In January last year, Ruby Warrington launched ‘Off the Rocks’, an event series in New York designed to offer an alternative perspective on our dominant drinking culture. Now, as it hits the UK, she explains the philosophy
Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you didn’t drink? Whether you’d feel healthier, lose weight, and have fewer wrinkles? How it would affect your social life? Your bank balance? And, of course, the big question: are you currently drinking too much? Then in my books you are ‘sober curious'.
If you’re embarking on a dry January, chances are this above line of questioning isn’t alien to you. It’s an internal dialogue I know well — having been a constant backdrop to the six-year journey I have spent slowly undoing the deeply ingrained habitual drinking patterns I learned as a rookie journalist in London in my twenties.
When I moved to NYC five years ago, I was the quintessential work-hard-play-hard party girl, drinking socially four to five nights a week, and consuming double (if not triple) the recommended units. But behind the scenes, I was increasingly aware of the negative impact alcohol was having on my life. I would lose whole days to hangovers, and my anxiety levels were often through the roof. If I tried to talk about it, the attitude was generally that this was simply the price we paid for the good times. Sigh.
The new start in the US - and a few scary incidents, including a drink-drive near miss - made it easier to cut back. But despite the baseline sense of happiness and calm I experienced during my bouts of sobriety, I’d inevitably end up getting wasted again and back at square one.
I decided to take myself to AA, but I felt like an imposter. I had never experienced a ‘rock bottom’ with alcohol, and the words, ‘I’m Ruby, and I’m an alcoholic’ stuck in my throat. But it was a huge relief to bring my internal dialogue about booze out into the open. And, knowing I had friends who felt the same but who would never in a million years attend an AA meeting, I found myself questioning why there was no middle ground and why there was such a stigma around sobriety.
This was the original spark for my Off The Rocks events, which usually feature a panel discussion and sober party games, and are fuelled by ‘high-vibe’ snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. I also partnered with meditation coach Biet Simkin, who has seven years in addiction recovery, to guide group meditations. I always remind people that Off The Rocks is not a substitute for AA, simply an open forum to question when and why we decided to outsource all the fun times, and all our sense of belonging, to alcohol.
Those who come to my events are usually high-achieving individuals. Some are in recovery from alcohol addiction, but most sober curious, and all ready to question attitudes to booze that feel increasingly at odds with the ‘wellness revolution’ that’s unfolding on both sides of the Atlantic.
Have I gone from sober curious to total sobriety? Not quite. But the four times I have drunk this year, I have been fully mindful of the risk of slipping back into old habits. But if I'm honest, the thought of total abstinence being the only way to change my drinking habits was one of the main things that prevented me from trying in the first place.
The truth is now I prefer not to drink, even in social situations. I have better conversations, and I like being able to have a night out and do my 9am yoga session! If that sounds boring to you, isn’t it time to question why?
Off The Rocks is not a substitute for AA or any other alcohol recovery program. Purchase tickets for the London event on January 11 at: https://billetto.co.uk/off-the-rocks