Sober challenges

Man filling water bottle from tap

Alcohol consumption is linked to seven types of cancer, and the more you drink the more your risk increases. Sometimes regular drinkers recognise that they need to take a break. Some will do this of their own accord and fit it around their lifestyle. Others like to sign-up to one of the many ‘sober challenges’ that take place throughout the year.

Sober challenges can motivate us to cut-down or even quit alcohol. The most well-known are Dry January and Sober October but there are lots of other ways you can take a break, at any time of the year.

Why do it?

Taking a break from alcohol is an effective way to disrupt the pattern of habitual drinking. It can allow your body to recover from the effects of alcohol and let you get in touch with the ‘real you’ – the one that doesn’t rely on alcohol to relax, have fun or cope with stress.

For some people it can be an effective starting point to completely change their relationship with alcohol. A 2018 study by the Royal Free Hospital and published in the British Medical Journal, found cutting your intake for a month lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced the risk of diabetes and also cut the levels of cancer building blocks in the blood.

You can take a break from alcohol at any time but many people find that signing up to an official challenge can give them an extra little push to stay on track. There are often resources and apps to support you during your challenge.

Many charities promote official sober challenges too and being sponsored is a good way to stay focussed and motivated.

A growing movement

If you’ve ever questioned the role alcohol plays in your life, or think maybe a break would do you good you’re definitely not alone. The ‘sober curious’ movement is growing rapidly, and it’s generally younger millennial drinkers who are choosing to avoid the booze and make sobriety culturally more popular. The sober curious movement also coincides with the growing popularity of other mindfulness activities. You might also hear the phrase ‘mindful drinking’.

Going sober curious allows you the opportunity to see how sobriety or moderation might suit you. Some people choose to avoid alcohol for a week, a month, or a year. Others don’t set any time limit but commit to going without ‘for now’.

Sober curiosity is all about exploring what works best for you.

Sober curious means that you’ve chosen to avoid alcohol as a lifestyle choice. It involves curiosity about the reasons fuelling your desire to drink and the way alcohol affects your life.

Ready for a challenge?

Before you decide to take break you should evaluate your drinking behaviour and make sure it’s safe to do so. Giving up alcohol isn’t easy for people with alcohol use disorder and in some cases can be harmful. If you think you are dependent on alcohol you should seek medical advice before stopping completely.

Are you drinking too much?

You can check your drinking levels using the self-assessment tool at drinkaware.co.uk

Here are some of the sober challenges that you can sign up to:

Dry January is the UK’s official alcohol-free monthly challenge. Last year 6.5 million people signed up. You can sign up via the free Try Dry app from Alcohol Change UK which will help you keep track of your units, calories and money saved.

Sober October encourages people to go booze-free in October to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, who need your support now more than ever. You can sign-up for the challenge yourself or support a ‘sober hero’. This year Macmillan raised over two million pounds.

The Alcohol Experiment is a free 30 day challenge run by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. There is no committment or pressure but there is plenty of support available, and a very active community to keep you on track if you need it – 250,000 people have already signed up.

The Alcohol Experiment aims to change your expectations and experience of alcohol, while teaching you to become more mindful of drinking. You can start at any time of the year so this challenge may suit those who are curious about the benefits of cutting back but don’t want to do an official challenge.

One Year No Beer offer a 28, 90 or 365-day behaviour change programme. There is a subscription fee for each challenge but that allows you access to an excellent range of resources including; daily content and videos, e-books, guides, live coaching sessions and support from a very active community. If you want to make a greater commitment to your sober journey then this might be the right challenge for you. Find out more at One Year No Beer

Have you completed a sober challenge?

How long did you do? What helped you stay on track? Your experiences may inspire others to change their relationship with alcohol.

Continuing your alcohol-free journey

A break from alcohol could be your chance to make lasting changes in the way you drink. So just a few small changes to the way you approach alcohol could have a big effect on your long-term health, and how you feel. You’ll no doubt notice some positive benefits such as; better sleep, weight loss, more energy and of course cost savings.

Taking a break from alcohol is a great for your body and mind, so if you want to keep up the positive changes going here are some resources to help you.

  • This Naked Mind – a well established collection of resources to help support your sober journey
  • Alcohol Change UK – a leading UK alcohol charity, formed from the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. Their factsheets set out the latest evidence to help you find out more about alcohol.
  • Drinkaware – an independent charity working to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK.