Book Review: The Sober Survival Guide

The Sober Survival Guide provides readers with an opportunity to explore their drinking habits and determine if an alcohol-free life may be right for them. It also serves as a handbook for coping with everyday life situations that may lead to cravings or relapse. (Includes a quote from the author and exclusive details about his next book, which is set to be released by the end of this year!)

Reviewed by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

The Sober Survival Guide: How to Free Yourself from Alcohol Forever – Quit Alcohol & Start Living! (2019) by Simon Chapple (Published by Elevator Digital, Ltd.)


Message from the Author, Simon Chapple:

“I didn’t ever set out to write a book, but as my blog grew and more people were visiting my website and finding the articles I was writing helpful, I was getting a lot of comments that I should do something more substantial, from here the book began to evolve.

The more I wrote, the more immersed I became in writing a book that I felt would have helped me at the time I wanted to quit. Right through the process I asked myself ‘would this help someone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol?’, if the answer was no, I removed it. 

I wanted to create something unique in the ‘quit lit’ sector, that would not only help readers learn the best strategy for quitting drinking that worked for me, but would also help set them up for long-term success when it comes to dealing with the challenges that arise in the months and years after getting sober.

I decided to split [The Sober Survival Guide] into two parts. The first part deals with the process of actually quitting drinking and guides readers along the path to freedom, the second part addresses specific situations that come up after quitting, such as social events, vacations, parties and events, relationships with friends, partners and family and dealing with ‘coming out’ about being ‘alcohol-free’.

My whole approach to sobriety is around our mindset, I believe that living alcohol-free should be seen as a positive lifestyle-choice that we make for ourselves, rather than feeling like we have been deprived and have to get by on willpower because we have had something special taken away from us.

I recently completed the manuscript for my second book – How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days, which is a one-chapter a day roadmap to becoming alcohol-free and I am excited about the release at the end of this year.”

-Simon Chapple, August 7, 2020

Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Can you relate to any of the following statements about alcohol?

  • “I can’t have fun without it. Imagine going to a party without drinking!”
  • “It makes me feel less anxious or depressed.”
  • “It helps me sleep.”
  • “I can’t relax without it.”
  • “It makes me entertaining to be around.”
  • “It fits the lifestyle of my boozy friends.”
  • “I like the taste.”
  • “It’s cool and sophisticated.”
  • “I’m not confident enough to talk to new people without it.”
  • “It helps me deal with all the problems that life throws my way.”
  • “It stops me from worrying, especially about how much I’m drinking.”

-Source: The Sober Survival Guide, pg. 6


Maybe you’ve questioned your drinking habits or wondered if you have a problem with drinking. Maybe you’ve thought about quitting, but can’t imagine a life without alcohol. You may, at times, wonder if you’re an alcoholic, but are quick to dismiss the idea because you haven’t hit “rock bottom” and you can’t relate to the 12-step concept of being utterly powerless over a disease.


Simon Chapple is not an alcoholic, nor is he in recovery; he is a person who doesn’t drink. In his book, The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple explains that he doesn’t deem it necessary to carry a label for the rest of your life (as many in AA and NA do). “Remember that you hold the power to be who you want to be, and you can choose what labels you use for yourself” (pg. 11).

In The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple shares about his personal journey as a heavy drinker to discovering sobriety and living an alcohol-free life. He discusses alcoholism and the stigma surrounding certain labels (i.e. “alcoholic”) in the first part of the book, which “sets the scene for you to explore what an alcohol-free life might look like for you” (pg. 21). You are also given the opportunity to examine your relationship with alcohol along with your beliefs about drinking.

The second part of the book serves as a practical handbook for anyone who wants to stop drinking; it includes helpful tips for navigating everyday life situations that could trigger a desire to drink. Some of the problems and challenges you may face include stress, accountability, special events/parties, boredom, sleep, and sober sex, among others.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Throughout the book, Chapple encourages the reader to examine their core beliefs about drinking by asking thought-provoking questions. These questions can serve as journaling prompts for the person who is wondering, “Am I an alcoholic?”

