A month off drinking is not only a great charity challenge, but also a great way to review your drinking habits. Can you really keep off the sauce for a month? What (or who) are your triggers? Where are the opportunities for you to swap out a few alcoholic-drinks in the longer term? Whatever your motivation, here are Club Soda’s top 5 tips for a successful Dry January…
1. Plan ahead
Winging it won’t work. A bad day at work or an impromptu night out could scupper your best intentions. Planning ahead means you will stay on track. Swap out pub nights for the cinema or an immersive experience, avoid mates that will be less than supportive, and make sure you know what you will do if your work day becomes a bit stressful. How will you relax or console yourself if this happens? At Club Soda, we use a method called WOOP to help plan for obstacles. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It can be used to set your goal for the month or just planning for a night ahead. For example:
Wish: I wish to be dry for January
Outcome: If I do this I will be chuffed I raised so much cash for charity
Obstacle: My best mate will encourage me to drink
Plan: If this happens, I will be clear with them that this is a charity goal I need their help with, ask them not to pressure me into drinking, and then escape to the loo and look at how much I have raised so far to keep me on track!
Watch this Club Soda video about how to use the WOOP technique to get you through the month.
2. Get some alcohol-free alternatives in
Drinks with an alcohol-content under 0.5% only have a trace of alcohol, so we consider them basically alcohol-free. To look at this another way, a ripe banana can contain as much as 0.3% alcohol, and you would have to drink several bottles of Eisberg alcohol-free wine (0.05% ABV) to get to one unit of alcohol.
Even better, the alcohol-free beers and wines are low in calories and have no added sugar. So if you are worried that you will be hitting the fizzy pop instead, then these drinks will literally dilute your fears. Using Dry January to explore the alcohol-free options will also mean that you know what you like when you fancy a night off during the rest of the year. Most supermarkets stock at least a couple of wines, and the new alcohol-free section in Tesco contains alcohol-free gin and tonic and several beers. Read about our favourite low and no alcohol beers here.
3. Resistance is not futile
After two drinks no one notices what you are drinking. The more people drink, the less they care about what you are having. And once you have said ‘no’ to the first drink, it gets easier. You will start to see the effects on everyone else – and you can flash forward to their foggy head tomorrow and feel a little bit smug!
And what about pushy mates? Honestly, you would think you were drinking virgin’s blood, not a lemonade… Some people make it seem like you have personally let them down by choosing not to drink. Don’t get defensive, if they won’t take a simple explanation, don’t get drawn in. Try and turn the discussion onto something different, or if necessary make an excuse and go talk to someone else. Remember: it’s your choice, not theirs, and you don’t owe them an explanation beyond a simple ‘I am doing Dry January’.
4. Fake it if you have to
Sometimes it’s worth ‘faking it’ a little, just to avoid a boring discussion about the merits/demerits of being out at the weekend sober. So here are a few ideas for flying below the radar as a secret Sober Hero.
Drink in hand. The easiest way to fake drinking is just to have a drink in your hand. So show up five minutes early and get your drink in first. You can even ask the bar staff to keep your drinks virgin all night, or set up a prearranged ‘usual’ if you want to keep your non-drinking under wraps. Most bar staff know this trick already, and will conspire with their customers to make it happen!
Turning down a drink. Once you’ve got your drink, your standard response can be a simple ‘I’ve got a drink thanks’, or you can ask for a soft drink and let them think you’re alternating between alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks. This also gives them a chance to be generous and include you in a round. You can still buy other people drinks as well (I know that doesn’t immediately sound like a bonus). Be generous and people are less likely to mind whether you drink or not.
Take your own. This is a top tip, mainly because it sounds more outrageous than it actually is. But the reality is that when there is no alcohol involved, you are fussier about what you want to drink. It’s unlikely a pub will have the drink you like the most, or that your mate will have got in the best possible alcohol-free tipple. So a guaranteed way to be sure is to sort it yourself. Go to party armed with your own drinks, and when going out call ahead and offer to pay them a £1 ‘corkage’ for every drink of your own you have (because they will then chill it in their fridge and pour it for you) or just be a sober rebel. It is up to you.
Bitters are basically the answer to the ‘non-alcoholic drinks taste like they’re for kids’ problem. I like an orange one mixed with alcohol-free wine and/or soda for a fake aperol spritz, or with tonic for a fake G ‘n’ T. With ginger beer, soda and a muddle of mint they make a great alcohol-free mojito. Most places will have Angostura bitters, but if you’re lucky or pick your location well, they might have some more exotic offerings like chocolate, cherry or peach. Just make sure they don’t go crazy. You only need a few drops!
5. Reward yourself
Raising money for charity is always a great reward in itself, but if you know you will find an evening out a bit hard, then make sure you have planned a special Sober Hero reward for when you get home. It could be an episode of a box set, a disco bath, or some frozen yoghurt. Whatever your reward is, plan it in advance so you know you have achieved another night out sober.
You CAN do this – good luck!
Club Soda is a Mindful Drinking Movement. It’s free to join and great if you’re looking to change your drinking habits. They run regular events and workshops across the UK, and even have a Sober Sprint online programme to help get you through a Month off Booze. To find out more about Dry January, go to alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january