It's not too late to go alcohol-free in July and raise funds for people affected by cancer.
We’ve got a pretty weird relationship with alcohol. Like, really thinking about it, if alcohol was a person who took up all your weekends, stole your money, and made you feel like absolute crap the next day, you’d hate that person.
So many of us are in a slightly toxic relationship with alcohol. And even if your relationship with alcohol is good, it’s something that from the age of 18 we never really reassess. At 18 we drink to explore, to find freedom, and simply because we can.
But, those habits sometimes can be hard to break. Whether it’s the wine-mum culture or a couple of tinnies with the boys every weekend over a footy game you don’t remember nor really care about.
Two days into Dry July, a few of the sober curious in us ask may be asking ourselves – is this the year? The year I give up the booze for a month and raise money for a great cause (supporting those of us who are affected by cancer)?
If you’re leaning towards a potential yes, but still not quite sure, I sat down with Sam Wilson of Sober Mates to get some of her tips and tricks for going sober!
Sam created Sober Mates after struggling to find a sober community in Australia that she identified with. “I started looking for communities, and there are some really good ones in the UK and the US, but I couldn’t find any in Australia that talked about our binge drinking culture, talked about giving up booze in your mid-20s, and talked about continuing to socialise,” said Sam.
So she decided to create her own. And now, Sam and her mum are Barwon Health’s Dry July Ambassadors!
So, Sam really knows what she’s talking about. Here are her top tips for reassessing your relationship with alcohol!
1. Find your ‘why’
I met Sam at a bar. I know, the irony was not lost on meeting her to discuss Sober Mates and her journey to sobriety in a bar. Obviously, I couldn’t order an alcoholic beverage. That’d be so inappropriate! Luckily, within seconds of sitting down with Sam, her infectious warmth and outgoing personality had put me at ease. Oh, and for those interested, we both ordered lemon, lime, and bitters.
“I toyed with the idea of sobriety, and I didn’t think it was an option for me because I was a social Aussie drinker. I was always going to events, always socialising and alcohol was always the central focus of all our catchups, so I thought “I can’t go sober, I’ll lose my social life, I’ll lose all my friends, no one’s going to hang out with me…That’s the shitty stigma that we’ve got in Australia – we associate being sober with being boring.”
So, while acknowledging the challenges of going sober in your twenties, Sam says the key is finding your ‘why’- why you drink and why you want to take a break!
Sam was most afraid of losing her social life, something her confident and kind nature thrived on.
But Sam quickly realised, “You can do all the things sober that you’d usually do drinking.” Sam continues to go to gigs, go out to bars with friends, go out dancing. And Sam is loud about wanting to change that stigma, “I’m really vocal about every time I go out and party til 2am.” So, if you think going sober means Saturday nights that were once spent at the pub are now spent home alone, there’s more to going sober than FOMO.
2. Make it purposeful
One of Sam’s driving forces was to get a handle on the crippling hangxiety she faced after boozy nights. Curious about this, Sam went on a journey to understand how alcohol affected her body. Before ditching the booze for good, Sam thought she’d just take a break and reassess her relationship with alcohol.
“I decided to take three months off. I’d done a month here and there, but I’d heard 90 days was a good timeframe to understand what alcohol is doing to your body. I wanted to see how my body was like once I removed alcohol and I wanted to spend that time analysing and really understanding what alcohol does to me.”
Within that time Sam had noticed she had more energy, she had more time (and money) and she had maintained the relationships with her friends! Sam’s advice? Track how you’re feeling – whether that be through journalling or simply chatting to a friend, acknowledging your progress is so important in maintaining it.
3. What to order
Just because you’ve stopped drinking alcohol, doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking.
“If you’re the person that drinks every night or has impulses to go to your fridge, I would be stocking your fridge with alcohol-free drinks,” advises Sam. “You’re going to get those urges and it’s totally fine to just replace them.”
Sam also advises that if you’re out with your friends somewhere and there aren’t obvious non-alcoholic options, get creative. Sam’s go-to order? Soda water in a wine glass. In fact, Sam has ritualised the wine glass so much from her drinking days that she keeps them in her house – despite not having any alcohol there!
4. Have your exit strategy planned
Sam admits that despite being able to do everything sober there is probably a point in the night where you will want to bail. It could be when the shots start getting ordered, it could be when the conversations start to go in circles, or it could be when you keeping bloody losing your friends on the dancefloor.
Make sure you’ve planned your exit strategy. “If you leave at 12 o’clock, 11 o’clock and your friends are pissed, they’re actually not going to know you’re gone. I do ghost my mates now,” says Sam. Plus, one of the biggest bonuses, as soon as she wants to leave, she can drive home!
Your exit strategy comes back to figuring out what you want out of your night. When you take alcohol out of your nights out it’s super important to recognise what you want out of your nights out. Are you looking for chats with your friends, looking to listen to live music, have a dance, take a break from life? Whatever it is, identify it and focus on that. And if there comes a point where you’re not having fun anymore, it’s totally fine for you to take that as your cue to leave.
5. Find your natural highs
“When you remove alcohol from your life there is a really big space because you’ve got energy and you’ve got time.” For Sam, it was all about reconnecting with her inner child and dedicating time to things that truly brought her joy – like swimming in the ocean, running (something she’s recently taken up), and savouring the UberEats she orders on a Sunday – a ritual she kept despite giving up alcohol.
For Sam, this was one of the most exciting parts of going sober – the time she got to dedicate to bucket list items she’d always put on the backburner – like the Pier to Pub.
6. Communicate with your friends
“It’s so easy to get to a Friday night and go for after-work drinks.” But figuring out what works for you is so important in not only avoiding alcohol but also understanding you and your mental health better. Continually numbing yourself is just band-aiding stress. “For me, it’s venting to a friend,” says Sam.
Sam was scared to tell her nearest and dearest she was giving up alcohol – because it played such a role in their social lives, “I was really worried about what she was going to think because we did so many things around alcohol.”
But everything worked out for the best. Establishing your new boundaries and surrounding yourself with those who support them is so crucial. “Telling you circle, telling them the reasons why you’re taking a break, and have that support,” says Sam.
7. Get around the resources!
“I went into a deep dive of podcasts and books. All the sober info I could find,” admits Sam.
And it makes sense – if there are people before you with tips, tricks, and reasons why this could work for you, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that. A good place to start? Sober Mates.
Let’s be real, there’s always going to be a reason to postpone an alcohol pause – whether that be a friend’s 30th, a wedding, Christmas, a funeral. But, that’s also kind of the problem, isn’t it? If every occasion is an opportunity to drink, then drinking is never really special.
I’m not saying go sober forever. But reassessing my relationship with alcohol, setting some boundaries with it, and creating a more respectful relationship with it? Absolutely.
If you’re interested in doing the same – or just simply raising some money for charity, hit up Sober Mates and join their Dry July team. “Dry July is an incredible cause. We all know someone that’s had cancer… but what we also need to talk about is the mental side of giving up alcohol,” says Sam.
Join Dry July here.