By Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober


One of the reasons Dry January is such a runaway success with millions of Brits is that it gives us a go-to reason for not drinking. 'No ta, I'm doing Dry Jan' is the perfect way to shut down wine-pushing at a dinner party, a colleague with a tray of Jaegerbombs, or that friend who desperately wants you to 'just have one' in the pub.

'Because Dry January' is the perfect get-out-of-explaining-free card. You don't have to answer probing questions like 'So, do you have a problem with alcohol?' or 'Whyever would you want to not drink?!' It is a genius idea that has helped millions of Brits each year to change their drinking for the better. 72% of people who attempt a Dry January had lower alcohol AUDIT scores than they did pre-January six months later.

But for some of us, a month isn’t enough. And that’s why I’m setting up a 93-day sabbatical from booze: Sober Spring.

Spring is the perfect season for not drinking. It's the season of renewal, fresh starts and hope. Are you up for losing your booze-jacket, as well as your actual jacket? If you had a Wet February and find yourself wanting to swerve the bottle for a longer stint, it's the perfect opportunity. 'Because Sober Spring' will get drink-pushers off your back.

Why could three months off change your drinking forever? I spoke to a couple of neuroscientists for my book who explained that when we've been habitually drinking for one, two, even three decades, we have an entrenched 'drinking' neural pathway in the brain. When we stop drinking, we need to forge a brand new 'sober' neural pathway. That takes time. Which is why it gets a lot, lot easier in the third month of being alcohol-free. Automatic, even.

That was certainly my experience. I quit drinking back in 2013 and the first month was by far the hardest of my 4.5 sober years.

It was like when I first started running. I got glimmers of joy, but mostly the first days were a slog, a test of my endurance, and took monumental effort. In month two, my breathing deepened, my pace quickened, and I started truly enjoying it, mostly. By month three, I was flying. Loving it. Being alcohol-free is the same as that process.

Sober Spring means you will get a chance to truly reap the benefits of an alcohol-free body. It took a good fortnight for my sleep to deepen (alcohol disrupts REM sleep), it took a month for the fierce cravings for wine to fade, it took six weeks for me to really feel comfortable in a pub without booze, it took two months for me to start to see my middle whittle down (though many see this sooner) and it took three months for my terrible acne (likely booze-related, my dermatologist said) to leave my face.

Once you've bedded in the new habit of being alcohol-free, once you've learnt the art of socialising, de-stressing and dating sober, hopefully drinking will then feel more like a choice rather than a necessity.

Or you may find that you don't want to ever go back to drinking. Once you've seen both ways of life, you get to decide. Personally, even if I could successfully moderate, I would never want to go back to drinking now. You may find you feel the same. That you prefer Sober Spring to April Showers. That you choose to roll into a Sober Summer.

So, why not give it a whirl? What have you got to lose? I've found that 'stone-cold sober' is a totally untrue description of alcohol-freedom. 'Sunshine-warm sober' is spot-on, however. Try a Sober Spring to see how it feels. 

Here comes the sun.


Sign up for Sober Spring here.


Catherine will be posting throughout Sober Spring (20 March - 21 June) on her Instagram @unexpectedjoyof and Twitter @cathgraywrites. She'll also be setting up mini support groups of Sober Springers via Instagram.

You can also chat and find support on Alcohol Concern's Dry January and Beyond app, plus the Dry January and Beyond Facebook group.


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