In this episode, Alex sits down with Zac Spowart, the Nomadic Addict! Zac and Alex got connected via someone in the Girls Love Travel Facebook Group. Alex wrote a post that went viral about living in Bali, the Middle East, and sobriety - and someone tagged Zac on the post! In this episode Zac shares his sobriety journey, and why sober travel is such a passion of his. Tune in to learn more and check out Zac on instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/nomadicaddictt/
Hi, friend. This is Alex McRobs, founder of The Mindful Life Practice, and you're listening to the Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world to the Middle East at age 23, and I never went back. I got sober in 2019, and I now live full-time in Bali, Indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking, start yoga, and change their lives through my online Sober Girls Yoga community. You're not alone, and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how. Hello. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl Podcast. I'm really excited to be sitting here with Zac Spowart. And Zac and I, we weirdly got connected through this girls traveling Facebook group. I posted something about being sober and being in Bali and loving the Middle East. And someone commented who I don't know who it was anymore, being like you sound like my friend who is also sober and also lives in Bali and also lives in the Middle East. And I was like, Okay, I have to meet this person. And so we got connected.
And Zac, I was looking at Zac's social media and it's so cool. So he's created nomadic addict, which is basically an online platform and started a blog that's to promote sober traveling and adventures, which I just think is so amazing and cool. And so I wanted to have him on my show to hear more about his journey and his story and what he does. So welcome, Zac. How are you?
Yeah, Alex, thanks for having me. No, this is awesome. Yeah, when I heard your story and the way that you find out about me and we connected, I was equally intrigued. So really, really glad to connect with you and the work that you're doing. I'm doing great. I'm just happy to be visiting with my folks of all places, even though I'm based out of Bali, like you mentioned, I find myself in sunny California right now. And some time with the family is always a good thing.
Amazing. And I'm also at my family's right now at my mom's house. I'm in my childhood bedroom, which is the podcast studio.
Yeah, the podcast studio. I love it.
And so we were chatting before we started recording the episode, but Zac shared that you're 16 years sober, right?
Yeah, November 28th, 2006 is my marked sobriety date. So I'm 21 years old when I got sober. And say, hey, look at that. It's a really good time to get sober, a really bad time to get sober. But for me, it ended up being a really good time. And to start off, I thought it was the end of the world, but turned out to be the beginning of a whole new world. I guess, #Ariel there, but it was a beautiful, beautiful way of life. Yeah, very, very grateful.
Amazing. Oh, that's awesome. And I was wondering if you could share a little bit about your journey before sobriety. What was your childhood like and your story?
Yeah, for sure. So yeah, I mean, I grew up middle of three kids, older sister, younger brother. I was the first to probably get into some substances, but I was always drawn towards them. I don't know. I was like the good kid drawn towards the bad things, if that makes any sense. There was just that curiosity and intrigue of the mystery of the other side. So the football practices and doing the homework and the rigidity of the good grades and everything was not a super, I wouldn't say super fulfilling. I always had that intrigue. My next door neighbor got me to smoke cigarette when I was 13. And it was just the hidden feeling like a badass or something at the time. I don't know, something about it always grabbed my attention and then wanting to have a little bit of drinks to lean into that. But yeah. So I grew up my dad's a doc, my mom's an artist. I showed you my Art Studio just before this. It's actually where I'm sitting in right now at home here. Great loving people. I don't have a sob story in that regard. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who do.
But my story is not that. I mean, my story was a very loving, caring, providing family that we definitely had our dysfunction. Don't get me wrong, we weren't perfect. But a couple of glass of wine at dinner and all that. There was nothing. There was no major abuse or anything crazy. It was just that. But I struggled a lot with anxiety. And I think that's a huge part of my story that really launched me into a spaceplace of wanting to self-sooth and wanting to find ways to be at peace with myself. Anyway, I start going too far down that road. That was really what kinder led to my drugs and drinking, which I know we'll talk more about on this. But my upbringing was pretty good. A little bit of sibling fights here and there, a little bit of family vacations, that stuff.
Amazing. Thanks for sharing. And so when did you start getting into drinking? What was your teenage years like?
Yeah. So almost went right into that in the last question. But I wanted to leave space for the next one. I was joking with you, Alex, before a short story long with me here, I chat a lot. So I started drinking probably around 15, 16. And when I noticed my anxiety started getting really high, I would get so anxious that I would actually throw up. It was almost like my body's physiological response of the world. Whatever I'm experiencing so much that I can't take it that it's like this release of, I don't know, the burden of life, I guess. For a 15-year-old, it sounds comedic to say in all honesty, I think it's fine to make light of it in some regards, but also to honor anybody else's story that's out there that could be struggling with the same thing. But so much of what was going on was just the lack of awareness of what was happening within my body. And I think if there was anything that I wish, no regrets or whatever, but I wish for anyone out there, I wish for, could have been a little bit more normalized or explained to me at a younger age was just what anxiety felt like and what was going on.
