Sober October – Does it affect longer-term drinking habits and attitude to alcohol?

Sober October is finally over but other than being a great means of fundraising for a great cause, what effect does it have on those that take part? We spoke to four people – all of which have different reasons for getting involved – about the challenges, the benefits and their overall experience to see whether taking a month off booze changes their attitude towards drinking. I’ve given our interviewees fake names to allow for full disclosure and honesty (but don’t worry, there’s no fake news.)

First up is Jed. We bump into him occasionally in the kitchen of our shared office space. He lives and works in London, is in his late 30’s, has a great girlfriend, drinks fairly regularly and he hasn’t previously felt the need to change his drinking habits.

1) You’re doing Sober October to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, is this your first time?

Yes

2) What inspired you to take part –  the charity aspect or something else?

I’d just got back from a heavy drinking trip and a colleague of mine decided to do it so I thought I’d give it a go – it seemed like it would be a good challenge. I didn’t actually know about the charity aspect of it until very recently, which is annoying because I would have raised some money.

3) Have you noticed any changes in yourself – physical, emotional, mental…etc?

More sleep, I’ve been sleeping very heavily. I’ve been more focused. But I’ve also been more bored – sorry – but I guess this has made me be more experimental with what I do. I’ve been doing activities that I wouldn’t have done usually. I didn’t miss it [drinking] at all to start with and then when I realised it was easy, that’s when it got a bit boring – actually not boring, I think it’s more the fear of missing out. My missus was having a glass of wine after we’d been to the theatre and I thought “ah that’d be so nice” – just a glass, that’s all.

4) So you’ve still socialised?

Yes,I did the Club Soda mindful pub crawl, I’ve been climbing, running, been to the theatre loads. I’ve not been to the pub with my mates that I’d usually drink with but I’m not a big pub drinker anyway, I’d usually drink at home.

5) What’s the toughest part of socialising without drinking?

I went to a gig with a mate and it was awful, the music was crap and it was a total waste of money. My friend drank heavily through it so he had an alright time, whereas I couldn’t so I didn’t enjoy it. If I’d been drinking with him we would have just taken the p*ss out of the music and had a laugh. I guess that represents the whole thing because you enjoy anything with drinking.

6) What have been your go-to drink choices?

Thanks to Club Soda I’ve really enjoyed alcohol-free stout from Big Drop and their IPA. It’s really good, I’ve been drinking that a lot, it really helped. I wouldn’t have known about that stuff otherwise. I’ve not been argumentative with my girlfriend either, I probably would have if I was drinking alcohol. I’ve learnt a lot about the drinks and it’s made me think differently about it – before I would have thought “so what if you don’t have anything good to drink if you’re not drinking alcohol, you deserve to drink coke” – but why should you only have coke as an option in the pub if you’re not drinking? You should have other options.

7) Have you found a particular place that you’ve been most comfortable in or had the best drinks options?

Nope but I’ve not looked enough.

8) How have your friends and family reacted?

Extremely positively – my girlfriend is very proud. The only people that haven’t been supportive have just been tongue in cheek reactions, not serious. I used to live in Canada and their drinking culture is completely different, no one drinks loads so it’s not a big deal if you’re not really drinking – Britain is much more peer pressured. Especially if I’d done this at 25, I would have found it much harder because my mates would have forced me into it. It’s easier now but there are still nights when you would get slowly edged into drinking if you said you weren’t. We don’t really eat here either, why is that? “Eating’s cheating” is a big concept in the UK. In Canada, they go out to eat and they drink while they’re eating. The pubs would have to serve food for as long as they serve alcohol. Here we go out straight from work without eating and everyone just gets hammered.

9) Do you think doing this will change your drinking habits moving forward then because it sounds like your concept of drinking has already changed?

Yes, I’ll have more alcohol-free evenings now that I know about the alternatives – at least three a week. I want to get away from drinking when I get home after being out, it’s pointless. After the theatre or something, I would have been drinking there and then continued at home.

