sobriety 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

What we believe about drinking

Today, we were thinking about the variety of viewpoints we have seen (in books, in articles, etc.) on drinking and the right way to resolve a problem with excessive drinking.

There’s a lot more debate now than it seems like there used to be about questions like “can moderation work?” and “what is an alcoholic vs. a normal drinker?”

We decided to summarize three of our core beliefs about drinking here. Let us know what you think!

  1. We believe that drinking nothing is better than drinking moderately, but drinking moderately is better than drinking to excess. If you drink moderately (within the NIAAA guidelines, which we also share in the Drinker’s Helper app), you’re far less likely to suffer from an addiction to alcohol, which is one of the worst downsides of excessive drinking. You also won’t put yourself at risk of injuring yourself or others via accidents, or making poor judgment calls after one too many. However, if you drink moderately, you are still exposing yourself to some health risk, as recent studies have shown (see previous blog posts).

  2. We believe that there is a social stigma associated with changing your drinking behavior that should not exist. Partly this is down to an underlying desire to maintain a firm red line between “normal drinkers” and “alcoholics,” so that as a society we can avoid recognizing that alcohol is addictive, and that anyone who drinks at a certain level will likely get addicted. We believe this stigma results in people not making changes to their drinking until they’ve really messed up, and we’d all be better off if it was a more common, socially acceptable thing to do to take a break from drinking for a while. We believe most people who feel concerned about their own drinking levels will, if they carefully look at the evidence from their own experience, choose to drink moderately or quit entirely, rather than continue as they are.

  3. We believe that excessive drinking is not a moral failing to be judged, but a behavior that naturally develops when we believe inaccurate things both about alcohol and about sobriety. We believe that as a society we push alcohol so hard, across so many channels and in so many hard-to-detect ways, that it takes real work to re-program ourselves to see faults in it. As a society we train ourselves to drink to escape, relax, or have fun, among other reasons for drinking. Sobriety sounds like dull suffering, by comparison, when in fact it’s one of the best feelings there is. The work of changing those thoughts is what we try to do in the exercises in Drinker’s Helper.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to offer a helping hand. Drinker’s Helper offers a library of motivational exercises, support groups made up of peers at the same level of risky drinking, and drink and urge tracking and insights to help you observe your behavior and decide what you want to do.

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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!

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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!

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Research says hangovers make you anti-social

Although alcohol is a social lubricant at night, by morning it transforms us into reserved people. A new study showed rats who were hungover were much less social than normal. This is consistent with a subsequent qualitative study of college students.

Here’s the scoop:

  • Younger people, who are better able to cope with hangovers, do not react as badly to them (and the same is true of younger rats!)

  • People bond over being hung over (shared pain does seem like it’s part of the college bonding experience, doesn’t it? Frat hazing, anyone?)

  • As we’ve previously mentioned a few times, this anti-social effect is probably down to the fact that alcohol causes increased anxiety afterward! There is also significant fatigue and of course physical pain (especially for those of us over 30).

Check out the article here, and if you’re interested in quitting drinking (or cutting back), we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app to help you quit drinking or achieve moderation, and includes exercises, support groups, tracking and stats to help you do it!

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Book review: The 30 Day Sobriety Solution

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a book review, but we wanted to share what we thought after reading The 30-Day Sobriety Solution (available on Amazon). It’s a book that also has complementary online courses (see here), and it promises to help people achieve sobriety or healthy moderation in 30 to 90 days (depending on your preferences).

Overall, there’s a lot to like about this approach, so we thought we’d share it with you.

Here are some of the things we think are great:

  1. They acknowledge the importance of changing your unconscious thinking. This is also one of the cornerstones of our favorite sobriety book, This Naked Mind. The chief reason so many of us fail to stay sober or stay within moderation limits is, simply that we aren’t 100% sure sobriety will give us what we need. We have a lifetime of unconscious cues about how great alcohol is to undo in order to change our minds about alcohol. That’s why in Drinker’s Helper, our moderation app, we have a set of exercises on rethinking what alcohol is really doing in our lives.

  2. They understand that sobriety is more than just not drinking. By far the bulk of what you’ll find if you read the book (which we highly recommend) are exercises to build a more meaningful, happier life. We believe, as they do, that drinking is but a symptom of the problem(s). Thus, you’ll need more than simple tricks & tips to stop drinking (or cut way back). You have to change the underlying thought processes that lead you to see drinking as a solution to any problem. That’s why our library of over 75 exercises includes everything from dealing with urges to drink to dealing with anxious thoughts.

  3. They believe in the benefits of repetition. The 30-Day Sobriety Solution repeats several conepts throughout the book in different ways. Exercises build on one another. But also, people are advised to repeat their visions and affirmations daily to achieve results. We also believe in the importance of repetition for lessons to sink in. Part of why we created Drinker’s Helper as a quit drinking app (instead of an in-person class, for example) is that it can be with you anytime, anywhere. We also put a toolbox in our app for you to save your favorite exercises for quick access. These are intended to be repeated as you continue using the app and encounter urges to drink.

  4. They know that testing the waters isn’t a full backslide. Drinker’s Helper is both a quit drinking and a moderate drinking app. We support you regardless of the goal you choose, and believe that both can work. The writers of The 30-Day Sobriety Solution also acknowledge that you might want to test the waters with one or two drinks after a period of sobriety to see if you’ve achieved a healthier relationship with alcohol, and that doesn’t mean you’ve had a backslide into problem drinking unless other troubling thoughts have crept back up.

Here are some of the places (we think) we differ:

  1. We place more emphasis on understanding why you drink. There are parts of their book that do ask about why you drink, but it’s not a core emphasis. While we know that too much introspective navel-gazing isn’t helpful, we think some amount of considering what your triggers and underlying thoughts are is extremely helpful in figuring out what changes you have to make to get better.

  2. We don’t place as much emphasis on positivity. While we do see tremendous value in positive thinking, we also know that life can be cruel and unfair sometimes in ways that positive thinking can’t fix. Visualizing success is a powerful technique, but not a panacea. It’s ok to feel shitty sometimes, in short. Too much positive thinking can be exhausting. Which leads to…

  3. It’s a bit much all at once. We think 90 days might be the best way to try The 30-Day Sobriety Solution. It packs quite a lot into a short amount of time. When we quit drinking, we made that one monumental change on its own. We had also gone vegan a year earlier, and we moved 6 months or so later, and we started a new exercise routine nine months later, but we didn’t try all of that once. The 30-Day Sobriety Solution includes a suite of exercises that seem designed to truly change many aspects of your life (as does the exercise suite in Drinker’s Helper), but our caution with both systems is: be careful of fatigue and make incremental improvements over time.

If you’ve decided to quit drinking (or cut back), we’d love to help. Try out Drinker’s Helper at the link below!

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