You might remember that back in October I conducted this interview with four people who were taking part in Sober October, to find out how doing a Sober Sprint (giving up drinking alcohol for a short period of time) affected them, and whether it was likely to change their drinking habits in the long run. Well, I caught up with a couple of them three months later, to find out what’s happened since we last spoke – so if you’re currently taking part in Dry January and wondering what next, then read on for some inspiration. As before, I’ve used different names to protect their identity.
Jade is a Club Soda member who stopped drinking in April last year, after feeling that she was drinking too much. She used Sober October as a way of avoiding drinking with her friends – and also to fundraise for MacMillan, a charity which is close to her heart. She was successfully not drinking but she was also avoiding social situations and hadn’t told her friends that she was trying to change her drinking. So, how’s it going for her now?
1) Last time I saw you, you were having a very successful Sober October – have you continued being alcohol-free?
I’ve had a couple of bevvies over Christmas but I’ve not been drunk at all and I’ve not drunk wine, so that’s hugely successful for me. I did drink last Friday and I felt terrible the next day.
2) So how did you cope after you’d been drinking and how did you feel about it?
Well after Friday when I had a few drinks I felt really p***ed off with myself. I’m just going to keep going and keep motivated though.
3) What was the cause of the blips?
Just being out with friends. There was no one else who wasn’t drinking and one of my friends got me a shot even though I said I wasn’t drinking.
4) You said before that you’d stopped drinking because you were drinking too much – was there a specific anxiety that you had around getting drunk again?
Ruining my family life, in a nutshell – I’d turn into a blubbering wreck for no reason. My husband would go straight into another room when he got home from work if I was drinking, whereas now we’ll sit together and play games. Drink just turns me into a not a nice person.
5) What’s kept you on track the majority of the time? Any tips?
Club Soda definitely, get on the Facebook group and post – such great support and it’s given me the confidence to tell my friends now. I even shared an alcohol-free event online on my own page. I didn’t tell as many people before, to allow me to fail and change my mind if I wanted to – so I’ve just put it all out there now.
6) You said last time that you were seeing things “in HD” since you’d stopped drinking, you were coping better with your emotions and were really grabbing life with both hands. Has this continued and have you noticed further changes?
Yeah, I’ve just applied for a job which is way out of my comfort zone, which I would have never done before – so yeah, totally. I’m doing two after school clubs with my son now, which I would never have done before because I’d have just wanted a bottle of wine. I never thought I’d be able to change my drinking, so now I feel like I can take on the world.
7) You weren’t really socialising when we last spoke, so has this changed now?
Not with friends but I do with my husband, we got out for meals a lot – it’s just with friends that I can’t right now.
8) Are you still finding it tough because of the peer pressure or because of the lack of options/places to go?
Yes, peer pressure from my friends. One of my friends bought shots so I drank it, I had driven but ended up leaving my car. Then my friends will say “so are not going to drink?” as if I should be.
9) Do you think that maybe doing a night out with them and not drinking would help you to break that pattern of behaviour and also prove to them that you’re the same, fun person? Or do you think this isn’t the right choice for you yet?
I’d not thought of that actually, maybe I need to show them that I’m still me and that I’m not going to be boring or whatever before they accept it.
10) Any new drink recommendations?
Just sparkling water is good for me but Laura (Club Soda founder) brought one to the Glasgow members’ lunch on Saturday – Crodino – which was really lovely. I hope they sell it in places here, I would go out for it.
11) How have your friends and family reacted since they’ve discovered you’re doing this longer-term than just the odd month?
My friends are in disbelief and don’t get it but my family are really proud of me.
12) How do you see this panning out for you long term?
I would like to keep going but get better than I have been recently – and I would love to be able to just have a drink with dinner but never go out and get drunk. I never want to drink at home again.
13) What would you say to anyone who is thinking of taking a break from booze or changing their relationship with it in some way?
Go for it, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do – literally the best. It’s tough, so be prepared.
14) What would you say to anyone who is already changing their drinking but has a slip-up?
Just pick yourself up and carry on – any improvements are an overall improvement.
15) And what would you say to the friends and family of people out there who are trying to change their drinking habits?
Respect people’s decisions, if someone is telling you that they don’t want to drink then respect it – if I said I didn’t want to take heroin, no one would force me to.
16) I hear you went to the Club Soda Lunch in Glasgow at the weekend! How was it?
It was fantastic, as always it was amazing. The best part was being out and not drinking, and still having such a good time.
17) Do you think if there were more of those types of opportunities around you, you’d find it a little easier?
Yeah because I think that was part of my problem, I’ve isolated myself – but I’ve proved the last couple of times that I have to. Can’t wait for more to come up here because then I’m still getting a day out each month – and I’ve still got my sober clubbing night to go to! One of the girls that I met at the Club Soda lunch on Saturday is going to come with me – we swapped emails!
18) How has the Facebook “Club Soda Together” group played a role in the good times and bad times?
I like sharing my positivity and spurring other people on, and if you’re struggling yourself then you can post about it and you’ll get endless support.
19) So out of everything that you’ve experienced over the last nine months, what’s been the most important or most surprising thing you’ve learned?
You don’t need to drink to have a good time – NOT drinking improves your quality of life, drinking doesn’t.
Next is Club Soda member Jared, who stopped drinking in August for three months and raised money for MacMillan during Sober October. He has recognised that he was drinking a little too much and wanted to stop for a while to improve his health but was unsure whether he’d be able to continue past three months. I caught up with him to find out whether he did.
1) Last time I saw you, you were having a very successful Sober October and were in the midst of doing three months alcohol-free. Have you continued being alcohol-free or made long-term changes to your drinking habits?
