In this episode, Alex sits down with her friend Sarah Williamson who has just launched her first book Drink Less; Live Better!
Sarah and Alex have been friends since early alcohol free days and she's been super involved with our community ever since. Sarah has previously been a guest on the show, where she's shared her sober journey with our community.
We will be reading this book as a community this month and the book club is free. It's our only free meeting this month so make sure you sign up and join and order Sarah's book on amazon today!
Here's how you book the club: [https://www.themindfullifepractice.com/live-schedule](https://www.themindfullifepractice.com/live-schedule)
And here's how to buy the book! [https://amzn.to/44qVK0M](https://amzn.to/44qVK0M)
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, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I am delighted to be sitting here with Sarah Williamson. I think you might be one of the most frequent guests I've had on this show, or maybe not most frequent, but most total guests. I think we've done maybe four episodes together. And I was just saying to Sarah before we recorded, so happy to see her and connect with her. And I've known her since we both were choosing sobriety around the same time and part of the same sober Facebook group. And now she's gone on to start this brilliant career as a sober coach. And I actually was looking at your website the other day and I was like, Well, this woman has so many qualifications. You've done so many things where she recovers and all these different certifications and gray area drinking and qualifications. And now, Sarah has actually written and published her first book, Drink Last, Live Better, which is going to be our Sober Girls Book Club book in September. So if you're listening to this show and you want to jump in and join us, it's available on Amazon and Kindle, and it's going to be a free Book Club meeting.
And we meet once a month. And so we'll all have read the book or read as much as we can between listening to the show and the meeting. And we'll get an opportunity to chat with Sarah in person about it. But anyway, without further of me introducing and going on and on, welcome, Sarah. I'm so happy you're here.
Hi, it's so lovely to see you today. I'm so happy to be seeing you. Lovely.
And congratulations on your book. What a milestone.
Huge. Thank you. Yeah, it does feel… In fact, it's only really just starting to sink in now. It's felt like a really big mountain to climb and I'm just on the other side of it and really enjoying it at the moment.
Yeah, it's a huge accomplishment. I'm just wondering, what inspired you to write your book?
I think I was getting to the point where I realized I was sitting on a huge number of, I suppose, resources, recognizing different insights I had into various subjects around sobriety, the wisdom I'd gathered, models, tools that I was using both in the early days of my sobriety and now. I didn't really have a succinct way of putting it all together. I have, as you know, a weekly podcastlast time I have lots of blog posts and resources on my website, I love listening to other people who inspire me, but I do also love reading. I'm not a massive screen reader. I really love holding a book in my hand. I had thought about putting all my resources together into some extended course or program and then thought, actually, it might just be easier to write a book. And so that's what I did. Yeah.
Amazing. And I was looking through some of the chapters and I love different topics around their really common fears. As I was looking at the different chapters, I was noticing there are really common fears that come up, especially in the early days of sobriety, like the fear about what other people think or the fear about other people judging you, not drinking. And I just felt like this would be an amazing book to have, especially in early sobriety when you're just working through those fears.
Yeah, I think a lot of those elements of the book, the purpose or the directions or the map that I wish I'd had easily accessible to me in the early days, I knew I could go on Facebook groups or Google these kinds of questions, but actually having them all in one place and seeing somebody's opinion would have been really useful to me. I guess when I first started out writing the book and when I was considering who part of the audience might be, I did think about myself about maybe somewhere between 10 and five years ago, and I was thinking to myself what might I have liked to have read at that time. Certainly, I didn't realize in the early days of my sobriety that there was any such thing as Quitlet. I didn't know that this was a genre of books that were available. The very, very first book that I did read around the time you and I first met was Jason Vail's book called Pick the Drink Easily, and I picked it up in a charity shop and I remember being really ashamed, I suppose, full of shame about owning that book, that I purposely put it on my bookshelf with the spine facing in so that nobody could see the name of the book outwardly on my bookcase.
I loved that book. You should see how many Post-it notes I've got stuck in it. I really, really enjoyed it. The second ever book that somebody recommended to me was, Annie Grace's This Naked Mind. I think that these books generally fall into two camps in the main. They're either written from a scientific point of view and they're a bit more purposeful in their message around the reality of what alcohol does to our physical health, our emotional health, our wellbeing. I would say that The Drink Easily: This is my mind, alcohol explained those types of books fall into that camp. Then the other type is the more memoir books. My absolute favorites in that category are, We are the luckiest by Laura McEown, and Clarice Rockbottom by Brianne Gordon, where somebody is telling their story and talking about their truth, the situations that happen to them, how they panned out, and drink less, live better, I think. Having just said that the books fall into two camps, actually falls somewhere in the middle and is a real mix of what was helpful to me, what wasn't helpful to me, other ideas that I know other people use that might sit on the fence about mixed in with a bit of reality.
