In the early days of drinking, alcohol can be a way of connecting with other people. But if your drinking becomes a problem, you can find yourself socially isolated with a rapidly shrinking circle of acquaintances.
Research has shown that part of a self-help or mutual aid group is good for your mental wellbeing. Long before Alcoholics Anonymous, and in countless ways since, there are many examples of people supporting other people to change their drinking.
If you are struggling alone with alcohol, Club Soda can help.
Alcohol and other people
Social drinking is not new. Humans have been drinking together for thousands of years. In many cultures around the world, consuming alcohol together is a way of building and sustaining relationships. As young people, we learn about drinking from each other. Although in reality most of our drinking happens at home, when we think about alcohol, we often picture social environments.
But social drinking isn’t just about pubs and parties. Social drinking describes all of the ways in which alcohol becomes part of our relationships. The bottle of wine you share with your partner at home is social drinking, just as much as the beers you drink in the bar. If your drinking is primarily social, you consume alcohol to connect with other people.
If drinking is a thing you do together, saying no to alcohol can feel like saying no to the whole relationship.
Research has consistently shown that your ability to say no is critical if you want to tackle problematic social drinking. But let’s be honest. Saying no feels uncomfortable. If you aren’t confident about saying no to other people, your boundaries can feel like barriers. And especially if drinking is a thing you do together, saying no to alcohol can feel like saying no to the whole relationship.
Of course, that is not what is happening. Good friends will support you to make good decisions. And many, many relationships have survived someone turning down another drink.
Saying no to a drink doesn’t mean say no to friendship.
Being part of a community
If your social circle has shrunk to just your drinking buddies, or your drinking has isolated you from other people, making connections can help you change your drinking.
And that’s why communities like Club Soda exist. Through our Facebook group, events and festivals, we bring like-minded people together. Whether you are cutting down your drinking, taking a break from alcohol or stopping for good, there are many other people like you in Club Soda. Our research has shown that being part of a community helps you become more mindful about drinking.
There is so much you can learn by being part of a community. But the number one thing is realising that it’s not just you. It is so easy to think that you are utterly alone and that nobody will understand. But countless people in the Club Soda community have been surprised to share their story, and find it echoed by other people. We are all unique, of course. But we share more in common that we dare to imagine.
There is so much you can learn by being part of a community. But the number one thing is realising that it’s not just you.
The Club Soda community is pretty big now. Our Facebook group alone has over 16,000 members worldwide (as of August 2021). And there are people in the group at every stage of change, from those struggling with day one to other people with long-term success stories. Club Soda members are always willing to share encouragement, but more importantly, will talk about their own experiences. What worked for them may not work for you, of course. But you can learn from other people if you apply the principles to your own life.
Making friends with other people
All of this hinges, however, on how you ask for help.
Asking for help can be daunting, because it exposes your vulnerability. You might feel embarrassed, awkward or even ashamed. But other people who already know you – your friends, family and local community – are always the best place to start.
We live in an interconnected world though, and there are many opportunities to make real friendships with other people online. Here are some tips for making friends with other people in the Club Soda community:
- Follow the club rules: Our number one priority in Club Soda is keeping you safe. And one way you can help us is by reading and following our club rules. We’ve developed the rules over time to respond to real issues that have emerged in the community. So we try to be pragmatic and flexible about what works. But we do take action if the rules are broken.
- Protect your own privacy: We encourage you to be open and honest in the Club Soda community, and you should feel free to use your real name. Other people have a responsibility to respect your privacy. But it’s also important to understand that anything you share can carry the risk of revealing more about yourself than you intended. And this means you should definitely think twice about posting drunk.
- Respect other people’s boundaries: Even if you happen to know another Club Soda member in the real world, don’t presume that they are open with other people about their drinking. And remember too that other people’s stories are not yours to retell. What happens in Club Soda must always stay in Club Soda.
- Keep conversations in the open: Our Facebook group may be big, but it is private. That means that nobody can see that you are a member. And your posts won’t appear in anyone’s feed unless they are in the community too. So you should feel confident about having conversations out in the open.
- Don’t ask others to join private chats: General posts asking for personal contact expose you and other people to potential harm, unwanted contact and dangerous advice. We will remove any posts asking other people to join WhatsApp groups, Zoom calls or other private conversations. We don’t want to stop you connecting, but we want to do what we can to keep you safe.
- Be cautious about real-world meetings: This really is internet safety 101, but it bears repeating: the people you meet online might not be who they say they are. If you want to meet other Club Soda members face-to-face, an organised event is the ideal way to do this safely.
- Post anonymously if you need to: You may have recently started to see some anonymous posts in our Facebook group. If you post anonymously, we can still see who you are behind the scenes, and your post will need to be approved. But your anonymous post in the group is not linked to your profile. If you do decide you want to post anonymously, remember not to reveal any identifying information about yourself
- Be realistic about making friends: Many people in our community do make friendships that go beyond Club Soda. Facebook gives you the option to send direct messages and friend requests to other group members. But remember that they don’t have to accept these. If someone says no to either of these approaches don’t take it personally. And don’t feel you have to accept every friends request that comes your way.
- Ask our volunteer admins for help: Navigating interpersonal relationships can be tricky and things don’t always work out. If you run into difficulties with any other Club Soda member, our volunteer admins (confusing called “moderators” by Facebook) are there to help you.
And what if you find Facebook overwhelming? Club Soda’s courses like How to Stop Drinking, How to Drink Mindfully and How to Journal offer more personal connections through private group messaging. And we also run regular face-to-face online meetups. Check out our Welcome to Club Soda online social that I’m hosting this Sunday 5 September. Or the Happy Hour, which is happening every Friday during our October Global Mindful Drinking Festival.
There are lots of ways to connect with other people in Club Soda. If you haven’t already, join us.