm and they decided they wanted-- my dad always been obsessed with the States and they bought a shop and they moved to Florida. So I had this like massive decision to make and I decided to move with them. So I did. And so, of course, getting to the States at the age of 18 and of course horror of horrors, it's illegal to drink in the States until you were in Florida. Sorry, until you're 21. So that wasn't-- I really not happy about that and it was just because we've been allowed to drink in the UK, you know, obviously for a year or two. And certainly you could get away with it because if you looked old enough, you could go into a pub a little bit drink. So of course, I had, what can I do? How can I get around? But of course, there's the fake ID, isn't there?


Alex: Yeah.


Xanther: Yeah. So I ended up getting a fake ID and I went to the University of Miami actually. I started studying at the University of Miami and, you know, I just got involved in the normal student stuff and I remember going to these bladder bust things. I don't know, do you ever have heard of the bladder bust thing?


Alex: No, I haven't.


Xanthe: But it's where you'd go to a bar and they kind of lock the doors, and they would serve beer, and it was free until somebody had to go to the bathroom.


Alex: Oh my god.


Xanthe: It was just like crossing their legs knowing if you are the one that goes to the bathroom then everyone has to pay for their drinks. Straight bad.


Alex: Oh, god. That's wild.


Xanthe: It was fun at the time.


Alex: Yeah.


Xanthe: Yeah. So, you know, I got you-- you got involved in that but it was just what you did in those days and then your youth. And so that was that. So after a couple of years though I really-- I'm, you know, I've been institutionalized since I was 13. For me the culture of South Florida, right? I was like felt so alien to me. So I wasn't really that happy there and in the end I decided to move back to the UK. So I came back after a couple of years and then I moved to a town in the center of the UK called Nottingham. And my best friend from school was doing a degree there. I just-- my parents have sold everything up and I was like, where do I go? I don't want to go back to live in the middle of the country, you know. When you're 18, you want to live in the town and experience life. So, I moved to Nottingham. And, you know, I ended up actually living with a family there. So I was I ended up doing a degree myself but I didn't live in student halls. I just lived with this family. So that was actually quite good for me because I had-- she had, my landlady had two young children so and I had to be respectful of these young children in the house so it really meant that, you know, I didn't kind of go crazy. But I do remember, I kind of had memories of the odd night and there was this drink in the UK in the 1990s. This was like when raves were starting to become a thing and like ecstasy. People were into all that. It was not my scene at all but they had this drink. It was called Diamond White and it's like this really strong sweet cider. And my dad's damson and wine, you know, it was like rocket fuel so you'd have like four or five bottles thinking, oh, I'm fine. But, you know, actually you'd feel terrible and I do remember a particular night coming back, and I remember lying in my bed, you know, the room's spinning and I'm just like, I'm gonna be sick so I ran to the loo and I just remembered my landlady's bedroom was next door and I'm trying to be quietly little and trying to be quiet. But, you know, again it was just kind of normal stuff. So this is how for me. It was just always very-- I keep saying the word normal, you know, but there was just no signals of really what was to come. So that was that. Then I-- so I did a degree and then I graduated and I moved down to Surrey which is like South of London and I lived there for a year or two. And then I got married and then I actually moved my husband and I moved back to the Midlands near Nottingham again. So that's where we live for a few years. And, you know, I work-- and that's when I got a job working in respiratory research and I lived in-- I worked this job I absolutely loved and, you know, I was really, really happy. I got pregnant. Had my son and, you know, life was really, really good. Then I had a really awful experience. My husband came home from work one day and he basically sat me down and told me he'd been having an affair for two years. And it was like a bomb went off in my world. It was so unexpected. You know, I've talked to people who've been in this situation and they kind of have an inkling. I was just completely side, you know, it just absolutely blown away by it. So it was terrible. So, you know, when those kind of things just start to trigger things in you and it was dreadful. So I think that was the point really where I started to increase my drinking a little bit. Certainly more than the norm. But I had my son who was two and I had to think of him and I was working a full-time job. And so I was mindful all the time that I just couldn't lose this because I couldn't lose control of this because I had to, you know, keep going for my son. So it did increase but I don't think it got to anything that was too concerning at that point. So that really was my, yeah, that sort of was my early drinking days I would say.


Alex: Yeah, wow. That must have been such a horrible like kind of sort of rocks your world finding out about that.


