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
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?’”
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
‘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.”
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.”