Sober October: Why to Do It and What to Learn from It

Alcohol consumption is a hot topic with the people I talk to and their health goals. Fran recently posted on social media that she chose to engage in “Sober October” — abstaining from alcohol consumption for the entire month. I was inspired by her action and jumped on board! 

Let’s take a look at why you might want to start your own Sober October and what you might learn from it.

We use alcohol as:

  • Closing bell – to settle down after the day is done. In fact, that glass of wine or cocktail becomes the Pavlovian bell, signaling to our bodies and minds that we are no longer on the clock and can finally relax.
  • Social lubricant – it helps us open up to others when we are nervous. Social interactions can be anxiety filled and alcohol is used sometimes to release those inhibitions and interact with others. “Liquid courage” for a conversation at the office party or stepping up to the mic at the karaoke machine.
  • Boredom Buster –  sipping on that drink gives your hand and mouth something to do while watching nighttime TV before bed.
  • A sense of community – Yes, for real. A shared activity like craft night but craft beer instead! You and your spouse enjoy that nighttime imbibing after getting the kids down or cleaning up the kitchen from supper. 
  • A reward – Treat yo’self. I have heard many people describe the treat they “deserve” after a day at work, completing a project, or tidying up the yard on a hot day.

Alright, no shocking new news there. And from the outset, who cares? A little cocktail to wrap the day, relax, and enjoy others without the anxiety … what does it matter? Why be bothered evaluating this habit much less going sober for 30 days? 

In a word: Intentionality.

Like any other automatic habit, alcohol intake has unseen impacts in multiple areas and can become undesirable fast without intentionality. Being intentional about what “tools” you choose gives you more of the results you really want in your life and health. The biggest impact of automatic habits is this: Intentionality plummets and carelessness skyrockets! 

Let me paint you a picture of how that might play out in your life; see if you can relate!

  • That second glass of wine leads to that late night bite of cake, the third beer opens up the mouth for one more slice of pizza, the “just topped off” bourbon ends with sleeping on the couch with the TV on (again) and a stiff back and cricked neck in the morning.
  • Waking up is “different”. I personally describe it as “Meh”. I am a little harder to pop up in the morning, less motivated, more negative. A client of mine describes hers as cranky, others say groggy. Important to note here, this is not after a bender – this occurs after ONE serving of alcohol for many people. Watch this quick Ted Talk on how alcohol and caffeine affect your sleep.
  • Nighttime routines get skipped – the coffee maker prepped, clothes out, teeth brushed, face washed … all tend to fall by the wayside. Leading to …
  • Morning routines suffer – running behind, hitting the snooze button, skipping the gym, grabbing a fast food lunch because you didn’t have time to pack.

Anything sound familiar there?

What might you discover with your own Sober October? How much will you miss alcohol? If you don’t miss it, will you add it back in? How will you be intentional about your consumption? What did you expect to shift but didn’t? What impact did you notice that was really surprising to you?  

Enjoy the experiment and post your own discoveries in the comment section below!

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