In episode 301 of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Chris Scott interviews Rachael Shephard, the founder and director of Sober Mama, a UK-based recovery coaching program.
They talk about Rachael’s story of addiction, heavy drinking, British culture, and motherhood. They also discuss her recovery journey, how she designed The Freedom Programme, and how she became the SoberMama.
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Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Chris Scott: Hey, everyone, welcome to the Elevation Recovery Podcast. I'm Chris Scott, and today I'm joined by Rachel Shepherd, who is the founder of Sober Mama, which is a UK based recovery sobriety coaching program for moms or mums, as I think you say over there. Thank you for being on the show.
Rachael Shephard: Thank you.
Chris Scott: Yeah, so can you tell us a little bit about your own story first, and we'll get into what moms are needing to do, and the things that you said you found were helpful that you couldn't find out there, so that's the reason, I guess, for you creating that program, but as far as your experience with alcohol, how did that start and tell us a little bit about it.
Rachael Shephard: So for me, I started really young, I think we say in the UK a lot it's part of British culture, sort of heavy drinking, and I certainly found that. I started drinking when I was about 14 years old, and it started with drinking with friends socially, but I found from the moment that I tried it that I was worse than everyone else. I was the one that would always get fall down drunk, always ended up in a worse state than my friends. And that went on for many, many years, but for a long time I maintained a level of kind of I don't want to say normalcy, but for me, I could social drink, and it didn't really massively negatively impact my life, and I'd stay that way for many, many, many years until in all honesty, it got at its worst after I hit motherhood, and I didn't drink when I was pregnant.
And then after I had the children, I just found that I was bored a lot of the time I think, trying to get used to motherhood, and all of a sudden, and I get this with a lot of my clients, I think when we become moms, you sort of lose a huge sense of your own identity, and who you are kind of first and foremost as a woman, and suddenly your life all becomes about raising these little people, and I just started to realize I wasn't doing anything for myself, and it got to the stage where I started to feel really low in general. And by the time that my kids would get in from the school run, I'd be thinking about getting wine, and I could still maintain a really high level of functionality. I could still work, and manage the school run, and play with my kids, and take them out. And in terms of how I sort of fit in my friendship circle and the people around me, people would say I was normal for want of a word.
Nobody would've said that I had any sort of a problem, but I knew that I was getting worse, and I would tell myself that I wasn't an alcoholic, like the dreaded A word. I would tell myself I wasn't because I knew I could take a day off drinking, and then it really stepped up for me after the death of my mother, so this was March 2020. My mom celebrated her 62nd birthday. I talked to her on the phone, and then the following day she went out for a run and collapsed, and that was it. Within a couple of hours, she was dead. She had something called aortic dissection, and there was no warning, no signs.
So for me and my family, it was such a kind of dramatic trauma because we weren't expecting anything, and she was obviously quite young, and then following that, I think drink was my go-to for coping. So because I used to drink quite regularly and quite a lot, it then really went into overdrive, and I started to feel not just the effects of kind of like hangovers, but really quite depressed, and then it wasn't long after that that I got divorced, and it just seemed that there was this whole kind of... Sort of it was like the catalyst for a lot of things going wrong. And then during my divorce, it got quite nasty, during all the kind of arguments about finances, et cetera, and I just hit the point where I just got so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired that I wanted to do something about it, and I started to pick up quit literature.
And when I started to read about what alcohol is, and what it does, I was so surprised at how much I didn't know and how much I had all these beliefs that I realized were total myths, and it just took a lot of reasoning, a lot of soul searching, but when I started reading this quit lit and started to try and quit drinking, I tried to use various online programs, and none of them worked for me. There were so many sort of weird and wonderful methods. I can remember using one. I won't mention the company, but it was labeled as a hypnotherapy, and I paid for this 30 day trial, and it was a single recording that you play every day for 30 minutes, and that was it before you go to bed, and it was 50 shades of useless basically.
And I just thought, "All I want right now is for somebody to tell me what to do and when to do it." I was so motivated to quit, but I just didn't know what to do with myself, and knowing what I know now about quitting, your body goes through this kind of like textbook timeline of all these different things you're going to go through, and I was learning about them through quit lit, but during each stage, I just wished there'd been somebody there to guide me and say, "Look, this is what you're going through. This is what you are feeling, and this is how you navigate it."
And what I kind of discovered is that for me, 10% of it was about not drinking, and 90% of it was trying to navigate a life that I had no wish to escape from, which is where I came up with the idea for my company, Sober Mama. I wanted to create something that would effectively handhold people through the process of quitting. Yeah, so that's basically [inaudible 00:07:28].
Chris Scott: That's awesome. Yeah, so I want to expand on some of the themes in there, and I too actually now that you mentioned that, I remember I tried a hypnotherapy recording. It was on my phone. I didn't pay for it. I didn't have great expectations, nor was I ready to quit. This was at the time I was drinking about at least a fifth of Haut liquor every night, and it had great reviews, and it was a very soothing, calming voice, and I think the person who made it had good intentions, and I think it might work for someone who's done other things, or help, maybe not the cornerstone.
I'm not saying hypnotherapy doesn't work or can't work, maybe it can. Maybe it has a place and a time, but it wasn't going to cure me from the kind of withdrawal that I was going to have if I quit suddenly. It wasn't going to cure me of my ignorance about alcohol as a substance or my ignorance about what my brain and body were going through, and what I had done to myself cumulatively for many years, and so I think it's kind of interesting. My first point of focus was on the biochemistry, and just the nutrition stuff, because in part because I drank so much that it was just glaringly obvious that there was something wrong with my body, and I couldn't sit in an AA meeting and be calm. I couldn't sit and meditate. I closed my eyes, and I'm spinning, this is weeks after I'd quit, and I'd gone through detox and everything.
I'm like, "How do I just feel normal? I had a fear of going crazy, and so for me it was nutrition, but I think equally important, the nutrition dovetails with routines, and mindset, and ways of being, and it seems like those are the things that you focus on. And so I'm just curious as to what were some of the things that you found were helpful? And I'm not asking you to tell us exactly what's in your program, but for you specifically, I have two or three supplements that I beat a dead horse, and I tell everyone all the time that these were helpful for me, vast universe of supplements out there, but maybe give these a try, because if your biochemistry is anything like mine, maybe you'll get some relief now, and that's free, podcast stuff, YouTube stuff, trying to toot that horn all the time. So are there any things that you found at least maybe even just generally that when you address those things, they helped you?
Rachael Shephard: Oh, completely, and I'm quite open about what my program contains because it's not going to stop anyone buying it essentially by talking about it, because largely why it works is there's a huge amount of accountability, so one of the things that I got all of my clients to do is to journal every single day. So the program is 90 days, and I got people to journal every day and send me their journal entries, and every day I pick them apart and tell people what I think they need to know, and what they think they need to do next, and it allows me to see people's kind of negative thought patterns, et cetera, and really work on some of the internal stuff, but it also allows people to really start kind of deep diving into what it is that bothers them, because I think we have so many. I mean, for me, I'm sure it was probably the same for you in the beginning of sobriety. Your brain is just flooded with thoughts because you can't turn it off anymore, and that was the hardest thing for me.
I just felt like my thoughts were happening to me, and just learning that I had some sort of control over them by journaling and really looking at what it was that was causing my anxiety, because I sort of viewed alcohol as not being the problem. It's the thing that we take to try and block out the problem. So a lot of the work I do is trying to work out what those problems are, and then kind of fixing those essentially. So journaling for me is a massive one, whether or not you're going to use a program. I like to do it before bed. It just allows you to kind of empty your brain, get everything on paper, and really start to look at what it is you are thinking about.
A therapist said to me years ago... I can remember speaking to him and saying, "I am horribly, horribly anxious, and I just can't work out why. I don't know what it is that's causing it." And he said to me, "Rachael, it's really simple. It's what you think about all the time. That's what's causing your anxiety, because it's entirely caused by your own thoughts. So now when I journal, I really just focus on what I've been thinking about during the day and get my clients to do the same. Yeah, journaling for me is absolutely massive, and rest in the early days. I think for the first two months or so, I was positively narcoleptic.
I would nap in the day like a house cat, and I just had no energy to do anything, so I cover exercise and nutrition as a big part of the program, like you do with yours, but I leave it till quite far along into the program to start with that, and focus a lot on just resting, and I sort of advocate in the early stages as well in the first month to not avoid sugar, because for me, I found that to be a real crutch for dealing with the cravings. My sugar cravings were worse than when I was pregnant. It was horrendous. So I just think sugar is a horrible evil, and I cut it completely out of my diet. Now I can't bear the stuff, but in early sobriety actually worked really well for me.
I think it was one sitting I did 27 giant cookies, and I felt quite sick after, but I just think if it's the lesser of two evils, and it helps you in the early stages, I sort of advocate going with it. Yeah, a lot of rest and recovery, and then quit lit for me is really important. I think when we read a book, they say you take in something like 10% of it, and then you forget it very quickly, so keeping the kind of knowledge about what alcohol is, and what it does in the forefront of your mind continually until it kind of enters your subconscious and it's kind of habitual thinking is really key, and I still do it now partly as kind of ongoing sort of CPD and for my business, but also reminding myself of why I'm here and where I was.
I think that's really crucial, just learning and getting more knowledgeable on what it is that you've been doing to your body, and what it is you're sort of seeking to avoid. So I'll say they're probably my top tips. Oh, and the last one, I found the first two months of sobriety utterly boring, and I recently did a blog on why dry January doesn't often work because people do that first month of real difficulty, and if you don't understand what it is your body is going through, you can conclude at the end of that month that sobriety is just boring, and why would you ever want to do it? I'd rather be unhealthy and drink, but it's not representative of what sobriety is because we're lacking in dopamine, and if you just give it another month or two, you feel so much better.
