Tuesday, September 26, 2023

When the ‘Mum Glass’ of Wine a Night Becomes a Problem… One Woman’s Journey to ‘Almost Sober’ (& Why DAMP July is a Growing Trend)

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As another Dry July approaches, there are lots of us gearing up to ditch the booze for a month – but there’s even more of us re-evaluating our relationship with alcohol on an everyday basis as interest skyrockets in the ‘sober curious’ movement.

Whether it’s cutting out drinking completely, or rather becoming more flexible with alternating between alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, we’re definitely not consuming booze like we used to.

It’s a change that Amanda Boock confronted during lockdown as she turned to wine to help self-medicate after a chronic back injury left her in constant pain. Now ‘almost sober’, her experiences led her to founding The Chiller, NZ’s premium alcohol-free drinks store. Here’s her story:

Kia ora Amanda! You re-evaluated your relationship with alcohol during lockdown (totally relatable!) – what was the story there, and what was the catalyst to make some changes?

Like many who grew up with alcohol as a must-have when socialising, I didn’t think anything of a nightly glass of wine when I had kids. However, during lockdown I had my second little boy and his birth caused a chronic back injury which had me in constant pain. This glass of wine became something I relied on to relieve this pain and help me relax. With sleepless nights, the stresses of lockdown and a toddler in tow, I simply couldn’t continue ‘surviving’ the days hungover, just so I could have this temporary relief in the evenings. It caused worse sleep, more pain and tetchy days with my kids. I knew to address my injury and become pain-free, I had to make a change, and one change was all it took. I simply switched my glass of rose to a non-alcoholic rose. 18 months on and it’s changed my life!

Are you completely sober now, or do you fall into the ‘sober curious’ category?

I don’t use a label for myself but if I had to I’d call myself ‘almost sober’. For me, it’s about making conscious decisions that serve me. I know that alcohol doesn’t serve my goals, my family or my health, and so I continue my ritual with non-alcoholic versions of the drinks I enjoy. If I have an alcoholic drink, I make that decision consciously, but to be honest that is only a handful of times a year, and each time I’m swiftly reminded why I don’t drink! For me having a non-alcoholic wine or cocktail is the best of both worlds – a great tasting ritual, without the repercussions.

What does ‘sober curious’ actually mean?

Being sober curious means you’re thinking about drinking less or not at all. This may be for health reasons, including your mental health and lessening the anxiety that comes from the day after drinking, financial reasons or personal goals. The great thing is that it’s a relaxed term – it’s not about going teetotal or giving up alcohol completely or forever, as that can be a scary concept. It’s simply saying, “I’m open to not drinking sometimes”.

As someone in the non-alcohol alcohol space, tell us – are you seeing more people become ‘sober curious?’

Yes! There’s been a big shift towards health and wellbeing that’s moving people away from alcohol. There’s much more awareness of the negative effects of alcohol, as well as those who don’t want to be seen with alcohol or drunk online. From once being a drinking nation, normalising not drinking and finding new ways to celebrate, is becoming a lot more common. Globally and in NZ, we are seeing new, sophisticated non-alcoholic drink options launch all the time, and specialist non-alcoholic drink stores emerge, like The Chiller. Bars and restaurants are slower to add quality alcohol-free drinks to their range, but we hope that during Dry July many more options will be on offer for Kiwis.

Why do you think that is?

People are a lot more aware of the negative effects of alcohol. They now know or have personally experienced its link to cancer or serious health conditions and they don’t want that for themselves. Another reason is that our lives are visible online through social media, and being seen to be drunk is not a good look. During lockdown, many people also re-evaluated their priorities including their relationship with alcohol. Prioritising their wellbeing and being the best version of themselves shone a light on the way alcohol can affect your health and hold you back from achieving your goals.

So many people partake in Dry July, but for others it’s not a realistic idea – enter ‘Damp’ July! How do you feel about a more measured approach to limiting drinking during the month?

Absolutely – do what’s right for you! Dry July is a fantastic month for anyone who’s curious about cutting back on alcohol, to give it a go! We encourage you to join Dry July NZ’s fundraising efforts to support those affected by cancer. And if you’re not sure you can abstain from alcohol for a month, simply swap your usual with an alcohol alternative from The Chiller. You can still enjoy your tasty evening ritual, just without the alcohol. We believe you should do what’s right for you, and if that’s ‘going damp’; cutting back and mindfully drinking less during the month while fundraising, then we say awesome! It’s about finding the right balance for you and discovering what feels good. We think once you’ve tried it and discovered how good the non-alcoholic drink options are, you’ll be keen to continue your newfound damp lifestyle!

What are the most popular products on The Chiller?

There are so many tasty options! We have 150 non-alcoholic wines, beers, spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails from around the world, so there’s something everyone will love. Our best sellers are Savyll’s Bellini, Mojito, Moscow Mule and Paloma non-alcoholic cocktails, Tanqueray 0.0, Guinness 0.0 and Corona Cero, along with some local favourites, such as Garage Project’s Tiny and Bach Brewing’s non-alcoholic beer ranges. It’s amazing how few people know of us, but when they do, they’re thrilled they found us and share great feedback! We need as much help as possible for everyone to spread the word.

Do you have a personal favourite?

It’s impossible to choose a favourite, but Savyll Moscow Mule and Paloma are two of my regulars. I also love Ara Zero Rose for a dry Marlborough Rose, and I love the CleanCo spirits – the Clean Spiced Rum and Clean Whisky in particular. I was never a rum or whisky drinker before, but the flavours are fantastic, and they still have a burn but not that hard alcohol edge.

How has your life changed since you gave up the booze?

It’s hard to capture the feeling, but I can genuinely say that I’m a much better person for it. It sounds simple, but I’m happy! I don’t have the anxiety and yoyos of hangovers. I go to bed every night knowing that I won’t wake up crook, and waste tomorrow. I feel proud that I’m looking after myself, moving towards achieving my goals and have the time and patience for my beautiful family.

What would be your advice to someone who is interested in decreasing the amount they drink?

Two years ago, I never thought it would be possible. I couldn’t imagine breaking free from the hold alcohol had on me. I was tuned into that thought that ‘oh it’s Friday, I must have a drink to relax’, and after 20 years of that habit, I didn’t think I could change it. It’s important to know that you don’t have to hit a cross-roads or rock bottom to consider cutting back. Even moderate drinking can affect your mental and physical health and stop you from achieving your goals. The question to ask yourself is “is this helping me live my best life?” If the answer is no, simply be open. Start by switching your usual to the non-alcoholic version and go from there. There really is light at the bottom of the 0% bottle! 😊

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