So it is a book that if I rewound in time, I know I would have found useful when I was first thinking about whether I was really going to go ahead and try this life, first of all, drinking less and then in sobriety.
I love that. And I have a question for you about it. So I noticed in your book you have it organized into four parts. So you have awareness, acceptance, action, and alignment. Tell me more about that structure. How did you come to that organization?
I didn't set out to write it in that structure. The very act of writing what felt right for me at the time allowed me to get onto paper the chapters of the book. It was only as I went along that I started to realize there were themes going on. I think I started out writing the book in a more chronological way, what was helpful to me in the very beginning, what was helpful as I moved along? What is helpful now? Then I realized that actually it was more thematic than that. I recognized that some of what I was talking about in the early days of my sobriety journey, there were times when I didn't know what I didn't know. I could only start to recognize and understand what was going on for me. When I was taking a real close look, when I was allowing myself to notice and to really try to dig down a bit and understand, and that's when I then realized, okay, actually, that's about the learning about what's going on. Then later on, having learnt what's going on, well, am I going to be okay with it, or am I going to ignore it?
How am I going to come to some level of acceptance? In coming to some level of acceptance, am I okay with how things are? Am I going to let them sit? Or what happens next? Which led me on to recognizing that action had to happen in that place. And of course, we're always in action all the time and making changes and paths. We get interested in things like looking at our habits and improving our lives in various different ways. And how do we get to that place then where we can find the most amount of contentment, okayness, maybe happiness, peace with where we come to. And of course, it isn't a linear journey as none of these things are. We can find ourselves at any point in that place of, first of all, bringing awareness, then deciding whether or not we're going to accept it, and moving on them with action and alignment. And once I got those four sections clear in my mind, I was then able to pick up each chapter and decide where each section that I'd written and decide where it then fitted into those four overarching things. As I was coming towards getting ready for my first editor of the book, I realized that actually so much of it had nothing at all to do with sobriety and stopping drinking that there are...
You could then take any area of your life. You could then take relationships, you could take your career, you could take the fun elements of your life or the community elements of your life and actually run the same program of awareness, acceptance, action, and alignment through any filter that you wanted to.
I love it. Yeah. Thanks for sharing. And I like how you didn't set out with that structure and then it evolved as you worked through it. And it reminds me a lot of I went through a book writing process and it was the same type of thing of the structure that I had in the end was not at all what I started out. But as you just keep progressing and working and evolving, it becomes clear at some point, and you're like, oh, this is exactly how it's meant to be.
Yeah. And I think that that process can only happen by doing. You can sit and think and stare at a blank piece of paper for as long as you like, wondering what it might look like, but until you start writing and then, I guess, moving the pieces around a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and trying to find the right fit, that's where it started to come together for me.
Yeah. And so what was it like in terms of like, okay, so you've written a book, you've organized it. What was the process like of rearing forward with getting it published?
Well, I didn't know that I was even going to write a book just about six months ago. I was chatting to a coach, I think it was just before Christmas 2022, and I had said to them, Oh, I've got in the back of my mind that I should write a book, but because I'm saying I should write it, I've got a resistance to it because I feel as if it's not... I'm not speaking that sentence from a place of massive joy and enthusiasm and hopefulness. I'm only saying, Oh, I'm thinking that I should write a book because I know that I've got an important message that I'd really like to share with people who might find it useful. My resistance was because I felt as if I was going to say the words, Oh, I'm writing the book. I wanted to be able to say it and sound super excited and sound as if it was the most fabulous thing I'd ever done in my life, but I didn't actually have those emotions running through my body at the time. Anyway, in chatting to my coach, I think it became apparent that I knew I could do it.
It was the case of knowing that it was a task that was just going to take a chunk of time, and I could either choose to do it or not to do it. Either way, it didn't matter. In between Christmas and New Year, I hadn't been very well. I didn't feel great. My kids were doing things with other members of the family, and my husband was at home, and I just ended up with a chunk of time and I thought, Right, I'll do it now. I'll write the book now. I just got on and wrote it, got everything that I needed to for, I think I probably got about almost 50,000 words written in that time period. Then once I had it, I'd already done some inquiries, knew who, if I was going to go ahead and write a book, who I was going to use as my editor, spoke to them, got that all booked in the diary. From then on, the process really was straightforward. It was quite, I suppose, functional, a system of back and forth, knowing that some stuff had to change, some stuff might have been moved around a bit.
