by Kelly Burch
There’s no doubt that we live in a culture that glorifies drinking.
Teens sneak sips when they can, all the while counting down to the day they’ll be legal.
After a stressful day at work refrains of “I could use a glass of wine,” are common, and many men would feel that watching a football game just isn’t the same without a beer.
Even people who aren’t in recovery often find themselves drinking without really considering their consumption or why they are turning toward the bottle.
Now, one initiative is challenging people to think before they drink.
It’s easy to get swept up in drinking culture. Every now and then we need a rope to pull us back to dry land.
Thus reads the first line on the website of Hello Sunday Morning, the brainchild of Chris Raine.
“When I was 21, I… was a really big drinker,” Raine said. “Each weekend I would go get hammered. It was pretty routine. I really wanted to change that aspect of my life. I recognized I was using alcohol in many different ways, and some ways were destructive.”
Raine decided to commit – publically – to spending one year without alcohol, as an experiment. Each weekend he would wake up and spend the time typically devoted to nursing a hangover blogging about his experience. The name of the blog? Hello Sunday Morning.
“Each Sunday I would get up, the birds would be chirping, and I would type about the experience,” Raine said. “That ranged from dating to work relationships, friendships, family, emotions, confidence, to everything. I explored all aspects having to do with taking a break from drinking.”
Raine learned about his relationships – with people and alcohol – and also became more aware of the areas of his life that needed attention.
“The process of drinking, for me personally, has always helped me not be in my head for a little bit; to take a chill pill,” he said. “I’ve learned it’s important to find other ways to do that, because if you’re focused all the time you can burn out.”
By the end of the year, other people were interested in taking a break from alcohol as well, and the Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) movement was born.
In 2010, five people took the challenge, abstaining from alcohol for three months, six months, or a year. By 2014, 42,000 people had been through the program. Hello Sunday Morning hopes to have 2 millions users by 2020.
Users choose to stay sober for a period of time and are supported through HSM’s social network platform. About 15 percent of HSMers blog about their experience, but by sharing information on social media and talking about it in social situations, Raine said that for each person who does the challenge, 10 more people change their alcohol consumption in some way.
For Raine, the movement is about questioning social norms, and filling a gap between problem drinking and total abstinence.
“ HSM is all about individual choice. What we are and where we’re going is in any point in someone’s life when they want to change the way they drink, they can come to us and we provide advice, guidance and community to change to the level that they want.”
In Australia, where HSM is based, 80 percent of the population wants to change the drinking culture, but there is a lack of services available to support that, Raine said.
“If you, at any age, want to change or achieve a level of moderation, the avenues to get support are incredibly limited. AA developed over time, but it is very rigid, for people who have to give up [alcohol]. Our goal is to fill the gap with the rest of the population.”
To read the rest of the article on Hello Sunday Morning, see the latest issue of Renew.