The last few pages of the book provide the reader with helpful resources, including Chapple’s blog and free online support community.


The Sober Survival Guide is an easy read with clearly-presented information. The book has a non-judgmental feel to it, unlike much of the 12-step literature that suggests your drinking is related to character flaws. (The language and concepts of AA can be off-putting and difficult to relate to for individuals at the lower end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum.)

Furthermore, The Sober Survival Guide empowers the reader to make changes; you don’t have to admit powerlessness over a disease and turn your will over to a higher power to quit drinking. Chapple’s message is hopeful and inspiring; plus, many of his strategies are based on evidence-based practices, including CBT and mindfulness.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

If you are currently questioning whether or not your drinking habits are “normal,” The Sober Survival Guide will provide answers. This book will lift you up and inspire; as you read through the chapters, you may also feel an enormous sense of relief. Furthermore, you will be equipped with a wealth of effective strategies if you do choose to cut down or quit drinking. (Quitting drinking is not easy, but 100% doable, providing you put in the effort and have supports.)


I recommend reading The Sober Survival Guide if you’ve ever wondered if you’re an alcoholic. (You may not see yourself as a “problem drinker,” but you sometimes experience problems related to your alcohol use.) I also recommend this book if you’ve already made the decision to quit or cut down on alcohol. And if you’re a heavy drinker, but are unsure if you want to stop, The Sober Survival Guide has the power to motivate and inspire. Friends and family members of a heavy drinker will also benefit from this book.

Additionally, The Sober Survival Guide is recommended for anyone working in the mental health field. If you have a client who is worried about their drinking or unsure if they have a problem, this book offers answers while providing a refreshing perspective on alcohol use. (It’s proven that people are better equipped to make sustainable change when presented with a variety of options instead of just one. Don’t contribute to the myth that AA is the only way to get sober!)

Image by bruce lam from Pixabay

Is there anyone who should not read this book? In some ways, The Sober Survival Guide oversimplifies addiction; it does not take into account the complex relationship between trauma and substance use. Some of the techniques described in the second part of the book are not trauma-informed. Additionally, if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (i.e. major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.), your recovery requires a co-occurring approach in order to treat both the addiction and the mental disorder. Lastly, if you have a severe addiction and are physically dependent on alcohol, it’s likely you’ll require extensive, ongoing treatment in order to fully recover; the tips in the book aren’t sufficient (which is noted by the author).


In sum, if you’re tired of the role alcohol plays in your life, consider reading The Sober Survival Guide! You have nothing to lose, but much to gain.


For Simon’s newest book (Kindle version), How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days: Stop Drinking and Find Freedom, which is set to be released by the end of this year, click here! Check back for an exclusive review on Mind ReMake Project prior to the release date.


Journal Prompts from The Sober Survival Guide

Chapple recommends journaling as a tool for reflection and change. The following prompts are based on material from The Sober Survival Guide. (Download a printable PDF version below.)


Reflect on the following:

âś’ What are your drinking habits now? How much? How often? What drinks do you have? What were your drinking habits one year ago? What were your drinking habits five years ago? (Compare your answers. Are you drinking more now than you were before?) (pg. 29)

âś’ Calculate the time (per week) you spend drinking alcohol. Consider calculating the time spent planning to drink or recovering from the effects of alcohol. (pg. 147)

âś’ List the reasons your life is better because of alcohol. Next, challenge each reason. (pg. 44)

âś’ Does labeling yourself as an “alcoholic” or “addict” help or harm you? Why? (pg. 10)

âś’ Do you believe you have to hit “rock bottom” to recover? Why or why not? (pg. 41)

âś’ Have you ever hit “rock bottom”? Describe the incident in detail. If you haven’t had a “rock bottom” experience, what do you think it would look like? (pg. 41)

âś’ What are your current beliefs surrounding alcohol? For each belief you list, write a challenging statement. (Example: “I fail at everything I do – I doubt I can [quit alcohol].” Challenge with “If I don’t try, I won’t ever know. I’ll approach this with an open mind and a sense of curiosity.”) (pg. 38)

