Thinking about not drinking

23/07/18 . Blog

There's an interesting organisation called Club Soda. They want to 'create a world where nobody has to feel out of place if they are not drinking alcohol'. 

This is a great initiative and long overdue in the UK where, according to the ONS, twenty people die every single day from alcohol-specific causes. The idea that a night out is no fun without the booze is embedded in our culture. Men particularly can feel under pressure to drink alcohol.

So I love the idea and hope people get along to the festival. My concern is over the marketing of the idea. Club Soda describe themselves as a mindful drinking movement and run events they call mindful drinking festivals. But are they really talking about mindfulness? They are not.

The organisation and the events are about not drinking or, at least, drinking less or no alcohol. Those are wise things to do from time to time or, for some us, all the time. But the word mindful is out of place here.

Mindfulness is a great technique for relaxing the mind and helping you to feel both more present and less stressed in the moment you’re in. Mindfully doing something involves thinking about the doing of the thing while you are doing it. It’s about not letting your mind wander into the unchangeable past or the unknowable future. So mindful washing-up is about focusing on the washing up, mindful eating is about actually tasting what you’re chewing not wolfing it down. You get the idea. Mindful drinking would be really savouring 100% what you’re drinking.

I also think that’s a really good idea, especially with a tasty ale or wine, and certainly better that chucking booze down your neck mindlessly.

But, of course that’s not what they’re talking about.

To me, the use of the word mindful is misleading as to what the festival is about - changing our culture around drinking - and misleading as to what mindfulness is about. Maybe I’m just quibbling but we do good ideas a disservice if we misrepresent them. Mindfulness is very simple. We can all do it. But it’s not this. 

OK, rant over. I think what Club Soda are talking about is thinking about your drinking. Are you drinking too much? Should you cut down or stop altogether? These are questions we should all ask ourselves - and a place to do it is a grand idea. (The answer to the second one is pretty easy by the way. Stop for a month. If you can do it, then start again but perhaps drinking less. If you can’t stop, you probably need to. Seek some support.)

What this festival does is provide a space to think about alternatives to alcohol, about attitudes to drinking and the stigma around not drinking. You can find out more about the growth in low- and no-alcohol drinks. And their massive improvement in quality. If you haven’t tasted low or no alcohol beer and wine for a while, it’s worth trying it again.

I like a lime and soda when I’m not drinking but there aren’t many soft drink alternatives that aren’t sugary goo and best avoided in any quantity. Price is an issue. Lime and soda is cheap. A good tasting alternative to alcohol that was as kind to the wallet as to the liver would be very welcome indeed - and worth drinking mindfully.

Meanwhile, check out Club Soda – a lovely idea, especially the festival. But sorry, I can’t call it mindful drinking.

Jim Pollard, site editor

Laura Willoughby from Club Soda has responded to this blog post. Read her answer here.

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