Because it's one thing to be nervous. It's another thing to have crippling or debilitating anxiety that actually... I could literally go to go lock down the hallways in high school and throw up in a trash can or something. That's to the point where it's actually a disability, where it's too... I'm having a hard time just doing daily normal activities. But I made it worse. Drinking made it better, but I also made it worse. And I didn't learn about this until I got sober, too. The laws of physics here, whatever, for every action is equal and opposite reaction. So for as much as I choose to drink down my feelings and suppress those emotions, there's an equal and opposite reaction of that same anxiety that manifests later in terms of panic attacks and what have you. So that was something I didn't learn until later. But definitely from 15 to 21, when I got sober, it was my career drinking. And it was primarily founded upon, A, trying to find a sense of self and leaning into just some degree of like there was a girl at the time that caught my attention that was a big drinker.
That'll happen, right? You're first love and you get caught up in whoever you're attracted to and what they like and trying to conform to that persona. But I'm not a victim of anything, and sobriety teaches me that today, too. That was my own decision to participate in that. But they were serving me. I would drink and my brain would calm down. And I was at peace. So I felt like, oh, cool, I drink and everything's going to be okay. And that lasted for a little bit until it didn't. But that was my only coping mechanism for life. So when we get into chatting about how and why I got sober, that was the main catalyst was the alcohol worked until it didn't. And when it stopped working, it really stopped working. And then something had to shift.
Thanks so much for sharing that. I feel like at this time, even the time when I was growing up and I was a teenager in high school, there just was very little education around mental health. I don't think there was like, I don't think there was anything about mental health in high school. I think I learned about it in university when I had to take a psychology course. Even then, I was only because I was doing a Bachelor of Education, it was like a requirement to get the degree. It wasn't like a common thing. There were so little resources available that you find something that works, which is alcohol, and you're like, Okay, well, this is the answer then, rather than actually get to the root of like, Okay, how can I work with this without a substance?
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And at the time, 15 years old, when this first started happening, I mean, everyone was doing the best they could. It's one of my favorite lines that I learned is, everyone's doing the best they can with what they got. And it really takes the pressure off of just about anybody that I interact with. But my mom and everybody, everyone just wanted to help, including therapists that didn't necessarily know what the right thing was to do or putting me on prescriptive medication. I believe they were all just trying to help me, but getting me on clotapen or some of these benzos that just perpetuated the problem. Now, looking back on it now, it's like everyone was doing the best they could. I do genuinely believe that they all wanted to help. Nobody's at fault. It's just the way that the cookie crumbles as it goes.
So then what happened over that time between age 15 until 21? How did your drinking accelerate?
Yeah, it was definitely exponential in nature for a bit. I started with just a little bit of drinks here and there, obviously at 15, 16. My parents were pretty strict. They're a little bit old fashioned that way. It was pretty hard to stay out late, live in a relatively remote area. So trying to commute back and forth, it wasn't like you could just walk outside and crawl out of the bedroom window and go to these parties. You're like 20, 30 minutes removed from town. And so it makes a lot of noise coming into the house. And my dad's a light sleeper always on call as a doctor. So it wasn't easy. I had to do a lot of tricks. I remember lining up four, five, six excuses just to buy myself an hour an hour, an hour, an hour just to get myself a little bit of time. But yeah, most of it centered around some hidden opportunities when I could. Eventually, I found myself skipping football practice and doing some of these things to go drink and party with my friends. But the acceleration of the drinking came, I think, synonymously with the acceleration of my anxiety.
And as the anxiety worsens, my desire to drink and calm those nerves also increased as well. And I'm not trying to blame it on the anxiety, but I do recognize that as a large precursor and reason for my use. And it's a big part of my story for that reason. But yeah, and the whole idea of tolerance, needing more to achieve the same desired effect became very real and alive for me of like, okay, I have to drink more to get to the same base. And then the more I drink, the worse I felt. The worse I felt, the worse the anxiety got, the more I needed to drink. So it was this like, again, this perpetual cycle of like, okay, I really need to figure out how I can get this under control. But there was no figuring it out, because, again, like I mentioned, there was any doctor was giving me benzodiazepines, which is a tranquilizer, more or less, or if you're not familiar with that, a calming agent that's prescriptive medicine that's highly addictive and will also make anxiety worse without the medication. So, yeah, I just I would drink more hard liquor than the girlfriend at the time I was dating.
She was really big on that. And so we get together, we drink a lot. And she was the only child who lived in a space where her parents were okay with it. So that was a safe space for me to go and drink. And as long as we didn't leave the house, there were some enabling opportunities, such as life. There's always a will, there's a way you'll find a space to be able to operate the way that I wanted to operate. And so I did that. But as a result, it got worse and worse. And my parents tried some early intervention. They found some hard liquor bottles when I was 16 and I was losing weight because of my anxiety and because I wasn't able to hold down food very well. And I was getting pale and sickly looking at drinking more and being anxious and not really feeling like I wanted to eat a lot because my stomach was so upset. So my mom intervened and tried to get me into a treatment program as early as 16. But a 16-year-old kid who's barely been drinking, I don't know, it was a very, very hard for me to think that I was alcoholic at that age.
It was pretty hard at 21. But by the time it progressed to that point, there was much more there. A couple of DUIs and a minor in possession. I had an accident and injury with my little brother. He had actually fractured his neck in a car accident. And I was responsible for it at 21. Yeah, oh, my goodness, right? I blew a 0.18, I blew a 0.26. And that was a result of just fast forward to the story being on the Benzos, being on the Kalao pin and blocking out of the wheel. I've driven drunk many times. I'm not proud of that. But I told you, I'm an open book because I want people to know that stuff happens. And I'm super blessed, as is everyone else that I came encounter with on the road that I didn't get like nothing worse happened. It's crazy to think that that was who I was. And I take full ownership responsibility for that. And I've done my five-year felony probation. I've done my jail time. I did four months. I had one month at Credit-12, and I served the remaining three months of a house arrest at 21 as part of my sobriety story.
