For 31 days you woke up with clarity of mind and, more energy and a feeling of possibility that you’d not been feeling for some time.
Today, you wake up feeling just the same, but as the sun dawns so does the slightest sensation of dread as you realise that your month-long experiment of not drinking is over, and you have a 7pm date with your besties and the local bartender that has been in the diary since you started, but deep down you’re not sure that you really want to go.
You’re worried that everything you’ve gained from the last 31 days of clarity is about to go out the window, all because everyone expects you to never turn down a shot and you don’t want to let them down.
You’re not alone.
And there is hope!
The World Health Organisation says that people who take part in things like Dry January/Sober October (or your own self-instigated break from the booze) initially drink more riskily than the general population, but that six months after it’s over those same people actually experience a continued reduction in their overall consumption and drinking risk score compared to people who did not take part:
Drinking days per week dropped on average from 4.3 to 3.3
Units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1
Frequency of drunkenness fell on average from 3.4 per month to 2.1 per month
So now that you know you’re a badass sober curious champion, how do you keep up that good work once the momentum of your month of abstinence is over and the party invitations start 'flowing' again.
It’s hip to be square
It used to be that only the very damaged or very dull amongst us would have the audacity to turn down a drink. You had to be a recovering alcoholic, a nerd or pregnant to be able to successfully say no to booze without ridicule. But the times they are a-changing, and gone are the days where peer-pressure always won.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are still plenty of people out there who will think it is there solemn duty to cajole you into filling your wine glass all the way to the top but as Gen-Z make abstinence cool (my generation did try with the Just Say No campaign but Grange Hill just couldn’t quite pull it off) saying ‘no thank you’ is no longer a one way ticket to social exile.
Honesty is the best policy
As there’s no longer the same risk of social isolation there’s also now no need to come up with excuses. You could arm yourself with a laundry list of reasons why you’re not drinking tonight, or you could just tell the truth.
“I gave up booze for a month, I feel better, and I don’t want to go back to feeling like crap every day!”
Being honest with your friends about your choice to keep up with your reduced consumption can feel really powerful once you embrace it.
Be bold, be confident and be your best self – and you know by now that alcohol doesn’t help you do any of those.
Know your limits
As you know this blog is about living a sober curious life, rather than insisting on a life of total abstinence. For you to continue to reap the benefits of a life less intoxicated it’s essential that if you do decide to drink, that you know your limitations.
I’m not referring to the times when you tell yourself that you’ll only have 2 drinks tonight and then you wake up the following morning in a skip outside the kebab shop. We all know that those declarations rarely work. No what I’m talking about is knowing your overall goals and the limits you need to stick to, to help yourself achieve them.
If you want to lose weight for example, then you need to know that the volume of empty calories in your favourite vodka and coke are not going to help you do that.
If you want to stick to a workout routine, then you need to know that alcohol depresses your nervous system and makes it extremely unlikely that you are going to get your butt up off that sofa for several days to come.
If you want better relationships with the people you love then you need to know that the mood dampening effects of booze are more likely to have you fall out with your other half than cosy up with a movie.
Good times can still be had
None of this should mean however that you have to miss out on the good times. It will probably be quite challenging at first. You’ll have to get used to a new way of being yourself around your friends when you’re out for the night. – the plus side is, you’ll finally know who your real friends are, and those who really love you (not just the party version of you), will support you.
Hopefully during your month long break you’ve been exploring a few no & low alcohol alternatives, so make sure you have a couple of go-to options in mind when you head out to the pub. Most bars are finally starting to see the need to ensure they have a decent AF range behind the bar but it’s still taking some of them a bit longer to catch on, so have some soft options that you enjoy in mind to, as lime and soda can get boring very quickly.
Encourage your friends to go somewhere other than just the pub. Go for a meal, catch a show visit an escape room (amazing fun!) or try a few wider alternatives that don’t allow for alcohol at all: go karting, circus skills, axe throwing… This is a great time to expand your horizons!
Drinking risk score https://auditscreen.org/check-your-drinking/
Alcohol Change https://alcoholchange.org.uk/blog/2022/press-release-almost-nine-million-people-planning-to-give-up-alcohol-this-january#:~:text=Press%20release%3A%20Almost%20nine%20million,give%20up%20alcohol%20this%20January&text=New%20research1%20by%20Alcohol,million%20UK%20adults%20last%20year.