I had a few blips over Christmas, I had intended to stay alcohol-free but the pre-Christmas feelings got to me, so I had a few drinks but nothing excessive. I had a few drinks again during the last few days of December and I’ve now been alcohol-free for the last five or six days – so it’s been going ok but I’m a bit disappointed about the blips.
2) Other than feeling disappointed, how did you cope with the blips?
I drank too much wine one evening and had a terrible hangover – nothing like what I used to drink but I guess I’ve not had any for a while, so that’s what made me want to go back to being alcohol-free. I’ve got plenty of alcohol-free drinks at home and have started walking the dog later in the day, to avoid my trigger time. Just trying to rearrange my day in a slightly different way I suppose. I have a family member who is ill, so I need to be able to drive there at late notice, which is a practical reason to continue not drinking.
3) What was the cause of the blips?
A mixture of the pre-Christmas feeling – and I had a bad week at one point so was dealing with negative feelings due to a few factors. I started to feel and think more positively though which helped.
4) Was the “pre-Christmas feeling” an internal or associative-behaviour thing, or were there external pressures from others?
Definitely associative behaviour, I just really fancied it – plus everywhere and everything was full of people drinking or full of alcohol! Ads, TV shows, talk shows, supermarkets – I’ve noticed it more than ever this year.
5) You said before that you’d stopped drinking because you were drinking too much – was there a specific anxiety that you had around drinking heavily again?
Sometimes I’d upset my wife by talking through television shows and getting super-wise, so there was an element of that but it was more a realisation that I was drinking too much. I’m in my mid-sixties and I don’t want to shorten my life, so I needed to prove to myself that I could stop – so maybe it would be good to stop altogether. I thought maybe I’d be able to moderate but I think Christmas has shown me that I can’t really moderate as I’ll just slip back into old ways.
6) What’s kept you on track the majority of the time? Any tips?
I think the biggest way to stay on track is to find things to fill those empty hours or moments. In my case, we got a puppy in November so looking after her and walking her twice a day is keeping me focused. Plus I have to get up at 7 am and take her for a walk, which I don’t really like doing with a hangover. Also, the Club Soda Facebook groups are really helpful.
7) You said you were feeling healthier when we last spoke, has that continued and has anything else changed?
Yes I’m feeling better and I’m getting much quicker at quizzes that I watch on TV – I’m getting a lot more questions right so I think I’m getting sharper! I’d like to lose a little more weight but I’ve not put any on either, so that’s probably overeating at Christmas that’s stopped the weight loss continuing.
8) You weren’t really socialising when we last spoke, so has this changed now?
We haven’t been socialising much because of family commitments but we still don’t have a social life in this area yet anyway as we’re still fairly new. We’ve got a group holiday coming up and there’s usually lots of wine, so that will be a challenge. I’ll make sure I take some alcohol-free drinks and maybe try some of the alcohol-free wines.
9) How have your friends and family reacted since they’ve discovered you’re doing this longer-term than just the original three months?
They’ve been fine really, wondered how long it would last though – especially with the blips over Christmas. My wife is highly delighted! [Laughs]
10) How would you like to see this journey go for you long-term, or at least for the rest of this year?
I’d like to see the year being alcohol-free – I did set out to do that already but I’d like to think from now that I can do it. If I do cave in on the group holiday, then I hope I can keep it mindful. The desire is still there for me at the moment, unfortunately.
11) What would you say to anyone who is thinking of taking a break from booze or changing their relationship with it in some way?
Find things to fill the void, you’ll find you’ve got more time. Hobbies, pets, something which you enjoy doing. And be prepared for the cravings and plan ahead, have some alcohol-free drinks available and treats lined up that you can treat yourself to if you’re not going to drink, even just a candlelit bath.
12) What would you say to anyone who is already changing their drinking but has a slip-up?
It’s not the end of the world, basically. Just focus on the positives and how many overall alcohol-free days you’ve had. Like in my case I’ve had 150 alcohol-free days out of 160 which is great still, ten days drinking in all that time is huge for me, as someone who was drinking on a regular basis for years. I personally don’t find that counting the number of days helps, to go back to day one after a blip is a bit demoralising. On the other hand, I can see why it works for some people.
13) And what would you say to people who are getting a tough time from their friends or family for not drinking?
Well, it’s your decision and it’s their problem – not your problem. If it’s threatening the relationship, then is it really that strong in the first place. Maybe they’re the wrong kinds of friends. It’s your health, so why should anyone get judgemental about that?
14) Have you been to any Club Soda events yet?
I was booked to go on the Manchester members’ lunch but unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel due to family commitments. I do hope to get to one eventually, though.
15) How has the Facebook “Club Soda Together” group played a role in the good times and bad times?
It’s been great, I’ve tried to give as much as I’ve received in terms of encouragement to people. After a while, you tend to feel you’ve read and heard it all but then something new pops up and you think “oh I didn’t know that.” It’s very good and very supportive, don’t think I could have done what I’ve done without it.
16) So out of everything that you’ve experienced since you first decided to change your relationship with alcohol, what’s been the most important or most surprising thing you’ve learned?
That it IS possible to change your lifestyle and manage without alcohol. It hasn’t gotten in the way of my lifestyle and I’ve felt a lot healthier – I’ve dropped a stone which I’d been wanting to do for years!
I’ll be catching up with the other two people from my original interview soon. In the meantime, if you’re doing Dry January and wondering what’s next, or you’re thinking of doing a different sober sprint soon, would like to cut down your drinking, stop for a while or quit completely – you can sign up to our FREE mailing list for advice, inspiration, events information and more. You can also join our private Facebook group to access our webinars live (check the ‘articles’ section for the saved videos) and to share stories, advice and support with like-minded people on different stages of their journeys. Want to keep socialising but not sure which places are good for alcohol-free drink choices? Head to our Club Soda pub guide where we list the best places for mindful drinkers.