sober app

New to Drinker's Helper: Profiles, Matches, and Programs, oh my!

We wanted to share a bit more context on some recent updates we’ve made to Drinker’s Helper, the companion app for people who are cutting back or quitting drinking.

There are three new things you’ve probably noticed if you’ve gone into the latest version of the app:

  1. Profiles: a simple, anonymous profile to introduce yourself to your Group

  2. Matches: introductions to others in your Group who share similar specific challenges

  3. Programs: organized courses of exercises

So why did we make these changes? Well, it’s all about what’s right for you (figuratively speaking).

We believe that being understood is critical in getting meaningful support. While in some broad sense everyone using Drinker’s Helper is trying to do the same thing (cut back or quit drinking), in another sense each person’s challenge is quite unique.

For example, some people work as bartenders, or in the wine industry. Wow. That’s a hard one. Imagine how hard it is cutting back or quitting drinking when you’re surrounded by the stuff and constantly offered free drinks!

Some people are better suited to supporting one another because they have specific challenges like that in common and can share tips. But there are more basic examples, too. Someone who primarily drinks when celebrating with their hard-partying social circle is going to have a harder time connecting with someone who primarily drinks at home alone when feeling depressed.

That’s why we created both Profiles and Matches - to help you meet people in your Group who can offer the right support to you based on what you’re dealing with. We hope you make deeper, faster connections as a result of talking with your Matches.

The same simple core insight led us to create Programs: that each of us has unique challenges in cutting back or quitting drinking. There are over 100 exercises in the Drinker’s Helper library, and it is important that we pick the right ones for you based on the support you need.

Some people need to shore up their motivation to change their drinking; others are plenty motivated and simply need some mental tricks to change how they think about alcohol. Programs allow us to tailor a set of courses to your situation.

We hope you give Profiles, Matches and Programs a try in the Drinker’s Helper app!

A mockup of a Match

A mockup of a Match

Quick Profiles: Rational Recovery

This is another in our series of “quick profiles” on programs that are out there for people who are trying to achieve sobriety or moderation.

Rational Recovery, developed in 1986, uses an approach that revolves around recognizing and combatting the voice in your head that promotes alcohol consumption.

We actually talk about a similar concept in some of the exercises in Drinker’s Helper (see the exercise “Voices”), and you can find reference to this addictive voice in many books and memoirs about alcohol abuse, going by different names (the Wine Witch, etc.).

Here’s the skinny on the Rational Recovery approach:

  1. It urges you to overpower your “animalistic” urge to drink with your more rational higher mind. It puts the drive for drinking alongside such core drives as the drive for food, for sex, for shelter. It suggests that while you cannot get rid of this drive, you can consistently overcome it because your rational mind is, after all, in charge. This principle makes sure that you see the pro-drinking voices in your head as separate from your own voice, so you can fight back more easily.

  2. It urges absolute abstinence and commitment to this goal. The idea is that once you truly decide you will never drink again, and learn their techniques, you won’t ever relapse, because you are in charge of your baser desires, and don’t feel deprived of anything valuable. This is a strong rejection of the idea of “one day at a time,” often espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous. The idea is that while you still have the desire for alcohol in you, you are firmly in charge, and that never changes, so it’s not a constant struggle against relapse. Moderation is out of the question.

  3. It urges addicted drinkers to recognize that many of their problems in life stem from their alcohol consumption, so it is a rational choice to avoid it. It suggests that drinking is done purely for the purpose of pleasure, and that therefore continuing to do so despite negative consequences to yourself or others is morally wrong. This thinking is intended to strengthen commitment to abstinence from alcohol.

  4. It does not use support groups as a major component, unlike several other organizations like Women for Sobriety or Alcoholics Anonymous. It in fact says support groups should be avoided at all costs, because they introduce doubt about your ability to stay in control and because they are unnecessary if you follow their prescribed technique. You are supposed to help yourself, on your own, by learning the skills needed to respond appropriately to the hungry addict voice.

We definitely agree that the pro-drinking voice should be treated as separate from yourself (see our exercise “Personifying Urges”), and agree that sobriety doesn’t have to be a struggle.

However, we do not agree that all drinking is done for pleasure, that moderation is impossible, or that support groups drag drinkers down. In our experience, drinking can be for pleasure, or it can be a misplaced coping response. If you don’t find new ways to cope, you very well might relapse, or find sobriety very difficult. Moderation should be possible if we’re really in charge of our animal brains, and evidence shows that it can work (read: be maintained over time). And many people question their decision to quit or cut back, or feel alone in their struggle, and having an ongoing dialogue with others in the same place can help them make up their minds as well as get advice on how to stick with their plans.

