Fancy a Sober Summer?

Catherine Gray | June 2018 | 7 minutes

Today, 21 June, marks the official start of summer - hooray! But alas, that also means that Sober Spring ends today.

Whether you made it through the 93-day booze sabbatical intact or had a few slips along the way, hopefully this extended alcohol-freedom will have given you a useful splitscreen as to which you prefer: Your Life Drinking or Your Life Sober.

I know that hundreds of you are keen to roll into a Sober Summer too, so here are some resources to help you happily skip through July and August without any soul-sucking hangovers.

Summer is surprisingly triggery, given alcohol advertising goes in hard on the notion that drinking is the key to a sensational summer. We associate football-watching with cold beer, pavement cafes with rosé, and beer gardens with iced cider. I wrote about why we associate sunshine with getting smashed - and how to overcome that trigger - here.

Two game-changers for me, which helped me get sober back in 2013, were day-counting apps and finding a tribe.

Day-counting

Some people don't day count, and that works for them. For me, there were definitely times when the only thing that kept me from drinking was my absolute reluctance, nay horror, at the idea of re-setting my day count to day one.

I also found it enormously satisfying to open an app and see how many drinks I hadn't had, calories I hadn't consumed, and money I had saved.

The two best apps for day-counting are, in my opinion, 'Dry January and Beyond' by Alcohol Concern and 'I'm done drinking' by some chap called Paul (who writes in the app description that he realised that if he could stop drinking, 'I could do anything, even create an iPhone app.' Lovely.) Both provide the actual numbers to quantify how much healthier and better-off you are when sober.

Finding a tribe

I originally looked for my tribe in AA, but after six months realised it wasn't the right fit for me. However, I know dozens of sober people who have found theirs there. Everyone's different.

Personally, I found mine through Facebook groups. I recommend Alcohol Concern's Dry January and Beyond group, Team Sober UK, and Club Soda (you choose between 'alcohol free' or 'mindful drinking' depending on your goals).

Later, I would find more sober friends through Instagram, where there is a huge thriving, inspirational and 'out' sober community. A good place to start is to scroll through the 9K+ people who comment on my Instagram posts, to find the people you most relate to (see @unexpectedjoyof).

Once you've made some Facebook / Instagram links, there's a crucial next step. You need to put in time and energy; start chatting and posting. Don't just sit there mute and waiting to be picked, like a flower. Get involved! It takes effort to create a sober tribe, but it's absolutely worth every minute.

Filter the messages

It's really easy to forget, in our alcohol-glorifying society, why you quit drinking in the first place. Really, really easy.

My advice would be to automatically disregard messages that are trying to sell you something. I walked through a supermarket yesterday and saw candles saying 'Wine not', greeting cards saying 'On your marks, get set, prosecco!' and t-shirts saying 'You've got to be gin it to win it'.

Then when I reached the pharmacy I saw a sign from Alcohol Concern saying that alcohol is the leading cause of death, ill health and disability among 15-49 year olds in the UK.

The reason profit-centred companies slap these messages on candles, cards and t-shirts is because they sell; so many of us Brits binge drink.

Listen to the messages that aren't trying to make a profit by enabling unhealthy habits. Listen to the NHS, Alcohol Concern and those who have quit drinking and loved it.

'Go on, have a drink!'

I would also totally disregard messages from people who don't want to lose you as a drinking buddy. This is why it's so important to find a cluster of people who are also alcohol-free / striving to be 80 per cent alcohol-free too. When another person reacts strongly to you not drinking, it's because they have an issue with drinking themselves. Always.

I've been called 'weird', had shots pushed towards me, and even had 'but surely you'll have some port with the cheese? Port doesn't count.' All from heavy drinkers.

It's nothing to do with me, or you, it's to do with them and their relationship with alcohol. I used to do it myself, because teetotallers freaked me out and made me feel bad about my own intake. They were an uncomfortable mirror, so I tried to drag them back into drinking. It was about me, not them.

Finally...

Ultimately, the only person's opinion that matters is your own. If you know that you feel, look and live better without alcohol in your life, then give it the boot. If you've enjoyed Sober Spring more than you did the drinking months before it, then it's a no-brainer, surely? Fitting in is overrated. Besides, a fifth of Brits don't drink these days, so you're in excellent company, and that figure is set to boom over the next year.

If you do decide to roll into a Sober Summer, I'll be rooting for you. Let's go and enjoy the sun without drinking something that a) dehydrates us and b) makes us lie in bed all Sunday rather than enjoying the great outdoors.