Go Sober for October (and Emotional Styles)

27 October 2023
Rebecca McHale

Go Sober for October is an annual fundraising initiative that encourages participants to go sober for the entire month of October - and many a 'success story' have arisen over the years from courageous individuals who have previously used alcohol in an unhealthy way and stopped permanently following 'Go Sober for October'. 

Experiences of Alcohol

We each have our own experiences with alcohol - some do not drink alcohol at all as a conscious choice or due to a physical intolerance. Others drink alcohol only socially, whilst many regularly enjoy a glass of wine in the evening at home to wind down after a long day. A portion of us will recognise abstaining from drinking alcohol throughout the week and very much looking forward to it on a Friday or Saturday night. Many people also have an emotional and/or physical dependence on alcohol, or tend to 'overdrink' when they do consume it. 

Similarly, for those of us who do drink alcohol, there are a variety of intentions/reasons behind our consumption such as:

  • Celebration 
  • Social activity / connection 
  • Relaxation
  • Removing inhibitions
  • Mood / emotion / state changing 
  • Avoidance 
  • Peer pressure 
  • Habit

Go Sober for October can be a valuable opportunity to reflect on the reasons why we personally drink alcohol and this blog post focuses on alcohol in the context of our emotional styles.

Emotional Styles

The 6 emotional styles detailed below were developed by Alex Howard and Anna Duschinsky. We each may commonly use several of these emotional styles, and you may recognise one or two of them as being your main styles. 

  1. Avoidance and distraction - staying busy and distracted so that we do not feel or address our emotions
  2. State changing - use of food, drugs, alcohol, exercise etc to change how we feel
  3. Analysis - intellectually thinking about our emotions instead of feeling them
  4. Blaming others - feeling triggered by others' behaviour and focusing on their role in that, as opposed to how you feel.
  5. Empath - feeling others' feelings, reducing space for our own 
  6. Somatising - experiencing emotions as a physical symptoms such as headaches 

It is worth noting that almost all of us use these emotional styles, and it is not 'wrong' to use them - but it is useful to have a conscious awareness of them, understand how frequently we use them, and it what circumstances - and identify if there is any place that we feel we could address our emotions in order to move through them and grow. 

Avoidance, Distraction and State Changing

In the context of alcohol use, we can explore emotional styles 1 & 2 above (avoidance and distraction, and state changing). 

Perhaps you can think of a time where you have or do use alcohol as a form of avoidance or distraction, or as a method to change your state? 

Examples might include:

  • Going out to a party with friends instead of studying or working
  • Blocking out flashbacks or memories
  • Giving us 'confidence' at a gathering 
  • Clearing our minds of a challenging day 
  • To have a difficult conversation with someone 
  • To settle a feeling of tension from stress 
  • To numb an ongoing feeling that may part of a core/ongoing issue that we are not consciously understanding 

To understand more about the limitations and effects of avoidance, distraction and state changing, see my Clear Thoughts Blog post Endurance vs Acceptance.

To summarise, it is not inherently 'wrong' to drink alcohol and there are a wide range of experiences from person to person in terms of the use of alcohol and our intentions for its' use. We can take the opportunity to recognise when this is a healthy and balanced choice, and also where we can support ourselves by exploring our intentions and reasons behind our alcohol use.

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