October is almost over, but for your health’s sake, we encourage you to keep up this reduced or no-alcohol lifestyle!



A message from Dr. Evan Adams, Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Shannon McDonald, Deputy Chief Medical Officer

We hope everyone who is participating in our Sober/er for October challenge is feeling the health benefits of a reduced or no-alcohol lifestyle! Congratulations to everyone for working on your personal health and wellness in this important way. We're so pleased with the hundreds of positive comments, posts and messages from participants (see below), who are encouraging other community members by either sharing their successes this month or their years of sobriety so far. Some say they're feeling more clear-headed and energetic than they have in a long time, and some say they're believing this will be a turning-point! 

We're also pleased that this challenge has increased our comfort level in talking about alcohol. Don't worry if you didn't do as well as you wanted to – every bit of work toward wellness helps.

While Sober/er for October is coming to a close, you don't have to go back to old ways if that means drinking too much; our hope is that you will continue with this new lifestyle to continue improving your health!

A note of caution: after a period of abstinence, if you'd previously been drinking heavily, there is the risk that your alcohol tolerance will be lower than before, so if you do decide to resume drinking alcohol, be sure to go slow.

In this message, we'll briefly reiterate points from some of the Sober/er for October messages our team has sent this month via social media including tips for reducing / quitting alcohol, the best approach for helping people with alcohol use disorder, the risks of alcohol, and resources including treatment centres if you feel you need more help in this area.

Tips for reducing or quitting alcohol use

• Surround yourself with people who don't drink alcohol and avoid socializing with people who drink alcohol.

• Avoid places where alcohol is being served, but if this is not possible, have a non-alcoholic beverage / mocktail.

• Be accountable: let others know you're reducing / quitting alcohol.

• Stock your fridge with non-alcoholic, beverages – buy sparkling flavoured waters or make flavoured water with cut-up lemons, limes or cucumbers, etc.

• Be sure you don't replace alcohol with unhealthy, high-calorie, high-sugar or high-chemical beverages such as juice, energy drinks, pop or diet pop.

• Try social activities that are not conducive to drinking: get your friends together and go for a hike, or try playing games, whether new or familiar.

• If you believe you have a serious problem with alcohol, see the last section of this message for resources including treatment centres and medications.

• It is critical to keep trying and never give up. Some people who are now sober made multiple attempts to reduce or stop their alcohol use before they did it. You can do it too!

Helping people with alcohol use disorder

• Know that drinking too much alcohol is a health issue, not a moral issue, and that being judgmental or stigmatizing alcohol use is harmful, not helpful. We have to help each other, not tear each other down. Remember, we are all connected, and what happens to one affects us all.

• Long-lasting change is most likely when it's self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking, while the least effective strategies are those motivated by feelings of guilt, fear, shame or regret, Harvard Medical School researchers have found.

• We need to be aware that some people drink more heavily to self-medicate past / ongoing traumas. Every person responds differently to trauma.

Talking with youth about alcohol use

• In the case of younger community members, it is important to be non-judgmental and have open conversations with them about alcohol. Some tips for doing this can be found here.

• We need to accept that young people are going to make choices we may not agree with; like us before them, youth will make mistakes and learn from them. If drinking is going to happen, we need to focus on reducing the risk of bad outcomes. This could mean allowing youth to be open and honest about where they are going and what they are doing, and letting them know they can call a responsible adult at any time for a safe ride home.

• Young people also need healthy alternatives to social drinking: they should be provided with an array of opportunities to participate in sports, cultural activities and other non-drinking social events.

Risks related to alcohol consumption

As physicians, we can only guide our patients by warning them about the risks of drinking alcohol. Here are just some of the risks associated with drinking alcohol:

• The Canadian Cancer Society notes that drinking any type of alcohol raises your risk of developing cancer. The less you drink, the lower your risk. No amount of alcohol is considered safe, but if you do you drink, keep it to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. Even one drink per day can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer.

• According to The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy cause unknown risks to babies in the womb. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not consume alcohol.

• It is unsafe for parents to drink while caring for children, especially infants, when intoxicated, as judgement and abilities may be impaired.

• In a review of 95 unexpected deaths in First Nations youth ages 15-24 between 2010 and 2015, alcohol was found to be a contributing factor in 54% of cases.

• Alcohol is a contributing factor in many, many injuries and accidents in general, whether youth or adult, Indigenous or non-Indigenous.

Resources for assistance with alcohol use disorder

• We encourage you to seek help if you need it. Here are some ideas that have worked for others: 

• Treatment centres: for info on FNHA-funded treatment centres, click here

• Support groups: e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART, Al-Anon, AlaTeen.

• Health care providers: speak to them about your concerns.

• Medications: ask your health care provider about medications that can prevent relapses and/or reduce cravings.

• Therapy may also be available: ask your health care provider for a referral.

• Traditional healing/cultural activities: Participation in these has been found to be very beneficial for those with alcohol use disorder. Culture really does save lives.

• Use the 24/7 Ku-uus Crisis Line as necessary: they have information about many different resources, programs and services.

• Be informed: check out the FNHA webpages on substance use or these links: Alcohol Reality Check in British Columbia: www.alcoholreality.ca; and Alcohol Best Practices Portal: http://cbpp-pcpe.phac-aspc.gc.ca/public-health-topics/alcohol/.

