One of main ways we enjoy being with friends socially is drinking - trying to cut back can be difficult and sometimes meets with disapproval from others. The trouble is it’s easy for those units to mount up and over time this can have a really detrimental effect on your health, mood, energy levels and weight. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to give up, if only for a short time, January is the perfect time thanks to Dry January. The organisers Alcohol Change UK predicted nearly 9 million would give up the booze for the month and experience how it might feel to be alcohol free.
The recommended guidelines for alcohol are no more than 14 units a week, with at least 2 alcohol free days per week. A typical bottle of wine will contain 10 units. It’s easy to get through a bottle with three generous glasses in a night! Here’s something that might shock you: the NHS classes ‘binge drinking’ having more than eight units in a single session for a man, or six for a woman. It’s common for my clients to be ‘binge drinking’ a few nights a week and to be honest, those who know me, know that I fall into that category from time to time myself. That’s why I am grateful for having the knowledge I do about the impact of alcohol on health and for movements such as Dry January and being sober curious.
If you fancy trying Dry January for yourself, it’s worth downloading the Try Dry app to help track your progress.
For some, giving up for a month might feel a little too much. Or perhaps, for whatever the reason, you’ve started thinking that you drink a little too much. Maybe it’s crossed your mind on occasion that you have a problem with alcohol (even if you’ve not spoken those words out loud)? Do you use alcohol like a social crutch to give you confidence at parties and events? Do you often wonder what life would be like without alcohol or even why on TV, films and even in real life the alcohol flows freely at practically every event? It’s like we should all be drinking, and without it, we must be having less fun. Problem drinking doesn’t just mean being an alcoholic.
While you might be eating well, doing your yoga or Pilates, meditating, getting your 10,000 steps every single day, at the end of a long day, you get back from work, kick off your shoes and head for a glass of wine. Soon, one glass is a second glass, which becomes the rest of the bottle.
I wonder if that sounds familiar?
If any of these questions above have crossed your mind, perhaps you are sober curious.
The sober curious movement is gathering pace. To be clear ‘sober curious’ is not the same as sobriety (being 100% sober). According to Ruby Warrington, author of the book Sober Curious, it’s not an on-off switch. You are not either a drinker or tee-total. It’s about bringing a “questioning mindset to every drinking situation, rather than going along with the dominant drinking culture”. Sober curious is a movement that welcomes you at any stage of your questioning the role alcohol plays in your life.
It may be that you have already dipped your toe into extended periods of sobriety – Dry January, Go Sober for October. Being sober curious the rest of the time is a natural extension. There are even sober bars popping up where you get to socialise over mocktails and kombucha rather than a G&T.
Author Ruby Warrington – the first to coin the phase – began thinking about her alcohol consumption in 2010 in terms of its impact on her health and wellbeing. She felt she couldn't talk to anyone else about it. After it, it wasn’t like she was drinking secretly or during the day. She was drinking in a very socially acceptable way you might see openly portrayed on social media. Maybe a few glasses of wine on a few weeknights and a mini binge at the weekend. Like many, she was simply doing it without question.
Feel like exploring this for yourself? Ask yourself when you drink:
· Why am I drinking right now?
· Is it expected of me that I will have a drink right now? If so, how do I feel about that?
· What will this drink do for my health and wellbeing?
· Think about what it is that you actually want
Don’t be afraid to say to friends that you’re taking some time off from drinking, that (on a night you would normally go to a bar), you’d like to do something different instead. Remember, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
Can you ever drink?
Being sober curious is not never, never drink. It’s simply being more mindful. That’s something we could probably all do with more of in every aspect of our lives.
SOBER CURIOUS RESOURCES
There are plenty of quit lit books for every single demographic but here are some favourites:
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray (https://amzn.to/3ROQhh6)
Tired of Thinking About Drinking by Belle Robertson (https://amzn.to/48orSo1)
Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington (https://amzn.to/31woqIG)
Drink? The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health by David Nutt (https://amzn.to/3ieOy10)
Alcohol Lied to Me: How to Stop Drinking and Get the Real You Back by Craig Beck (https://amzn.to/2Vr6SKx)
There are some hypnosis tracks to go with this book by Craig Beck, which are also excellent - https://amzn.to/2NAj72L
Alcohol Change statistics - https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics