Sober October is a month dedicated to reducing or cutting out alcohol intake. For a period of 31-days, many bid farewell to alcohol, often for charity. For social drinkers (or happy hour lovers), this can be tough.
10 Tips for Casual Drinkers to Partake in Sober October
By: Rebecca Fischer, Content specialist for Ohio Recovery Center, an addiction treatment provider serving western Ohio.
Like Dry January, Sober October is an opportunity for people who drink alcohol socially or casually to stop for one month. This can help them gain insight into things like the reasons why they drink and the effects drinking has on them. Participants sometimes also take their sober pledge public on social media to raise money for charity.
The following 10 tips can help casual and social drinkers have a successful Sober October:
Think back to a time when you were sober. There was likely a time you didn’t drink alcohol. Even if it was years ago, bring that time to mind and adopt the mindset of your non-drinking self. What kinds of activities did you do when you didn’t drink? How did you have fun and enjoy time with friends without alcohol?
Create a booze-free environment. This can be a little tricky if you live with someone not participating in Sober October, but odds are they’ll be understanding. Remind them that it’s just for 31 days. Then get all of the alcohol out of the house. It’s easier to refrain from drinking alcohol when it isn’t around.
Transform BYOB. Make the “B” stand for “beverages” and explore some new party drinks that don’t include alcohol. There are many mocktail ideas you can try online. Or, bring pre-made drinks like ginger beer, kombucha, fruit punch, or flavored sparkling water. At restaurants, ask for virgin versions of your favorites.
Have your “why” ready. Alcohol is everywhere in our society — at nearly every restaurant, in TV ads, at social events, etc. Although you don’t owe anyone an explanation for going sober for a month, having an explanation or two ready can help you feel more confident. This can be as simple as “I’m participating in Sober October this month,” or “I’m just not drinking right now.”
Find a wingwoman or wingman. This should be someone who attends the same social events as you. Ask if they are willing to respond as a show of support when someone asks why you aren’t drinking. They can keep it simple by using your “why.” If you pair up with another “Sober Octoberer,” you can take turns sharing your “whys” and support one another.
Celebrate your wins. Your reason for having a couple of drinks when you’re out with friends might just be out of habit. But any habit is difficult to change, especially at first. Don’t take your successes too lightly — celebrate them! Maybe schedule a massage once you pass day 15, or let yourself take up that new hobby you’ve been thinking about.
Consider the health benefits. The latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that not drinking at all and moderate drinking, which is one drink or less for women and two drinks or less for men, reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm, such as high blood pressure and car crashes. However, even less than one drink at a time increases the risk for some cancers, like breast cancer.*
Get inspired. Even if you don’t abuse alcohol, you still might gain inspiration from people who did but then got sober. Try searching online, particularly your library’s catalog, for alcohol abuse recovery books. You can also gather inspiration from people who considered themselves casual drinkers but decided to pursue a sober lifestyle for the mental and physical benefits.
Cut yourself some slack. Whatever you observe as you move through the 31 days, try to be gentle with yourself. There are simple breathing practices you can learn to help calm feelings of anxiety. Going outside to get some sunshine and fresh air works wonders. Other ideas include talking with a friend, taking a bath, or putting on your favorite tunes and dancing it out.
Remember your “why.” The “what” and the “how” are never as important as the “why,” so keep going back to it when you need support or inspiration. Repeat it to yourself in your mind, write it out in a journal, or share your thoughts on social media to gain a larger community of others who might also connect with your “why.”
By participating in Sober October, we have the chance to learn more about the choices we make — and maybe even raise some money for charity in the process.
And if this month proves difficult, remember that help is available. If you were unable to remain sober or experienced negative physical and mental effects from avoiding alcohol, it may be time to explore why staying sober was challenging. Reach out to a friend, talk with a trusted therapist or counselor, and explore options in recovery.
*Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol