Claire Rob­bie

Claire Rob­bie, founder of No Beers? Who Cares!, is help­ing a com­mu­nity of Ki­wis give up drink­ing, and dis­cover more about them­selves in the process

Good Health Choices - - Contents -

Her mis­sion to get us to look at how we drink

Bored with booze? No Beers? Who Cares! is an on­line com­mu­nity for peo­ple who have ditched the drink – and founder Claire Rob­bie says go­ing with­out is more pop­u­lar than ever. For Auck­land-based yoga teacher and former news re­porter Claire Rob­bie, boozy week­ends were once a reg­u­lar part of her so­cial cal­en­dar. Catch­ing up for drinks was re­lax­ing, light-hearted fun, and some­thing that ev­ery­one around her did to wind down af­ter a busy week. That was un­til the shine started to wear off.

“I’d party hard on the week­ends, un­til one night I badly hurt my knee while I was com­pletely drunk,” she says. “I tripped on a wine glass, sliced my knee open and to­tally sev­ered the ten­don – it was a real eye opener about my drink­ing.”

That pain­ful night seven years ago led her to start re­think­ing her op­tions, and it was the be­gin­ning of her jour­ney to­wards be­ing kinder to her­self, liv­ing more mind­fully, and eas­ing up on the al­co­hol. As she be­gan ex­am­in­ing the way drink­ing fit­ted into her life, she found a grow­ing num­ber of friends, ac­quain­tances and even com­plete strangers who were hav­ing their own thoughts about tak­ing a break from the booze. This trig­gered Claire to cre­ate No Beers? Who Cares!, an on­line com­mu­nity of peo­ple who are liv­ing life with­out al­co­hol, ques­tion­ing at­ti­tudes to­wards drink­ing, nav­i­gat­ing sober so­cial­is­ing in a booze-filled cul­ture, and ex­plor­ing how go­ing with­out can lead you to look within.

“Ini­tially I put some­thing on Face­book and had a lot of peo­ple say­ing ‘I would love to do that too’,” she ex­plains. “I thought, ‘okay, let me turn this into a thing’. So I made it mem­ber­ship based as I wanted a com­mit­ment from peo­ple. I’ve got some amaz­ing am­bas­sadors on board, in­clud­ing [politi­cian] Hay­ley Holt and [health ad­vo­cate] Makaia Carr.

“There are peo­ple who have given up re­cently, peo­ple who have been heavy drinkers in the past and who have had to give up as it was be­com­ing a real prob­lem, and peo­ple who don’t drink at all be­cause they have never wanted it as part of their lives.”

The move­ment has quickly gained trac­tion, with 400 mem­bers com­ing on board since she started the group this

year. And if you think it’s all about be­ing the fin­ger-wag­ging ‘booze po­lice’, Claire wants to set the record straight.

“I’m not try­ing to be­come an an­tial­co­hol cam­paigner,” she says. “It’s more about look­ing at in­ten­tions be­hind drink­ing, and ques­tion­ing a lot of things you hear about al­co­hol, like it be­ing re­lax­ing, which isn’t ac­tu­ally true. It’s about say­ing, ‘Why don’t you just see what hap­pens if you don’t drink?’”

Creat­ing change

With drink­ing of­ten closely linked to so­cial­is­ing, part of what the No Beers? Who Cares! com­mu­nity does is give tips to peo­ple who want to head out to a bar with friends, but don’t want to feel pres­sured to down the wines. While it might sound like a sim­ple case of say­ing no, the chal­lenge of stick­ing to the soft drinks on a night out is a bar­rier for many.

“We have these events once a month, where peo­ple can come to a bar and learn to so­cialise with­out al­co­hol,” says Claire. “Be­fore the first one I got so many mes­sages from peo­ple, say­ing ‘I’m so ner­vous about this.’ I don’t want peo­ple who are not drink­ing to just stay home, that’s miss­ing the point en­tirely.”

For Claire, who also runs Jack & Olive well­ness re­treats, lay­ing off the booze was about feel­ing hap­pier within her­self. For oth­ers, it’s the phys­i­cal changes that spur them on with the sober life.