But there was a lot of reparations that had to be given. There was a lot of restitution, as it were, given back to pay my dues. But yeah, that was my story with my little brother and going to jail and blocking out of the wheel. And that was the main catalyst of, like I said before we started the recording, it was almost like my higher power who is a part of my recovery. For those of you listening out there, if that sounds too magical, no worries. I totally get it. But the idea of the universe or something guiding me or something redirecting me or just bad luck, whatever you want to talk it up to, I call it actually good luck, because it redirected me. But pushed me to get sober and led me down this path of a lot of legal interactions at a very young age, which forced me to shift my focus and direction. So I took that question and ran with it. But anyway, it gives you a bit of an idea.
Yeah. Thanks for sharing. Well, thanks for being so vulnerable because I'm sure that some of those things are not easy to share. I'm definitely talking about some of the drinking and driving things. I know that's something that can can be just super vulnerable to share. But I'm sure there's people that are listening who that's part of their story too. And it helps release some of the shame when you hear parts of your story and other people's stories and know that you're not alone in it.
Absolutely. Yeah, I was chatting with the girl recently who just trying to do some sober support. And yeah, she's driving on to the influence with her kids in the car. And the first thing I do to her is like, I don't want to enable the behavior. I don't want to say it's okay, but because that's certainly not anything that I think societyally and understandably, any of us want to accept that that would be a thing. And on the same token and that's also something that people that struggle with alcohol addictions or recognize themselves as alcoholics, it's what we do. And so, yeah, none of what I did was okay. I want to make that very clear. I'm very aware of that. But on the same token, I'm also very aware that I'm grateful that nothing tremendously horrible happened. My brother, by the grace of God, he fractured his C1 and C2 vertebrae, could have easily been paralyzed from the neck down, if not completely passed away. He had a full recovery. And he in and of himself is sober now over 10 years. So we have this dual brotherhood, not just by blood, but also through our sobriety and our recovery, which is pretty rare.
But anyway, I definitely have empathy for people who are going through that because I know deep down, I'm a big believer that deep down or even at the surface, all of us want to be our best selves. All of us want to push the shopping cart back to the spot it's supposed to go. All of us want to pay for someone else's coffee in the Starbucks line or whatever and pay it forward. I really believe that there's so much good that lives within all of us. And it's just tapping into that. And what is our best selves, our higher selves and our higher calling is something that, unfortunately, I think the drugs and drinking robs us of, and it's often times driven by the burdens of life. In the AA, they say life on life's terms. And I don't know, I don't know, maybe that sounds too enabling, but I don't know if that's anybody's fault. There's a lot of societal pressures and there's a lot of baby steps taking us off of the road that we were maybe called towards. We find ourselves way over here one day wondering how we got there. And through responsibilities and obligations and debts and whatever, there's a lot of pressure attached to that.
And I think it's okay to just stop and pause and recognize it like, hey, it's all right. You happen to find yourself in that space. One of my favorite quotes is nothing is good or bad. Nothing is good or bad. It's thinking that makes it so from William Shakespeare, and it's our own attachment to what's occurring that leads to that situation being good or bad. So if we can just honor that space as it doesn't have to be good or bad, it just is then we can operate from a space of like, okay, cool. How can we get ourselves back to where we want to be? Because that's really what it's about. If you want to be over here and you find yourself here, okay, you don't have to be good or bad. It just is you're here. And how can we get baby steps back that way? That's the approach I take with my own self, my own self healing, but also, of course, for other people who are going through what they're going through as well. Okay, there doesn't need to be any shame around that. We just somewhere along the way found ourselves taking these steps, maybe to self soothe, maybe because there were some societal pressures, maybe there are marital or relationship pressures.
We find ourselves in toxic relationships often times, wondering how we are doing these things that we thought we would never do. And one day you wake up and you're here. And it's really just about trying to get back to where you want to be. Yeah.
So when you went through this accident, this must have been, was this the catalyst for you, for your sobriety?
Alex, yeah, I want to say that I woke up and I'm like, oh, my God, I need to change. My life is not going the way that it was supposed to or that I wanted. And this is why I'm okay saying I'm an alcoholic today. Some people are really having aversion to that word, and that's cool. I'm not here to push that word on anybody. You do what you want to do around your own terminology. We talked about sober, curious and alcohol free and whatever. To each his own. I got sober through AA and a sponsor. So excuse me, that's part of my story. But yeah, I think for me, the catalyst was, it was primarily that. But as one of my counselors said, at Hazelden, Betty Ford, which is where I got my addiction counselor degree, gosh, almost like a decade ago now. He used to say he got sober because he had a back problem. And I love that saying because it was like the lawyers were on his back, his parents were on his back, the courts were on his back. It was like he had a back problem, right? And that was my situation.
