Mindful drinkers share their sober stories

Outfox | March 2019 | 10 minutes

We chatted with nine mindful drinking champions about what inspired them to change their relationship with alcohol, how they overcame challenges and the benefits they have experienced.

Why cut back in the first place?

For Jess Hook, founder of non-alcoholic wine brand Outfox, the impetus to change her drinking came when she started training for a race across the Sahara Desert. “I had my first stint alcohol-free for six months in 2017. I knew I couldn’t do the training and keep going on nights out drinking.”

Jess Hook
Jess Hook: "I knew I couldn’t do the training and keep going on nights out drinking.”

Having previously been a big social drinker, going teetotal was a considerable change for Jess. “Throughout my twenties I was usually first to the bar and quite often the last one to leave. I often felt the negative sides to it – two-day hangovers, and massive guilt that I may have said something rude or stupid to someone.”

As well as impacting on her fitness, Jess also realised that drinking was extending into her weeknights, as well as her weekends. “I found myself slipping into rewarding myself with wine after a stressful day – and every day was stressful! I could see how easy it was to drink well above the weekly recommended units and felt rubbish about putting on weight and feeling lethargic.”

Megan Montague
Megan Montague: "The biggest motivation to stop drinking was seeing the impact it was having on those closest to me"

Like Jess, mum-of-two and blogger at Sober Story Megan Montague decided to make a change when she became stuck in a cycle of thinking that drinking was alleviating her stress. Now almost a year sober, Megan is documenting her journey to sobriety and happiness, in order to inspire others.

The biggest motivation to stop drinking was seeing the impact it was having on those closest to me – in particular, my children. I had far less patience, I was constantly stressed and anxious and I was totally depleted.”

Rosamund Headshot 2
Rosamund Dean: “[Kids] don't care if you're tired or hungover - it's easier not to be.”

As well as compromising health, fitness and family life, a not-so-fresh face in the mirror can be a big motivator to cut back on the booze. Author of Mindful Drinking: How Cutting Down Can Change Your Life and Deputy Editor of the Evening Standard Magazine, Rosamund Dean admits that a major incentive for her was vanity.

“I realised that alcohol was causing weight gain and ageing my skin and, as I reached my mid-thirties, I didn't look so fresh after a few glasses of wine the night before,” she said.

Mum-of-two Rosamund realised that she was drinking just as much, if not more, than during her party-heavy twenties, and quickly concluded that, as well as impacting her appearance, young kids and hangovers don’t quite mix! “They don't care if you're tired or hungover - it's easier not to be.”

What are the challenges?

For many, the biggest hurdle to mindful drinking can be fear of judgement. Founder of Sober Girl Society Millie Gooch is on a mission to change perceptions of sobriety through a community of strong women she has built online.

Being sober doesn’t make you boring, it doesn’t mean you automatically want to stop hanging out in pubs and bars and it doesn’t mean you can’t get on a dance floor. I started Sober Girl Society to show people that sobriety is not the end of fun – it’s only the beginning!”

Millie 2
Millie Gooch: "I started Sober Girl Society to show people that sobriety is not the end of fun – it’s only the beginning!"

Janey Lee Grace is a BBC Radio 2 presenter, author of five books and host of the podcast Janey Lee Grace Alcohol Free Life. She too talks about how difficult it can be dealing with other people’s opinions. “I was struck by how 'ashamed' I felt in the early months, I kept it a secret from everyone. The phrase, 'Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking' is so true!”

Janey Pic Brown Top
Janey Lee Grace: "Alcohol is a depressant and when you stop it makes you happier... and braver!"

Sharing this view, author of memoir The Sober Diaries and blog Mummy was a Secret Drinker Clare Pooley says, “When you give up smoking, people congratulate you and tell you how brave and clever you are. When you give up drinking, they often think you're weird, or just boring.”

As well as peer pressure, another major hurdle can be getting to know your new alcohol-free self. After hitting what he describes as his rock bottom at the age of 28 Scott Pearson, one half of The Sober Millennials, was inspired by a friend to go alcohol-free. He shares his journey on Instagram at The Boy Who Drank Too Much and tells us his biggest battle has been “learning who I am again.”

“When you drink you experience life through a blurred lens and you often don’t really take in big events emotionally because of that.

“It means that when you don’t drink anymore you have to learn how to be you in all situations you would normally have relied on alcohol for. Learning who I really am is fantastic, but emotionally exhausting!”

How do you stay on track?

Opting to go sober or reduce your drinking can be challenging, but there are ways to stick to your goals. Back in 2017, self-titled party animal Dawn Comolly decided to go a whole year without alcohol. Sharing an honest account of her journey via her blog The Sober Fish Story Dawn unexpectedly transformed her lifestyle, remaining alcohol-free to this day.

The secret is in your daily routine,” she said. “My blog keeps me on track; I write about my journey, good and bad, every day. I also walk an average of five to six miles each day, whilst listening to audiobooks and podcasts.”

Clare Pooley advocates finding more people who share your goals. The opposite of addiction is connection. Finding a tribe is crucial, and there are so many places now to find one. There are fabulous online communities like Dry January and Beyond, Club Soda and Soberistas, and there's a wonderful sober community on Instagram.”

Author Pic
Clare Pooley: "Finding a tribe is crucial..."

If you’re struggling, it can help to remember how far you’ve come. Kate, co-founder of The Sober Millennials, made the decision to go alcohol-free in January 2017 and has been spreading her positive mental health messages on Instagram Mentality Managed ever since. Describing what motivates her, she says,I just remember how difficult life felt and how much money I wasted from being lazy, tired and forgetful. At one point I thought I was going to crack because of the loneliness. Now I have a great support network and couldn’t imagine going back to drinking.”

Sober Millennials
Kate and Scott, The Sober Millenials

The results are worth it

One thing that all the dry-drinking champions we spoke to can agree on is that despite the challenges, cutting back can have a huge impact - from your home life to your mental health. According to Rosamund Dean, “The number one benefit is that I have more energy and patience when I'm with my children. But I also have more focus and productivity at work, and my skin looks better too (see, I told you vanity is the best incentive!)”

Janey Lee Grace said: “Overall it’s the fact that I no longer feel anxious all the time, I don't think I even realised I was before, I thought my 'inertia' was normal, but my horizon has widened. Alcohol is a depressant and when you stop it makes you happier... and braver!”

Dawn Comolly
Dawn Comolly: "Sobriety is so much more than choosing what goes into your glass!"

For some, sobriety takes their lives in completely new directions. “Sobriety is so much more than choosing what goes into your glass!” says Dawn Comolly. “It is a lifestyle and I’ve been particularly lucky with the opportunities it has brought into my life. I now produce sobriety greeting cards, have a sober clothing brand, had a short story published, I’ve spoken publicly about my journey and both attended and hosted sober meetups.

“Alcohol stole from me. It zapped my energy and creativity and left me living in darkness. Sobriety has turned my light back on and now I live a life beyond my wildest dreams. There really is no contest.”

Most of our champions went alcohol-free, but all of us can benefit from checking up on our drinking and making sure we’re happy and in control. Take a quiz to see how healthy your drinking is.

For more information on Outfox Drinks visit outfoxdrinks.com or follow us @outfoxdrinks on Instagram.