Xanther: It's like your world is not knocked off its access and axis. And yeah, it's just really, really hard so we work through things. But, I mean, ultimately I couldn't come, I couldn't forgive that. And so we had-- we ended up obviously separating. And then that was just a pretty grim period. But actually quite shortly after that, I was flying to Florida to my brother's wedding. So my brother had moved to Florida sort of quite a few years ago and he was getting married. And so my son and I went over. So my son at this time is like nearly three so still very young. Anyway, we were waiting in line at Miami immigration and there's a huge line there. And we got talking to a chap who was standing behind me in the line and we left for about an hour. We ended up swapping numbers. We were just, you know, getting on really well. That's my hairdresser. I'm waiting for the goal. Anyway, so we swapped numbers and he was actually an English chap who was flying to the States for business. And we-- long and short of it was is we started dating. After about a year, I then moved, my son and I moved down here to Dorset. Yeah, we could be together. So it was all kind of a bit of a whirlwind that was really what happened. But the problem was that this gentleman was, he was a regular drinker I would say. And he wasn't like excessive but he, you know, he did drink regularly and he introduced me to the new world wines such as like the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. You know, there's strong new world wines.


Alex: Yeah.


Xanthe: Well, I absolutely love those. And so I think I just at that point started to drink more regularly because he enjoyed it. And he was a, you know, he's a very stocky chap. So of course, I now understand that, you know, men can drink more than us and we have less fluid in our bodies.


Alex: Right.


Xanthe: It certainly becomes, yeah, more of an issue for women. So, and I kept up with him you see. So he's this, you know, kind of stocky guy and he can hold his alcohol as they say. Anyway, so that was that really and a few months into we've moved in together. And I remember one night we just ended up having some row over something really innocuous and he just exploded like he had this really volatile temper of and I was just taken aback. I was just like, god, I've never seen this kind of behavior before. You know, never been with anybody who just really lost their temper over something really innocuous. I remember it was a red flag to me at the time and I thought, but then I've moved my son down here, you know, I kind of rooted our life. And of course my son, you know, we've been through the unsettling divorce and everything and I tried to protect my boy as much as I could. But, you know, it's still-- there's obviously upheaval involved. Anyway, I decided, look, you know, I've done this. I've got to just go with it. There's maybe an aberration and, you know, maybe actually it's all right. So we got married actually very quickly after that. It was all fine for a few months and then we went to-- we were very lucky we went to Monte Carlo and I don't know if you've ever been but it's, I mean, it's a beautiful place and we'd had the most wonderful evening and we were waiting for a taxi to go back to our hotel we were staying in Nice. And so we're standing, waiting for this taxi and we-- you can't get taxis. They're quite hard to get in Monte Carlo. So I was suggesting or maybe we could like walk down that road a bit further and we'll find somewhere. He lost the plot he again, you know, had this like huge like, you know, volcanic eruption and he just-- me where I just thought, my god, our marriage is over, you know. I mean, it was just like, it was shocking to me. So we got back to the hotel and, you know, I cried myself to sleep and thinking, well, this is it. You know, I've been married for three months. It's all over. And the next morning it was like, it was normal like, you know, he was chatting to me as if nothing had even happened. And I'm like, well, what about last night? And he was like, what? Nothing. And he refused to talk about it. And that was, you know, that was it really. End of the subject. To be honest Alex, that's how I lived really for a few years, you know, with this sort of like, you know, person that you'd always be in fear of this, you know, this temper erupting. And so I trod on eggshells.


Alex: Yeah.


Xanthe: Many years and he was a very quiet chap. He was-- and actually when I first met him he seemed very outgoing. But actually, he was very shy and quiet. And the only time he came out of his shell was when he drank. So and then we bonded over it, you know, and you're living with who just doesn't talk to you. And so the only way they talk to you is they have a few drinks so you're like, oh well, I might as well-- let's go out and have a few drinks. Let's go and have a meal and have a few drinks. And then he's relaxed as well, it started to go wrong for me. So I got into this habit and I was never relaxed. But, you know, that isn't sustainable and we knew it. We were just very, very different people. So we kind of, yeah, I think we were together for about six years. But in the end we separated. But of course, it left me with that habit, you know, with that habit of having a bottle of wine. I'd always tried to not have a whole bottle because if you left a bit in the bottle, it wasn't so bad. Have a night off, you know, it wasn't so bad but it left me with that habit. And then the other thing that happened around that time was I lost my mum as well who it was like my best friend, and my rock, and yes, and that was a double blow for me. So that's really when life really just spiraled. It spiraled to a point of probably I was drinking around five bottles a week I would say.


