Thinking of going sober in 2020? If the thought of drinking throughout 2020 is too much, you’re not alone. According to an NHS health survey, in England in 2018, 82% of adults drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 49% of adults drinking at least once a week – but more of us are deciding to quit alcohol than ever before.
A recent investigation found that rates of non-drinking increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015, and the number is growing fast. Celebrities such as Elsa Hosk, Lucy Hale and Jada Pinkett Smith have all spoken publicly about their sobriety, and it’s estimated that around four million people in the UK will take part in Dry January. And when the month is over, many will decide to continue their new lifestyle.
But how do you stop drinking, when that Friday glass or wine or Sunday G&T is so ingrained into your schedule? Millie Gooch, 28, writer, speaker and founder of @sobergirlsociety decided to quit two years ago when she realised alcohol was affecting her mental health. ‘It was definitely hard at first, and that was primarily down to peer-pressure and a few standard accusations of ‘being boring’,’ she tells Cosmopolitan. ‘Two years on and it’s so much easier; my friends and family can see how much happier and healthier not drinking has made me so I never get pressure from them. And if anyone dares call me boring, I’m confident enough to laugh it off and not let it shake my decision.
‘My advice would be to keep a little note of any joys that you experience from not drinking (even if that’s just waking up without a hangover), and keep reminding yourself of them. At Sober Girl Society we run all sorts of alcohol-free events that you can come to including our boozeless brunches and immersive yoga. You can find like-minded babes who are also binning the gin and do something new too!’
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Fellow sober girl Katy agrees that those around you can be key to going sober, and it was her close friends and family that encouraged her to continue with sobriety following a stint in rehab. ‘What helped me a lot was having a network of strong sober women for support, and being honest about my feelings and needing help. I had to want to feel better myself – nobody could decide that for me. Now I see it as a choice to not drink rather than I can’t drink.’
Jessica, 25, also quit drinking after seeking professional help, and she prefers to focus on the short-term. ‘After getting out of rehab, I decided that I would just stay sober a day at a time,’ she says. ‘I am now two years and three months sober. Sobriety isn’t a walk in the park but I am really happy I am here. I no longer suffer from hangovers. I no longer need to feel shame. I don’t miss the blackouts, the falling over, the embarrassing myself. I am present in everyday activities.
‘People often ask me: when will you drink again? and I am not sure. But I know that I will not drink today and that’s all I can promise.’
Rochelle stopped drinking for her health, and found that fitness gave her the buzz she was missing. ‘My intention was just to reign it in, but when I stopped I noticed how much I was feeling better, and how my work was improving etc. so I decided to stick to it,’ she tells Cosmopolitan. ‘Three years later and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
‘Something that really helped me when I first gave up drinking was not telling a lot of people, only my nearest and dearest. There’s a lot of social pressure to drink nowadays so I’d still go out but have mocktails in wine glasses, and no one would bat an eyelid.
‘I didn’t actually start telling most people till I reached one year sober. Maybe that was a milestone.’
Eliza became sober after experiencing anxiety from drinking, and found that her new lifestyle brought with it better health benefits and more genuine friendships. ‘My top tip for anyone else giving up is to not view it as giving up – you are actually only gaining! In the early days I would tell myself ‘I am choosing happiness’ instead of ‘I’ve given up drinking.’ Even now, I tell people that I’ve ‘gained sobriety’ rather than saying I’ve given up drinking. Instead of choosing alcohol, you are choosing yourself.
‘It’s also very important to remember that if you need additional support, there are many 12-step programmes out there that you can reach out to. Connect with other sober people, make sure you stock up on good alcohol-free options and eat something sugary, then call a friend when you feel a strong craving. Or, if you’re in recovery – go to a meeting.’
How to stop drinking temporarily
Ready to take on a period of sobriety? Quitting cold-turkey can be hard, but if you plan ahead you can help protect yourself against relapses, no matter what your usual drinking pattern. Simon Chapple, author of The Sober Survival Guide and a certified sobriety coach tells Cosmopolitan: ‘If you are attending a social event at which you know drink will be flowing, go armed with a plan. The best strategy is visualisation. Beforehand, create a clear picture in your mind of how the evening will go. Visualise everything, from what you’re wearing, through to walking through the door, to being offered your first drink. Arm yourself with what you’ll say when offered a drink and how the conversation will go.
‘Another helpful strategy is to find out ahead of time if there will be suitable alcohol-free drinks available. If not, take your own, and keep an eye on your glass to make sure you don’t pick up the wrong one. If you are asked about your dietary requirements ahead of an event you can write ‘I don’t drink alcohol’ on your response.
‘It’s also a good idea to make yourself accountable to someone, that could be a partner, friend or family member, or someone else who is attending the same event. Let them know what you are doing and ensure they are on hand for support. You could also share your upcoming social event in one of the many Facebook private sober groups to ensure you have instant help and advice at hand.’
How to stop drinking permanently
A long-term plan can be a little more difficult, as you’re committing to a lot. It’s always important to take one day at a time, and if you’re worried about your alcohol intake seek professional help via your doctor or specialist programme. Simon recommends the following to keep your mind occupied during sobriety:
‘Book a spa day. Relax either on your own or with friends; this is one of my favourite ways to celebrate something.
‘Go for a special meal. Book your favourite restaurant or try a new one; you’re now saving calories and cash, so you can afford to spend a bit more on your meal.
‘Take a holiday or short break. It could be somewhere close to home or a far-flung destination; either is a wonderful way to celebrate.
‘Enjoy a day out. It could be a trip to the zoo, an amusement park, or a museum; your choices are almost endless.’
When you hit a low point, or are feeling weak, Simon encourages you to remember that ‘alcohol usually makes mental health problems worse, even if you think that drinking makes you feel better.’
For help and advice with alcohol dependence, visit alcoholchange.org.uk or see your GP.
This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.
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