We’ve had an influx of new members lately, and new followers on our various social media channels, and new signups for our mailing list, and generally just a lot more interest in what we do, due to a steady series of BBC appearances from our co-founder Laura. We’ve kept up a steady rate of newbies to all of the above over the last year since the scene really started to take off, but the last couple of weeks have smashed the ball out of the park. On Monday we had a thousand new members sign up. Incredible, right?
We still sometimes get trolled on social media and in the comments of online news articles, though. There’s still some misinterpretation and confusion around what it is that we are, what it is that we do, what it is that we really think, and what the f**k is ‘mindful drinking’?!
SO – there’s no time like the present for us to talk about what we really are and what resources that we can offer you, as a new member or someone who is curious about us.
We started Club Soda in January 2015. Our co-founder Laura Willoughby had been alcohol-free for a few years by this point and was fed up with the lack of alcohol free drink options in venues, and of the often challenging attitude from people about her choices. Our other co-founder Jussi Tolvi was moderating his drinking after taking a break from alcohol and was experiencing the same thing…and so Club Soda was born. Almost four years later and we’re now a team of nine people, with three successful festivals under our belt and a hashtag that’s actually used by people who aren’t us! #mindfuldrinking
The term ‘mindful drinking’ was our way of finding middle-ground terminology, which anyone can relate to that’s thinking about changing their drinking in some way, whether quitting, doing a sponsored month off, taking a break, cutting down, etc etc. The word ‘mindful’ means ‘to be conscious or aware of something’. Mindfulness is ‘the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.’
Meditation is the most common way to achieve this and there are a huge variety of methods including modern, non-spiritual practices which can really delve into specific training needs, such as increasing and maintaining focus or relieving anxiety. However, there are broader ways of using these methods of training in everyday situations. For someone who is changing their drinking, that everyday situation could be finding themselves in a pub and being asked what they want. The process of stopping to think about how they really feel, stopping to think about their goal and then making a decision based on that check-in, is a very real act of being mindful. It’s very easy in those situations to revert to habit, especially in the early days, and that’s the difference between reaching your behaviour-change goals and continually failing to do so – this is the same whether you’re going alcohol-free or moderating your intake.
We want people to feel comfortable, supported and accepted wherever they go when they’re choosing not to drink, whether it’s long-term or just for the night.
We don’t hate alcohol, we don’t disagree with people drinking, we just want the same level of societal acceptance for someone not drinking as there is for someone who is. There are so, so, many reasons that someone might not be drinking, which we’ll get into in more detail shortly, which means that no mate, or parent, or bar person, or long-lost pal from primary school on Facebook, should ever question it – and certainly not criticise that choice.
We want the choice in low alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks to continue to grow and to be huge and varied, in all venues, in all regions, everywhere, so that no one has to nurse a sugary soft drink or tepid tap water with a flaccid slice of lemon on their night out.
We want wholesalers to acknowledge this growing demand.
We want, no, we NEED people to be able to feel like they can speak up and get support when they feel they need it and that they’re not alone – even if they just want to know what the best booze-free beer is to replace a few nights of their weeknight beers.
There are several elements to Club Soda, which all interlink with one common goal: To make things better for mindful drinkers.
1) Private Facebook support groups. We now have a combined membership of 14,274 people. We share heaps of other useful info in these groups – but the most priceless aspect is the other members. Whenever someone posts to say they’re experiencing a blip, or they’re on day one again or need a boost, or their mental health is below par, or they’re doing great and have a before and after photo to share – the other members are right there with them to encourage, inspire and advise, with no judgment. We have five private Facebook groups with the aim of giving people the most like-minded, tailored support network possible. These are:
2) Weekly newsletters. We send out two weekly email newsletters, one on Monday and one on Thursday. Our Monday email includes a recording of our live Sunday webinar, with accompanying blog, as well as our ‘Book of the week’ and a quick check-in to see how you’re feeling. Thursday’s email includes our weekly blog, events updates, lunches and upcoming webinars. It’s a great way to receive useful information if you’d prefer not to be part of our groups or social media channels.
3) Festivals. We’ve hosted three Mindful Drinking Festivals so far, and our fourth is coming up next month in Glasgow, on the 13th October at The Briggait. Our festivals allow us to bring together all of the elements of Club Soda – the social aspect, the support network, the evolution of trade and the celebration of the alcohol-free drinks sector which is so rapidly growing. You can try new drinks from craft beers to wines, you can have a one to one session with a drink coach, you can enjoy live music and you can meet other members in real life.
4) Events. As well as the festivals, we run regular social events across the UK such as lunches, pub crawls and alcohol-free bars. Our lunches are usually co-organised by members local to each region and we choose venues which have great alternative drink options as well as great food. Our pub crawls include a drinks tasting from one of the many wonderful drinks brands we work with and showcase some of the best pubs for mindful drinkers. Our alcohol-free bars have been hosted in many locations, from the Houses of Parliament to the Warner Bros offices for their wellbeing week.
5) Resources, workshops, and webinars. We host fortnightly webinars which occasionally include a guest-host sharing their expertise in their field – from authors to psychologist, we have something for everyone. We run regular workshops which give you real-life time with us to learn the best tools and techniques to help you achieve your goals around drinking. And we have an enormous resource pool of articles which include everything such as drinks suggestions, recipes, reviews, health information, go-to support documents and personal stories – all of which are on our website.
6) Pub Guide. This is an online guide of the best venues for mindful drinkers. So you search for the area you’re looking to go out in and it’ll show you which bars will have the best low and no alcohol options. We work closely with pubs and trade to both encourage and support the changes required for them to stay successful in this new age of health. When we find a place that’s great for someone who is changing their drinking, whether it’s their current drinks menu or their attitude and willingness to go above and beyond for someone, we like to shout about it. It can be nerve racking for someone to ask bar staff what alcohol-free options they have, so if we can let you know where’s good, it’ll really help you stick to your goals and feel comfortable on a night out. We’re currently in the middle of a huge re-launch to this site, which we’re looking to release to you at the end of the year… so watch this space!
Our members, social media followers, mailing list recipients or the people out there who have already changed their drinking without us, sit on a huge spectrum of change. Whilst many people’s stories will draw similarities, everyone is different. If someone isn’t drinking alcohol at any point in time, there could be any number of reasons why. We’ve tried our best to categorise the people that might reach out to us at Club Soda here: