Updated: Nov 11
There is a popular trend right now going around social media. First, it was Dry January, and now Sober October. It started in Australia, but it's picking up steam here in the States. There are a few great things about these challenges, and I want to break down some reasons why now might actually be the BEST time to try one!
Social media challenges can actually be a great way to try new things. You automatically get the benefit of one of the biggest motivators - a community. Being able to share ups and downs, and talk to people who are in the same boat as you can be incredibly helpful. Those moments when you're afraid you might crack, you can reach out and someone will have some words of encouragement. This matters A LOT. Whether you are giving up sugar, trying Whole30, doing an exercise routine, social media challenges give you a little boost. When breaking a habit, having a buddy, or a whole group can make all the difference.
So, in that way, trying a challenge like Sober October is perfect. You can follow accounts or hashtags that will keep you motivated. You might even make some new friends. It will feel less like giving something up, and more like gaining a community.
The Secret Benefit of Quarantine
Although being stuck inside comes with a whole host of issues, it does give us one big advantage - fewer triggers. Hear me out, I know that there are a LOT of stressors right now, I don’t mean that. There are different kinds of triggers. Emotional triggers abound, but there are fewer environmental triggers. There are fewer parties, gatherings, bars, and just opportunities to drink. Most likely, if you are drinking, it’s at home. Just not having it in the house can make it a lot easier, especially if you’re mostly a social drinker.
In my early days of sobriety, I found myself having to turn down a lot of social events because I knew it would be a struggle not to drink. Right now, we have fewer opportunities to socialize, so less pressure. Obviously, isolation is incredibly upsetting and can actually be a trigger for may people. Drinking alone, when done occasionally isn't necessarily a problem, but a habit of solitary drinking can lead to dependency and be a sign of depression. The good news is that there is support.
Reason number three that giving up alcohol THIS October is perfect timing, is that there are a plethora of online resources right now! All in-person meetings have gone online, giving you the opportunity to jump into one with a lot less commitment. The stakes are lower. You can try different types of meeting, and choose to keep your camera off.
Right now, there’s countless meetings, meetups and groups for sober folks. And I'm not just talking about AA, although of course those exist. But there is so much more out there. Here's a huge list of alternatives to AA to get you started. Some of these groups have live meetings, some are chatrooms, apps, or social media groups. You can search for local groups, or join any group online.
My sobriety program, Tempest, has daily meetings of all kinds, and they are actually really fun! I look forward to my Friday afternoon LGBTQ meetings all week. We share our struggles, but also our pets, our projects, playlists, poetry, and all sorts of other things. I love them! And I'm sure there is a group that's perfect for you. Love knitting, there's probably a sober knitters group. Love reading? Try a sober book club. Trust me, having a group to share with can make all the difference in the world.
Caring For Our Mental Health is Critical Right Now.
There’s one more reason, and this one is a little more serious but every bit as motivating. Anxiety. There is absolutely no doubt that this year has been anxiety-inducing for every person alive. Whether it’s racial injustice, the election, the pandemic, climate change… there are countless things to be stressed about. And I’ve seen so many people turning to alcohol to cope. Last night was the first presidential debate and over text and over twitter I heard call after call for drinking games and drowning our sorrows in alcohol.
The thing is, in the long-term, alcohol makes your anxiety worse. Does it help in the moment? I’m not even sure about that. I always thought it was helping, but looking back on it, drinking to cope with stress mostly made me more argumentative, and pick fights with people I love, or I ended up a crying mess by the end of the night, and usually both. The next day? 100 times worse. They call it “hangxiety” and I don’t miss that one little bit. Depressing thoughts, like there was no point in anything, dragging myself around and feeling sick and low energy.
Today, after admittedly not a great night’s sleep, I woke up feeling tired. But after a cup of coffee and some sunshine, I feel ready to fight another day. I feel motivated. I feel good.
That Pesky Intuition
Look, I promise you, that if you are even considering sober October. If there was a little ping in your mind that said: “Maybe I should do that” - LISTEN to it! That’s your intuition. That’s your heart telling you what it wants. Your mind is going to shout it down. I can just imagine folks thinking, “I’ll quit after the election." "I'll quit after the holidays” you might think January would be a better time.
But I’ll tell you the truth. There will always be something coming up that is going to be hard. There will always be a reason to put it off. But you don’t have to listen to your mind’s excuses. It wants to keep doing what it’s doing, and it’s going to try to drown out that little voice.
I can tell you from first-hand experience, amazing things start to happen when you listen to that little voice. It’s scary for sure, but it’s you choosing you, and there is nothing more empowering.