Sober Yoga Girl

Jane Ballard's Sober Journey: From Bali and Back

December 07, 2023 Alex McRobert Season 3 Episode 31
Sober Yoga Girl
Jane Ballard's Sober Journey: From Bali and Back
Show Notes Transcript

Jane Ballard and Alex met in April when Jane came to Bali for the Sobah Sistahs Retreat! Alex taught the yoga for the group, and after Jane's return, she joined our Online Yoga Teacher Training community! In this episode, Jane shares her sober story and how her trip to Bali transformed her and supported her on her journey. Jane is leading a sober women's retreat in April 2024 in Bali. Check out her offering here!

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.

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl Podcast. I'm really excited to be sitting here today with Jane Ballard. And Jane and I actually met when she came on a retreat in Bali back in April that I was teaching on. And she is a sober woman. She's also a counselor and she's now in my yoga teacher training program. And she recently hit a year sober.

Right? That was recent, right? Yes, it was a year. September 26th.


That's amazing. Thank you.

So I would love or I was wondering to hear a little bit about your life pre-sobriety. What led you to make that choice?

Yeah, that is a great question. So my life pre-sobriety. Well, I'll just start out telling you a little bit about me. So I am a married mom of three. I've got three kids. They're 10, eight, well, almost eight and five. And I live in Dallas, Texas. I grew up in a small Texas town. And I was actually just writing out my story last night for... I'm speaking at a group of moms, a mothers of preschoolers group on Friday. So I was writing out my story last night and thinking back over childhood and just the context in which I grew up. And so I was born in the late '70s, small town Texas, conservative parents. I had this very idyllic in some ways upbringing where I thought, Well, moms drink ice tea and they stay home with their kids, and dads work, and they drink Bud Light. And that's just the way life is. And I can remember at an early age, my dad would have me take his empty beer can and then go get him another one, and he'd give me the last sip. And I remember thinking, Oh, this is so disgusting. But I wanted to be cool and wanted him to think I was tough and could drink the beer, so I did it.

And yeah, it's just funny how those those little memories stick out. But really, my first experience with truly drinking alcohol came in my early teens. I went to a high school where all the cool kids drank, and I joined right in wanting to fit in. And for me, it felt a little bit magical because from the time I can remember, I struggled with social anxiety and shyness. And I never really let it hold me back. But it was always there with me. And it took effort to push through it. And so when I had my first experience of really drinking and experiencing intoxication, it was like, whoa, this shroud of feeling inhibited just magically melted away, and it felt amazing. So I kept on drinking, and I think I looked like a normal drinker throughout high school and college. I had no real tangible consequences, although many days wasted feeling hungover and moments of shame and guilt and cringing the next morning, remembering things I had said or done that probably would not have done had I not been drinking. Those were the early days. And then fast forward, probably the last decade or so, I got married 11 years ago, had my first kid 10 years ago, and then basically spent about a decade getting married and having children and lost my mom right at the beginning of that decade.

So that was a defining moment for me because it brings the reality of death to the surface. When before, it's this abstract thing that we all know is going to happen, but that's a long, long, long time away, and we don't have to worry about it now. And then when you lose someone in your closest circle too soon you realize, Oh, my gosh, this is it. This is the only life we get on this Earth. It's not a dress rehearsal. This is the only chance we get. And so that's really stuck with me over the last 10 years, and I think part of what led me to sobriety a year ago. So drinking as an adult mom, we all have probably heard to some degree about mommy wine culture. One of my dear friends who is still one of my dear friends, when I had my first child, she brought me a bottle of tequila and some margarita mix to the delivery room. Like, Yay, you can finally have a drink again, and a wine glass that said Mommy juice. And that was totally normal. Just Mommy wine culture. We're all just trying to survive.

But the reality is that it makes it so much harder because what softens the stress and the irritability of parenting in the short term just compounds it in the long term. And I think post-pandemic, post-lockdown part of pandemic, the culture around alcohol really shifted in my neighborhood and in my community, and it became ubiquitous. It was everywhere. It was on Playdate. It was at sporting events. It was pretty much any social event any time of the day. And I think that while my relationship with alcohol was very manageable, I started noticing times when it was less manageable over the last few years. And I just felt like it wasn't worth it. And so basically what happened, I had been working with a therapist over a two-year period of time. Probably in 2021, I started working with a therapist and was doing a lot of work on spirituality and deconstructing some religious beliefs and reconstructing and really looking at myself and figuring out who am I and what do I want out of this life? And can I figure out who that person is and truly accept that person so that I can let that person be known?