So I often read... In fact, I've read it in so many different places now where people will give the advice in early sobriety to focus on the things that you enjoy, but when you are unable to feel that kind of real happiness because you're lacking in those hormones, and you feel really flat, I like to focus on getting productive, so doing things like... Sounds really basic, but sorting out your kitchen cupboards, and clearing out your wardrobes, and organizing your books in rainbow color order, whatever it is, but getting your life in as much order as you can, so that when you do start getting your happy hormones back, you can start enjoying the good stuff, because I couldn't find enjoyment in anything in that first couple of months. It was like pulling teeth.
Chris Scott: Me too. Yeah, and there's a lot of wisdom in all of that. I mean, I'm a big journaler. To this day, I journal first thing in the morning. I'm usually so tired at the end of the day that what I try to do is protect myself from watching mindless news, or scrolling on YouTube, or Instagram, or whatever. Luckily, I don't seem to have much of a social media fixation, although more people would know about Fit Recovery if I did, so I'm trying to figure out what tod do about that, but I'm very protective of my brain and my mind, I guess, in the morning and at night, because I've found that what I do before bed affects my sleep, and what I focus on, and what I focus on first thing in the morning affects my day. So when I have a day where I can journal and meditate even for five minutes, I set a five-minute timer on my phone. I'm more relaxed throughout the rest of the day, and I'm less reactive, and I'm more proactive.
And I think that also gets into what you were saying about taking control of the smaller things in your life, reorganizing things, being proactive, because I think being proactive is the best natural stress reduction technique. It improves your sense of self-efficacy. It's also even in that early recovery period just a distraction with some fruit that's born by it, and you can look at something you did like, "Wow. I wouldn't have done that if I had been drinking wine all afternoon, and what if I do one little thing like that, like reorganize my bookshelf? What if I do one little thing every day for the next year? That's 365 things. My life is going to be way more ordered. It might not seem like a big deal today."
Yeah, I'm a big fan of that. Napping as well. I took lots of naps. I called them just chill out periods where I would just lay down, and I would put binaural beats or some relaxing YouTube, or a video, or reeds, sometimes the sound of reeds, meditation type stuff. And sometimes there would be cool hippie stuff on the screen, and I would just lay down 10 minutes. I wouldn't actually sleep, because I had a hard time sleeping because my brain was so messed up, way too much electrical activity for weeks after I quit, because I didn't have the alcohol to put out the fire, but I could lay there, and I could try to sequentially relax my body. That was really big for me.
Interesting about the sugar, because I switched from alcohol essentially. I had to detox professionally, and I switched immediately to two liters of soda every day, and I can say that there is something to be said for that as a harm reduction technique. I am a big fan of harm reduction. In fact, people have gotten mad at me before, because I wrote an article on kratom, and I've had people, clients in the past who have not had access to traditional ways of quitting. They've got some kratom, and they switch from alcohol to kratom, and they taper off the kratom, and guess what? It worked for them.
Are there pitfalls with Kratom? Absolutely. Are there pitfalls with sugar? For sure. For me, I actually serendipitously got off my sugar because I wanted to get in shape, and it wasn't because of willpower. I bought a supplement called L-Glutamine, which gets converted into glucose in the brain without causing an insulin spike and does a whole bunch of other good stuff too, was repairing my gut. I didn't know any of that. I bought it because I wanted to build muscle, and I walked into GNC, which is the big bodybuilding store here, which I wasn't supposed to do. When I was in the inpatient rehab, they said, "Don't go in that store. You're going to get addicted to vitamins. [inaudible 00:18:26] is bad." And I was like, "Well, if I'm back here in a year with a vitamin addiction, that's probably better than a alcohol addiction, right?" So anyway.
Rachael Shephard: That's so [inaudible 00:18:35].
Chris Scott: Yeah. So I bought it, and all of a sudden my sugar consumption went down. I didn't want the soda as much, and I didn't learn until a year later why that was, and it's because of a biochemical effect that it had. Another thing just that I think people might find interesting is that chromium deficiency is pretty common among people who drink, and especially among mothers, and I haven't looked at this literature in a while, but I remember having some clients sometime back who had recently given birth, and they were complaining of wild blood sugar issues. And so I dove into the research, and I'm not an expert in this subject, but it seems like chromium deficiency is actually kind of common among people who have been pregnant before.
Rachael Shephard: Wow.
