Tag Archives: Soberistas

‘Women on the wagon’ club together to cut back on drinking

So it’s almost the end of Dry January and you’ve made it through!  Firstly congratulations 🙂 And if you wonder if it’s worth it – wrap your lug holes around this! 45 seconds of a Professor of Hepatology telling you all the good things you just did for your liver in that month off!!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02hptsc

Now are you going to start drinking again tomorrow or are you rethinking your relationship with booze entirely?  If you are rethinking things then a common cry is what will happen to my social life?

Never fear the answers are appearing as if you’d wished for them and someone had heard you 😉 Groups and websites are springing up to help the 43% of women who feel alcohol is affecting their lives – and membership is booming!!

At the beginning of January I read this article that looked at ‘women on the wagon’ clubbing together to cut back on drinking here.  Not keen on the title but the article was well worth a read and hoorah for my friend Rachel too 😀

Feeling that wine o’clock is starting to dominate the day? Want to cut down but perhaps unwilling to give up entirely? Join the club – no, really. A new wave of clubs and websites is springing up to support the growing numbers of women who are worried about their alcohol intake and want help to cut back.

Forget the wine-soaked book club meetings: joining the rise and rise of WoWs (Women on the Wagon) is a distinct trend for 2015.

A recent study by the government-funded Drinkaware campaign found that one in five adults want to cut back on their drinking. Research by parenting website Netmums found that 43% of women wanted to drink less, a figure that rose to 83% among women who were already drinking over the recommended guidelines. The most common reason for drinking quoted by women was “to wind down from a stressful day”.

One in six British women are developing health problems caused by alcohol and nearly a quarter (24%) admitted to an NHS survey in 2012 that they had drunk more than twice the lower-risk guidelines in the previous week. The 21st century might not have seen women achieve equal pay or representation in government, but it has seen a closing of the gender gap on drinking alcohol. Women born after the second world war are twice as likely to binge-drink and develop alcohol disorders than their older counterparts.

But now there are tentative signs that could be changing, as health messages get through and women increasingly find their own ways to put the glass down. Blogs and online communities have been springing up. Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas, launched her website Soberistas.com two years ago and has written four books on the subject of women and alcohol. She has seen an explosion in the numbers of women keen to join the site and share their stories.

Former politician and businesswoman Laura Willoughby has just opened Club Soda (joinclubsoda.co.uk) to offer support to anyone, male or female, who wants to give up or cut back on their alcohol intake and is organising countrywide events to encourage people to socialise without alcohol. They plan future campaigns to persuade pubs to offer more soft drinks and to keep coffee and tea available for sale in the evenings.

“Lots of people do still want to go to pubs, even if they don’t want to drink,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how little was out there when I decided to give up three years ago. My dad had died from drinking and I could see a bit of a pattern emerging with my own drinking that I didn’t like.”

Club Soda has conducted an online survey about people’s attitudes to reducing their drinking and found the top three reasons to reduce drinking were to improve health (52% of all respondents), cut calories (42%), and save money (21%). Women were a little more likely than men to list cutting calories and saving money as reasons for reducing drinking. They also found 84% of men want to cut down, and only 5% to quit completely, while among women 43% want to cut down, 32% stop for a short time and 25% quit.

The figures have been showing for some years that younger people are rejecting the alcohol-binge behaviour of their parents, while the drinking habits of older women, especially those in managerial or professional jobs, are a cause for concern. Those working in male-dominated environments have an increased risk of alcohol disorders.

From the gin-swilling monsters of William Hogarth’s paintings to the ladettes of the 90s, women and drink have often attracted a sniffy attitude down the years and a lot of drinking habits stayed hidden in the home.

But concern over women’s drinking is not sexism, says Alcohol Concern. “It’s not a male conspiracy. Women’s bodies have less water and more fat. Alcohol is more concentrated in the female bloodstream and the liver has to work harder to break it down.”

Up to 15% of breast cancer cases are related to alcohol consumption, and deaths from liver disease have risen 20% in a decade. The number of alcohol-related admissions of women to NHS hospitals in England has continually risen over the past decade, from 200,000 in 2002 to 437,000 in 2010.

