Boris Johnson is giving up booze until after his latest baby is born, according to reports.
In solidarity with wife Carrie Johnson, the PM won’t touch alcohol until Christmas when the couple’s second child is due. But with benefits including sharper focus, improved sleep and more energy, Johnson could join the growing number of people choosing to have a ‘sober curious’ relationship with drink - people cutting down significantly and toying with the idea of quitting permanently.
Reformed party animals Kate Moss and Lily Allen are now teetotal and model Chrissy Teigen gave up drinking at the end of last year. The drinks industry is beginning to offer more innovative (and tasty) alcohol-free brands. Johnson is on trend.
Below, people who have either completely quit or significantly cut down their booze intake share how they did it and why.
New-York-based British writer Ruby Warrington, 44, is credited with coining the term "sober curious" and her 2018 book of the same name has inspired many around the world (including a number featured in this article) to explore sobriety. In her latest title, The Sober Curious Reset, Warrington shares a 100-day process of radically rethinking your drinking.
“I began to realise that the negative impact of drinking on my overall wellbeing was far outweighing the perceived ‘positives,’ and when I began taking extended breaks from drinking I felt so much better I decided not to go back to it.”
“Alcohol is highly physically addictive (one of the top five most addictive substances) and at first the cravings were very real - you don't have to be an ‘alcoholic’ to experience this. Not having an easy 'escape’ from uncomfortable feelings or situations is also challenging at first, it means you have to actually confront stuff head on, which ultimately becomes very empowering.”
“My new book guides people through 100 days of not drinking, with specific insights and exercises for each day. A lot of this is about ‘unbrainwashing’ yourself from all the societal conditioning around drinking, and uncovering the deeper ‘whys’ behind your drinking habits, so you can decide for yourself if alcohol is a substance you want to keep in your life.”
“Besides no hangovers, and getting regular sleep, alcohol is known to spike anxiety and increase depression. Despite everything that's happened in the last year, I have been able to remain steady and optimistic - I do not believe this would be the case had I been drinking to get ‘through it.’
"I have more confidence, regular periods, better relationships, am more productive, and am being more honest with myself, and don’t hate myself, I could go on!"
Top tip: “Instead of thinking what you're ‘giving up’ when you quit, focus on what you want more of in your life instead. This could be more energy, sleep, time, clarity, etc. Also, assume you're going to enjoy not drinking - go into it with your glass half full.”
Former Made in Chelsea star Caggie Dunlop, 31, hosts the Saturn Returns podcast and is also an ambassador for the charity Alcohol Change.
"My own sober curious journey started at 27 but it was very stop-start at first and it was only shortly after turning 30 that something psychologically switched, because the negative effects alcohol had on me and my mental health were so undeniable that to continue felt like an act of self-harm.
“Now that's not to say I can't drink. People presume if you don't drink, you have a problem and therefore you can't. I have probably had five drinks in total in the last year and a half, when for whatever reason, I have felt it was appropriate and I’ve enjoyed doing so. But on the whole, I am not interested in drinking and it doesn't feature at all in my life anymore, whereas in my early twenties it was centre stage.”
“People and parties. When people would say, 'why aren't you drinking?' or ‘why are you being boring?’ It got so tedious I just started answering that question with ‘because if I do I will spiral into a pit of self loathing and depression so dark that it will take me weeks to recover,’ and that usually shut them up. But I do still have to check-in with myself, when I go to parties and I feel nervous, awkward or whatever and I think having a drink in my hand will make it better. I just observe and acknowledge that feeling and wait till it dissipates, which it always does.”
"Put yourself back in those situations (when you’re ready) so you can reprogramme your mind and have a new experience. It might be uncomfortable at the beginning, you’ll have someone next to you, drooling on your shoulder and slurring their words (which will only reinforce your decision to go sober) and you might be tempted. But the victory, come morning time, when you wake up at 7am feeling fresh as a daisy will outweigh whatever awkwardness you encountered the night before. In time it gets easier to resist temptation because you’ll want that feeling - instead of alcohol you’ll crave the victory. "
"I think people believe if they become sober all their problems will be solved. And to a degree, this sort of felt true at the beginning. I was really f***ing my life up with alcohol. But then the truth is; it normalises. At first you think you are superwoman and have all this energy and are going to take over the world and then, after a while, waking up feeling that way is normal and the sheer thought of having a hangover makes you shudder. But probably the best thing for me is being balanced. I never knew balance before, it was a completely foreign concept.
“Sober Curious or intuitive drinking is really about confidence and having the self awareness to make the decisions about what works for you and putting your mental health above what other people think. It’s definitely not easy, but it is 100 per cent worth it.”
Millie Gooch, 29, is the founder of The Sober Girls Society (@sobergirlsociety), an Instagram community which has amassed over 120k followers and has just published her own book The Sober Girl Society Handbook.