Chris Scott: So that was an interesting thing. I don't know. I ended up taking chromium as part of my multivitamin and supplement things, but it was not a focus for me, but over time it was really getting my life back together. And I think for me, could I have quit without the supplementation? Absolutely. My goal is to try to expedite and make it feel better, but the things you're talking about are crucial, and that I don't see how I would've changed my life if I didn't consciously focus on changing my life, getting into a new zone where every night before bed I'm reading, and typically I'm reading these self-help books that I thought were BS back when I worked in finance, and a self-help, who needs that? Tony Robbins, infomercial scam artist, all that. Now all of a sudden I'm reading. It's like a page turner. I've gone through three of Tony Robbins's books in the first two or three months off of alcohol, and I'm just having this wild excitement and imagination about what my life could be.
I would go to bed feeling rested. There was another great one called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It's an old one by Dale Carnegie, and it's like little vignettes with some history in them, just an old book. It's interesting, and I would just read three pages and fall asleep, and I just found my sleep was better. I was starting to imagine possibilities for my life in my sleep, which was never something I did when I drank, because alcohol is just so bad for sleep, disrupts rem sleep, and a drunken stupor is not regenerative sleep, which I think that's the cornerstone, and that's another reason that naps are probably so important.
And I found that people feel guilty almost universally that how much they feel the need to sleep when they get off of alcohol. And I always tell people, "If you need to sleep, that's your body is telling you something. You've been putting a bandaid, a toxic bandaid over your natural desire to relax, and it's kicking the can down the road. It's kicking the lack of your sleep down the road, and it's compounding on itself."
Rachael Shephard: [inaudible 00:21:25].
Chris Scott: I know there's some scientists who think that hallucination withdrawals could actually be the result of the brain trying to catch up on REM activity and dream sleep because you haven't had it for months, and so that was something I actually had. I had hallucinations.
Rachael Shephard: It's crazy. It's crazy. I had really, really similar. When I was a child, I suffered with night terrors, and I haven't had them in years, and then when I quit drinking, I started to get the most horrific nightmares, and I'm talking like Steven Spielberg couldn't come up with the level of horrific detail that my brain was able to concoct in my sleep, and there's a couple of funny things that happened. My youngest likes to run into my bed in the night, and there was one particular day that the door was closed slightly too, so he ran in the night and slammed the door, and I woke up with such a jolt, and I was in the middle of having one of these horrible nightmares, and I convinced myself in that split second that I was being burgled.
And then I woke, and my partner was next to me, and I forgot he was staying at my house. So I thought I was being burgled and about to be raped and murdered in my bed, so I started to scream like I was on fire, and then my eldest child ran in and was screaming, and my youngest burst into tears. And it took about three or four seconds before it was like, "Everyone is okay, and we're all okay."
Chris Scott: Turn the lights on. We're all here.
Rachael Shephard: Yeah, but the sleep disruption for me was I was scared to go to sleep at times because of the nightmares. Yeah, it was hugely impactive, and like you said, I think it's just on even a common sense level, just saying, "Well if I've not slept properly for the last 25 years, then my brain doesn't really know what's happening right now," and it's almost like that kind of REM stage goes into overdrive because it's not used to being there.
Chris Scott: Absolutely. I mean, I would fall into this kind of half asleep state, which was not regenerative, which is not relaxing, and I would just have kind of dark visions, and it wasn't good. And I feel like there could be all sorts of spiritual and religious interpretations of that, but it was like I'd be half asleep, and there's shadows dancing around in my bathroom and not good stuff, and it was a relief for me to discover the science behind that, because at the time when I experienced it, I thought I was the only person in the world that this had happened to.
Rachael Shephard: Yeah, exactly.
Chris Scott: And it's just being lonely, feeling like you're the only one is one of the worst things, because as far as I could tell, all of my friends drank as much... not quite as much maybe as I did, but I always rationalize it as like, "Well, I'm bigger, so I drink more," but I would wonder are they at home having night sweats and seeing shadows dance around in their bathrooms? What's wrong with me? Why me?"
Rachael Shephard: Yeah. It's crazy. And interestingly you said about suddenly sort of realizing your potential. I think it was Bradley Cooper that said he quit drinking because he suddenly realized he was more scared about not fulfilling his potential than anything else, and all of a sudden... I was scared of death from a very young age. I was really obsessed with it from about five or six. I can remember my mum having to buy me books on the subject, and after she died, and having got sober, it's strange. My brain has done a complete 180, and now I'm not scared of death at all.
I am terrified of not making the most of my life, and I look back at the period of time I spent drinking, and the time that's been wasted, and I can't bear it, and then I look forward, and I look at my time and just think, "Oh my gosh, it's running out. I need to fit stuff in. I need to get as much done as I can. There's all these things I want to do yet but I haven't done. I've literally just boughten a guitar, because I'm like, "I haven't learned how to play guitar. I need to learn how to play guitar," and all of a sudden I want to fit all of these things into my life, and now I've got the time to do it. I had no concept of how much time I wasted drinking.
