I’d not heard of “GoSober” before Keith* came to see me. GoSober (also called the Dryathlon) is a sponsored non-drinking pledge for the whole of October, with the money raised going to MacMillan Cancer Support. Keith had signed up at work, but was finding not drinking much harder going than he had thought for.
Keith was naturally competitive, and he was proud of getting the most sponsorship out of his “Sober Squad”. However that was also putting him under pressure – if he didn’t manage the 31 days he wouldn’t raise the money he’d promised to. There is a get-out in GoSober though – sponsors can buy the person a “golden ticket” that entitles them to drink on a given evening. Keith had resorted to buying them for himself, and it was at this point he saw that things had got out of hand.
Keith had tried to talk to a couple of his friends about his worries. One had dismissed them and the other had told him that he was an alcoholic. “I told them that I wasn’t an alcoholic” Keith told me “but they said that’s exactly what alcoholics say”.
The truth of Keith’s position was of course somewhere between being nothing to worry about at one extreme and alcoholism at the other. What the GoSober enforced period of abstinence had brought home to Keith was how frequently he was drinking. “I realised how often I had one or two beers when I came in from work” he said, “or one while I was making the tea, and then a couple afterwards – and those were evenings that I wouldn’t really count as having had a drink”.
Keith’s worry about how often he was drinking was mixed up with his feelings about “cheating” his sponsors and a charity that meant a lot to him. What I helped Keith to do was see that the fact that GoSober had prompted him to think about his drink was a good thing, and to unpick his feelings of guilt about “cheating” from his underlying feelings about his drinking.
Like a lot of people Keith used drink to help reduce his stress, and had never learned any other ways of coping with it. This was why facing his worries about his drinking without a drink had been so difficult for him to deal with. Keith decided not to just learn to control his drinking but to learn how to cope with and to reduce his stress instead – skills that won’t just help him to drink less but also to live with less worry and anxiety.
* Keith’s real identity has been protected, and he is happy to share his story.
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