Go Sober for October is a national fundraising event led by Macmillan Cancer Support that sees participants abstain from drinking alcohol for October.
The event encourages participants to sign up, Go Sober for October, and ask family and friends to sponsor the effort. The money raised goes towards the cancer charity to allow them to continue to provide physical, financial and emotional support to cancer sufferers.
The event promises that those participating will enjoy a healthier lifestyle by reducing their drinking, with benefits like a clearer head, better sleep, more energy, and even weight loss.
Although Sober October can be a great opportunity for casual drinkers to cut back, the alcohol addiction treatment experts at the UK Addiction Treatment Group have warned that there will be people who are in denial about their alcohol dependency who might participate, which could lead to real mental and physical health risks.
Ultimately, going ‘cold-turkey’ from alcohol if it is something your body is used to can be dangerous. It can force the body into withdrawal, including violent shaking, headaches, sickness, and insomnia.
Similarly, suppose a person has a dependency on alcohol, and they fail to stay sober for a month. In that case, this could mentally deter them from embarking on a treatment programme in the future as they could have developed a mental hurdle to abstinence.
The UK Addiction Treatment Group has compiled the pros and cons of participating in Macmillan’s Sober-October campaign.
- Breaking the stigma: Sober October provides an opportunity to break the stigma, showing others all the benefits of abstinence and proving that sober living can be both exciting and worthwhile.
- Physical benefits – Sober October is a great way to show even the most ‘casual’ drinkers some physical benefits of abstinence (including increased energy, better sleep etc.)
- Mental benefits – Many see alcohol as a mood lifter, an opportunity to let loose and have fun. However, alcohol can bring many negative side effects (including anxiety and depression.) Sober October can give individuals an opportunity to witness the benefits first-hand.
- Chance to recognise the addictive potential of alcohol – For those who do not feel their drinking is out of control, they may feel immune from the dangers of alcohol. However, Sober October can prove just how addictive alcohol can be.
- Saving money – With the average pint priced at around £4 (or up to £7 in London), abstaining from alcohol for a month will prove an excellent way to save up some extra cash, especially during the current cost of living crisis.
- It’s a chance to re-examine our relationship with alcohol – Why do we drink? We may think we know the answer to this question, but Sober October can be quite revealing and an opportunity to reflect on personal habits and usage.
- Taking part in a national event can allow people to feel motivated by the challenge as they’re doing it with others.
- A set time frame (28 days) stops people from feeling overwhelmed and gives them a realistic goal, potentially more likely to stick with the challenge.
- Unhealthy behaviours are linked; quitting alcohol may mean people don’t eat as much junk food, watch too much TV, take illicit substances or engage in behaviours they wouldn’t do sober; instead, people may start to see positive changes.
- As a general guide, it takes three weeks to break a habit. If people embark on a healthier lifestyle in a month, they’ve more chance of sticking to it long-term.
- People may use their new energy and time to invest in worthwhile hobbies, new activities or be productive at work.
- If a person who drinks alcohol daily participates, this ‘cold-turkey’ approach could lead to nasty and dangerous withdrawal side effects.
- Sober October might be counter-intuitive, as individuals might reward themselves by binge drinking at the end.
- Those who are ‘functioning alcoholics’ may remain in denial about their alcohol addiction upon completing Sober October.
- Sober October could exacerbate the UK’s unhealthy drinking culture with its ‘all or nothing’ approach.
- Sober October doesn’t address any underlying reasons or mental health illnesses associated with alcohol use.
- The ultimate goal of Sober October is to raise money for cancer, not raise awareness of addiction. The campaign offers the purchase of a ‘golden ticket’, which allows you to break your fast in exchange for a £15 donation. This kind of practice could draw people’s attention away from the long-term goal of sobriety.
- Failure to complete the Sober October challenge could lead to a mental block for a life of abstinence in the future.