Dry January podcast special: How to change your drinking
Founders of Club Soda, Dru Jaeger and Laura Willoughby, ease you into the new year and Alcohol Change’s Dry January with a short podcast about how to change your drinking, how to get started and how Club Soda can help. And author Simon Chapple introduces his new book. Listen and read the edited transcript below.
Reflecting on the good bits of 2020
We know that there are lots of people who will be waking up first of January 2021 thinking “2020 was a dumpster fire. I’m glad that’s over! I can forget the whole thing ever happened”. But there was good stuff that happened in 2020. And we are firm believers in building on positives.
It’s true that the year hasn’t been great for lots of people, like those who work in the hospitality industry. But as we go into the New Year, it helps to at least try and reflect back on things that have been positive for us or that we’ve got from it and learned.
For some people the ‘rest’ of lockdown has been enforced, some have spent 2020 worried about their jobs, trying to find new things or moving into new careers. Our hearts go out to those people. Even if it’s been a really tough year, you can set off in 2021 on a good footing by remembering the good things which have happened too.
We know that last year, lots of people were drinking more during lockdown. Interestingly, there were many people who didn’t bring their pub drinking home with them and actually used lockdown as an opportunity to cut down. During the lockdown, we launched our Sober Weekender. We gathered more than 1,000 people together to spend a weekend exploring some of the kind of the basics of changing your drinking. It was a really amazing weekend and out of that has grown our new free course, How to Change your Drinking. And literally, 1,000s of people have now taken that course and started to take steps towards changing their drinking.
The important thing for us at Club Soda is that we use behaviour change science to build and evaluate really robust courses. Changing your drinking isn’t easy. There’s no one size fits all, and actually is very little data about how you change your drinking, and what are the measures of success. One of the things that we do in Club Soda is to work with the academic and medical world, to look at how we can make change happen. Then we offer advice, information and help that really does make a difference. We build that into our courses.Dru Jaeger
Changing your drinking during a dry January
We have a free introductory course How to Change your Drinking. You may get to the end of those three days, or know right from the start, “I’m going to need to work at this”. So to help, we’ve got two longer-term and intensive programs both great for Dry January.
One is called How to Drink Mindfully. It’s really ideal for people who want to cut down, or who maybe are exploring change. People who haven’t yet decided or made it a firm commitment about how they want to change, but just want to experiment and try things out. Maybe you want to cut down. Maybe you want to start incorporating short breaks, or taking days off. Or thinking fundamentally about the role alcohol might play in your life going forward, and you want to find a way of living well with it. How to Drink Mindfully is perfect for you.
And then we’ve got a brand new course, called How to Stop Drinking, that is explicitly designed for people who want to take a break, for this week, or this month, or for a longer period of time. The course is for you if you are serious about removing alcohol from your life, and giving yourself space and time to reflect on the reasons that you were drinking. If you want to work out how to live alcohol-free in the long term. How to Stop Drinking is designed specifically for you. It’s quite different from How to Drinking Mindfully. There is new material, new things to think about, a new emphasis on different tools and techniques thinking. And it could be the thing which gets you going with being alcohol-free in 2021.
Why do we need a course to help us stop drinking?
We just need to not drink, right, then carry on not drinking. Why do you need a course? And why do you need behaviour change tools? Why do you need help with Dry January?
If we could just get on with changing, then Club Soda wouldn’t need to exist. It would be easy. But it’s endlessly frustrating, isn’t it? If you are somebody who knows that you want to change, you will encounter people who say, “well, just don’t do it”, as if it’s the most straightforward thing in the world. And of course, it is for them. But it’s not for you. It’s okay to admit that you need some support, particularly if you’re someone who’s been wrestling with drinking, struggling for a while. If you have started drinking in ways that you’re really not happy with. If it’s stopped giving you benefits. If it feels like it’s becoming all downsides.
Our courses are designed to take you step-by-step through a process of change. It not just about stopping drinking for now. If we grin and bear it, if we white knuckle it, we can probably sustain ourselves just through sheer willpower for a few days, maybe for a week. Maybe as a challenge, we could get ourselves through a whole month of not drinking. But all you’re doing in that time is hitting pause on your drinking behaviours. You’re not starting to think about:
- the circumstances in which you’re drinking more than you want
- about the life that you want to live
- the role that you want to alcohol to play in it
- how you can make realistic plans to sustain yourself
- how you can keep going past Dry January.
If you’re not doing those things, you shouldn’t be surprised that drinking comes back in full force. Our courses are designed, whether you’re cutting down or taking a break, to help you change your thinking about drinking. And they give you the psychological and the real-world tools that you need to be able to sustain change in the long term, all year around, not just Dry January.
One of the things which is really important to say about our courses is this: you can take as long as you need to go through it. Our courses are not a challenge. They’re not about self-denial. You can let yourself off the hook about whether you quit on day one, or whether you quit on day 301. That doesn’t really matter. The point is, you sign up for the course and you can work through it at your own pace. We are really interested in change for you which is sustainable in the long term.Dru Jaeger
Self-efficacy is just the belief that you can change
What we’ve realised, after spending so much time with all of our members over the last five years, is this process of change isn’t linear. There will be times when you might get a big long stint under your belt and then it all sort of unravels a bit. Or you’ve thought “I’m going to moderate my drinking”, and you do a week of not drinking, and then suddenly you find you’re back to where you were.
But you don’t ever stop learning. We just don’t capture that learning. We need to continue to see this as an ongoing process, not as a series of failures. It’s a continual learning process. You will learn things, even if you decide after a month to start drinking again or moderately drinking, that will be in your mind and keep you strong. If you find that your drinking then gets out of control again, you will have the skills to work out how to come back to a place that makes you more comfortable.