I didn't wake up at this moment of clarity, this spiritual experience at all. I woke up in jail wondering when I was going to get out. And I remember asking the person like, hey, I don't understand. Why can't I go? The first DUI I woke up and you let me out. How come the second DUI don't get to you? And I remember him just looking at me in the eyes like, dude, you're in jail. It was like to him, it was really simple. You're an idiot. And you got in a car accident that you're responsible for. You shouldn't have done that. And you're in jail now. And I was waking up in the super entitled enabled space of like, release me. I'm free now. I'm sober. I slept through the night in this padded room. It doesn't work that way, man. And I remember beginning to make sense of like, oh, there are consequences, negative consequences for my actions. But sad to say that wasn't the major catalyst, although it was in some degree, the very first thing I did when I was released from jail was another guy that had a DUI that was released at the same time.
We walked right across the street. We got a couple of 40s and we drank. And then I called my parents and I said, oh, the that no one else to pick me up from jail at the time. And I said, oh, they just released me hours later. You have to come get me. And my parents being the loving borderline codependent, enabling people that they were at the time, of course, drop what they were doing at 2:00 in the morning and came pick me up. But it eventually became the catalyst because of all the legal stuff that I had hanging over me, the consequences of my actions. And that's why I said I'm really grateful for that, because at 21 years old, I I wasn't in a position to get sober. And my life would look drastically different today if it wasn't. So I'm super grateful. But yeah, in some ways, that was the catalyst, but not of my own volition or desire. It was definitely the back problem scenario, the five-year felony probation, I ended up getting a lawyer who was like, hey, you need to go to treatment. You're alcoholic. And me going to treatment and then none of that being enough, I was like, okay, I did inpatient.
I did outpatients. I did three years, no license, the five-year felony, probation, all that stuff. And after that, after one year of living a life sober and not getting in trouble anymore and things being just better, that was my true catalyst. That was when I was like, wow, I can have good relationship with family members. I can have good relationships with friends. I can not be wondering if I'm going to get in trouble when a cop pulls me over. I can do the right thing, quote-unquote, right thing, the legal thing anyways. And this is a possibility. It's funny. It almost never even occurred to me that that was a possibility of a way to live life. I would baby step my way off of the path in some regards. That was the catalyst. All of that hanging over my head and a long winded answer for your question.
Yeah, thanks for sharing. Wow, you just went through so much at such a young age, leading up to that the moment in which you got sober.
Yeah, I think so. Thanks for pointing that out. Yeah, I think it was a lot, but I think we all also go through a lot. Again, because like we talked about before, it's like everyone has their journey, everyone has their story. For some people, it's going to look drastically different around their familial brain, the way that they're brought up, trauma, abuse, physical, domestic, sexual. There's all sorts of different ways. Some people completely take an advantage of financially. Some of it's all the above. Some of it's none of the above. Some people are just like, hey, drinking was something I enjoyed and it worked. And then one day it just stopped and I started losing friends. And we're all part of the same club, I guess, of like, hey, we just are looking to live life in a better way, I think. Maybe not even better, because it goes against the whole good or bad thing. It's just, I don't know. For me, like we talked about before the show, it's just I just am really about promoting, living the life you want to live today. Itried so, so big on, tomorrow is not promised. And that doesn't mean to live foolishly, right?
Of course, we have our responsibilities. We have our obligations. If you have children, you've got to save money and you've got to pay for their schools, you've got all that stuff. And there is this element of waiting until one day I will do this. One day I will do that. And that just for today saying really hits home for me, because tomorrow is never promised. And to draw some of my diving career and my sober diving career into this as an example, a lot of places are being closed down. A lot of animal interactions are being shut down. And opportunities to do some of these dives are disappearing. And an opportunities to engage in these wonderful experiences are disappearing. I had a really incredible borderline, if not complete spiritual experience diving with sperm whales in the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. And I'm in a friend of mine who was asking me about it. I started helping them look into permits, and they're already heavily regulating that. And it was pretty regulated. But they're getting it to a point where as early as 2024, the common person like me and you, unless you're involved with National Geographic or something, might not be able to do that ever again.
Isuagadalupe, which is a place we used to go the best location they had to study great white shark behavior. They were doing tons of ocean conservation and awareness around that. They shut that down as of 2020 or 2021, can no longer go and have those experiences anymore. And you can name off a ton of things. This is just my ocean conservationist awareness piece of it. But there are small examples of it's very easy to think like, I'm going to go do that one day. And I can't do it this year, but I'll do it in two years when I have more money or when my kids are in school or when I'm out of the relationship, whatever the example is. When I finish this career. And so much of my recovery has taught me that don't live foolishly, but live opportunistically, for sure, around like, hey, just for today, tomorrow's never promised. And pay attention to those universal cues like, I'm here today. What does here for me look like? And what can I embrace in this moment that is given? I was long winded.
No, I love your long winded answers. You dropped so much wisdom in your shares. And I was thinking as you were sharing, I was like, gosh, there's so many things you've shared that make me think of components of yoga philosophy.
Yeah. Are you a yogi? Have you looked at yoga philosophy or do you know a little bit about it?
A little bit of yoga exposure. I need to do more, to be honest. I did triathlons for a bit, and yoga helps prevent a lot of injuries. And then when I stopped doing the triathlons, I stopped doing yoga. But I have leaned a lot into breathworks and meditation, mindfulness, which are in the pranayama, things of that nature, a lot of breathworks, orientation. So there is the overlap there. I would like my dad and I were just talking about this earlier today over coffee this morning, but I would like to get more into the stretching and the yoga. I've done some of that because the benefits of that are tremendous. I stand by 100 %. I'm a little bit of a hypocrite there because I'm not actively practicing.