Alex: Wow. Yeah. And, you know, I can relate to what you said about, you know, I don't know if it would-- if it came up for me specifically with a partner per se but like with friends or other people in my life where they just have such a hard time connecting without alcohol. And so, for me, alcohol became fundamental in a lot of different relationships as a way to try and connect to people, to have meaningful conversations, to have deep conversations because for whatever reason they're a bit more guarded. And so I think a lot of people listening could probably relate to that role that alcohol might have played in like their dynamics, and relationships, and their life.


Xanthe: That's it exactly. And it doesn't-- and then it becomes a habit and before you know it, two years have gone by, you know, time is by and then you look at that and I think to myself, well, when sort of-- when I was at my sort of lowest point and I was thinking to myself, you know, look, I know my body is creaking here. I could just tell, I've spoken to Andy Ramage about this and he's done a brilliant podcast about this gray area drinking where you're, you know, you're drinking in excess of what you should be drinking, but you don't, you know, you don't want to have that rock bottom moment. But, you know, what do you do type thing. For me, so in the UK, the alcohol allowance that the government recommends is what they call 14 units a week. So that is what the government recommends is what one should drink. Well, that's a bottle and a half of wine a week is what people should be drinking or less obviously.


Alex: Yeah.


Xanthe: Or maybe like 10 bottles of say, corona beer or something like that. That is the limit. And I mean, you know, you think of-- you go to a bar here and you have a large glass of wine. It's a third of a bottle of wine. It's a large glass of wine. I know it's different around the world. And again, that makes-- and I know when I've been to the states. There it's in ounces there. There's all confusing here. It's in milliliters.


Alex: Yeah.


Xanthe: But, you know, it's confusing, isn't it? As to what your limits are so you just kind of think to yourself, well, I knew I was in excess of that, you know, so I should-- you should be drinking a bottle and a half of wine or less than I know I was drinking about five bottles of wine a week. And then obviously if you get out as well with friends, god knows, or to a dinner party, you know, it just-- the host keeps topping it up and you just don't need it--


Alex: Absolutely. You know, I think I was probably drinking five bottles a week, like I have no concept of how much I was drinking towards the end. But like I'm sure, it's true I was drinking more than five, like--


Xanthe: The thing is I'm assume-- I could just feel that my-- yes, say I describe it as my body creaking. I was getting like pains down back. I, you know, I put on weight. I mean, I've never been overweight but I certainly noticed like my hands were puffy, my rings weren't fitting, you know, your face is looks a bit fluffier, and you just, you know, I just knew it. But, you know, it was just that kind of-- well, I need to stop but I needed something to push me really to stop. And so without it hitting, you know, the rock bottom, and then so the wood, I mean, do you want me to tell you the things that happened?


Alex: Yeah. That's the next thing I'm about to ask. What made you-- what led you to quitting?


Xanthe: So I think the first thing was just knowing, just being honest and I say this to anyone, you know, who's listening. Just be honest with yourself and I know people don't-- the word in the UK is the "nanny state" and people hate the idea of the government interfering in these things. You know, people are very dismissive of that. But the guidelines are there for a reason. And so I would say, just honestly look at how much you are drinking and just, you know, keep it-- I know it's hideous but just keep an account of it and that will give you an idea of where you're at. But for me, so as a story basically, I promised my son I'd take him shopping in London. Now, he's a boy but I have taken him around shopping malls in America since before he could walk and he loves shopping. He's like, amazing, my boy loves shopping. So what we did was we booked a hotel in a city, a little town, sorry on the edge of London. And the idea was we stay in the hotel and then we drive into London super early and we could park and we could go shopping. I booked this room and we turn up and we just settle into the room. And then I said to my son, I'm gonna go down to the bar and have a drink in the bar. So I went down to the bar. Had a large glass of wine in the bar. And then I sort of, you know, we booked to go for dinner, so we then got ready and we went out for dinner and had a lovely meal. It was like a French bistro restaurant. It was a beautiful meal. And over dinner I had two more glasses of wine over dinner. So nothing too extrem