Sober October, which began in 2013 as a cancer fundraiser through MacMillan, involves people obtaining sponsorships as individuals or teams and raising money while abstaining from alcohol. Challenges like Sober October bring awareness to drinking and can lead to the prevention of alcohol abuse; they are also part of a larger substance abuse prevention initiative. 

What Is Sober October?

Sober October is a fundraiser designed to encourage people who drink socially to give up alcohol for the 31 days of October. Participants sign up for the sober challenge, and all funds raised support individuals living with a cancer diagnosis. Run by the United Kingdom-based MacMillan, the Sober October challenge also offers participants the opportunity to download an app, where they can learn how to make alcohol-free mixed drinks. 

Although this event began as a fundraiser for cancer, it has expanded, and October now represents a time when people recognize the importance of substance abuse prevention and support those in recovery. Since 2011, October has been declared National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. Sober October aligns with the intent of the National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. 

While Sober October started as a fundraiser, it is also an event that can make people become more aware of their drinking patterns. Some people may be wondering if they have been drinking too much.  If you have to ask yourself this question, it is likely that you are feeling guilty about your level of drinking and are perhaps consuming alcohol in excess. Cutting out alcohol during Sober October can help you become more aware of your drinking level and allow you to recognize if it has become excessive.

 

Why Stay Sober for a Month?

The main goal of staying sober for a month is to bring awareness to the issue of drug and alcohol abuse. In a 2015 study, over a quarter of adults reported they have engaged in binge drinking within the past month, and the consequences can be devastating. The same study reveals that 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, and alcohol accounts for nearly one-third of traffic deaths. In addition, 6.2% of adults meet diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. 

Alcohol abuse is also a concern for teenagers, with 30% of high schoolers reporting they had consumed alcohol in the past month and 14% admitting to binge drinking. Youth who consume alcohol are also at risk of engaging in dangerous behavior, as 6% reported driving while under the influence and 17% indicated that they had ridden in a car with someone who was alcohol-impaired in the last month.

With alcohol abuse having such risky consequences, it is important to bring attention to the problem and make people more aware of their own drinking habits. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends limiting drinking to no more than three drinks in a given day for women and a total of seven in a week, and no more than four drinks in one day for men and a maximum of 14 per week. Staying within these levels of consumption significantly reduces the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. 

During Sober October, participants may become more aware of their drinking and recognize if they regularly exceed the recommended limits. Sober October also presents an opportunity for communities to come together and discuss the harms associated with alcohol abuse. 

Beyond awareness, there are other benefits associated with staying sober for a month. You can replace cocktail hour with healthier habits, such as going to the gym or taking up a hobby. In fact, Sober October can become a time to focus on health and wellness in general. By living an alcohol-free lifestyle for a month, you might find that you are able to experience improved sleep, increased energy levels and weight loss. 

Can Sober Challenges Impact Substance Abuse Prevention?

Awareness is the primary reason for sober challenges, and the attention placed on sobriety can serve as an addiction prevention effort. Prevention is especially important for adolescents, who are especially susceptible to risky behavior and addictions. In fact, research shows that when people start drinking at a younger age, they are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders as they get older.  

When adults engage in sober challenges, they demonstrate to young people that drugs and alcohol are not required to have fun or be grown up. Adults who choose sobriety can also set a good example for teens and show them that alcohol is not a necessary component of socializing. 

Sober October can have lasting benefits. After the challenge is over, some participants may find that they feel better without alcohol. This can encourage them to continue to remain sober, which reduces the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. On the other hand, some people may drink alcohol again after completing the challenge, but with a better understanding of how it impacts their lives. 

It is also relevant to consider the impact that sober challenges have on those in treatment for addiction. When people in recovery observe others making an effort to abstain from alcohol use, they may feel more supported in their own recovery. In addition, witnessing others consume drugs or alcohol can be a relapse trigger for those in recovery, so when people around them remain abstinent, it may be easier for those in recovery to avoid relapse. 

The level of awareness that sober challenges create can have a significant impact on the lives of people recovery. The United States has proclaimed that October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and this event encourages people to share their stories in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse. By calling attention to substance abuse, the sober challenges that occur during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month can help to combat the stigma that leaves people living with addiction ashamed to seek help. 

The Role of Prevention

Prevention efforts like Sober October and National Substance Abuse Prevention Month can have a significant effect. Calling attention to addiction and designing prevention programs is a worthy effort, as research shows that mass media prevention campaigns like Sober October can be effective. 

There is also evidence that prevention efforts such as staying sober for a month can reduce the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. For example, it was found then when people stayed sober for a month during an event called “Dry January,” they were able to engage in healthier drinking habits year-round.

If you are wondering how to stay sober for a month, there are tools that can help you stay committed. For example, there are apps you can use to help you track your sober days, and some of them will inspire you to keep abstaining by showing you how much money you’re saving by not purchasing alcohol. You can also find replacement activities to do instead of consuming alcohol. For example, you might join an evening exercise class instead of going out for drinks after work. You can also stay sober by simply replacing a regular alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic drink. For example, you could have a cup of tea instead of a glass of wine while watching your favorite show in the evening. 

Sober October can be an opportunity for people to abstain from drinking and call awareness to addiction as a part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. However, if you or a loved one is having difficulty cutting back on alcohol use, it may be necessary to work with an addiction professional to determine if treatment services are necessary to help you reduce your drinking. A caring professional from The Recovery Village can discuss your situation and provide you with more information about substance abuse treatment.  Reach out today to learn more.