Reviewed by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
- The Sober Survival Guide by Simon Chapple
- Published by Elevator Digital , Ltd., 2019, 178 pages
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.
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.
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!)
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, click here!
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 of the prompts below.)
- Reflect on the following:
- 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)
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)
List the reasons your life is better because of alcohol. Next, challenge each reason. (pg. 44)
Does labeling yourself as an “alcoholic” or “addict” help or harm you? Why? (pg. 10)
Do you believe you have to hit “rock bottom” to recover? Why or why not? (pg. 41)
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)
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)
Record your current feelings surrounding drinking. (pg. 58)
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)
Create a cravings log. List the times of day you experience cravings and what is happening at those times. (pg. 78)
List the pros and cons of drinking. (pg. 77)
List some of the reasons you want to stop drinking. Write about how you want your life to change. (Be specific!) (pg. 25)
List the ways alcohol has negatively impacted your health. Include health concerns you may not have experienced yet. (pg. 28)
List all of the occasions or special events you’ve put alcohol ahead of and reflect on your answers. (pg. 33)
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)
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)
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)
Write a “breakup” letter to alcohol. (pg. 55)
List all the things you want to do or experience once you are alcohol-free. (pg. 69)
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)
Create a sober bucket list. (pg. 148)
List everything you may lose if you start drinking again. (pg. 83)
Create a personal accountability statement. (pg. 83)
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)
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)
Create a list of coping skills for when you’re experiencing a low mood. (pg. 116)
Create a gratitude list. (pg. 117)
Create a daily thought log. What are some of the thoughts you have about drinking throughout the day? (pg. 120)
If you experience a lapse or relapse, describe what happened. Pinpoint the exact moment you decided to drink. (pg. 66)
Review what you wrote (in the previous entry) about your lapse or relapse. Identify the triggers you experienced. (pg. 78)
Write a statement of commitment to an alcohol-free life. (pg. 168)
Bonus Material: Checklist for the Problems and Challenges You’ll Face