And I was talking with him about some of my recent experiences with drinking, and he's like, Well, what do you think about just experimenting with giving up alcohol? He's like, What about 30 days or 90 days? I was like, No, no way. I like my wine and my margaritas too much. I'm not doing that. And that was the end of that. And we didn't talk about alcohol much more. And then maybe a year later, I can't really remember when that conversation happened. I woke up one Monday morning. I wasn't hungover. I'd had a glass and a half of wine the night before. The day before we had had my son's, I guess, his ninth birthday. We had taken 15 boys to play paintball and loaded them up in my minivan, half of them. And my husband had the other half, and it was loud and overstimulating. And I remember the party ended and the kids went home. And I was like, I need a drink. I need to take the edge off and just escape. And so I had that glass and a half of wine. I was like, well, that actually really wasn't very satisfying.

It didn't really do much for me. And then the next morning I woke up and I had this epiphany experience that I'm still trying to make sense of. But it felt like what can only be described as... I felt like it was contact with God, like he was speaking to me, but it wasn't in words and it wasn't with the use of language. It was more like just this overwhelming clarity that I was being called to give up alcohol. And I didn't know what that would look like or if it would be forever, and I still don't know that. And I don't think it matters right now. I think it just matters that today this is the path that I need to be on. But basically, this sudden unexpected realization and knowing that if I wanted to reach my full potential in this one precious life that I've been gifted, alcohol is going to be a barrier. I'll only get so far. I could drink the rest of my life and probably be just fine, suffer some hangovers and some blackouts and some regret and shame, but I'd be okay. Or what if I gave it up and something amazing happened and I just felt compelled to do that, didn't know what it would look like, but quit drinking that day and I didn't say anything to anyone.

And then I told my husband a few days later and then started telling people more and more as time went on. And here we are a year later. And I'm on that path and it's been surprisingly wonderful.

Matt, thank you so much for sharing. That's an incredible story. And I really feel like that's powerful. We've been reflecting on our thinking a lot and last month about our intuition. And when we get these intuitive hits, whether we interpret that to be as a higher power speaking to us or whatever we believe in. But that's what I find so powerful about your story is you just had this moment of clarity and insight, and it sounds like you've followed that and it's led you to pretty amazing places.

Yeah, it really has. It's been just amazing. I've loved it. I've met so many people. I met you. I never would have met you otherwise.

So tell me about thatthat? How did you end up coming on.

That Bolly retreat? Yeah. Okay, so I quit drinking, and I had never heard the term sober curious until probably not too long before I quit drinking. And a client of mine mentioned it. She was toying with the idea, and she was like, Have you ever heard of this sober, curious movement? I was like, No. But after I had that experience, I looked it up. And I found that there was this whole community out there on social media. And I started following people and listening to podcasts. And I stumbled upon this podcast that Megan Wilcox with Soba Sisters was on. And she was talking about leading a retreat in Bali. I thought, wow, that sounds freaking amazing. But I was like, well, there's no way. I can't go. It's expensive. And I've got three kids, and I have a full-time job, and I can't just drop everything and fly to the other side of the world. And so that was that. But then a few weeks later, I saw her post about it, and it was like, There's two spots left. And I was like, What if that was me? What if I had one of those spots?

And so I mentioned it to my husband, and his initial response was not super enthusiastic. He's like, Well, so what you're just going to fly across the world and leave me here with the kids? And what am I going to tell people that my wife went off to Bali? It's like, Yeah, I think that would be great. And that was the end of that conversation. And then the next morning, he was like, You know what? If this is important to you and you really feel like you need to do it, just go and we'll figure it out. And so I booked it. I signed up that day and went. Well, I didn't go for several months, but I didn't really tell anyone about it for a long time because I did feel embarrassed. What am I going to tell people that I'd just, Hey, guys, I'm going to Bali on a retreat. So I told people a few weeks beforewhere I went. And then I went, and then I went. And it was such an amazing, transformative experience that I feel like that was a turning point for me where I started letting people in and being vulnerable and sharing my story and letting go of the shame.

