Could you join the Sober Club?

Could you join the Sober Club?

The Sober Club, an online community, was founded by Janey Lee Grace to help people kick the alcohol habit; here in an exclusive article, she continues to inspire people to live their best life being alcohol free (hashtag wearetheluckiest) - catch her podcast Alcohol Free Life too (www.thesoberclub.com).  

You may have seen the excellent BBC documentary ‘Drinkers like me’ featuring the presenter Adrian Chiles, the programme looked into just how much people drink over and above government guidelines and Adrian totted his tipples up to 100 units a week.

The programme was timely, there have been several reports in recent months offering the truth about alcohol, despite all the conflicting messages it was revealed recently that there is really no ‘safe’ limit of alcohol, despite years of being told that drinking in moderation offers health benefits. A recent Lifesearch survey found that when you take into account other factors around alcohol, rather than just harm to the individual, factors such as the effect on the economy, harm to others, the impact on the NHS etc, alcohol comes out top. The number one most harmful drug.

There is some good news though. In the UK, we are seeing the beginnings of a wellbeing trend. A sober revolution. While drinking is escalating in the over 55’s, recent studies find that at least 27 per cent of millennials are choosing not to drink at all. We are starting to ‘Call Time on Drinking’ and some are posing the question is drinking the new smoking, and could it one day be as socially unacceptable as smoking is now? Many people believe that if alcohol came onto the market today, it wouldn’t be legalised. Online support groups and courses dedicated to giving people a ‘challenge’ to reduce or quit have gained a huge increase in membership.

Most of these people don’t identify as an ‘Alcoholic’ and wouldn’t go near the obvious route of Alcoholics Anonymous, They recognise that there are those who are at rock bottom, but there are also gray areas in between, high functioning drinkers, who present well, no-one would know they had a dependence on alcohol, but they find themselves with anxiety, waking at 3 am, berating themselves for not managing an alcohol free day, until finally something triggers them to make the decision to quit. The successful ones find support from other like- minded people, and often come to find that choosing not to drink brings a wonderful freedom, rather than a sense of punishment.

Alcohol is so deeply ingrained in our culture; in fact it’s the only drug we feel we have to make excuses for not taking! The trend is for choosing to be alcohol free is growing massively though, I’m sure you have noticed, in the drinks arena, Budweiser, Heineken and the big boys are producing excellent non- alcoholic beers to battle the market alongside the artisan breweries, and where once non-alcoholic wine tasted like ultra- sweet dodgy apple juice, there are now some excellent ones available. Then there are the alternatives to spirits and the botanicals, not to mention Kombucha and fabulous artisan tonic waters.

But it’s not just because I have a thirst for a nice drink and want to drive home after parties that I have launched my podcast Alcohol Free Life, given a TEDx talk and now launched The Sober Club, It’s because I am almost two years sober (Oh yey, what a MASSIVE thing that is,)  I did Dry January 2018 and didn’t look back

I don’t have any super salacious stories to tell you. (dammit! you were hoping for some grit and grime)  I didn’t ever hit rock bottom, I didn’t ever miss a day of anything due to a hangover, I didn’t ever drink and drive, I didn’t get especially angry or maudlin, or reckless. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that there are only two types of drinkers, those at rock bottom, and the happy social drinkers. In fact there are many shades of grey between rolling around drunk, and being a tee-totaller, I was somewhere near the top, what’s known as ‘high functioning’  The phrase is ‘high bottomed’ – (sadly that ain’t true as I age!)

No-one would ever guess there was anything wrong, but I used to wake up pretty much without fail at 3am berating myself for having the second, third or fourth glass.  I tried to cut down or quit for years, but I just couldn’t seem to.  There was a voice in my head that told me to have another glass of wine.  A former US social worker Jack Trimpery identified this ‘addictive voice’ and wrote a book called ‘Rational Recovery’. He refused to be powerless against alcohol, and suggests that if we can recognise our addictive voice, we can learn to ‘tame it’.

I feel incredibly blessed that I ‘struggled’ only for about three weeks,  and then suddenly, as if the sun had come out from behind a cloud, I found a whole world opened up to me.  I was introduced to supportive online groups, masses of ‘Quit lit’ – yes I’ve read around 100 books, some memoirs written by incredible sober heroes.  I began to realise that it had all been an illusion, that while our culture is entirely fuelled by alcohol and you are seen as seriously weird if you don’t drink, actually there is a paradigm shift, a whole new trend of mindful drinking and sober living.  I discovered, to quote the most perfect book title by author Catherine Gray, ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’

When people ditch the booze, initially they often feel shame; It felt secret for me. I was on an emotional rollercoaster, up one minute down the next, because when you are no longer using alcohol to numb everything, you do have to face stuff, …because Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify NOT’ taking. When you give up smoking everyone pats you on the back and says ‘well done’.  When you turn down the offer of a drink, you get the ‘Oh dear poor you was it bad?’ look or worse still, people try and cajole you into ‘having just one’.  Anyone who has the 3am voice will tell you it’s never just one!   

The truth is if you ditch the booze, you aren’t giving anything up; you are only gaining.  You have the opportunity to get back your health, your ideal weight, your appetite, your sleep, good relationships, your sanity…You will feel less anxious, Oh yes, the link between alcohol and mental health cannot be denied and then there’s surprising benefits like feeling brave, and getting ‘sober hair’. (Who knew?!)

I’d encourage you to be sober curious; don’t panic about choosing abstinence, just look again at your relationship with alcohol and take a break. If you do decide to ditch the booze you will be in very good company, sober celebs include to name just a few Elton John, Brad Pitt, Kim Catterell, Zoe Ball, Davina Mccall, Zac Efron, Bradley Cooper…the list goes on, maybe that’s why they look so good!

There is a fabulous Instagram hashtag used by sober people ‘We are the luckiest’….Yes, we really are!

Janey Lee Grace is the host of the podcast Alcohol Free Life and has launched 'The Sober Club' an online community focusing on health and wellbeing and changing the conversation around alcohol www.thesoberclub.com

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