Yeah, but that's okay because your yoga practice doesn't actually have to look like the poses or the asanas, but there were just a few things that you shared. I do yoga, Sutra study, like yoga philosophy study as part of my community, and there were a few things. I can't remember what you said. There was one, the nothing is good or bad, Shakespeare quote, which I have to get from you because that ties into a concept from yoga philosophy as well. But there's something else that you just shared there, which it's just the idea of the fact that nothing is guaranteed. And we can't predict when we're going to live the beginning or the end of our life. And all we can control is what we do in each moment that we're alive, in each breath. And so really just embracing the moment and the opportunity to do the things that you dream of.
Absolutely. Yeah, for sure.
Okay. What was my next question for you? I can't remember. Okay, you're sober. Okay, yes. Okay, now let's talk about your sobriety. So what was it like being like being... What was it like being... This was my question. We talked about this a little bit before we started recording of being sober at such a young age, like at age 21 and going through... Were you already in university or college at this point? And what was that like?
Oh, my gosh. My university career, it looks ridiculous. I have been to, I think it was a total seven or eight colleges, including junior colleges. Yeah, I've tried to put your transcripts together for that. It's a nightmare. But literally ridiculous. But that was part of my journey bouncing around trying to find the right space. A lot of my journey came through an attempted healing through geographic means. And I believe in that. There's an element of nature versus nurture that I believe is real. I don't buy into the whole, wherever you go, there you are. I'm a hundred % bought into that. We carry ourselves with us. And that's also the 50 % nurture standpoint. The nature is the environmental standpoint. And that has an equal play as well that I think it's overlooked sometimes. I like to say that in a scenario like if you take a Hawaiian and you put them in the North Pole, they might have a different outlook on life all of a sudden. And it doesn't mean that the person themselves who might have been a hundred % grounded doesn't take away from that. It just means that their environment wasn't conducive to match the nurture, the portion of themselves that is part of their calling, part of their passion, part of who they are.
If their water creature is drawn to the water and you take that away from them, it's taking away a part of themselves. And so I found that in my demographics, in my travels and obviously is currently existing in my nomadic addict adventures and recovery and nomad life that I've leaned into as I've gotten away from the nine to five stuff. But shoot, I totally just ADD on myself and forgot your question. They're going to have to bail me out here..
It was about being sober at a young age.
Perfect. Thank you. So if it was getting sober at a young age. Yeah, I think for me, so I scattered around... Yeah, it was through university. Thank you for bailing me out there. So I attempted to figure out where it could fit for me. I was like, oh, maybe I'll try an EMT job over here at this junior college. And I started at Cal Pauley San Luis Obispo. My dad was like, just a major, it doesn't matter what it is. And so I was agriculture business of all things because I wanted to go to Cal Pauley San Luis Obispo and I researched the highest likelihood of applications accepted, and that was the one. And so ag business it was. And obviously it lasted a few months and realized that wasn't for me. I wasn't in a state of mind to lean into that. And my friends were at the junior college that was locally there, and so I tried that. But when I started school to try to answer direct to your question, I was smoking a lot of weed. That was my crutch. That was my substitute for what I wasn't drinking. A lot of my friends were, quote unquote, stoners.
And I grew up in Monterey, California, a beautiful area. I was going to call there. I grew up in Monterey, California, where there's an opportunity to go on hikes and go do all these cool things. And so in any event, but there's a big weed culture here. It's probably a big weed culture everywhere, to be honest. So I don't know if that's an excuse or anything, but I leaned into that. I did a lot of that. But everywhere I went, that was where you go, there you are type deal. And everywhere I went was I was in that space of like, okay, what am I doing? I'm trying to find something. I'm trying to grab onto something to be worthwhile for me here to catapult me into this new existence. And none of that took hold. And so as I continue to to to work through that, my progression, I understand it is a disease, a disease of addiction. But if you don't buy into the disease model, you can break it down to dis-ease. I'm living in a space of not ease. I'm not enjoying a consistency of living. I'm enjoying, or not enjoying, rather, the increased uncomfortable state of consciousness, really like a displeasure around that that led to more and more substance use to try to get back to that state of okayness.
As I was chasing that around the world and the different universities, it took me getting sober in Los Angeles and those events that I mentioned earlier to actually move to that space of like, okay, this is what life can look like. And I relearned through AA how to be a student. And I relearned how to live. They say, self-esteem is built on the steamable acts. Well, what's an esteemable act? Well, I mentioned it earlier, something as simple as like returning the shopping cart to its designated location. Maybe you're at a yield and you waive the person ahead of you or you help somebody cross the street or whatever, these things that we already know that I believe deep within us, we already want to do, we get away from it because there's, again, societal norms or just caught up in ourselves. A lot of times I don't even think it's intentional. Matter of fact, I would bet the small fortune I've created here of my life, my small savings on a hundred % that it's not intentional. There's so much going on in our minds. It's like, how do we... That's where that saying of stop and smell the roses comes in.
