At the start of every new year, my buddies and I challenge each other to complete the year’s most difficult goal- “Sober January.” The rules are simple; drink one sip of alcohol from Jan.1st-Jan. 31st and you owe $100 to the pot. If anyone makes it to the end (which I usually don’t) they get to split the pot from the other losers. We make the money buy-in $100 as this gives value and an added reason to not drink. Let’s be honest, a $20 penalty simply wouldn’t be enough to keep us away from the ol’ bottle. We also do it as a group, purposely. Here’s 5 reasons why;
1) Just like finding a workout partner, it keeps you honest and pushes you past what you may be able to accomplish on your own. This can also be called “collaboration” or “synergy.” Two heads are simply better than one, and when your trying to quit boozing- you may need all the help you can get.
2) Camaraderie is a great tool for being creative, supportive, increasing the fun and making challenging situations a little easier. Finding a group of like-minded people to take on challenges with you makes things way more fun and enjoyable. We all want to see our friends succeed, sometimes even so more than ourselves. Pushing each other in a positive and friendly way increases the energy and effort that gets put forth, helping everyone go a little farther. Supporting others and being a good “teammate” also has the ability to increase our own energy and effort. In terms of Sober January, it’s also much easier to stay out of the bar when your partners in crime are sitting on the coach commiserating with you. Or in my case, making fun of me for going sober dating and counting the days until I break down and owe them $100.
3) Healthy competition is healthy. Having a good group of friends to complete challenges with usually comes with a healthy side of competition, posturing and in some cases, serious trash talking. If you look at things with an attitude of “healthy competition,” challenges can again, become a little more fun and rewarding. There’s a line when it can become to serious, so just know your limits and don’t take it too far. I like to try and fake out my teammates or try to encourage them to have a “sip.” At the end of the day, goals and challenges are just ways to take us on new paths, there’s no need to be overly attached to them.
4) Things come up and sometimes we all just need someone to talk to. If drinking is part of your social life and habits, a challenge like not drinking for a month can bring up some serious challenges and frustrations. Talking about the hang-ups you are having can help shed light on things and gives you the chance to hear another perspective from someone going through similar challenges.
5) This one’s not about a team but rather about breaking habits. We all have habits, some good, some bad. Drinking can be one of the most difficult to break as it can be so ingrained into our social lives and commonly used as a way to manage stress. Stepping back from drinking can give you space and time to see who’s in control- or “who’s driving the bus” as one of my teachers likes to say. If you can go out and have fun with out drinking or go out and decide to drink and be in control of how you think and feel, then you are driving the bus. If you can’t go out and have fun without drinking or lose control while drinking, then alcohol is driving the bus. The best way to discover who’s driving the bus is to work with it, stay present and watch what comes up.
I’m currently in the process myself of learning who’s driving the bus when it comes to drinking and learning whether or not drinking alcohol is in-line with my goals or preventing me from achieving all of the things I want to achieve in my life. If your saying to yourself, I’m in control and I can stop drinking if I want to- then maybe it’s time to tackle Sober January with a great group of friends and see how it goes. I guarantee this, if you’re a drinker- there is always an excuse as to why “this isn’t the right time” to go for the challenge and it will push you to break habits and find some new hobbies in the meantime.
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.