To learn more about Rational Recovery, visit their site.

If you’ve decided to moderate your drinking or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Try out the app at the link below! We’ve got exercises, a support group, and drink tracking and insights to help you achieve your goals.

The angry pro-drinking voice in your head

The angry pro-drinking voice in your head

Book review: The Alcohol Experiment

We’re huge fans of Annie Grace at Drinker’s Helper, so it’s no surprised we loved her latest book, The Alcohol Experiment, which condenses much of the content of her flagship book This Naked Mind into a short read intended to be used as a guide to taking a 30-day reprieve from drinking.

That’s right: we think of it as a reprieve, not a break, or a fast, or anything like that, because after all, you’re doing something good for yourself that ultimately ends up being fun and fulfilling!

Here’s what we really like about the book:

  1. She has a broad understanding of the most common beliefs (we refer to them as triggers) that make people want to drink - things like stress relief, dealing with kids, having better sex, etc. Reading either of her books often feels like you’re reading your own innermost thoughts from your time as a heavy drinker. This empathy makes it that much easier to listen to what she says about why these beliefs are based on faulty premises.

  2. We also strongly believe in the importance of self care. That’s why an entire section of exercises in Drinker’s Helper is designed to help people who are experiencing sadness to ward it off with something beside alcohol. This isn’t just about getting massages or taking hot baths; it’s also about watching the way you speak to yourself (she has ample evidence about the importance of this!), not beating yourself up when you make a mistake, and not labeling yourself as weak-willed, such that you handicap your own efforts to cut back or quit.

  3. We share a similar view on moderation, which is that it’s absolutely possible, although we personally found it exhausting and chose sobriety for that reason.

The areas we disagree are few and far between, but I’ll highlight a couple that stood out to me:

  1. It seems we place a bit more emphasis on discovering and enhancing your personal motivation to change your drinking. Her book focuses more on addressing the beliefs and thoughts that lead to drinking, which is closer to cognitive behavioral therapy (which we also use) than motivational enhancement therapy. We use exercises drawn from a combination of both, primarily because we think different people may have very different reasons for changing their drinking, and that it’s important that they find the reasons that work for them. This may be in part related to the other area where our thinking differs…

  2. …which is that we do admit that alcohol has some real benefits (I know, I know, cue screeching record sound!). To be clear, we think the downsides of drinking VASTLY outweigh the benefits. But we think it’s important to acknowledge that drinking in small amounts does lower your inhibitions, making first dates and new social gatherings easier; it does make you feel a happy buzz (again, at low levels of drinking, like below a 0.055 BAC. It can be frustrating to try to deny that those feelings happen as a result of drinking. The problem is that it’s really, really hard, especially over time, to stick to those very low levels of drinking. And if you can’t, well, the risks are enormous. That’s why we also think you need to spend time figuring out your most important reasons for changing your drinking - so you can have the strongest cons to bring to bear against those pros in your decision-making.

All in all, we love the book and think the experiment is well worth doing. If you have decided to quit drinking or pursue moderate drinking, we’d love to be part of your journey! Drinker’s Helper is a moderate drinking app (or quit drinking app) that has exercises, tracking, insights, and a virtual support group to help you along the way. Try it free for seven days!


UK says no more drunk flight passengers

If alcohol just makes you have fun, be free, be yourself, be sexy, etc, why on earth aren’t we all drunk all the time?

Well, one reason is alcohol-fueled violence. If you’re angry, alcohol removes the inhibitions that might otherwise prevent a violent outburst, and makes it much easier to end up in a fight.

Many drinkers are used to drinking when they travel as a way to pass the time in boring airports or in overcrowded planes. Apparently, there have been enough instances of drunk and disorderly airplane passengers that the UK, famous for its wild New Years photos, is taking action. In fact, in 2017 there was a 50% increase over the previous year in passengers being held for their drunken conduct!

This article says, in brief:

  1. All duty free shops will seal alcohol purchases in the UK from now on, so they can’t be opened during the flight

  2. Gatwick airport has ended shots in its bars

Of course, none of this stops you from ordering drinks on board, or smuggling small bottles of alcohol in your luggage (there’s always a way, if you really want to get drunk), but it’s an encouraging sign that the duty free stores and airports want to help airlines avoid these kinds of incidents.

If you’ve had an embarrassing outburst or two (we certainly did, when we drank, although not on board any planes), consider quitting or cutting back. If you do, we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help people moderate their drinking or quit drinking entirely. Check it out today!