10) Maybe if you stock up on some booze-free alternatives for when you get home from social events it will help?

Yeah having some alternatives when I get back might changes things. I haven’t tried the wines yet though. [I give some recommendations such as Carl Jung and Eisberg and agree to email them to him]. 

11) Will you be coming to the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival in November?

When is it? [Laughs]

12) It’s the 24th & 25th November, Spitalfields Market.

Yes I will!

13) Good! Have you found it useful to have Club Soda in the building for tips on what to drink etc?

Yes, I’ve not done the online stuff but it’s been really useful to find out drinks alternatives from Laura.

14) Would you do Sober October and/or Dry January again then?

Yes I would, and probably will

 

Our next interviewee is Jade. She’s a female member of Club Soda who actually stopped drinking in April of this year, after feeling that she was drinking too much. As with many other people who have chosen to go sober or moderate their drinking, taking part in “sober sprints” such as Dry July or fundraising movements like Sober October and Dry January is often another way of staying on track and taking it one month at a time. We found out how the whole process has affected her and whether Sober October has helped her stay motivated.

1) You’re doing Sober October to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, is this your first time?

Yep, this is my first time

 2) What inspired you to take part –  the charity aspect or something else?

My friends are all big drinkers, so it’s an acceptable reason for not going out and drinking with them. Raising money for MacMillan is important to me too though, although I’ve not raised much because people feel like I won’t succeed – I lost my mum to cancer though so the cause means a lot to me. Overall though I think doing it for myself was what made me do it.

3) Have you noticed any changes in yourself – physical, emotional, mental…etc

Emotionally loads, it’s unbelievable – my husband has said I’m like another person. Other Club Soda members often talk about it being like “life in HD” and now I know what they mean – it’s like wearing new glasses. I’m coping with emotions better even though I’m more exposed because there’s nothing to blur it. I just want to grab life, whereas before I felt like it was getting sucked out of me. Physically there’s not been much change but my husband says I’ve lost my gut [laughs]. No massive weight change but I didn’t really need that – I’m eating more though and I’m happy.

4) Have you still socialised?

Not really, I went out once in October but I found it really hard – I just go out for meals with my family. I still haven’t told my friends that I’ve not been drinking so it’s too difficult for now but I will do once I’m more comfortable with it – I’m going to say to my friends that I’m continuing Sober October once it’s over.

5) What’s the toughest part of socialising without drinking?

My friends don’t know – and the mental process of it. I’ve used it [drinking] for so long now to deal with everything that I’ll need to edge back into socialising once I’m used to it. There are no alcohol-free options in my area, no Tesco or anything either – so I’m drinking fizzy flavoured water. Most pubs sell Becks Blue but not a lot past that.

6) What have been your go-to drink choices?

Fizzy flavoured waters, no sugary options.

7) Have you found a particular place that you’ve been most comfortable in or had the best drinks options?

Just restaurants, fizzy waters and stuff.

8) How have your friends and family reacted?

My friends don’t know yet, they just think I’m doing October – my son and husband know though and are proud of me. Some of my family know and are still gob-smacked. My friends are supportive of Sober October though because it’s for a cause and it has an end date.

9) Do you think this will change your drinking habits moving forward?

I knew that I wanted to continue after the first month of not drinking. I’ve dealt with up and down days without drinking and it’s really spurred me on. I’d like to do more long-term but I’m taking it one step at a time.

 10) Will you be coming to the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival in November?

I’d love to but I live in Scotland – if there was one here I would go.

11) a) If you do plan on continuing with mindful drinking will you use Club Soda for information, tips, community support etc?

Yes, absolutely – it’s a Godsend. It’s been unbelievable.

11) b) Which of those tools provided by Club Soda is most important to you?

The support and non-judgement, such amazing support from members and the Club Soda team. If you slip, you don’t get judged.

12) Is there anything extra you feel like Club Soda could provide to support you/others?

