It’s the morning after the night before and a faint headache interspersed with heart palpitations has awoken me. I’m hungover again. After the obligatory panic, scrambling to ensure I didn’t lose my phone, keys and dignity on the dancefloor, my first thought is always: “Why didn’t I just have one drink like I said I was going to?”
I’m by no means an alcoholic, but like many of my friends, I do seem to have this inability to curb my drinking without giving it up altogether. Finding that happy medium between sober and smashed is an area I haven’t managed to locate just yet. Despite no longer being able to get away from a bottle of wine hangover-free and knowing full well that the following day I will be plagued by an insuppressible fatigue, nagging anxiety and the desire to eat solely cheese on toast in my pyjamas, when someone offers to refill my glass, I just can’t seem to refuse.
A lot of this is to with British culture. It was one of the catalysts for Laura Willoughby MBE to co-found Club Soda, a community that aims to help people make more mindful drinking choices. “We are a very alco-centric society. Despite the fact that one in five people want to change how much they drink, the prospect can be terrifying,” she explained. “From Friday drinks at work to dinners and weddings, it is hard to contemplate not doing those things without drinking like everyone else.”
This point rings particularly true – one of the difficulties often cited by friends is a social calendar packed with events they’ll be expected to drink at. It’s often the reaction of others or the worry that we’ll be seen as boring or the fear of missing out that has us giving into another round, despite not necessarily wanting to.
Attitudes are slowly changing, though. Statistics gathered by the NHS in 2018 show a general decline in the number of units being consumed in the UK each week and millennials are drinking much less than older generations. With the rise of self-care and trendy soft drinks (kombucha, anyone?), it’s becoming easier than ever to reduce your alcohol intake.
But how to drink less if your diary is busier than Piccadilly Circus and your willpower is average at best? Despite what one might think, it is entirely possible to navigate these social occasions and still lead a healthy, hangover-free life. Here are some tips that your Sunday morning self will thank you for:
Choose Your Drinks Wisely
One of the best ways to drink less is to opt for lower or non-alcoholic options, Laura says: “There is a big boom in alcohol-free drinks here in the UK [and] some great options designed for grown-up tastes.” Many bars and pubs now stock alcohol-free beers and organic wines that don’t contain the chemical concoction often responsible for your hangover, which will allow you to still join in without suffering the consequences later.
Set yourself a limit – say, two drinks over the course of the evening – and stick to it. Sipping drinks slowly rather than chugging them at breakneck speed will also allow your body time to digest the alcohol, preventing you from overindulging. Laura also suggests keeping the first two drinks soft: “By that point, others will become squiffy, but you can pace yourself better.”
Practice Going Without
Instead of announcing to the world that you’re going tee-total and then promptly tucking into a bottle of prosecco, choose a normally boozy event and subtly try going without.
“Most people want to moderate because they don’t think they can do a night out, meal or a wedding without a drink. But learning to do some of those events with non-alcohol options is like developing a superpower – it gives you the power of choice,” explains Laura.
Once you’ve gotten through one event booze-free and awake blissfully fresh-faced the following day, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to exercise your newfound willpower in future – practice is what makes a habit, after all.
Keep It Vague
The way people react to tee-totalism often puts us off from trying, says Laura: “Alcohol is seen as being necessary for social interaction, an acceptable stress reliever, a reward and a sign of success” – which is why people often brand you as boring if you choose to go without.
But don’t feel pressured into making excuses for yourself – it’s no one’s business what’s in your glass. If you feel like you might be judged by those around you for staying sober, then keep your answers vague when people ask what you’re drinking. You don’t need to explain yourself.
Make A Plan You Can’t Get Out Of
Whether it’s an early morning run with a friend or tickets to a play, one of the best deterrents for drinking is the knowledge that you have an important or exciting plan to uphold the next day. If you know you’re expected to be on form or that a hangover will ruin your plans, you’ll be more likely to drink less.
Lastly, if you’re out and don’t want to lie about not drinking, just be honest about your reasons behind it. You’re far less likely to come up against criticism or judgement if you explain how alcohol affects you or makes you feel, Explain that you’re trying to drink less to improve your life. Ultimately, our friends want what’s best for us and should still be able to enjoy your company when you’re sober.
Visit JoinClubSoda.co.uk to find out more about mindful drinking.