Most of us will have had one of them at some point: a hangover so bone-crunchingly, brain-shakingly epic that you really wonder if you’re going to manage to make it through to the end of the day alive. Actually you’d be quite okay with the world just ceasing to exist with immediate effect. It’s that moment when you solemnly swear to renounce all forms of alcohol until the end of time; never shall a drop cross your lips if you can just feel better, please?
And yet we all know that sooner or later, social invitations will beckon and one tentative wine will lead to another. Then another. Then perhaps cocktails. AND SHOTS! Maybe a beer or two? There’s no doubt about it, we live in a society where excessive boozing has become not only the norm – it’s actually completely condoned by everyone from your mum to your manager. If you’re not going out and getting totally bazooka-ed on the wines, what ARE you doing with your life?
But maybe, just maybe you’re ready for a break from drinking – or you just want to regulate things a little and work out what a healthy attitude to alcohol means for you. You’re obviously not AA material or having a full-on meltdown, but a little advice on how to cut back on the booze is what you need. Where to turn? Meet Club Soda. We found out more about this game-changing new organisation from its founder Laura Willoughby.
What is Club Soda?
Club Soda is a movement supporting people to change their drinking whether they want to cut down, stop for a bit, quit or stick. We do this in a variety of ways drawing on tried-and-tested behaviour change techniques to give people a choice of tools and ways to change their drinking. From goal setting through to special events, expert support and fun distractions. Everyone is different so we want to curate the best of what is out there to help you on your way.
Why do you think people are choosing to stop drinking?
This is as complex a question as why do we drink in the first place. For some people it’s about life stage, what you could drink in your twenties is not the same as how you feel after a night out on the piss in your thirties. We are also becoming more health conscious and taking responsibility for our own decisions when it comes to our lifestyle. Members of Club Soda range from moderate drinkers who have just decided they want to ditch the empty calories, habitual drinkers who want to knock the 6pm glass of wine on the head, through to people who realise they have no stop button and are fed up of making a tit of themselves and having a hangover. We are here to support you whatever your goal.
Where does the UK’s binge-drinking culture come from?
Drink has formed part of our social traditions for centuries. Drinking is not new but the term binge-drinking is. I don’t think we should get caught up with labels as people use it to cast blame and guilt – and that’s not helpful. While young people may do most of their drinking on two nights at the weekend, the age group that is drinking the most is those over 45 and after that those over 25 – they are more likely to be drinking every day and consuming more alcohol as a result. So our emphasis is on you. If you decide that you want to change your drinking we are here to help.
What happens at a Club Soda social?
They are part of the support we offer and came about by accident. When we were planning what Club Soda was going to be, we started inviting people out for a dry night in a bar to share with us what would be useful. It turns out that non-drinking socials are what members want. It helps people build confidence that they can make a change and allows everyone to share tips. More importantly our members don’t want to ditch their social life when changing their drinking, so going into a pub and ordering a soft drink is good practice!
How is Club Soda different to AA?
We are here to support the goal you want to achieve, and that may not be abstinence. We are also not a 12-step programme. We bring together a range of tools, experts and options that may help (and AA is one of them) and a community that can share with you what they found useful. I can tell you what worked for me when I gave up drinking three years ago but I know that may not be right for everyone. We want to give you the resources to find out for yourself and maybe try a few things. We use behaviour change science to develop the tools and resources we are building and curating.
Are all members fully teetotal?
No – cut down, stop for a bit, quit or stick – it’s up to you.
What type of support do you offer?
You can set your own challenge on Club Soda and we help you devise an action plan, you can check in as often as you like and update your progress but we nudge you to once a week. People are sharing advice online in different club rooms and we motivate you for the weekend with a club email. Our most active chat happens in The Bar! We have socials and events (Mindfulness this month in London and a workshop at the end of February called ‘how to create and fall in love with a more sober life’) and we have a range of discounts for everything from online yoga to therapists and counsellors. This is just the start. We want to provide as many tools for people as possible to help them.
What’s the future for Club Soda?
I have big ambitions and we are currently looking for investors who will help us build the online tools we want and grow the business so we can support as many people as possible. But ultimately the members are telling us what they want and we have learnt lots this January about what they would like. That I hope is the difference about what we offer. We want you to feel excited to be part of Club Soda.
For more information and to find out more about changing your drinking habits, see the Club Soda website.