No, I can’t think of anything.

 

Next up is Jude – a 30-year-old American living and working in East London. He feels that alcohol isn’t so much the issue for him, it’s what it leads to and the reasons for wanting to drink in the first place which has led him to think about making a change to his drinking patterns.

1) You’re doing Sober October to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, is this your first time?

I didn’t realise I could raise money! I guess I’ll have to figure that one out for next year. Yes it’s my first time.

2) What inspired you to take part –  the charity aspect or something else?

I was inspired by feeling unhappy with certain decisions I was making when I was drinking.

3) Have you noticed any changes in yourself – physical, emotional, mental…etc

Over the month I’ve noticed I was becoming more emotionally stable and present. Physically more energetic and just plain happier. I also found I was much more empathetic, I was able to listen better and had significantly better motivation – and could relate to people in a much more honest and open way. Also, you’re more inclined to have a meaningful conversation that leads to more meaningful friendships or sustainable romantic encounters rather than just drunken banter.

4) Have you still socialised?

I have socialised but in different ways, nowhere near as much in the evenings. At a party, there tends to be a mild feeling of isolation if you’re sober. To be honest I’ve felt significantly more lonely and craved a sense of intimacy that I would have normally received briefly through substance induced romantic encounters.

5) What’s the toughest part of socialising without drinking?

It’s been hard not being on the same frequency as everyone – always feeling like you’re just slightly too lucid. It’s a bit depressing.

6) What have been your go-to drink choices?

I’ve been drinking non-alcoholic beer (0.5%) and kombucha. They’ve both been incredibly helpful and work up until a certain point but there’s only so much of each you can really drink.

7) Have you found a particular place that you’ve been most comfortable in or had the best drinks options?

The most comfortable place has been my couch watching Netflix! I’m not a drinker on my own at all so if I remove myself from the social situations in which alcohol is used, I don’t have any fear of missing out. It’s been really useful for me to take advantage of the mornings and day times rather than living for the night as well – whether exercising alone or going out to brunch with friends. A lot of places have non-alcoholic drinks options nowadays – I just went to a place in Hackney last week called Empress Market who do some great booze free cocktails and slushies. Mick’s Garage in Hackney Wick is always a good shout too, as they’ve got Jarr Kombucha on draft and are always happy to mix up a kombucha based mocktail for you.

8) How have your friends and family reacted?

Some of my friends have been supportive, some have sort of fallen off the map as it’s become quite clear we were just party buddies and some have criticised my choice. It’s a bit of a mixed bag really – although I think hanging out without drinking around many of them has made them more at ease with the idea throughout the month.

9) Do you think this will change your drinking habits moving forward?

I certainly have become more aware of the moments in which I would normally use alcohol to cope with boredom, alleviate discomfort/stress or just pursue plain hedonism. I’ve become more comfortable with not drinking in social situations and now really question why exactly I may want a drink.

10) Will you be coming to the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival in November?

I will be attending, yes!

11) Have you ever referred to Club Soda for information, tips, inspiration, drink alternatives etc?

I have never referred to it before but I will from now on – I did read the A-Z list of celebs who don’t drink or who moderately drink and it was really inspiring.

12) Would you do Sober October and/or Dry January again then?

I will definitely be taking time off next October and potentially in January as well.

 

Last but not least is Club Soda member Jared. He stopped drinking in August but took part in Sober October to raise money for MacMillan and have another reason to power on through with sobriety.

1) You’re doing Sober October to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, is this your first time?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve ever done any sober stretch of any kind – and I’ve not ever grown a moustache in November or anything [Laughs].

2) What inspired you to take part –  the charity aspect or something else?

I had already planned not to drink for 90 days and see how it went, which started on August 18th, so Sober October was part of that. I’ve raised £351 for MacMillan. I have a member of the family who is receiving Macmillan support at the moment so it’s particularly meaningful.

3) That’s really great, huge well done for raising such a great amount for the cause! Have you noticed any changes in yourself since stopping drinking – physical, emotional, mental…etc?

