Whether you did Dry January or not, lots of us are looking to drink less in lockdown 3.0. But what if you also want to drink less all year and still feel like the old you? Still have a life? And fun with friends, when we're allowed to do that again?
Author Ruby Warrington has been on a seven-year quest to do exactly that. In her book Sober Curious, she describes all the ways she’s discovered to make sure alcohol plays a much smaller role in a fun and full live. She’s also gathered a community of thousands to her ClubSÖDA drink-free parties in the US and the UK.
'My generation of women grew up with the ladettes, Sex and the City, hard drinking like Kate Moss. Being able to drink as much as men, to hold your own drinking pints down the pub was seen as being a good feminist!' says Warrington, now 42.
She describes herself, in her 30s, as a regular, habitual, social drinker. 'I always had it down that once I’d started, that’s it, I might was well get drunk. Why would I drink unless I wanted to get drunk?'
She knew she didn’t want to give up completely, as that wouldn’t work.'I don’t like rules. I’m not going to say I’m never going to drink because that’s ridiculous.' Dry January, she says, 'is like doing a bootcamp, it’s got this mentality of deprivation around it.' But she also knew that the pull of alcohol is so strong, that she could easily end up over drinking.
'I like to use the word "conscious drinking". If you think about it too much alcohol makes us literally unconscious, so conscious drinking could speak to drinking to a level where you’re never actually out of it,' she tells me.
The advice she gives in SoberCurious on how to drink less comes from 'everyone I’ve witness on this moderate drinking path'. Some don’t drink, some do sometimes, some do quite often. In 2018, Warrington herself drank three times. 'And on only one of those occasions was I drunk'.
If you’d like drinking less to be your new norm, here’s her advice:
How to drink less: Think of yourself as a non drinker
'Think of yourself as a non drinker. And get really conscious about the times you want to drink.' Switch so non drinking becomes your default, rather than drinking. Think, 'rather than what I need to get out of my life, what am I choosing to get into my life?' If you describe what you’e doing as moderate drinking or drinking less, you’re still thinking of yourself as a drinker. 'And inevitably because of the the nature of the substance you will end up drinking more than more consistency and more regularly and more than probably feels good.'
As a non drinker, if a time when you’d normally drink comes up, you have to then make the conscious decision to decide to drink. 'Any time there is an instinct, opportunity, invitation expectation to drink, you then get to question, "I’m a non drinker, how’s it going to be in this situation?"'
How to drink less: Reclassify alcohol as a drug
It’s only when you stop drinking for two to three months, says Warrington, that you realise quite how strong alcohol is. Can’t face three months off? Take her word for it. 'You’ll really notice that just a sip can completely change your state. Alcohol is a highly powerful psychoactive drink to be treated with caution, as you would treat any other drug.'
Scary fact from Warrington: alcohol is one of the five most addictive substances (after heroine, cocaine, crystal meth/speed, and before nicotine).
How to drink less: Nights out can be fun
Once we're allowed to socialise again, staying sober might pose a challenge. Having some fellow non drinkers out with you does help – although it is pretty fun going out with drinkers too, says Warrington. 'I love that everyone gets a bit buzzed.'
She advises you don’t make excuses about not drinking, just say, '"I’m just not drinking tonight'."At some point, earlier than if you were drinking, it will stop being so fun.
'There’s a point when the switch gets flipped, personalities change. I think: you’re not really here any more. We call it "out of it" for a reason.' She’s not judging, she stresses, but she that’s the time to get home.
Get to know what you really enjoy while sober – you may be surprised. Warrington has rediscovered clubbing – preferably in the afternoons. Find new times and places to socialise post-lockdown: brunches, walks in the park, tea dates, coffee dates.
How to drink less: Connections will get deeper
'When I told my husband I was thinking about fully stropping drinking, he looked like he’d been told his best friend was moving to a different country,' says Warrington. It’s undeniably an adjustment for friends and loved ones, she says - no more big Thursdays, no more Sunday afternoon pints.
'We all use alcohol to speed up the feeling of connection.' But you can do it without alcohol - in fact it’s better, says Warrington. 'I have found my connection whether it’s with friends or my husband are so much deeper. There’s a deeper level of intimacy, connection, acceptance.' That goes for her friends who are both drinkers and not.
How to drink less: Look forward to mornings
This has to be the biggest motivation not to drink until you’re drunk - no hangovers. Even better, no more emotional hangover. From what Warrington has seen and experienced, that includes anxiety, depression, lethargy apathy, feeling hopeless, lack of confidence. 'I think it can take months to clear that out.' Although, she adds, we are all different.
'Anecdotally I would say I can feel a big difference, a shift, after three weeks, a level of clarity that’s reached. As time goes on you notice more and more clarity and focus.'
How to drink less: Monitor sip by sip
The times you do decide you will drink, remember how drinking makes you lose your ability to stop drinking? 'After two drinks you’ve basically lost your ability to make a good choice!' she says.
This may sound strange, but it works, says Warrington. She monitors sip by sip how a drink is making her feel: 'Then I know when I get to a point where not enjoying this any more. It’s about being able to recognise the feeling in my body that if I drink any more, I’m going to start feeling tired, not communicate properly and I’m most definitely going to have a hangover tomorrow.'
Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol by Ruby Warrington £13.69 BUY NOW
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