A spate of confessional books on the subject in recent years, written by professional women about what is often described in terms of a “love affair” with drink, has helped break down taboos, allowing women to talk more openly about alcohol use.

Rachel Black, author of Sober is the New Black, writes a popular blog about her own journey to sobriety. She says it is harder for women to admit to having a problem and that they have been left behind by men in being offered the tools they need to tackle their drinking.

According to a recent survey, 43% of women want to cut down on drinking and 25% to stop entirely.

“Alcohol has such a grip on us because it is an integral part of society, socially acceptable when in fact it is an addictive drug disguised as a sophisticated experience,” she says. “Those susceptible to addiction do not realise it until they are already too far into its clutches. As drinking in general becomes more widespread, there will be a proportional increase in the number showing addiction or dependence.

“The effect on women throughout their 20s, 30s and 40s probably is different and I would guess it becomes increasingly important with age. Not until turning 40 do you really acknowledge your own mortality and want to prolong your life and its quality.

“If you’re a mother there is an additional selfless need to do the best for children, which isn’t possible if your prime concern is alcohol. Again, if you drink but it’s not a problem, you will quite happily minimise it to prioritise your children. If, however, it is a problem, managing these two areas of life becomes difficult and conflicting.”

Last year, another book called Her Best Kept Secret became a bestseller in the US. In it, journalist Gabrielle Glaser caused controversy by suggesting that women in particular find a new approach to tackle problem drinking.

“We need to take advantage of 21st-century science. We’ve learnt a lot about how the brain works since the founding of AA in 1935 and we need to acknowledge what nearly every research study has found in recent years. One size could not possibly fit all,” she wrote. “Women who have achieved success with AA or other 12-step approaches should consider themselves lucky and keep attending meetings. But for those for whom it doesn’t work, it’s worth searching for other answers.”

“Women,” she concluded, “are drinking more because they can.”

It’s true, says Willoughby, who believes the traditional route to sobriety – Alcoholics Anonymous – is not always attractive for women. “We’re certainly not against AA, but AA wasn’t for me. I don’t, like a lot of women, identify with the word alcoholic but I knew I was drinking too much.

“A lot of women I’ve spoken to in doing research before setting up Club Soda were saying the same kind of thing. We give people a whole suite of options to pick and mix, because if you’re changing something about your behaviour then everyone has a different way that they can do that best.

“We did a snapshot of @DryJanuary followers and one in 10 mention what they drink in their [Twitter] profile – for example “wine lover” – or have a photo of themselves with a drink. We did not do a gender split, but having looked at over 5,000 Twitter profiles in the last few weeks I can tell you that they are mostly women,” says Willoughby.

“So one of our quick five-minute kickstarts [to help club members] for the new year will be: change your Twitter and other public profiles.”


■ Plan something else to do at your drinking “trigger time”. If you usually open a bottle of wine around 7pm, arrange to be doing something else.

■ Have a glass of water with every alcoholic drink. It gives you something to sip and slows down your intake. Look for low-alcohol wine and beer when shopping and make sure there’s soda water or lemonade around for spritzers.

■ Take a break – test your dependence on alcohol by making sure you have two or three days off each week. It helps your body lower its tolerance and makes it easier to cut back.

■ Make known your aim to drink less – the more people you tell, the more support you should receive.

So even if you’re not planning on stopping completely there are some great tips for cutting down and one way to do so would be to have one or two social events a month that weren’t booze centric and Club Soda could help you with that 🙂

I hosted the first Club Soda Social in Cambridge last Sunday and met Laura, the founder.  It was a brilliant evening of great food and alcohol free drinks with lovely company – 7 of us in total.  I’m going to be hosting them once a month so if you’d like to join me then please do and if you’d like to hear Laura explaining a bit more about it then you can do so on yesterday’s edition of the Women’s Hour on Radio 4 which you can access here 🙂

Number of women with drink driving conviction doubles in 14 years

This article about women and drink driving convictions was in the Daily Mail recently and thought I would share it here.

Women accounted for fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) of drink-drive convictions in 1998, but this figure had risen to around one in six (17 per cent) by 2012, the survey revealed.  And last year some 803 women failed a breathalyser test after an accident.  Women aged 40 to 44 have a disproportionately high incidence of being over the breath-test limit, it says.

The report says bad drinking habits learned by ‘ladettes’ in their youth have followed them into their thirties and forties today.  Female ‘emancipation’ has also played a part in the rise as more single, independent, working women prefer to drive home after a drink than risk late night public transport or a taxi.

The report was published by car insurance company Direct Line, transport organisation the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, and Social Research Associates.  It also showed that one in six (17 per cent) of female motorists thought they had driven while over the legal alcohol limit in the past year.  As many as six out of ten (60 per cent) of the women polled said they did not know the legal limit.  And in almost all cases, respondents felt they were personally able to drink more alcohol than the ‘average woman’ before they were over the legal limit.  And the report notes: ‘Taking account of mileage driven, women are proportionately more likely to be over the legal limit as drivers than men from the age of 30.’

Among the women who admitted to drink-driving, the most common reason for doing so was because they felt physically ‘okay’ to drive, as cited by six out of ten (59 per cent).  Almost a third (31 per cent) thought it would be fine to drink ‘if they just drove carefully’.  And one in six (17 per cent) felt they had no alternative other than to drink and drive, often due to ‘family emergencies’.  An alarming one in seven (14 per cent) said they drove while over the limit because they thought there was little risk of being caught.

A quarter of women either drink ‘most days or every day with wine the most favoured tipple cited by three quarters of those surveyed. Most drink in their own home or a friend’s.

I find it really interesting that women aged 40 to 44 have a disproportionately high incidence of being over the breath-test limit.  I didn’t drink driven at night although I am sure there were days when if I’d been stopped the next morning I would have failed a breath test.  Are these women over the limit because they have a higher tolerance to boooze as they have been drinking for a larger part of their adult life and therefore underestimate the amount they are drinking because they don’t feel drunk therefore putting them over?

Edited to add: 2 days later and an article headline agrees completely with my hypothesis:  ‘I didn’t feel drunk, not even tipsy: the rise of female drink-drivers http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/09/the-rise-of-women-drink-drivers featuring Rachel from Sober is the new black and Lucy from Soberistas

Before and after selfie

I wish I had had the foresight to do this when I stopped.  The value of hindsight and all that means that I missed the opportunity, but you don’t have to if you are reading this and still drinking.

What I wish is that I had taken a ‘before I stopped drinking’ selfie.  Why?  Because once you get a fair amount of time under your belt you begin to forget how awful it was and the impact that it had on you both physically and psychologically.  A picture of me looking dog rough the morning after the night before – resplendent with blood shot eyes, puffy grey face and expression of ‘I am in world of pain’ would serve as a warning and a reminder of what had been before.  Plus I have could have taken a selfie now and compared the ‘before’ and ‘after’ to see how much better I look.  People tell me I look great but when the change is so gradual you don’t necessarily notice it yourself and these pictures would help with that.

Now wolfie is stirring at the tiniest thought (crafty bugger) of the need to go back and drink again so that I can get this ‘before’ photo, for the benefit of the blog of course, but I’m not falling for it.  I will take a picture now at almost 6 months and compare it to myself in a year’s time instead 🙂

Here it is 😉

Gwyneth Paltrow

Edited to add: A member of the Soberistas community has recently done this – taking a selfie on Day 1 and then again 3 weeks later and the results are gobsmackingly amazing and shocking at the same time.  They look like a different person!

Edited to add: 21st March 2016  The Metro ran a story with accompanying photo’s of a Reddit user who shared before and after selfies – take a look here

Mother’s little helper …

This article was featured in a UK Sunday newspaper this week-end and it is really very good.  The title of this blog post is taken from the article which you can find here.  It is written by a member of the Soberistas community and spoke to me completely as to why I stopped drinking and why I’m out here in the sober blogging community.