You have to have someone tell you to do that or we don't do that. Birds are chipping all around us all the time. But do you ever notice them? It's this weird sense of like, oh, wow, the birds are really loud today. Are they loud today or is today the day that you chose to hear them? I'm going down the side tangent there, too, but it's just the awareness of living. And am I caught up in myself because of the burdens of life weighing me down? Or am I slowed down enough to hear what's going on and listen to the world around me and respond to it accordingly and recognize that just for today, I'm okay. Even if I'm not in a space of comfort, I can be comfortable with the uncomfortable. And that's a skill and an art that I think is not taught in our schools at all that I really wish was taught in our schools. And that goes back to my 16-year-old self, for giving my 16-year-old self for doing the best that I could and the catalyst for my sobriety was that, thinking that I had to be okay all the time.
But we get to a space of life where all of a sudden, life burdens start to pile on us and our coping skills may or may not be in a position to respond accordingly in a fruitful manner. And if they're not, then we'll respond in an adverse manner, which was my panic attacks, which I'm not totally immune to today. I'm 37 years old and I'm still 16 years sober. I'm not trying to pretend that I have all the answers. Like life on life terms, as I say, alcoholics, anonymous, like it's life still happens. I went about 10 years without a panic attack, and then one day it just came back. And I still do grounding techniques, and I still have to practice that every day and have forgiveness for myself, for my body just showing up the way that it chooses to show up today. So very aligned with the yoga stuff that you're talking about, very aligned with the Balani lifestyle. If nobody's been to Bali, I highly recommend you'll start talking like this a lot. It's just inherent. I think it's in every coffee shop. Yeah, that's so true.
That's so true, actually.
I was like.
He just seems like a yokey. I wonder if he brags as well. But yeah, you live in Bali, so we're just surrounded by it.
There's that element of it too. And I think drawn to that. Once you get a taste of it, it's like you're drawn to this way of life that's just like, man, this is... It doesn't have to be so crazy. It can be so much calmer. And I left LA, I left Orange County for that reason. One day, it just hit me. There's too many lanes of traffic. There's too many lights. There's too many noises. There's too much advertisements. There's too much stimuli for me. And knowing that about myself that it's triggering my anxiety and my baseline stimuli is just constant, constant, constant, constant. So I'm always here. And if I want to be a little bit more chilled out, that's a nature versus nurture thing. That environment for me was a little bit more triggering than say another environment would be. And so to then own self be true is another one of my favorite quotes, I think also William Shakespeare. And it's what I like to encourage people to do, too, like just know yourself, listen to yourself and be true to yourself. And it's all good. It'll work out. And so I don't know that I talked about my university stuff.
Just to hit on that, all of that led to, and I shared with you before we started that, as I got into my masters in business, as I got into my masters in addiction counseling, as I started going to school, I just was true to myself. And because of the foundation of that. I wasn't afraid anymore. Faith over fear. And you can have faith in yourself. It doesn't have to be in some magical overarching God or something or faith in the universe or whatever. I just have faith that like, look, to me, I need to protect my recovery and myself because I believe that there's a life out there waiting for me. I just have to walk the steps to go get it. And so I would tell everybody as a protective mechanism, like I'm sober and I don't drink. And my friends that were my friends supported that. And if anybody didn't want to be my friend as a result of that, that's fine. It's not my business to have everybody like me, right? It's just my business to protect myself and the lifestyle I'm trying to build and create. And so that's the crux of what got me through my university, just owning myself as myself, communicating that way to other people and letting them know like, hey, I'm I'm sober today.
This is a part of my life and this is what I'm doing. And then just allowing people to come to me or not come to me as a result of that, trusting that energetically, energies will match. And the people I'm meant to connect with, I will and the people I'm not meant to I won't. And I've made some amazing friendships as a result of that. People that are not sober as well. Most of my diver friends are not sober. And I'll travel the world and do these amazing excursions with them. So it's really cool. Nobody judges me. Nobody gives me a bad time if I'm not having a beer over tacos in Mexico. It's just is what it is. That doesn't drink and you move on. It's pretty simple. So I did the same thing for university in my very, very long winded answer to that question.
Awesome. And tell me about what you do now. So you are living nomatically and traveling and you started this super cool Instagram and blog. And what is your dream for nomadic addict in the future?
That's a cool question. Thanks, Alex. Yeah, I'm actually in a space of trying to figure that out. Nomadic addict for me just started as a name that just hit me when I woke up one day that I thought was a little zing to it, but also resonated as who I am. I'm nomadic in nature and identify as an addict or alcoholic. And some people, again, having aversion to that word. I don't. So I use it openly and freely because I don't see it as as a terminology that has to have a shame attached to it. It's just as simple as me having blue eyes or brown hair today. It's just a piece of me. So my hope is this nomadic addict will be a number of things, including some of what I talked about already. I would love for it to be a motivating platform for people and encouraging platform for people. I'm very big on mental wellness. I don't want to do dishonor to my to my first master's degree in addiction counseling with a focus on co-occurring disorders. I've done counseling five years direct clinical care with families. I've done some interventions. I've done a number of things in the treatment care space, in the direct care space.
I want to honor that. I've started doing some YouTube. I don't want to do them all yet. But my goal, my purpose is to be a mirror and a reflection to people of things that they already know. But through communication like this, through platforms like this, I'd love to sponsor some trips. I don't know how I'm going to do it. For my 37th birthday, I have some Southwest miles. I did a 50,000 point giveaway from just some miles I had accumulated for someone. And I'd love to do more of that. I'd love to sponsor yoga retreats, maybe get some people going to your retreat that could and otherwise afford to go and and support and encourage that, because I know what that healing can do for people. And so in a perfect world, no matter what it could become a 501C3 or a charity or something that has enough fundraising behind it to to provide these interventions, to provide these scholarships and to provide some of these travels. Maybe some Silver Trips, we talked about that, too. People seem to be asking me for that. I should probably listen to people keep asking me for it.
