Joseph's sober story

As part of our Sober Series, celebrating our launch with the wonderful Dry Drinker, we interview our creative lead, Joseph, on all the important stuff: going sober, the decline of drinking culture, and where he buys his favourite cheese twists.

Hey Joseph, tell us a little bit about you (for the fans!)

Joseph:  Hello, I handle all things creative at HOLOS! I’m a film maker and freelance creative. I used to be a dancer, and mainly dance now to make my baby girl happy! Her name is Hephzibah and she loves avocados and football.

Are you sure she likes that, or are you imposing that *laughs*?

Joseph: We’ve played football twice and she’s liked it both times, so I’ll take that. What else ... my auntie owned a rum business back in Trinidad; I love the sun, and I’m a sucker for Oreo dairy milk and cheese twists.

Where do you get cheese twists then? Local bakery?

Joseph: Nah, Co-Op mate *laughs*

Okay, let’s dive in. Ruby Warrington author of ‘Sober Curious’ wrote: “For many of us, getting Sober Curious begins with a simple question: Would my life be better without alcohol? To discover the answer for yourself, all that remains is to put the cork back in the bottle, open your eyes, and see.” You decided to answer that question at the start of last year : why? Can you tell us more?

Joseph: I did, yes; but the reason that led me there seems a little more simple rather than deep. At the start of last year I decided I’d like to do Dry January. It sounded cleansing,  money saving, and it sounded like a challenge but as soon as I started I thought, you know what, I’m gonna wanna do this for a longer period of time. My baby girl was due soon after I started and I wanted to keep going and be my best and most present, healthiest self I could be for when she arrived.

And how did you view alcohol before?

Joseph: Probably solely a social thing, meeting up with friends. I already rarely drank at home and would never drink on my own. I guess I’d never had what you would call a ‘bad’ relationship with alcohol - because of my free running and dancer background, I had a really balanced and healthy lifestyle, so drinking would have hindered what I was doing. It wasn’t really until after uni that I started drinking mainly as a way to meet and catch up with people and because it was a social norm. I always questioned it though - why do we do this? Is it because on every corner in London it ‘s being offered to us and so it’s just what we do?

Around 30% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 claim to be teetotal. That’s a huge amount! Do you think it seems people are more open to alternative eating and drinking habits now?

Joseph: 100%, and that fact doesn’t surprise me at all.  I can remember leaving uni and I only knew one or two vegans. But now, and maybe particularly as we now live in Brighton, I’d say 1 in 10 people we are meeting are vegan? Or if not that, an alternative choice diet rather than an intolerance. With so much information out there, we want choices; we want to try new things and we have a lot more options these days.

Does this show we’re moving on from an era of heavy drinking? Away from our music idols with beers in hand? Is grabbing a pint at the pub still the go-to?

Joseph: I think we are moving on. British people are very precious about their pubs, but I think the pubs now need to adapt before they die out, and I think there is a real opportunity for that. I think pubs need to adapt and try something new! They now have a choice to bring a range of interesting drinks that the younger generation of people are interested in. People still want to socialise but there is a shift. I really think kombucha is the key to the generational gap we’re seeing in pub culture. Pubs need to wake up to the new wave of interesting alcohol free drinks. Let’s not ditch drinks and community, but let’s adapt it to the new generation.

I’m intrigued to know how friends and others received you being alcohol-free? Did you find yourself having to explain yourself?

Joseph: Generally, I found that people were more fascinated than anything, and wanted to know the story of why. I found people were quick to respect why I had made the choice.

I think peer pressure is a pretty big reason why people choose not to take a break from drinking, or even stop completely. Did this impact your decision at all?

Joseph: Yeah, I guess none of us wants to be the odd one out or make themselves stick out on a fun night out! We just wanna be easygoing and fit in. It’s tricky to go against the flow but it’s usually for a greater purpose. I think it also helps that my wife doesn’t drink. I’ve never known her to even touch alcohol since we’ve met, for a mix of reasons. That massively helps me, and has made it seem less of a necessity.

