We both have close loved ones that have struggled with alcohol. Choosing to be and stay sober is the best decision they have ever made. We wholeheartedly support, encourage and celebrate their choice. It's not an easy path to take, especially with today's drinking culture; alcohol is literally pushed at us from every direction.
When you see life through their sober lens you notice that society has a blind spot with alcohol. It delights in the fun, frivolous side and ignores the bad stuff. Drinking is normal, being sober is boring, and not only that, people think it’s perfectly acceptable to question it.
The truth is people don’t know what to say when you tell them you don’t drink. They defer to societal conditioning that drinking is the default setting and any deviations from that are up for debate. We hear a lot of ‘why would you do that?’, ‘surely you can have just one?’ and our favourite, ‘but where’s the fun in that?’
What people really need to hear when they tell you they’re not drinking is ‘good on you’ or ‘I support you’. What they don’t need is questions. We get it, it sounds so easy in theory and yet finding the right words is hard. But trust us, words of support and encouragement mean everything. Do not underestimate that, the choice is always brave, most often difficult and needs acknowledgment of the strength and courage with admiration and love.
And choosing to be alcohol free doesn’t mean you’ve signed up for a lifetime of drinking orange juice and fizzy pop. Being sober is very much an active choice that deserves recognition and specially tailored products that make you feel as if you’re not missing out. That you’re seen, you’re included, and you’re not an afterthought, you can still be good company.
We see you, we get it, we want to make a difference; we want to make space for sober. We want companies, brands, products and services to acknowledge the choice to be sober and have grown up alcohol free alternatives.
We think there’s a very big job to do on the high street, especially in card and gift shops. The number of cards you can choose from that encourage excessive drinking is shocking and totally inappropriate on so many levels. We have both worked in the ad industry, on booze brands, and know these cards break most of the advertising standard rules on what you can say in an ad. Yet cards, that are personal, that stick around for a lot longer than a 30 second tv ad or a billboard poster, can say whatever they want.
And it's not just cards, framed prints to permanently display at home, cushions, books, sweets, lip balms, coffee mugs, tote bags, party games, the list goes on and on, but we digress.
When we choose cards, we pick ones that jump out at us, that speak to a shared moment or say the words we can’t find ourselves. We could send cards that offer generic support, encouragement and celebration but that misses the point. The choice to be sober is one that needs the right words, ones that acknowledge the path and show you’re there with them.
But where are the cards that support, encourage and celebrate the choice to be alcohol free? They certainly aren’t on the high street, we’ve looked high and low.
This feels wrong. There should be cards that specifically and overtly support, encourage and celebrate sobriety readily available on the high street and online. And they should be funny, insightful and beautiful and sit proudly in a space alongside all the cards that promote excessive drinking.
We are working hard to make this happen. And we have lots of other ideas, too.
And before we go, whatever your story in becoming sober or supporting someone, we applaud you.