Some education, I don't really know. And I'm really excited to find out. And that's how I live my life today. It's just like my sponsor in AA, who doubles as a mentor to me, says faith in the simple definition is not needing to know. Just living in that space of like, I don't know, but I know that I wanted to be something. And so I'm putting energy into it. And I'm hopeful that by means, methods of meeting people like you or doing things like this and putting myself out there more that hopefully I can connect with people just to figure out what that can look like. I mean, it might even turn into something as it's not groundbreaking, but maybe some sober coaching or maybe some education, maybe some curriculum around that, maybe some means to be like, what does it look like to be a nomad and sober? I don't know. Sky is the limit. And maybe someone on the show will give me the answer. That's a beautiful thing. You just never know. Maybe someone will reach out and tell me what I'm supposed to do with it. Let me just go along for the ride.
That's amazing. That's so cool. Well, I love that about... I actually like that about your page is that when someone sent me your page and I was looking at it, I was trying to figure out, I was like, What does this guy do? And I looked at your website. I was looking at your Instagram and I couldn't find it, which made it clear to me he's just doing this because he loves it and it's his passion. It's literally just like I encourage you to travel sober and you're not doing it to try to make money. You're not selling anything. You're just sharing your life with the world. And that I thought was really cool because usually there's some... There's some... For me, there's a business behind it. I'm sharing what I love, but I'm also like, do my program, do my retreat. And for you, it's really just like, this is what I love. And I think that's super cool.
Yeah, thanks, Alex. Yeah, it's how I've started it and that's where I hope it will stay. I mean, that said, I love that you married. The thing that you love is your passion and also can double it with your way to make a living. I think ultimately one can only hope to be so lucky. Presently, I'm in a position where I work in some digital content space around addiction recovery. In operations, I mentioned that to you with the company called Kind Content, where I can oversee operations for writing, editing and publishing blogs and web pages. And that that serves enough for me from that standpoint to fund my passion project like the Matic Attic. But I don't know, one day it's possible that that will lead to be its own thing. I hope that it will, like what I do on that area as well. But yeah, that's where it started. That's a passion project for me. And I like that there isn't the pressure of having to have a financial gain from this because right now it just feels really good to me to just operate from that space. And so I appreciate you sharing that and saying that.
That means a lot.
Yeah, it's super cool. Okay, I have one last question for you, which I like to ask everyone, which is if you had any wisdom or advice for someone who's listening to this show who wants to get sober but hasn't taken the first step yet, what suggestions would you give them?
I've been getting this question a lot lately. It makes me think I need to go back in time a little bit more and rethink what it was like to get sober at a young age. I forget what it was like sometimes. Yeah, lots of power to you guys out there. Just speaking to you guys that are listening in my story understandably probably sounds ridiculously far-fetched, this idea of being able to go swim with sharks and meet these incredible people. And I swim with Ocean Ramsey and Juan, her husband of all people in the Maldes. It's like a dream come true. I mean, it's these opportunities that show up as a result of sobriety and recovery. Just insane. I mentioned that not as a flex, but it's just like anything is possible. I flew helicopters for two years. I didn't even tell you about that. I mean, what you can do in this life is insane when we give ourselves the opportunity to just do it. But I also recognize wholeheartedly without going on that road, how if I was listening to me right now in my early days, I probably think this guy is out of his mind.
It's like so far out of left field. What is he talking about? It's just so far. If you're actively drinking, you're talking about flying a helicopter, like doing these fancy trips. It's ridiculous. So I want to honor that space, too, because I do forget how hard it is to have that mindset and the baby steps of like, if I'm trying to be over here and I'm way over here on the other side of the screen, I'm going to the limits of my screen here, that's a long way to go. And it can look very, very daunting, almost like walking into a desert, not recognizing that there's an oasis at the end where you get to have replenished. If all you see is the desert, it can be extremely disheartening. This idea of just the sun beating on you and this analogy of just getting beat down. There's no hope in sight. There's no way that I'm going to ever find any water, which in the analogy, obviously, is your hope of a better life. And that's the hard part. How do you find faith in a period where there's none? How do you find hope in a period where it seemingly is hopeless?
And so it's a really, really powerful, beautiful, and really good question, Alex. I think the best thing I can offer is that obviously people like you exist, people like I exist, and motivational speakers, if you listen to any of them, oftentimes come from the lowest depths. I mean, I listen to guys like Les Brown and some of these other guys like Eric Thomas that were just their stories are incredible from where they started and where they've gone. And so much of sobriety stories or talk about what it was like, what happened to what it's like now. And so you hear that little bit of my story here as a result of this podcast was what it was like. I wasn't doing anything when I first got sober. And while I was blessed, ironically with the forced legal aspect of getting sober, there is an element of if you just start taking baby steps, if you just start walking a different direction, it's like when you see these before and after photos of the people that lift weights, right? And it's always like, well, I could never do that. Well, you can. You really can. And it's so hard to accept that sometimes.