“My reasons ranged from poor finances to a lack of productivity, but the main driver was the effect that drinking and subsequent hangovers were having on my mental health. My anxiety after drinking would be sky-high and I always felt on an ‘alcohol comedown’ for a few days after drinking.”
“It has been hard but hangovers and the dreaded ‘beer fear’ are harder. Everything I’ve gained from giving up alcohol far outweighs any pull to go back to drinking. My biggest hurdles were social occasions and peer-pressure and lots of our followers note the same. That’s why cutting back on alcohol in lockdown can actually be easier for some people. There are no bars, no pubs, and you can hold up an alcohol-free beer in a pint glass on Zoom without anyone batting an eyelid! Stress was also a massive hurdle for me, so finding new ways to unwind is key to success for binning the booze.”
“Know that you are not alone and you’re certainly not some kind of failure if you can’t make alcohol work in your life. There is a whole corner of the internet dedicated to mindful drinkers and sober curious folk.”
"Routine! No hangovers! Always remembering what you said or did the night before. It’s so much easier to keep a routine when you don’t wake up hungover and it’s easier to be disciplined. For me, keeping my mental health in check requires discipline like forcing myself to take lunch breaks or get outside for 15 minutes. It also means my moments of relaxation are spent actually relaxing rather than recovering from the night before. Alcohol really disrupts your sleep too and lack of adequate sleep can heighten anxiety, so I sleep more and I’m less anxious because of it.”
Top tip: “If you are going to imbibe, do it for celebration and not commiseration. Having a drink to celebrate your friend’s birthday is a much better reason for drinking than because you’re stressed and you want to numb out, that’s how you begin to develop unhealthy coping strategies. There isn’t a ‘healthy’ way to drink but there is definitely a healthier way.”
Yoga instructor Cat Meffan, 33, has been sober for five years.
“I stopped drinking for a few different reasons, I felt I had an unhealthy relationship with binge drinking when going out socialising, using it as a way to feel more confident, rather than being confident and happy with who I am when sober. I also hated hangovers and feeling that I was wasting the day after a night of drinking. If I genuinely liked the taste of alcohol, I might have a drink every so often now, but I don't miss it at all."
“Accept that there might be an awkward phase when people don't understand, but rather than shy away from it and pretend you're drinking a gin and tonic, when it's actually just a lemonade, own your decision and be proud of wanting to take control of your drinking habits. My friends and family respected me a lot more when I stood up to the comments of being boring and not fun.”
“Definitely a healthier mind and body. I have more clarity in my thought process and I have more time spent being productive or relaxing because I choose to, not because I can't get out of bed with a hangover. I also love that I spend time with people in different ways now.”
Polly Lovelady, 31, is a London-based freelance PR.
Do you drink at all?
"I decided to stop drinking last summer as an experiment and became hooked. I wasn't a bad drunk, in fact I'd say a good drunk, however it wasn't necessarily the night itself that felt like the problem but the domino effect on other parts of my life from interrupted sleep to decreased self-esteem. My hangovers were a rollercoaster that I didn't want to ride any longer. It was hard to know where I ended and the hangover began after partying through my twenties.
"My father also died last year and as a way of coping and connecting myself with his favourite pastime, I introduced regular red wine drinking into my life. I needed it in that moment and it served its purpose however I started to realise that the true healing process was going to happen when I stopped masking the grief and started connecting with it authentically.
“I think the biggest hurdle is our drinking culture especially after a stressful day. I still sometimes end the day with a ritual drink. I just mix it up with 0% beer (Freestar is a fave) or a Seedlip & Tonic.
“Learning to roll with the discomfort of being more stressed than usual is one of the most challenging experiences with being sober. PMS also decreases my self-esteem and increases the need to drink. I did some research and it turns out I'm not alone. Women are most likely to relapse during this time.”
“It's all about flipping your mindset and remembering why you’re doing it. It's going to be different for everyone. I have the I am Sober app to keep track of days and to also remind myself of why. I do it to feel present. Get into exercise and remember to still enjoy an evening ritual.”
Fed up with the lack of inspiring alcohol free options? Mix things up with a no alcohol spirit alternative like Caleño’s Dark & Spicy. Below, the brand has shared its Tropical Sunset mocktail recipe (pictured at the top).
50ml Dark & Spicy
15ml Ginger Cordial
100ml Pineapple Juice
10ml Agave Syrup
15ml Lime Juice
1. Pour 50ml of Dark & Spicy over ice.
2. Add the other tropical ingredients to your glass.
3. Stir to perfection.
Alcoholics Anonymous (alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk) — for alcohol addiction
We are with you (wearewithyou.org.uk)— for free, confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health
Beating Addictions (addictions.co.uk)— for expert advice on overcoming addictions