With more people than ever before cutting back or even going alcohol-free, being off the booze has become a bit of a trend. If you’re not considering a teetotal lifestyle, should you be? Motivated by health and frugal budgets, the number of UK adults who say they drink alcohol is at the lowest level on record.
Sam Chambers, a member of online alcohol support community Club Soda, gave up drinking two-and-a-half years ago and hasn’t looked back since – we got the lowdown and found out why…
What prompted the change?
I gave up alcohol after a bad breakup. I was so upset afterwards, I drunkenly called my ex and had no recollection of the conversation. Apparently, a lot of the things I had said were really nasty and mean, which was very out of character for me. I was so upset by the whole thing I went to stay with my parents and had another night of getting drunk and crying, which ended with me chucking my phone down the loo and passing out in bed.
Every time I had a drink I would end up getting drunk, and the next day I wouldn’t have any idea what I’d done – it was getting to a point that I was using alcohol in a negative way and my body was physically pleading with me to stop. I realised I was bored of my behaviour and had two choices: to carry on using alcohol in that way, or to give up completely.
Have you found exercising control difficult?
There were a few occasions last year where I tried to moderate my drinking, but in the end, I felt that it was taking too much effort because my relationship with alcohol was so complex. Thinking back, when I did drink, I never really had control. Like many people, after three drinks I found it difficult to stop myself – I wanted to drink more, and get drunk. That was hard to face and accept.
How much did you drink before going teetotal?
I wouldn't drink regularly, but when I did drink (at most social occasions) I tended to go over the top. Always the drunk silly one, always up for a party, I would carry on until the next day and ended up in some mad situations. I would always drink to get drunk and struggled to limit myself.
I used to love the feeling of being out of control and not knowing how the night would end up, but as I got older that scared me. Once I started getting blackouts when I drank, I knew I had to stop.
Did you find it hard to cut alcohol out altogether?
It was difficult socialising, particularly with friends who love to drink, because I was scared of the temptation. To overcome this, I turned to the internet for tips and found Club Soda – it had only been running a short while but I felt an instant connection with others on the site who, like me, weren’t alcohol dependent as such, just idiotic with booze.
Attending meetups, volunteering and chatting with others online really made going alcohol-free much easier. It made me feel like I was part of something really cool, rather than feeling weird because I didn’t drink. I also read books including Jason Vales’ Kick the Drink Easily, Annie Grace's This Naked Mind and Lucy Rocca's Calling Time on Wine Time.
Were your friends and family supportive?
Yes, they were incredibly supportive and actually seemed somewhat relieved; once I told them I was no longer a drinker they were all: "phew, you’re a nightmare when you drink, and you're so funny and lovely sober." That shocked me a bit, but equally it helped with my transition.
Admittedly, when you make a choice like this, you start to realise who your real friends are. I had to slowly weed out those who were a negative influence and stopped spending time with people who drank too much.
What benefits have you noticed?
There are too many to list but, in essence, my life has changed for the better. I am much happier in myself and can return home after a night out with my self-esteem intact. Friends, family and colleagues can see how much more content I am, and it has started to have a rippling effect – loads of my friends have now curbed their drinking or stopped completely to support me.
What advice would you give someone who is considering cutting down or ditching the booze?
Read everything you can about a teetotal lifestyle and start writing about why you might want to stop or moderate, to get a clearer perspective. Also, you have to manage your expectations if you do stop drinking as it can be quite a bumpy road, so much revolves around drinking in our society that you need to be prepared to feel like the odd one out sometimes.
Not drinking at social engagements can be tough – years of learning that alcohol is the way to enjoy yourself and unwind are hard to counter – but remind yourself why you want to change things and celebrate your achievements. Get involved in sober events, or try new things – take a class or start exercising.
For more information and support on cutting down your alcohol consumption or stopping completely, visit JoinClubSoda.co.uk