When I first quit, I would start drinking around 4:30, 5:00 in the evening, and all of a sudden from 4:30 or 5:00 to 11:00, I was like, "What do people do with this time?" I thought I had no time, and I realized I've got tons of it, and I'm like, "I've completed Netflix. What else is there?" And it's all of a sudden it's like, "What can I achieve now?" It really does give you this huge boost, and I'm exactly the same. I'm a self-help nut now. I'll read absolutely anything and everything I get my hands on, because I think with every single thing you read, even if it's fiction, you learn something from it, or you reflect on something, and it sparks interest, or joy, or whatever it is, but suddenly I've got all this joy and all this excitement for the future. And rather than fearing about my health and death, I'm thinking I'm fearful of missing out now. That's my biggest concern, it's not fitting everything in in whatever time I do have left on this planet.
Chris Scott: We'll edit this part out. I apologize. That's all right. It's like clockwork. Every time I have a call, they come up and blow it right in the back of my window. [inaudible 00:26:48].
Rachael Shephard: I'm surprised my child hasn't come down actually, because that's the one that happens for me. My youngest comes down, and he's usually got a thing like he goes-
Chris Scott: Well, that's more endearing, and people like that. No one likes a leaf blower in the background. I think we're good. I don't know. We'll see. But anyway, I relate to everything you said there, and I found that as soon as I started reading books before bed, they started to fill my mind with things I wanted to do, and so the ultimate antidote to drinking, beyond biochemical repair, beyond short-term strategies, even beyond things like taking control of your routine in early recovery, and getting past the boredom is getting to a place where there's so many things that you want to do genuinely that you're not forcing yourself to do, but that you genuinely can't wait to do, that alcohol is just a waste of time, and that's why I like to say I want to help people get to the point where alcohol is a moot substance, where it's just something that doesn't matter.
It's like, "Yes, of course, we all have the option." I could have a glass of wine right now. I've got this awesome CBD drink from the UK called Trip, but I mean, I could drink, and I would probably... Honestly, I've been accidentally served. So I think what would happen is I would feel sleepy, and I would feel like I took a sleeping pill and an anesthetic, and I would probably bump my shoulder on the way out of the door. I'd just be disoriented, because I'm not coming from a state of deficiency anymore. My hormones are balanced, but let's say I had several glass of wine. Is there some possibility it would be pleasant?Maybe, but it would not be pleasant for me, and it doesn't... My own trade-off for pro and con calculation, and this is the case not just now, but for every instant, is that it would prevent me from doing things today that I want to do. It would prevent me from feeling the way I need to feel tomorrow to do the things that I'd now do on this higher plane of existence, and it's not worth it.
And I have friends also who they never had a problem with alcohol, and they used to drink binge with me in college, and I'll go out to dinner with them sometimes, and I'll say, "You can have a glass of wine if you want," and more than a few of them have recently said, "Chris, if I have a glass of wine, I'm going to feel like hell tomorrow morning, even just one. Maybe not like hell, but I'm not going to sleep well, and I'm going to feel like my experience is dulled." And that's what they say. And now obviously maybe not everyone agrees with that, but I would suggest that there's something called baseline resetting happening when people think that they're functioning just fine with five or six drinks, or whatever it is every night. I certainly thought that, and I also suffered from the situation where... And this happened for years.
I would quit for about a week. I would go through absolute hell with the withdrawal, didn't know what that was about, and then I would reach this point where I didn't feel like hell, but I felt bland, and it felt like I was living in a black and white gray universe, and I falsely concluded, "Oh, this is life without alcohol," and I didn't realize, no, no, things get worse before they get better. There's a valley before there's a peak. Your body is adjusting, and I never gave my body enough time to get to the peak, nor did I know about the nutritional strategies that I talk about that not everyone uses, but can be helpful in getting there quicker. I think especially for someone who drinks a huge amount of alcohol, I just totally underestimated the amount of I don't want to say damage, because obviously long-term damage is a thing with alcohol, but it can be reversed, but I underestimated the amount of time it would take for me to undo the effects on my mood and my sleep and other basic functions that alcohol brought.
Rachael Shephard: Yeah, it is. It's crazy. It's interesting. There was somebody commented on my Facebook group the other day and said, "How do you stay motivated to stay sober," and I thought about it and then answered, "I don't need any motivation to stay sober, because I don't want it." And I suppose it's this isn't me kind of slamming AA. I don't believe that their method is good, because I don't believe it's based on anything scientific. And what I really struggle with is the kind of diseased man theory and one day at a time, because I just think one day at a time to me sounds like a prison sentence. And you can only crave something that you see value in, and if you can get to this stage, which you can so easily when you've got the right method of doing it, if you get to the stage where you don't want it anymore, sobriety becomes easy.
It doesn't have to be this slog, and I think a lot of the information out there is based on this really old school kind of AA sort of mentality of once you announce yourself as having a problem with alcohol, now you've got a problem, and you've got a problem for life, and this is going to be a life of misery slogging out one day at a time. You are always going to have to go to meetings. You need a sponsor, and I just think that is what stops a lot of people from ever getting to this stage where they even want to give it a go, because it's like, "Do I want to sign up for a life of struggle?" Where I think I like to try and get the message across is it can actually be easy. It doesn't have to be this huge slog. Yeah, getting through the first few weeks is not pleasant, but it is completely tolerable.
I mean, I've never taken heroin, but they say coming off heroin makes you feel like you want to die, but coming off alcohol is actually not that bad once you get through that first period, and if you can understand that what you are going through is simply boredom due to hormone imbalance, and all these things can be sort of rectified in your body, you can work out what that process is and see where you are along that timeline, and then know there's an end game. I often liken it to crawling through a dark tunnel, and at the beginning, you've got to know there's an end, but you're on your hands and knees, and you can't look up, and you've got your face in the mud, and at some point you start to see flickers of light.
And then as you get further along the tunnel, you start to stand, and then eventually you're walking, and by the time you get out the other side, you look back, and you can't fathom now that you stood in the light how you ever put yourself in that tunnel in the first place, and why would you ever want to go back there? So I think for me, that's sort of the biggest message really. It does not have to be hard.
Chris Scott: I love that, and I totally agree. And I'm not avoiding alcohol. It's like my life doesn't contain something that for me I've been there, and I've done that, and I had enough, and I saw what that was about. I grew from that phase of life. Do I wish I knew what I know now about alcohol at the time? Sure, I would've saved time, but at the end of the day, I only room for the things that I do now, and there's no room for alcohol, so I just don't need it, and I think it's like I've had some people say, "I think you're too nonchalant," typically AA types, "Your nonchalant about the alcohol thing. It's going to get you."
And I'm like, "Well, I think honestly if I thought that this was a one day at a time perpetual, bleak struggle where I am an inherent, or genetic, or whatever slave to a substance, then it would come back and get me for sure, because there'd be a self-fulfilling prophecy." I think we perceive reality through the lens of our belief systems, and our perceptions, and our interpretations of those perceptions. Those are our beliefs, I guess. So if I interpret something as a big scary monster on my back all the time, it's probably more likely it's going to get me eventually.
Rachael Shephard: Absolutely.
Chris Scott: Whereas if I perceive it as it was a monster, some kind of monster is dead, and I left it somewhere however many years ago, and I'm going to keep living my life, as we know, time flies when you're having fun, which is a good thing and also a scary thing, but my perception of life beyond alcohol is exactly that. It's not life without, it's not life avoiding. It's not life trying not to do. It's a life beyond a, transcended state.
Rachael Shephard: Yeah, and there's so many different ways that it's kind of provable as well. I mean, I always say to people, "If you get in sort of early sobriety, if you get a craving, look at comments from people who've got more than a year sober, and you'll never find anybody that says, 'I regret getting sober,' and look at anyone on day zero. There is not a single person that wants to be there." And it's really saddening to read comments from people at day zero, day one, because they're just devastated to be back in that place, and you think if every single person doesn't want to be at day zero, and every person that gets sober is elated about it, surely there's got to be some truth in that.
Chris Scott: Exactly. I think there's something else here also, which is that once you discover how much power you have over your life and your choices, once you go through the kind of adventure or evolution that you and I have gone through, not that we're anywhere near done, but we've come a long way since being hooked on alcohol, I think you start to realize that even if you were to have a slip... I've been accidentally served at restaurants. I've ordered mocktails. I've gone to a tent that had kombucha, turned out the kombucha was 6% alcohol, and I finished it, but I realized I actually have more power than I thought.
Now, if I think that this is some predestined thing that is inevitably going to send me on a liquor store run, and if I thought of alcohol as the forbidden fruit for the rest of my life, I might be tempted to turn that into some ridiculous escapade from reality, and yet I realized like, "Nope, I think I'm good, lesson learned, don't need that. I want to sleep tonight. I want to feel good tomorrow." Those are the kinds of thoughts that I could have even after that, so it's not like there was some biochemical switch that just turned me into some kind of crazily addicted person once again. It takes time to get back to that state, and I think the tragedy is that often what brings people to that fully addicted state once again is the shame of just having one, and also believing that they don't have control when they have way more control than they think.
Rachael Shephard: Yeah, absolutely. And it just goes back to that kind of one day at a time thing, doesn't it? Yeah, it doesn't have to be that way, and it's a really sad kind of thing to subscribe to, that your life is going to be this eternal struggle. Who would want that? And I think looking to you have to seek out the good stuff. You have to look for the success stories and to see the people that are where you want to be. And if you're looking to people in sobriety that are finding it a daily struggle, then you're not going to want to follow that, but if you look for the stories of people that are essentially fully recovered, for want of a word, then follow that, because whatever they're doing, they're doing it right, because they've got that as that's their goal, that they're at that place that you want to be where you're free of it rather than it being a slog forever.
