The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Rok Soba at BTC Racing

Rok Soba brings alcohol-free lifestyle to BTC Racing

Whether you want to cut down or stop drinking, make better alcohol free drinks choices, or connect with other people, we are really glad you found Club Soda. We have been going for six or seven years now, and there are some people we got to know early on who’ve gone on to lead some pretty amazing lives.

Brothers Shaun and Lee Fennings were among our first members and having sorted out their own relationships with alcohol, they’ve gone on to build Rok Soba. Rok Soba is a lifestyle brand that inspires and motivates people to live a good life without booze; mindful, spirited, and defiant. These guys live by their mantra: “Face Everything And Rise.”

Rok Soba at BTC Racing

This week they achieve an amazing first – their logo will be on a car at the BTCC 2020 season finale at Brands Hatch.

Earlier this week, I spent some time hanging out with Shaun and Lee and some of their mates, Mike Blomfield who runs Lind Harley Davidson in Newmarket, Richie Finney from men’s grooming brand Captain Fawcett, and Bert Taylor who is team principal of BTC Racing. Honestly, I don’t think the Club Soda Podcast has ever had so much facial hair and so many tattoos all in one place.

This is a conversation about men, masculinity and motorsports, but most importantly, it’s about change, how you can overcome anything and live your best life.

Dru Jaeger
Club Soda

Rok Soba’s bad-ass alcohol-free drinks

Lee Fennings – Rok Soba: Literally, over the past three months, bro and I’ve been getting our head down throughout lockdown. Both lockdown one and two, to basically expand Rok Soba as much as possible. We’ve met some amazing people on our journey of expansion. We are very, very close, touch wood, to getting funding to help us get to the goals that we want and have aspired to.

In 2021 we are going to be launching some new bad-ass AF drinks, some new merchandise, and participating in some really cool sober events, not to mention, of course, the event that’s happening this Saturday and Sunday at Brands Hatch with BTC Racing, which is for us beyond our wildest dreams.

One of our advisors knows pretty much everyone and he spoke to BTC about potentially having placement on the car for the final race. We didn’t think it would be possible, but this guy worked his magic! BTC Racing – Burt and the team were so accommodating to support an up and coming brand. It’s been a struggle for us through lockdown, but we’ve tried to remain focused on the job in hand, we’re out there to help people essentially.

Our names are there with the likes of Harley Davidson and Captain Fawcett, and we’re extremely grateful because it gives us a massive launchpad into the world of our lifestyle brand. We’re bringing everything into one, an alcohol-free beer will help us achieve the goals that we want to achieve – creating inspiration centres and foundations and all sorts of things that we want to do – one step at a time.

It’s absolutely incredible. We’re eternally thankful, not just to BTC racing, but for Harley and Captain Fawcett supporting us. We’re just eternally grateful and for Club Soda as well, because we can’t forget you essentially helped us out from the very beginning.

We can’t believe it to be honest to see the car whizzing around the track on Saturday and Sunday is going to be …. we get extremely emotional about it because six years ago we would not have even thought of being in this position.

Lee Fennings
Rok Soba

Both of us hit serious rock bottom

Shaun Fennings – Rok Soba: This is a huge thing, seeing your logo spinning around a track on the side of a car. It’s absolutely extraordinary. This isn’t just about our personal journey, we want to contribute something positive to the world. Lee is six years sober and I’m coming up to six years sober myself. We’ve come a very long way. When we both got sober both of us hit rock bottom in a really serious way. We faced a prison sentence, we lost our houses, marriage, breakups, bankruptcy, you name it. Everything that could have been thrown at us was thrown at us. It was a dreadful time. We both took care of our own way of dealing with sobriety. Lee became a bit of a recluse and I dealt with mine in a slightly different way. I try to draw inspiration. That’s always been my coping mechanism.

I was kind of trying to draw inspiration and to be perfectly honest with you, there was very little inspiration. You seek who else is sober out there. What are they doing with their lives? There’s the great Tom Hardy and, there are some phenomenal key figures out there that are sober and promote it really well. People to aspire to. For both of us Club Soda came about very early in our journey. That was our coping mechanism, then we got onto Rok Soba a couple of years into our sobriety. I actually had a very, very vivid dream, sat bolt upright in bed at about three in the morning, shook my partner and said to her, I don’t believe this, but I’ve just had the most vivid dream ever.

Starting Rok Soba

I literally saw a Rok Soba in lights, bright lights, kind of very angelic, very, very much a strong message. She wasn’t very interested at that time, but in the morning I wrote it down. And the following day I called up bro and said, “bro, I think we’ve been given a message here”. You know, we can really shake up the, the kind of sobriety market. Let’s add a bit of rock and roll. So with that, we got together and we started thinking, okay, let’s do it when we both hit three years sobriety, which we did. We dreamt up the death moth – a symbol of change and also moths fly towards the light – we felt for us that that was a very personal message. We’ve added a lot of other detail to the moth.

The angel wings symbolise our family that gave us that a support mechanism. When we actually physically launched Rok Soba a few years ago it was a little bit of escapism. We were both trapped in City jobs, working in financial markets in London. For me personally, it was so way out of my kind of remit as to what I really wanted to do, to be a rock star or an artist. And suddenly because we’d lost our jobs due to alcohol, we had no choice, but to channel our energies into something else. And that was Rok Soba. All of a sudden we were getting these very strong and powerful messages saying, thanks, thank you, Rok Soba. You’ve given us identity.

When you get dry or clean or whatever it is, you feel a little bit like you’ve lost your identity. I think what we wanted to do was give an identity back.

Shaun Fennings
Rok Soba

Cool to be sober

It’s cool to be sober – you might be different to the majority of the people out there but stand up, be proud. It takes a bad-ass to get sober and that kind of messaging has always been the thread throughout our journey.

It has sort of transpired into over the years is really more about uniting the brave – because we’ve had people come to us with not just addiction problems, but those that are battling cancer – the death moth is a symbol for them, of hope.

It’s going to be well-received

Bert Taylor, team principal of BTC Racing: If you listen to the story of the guys we’ve been in the same position. The way the world is at the minute – health and all of those things, this fits BTC Racing’s bill. We just said, yeah, we’re going to do it because we’ve been in that position, it was very difficult. And I think the alcohol thing really does hammer home what these guys have done and where they are today. It was a no-brainer.

If you look at the reaction to it already this afternoon [the announcement on social] in two hours, I think he’s had 26,000 people like it and it’s growing one every two seconds. I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s going to be well-received. I think a lot of people realise we’ve got a big time coming up. There’s going to be a lot of people sat at home over this Christmas – it’s the time to help these guys.

We just said, yeah, we’re going to do it because we’ve been in that position … I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s going to be well-received

Bert Taylor
team principal of BTC Racing

Serious drinking and drug problems

Richie Finney: Well, I had some quite serious drinking and drug problems for many years. I was involved in the film industry for over 25 years. And although you had to work extraordinarily hard, you also played remarkably hard and you’d quite often get on the mini bus to go to set at 6.30 in the morning, maybe just had an hour lying down somewhere, vowing never to do it again. And of course on the way back from set to the hotel, you’d be starting on it again. I ended up being a person who was very much fuelled. I’m quite motivated, possibly hyperactive person. I would equate alcohol with actually just being the end of the day and some way of actually being able to calm down, to be able to switch off. To quote Nick Kershaw, there was no real ‘off switch’.

Then I’d go and use other things which would fuel me. So it was very important that people kind of hung around with me. I wasn’t even sure often that they were there. Then I decided to get sober and it didn’t work out the first time. Then suddenly all these people are saying ‘we were really worried about you’. Yet they were there, still standing and bathing me in some form of reflected glory. Just bugger off, you know? You’ve got those kind of fair weather friends and as we all know, if you ever get into a really down situation, quite often you can look around and those people aren’t necessarily there because they were only with you when you were the life and soul of the party.

The desire to become clean

It got to the point where I needed to do this. And I did it. I was sober for some years. Then I just started having a couple of drinks. It was never really a great problem. It was more of a social thing and then three years ago, it was literally November the fifth, three years ago. I remember the last drink. It was the last glass of Malbec, I remember the hotel. It was the Malmaison, it was in Manchester.

I still go to the pub. I can still actually be with people who have been drinking, and of course they start repeating themselves. And that’s the time to go, because I think drinking can make people really quite boring.

Richie Finney
Captain Fawcett

It’s very much a personal decision. I mean, I think people can do whatever they want providing it doesn’t actually harm somebody else. I think that the desire to become clean has to come from you, not as part of a relationship or breaking down or anything. To come to that point where you say ‘for me, I need to do this’. And then it’s genuine.

You asked about masculinity. A few years ago it was very difficult because in a public situation there are only so many soft drinks you can have. Those awful cloying J20’s or whatever, and then people say ‘Oh, go and have a drink, what’s the matter with you’. That has changed recently. There is not a badge of honour, but people do respect. There’s far more respect if you say, ‘well, I don’t want to drink or I don’t drink, or I don’t do this’. The brilliant thing about Rok Soba is having a credible beer which actually tastes really good. I think any genuine decision you have to make for yourself and follow it through.

A Harley Davidson owner won’t have to drink

Mike Blomfield: I was fortunate to meet Shaun and Lee at one of Richie’s events. We just hit it off and I thought the message that they wanted to get across, their story was very heartwarming. I thought it was a great opportunity for us to kind of break down that stereotypical idea of what people think a Harley rider should be, you know, hairy, tattoos and a drinker.

I’m not a drinker myself. I never have been really, but it’s great that there’s a product out there now where it has a rock and roll kind of style, fitting with Harley Davidson. It’s something which we’ve been serving in the dealership now for the last 18 months. We’ve got a Rok Soba fridge in the customer lounge and it’s been well received.

To be a Harley Davidson owner you don’t have to wear the pins and patches, be over 55 years and you don’t have to drink.

Mike Blomfield
Lind, Newbury

To be a Harley Davidson owner you don’t have to wear the pins and patches, be over 55 years and you don’t have to drink. We want to get that message across as well as the mental health issue. The biking community is one I’ve been a member of since I was five or six years old. It’s a very, very friendly, open, strong, supportive community. Anything for us to get that message across and encourage people who wouldn’t necessarily come into a Harley Davidson dealership, to come in and feel at ease and say, look, you don’t have to do X, Y, and Z to own a Harley Davidson. To be part of the event this weekend. It’s just phenomenal for us.

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