Pubs being open doesn't need to mean constant hangovers. Why re-entering society sober is worth considering

Going sober: Two women drinking at a pub
(Image credit: Getty Images/Westend61)

You're probably wondering why, in a week when the pubs are finally swinging open their doors once more, gyms are reopening, and restaurants are offering outdoor dining, too, we're writing about the benefits of going sober.

Good question - and one we're happy to answer. It feels a bit like Christmas, doesn't it. Everyone is giddy with excitement and busy for the first time in months - far busier than you're used too.

But social fun doesn't mean having to drink your bodyweight in Pinot Grigio. You can enjoy seeing friends without drinking, but often, the pressure that comes with pub nights and restaurant dates can seem overwhelming.

Sure, booze can be enjoyed in moderation, for many, and if you're one of those people, good for you - this article isn't for you. But for others, it's a little harder. Although you often feel like you fancy a drink, when you do, you regularly drink too much - which makes you feel low. Sound familiar? 

This is where going sober comes in - for those people, cutting out alcohol completely and choosing not to drink can be a much more freeing option than the cycle of over-drinking and shame that comes with it.

The sober trend is only growing - 38% of the population went sober at the start of 2020. So, we've spoken to Janey Lee Grace, BBC Radio 2 presenter, TEDx talker and author of new book Happy Healthy Sober.

Here, she discusses the joys of sobriety, and the positive side to abstinence that isn't often spoken about. She wants to encourage you to look at your relationship with alcohol in a totally non-judgemental way and address your consumption - are you drinking too much? Do you rely on it in social situations? Or do you have the balance just right? Keep reading.

Going sober: your complete guide, & why you should consider it

"I was what’s known as a ‘grey area drinker’, no rock bottom, but waking up every day at 3am berating myself for yet again drinking too much," Grace shares. "It went on for years - after all, alcohol is the social glue that sticks everything together," she explains.

She says she never hit a rock bottom, as such, but had noticeable side effects that she didn't enjoy. "I was bloated and constantly anxious. I was writing books on holistic living, yet stepping around the elephant in the room that was my alcohol consumption," she explains.

So, she quit. "I initially stopped drinking for Dry Jan 2018 and I've never looked back," she shares. "I found that once I got free from the alcohol trap, my life opened up."

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But I don't have a problem with alcohol? 

Sure, you might not have a full blown problem with alcohol, but if it's negatively impacting your life, it might be worth at least addressing your consumption.

"If you are entirely happy as an occasional drinker and you have an off switch, that’s fine," she shares.

"I’d encourage everyone to ask themselves, ‘Could my life be better physically and emotionally without the booze?’. If a little voice shouts, 'yes!', I'd recommend giving it a try," she advises.

She makes a fair point - that people rarely carry on eating foods they are allergic or intolerant too that make them feel awful - so asks, why do we do it with alcohol?

Going sober: a group of friends have a drink in a pub

I often feel pressured to drink. How do I boost my willpower? 

Grace points out that more often than not, people drink to fit in - so acknowledging and accepting that you are enough as you are and that people will enjoy your company whether you're drinking or not is a good start.

Sure, it might be the social norm, but actually no-one can argue with you if you simply say, 'I feel better when I don’t drink’, she shares.

Her top tips for avoiding peer pressure? "Always prep ahead, tell friends you won’t be drinking, and call the venue and ask what great alcohol free drinks they have, if none take your own," she reccomends.

Similarly, reaching out to others on their own sober journeys will help. "They say the opposite of addiction is connection, plus it's comforting to feel supported and cheered on by others, even if you only know them online," she shares. Check out The Sober Club for more information.

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8 benefits of going sober

There are way too many benefits to mention, Grace reckons. "Ditching the booze will benefit every health issue you have - there is nothing it makes worse."

1. You'll feel less anxious

Remember that alcohol is a depressant, Grace shares. "Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that people become less anxious," she shares.

2. You'll feel less depressed

Similarly, if you've ever experienced low grade depression or depression, you are sobriety can help you manage your mental health issues.

3. You'll have more clarity

"Many people find that they start to feel more clarity, a sense of ‘joy’ and positivity they haven’t felt since childhood," Grace explains.

4. You'll have more energy

Now this one, we'd enjoy. "Most people have more energy, get their mojo back and find they are ready to follow their dreams," Grace explains.

5. You'll have clearer skin

Grace explains that you'll likely see an improvement in your skin as your liver repairs. Neat.

6. You'll sleep better

Again, everyone will feel slightly different as each body is unique, but it's widely accepted that cutting back on the booze can help your overall sleep quality.

7. Plus your sex could improve

You've read our guides to the best sex toys and eco friendly sex toys. Next up? Swerve that glass of wine with dinner to improve your sex. You heard it here first.

8. Chronic symptoms could improve

"People often report that chronic conditions get noticeably better," Grace shares. Think PMS, menopausal symptoms, asthma and IBS, to name just a few that she's seen.

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.