“For some women, the weight just drops off,” she says. “Peo­ple who were mod­er­ate to heavy drinkers of­ten get mas­sive sugar crav­ings when they give up al­co­hol, and this is re­lated to the brain’s re­ward cen­tre. Al­co­hol gives you a mas­sive rush of [feel good hor­mone] dopamine, and the next best thing the body gets that ef­fect from is sugar. When you get that rush of dopamine, you’re go­ing to get a drop, and even af­ter a cou­ple of drinks you’re se­ri­ously

‘I’m not try­ing to be­come an anti-al­co­hol cam­paigner. It’s more about look­ing at in­ten­tions

be­hind drink­ing’

‘Peo­ple are start­ing to live more con­sciously now. They are think­ing about why they do things, rather than blindly fol­low­ing habits’

de­plet­ing your body of it. You’re mess­ing with the chem­i­cals that are linked to de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. When you take that away, you’re left with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how your body works.”

Her job in the holis­tic health in­dus­try has given Claire an in­sight into Kiwi at­ti­tudes around booze, and she be­lieves the tide is turn­ing.

“I think there’s a huge shift now, that it’s not just com­pletely ex­pected that you go out and get s***-faced any­more. In my 20s it was to­tally nor­mal to go out and get ab­so­lutely drunk. My par­ents are not big drinkers and they were al­ways good role mod­els with al­co­hol, but it was so nor­malised in our so­ci­ety. I think there is def­i­nitely a change among the younger gen­er­a­tions now, and it’s hap­pen­ing world­wide.”

Still, the No Beers? Who Cares! jour­ney can be a chal­lenge, with many mem­bers – men es­pe­cially – say­ing they’ve copped flak from their mates for stay­ing sober.

“There are def­i­nitely peo­ple who are de­fen­sive and re­ally don’t get it,” Claire says. “But peo­ple are start­ing to live more con­sciously now. They are think­ing about why they do things, rather than just blindly fol­low­ing habits. For me that’s a re­ally im­por­tant thing, to al­ways ques­tion why I’m do­ing what I’m do­ing. No Beers? Who Cares! is about en­cour­ag­ing that ques­tion­ing.”

Mind­ful liv­ing

As a yoga and med­i­ta­tion teacher,

Claire’s in­ter­est in health goes fur­ther than sim­ply shun­ning the sauce. It was a hectic ca­reer in tele­vi­sion, a burnout and a di­vorce from her hus­band, fel­low TV per­son­al­ity Do­minic Bow­den, that led her to re­train as a yoga teacher sev­eral years ago, and she’s never looked back.

“I would no­tice that the feel­ing I got from yoga was dif­fer­ent to the feel­ing I got from do­ing a work­out or go­ing for a run,” she says. “There was a real sense of peace, but I didn’t un­der­stand why it was mak­ing me feel that way. It wasn’t un­til I did my yoga teacher train­ing that I started to un­der­stand the science be­hind it, and the ben­e­fits for the mind. It’s that con­nect­ing with the breath and how pow­er­ful it is for pulling you in to the present mo­ment. The eight limbs of yoga are tools that help peo­ple find that con­nected place, and peo­ple have ac­tu­ally been search­ing for that for­ever.”

Over the past year, med­i­ta­tion has be­come an­other key as­pect of her health phi­los­o­phy, and she tries to fit in 20 min­utes a day around look­ing af­ter her three-year-old son, Jack.

“Yoga is mov­ing med­i­ta­tion, and while tak­ing the phys­i­cal out of it and sit­ting in still­ness is su­per-chal­leng­ing, it re­ally is the most ef­fec­tive thing to help us cope with stress,” she says. “Some­times if I’ve got some time to spare while sit­ting in the car I’ll pull over and do some med­i­ta­tion, and I even got the No Beers? Who Cares! group to try med­i­ta­tion in a bar – that was hi­lar­i­ous!”

Yoga, med­i­ta­tion and liv­ing sober are per­fect part­ners, Claire says, as they all link to self love, form­ing new habits, liv­ing con­sciously and learn­ing more about how you tick. “These are all tools you can learn that can re­ally help any­one who feels like there’s some­thing miss­ing in their lives. Ev­ery­one can thrive if they’re happy within them­selves.”

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