Sober for October social media comments

These are just some of the hundreds of Facebook posts, comments and messages we received during our Sober for October campaign! Thank you everyone for participating! So many proudly shared their many years of sobriety with us, their personal stories, sent words of encouragement to other community members, or commented about their Sober for October journey throughout the month. Now let’s keep this sober or sober-er movement going so we can be our healthiest selves! ~ Dr. Evan Adams, FNHA Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer

I don't miss it at all. One day at a time! Once you quit, won't want to start again. Been years since I drank – I know you all can do it! ~ Syexwaliya Ann Whonnock, FNHA Knowledge Keeper

Sober – love being so so aware of life alive all around me – birds sing, dogs bark, bears growl, people laughing and sober people enjoying being sober. Thank you! ~ Charlotte Manuel

It feels good to wake up with a solid purpose and push through the rest of the day. ~ Taylor McCarthy

I will be Sober for October and will carry it through the other 11 months of the year for the rest of my life. ~ Barbara Huston

Going on three weeks. Now I'm addicted to chocolate and Netflix. ~ Karmyn Humchitt

I am in 100% and plan on going further in the future sober too! ~ Colleen Mishelle Johnson

A few near misses but hanging in there. The main drive is not wanting to feel sick the next day. Honestly, I feel better. So many days I lost count…I feel great!! I actually don't want to drink because I don't want to feel sick again. Thank you Evan for helping. ~ David Patrick Tsosie

I'm not missing it at all. Had the urge to drink on Saturday after I received a red card in my soccer game, but then remembered how much more focused and energetic I've been. It has been nice getting things done on the weekend and I feel like the universe is sending me more and more opportunities. I feel like it's up from here! ~ Terry Sparrow

Very hard when nearly your entire social circle is not sober. Still, one day at a time and thankful for greater clarity and less anxiety. ~ Dean Malone

I plan to keep going and keep it up after October. I'm feeling fantastic! Go Sober October!! ~ Julia Gulia

You're lifting lots of us up and inspiring me to try. ~ Verena Cootes

This is a great movement! Happy Sober October, everyone! I've been sober since October 9th, 1994. ~ Doris Paul Pinchbeck

It's great that you are raising awareness in this way and trying yourself to reduce. I was deeply affected by family members' drinking. I pray that people realize for themselves if alcohol is affecting them or their loved ones. ~ Mary Peter

Challenge accepted!! Nine days sober now, just started my healing journey! ~ Samaz Katerri

Leading by example – so I may learn by doing – Miigwetch – for Sober October – Great Start – xo. ~ Jorunn McEvoy

My husband and I went to the gym both Sunday and last night. ~ Taylor McCarthy

Sobriety Rocks – I will be celebrating 28 years on November 21. I quit because I didn't want to go down the same path as my dad and grandfather. They passed away from alcoholism in their early 50s. Thanks for asking about this, Evan. ~ Joan Richardson

Cooking more at home vs. going out for a glass of wine and dinner + salary savings. ~ Gail Morris

Going well!! Three days in, not even wishing! ~ Kristi Thiele

Teetering … but still Sober for October. ~ Bonnie Charlie

We quit today! ~ Heather VanAernam

Drinking, even for high functioners, still takes a toll … the liver knows. ~ Raven Sinclair

So so many good people have left waaaay too soon due to alcohol abuse. I am happy you're promoting positive changes. Keep on keeping on. ~ Tricia Manuel

Twenty years on the Red Road and it's awesome. Prayers for those who are still struggling with addiction, that they will get the resources needed for their health and recovery. ~ Anthony Paul

Sober 26 years. So happy about that! All the best to all, whether sober, abstaining or cutting back. ~ Marty Ballentyne

It's amazing to see this and others give it a go. So many good things have happened in my life and continue to since I stopped drinking 23 years ago. ~ Val Joe

I feel great. Tomorrow marks six months. There are moments when I'm tempted, but I think I've come this far keep going. I'm happy with my choice to stop drinking. My baby feels better. My sugar levels are better. I'm doing this for me because I want to. My heart and mind say thank you. Continued prayers of strength for those who are struggling. ~ Patricia Wilson

Sober for 43 years! Love it! ~ Richard Van Camp

Whatever works and whatever one is comfortable with is the way to go … small steps make giant wins. ~ Frank Alec

One day at a time and prayers help me to stay strong. I love a sober life! ~ Myrna Tom

One day at a time. Keep up the good work, everyone. I support you! ~ Janine Salsimiya Gonzales

Been sober for over 16 years now and used to drink life a fish before. ~ Wilf Adam

Sober for four years. One day at a time. ~ Janet Wilson

Seven years sober here going onto eight years in January and I love it, couldn't ask for a more awesome life after I cleaned up my life, got my driver's licence and a good job. Life's blessed! I won't go back to my old lifestyle because I wouldn't be where I am today. I tried before but then I had a good friend help me and since then have both been sober seven years going on eight. ~ Margaret Atleo

Yes!!! Two years sober and counting! ~ Nicole Dennis

Been sober for 15 years and I am very happy!!! ~ Jean Chalifoux

Sober 36 years, have more fun now than when I was drinking. And I remember, to boot! ~ Alice Will

Sober seven years. Got five beautiful babies and two more on the way. I love the sober life. I crochet, I bake. My weekends I try to relax and make gifts for my babies or family – sometimes sell my work. ~ Myrtle Flutterby Wallace

I made a resolution to quit drinking on January 1st, 2005. The resolution stuck and I don't miss it at all. ~ Frank George

I lost lots of family and friends because of alcohol. I'm sober and happy without it. I pray others find peace of mind, in one way or another. ~ Linda Daniels

Sober, for 39 years. ~ Rose Richardson

Nearing four years sober; it all began from the Sober for October four years ago. ~ Vicki Seymour

One day at a time … Keep it simple … Pray and turn it over to your Higher Power. ~ Charlene Baker

32 years sober! ~ Betty Ann Bob

35 years and counting! ~ Larry Eustache

Find out more about the Sober for October challenge here.