âś’ Record your current feelings surrounding drinking. (pg. 58)

âś’ List specific fears you have about quitting drinking. (Examples: What if my friends think I’m boring sober? What if I fail? What if I can’t have fun anymore?) (pg. 79)

âś’ Create a cravings log. List the times of day you experience cravings and what is happening at those times. (pg. 78)

âś’ List the pros and cons of drinking. (pg. 77)

âś’ List some of the reasons you want to stop drinking. Write about how you want your life to change. (Be specific!) (pg. 25)

âś’ List the ways alcohol has negatively impacted your health. Include health concerns you may not have experienced yet. (pg. 28)

âś’ List all of the occasions or special events you’ve put alcohol ahead of and reflect on your answers. (pg. 33)

âś’ List all of the people, situations, and events you’ve neglected in favor of drinking. Then, for each item, write how the same situation/event would have looked like if you hadn’t been drinking. (pg. 36)

âś’ List your justifications for drinking. (Examples: “I work hard; I earned this drink.” “It’s just a beer, not hard liquor.” “I never drink alone.” “I only drink on weekends.”) (pg. 32)

âś’ Review your list of current beliefs surrounding alcohol. Assign an emotion to each belief. (Example: “Without drinking each day, I’ll never be happy.” The underlying emotions are worry and sadness.) Next, replace each belief with a truthful statement, something that could become. (Example: “I am happy because [insert reason(s) here], but I have a hard time not drinking every day. So I’m working on this to become stronger.”) (pg. 47)

âś’ Write a “breakup” letter to alcohol. (pg. 55)

âś’ List all the things you want to do or experience once you are alcohol-free. (pg. 69)

âś’ Create a list of ways you can celebrate your success. (Be sure to calculate how much money you’ll save by quitting drinking.) (pg. 84)

âś’ Create a sober bucket list. (pg. 148)

âś’ List everything you may lose if you start drinking again. (pg. 83)

âś’ Create a personal accountability statement. (pg. 83)

âś’ List ways you can respond to others when they ask why you’re not drinking. (Examples: “I’m driving.” “Not now, no thanks.” “Not tonight, maybe another time.”) (pg. 74)

âś’ When you have an upcoming event that’s potentially triggering, visualize what you will do, say, etc. Write your detailed vision in your journal. (pg. 97)

âś’ Create a list of coping skills for when you’re experiencing a low mood. (pg. 116)

âś’ Create a gratitude list. (pg. 117)

âś’ Create a daily thought log. What are some of the thoughts you have about drinking throughout the day? (pg. 120)

âś’ If you experience a lapse or relapse, describe what happened. Pinpoint the exact moment you decided to drink. (pg. 66)

âś’ Review what you wrote (in the previous entry) about your lapse or relapse. Identify the triggers you experienced. (pg. 78)

âś’ Write a statement of commitment to an alcohol-free life. (pg. 168)


Bonus Material: Checklist for the Problems and Challenges You’ll Face

Guest Post: How to Stay in Shape During the Lockdown

Two simple workout programs for the home; no gym required!

By Kevin Mangelschots

Crazy things are happening all around the world at the moment. The pandemic, lockdowns, riots… In times like these, it’s crucial that you keep your mind sharp and healthy. But in many places, gyms have not reopened. And not everyone has the luxury of owning a home gym.

If you lack access to a gym (home or otherwise), fear not! You will be amazed at how fit you can get with little (or no) equipment if you put your mind to it! This article reviews ways you can workout at home (minus the weights and fitness machines).

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Beginner Workout Program 

Warmup: 

2-3 minutes of walking or riding the bike

Use this time to start your day off right. Go outside (weather permitting) and walk or ride your bike to warm up. If staying inside is your only option, walk in place or walk around your home.

Workout: 
  • 30 seconds squats – 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds planks – 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds pushups – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30 seconds lunges – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30 seconds sit-ups – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30 seconds Superman – 30 seconds rest 

–> Repeat this routine 2x. 