Physical yes, I’ve lost a stone in weight since August! I’ve been exercising more too which has helped. I’ve had more focus and I’ve been much more alert in the morning. I wake up well and I sleep better. I enjoy my morning coffee much more now because there’s no hangover to ruin it or stop me having one. Now I just really enjoy it. I am also more open now about my previous level of drinking becoming a problem, whereas before I would have been defensive and a bit ‘in denial’….especially while I was having a drink!

4) Have you still socialised?

I’m retired now and we’ve recently moved to a new area so there’s not been as much socialising as we would have done beforehand – but we’ve had family get togethers where alcohol has been involved and I’ve not had any.

5) What’s the toughest part of not drinking?

4pm is my trigger time. It’s mainly boredom related because I’ll have done any jobs that had been done by that time so I’ll have a drink, either at the local pub or at home – and with dinner. My wife very rarely drinks so I’m often drinking on my own – not alone but I’m the only one drinking. I’ll have a glass of wine whilst cooking too, so it’s been hard to break those habits. I’ve really relied on alcohol-free drinks such as beers – I’ve tried the wines but I’m not as keen on those.

6) What have been your go-to drink choices?

Heineken 0.0, Bavaria, Erdinger is my favourite – and ales like St Peters Without. I also really enjoy the Belvoir ginger cordial with some ice.

7) Have you found a particular place that you’ve been most comfortable in or had the best drinks options?

I did find a steakhouse that stocks St Peters Without which was good – Miller & Carter near Bury, Greater Manchester. Otherwise, the locals pubs just have Becks Blue.

8) How have your friends and family reacted?

Really supportive, especially my wife as she was worried about how much I was drinking. My friends thought Sober October was great – even the big drinkers that would usually join me in lots of wine with dinner.


9) Do you think this will change your drinking habits moving forward?

I hope it will. I don’t know if I’ll stop at 90 days but I don’t know if I’d do moderation very well, so I’ll see how I feel after the 90 days. It’s certainly opened my eyes to alcohol-free drinks options.

10) Will you be coming to the Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival?

I would if we were closer to London. Manchester is close to us, so if Club Soda did one there I would go.

11) a) If you do plan on continuing with mindful drinking, will you still use Club Soda for information, tips, community support etc?

Yes definitely – I make a contribution to Club Soda each month because I’ve benefited so much from it – and I’ve saved money that I would usually spend on alcohol!

 

11) b) Which of those tools provided by Club Soda is most important to you?

The community support has been most important – and I’ve provided some help back to people. The mutual support is really important. The thing that helped me in the early days was the sober sprint, so I would certainly continue to keep an eye on everything on the Facebook group.


12) Is there anything extra you feel like Club Soda could provide to support you/others?

I can’t think of anything – I think what’s there is very good. I think they’re doing a great job, if they could get more exposure on the media that would be great so that more people are aware of what’s out there.

 

So it seems that doing a sober sprint of some kind such as Go Sober for October, particularly if it raises money for good cause, is a great way of tackling any concerns you may have about you’re drinking. Even just a month off enables you to recognise if you’re drinking to aid confidence, boredom or to disguise emotions – and it’s a boost to your health, sleep, focus, energy and wellbeing.

Club Soda provides a whole host of info to help you get started if you’re thinking of changing your drinking, whether you need the best drinks and venue options to allow for a little moderation, or health information and membership support to stop completely – Visit joinclubsoda.co.uk or clubsodaguide.com to find out more. And don’t forget to come along to our Mindful Drinking Christmas Festival on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th November at Spitalfields Market! We’ll have the best drinks brand on the booze-free market for you to try and to buy – a great opportunity to stock up for Christmas and Dry January. You can also join out next Mindful Pub Crawl on 15th November, in association with Morning Gloryville and Fitbeer where we’ll be checking out the best mindful drinking-friendly pubs that Notting Hill has to offer.