My favourite bit is this:

Instead of finding ourselves among a bunch of losers with an incurable disease – the stereotype, however unfairly, of the “recovering alcoholic” – we’ve discovered a community of funny, clever, like-minded people with full lives and bright futures. And it’s wonderful when someone reaches that eureka moment, realising that being alcohol-free is not something to be afraid of – it’s something to enjoy.

That, of course, is the great thing about an online support group. People too ashamed to seek professional help in the real world can tackle their problems in this virtual realm, welcomed by others who understand and will offer support from their own experiences.

I am a member of Soberistas and agree with everything written by Kate Baily.  Lucy Rocca has provided an oasis of sobriety in a booze-soaked world.  There is also this thriving sober community outside of Soberistas of hundreds of smart sassy people sharing their journeys from alcohol-fueled regret to sober confidence.

This week-end I also watched the film The Anonymous People and the message regarding the value of these kinds of communities, whether virtual or real, was palpable. These sober communities gave me somewhere to go and be heard and to hear and support others in their journeys.  As was often said in the film ‘helping other people stay sober helps me stay sober’ and that is both a powerful motivator and a positive force for good.

Neural network of a dependent drinker

These words of wisdom came from a blogger on Soberistas who goes by the name of Pip:

‘The brain is full of neural pathways and the “priorities” pathways are the ones that give us the ‘want/urge/desire/need to eat, drink water, be sociable and mate… all for survival. If we ignore them we will die.  The pathways created by an addiction will take priority over many others, giving us the ‘want/urge/desire/need (craving) to take alcohol as though the body thinks it will die if it doesn’t have it as it thinks it needs it for survival.  When we stop putting alcohol in, the brain starts sending loud messages out that it wants and needs this chemical to survive.  WE know that we won’t die, but the brain doesn’t.  If we stop using these pathways for long enough, they will narrow down.  New ones are being made with every minute/day we don’t use this chemical (alcohol).  The chemical balance of the brain returns to normal and all the receptors and dopamine, etc start working normally, without being confused by alcohol.

Cravings are the brain thinking we need this substance for survival.  Stop using the pathways and new ones are created.  Then the desire to drink lessens.’

This is supported by research which shows that several characteristics that were identified by a pruned neural network have previously been shown to be important in this disease (alcoholism) based on more traditional linkage and association studies. (Falk, 2005).

The sober blogging community is a beautiful thing.  We are forming networks of sober bloggers like our brains are forming new non-drinking neural networks.  Synchronicity in action 🙂


Day 80

Word is getting out there

It was Alcohol Awareness Week here in the UK last week and this programme aired as part of it:

Are Britain’s middle classes drinking too much? Experts say yes, so Fiona Foster meets some secret drinkers and examines the impact that alcohol is having on their health.

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight/series-17/episode-36-tonight-britain-s-secret-drinkers (there were some versions showing up on Youtube if you’re outside the UK and can’t watch, or you can do as Belle did and use a proxy)

It featured Lucy Rocca from Soberistas and was VERY good.

Taking risks

Sometimes you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.  That’s how I felt about stopping drinking.  My mind crowded with all the reasons not to stop rather than the positives to be gained.  I tried to negotiate with myself, buy myself more time, offer excuses as to why it was a bad idea.  My grip on the glass got tighter and my drinking more urgent knowing that the end of our time was approaching ……

Today I was reminded again of that feeling and it ‘gave me a thirst’.  I wrote a blog on Soberistas and the kind folk over there said some really nice things about it and encouraged me to stand up and be brave.  Again all the reasons why I shouldn’t went through my head.

But I took a deep breath and shared it with Belle.  She concurred and said ‘this is good’ and you should share it with a newspaper and see if they might be interested in publishing it.  And again all the negatives swirled up and the thirst reappeared.

But I didn’t drink and I sent it.  And now they’ve agreed to publish it and I can’t quite believe it.  Alcohol sucks your confidence and makes you feel not capable in so many ways.  You become your own worst enemy.  But it’s easy to fix if you just put down the glass.

If you had told me 40 days ago that stopping drinking would have led to me being published in a UK national newspaper I’d have laughed and said I’ll have what you’re drinking!  What might you achieve if you stop?