When we keep things inside and hide them in the dark, the shame grows. But when you open up and you take the risk and let go of the outcome and let people in, it can be transformative. And so that's the journey I've been on since I got back from Bali at the end of April is just beginning to open up and share my story and see where that takes me.

So amazing. And I have to share one of the things that you mentioned, like talking about this idea of you going on this retreat and doing this thing for you, even though you have three young children at home. And that's been something that I've seen a lot of while I've been running my retreats is women coming all the way to Bali and they're a parent and they have so much going on at home. And I just think it's one of the most incredible things because when I was growing up, that was not something that mothers did. My mom did not ever do something for herself that I ever saw in my childhood. The most thing she did for herself was join a gym when I was a teenager. And something like this, I'm like, it's incredible. And I think it makes you a better mom. You got this time away. Absolutely. You were fresh, you heal, you fill up your cup and then you go back and you can be more loving and more present and more calm. So I just think it's really amazing that you were able to do that. You were able to see the value in that and also that your husband was able to support you in that choice.

It's just.

Really beautiful. Yes. And I love like modeling for my kids that moms get to do stuff like this, too. Nobody bats an eye if man goes to South America and goes on a 10-day hunting trip. But if a mom does something, if she flies across an ocean, people wonder what's happening here. And I think that we have to change that narrative and normalize women taking care of themselves in all stages of their lives, whether they're single or parenting or empty nesters or retired or working. We have individual identities, and we need to feed those identities. And part of that is exploring the world and taking time for ourselves.

That's so true. And tell me about... So you said that after the Bolly retreat, then you started to share more about yourself. And so up until that point, you weren't really like speaking publicly about the sober journey. What was that like when you started to share.

About it? Well, it was a little bit terrifying. So part of the reason I started sharing is I decided that I wanted to lead a retreat to Bolly. I'm a therapist, and so it was a natural thing. I could do this professionally. I already do a lot of work with women looking at themselves and exploring their purpose, their meaning in life. I was like, well, this could be just a little bit of an expansion of that. And I want to come back, but there's no way I'm coming back on another retreat as a participant a year later. So maybe I could lead a retreat and get to have this experience all over again and share it with other people. So in order to do that, I had to have a platform. And it's funny because I've always had social media anxiety. Maybe this is a Gen X thing. I didn't grow up. I didn't have a cell phone till I was 20. So I only posted pictures of my kids. And basically, it was like once a year on their birthday. And so the idea of posting about myself felt horrible, but I knew I had to do it if I was going to lead this retreat because I have to get the word out that it's available.

And so I started working with a business coach, and she helped me figure out how to set up my website, how to set up my social media account. And I just started from there. And it's still very new. It's still a work in progress. But I started sharing on Instagram, and then I just started talking with the people in my life about it. I work in a really large counseling practice. There's probably like 40 clinicians here at my practice. And so I started talking with them about it. And even sharing some with clients, like self-disclosure is there has to be a balance there of what's helpful to the client and what's more about me. I don't want it to be about me, but I've used bits and pieces of my story to help clients. I've opened up with my family and close friends and acquaintances. It's funny because I've met so many people just that I wouldn't have otherwise because we start a conversation and then somehow sobriety gets mentioned. We moved into a new house recently, and my friend owns an organizing business. And so I hired her company to help me organize my kitchen.

And one of the organizers, she was unpacking my things. And she was like, Oh, she found something that I'd bought in Bali. She's like, Where did this come from? And I was like, Oh, I got it in Bali. And she's like, What were you doing in Bali? And I was like, Well, actually, I was on a sober women's yoga retreat. And she's like, Oh. She's like, I'm sober. And turns out she'd been sober for four years. And then we got to talking and she'd spent some time. She lived in Taipei for a while and had lived overseas. And she's a geologist but was working as an organizer because she's rethinking what she wants to do with her life. And so we exchange numbers and we've gotten together for coffee, and we have plans to get together for yoga and smoothies on Friday. So it's just little things like that. I've met people and these friendships that I've started nurturing. And it's funny because initially I drank because I thought it made it easier to connect with people. But those connections, many of them weren't lasting or they weren't authentic or I couldn't even remember them clearly, so it didn't matter.

