And this year as I was deciding on my upcoming resolutions, I stumbled upon Hello Sunday Morning and it was decided – 2015 was going to be a booze-free year!
Now I’m not a huge drinker, so that’s not why I chose this particular challenge. As the almost always designated driver, I never really have more than 2-3 drinks anyway. It’s just that both my partner and I have noticed that social/occasional drinking has crept into our lives, to the point where certain activities can now, not include drinking. Going to the movies? Yep, we’ll order a drink. Lunch with friends? Gotta wash it down with some wine. It seems that pretty much every social activity involves alcohol.
So that would be the challenge. Remaining social, and not drinking. Going out, and not being bored (or a bore).
I recently reached out to Hello Sunday Morning and was fortunate enough to speak with the founder of HSM, Chris Raine. I wanted to find out more about his motivation for starting Hello Sunday Morning, why drinking has become so prevalent in our culture and how to deal with the inevitable peer pressure that comes from trying to go booze-free for any length of time.
Little Gay Blog – What inspired you to start Hello Sunday Morning and what has the reaction been like so far?
Chris – I started Hello Sunday Morning in 2010 off the back of my own personal 12 month break from alcohol in 2009. I was working for an advertising agency at the time and we got a contract from the Government to create an ad campaign to “change the drinking culture”. I was 22 at the time and when I finished working on the campaign we ended up with the same old, scare tactic campaign that had been done in the past. I knew that those types of campaigns would do nothing to change the way I drank or how my friends drank so I decided to see what would. I didn’t just want to blow smoke in mirrors! For 12 months, I wrote a blog every Sunday morning about what it was like for a 22 year old guy to socialise, meet new people and live life without alcohol. Hello Sunday Morning grew from this experience as some of my friends decided to do the last 3 months with me.
The reaction has been amazingly positive. The fact that we have had over 36,000 people sign up for our three-month program is testament to the receptiveness of the change we are trying to create. The change we are trying to create is to help people make better choices – we aren’t against alcohol or its use – but to help people understand why they drink and how they might like to improve the relationship they have with it.
Are you seeing any trends or patterns with participants so far? Is there one group, or several groups, who are signing up more than others – or is it a pretty broad mix of people taking part?
We now have over 88,000 goals and 100,000 blogs written by HSMers which we can analyse to find these patterns or trends. Nearly every single one of those goals can broadly fit under three categories – health, time or financial. For example people often use their HSM to lose 5kg, spend more time with their kids or get out of debt. The blogs show us the really interesting stuff – the times at which people slip up through their HSM. We are actually using these moments or challenges to create a our first IOS app that will be launched in March – April. It will be a game changer!
Why do you think our relationship with alcohol has gotten so off course? I mean, we’re living in an age where we have more stuff, more money and more lifestyle options than ever before, and yet at the same time, it seems like our drinking is getting more and more out of control. Why do you think this is?
Mo money, mo problems. There is a relationship between increase in wealth and increase in alcohol consumption. As our lives become more complicated we look for ways to escape or de-stress etc. The most listed goal on HSM is to ‘learn how to unwind without alcohol’ – the only way that health promotion organisations like ours can change a person’s relationship with alcohol is to help them reduce the need of its use for these specific reasons.
Since starting Hello Sunday Morning at the start of 2015, the biggest thing I have noticed is the reaction people have when I tell them I’m not drinking. It’s almost as if it doesn’t compute with them. Drinking has just become so ingrained into so many aspects of our culture that when you break away from it, it becomes really apparent. What advice do you have to people struggling to explain their choice not to drink to others?
Firstly, the value to which a person places on alcohol is proportionate to the pressure they will put on you to use it. If a person has connected the idea of ‘fun’ or ‘unwinding’ or ‘confidence’ with drinking – your decision to not drink (or not drink to excess), in their mind, is a decision to forgo the idea of fun or being able to unwind or be confident. This is why people can get so militant about it.
There are many reasons you can give for choosing to not drink, but you don’t need an excuse. Ultimately, you are free to make your own choices and if people continuously make you feel bad about that, those relationships, as hard as it is to accept, might not be healthy for the long term.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced with our own personal Hello Sunday Morning goals, and how did you overcome it/them?
Having more fun. I think drinking and getting drunk always seemed to stop me thinking or being responsible or being intense about stuff. I think the hardest challenge for me has always been to lighten up without it. To dance. To flirt. To just be light. It is certainly possible, but it just takes time. However, as my confidence has built over the years and I have had experiences that were even more fun than those when inebriated – I’ve come to learn it is worth it.
For someone who’s sceptical or unsure about committing to something like Hello Sunday Morning, what would you suggest a good place for them to start might be?
Even just to think about why you are drinking is enough. Alcohol is a drug. We use it for a number of specific and often avoidable reasons – whether that be stress or confidence or family habits. Just to be conscious of these is to see where the work lies because for every problem it is a solution for, there are millions of other solutions that might be more effective and less negative on your health.
Joining Hello Sunday Morning helps you remain accountable to this reflection over a period of time and I would thoroughly recommend it, when you are ready.