Chris Scott: Yeah. Yeah. My daily struggle at the moment is that I haven't yet learned how to kite surf, and I've been trying to figure that out, and so hopefully that's something that's in my horizon of things that I can do before it becomes unachievable. I don't know. I think Richard Branson kite surfs, so I think maybe I've got some time to learn, but that's one of my things. For you, it was the guitar. For me, it's kite surfing, and YouTube knows this. I can't go on YouTube. I'll end up watching kite surfing videos for 30 minutes, but there's just a vast universe of exciting things. Why confine yourself to something that's so dulling? And alcohol is a supremely confining substance, and it confines you often to your house. You shouldn't drive. You can, but you shouldn't.
And also psychologically, I feel like it keeps the same thought patterns playing over and over like a broken record. And now my thought patterns go where I direct them, and where I want them to go. So I wanted to ask, I know I feel like we could talk for hours, but what excites you these days? And maybe it's something with your program or something personally, but you've come a long way from where you were. So when you wake up in the morning now, what's something that inspires or excites you?
Rachael Shephard: It's really funny. As soon as you said that, something popped into my head. I can remember signing up to various different sober groups when I was looking to quit, and then when I first quit, and somebody had posted, "What do you do for fun when you're sober?" And I read this list of things, and they had things on their like, "Paint by numbers," and I read it and was like, "Is this it? Is this what my... I'm going to be painting by... Knitting? Knitting and painting by... Okay." So I now have paint by numbers.
Chris Scott: Very nice.
Rachael Shephard: And I thoroughly enjoy it. I know. I can't believe I enjoy it, and it's the most ridiculous thing that I looked at and thought that, "Oh my god. I'm going to read. I'm going to knit and paint my numbers," but now I find joy in the most simplistic of things. Yesterday, I took my kids up to the Sea Life Center in London, and it was a delightful day, but before we left the house, my youngest, I mean ,I could have pushed him down the stairs. He's only five, but he was being a nightmare. And by the time I got in the car, I was like, "I am done for the day. They really stressed me out." And then I put on my running playlist in the car, and I had all this rock music on there, and by the time we'd driven up to London, I felt like a different person.
And this is quite common now, I think, where I might have a stressful morning. You can't remove all of the live stresses, particularly not where kids are concerned. They know how to push all your buttons, but whenever I have a stressful time when I was drinking, I would find that it would snowball. Whatever it was, it would turn into kind of an inevitable car crash, like I'd wake up hungover, and then inevitably I'd be late for something, or I'd forget to take something with me, or I'd miss an appointment. There was so much chaos wrapped around it, whereas now if something happens that's an external stressor, I recover from it very, very quickly, because I can appreciate it's just one of those things, and it's happened, and it's not an impending disaster, and my emotions are more regulated, and I'm calmer. So it takes very little to flip me out of that mood, so simple joys for me, like music is a massive one.
I've started going to lots more rock concerts and things like that, which I only ever used to... Well, I used to do it rarely, and when I did do it, I'd be blasted, and it was lovely. I went to see Shinedown in December at Wembley, and they were selling alcohol there, and it was 11 pounds for a small glass of wine, and I'm thinking, "I would've dropped 100 pounds on wine." So the joy of just listening to music, and to dancing, and to being present, and getting those natural highs. For me, I'm an adrenaline junkie. I always have been, and I keep reading a lot about why addictive personality isn't really a thing, and I'm not sure if it is or not, but I'm definitely an all or nothing person, and I do really like that thrill sensation like I've been skydiving. I want to bungee jump later this year.
These are things that really, really get me off. And now I'm noticing that those natural highs are so much more euphoric because I can feel them, that there's nothing blocking it out. It's like when we drink, we block out. We try and block out the pain. We try and block out the bad stuff, but we also block out all the joy, the really good stuff. Yeah, I get pleasure from... The list is endless. It really is endless, but I find it in the most simplistic of things now.
On New Year's Eve, for instance, I stayed in with my children, and my youngest son wanted to stay up. He fell asleep at 10:00 in the evening on my lap. I put him to bed, and the next day he was raging. He came in saying, "I was resting my eyes," but by the bye, and then my eldest and I watched Flight of the Navigator, which is a really old movie from the 1980s that I watched as a kid. So we watched that together, and we stayed up till midnight, and then from midnight till about 12:30, we sat just talking about the universe, and he's only eight years old, and he was talking about how grateful he is for his life, and his family, and all the good things in his life, and it was the nicest New Years I've ever had. It was so peaceful, and we literally just watched a movie and spent some time talking, but it was utterly delightful. Yeah, I think just those really simple pleasures for me.
Chris Scott: Agreed. So can you tell us a little bit about your program, and maybe what's entailed there, how people can sign up?