But the connections I've made with other sober women have been like I've been able to go deep quickly in an authentic way, which just I love. I don't know if you know anything about the enneagram, but I'm an enneagram five. And enneagram fives like to have conversations about deep issues. And that's one of the things I love about sobriety is that we can talk about real stuff quickly. Yeah.

And I really have to say I noticed that. And I remember right after I did your retreat, I then had a sober women's yoga teacher training here in Bali. And my friend Jen, at the last minute, I was like, I need another team member for this. Can you do it? And she's not sober, but she is an amazing person. And I was like, You'll be great on this. But she noticed right away. She said, Oh, my goodness, you guys, it's like you have a superpower because you can just drop into this vulnerability. And she was like, I've never seen this before. And having her reflect that back helped reconfirm something I already knew, which is that you get into a circle of sober women and they can just go deep into their truth in a way that people that are not, I don't want to say not everyone can do this, but some people that are not sober can do it. But the general collective, I would say, is not there to have those deep and raw and powerful conversations without a drink in their hand.

Yeah. It's like, for whatever reason, the armor that we carry through life is off. And there's this unspoken norm of unconditional positive regard. And your story is not going to be judged. It's going to be met with love and compassion and empathythe end and somebody who's probably had a similar experience. And there's just something really, really powerful about that. And then you put a group of women in this beautiful, kind, loving culture of Bali, and you leave your stressful environment. And you don't worry about the little day-to-day details that distract you on a regular basis. And it's just like this ripe environment for healing and self exploration and not even transformation, but really realizing that everything you have, everything you need is already there. You just have to uncover it. And so really looking at yourself and seeing the beauty of who you are and accepting that person unconditionally. So you can then let others know that person and feel truly connected and known.

So tell me about your retreat next year. When is that?

Yes. So my retreat is April 21st through 28th, 2024. Yeah, it's going to be amazing. So one of my favorite activities that Is what we did was a cooking class with this woman, Putu. We went into her family compound in her village, and they welcomed us in. There were three generations of family members, men, women, kids, and we cooked. Her niece did this traditional Balanes dance for us. It was just such a beautiful experience. So we're definitely going to be visiting Putu. I want to have this atmosphere of let's all just come together and look at our lives and figure out what are our values, what's truly important to us, and how can we make choices one step at a time, one choice at a time that moves us in the direction of those values. And so we'll do some mindfulness practices, some meditation, sound bath, and then, of course, fun adventure stuff. We're going to do a waterfall adventure. We'll do a beach day. Yeah, it's going to be amazing.

Amazing. And, of course, you'll be done your yoga teacher training at that point.

Yes. Yes. I will be certified by then. So, yeah, we'll see if I'm teaching the yoga. I think I probably will. I'll definitely be doing the women's groups and the programming and meeting with people individually if they want to. And then we'll have daily yoga by me or maybe you, Alex, if you're available.

I will definitely be around.

For sure. Yes. And hopefully I'll get to meet up with you.


One of the things I didn't get to do while I was there was the sunrise hike. What is the mountain called?

Mount Batour.

It's amazing. Yes, Mount Batour. So that's on my list. I really want to do that. Just getting up and watching the sunrise over the mountains and seeing the pictures that people have with just the sea of clouds in front of them.

It's powerful. And for me.

It's an.

Experience of resilience. I never want to do it. I've done it with a few retreat groups, and every time when it comes around, I'm like, Am I seriously doing this? Am I seriously getting up at 2:00 AM. Then that moment when you get to the top of the mountain and it's like a metaphor for life of all the things you've overcome and the people you lean on and you get to the top and you have this breakfast and see the sunrise and it's just this moment of peace. Definitely do it.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to that.

Jane, you have such a grounded presence. When you talk about your retreat and the different things that you're going to offer and the availability to meet with you. I just feel like being a therapist and all the skills you have, you're just going to bring such a unique set of skills and a unique energy to the space that you hold.

Well, thank you. That's my hope that I can bring what I love doing. I absolutely love therapy and helping women and men. I love working with men, too, but just helping people embrace who they are and figure out what they want in this life and what are the barriers and how do we work around these barriers? So I'm really looking forward to doing it in a setting like Bolly and just providing an opportunity for other women to experience what I experienced. And I think it's definitely one of those experiences that defines life that I'll remember forever as being just one of those peak moments.