Cooldown:

2-3 minutes of walking or slow biking 


Intermediate Workout Program 

Warmup: 

2-3 minutes of walking or biking

Workout: 
  • 20 burpees – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30 close-grip pushups – 30 seconds rest 
  • 20 Bulgarian lunges (10 left, 10 right) – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30-second plank – 30 seconds rest 
  • 40-second side plank (20 seconds left, 20 seconds right) – 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds mountain climbers – 30 seconds rest 
  • 30 seconds Superman – 30 seconds rest

–> Repeat this routine 2x.

Cooldown: 

2-3 minutes of walking or slow biking 


Adjusting Your Workout Program 

Both of the above workout programs can be easily modified to be less difficult or more challenging. Below, I will explain how you can experiment to adjust the difficulty of your workout program and ways you can experiment if you are getting bored. Sometimes, changing things up is necessary to maintain motivation.

Reduce or increase rest times. Reducing or increasing rest times will make the workout harder or easier. 
 
Increase or decrease the reps and sets. The amount of reps refers to how many times you repeat the same motion for one set. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as five reps. The amount of sets refers to how many times you repeat a number of reps. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as one set. You can do multiple sets of the same exercise after you take a short rest.
 
Increasing the amount of reps and sets makes the workout harder while decreasing makes it easier.  

Adjust the way you do certain exercises. Most exercises can be made harder or easier. For example, pushups can be done on hands and toes, the traditional way, but can also be performed on hands and knees. Alternatively, they can be done with your feet raised on a bench, making them harder.

Squats can be done with or without weights. If regular squats are too easy, you can perform single-leg squats to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Image by Keifit from Pixabay

Add or decrease the number of exercises. You can also add or remove exercises from your routine to alter the level of difficulty. Exercises should be added as your level of training advances.

Consider adding the following exercises to a workout program:

The exercises listed above are just a few examples to add to your workout in order to make things trickier or for a nice change of pace if things get boring. Don’t hesitate to add your own exercises; get creative! Just be sure to perform any exercise with the correct form in order to prevent injuries.


Why Are These Workouts Effective?

The workout programs in this article are compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises or movements that target multiple large muscle groups at the same time. (For example, squats are compound exercises that target the legs in addition to the back and abdominal muscles, among others.) With compound exercises, you get more “bang for your buck.” The core of any training program should always consist of compound exercises.

High-intensity interval training. This means your heartrate increases and stays elevated for prolonged periods of time. We accomplish this with exercises of a certain level of intensity and by keeping rest periods between the exercises relatively short.

Strength, endurance, and mobility combined into one workout. With these workouts you will become stronger because you use your own body weight as resistance and your endurance will increase because your heartrate goes up with this high-intensity interval training style. Your mobility will increase as well because you will be utilizing a full range of motion.

Easy, even for individuals lacking prior experience.

Easily adjustable workout routines. Multiple ways to adjust the templates to make your own workout more challenging or less difficult.  

Convenience and value. No equipment or gym memberships required; a cheap and easy path to fitness. Both exercise programs require little time and can be performed at home. No drive to the gym. What’s not to like?

Image by Rattakarn_ from Pixabay

Closing Thoughts 

In comparing the workouts, the biggest differences between the beginner and intermediate programs are the amount of exercises, the difficulty level, and the overall volume. Rest times are initially the same because everyone’s cardiovascular health is different, but should be adjusted for each individual.

Keep in mind that the workout programs are templates only; they provide general guidelines that can be adjusted for fitness and training level as well as individual differences. For example, one person may struggle with pushups while another has difficulty with squats. Prior experience and recent injury or illness should be taken into account. You can reduce or increase reps/sets or perform alternate versions of an exercise, such as performing pushups on hands and knees if the traditional pushup is too hard.

The common stigma that you need a lot of fancy equipment or heavy lifting to stay in shape is not necessarily true. While exercises that utilize body weight only may not lead to bulging muscles, they will lead to fitness and you being in great shape as you lose fat and gain strength.

Getting in a quality workout with the current lockdown regulations is challenging, but with some knowledge and determination it can certainly be done!


About the Author:

Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and writes about general health with a specific focus on mental health and self-improvement on his blog, healthybodyathome.com