I think for some people, and I understand the fear attached to that too, future expectations appearing real. There's a lot of acronyms for fear. Another one is face everything and recover, or f everything and run. Do you want to face everything and recover? Or do you want to just say, F it, I don't want to do that, and I want to run away? That aversion to the discomfort. If no one's told you, change is not easy to anyone listening, it's often very hard. Les Brown has this quote that I love. It's like, if you do what's hard, your life will be easy. And if you do what's easy, your life will be hard. And you probably heard me mention a ton of quotes in this podcast because I'm a big believer that my mind is a sponge and anything I put into it is what I'm going to get out. And so I don't watch horror movies today. I don't watch these things that impact me negatively, by all means, if you guys do go for it. But I don't do that because for me, it impacts me negatively. And I want to live a different life.
So I listen to these positive things and they just pop in my head and they pop down on things like this. And so when I go through a tough time, it's just right there. It's just my little tool belt in my brain of things that pop in, and I just grab it and I go. So that's, I think, the crux of what I would offer. And yet another long winded answer for you would be, and for those of you out there listening, tap into that. Find speakers, find audiobooks. If you like reading, read. Find the books that provide you inspiration and motivation to create a launching platform. I don't know if you've ever been stuck in any way at all or you've slipped on ice or something, but if there's any analogy there that works, you got to have something to get you a foothold to get some traction to get you moving. And what that looks like is as simple as going on a yoga retreat with you or a little bit of maybe it's a meeting for somebody that just needs to get out there. Maybe it's treatment. If you really can't break the cycle and you need to go to an outpatient program or an inpatient program, that's totally okay.
That's part of my story. And I've worked with lots of people that need to get sober through treatment. Tons of people get sober that way. You got sober through an online platform as well. And there's a lot more of those coming up, sober coaching as well, too. There's lots of different avenues. Taking that first step, having a mentor is a key to success. Sometimes in the A that the mentors are called sponsors. That's all it is, is a mentor. Somebody that's there to support you. In your case, if I go to your program, you're a teacher, you're a mindfulness teacher, you're teaching me things. Like a guru just means teacher in a different language. So it's all words of the same thing. Somebody else out there has an idea. They've walked the path before. They're holding a flashlight of like, hey, dude, I know how to get over here. Just follow me. And I'm sitting there in darkness really? I can go that way. You'll walk me over there? Yeah, man, just go right over here. And it's like, that's all you got to do. It's like trust the person with the flashlight on the path in front of you.
Just go that way. It might seem dark around you, but if they got a flashlight and they know where they're going. Just go that way. I think the pressure off. You know what I mean? Oh, God. I go walk blindly in the dark.
Oh, my God. I'm tearing up right now. I just got shivers. Have you ever done the Mount Petour, the hike on Mount Petour in Bali?
I've done a similar one. I did the EJun Crater in Java, which was another volcanic one, but I haven't done the Batour one yet.
Okay. Well, I just got shivers because I was thinking of I do this sober girls yoga retreat in Bali every year and in my group in January, that hikes start at 3:00 in the morning and you're in the dark and you're walking with flashlights. And I had this group of seven sober women. Anyway, we climbed all the way to the top of this mountain and we all... Everyone had to take a different path to get there. Some people race the top and some people were slow and one person took the motorbike. I'm always at the end of the group, which I love. I'm always just walking with the person at the back because I'm.
Like, I've never done.
This before. But anyway, I got to the top and I ended up… I need to send you this video, but I just made a video about the journey to sobriety and how everyone's path looks different and how finding the magic was like that. So anyway, your metaphor about the flashlight and someone guiding the way, it just really reminded me of that. And I was like, Oh.
Yeah. That's literally what they would call in the therapeutic world, an experiential exercise, which are way more powerful than even communicating. Although that's probably why you drew chills, that recollection. So yeah, absolutely. If anybody can get out there and do that, you need that hand. You need somebody physically lifting you up. You need to follow that flashlight. So that's beautiful that you have that experience. And I'm excited for you to have more of those with more people following you in that same light. I think it's incredible and amazing.
Well, this was an awesome... This was such an awesome interview. Now I want to organize a diving yoga retreat in the multi-.
Let's do it. That's my vision. Let's do it. Absolutely. Yeah, you're sure anywhere I can help them? Let me know. For sure, there's lots of opportunities. Free diving is becoming a huge thing. I know some sober free divers as well that are starting to do some retreats that way. It may or may not be something I choose to get into like we talked about. But so much of free diving beyond even scuba is about one breath. And being comfortable with the uncomfortable CO2 levels start to come up. And being at some freedom, there's no bubbles blowing. It's just stillness and the calmness of the water. It's incredible. I'll go down a whole other rant and rave down there, but it's something I'm sure you would love. And people out there as well, it's very hand in hand with yogi type of stuff. And being in that one breath, one mindset, breathe, breathe up, hold before you come out and you exhale, it's incredible.
So cool. Well, next episode. I'll bring you back and you can tell me.
Next episode. Yeah, we're rock and roll on that one for sure. But this has been a pleasure, Alex. Thank you so much for having me. I hope that anyone out there that you guys got something out of this. And I'm available just openly. You can DM me on Instagram. You can message me on my website. I don't know. I'm not very hidden. So just whatever. I'm there to support anybody in any way that I can.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Zac. This is awesome. And I'll see you soon in Bali, I'm sure.
Yeah, I look forward to it. Thanks so much, Alex.
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