We will put on the... I'll put in the episode description any links to your retreat if anyone's listening and is curious and wants to learn more. And I just have one more question for you, one last question, which is if you had any advice or wisdom to give to someone who is looking at starting a Silvercurious journey, what would.

That be? Yeah, that's a great question. So several things. One, I think, try not to get too serious with it. That's something I struggle with is being too serious. And so I like to remind myself to be playful and get curious and think of things as an experiment. It doesn't have to be something that is all or nothing. There doesn't have to be a label. You don't have to have a diagnosis. It doesn't have to be pathologized. So one piece of advice is just try it and see what happens, see how you feel, experiment with it. My older sister, actually, she's been talking to me a lot about her relationship with alcohol, and she hadn't had a drink for 45 days. And then she drank. And the next day she texted me, and she was hungover and felt horrible and was so regretful that she drank. And I was like, Well, it's just data. It's a data point. And you still, over the last 50 days, you were sober for 45 of those. Or the last 46 days, you were sober for 45. Still, a massive accomplishment. And don't worry about resetting the clock or recounting days, or don't get bogged down in the tiny details.

This is just a big picture about figuring out what helps you feel like your best self. And then I think the other thing that can be helpful is try to regularly get into a space where you can get connected with this wise mind space in you. We all have these different mental states and these voices of our minds that are chattering all day long, all day every day. We have anxious thoughts. We have worried voice and false comfort. So worried voice may say something like, What if I quit drinking and then I want to go to Italy? And I want to go to the wine country and sit in a cafe and drink. And that means I'm never going to get to experience that. And then false comfort says, well, it'll be fine. You're still going to be in a beautiful place. And worried voice says, but I'm going to miss out. And what are my friends going to think? Are they going to think I'm an alcoholic? Like, now that I've quit drinking, that means I must have had a problem. And then false comfort says, well, just let that go. And then I think we have this third voice, this wise mind voice that transcends and floats above the fray and says, don't try to solve an unsolvable problem.

Just figure out what you need to do right this second. Worry about Italy when you have a trip planned to Italy. Figure that out then. But right now, what do you need today? And really, I think a lot of it is about learning to tolerate uncertainty. We like to know for sure. We like guarantees. We want to know what's going to happen and how things are going to turn out and whether we're making the right decision or the wrong decision. And I think that if we can let go of that need for certainty and tolerate the distress that comes with sitting in it, we open ourselves up to so much more depth and beauty, even if there is pain mixed in with that. And so I guess long story short, figure out a way to get in touch with your wise mind, whether that's meditation or listening to music or yoga or being outside in nature, figure out how to get in touch with that part of your mind. And then think, What is Wise Mind telling me? What is Wise Mind telling me about my relationship with alcohol? If I look at the cost benefits, which side is higher?

Is the cost greater than the benefit? And if you come to a decision in that moment, try to remember that when the other voices of the mind take over at other times because they will. And just refocus on Wise Mind and say, You know what? Right now, this voice of the mind is telling me I should probably just have a drink because it's pointless. There's no way I'm going to be sober forever, and today sucks. And so I'm going to go have a glass of wine. If that voice pops up, say, You know what? I'm going to wait until I can get back to Wise Mind. And then I'll decide if Wise Mind thinks I should have a drink, then maybe I'll have a drink tomorrow. But today, I'm going to wait till I can get back to that place and know that this moment that I'm craving or second-guessing my choice will pass. There will be a beginning, a middle, and an end to every distressing emotion. And we just have to wait. It's going to be a little curve, like a mountain. And when we drink, we feel ourselves going up with a distress.

Then we have a drink and it goes down like this. But what we don't see is that if we just ride the wave and don't have the drink, it's eventually going to pass anyway. And we're going to feel so much better on the other side of that emotion than we are several hours after drinking.

So much wisdom. So much wisdom in what you shared.

Thank you.

Jane, it has been so amazing having you on the show and hearing about your story and your journey. And I'm excited about your Bolly retreat. And I think the space you're going to hold and the magic that's going to unfold, it's just going to be incredible.

Yes. If people are interested in finding out more, they can find me on Instagram. It's janewballard or at my website, So I would love to hear from people and hear about other people's sober, curious, or sober journeys.

Amazing. Thank you so much. And I'll see you soon.

Okay. Thank you so much, Alex. It's been great being on.

Hi, friend. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Sober 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.