The worry that I had initially with my editor, and it did hold me back a bit, actually, and she was wonderful how she spoke about it. I said, I'm really worried because I have written this book exactly how I speak, and I recognize that not everybody is going to love that, and that is okay. And she said, after she'd looked at the first drop, she said, Yeah, you have. I can hear your voice in every word you have written it exactly as you speak. And we laughed because there were various, I suppose, terrorisms that absolutely are. You can pick out a mile off through the book. She said, It's okay, because people will either really enjoy that or they won't, and that's okay, because not everybody loves every single book. It's completely fine. She said some really wise words to me. She said, Instead of thinking that you have to change how you've written in the book, perhaps what you have to do is change how you're talking about yourself. So at that point, I know I'm telling you the story now, but I stopped talking about and worrying about my voice because the book authentically contains the stories told in the way that I would tell them if you and I were having a conversation just like this.
The process was back and forth through editing and then through getting the layout right, choosing all the details like the fonts and I had to get together all of the particular illustrations to the models that I've used in the book. Then the exciting stuff like getting the cover ready, the back cover, the blurb, all of that stuff, all of those details that I suppose I'd never really given very much thought to became then part of the process when we were back and forthing about what looks good, what really mattered to me, what I didn't mind so much about. And, of course, the cover is bright and colorful. And I hope that that represents a little bit of the message of hope and enthusiasm that is contained in the pages of the book.
Yeah. I have to say, I was smiling to myself when you were talking about your worry about having written it exactly as you talk because I noticed that when I was reading some of the pages earlier, but I love that part about it. It just felt so personal, so comfortable. And I was actually just talking with my mom earlier today about how when we read books, it's really important that we're able to connect with the author on a personal level or else it's just too technical. And so I actually think it's like an amazing aspect of your book. I love it. So I'm wondering, on the of that and editing, how did you decide when you were editing, like which parts of the book to keep in and which parts to leave out?
There were certainly some parts that I had put in the book originally and then rethought and I took out because mostly because of a feeling around rawness, I suppose, knowing that once they were out there in that format, there was no way of taking them back. They might just have been stories that made me feel more vulnerable than I was comfortable with being in that format. There are plenty of stories that I tell in small spaces, and if I'm mentoring someone or whatever that I'm really happy to share with those kinds of audiences. But putting it in print did feel a little bit uncomfortable for some of that stuff. There was stuff that I put in that I did take out before the final edit. There are mentions of what my family looks like as a family unit and a couple of stories that I tell that are around family. One in particular, I'll tell you this story about Mr. W, I was sitting on the bed one day and he was working and I said to him, Oh, can I just run past you a couple of bits in the book that I need you to either say, Yes, that's okay, I can leave it in' or tell me if you want me to take it out, because I will really happily take it out if it's not comfortable with you.
As I was telling him this, I was thinking, Oh, this is funny in the first place anyway, because he's never going to read it, anyhow. Actually, I could probably write whatever I wanted to do without him, and he would never know. But I didn't think that was going to be quite fair. Anyway, there was a particular chapter that I had written, and this chapter is called Telling Your Story. It's a chapter about how I feel most empowered when I have the opportunity myself to have a conversation with somebody. If it's around sobriety, whether it happens to be a friend or an acquaintance or someone I'm meeting for the first time, the words I choose for myself are important for me. I tend not to describe myself as being sober or being in recovery, unless I'm looking for a quick shorthand and depending on the audience. I'm more likely to describe myself as not drinking or I just don't drink, or I might say alcohol free, something like that. It's about my personal choice, and it's about me choosing what makes me feel most comfortable in a given moment, like that example. Anyway, Mr. W and I were out with, and this is the story that I'm telling you this chapter, out for dinner with some friends one night, and there was a bit of a lull in conversation.
He, out of nowhere, just said to our group old friends, Oh, by the way, who here knows that Sarah has completely stopped drinking now? Did you know that she's gone tea total? I was like, Oh, my God! Why would you throw that open to conversation? A table, on a nice dinner, about how to make a situation awkward? This is an absolutely perfect example of it. No one else quite knew what to say. They were like, Oh, right. Good, lovely. I think it's really ironic because he does not like an awkward silence. He likes easy-blow conversation. Yet here he is, really brilliant at engineering an awkward silence. The next day I said, I was fuming at the time, but I left it. The next day I said to him, Don't ever do that again. Don't describe me as T-Total. He was like, But you are. But you are. You don't drink. I said, I know that is a word for it. I just don't relate to the word, tee toe talk. If somebody does and it suits them and it fits them and they love it and it feels good, then brilliant. But it's just not one that I use.