At its simplest, self-efficacy is just the belief that you can change, and then the ability to put that into action.
I find it heartbreaking when I speak to people, right at the beginning of our courses, who have basically stopped believing that they can change. You can. There’s a process of forgiving yourself, of letting go of those times where it didn’t go well, remembering the good things that you can do for yourself of believing that you can. There is a lightbulb moment for people when they suddenly believe, “this is a thing that I can do. I may not be able to do everything. I can’t do it perfectly. But I can do this thing!”Dru Jaeger
Building your confidence really helps people develop that self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is the belief, not just that I can, but that I’ve got the ability to change. I can put my desire for change into action. That helps motivate people for the longer term.
That is what our courses are designed for. They’re structured in 31 lessons. You could take them a lesson a day over the course of a month (like Dry January). But we know from experience that many people take longer, and that’s fine. We’re interested in change that works for you in the long-term.
The other thing that we do which is really important is access to a supportive community that goes alongside them. So everyone who signs up to How to Drink Mindfully or How to Stop Drinking gets to join our private group on Telegram. You get to share your experience as you’re going along. That is so important.
If you’re going to choose a Club Soda course, it comes with a community of people. They motivate you. They keep you going. They help you solve problems. And that gets you a better result in the long-term.Dru Jaeger
The philosophy and practices of mindfulness
The philosophy and practices of mindfulness are woven through our courses. Behaviour change science shows us that having a mindful attitude helps us sustain change in the long term. And particularly if you’re somebody who is significantly cutting down or quitting drinking, and you want to embed that change for the long term, developing a formal mindfulness practice helps. Just sitting for a couple of minutes a day, noticing your breathing, can help you stick to your drinking goals.
So you also get an invitation to weekly Breathing Space, an online meetup. It’s a chance to experience mindfulness meditation. It’s also a chance to share your progress with others. There are people who come pretty much every week. It is a great way to start Dry January. Our first Breathing Space happens next Wednesday. One of our members said a couple of weeks back:
Just seeing all of your faces every week makes the world of difference to me. Actually seeing people face-to-face. Knowing that there are other people who are going through what you’re going through. Knowing that you can make friends with people is an amazing thing.Club Soda member
It’s partly about a mindfulness practice and helping you develop that, because it will help you sustain change in the long term. But it’s also about building community and connection with others. That is the superfood of behaviour change. And it’s about accountability too. Every week, you turn up and let people know that you’ve done another week is quite amazing.
Alcohol-free drinks are a positive substitution – and fun to explore this dry January
The other thing that’s really important about Club Soda is that we’re big fans of alcohol-free drinks.
Now, they don’t work for everybody. Some people would rather steer away from anything that even mimics alcohol. But you are still a social human being, and with pubs and bars now serving more low and no alcohol options, socialising becomes easier. We can direct you to the best alcohol-free drinks and get you discounts in order to help. Dry January is a great time to explore the options out there.
We say all of this about alcohol-free drinks, not just because we like them, not just because they’re good, but because it’s backed by the behaviour change science. Alcohol-free beer was a game-changer for me. I made a big category switch, from beer with alcohol to beer without alcohol, and reduced my alcohol consumption by 95% overnight.Dru Jaeger
One of the things that you can do, if you want to change your behaviour, is substitution. The truth is, you don’t stop drinking. You have a need for water! What you’re doing is choosing to drink different things. That’s a really helpful mindset shift for people. This isn’t about self-denial. It isn’t just about cutting out alcohol. Whether you’re cutting down or quitting altogether, this is about making better liquid choices for yourself. A glass of water, or an alcohol-free beer, a kombucha, whatever it is. You are still consuming liquids. And you deserve pleasure in those things.
A lot of our philosophy – changing your drinking through changing your drink – is about just that. Once you’ve got that cracked that, changing your drinking really starts to motor. Because you are filling your life with things that you want more. And that will take you a really long way to making change work and make Dry January more fun.
Being a member of Club Soda is free
We produce lots of really useful things for you that are free, including this podcast, and all of our real-life stories, and advice from amazing writers. You could even write for us or send us podcast material. This really is a community about change. We want to hear from everybody and sharing their stories is really important.
You may find writing about your experience can help in Dry January and we would love to share it! You’ll read other people’s stories in the community. We want to continue to help people focus on what life might look like after you change. Think about the person that you want to become. Work out the role that you want alcohol to play in your life. Then put in practical plans to make all of that a reality.
You don’t just change by getting rid of bits of your life that aren’t working for you. One of the best ways that you can change is by starting to take steps day by day towards a life which is better, towards the life that you actually want to live.Dru Jaeger
Building a life beyond dry January is key
This is part of what both of our courses do. How to Drink Mindfully and How to Stop Drinking help you imagine and take practical steps towards living that life.
As we now come into New Year, you may have made a resolution last night. Or you might be starting to think about what it is that you want to achieve today. Then focusing on the bigger life that you want, the life that you see for yourself, is the important place to start. Then work out where alcohol and other things actually may fit into that. That will give you a really strong base in order to push off this New Year and think about what’s important to you.
Whatever else you’re doing, we hope that 2021 is filled with very good things for you.
Simon Chapple author of How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days
Simon joins us on this podcast with his top tips for the festive season. How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days is Simon Chapple’s second book. We reviewed his first, Sober Survival Guide, last year. How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days is structured as 50 short chapters, to be read one per day. The 25 days in the first part are on the first steps to quitting, or preparation before actually giving up. Following that, the second part of another 25 days is on how actually to stop drinking once you’re ready to do it. Perfect for Dry January.
Simon is also the guest for our first Meet The Author of 2021. So grab his book and bring along some questions on 14 January to our live online event. You can see more here.