Rachael Shephard: So basically it's 90 days, and the reason it's 90 days is because we don't start getting our dopamine back for the first couple of months. So I like to get people to a stage where they're feeling like a normal human being, and then can get to the stage where they're enjoying themselves before I kind of release them into the wild as such. And by that point, they're able to kind of really from all that time journaling, really able to kind of self-analyze and work out where they're going wrong rather than me spoonfeeding it at the beginning. So basically it's a video every other day, and there's various inputs over southern modules, and it starts with what alcohol is, and what it does. And then after that, it's really not much to do with alcohol at all.
So the first module is all around the current science behind it, and then there's an entire module devoted to rest, and rejuvenation, and looking after your body. And then we go into organizing, and it's organizing all sorts of things like your house, and your finances, and all the things that you kind of forget when you're drinking, or you put to one side and kind of sort of trying to remove that chaos. Then it moves on to exercise and nutrition. There's a whole module on managing motherhood and just dealing with a lot of the stresses and issues that come up with that, working on your identity as a woman rather than just a mother, managing triggers and major life events, and then the final module is all about finding fun again, because it is something you need to find, I think. It's not something that comes looking for you. You've really got to go and search for what gets your rocks off. It's not going to come and find you. Yeah, so those are the modules.
There's a video every other day, so people have got the time to kind of process it. They're really short and sort of nice and manageable. And then I get people to journal every day, and we do a weekly Zoom meeting. So sometimes we do group sessions, and it's all mums in exactly the same boat. They're really sort of encouraging, uplifting. A lot of the time we don't even talk about alcohol. It's just like a mum chat, but it's women that all kind of resonate. It's not like an AA group meeting where you've got a bunch of kind of random people where there's nothing to connect them. We've all got something in common from the off, so it works really nicely, and people at the beginning of the program can see how far people have come at the end, and then people at the end of the program can look back and see how far they've come, and they inspire the people at the beginning.
So it's sort of a beautiful space really for people to connect. And then if people have got anything really personal that they want to talk about, then we do one-on-one sessions outside of that, but essentially we have daily contacts so that they're really well supported. Yeah, it's pretty transformational, and it's just wonderful to see the change, and obviously the mental changes are the best bit, but the physical changes in people, I get them to take a selfie every day, and the before and afters are they're just staggering the difference in people, and not even from the beginning to the end, from week one to week three, the difference is usually huge. In people's faces it's just its incredible.
Yeah, that's the essence of it really. It's a total handholding process. I'm hugely invested in my clients. I regularly cry when I see journal entries where people have had a really good day, and I think for me, that's why it works, because I do. I care really deeply about the public people we work with, and I don't work with many people in one go. I have a maximum amount of people I work with, so I can give them the attention they deserve.
Chris Scott: Right. No, that's amazing, and for me, fulfillment is the primary payment that I get for Fit Recovery. I had a friend ask once, he said, "Do you think you'll ever sell Fit Recovery?" And I thought, "Am I going to sell the fulfillment that I get?" I mean, maybe other things I'll get involved with, and to that extent I'll have new passions and maybe other forms of fulfillment, but that's the biggest thing, and I think that's really crucial for this kind of program as well as someone like yourself or like me who actually cares, care about the progress. And when I see someone who's on day two, I see myself. It doesn't matter what they look like. Yeah, really cool stuff. I feel like we could do a part two here, but I just want to make sure that if people want to find you, you can tell them where's the best place to find you, and also anything else that we might not have touched on.
Rachael Shephard: So my website is Sober Mama, so Sober and then Mama, M-A-M-A .co.uk, and on that website there are links to all of my blogs as well. So I regularly blog on various different things about motherhood, and failed relationships, and all sorts of stuff. They all mildly relate to alcohol. And from there, there's also links to my Facebook group. So I usually post once every couple of days with tips and tricks on how to quit, and I engage with pretty much anybody that comments on there. So I offer lots of free advice on there as well. Yeah, pretty much everything is accessible from the website. I'm currently working on the book, which I'm hoping I'll have done by the spring, but we'll see how motivated. I stop and start a lot, so I'm hoping by the spring, but the website is the best place to go.
Chris Scott: Excellent. Well, it's been a lot of fun having you on, and I think people are going to love this, so thank you for being on the show.
Rachael Shephard: Thank you so much for having me. It's been delightful.
Chris Scott: Hey, everyone, Chris Scott here. If you like the information on today's episode regarding supplementation and empowerment strategies for addiction recovery, then please subscribe to the Elevation Recovery Podcast and leave us a rating and review on iTunes. And if you benefited directly from this information, I'm confident in saying that you'll love the information packed online courses that Matt Finch and I have created. Matt Finch's, ultimate Opiate Detox 4.0 is a six module 30 activity course that contains video lessons, written lessons, PDF downloads, worksheets, audios, and much more, and it has everything you could possibly need to know to conquer opioid addiction in the easiest and most comfortable way possible. My own course, Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0, is the most cutting edge resource for anyone who wants to transcend alcohol and build their best lives.
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