6 Easy Ways to Make it Through Sober October Like a Pro
If you are thinking of committing to Sober October, it doesn't have to be as daunting and difficult as it might feel.
Using these 6 easy-to-follow tips, you can turn the willpower-breaking task of completing the whole of Sober October into a fun exercise that makes you feel so much healthier and turns you into the absolute master of getting things done. Perhaps even turn this achievement into an ongoing habit of reducing your alcohol intake.
As Robert Downey Jr. once said, you will "come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal."
Firstly, before you read the tips, I will give you a bit of background on why it can be quite difficult to go cold turkey on alcohol, even just for a month. Along with the tips, this knowledge will help you resist the urge to have a relaxing wine or beer after a long, stressful day.
Alcohol is addictive, no matter how little or much you drink
Do you remember when you first tried a beer for the first time? Did you enjoy the taste or did you think it tasted pretty gross? Even though it may have tasted awful when you first tried it, pretty soon you came to enjoy the taste because it has addictive properties. Some people enjoy the taste so much they pay mind-blowing amounts for a drink that they likely didn't like the taste of when they first tried it - think of the recent record sale of a single cask of Ardberg single malt whiskey from 1975 which sold for £16 million ...you would not want to slip and break a bottle of that on your way to the dining room.
Why is alcohol addictive?
When you drink alcohol, one of the effects it has on your brain is to release dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that is commonly dubbed your 'happy hormone'.
Under normal circumstances, your body releases dopamine to help give you positive feelings and the motivation and energy to work towards a rewarding goal. It has been very beneficial to us from an evolutionary perspective and it has helped us as a species continually improve and innovate.
One of the downsides of alcohol is that it causes your body to release dopamine, which, although it can help you temporarily feel great and more confident, it makes your brain want more and more of the substance since your brain feels 'rewarded' each time it gets that dopamine release. Even though alcohol actually does harm to your body, the dopamine system is the overriding force that makes you want to consume more of it.
Even small amounts of alcohol still activates this dopamine/reward system which makes you regularly want to consume more - which is why, especially after a hard day when you feel like a pick-me-up, you want to have that glass of wine or beer to help boost your mood (via dopamine).
Now that you have that understanding, let's get on to the 5 simple tips below that will best help you get Sober October like a pro.
1 - Start reducing your alcohol intake before Sober October
It's easiest to start with mini goals that are easy to achieve and then gradually increase the scale of your goals, as opposed to trying to go from 0 to 100 overnight to achieve a high-effort main goal. Therefore, it is easier to start reducing alcohol consumption before you go cold turkey, as it will give you a helpful head start to reducing your dopamine-fuelled love of that refreshing gin & tonic.
At least three weeks prior to the 1st of October, start actively reducing the amount of alcohol you consume. An example of using 'mini goals' to gradually reduce your intake could be:
Week 1 - reduce the number of alcoholic drinks you have each evening by one drink. for example, if you usually have three glasses of wine most evenings, instead drink only two glasses of wine each evening you feel like a tipple.
Week 2 - reduce down to one glass of wine on the evenings you feel like a drink.
Week 3 - choose to drink only on one or two evenings in the final week and when you do, only have one glass that evening.
The key with these mini goals is, if you do slip up one evening and have more than you had planned to, don't beat yourself up since breaking old habits takes time - the main thing is that you maintain a healthy confidence so that you can achieve your goal the next evening.
By completely (or at least mostly) following your gradual reduction in the amount of alcohol you consume, you will now find it much easier to completely stop drinking come the 1st of October.
2 - Find a substitute drink to enjoy when you would normally drink alcohol
This can be any beverage from kombucha to alcohol-free cocktails, however, for best results it should feel similar to the alcoholic drink you usually have (at least in the first week or two of going cold turkey). For example, if you usually drink red wine, you could get a bottle of alcohol-removed red wine. Or if you usually have a gin and tonic, you could have an alcohol-free gin and tonic (such as from our delicious ready-to-drink cocktail range). After several weeks of not drinking alcohol, your desire to drink will likely have reduced significantly to the point where you may just feel like having an alcohol-free drink or sparkling water.
The key for this tip is to actively generate feelings of accomplishment when you choose to have your non-alcoholic drink instead of your usual beer, wine or spirit. When you make a point of feeling happy and accomplished each time you drink your replacement non-alcoholic beverage, you will activate your dopamine system which will, with repetition over time, help you overwrite your dopamine craving for alcohol.
Whichever drink you choose as your alcohol substitute, make sure that it is a drink that you really like the taste of and also try to ensure it is healthy with a low sugar content and only natural ingredients - since you are on a health-buzz, why not go all out.
Another key tip is to buy the replacement drinks in advance (sometimes in September) so that they are nice and cool in your fridge and easy to reach for. It is also good to have a selection of different drinks to try as you will be motivated to try new ones each time you feel like a drink.
Alcohol-free drink suggestions:
- Non-alcoholic ready-to-drink spirit mixers. A benefit of the non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks is that you can still feel some of the relaxing, feel-good effects due to the placebo effect.
Or even better still, you could drink an Elta Ego alcohol-free cocktail and try our new flavours, Passionfruit Margarita or Negroni which also contains bioactive adaptogens (ginseng, red maca and L-theanine) that are scientifically proven to help boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed.
- Non-alcoholic beer. There are so many alcohol-free beer options available now, from hoppy IPAs to smooth lagers.
- Non-alcoholic wine. This category has really improved over the past few years, to the point where some of the best options do taste very similar to alcoholic wine.
- Non-alcoholic cider. This category is relatively new but is growing in quality and popularity.
- Kombucha. The sparkling nature and dense mouthfeel of this healthy drink make it a good substitute for alcohol.
- Flavoured sparkling water. These drinks are very healthy with zero or close to zero sugar content and calories. They do not feel very similar to alcoholic drinks, however, as they feel very light and do not have the same mouthfeel. They are good for later in your alcohol-free journey when your yearning for alcohol is significantly reduced.
3 - Avoid being around alcohol, at least for the first week or two.
Out of sight, out of mind - follow the below steps to help reduce the ease of being able to get an alcoholic drink when you really feel like one.
- First of all, hide all of the alcohol in your house away from sight and make it hard to get to. For example, hide it in the basement or in the outhouse - somewhere which requires a little bit of effort to get to, as opposed to a few steps to the kitchen cabinet.
- For the first week or two until you are more confident and have reduced your dopamine driven yearning for a glass of vino, try to reduce your time spent at bars and nightclubs where your friends and other patrons are all drinking alcohol and may try to encourage you to also have some.
- When you do go to bars, let the people you are with know that you are participating in Sober October to support the cancer fundraiser.
- Also, order non-alcoholic drinks while you are at the bar - most bars will now have some form of alcohol free beer, wine or spirits that you can drink. Otherwise, you can order other drinks such as kombuchas, flavoured sparkling waters and healthy soft-drinks.
4 - Think of a strong belief you have that abstaining from alcohol aligns with
When you have a core belief that you feel strongly about, you are very motivated to conform with that principle. If you think of reasons why stopping drinking alcohol can help you conform with your strong belief, then you will have much more willpower to resist the urge to drink alcohol. Below I have included some examples to help you link Sober October with a strong belief of yours:
- If you have had a relative or friend that was affected by cancer, remember that Sober October is about fundraising for cancer research and support for those in need who are going through such a hard time. If they can go through chemotherapy and the emotional turmoil associated with having cancer, then it makes your goal of going alcohol-free for a month seem very easy and with a strong purpose of supporting a cause that you strongly believe in.
- You want to lose weight and get in shape - alcohol contains a lot of calories and it also reduces your energy the following day. Therefore you will be able to make a good head-start on your weight-loss goals by both reducing your calorie intake as well as increasing the number of calories you burn through exercise.
- You want to finally take action on a dream goal you have had for a while, such as starting your own business. After a week or two of not drinking alcohol, you will realise you have a lot more energy to do difficult things. This is because of several factors, two of which are the normalisation of your baseline dopamine levels (i.e. your motivational 'happy hormone').
- You want to get better sleeps and have more energy during the day. Alcohol interferes with your sleep by reducing the amount of REM sleep that you get, which means that you need to get a longer sleep in order to feel properly rested. Since most of us do not or cannot get longer sleeps, this means you end up with a sleep deficit after drinking and you will feel tired a sluggish until you catch up on quality sleep on evenings without any alcohol consumption.
- You want to save money to buy a house. As you know, alcohol costs a lot, especially when you buy it at bars or restaurants. Often, we may choose to not spend extra money on healthier food from the supermarket, when ironically we won't think twice about spending several times more on alcohol during one night at a bar.
5 - Ask your loved one, friends and family to be supportive and give you encouragement
You are most influenced by the people you spend the most time with. Let your loved one, close friends and family know that you are participating in Sober October and what your compelling reason is from Tip #4. Ask them to be supportive and encouraging, especially when you feel stressed or you just really feel like an alcoholic drink after a big day. If you are around people who are supportive of your goals, you will be more likely to achieve them. There can be a lot of social stigma around not drinking, such as the common tease that 'you aren't any fun anymore' or 'you're boring'. If you let people know your compelling reason and let them know it is something you seriously want to do, then they will be more inclined to be positive and supportive.
6. Read a compelling book or watch a motivating Youtube video about reducing or stopping drinking
Books such as the below contain compelling stories and facts which will help you feel more emotionally motivated to stop drinking. Find content that resonates with you and that you enjoy reading and by the end of the book you will likely feel much more strongly about reducing or stopping your alcohol consumption.
- The Sober Revolution: Women Calling Time on Wine o’clock by Sarah Turner
- This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace
- Alcohol and You: How to Control and Stop Drinking by Lewis David
- Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker
I hope these tips help you achieve your Sober October goals and you feel much more healthy, motivated and confident after a month of not drinking. If you have any tips that have helped you or you want to share your story about reducing or quitting alcohol, please send us a message - we would love to hear from you.
Try our delicious alcohol-free cocktails to help you get through this month.
Cheers to Sober October!