Roll on Sober Spring 2022

Catherine Gray | March 2022 | 8 minutes

This year, Sober Spring is seeing some exciting changes. Founder Catherine Gray tells us what’s ahead.

Dear Sober Springers 2022,

I want to tell you the story of how Sober Spring was born. This three-month sabbatical from alcohol that has the power to shake ingrained negative habits loose.

In 2017, I published my first book The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. I genuinely thought about 30 people would buy it. Or at the very most, thought it would be a niche book that would sell modestly.

To my astonishment, it’s now sold over a quarter of a million copies. It confirmed what I suspected but couldn’t quite believe: that Britain is fiercely sober-curious. We’ve been sleepwalking to the pub as a culture for so long that we’re beginning to wake up and question whether getting drunk is as fun as we’ve been told. Do we really love drinking or is problematic?

While I was writing the book, I was forced to analyse my process of quitting alcohol. I had been told by films, my social circle, memes about sobriety, other books, that being alcohol-free was going to be hard forever. And while there is some truth in it being a process that never ends, I discovered that my experience was very different to what I’d expected.

Something magical happened after the first couple of months. The first fortnight was teeth-grittingly hard (I was both psychologically and physically addicted to alcohol), then the following six weeks were a rollercoaster of euphoria and despair, but after day 60 it just got easier. A hell of a lot easier. I found my stride. I’d done enough socialising to know I wasn’t going to burst into flames without alcohol, and the habit of being teetotal started bedding in.

Intrigued by this sixty something day watershed, I looked into it. And discovered that in the land of new habit formation, there are thought to be two key gear shifts, after which old habits dislodge and the new begins to form. 21 days, which Dry January® capitalises so beautifully on. And also, 66 days, which explained why I’d felt that smoothing of the road.

I decided that a three-month alcohol-free runway was the perfect intro to a teetotal life. For those who just wanted longer off. For those who wanted to trial-run a sober life. “I’m doing Sober Spring” is so much easier to impart at a party than “Actually I’d started to get such crippling beer fear that I was really depressed...”

And so, Sober Spring was born. I approached Alcohol Change UK as a potential partner in 2018. They, quite rightly, wanted to sit back and see how a soft launch unfolded, so I ran the flagship year by myself. And then in 2019 we officially joined forces.

In the past four years, tens of thousands of people have taken part in Sober Spring. And if our study in 2019 was representative, over half of those will have continued to be teetotal after Sober Spring. While the remainder overwhelmingly found themselves with a different relationship with alcohol, after their three-month break.

If Sober Spring shows anything, it’s that you don’t know until you’ve tried. I very much doubt that over half of 2019’s participants started Sober Spring thinking they’d carry on afterwards, and yet that’s what they did. Why? Because just like cold-water swimming, or 5am wake-ups, repetition often brings an unexpected realisation. That you prefer it this way. Which was exactly what I wanted Sober Spring to achieve – to show people both ways of life and then ask them to choose for themselves. So, I’m tickled pink that it’s worked.

I’m heading off on maternity leave so this will be my last Sober Spring. I now hand over to the incredible and inspiring Millie Gooch as 2022’s guest host. And to Alcohol Change UK long-term, who are the safe hands that will continue to bring you Sober Spring. It’s been a privilege to spend almost a year of my working life on this project.

A few weeks ago, there were already 4000 of you on board for Sober Spring so know that you’re in excellent company. If you’re a repeat guest, we are delighted to have you back and will endeavour to bring you moving and intelligent content going forward. This year’s weekly blogs and tips have taught me many new things, made me laugh, triggered ‘aha’ moments, and brought tears to my eyes.

I’m so impressed with you all. It is very easy to lead an unexamined drinking life in our culture. It takes grit to dare to examine it and to say ‘no thanks’ for an extended period. I’ll be rooting for every single one of you.

Catherine Gray

Founder of Sober Spring

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