I had a conversation with a friend a while back who was a business guy in the city. At least weekly he would have these big dinners with his clients and colleagues. He chose not drink alcohol for no other reason than he didn’t like it, but could never feel comfortable enough to tell those he was dining with that he didn’t drink; it was always assumed he was drinking. We laughed as he told me stories of times he had to throw alcohol out of windows on trains, and into plants or into other people’s glasses at events! It saddens me that we’re in a society where it’s so ingrained that he felt like he couldn’t really say that he didn’t want to drink without fear of maybe a backlash that would come with it? There’s not usually even a question  or option? Do you think there is a stigma around those who don’t drink?

Joseph: 100% yes! It’s probably been the same for last 4,000 years! Drinking alcohol is a symbol of celebration - think of the way people drink at sporting events - and of course, alcohol has become a sort of social lubricant.

There has been once or twice since choosing not to drink where I didn’t feel I had the choice to say no and have ended up drinking. We completed a big project at work, and we celebrated in a large chain bar, where there were few options on offer. I felt like it was beer or tap water. I still wanted to feel part of something and to drink something I enjoyed, not just for the sake of something to fill a gap.

It’s those situations that drove a lot of the decision-making and input for me when we were working on the HOLOS branding. I wanted us to offer something that I could hold in  a pub and not feel like I was drinking some sort of second class option. That it wasn’t a cop-out. I wanted to drink something others would look and think: ‘I want to be drinking that!’

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So it’s been over a year now since you stopped drinking? Have you noticed any benefits?

Joseph: Yes! A year and 6 months. I do find sleeping and waking up is a lot easier. I didn’t have a beer belly before or anything *laughs* so haven’t noticed any differences with that. I was more conscious about mental health. I want my mind to be the best it can be! I’m a creative! I need it to be functioning to the best of its ability! And the freedom I’ve chosen by not conforming to the need of a social lubricant has brought more of a mental health breakthrough than I could ever had anticipated. I’m choosing to not conform and not to do what is expected of me. I love going into a social situation and knowing I’m not dependant on something for a good time or a heightened experience; that’s so clarifying for me.

You mentioned that you tried a range of alcohol-free beers in your search for alternatives. Big shout-out to Dry Drinker at this point - they have an incredible range of low or no alcohol products, all with a great story, on their website! How has kombucha played a role this past year and a half in your sober journey, and has that been accessible to you in pubs? Unless you decided to take our booch along in a hip flask?

Joseph: When I first started, I remember trying every alcohol-free option the bar had to offer. I can remember some of those nights, some people wouldn’t even notice that I was drinking a non-alcoholic beer and I wouldn't need to tell them. But honestly, I struggled to find ‘my’ drink; my go-to. The closest thing I found to something I liked to drink at that time was ginger beer, but then even still there were sugary ones and not nice ones and alcoholic ones?!

Since co-founding HOLOS, I always make an effort in bars to always ask if they have kombucha. Because if they do, I’l buy it and if not, it will suddenly be on their radar. To me, kombucha is perfect because it bridges a gap for those who don’t wanna buy an alcohol product but who want the satisfaction of knowing there’s this unique method, taste and variety that would normally be reserved for wine and beer. Kombucha is an art form and people are so passionate about the process - it isn’t like say, a soft drink where it can seem things are thrown together.

Have you noticed booch is  becoming more readily available?

Joseph: Only in last six months, really. Especially living and working near Brighton. Gone from zero to way more common - hopefully soon every pub will be serving HOLOS kombucha *laughs*.

Where do you think you’ll go from here? Is being sober something you want to keep up?!

Joseph: Yes, indefinitely. I think I’ll only make an exception for very special occasions.What advice would you give to the sober curious?

Joseph: Go for it. Just give yourself a short period first - maybe six weeks?! Challenge yourself, do it with others - that always helps! And know your why, the reason why you’re doing it, because that’s what will keep you there!