I said, Tim, don't ever do that again. Don't describe me like that. I don't want to hear it like that. Certainly, I thought I had made clear my feelings on the subject. A little while later, we were out. We were up at a big family gathering. There were loads of cousins that we hadn't seen for ages because they'd been a big break in seeing each other whilst the pandemic had happened. Lots of cousins, all in their 30s and and loads of kids around and aunts and uncles. We were all in a big group situation chatting. Out of the middle of nowhere, Mr. W, again, says, Oh, guess what? Since we saw you last, you'll never believe this. Sarah has stopped drinking and now she's... And he obviously was looking for the word stop drinking as an alternative. He realized he was about to say tea total and was trying not to say that. He said, Oh, she stopped drinking. Or I can't remember he might have said, Oh, she's given up alcohol. And now she's... I don't know what word he was about to use at the end of, and now she's, but one of the cousins filled in the blank with the word boring.
Well, to say I was furious would be an understatement. I was absolutely livid with him. And, of course, the cousin said that I was boring and everybody laughed and it was, Ha-ha. Oh, why have you done that then, Sarah? I was obviously put on the spot. The next day I said to him that the issue absolutely was about the description was about, he recognized he was about to say tea total again and then we're stuck. I said to him, It isn't just about the words you use. This is not your story to tell. This is my story to tell. In any given situation, I can choose to tell the story or not to tell the story, and it is never, ever your story. If at some point in the future I say to you, It's okay, tell my story wherever you want to in whatever words. If I'm not there, who knows what any of us in the world say about anybody else? That's a whole different kettle of fish. But if I'm standing there, I am not a subject for conversation. I think on that occasion, I got through to him on that, and he's never done it again since.
But I had to read that chapter to him and say to him, Are you okay if this stays in the book? He said, Well, I'm not 100 % happy about it because it does show me to be a bit of an idiot. You had told me what you wanted. I hadn't heard and you ended up having to tell me a second time. That doesn't cover me in glory. That doesn't paint me in the most brilliant husband light, but I accept that it is true. It's told from your version, but it's true. That is what happened on those two occasions. Of course, he didn't necessarily realize the true impact that it had on me, because I probably hadn't completely then shared my truth with him. And so that's one of the chapters that I suppose I hesitate, that required a permission piece. Are you happy if this goes in or not? And ultimately, yes, he was. And I think you're unlikely to ever hear him refer to me as T-Total at any point in the future. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing.
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And I appreciate that story because I love the way Mr. W was able to just be like, okay, I don't like this, but it is the truth and all. And that is part of your story. And I think that shows a huge amount of humility and also respect for you having your space to tell what happened. And yeah, that's huge.
Yeah. And I think the process of actually writing down your truth to the story, something that happens to you, recognizing that a story is only ever from one perspective. And that's okay. A story can be told as one person and other people can recognize their parts in the story, their places in the story, and we can all be okay with how that makes us feel in the end, and also the brilliant place that it brings us to for change in the future and recognizing how things can be different and even more comfortable than they were before.
Are there any parts of the story that you, looking back now as it's been published, that you regret, including or wish that you had altered a little bit?
I suppose there's nothing I regret putting in the book because I was very conscious that I didn't want to have that regret on the other side of it being published. But there are definitely bits that I might have reworded a bit or that I might have embellished a bit or taken little bits out of. But I'm in that place where I recognize these would have been the thoughts that would have kept me stuck forever when we get into that or when I get into that place of thinking perfection is the only way that stops progress on so many levels, and we could endlessly rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. When you've got a big chunk of words like that, at what point do you stop? And at what point do you say, Okay, I think this is the bones bit. This is the important stuff. This is the truth. I'm going to go with this, and just bite the bullet. I think also having an element of trust in an editor that you really know doesn't want you to put out something into the world that you're going to feel less than fabulous about helped having somebody in that role that was so much more than cheerleader, somebody who really wants to put out a book that looks good, reads well, is fabulously received, that it was important for more people than just me, I suppose.
So yeah, I suppose really looking at it now, I can see bits that I could tweak, but that I absolutely am not losing any sleep over.
Amazing. Well, I'm so excited for you and so proud of you. And I was sharing with Sarah that I've ordered my paperback version of the book, which is on its way to Bali right now. And we're going to be reading it as a community. And we have a book club meeting in September. So if you're listening to this and you want to jump in and join, everyone's welcome. I think it's going to be an amazing opportunity. And as Sarah said earlier, she'll be sharing more things within our little circle that she might be less likely to share publicly. So if you want to get more inside scoop on her journey, definitely join our Book Club.
I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be great.
Thank you so much, Sarah. This was an amazing episode. And I'm just excited to see where your journey goes from here.
Luckily, really nice to catch up with you. Thank you so much for having me. See you soon. Bye.
Hi, friend. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Sobert Yoga Girl Podcast. This community wouldn't exist without you here, so thank you. It would be massively helpful if you could subscribe, leave a review and share this podcast so it can reach more people. If we haven't met yet in real life, please come get your one week free trial of the Sober Girls Yoga membership and see what we're all about. Sending you love and light wherever you are in the world.