The worst - or best - time for Sober Spring?

Catherine Gray | March 2020 | 8 minutes

Sober Spring started just as pandemic panic well and truly gripped the nation - but is that the best or worst timing?

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We’ve had polarising responses, from ‘Ummm, your timing could be better Sober Spring?!’ to ‘I can’t think of a better time to dig in and do this!’

Now is either the worst or best timing, depending on your perspective. So, we thought we’d take a look at both sides of being teetotal through an emergency. Here goes.

The worst

Lots of us are working from home.

WFHome is, at first glance, an absolute gift. You can just wear smart tops + PJs, like a newsreader, to attend virtual meetings. No more commute (getting to work is more stressful than actually being at work, said Brits in this survey) no more snippiness over hogging the printer, an hour more sleep (if you’re child-free). What’s not to like?!

Yet, structure is a handy inhibitor for drinking. It was when I went freelance that my drinking really went ka-boom, because I could now start drinking at 5pm instead of 6pm, which slid to become 4pm, then 3pm… I also no longer had The Fear of being in work hungover. Nobody could see my bloodshot eyes or smell my boozy breath down the phone. ‘Weekend’ drinking tiptoes its way into the weekdays.

The ritual of an ‘and now relax’ drink marks the end of the work day, so now you’ll need to find new ways. I recommend literally slipping into something more comfortable (athleisure wear, enter!), packing your work kit out of sight, picking up an instrument or a paintbrush, going for a sunset walk (while we are still allowed once-daily exercise!), having a bath, or rolling a crunchy back on a vibrating massage ball (they really work).

Binge-drinking memes are everywhere

Social media endorses heavy drinking as the solution to pandemic panic. There’s ‘Quarantine rules are airport rules: have a drink at 9am if you want to!’ Or the viral video of the woman teaching her kids fractions by downing wine, quarter by quarter.

The ‘hide’, ‘mute’, ‘I don’t want to see this’ buttons (depending on whether you’re on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) are there for a reason. Rather than staring at these repeatedly, letting them get under your skin, and allowing them to propel you towards a drink, just shoot them down. You don’t need to see them right now. And the people sharing them are just trying to justify their own drinking, frankly. I used to be a terror for sharing pro-drinking memes, because they endorsed my own intake.

The best

Pubs and clubs are literally closed

Drinking establishments can indeed be a blast once you settle into sobriety (more on that here), but I won’t sugar-coat it; they can be arduous at first. I never dodged drinking establishments, even in early days, but arguably I might have had an easier time if I had. Handily enough for those on Sober Spring, pubs and clubs will likely re-open once you have your sober stabilisers in place, and feel less wobbly.

Once you can venture back out, a handy rule is to look for nightspots that have something of interest to non-drinkers too – delicious food, Jenga, a pool table, a free jukebox, darts, a swing band, a gorgeous garden.

It’s easy to run a booze-free house

There’s nobody bringing something bubbly over as a gift (weird sidebar: I STILL get alcohol as a gift sometimes, even at 6.5 years sober). There’s no-one leaving surplus bottles of ale after they visit for dinner. If you live with a drinking partner or housemate, you can probably ask them to squirrel away their tipple (check out more tips on going alcohol-free when you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily).

And if you can’t see it, or access it, you can’t drink it. Simple.

We have more time to learn how to be sober

If you’re not a key worker (we salute you, heroes), you may well have more time to spend honing your soberpower.

Some say that in early days, it’s wise to spend as much time on your non-drinking, as you did on your drinking. I definitely did this. Seeing how other people did it, still do it, and what they advise, is going to colossally improve your chances of success. If you stick ‘sober’, ‘alcohol-free’ or ‘recovery’ into iTunes, Kindle or Medium, you will find a wealth of podcasts, books and blogs to immerse yourself in. We also have a brilliant app to keep you on track - link below.

We can see this enormously stressful time as either the best – or worst – time to take on Sober Spring. It’s just about perception. As Einstein once said ‘The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.’ Right now, the universe may feel hostile, but our non-drinking can still feel friendly; like the best wellbeing favour we can give ourselves right now.

Photo by David Yeo.