What do you tell your colleagues when they’re popping the cork on a deal and you’ve settled for orange juice. Chances are some sneaky white lie .
A course of antibiotics? Driving tonight? Still recovering from a heavy one?
Since binning the booze three years ago, east Londoner Laura Willoughby has studied the social stigma attached to drinking dry.
She set up lifestyle brand Club Soda – alongside former Barclays banker and now teetotal Jussi Tolvi – in January.
It offers a mix of light hearted lists of no-drinking excuses, goal-setting, social events centred on alcohol free beer and face-to-face courses on giving up alcohol, led by life coaches and counsellors.
Laura says Club Soda isn’t anti alcohol – many of the get-togethers are held in pubs –
but the 41-year-old, who used to seek solace in a bottle during a hectic career, admits there’s a serious side, especially when drinking culture, business deals and stressful finance jobs are intertwined.
She said: “If you tell people you’re not drinking they think you’ve got a problem - it shouldn’t have to be like that really. We should all be saying ‘brilliant, good for you’.
“Lots of people drink every night because they think they’re missing out on conversation and team building. But there are ways to learn skills to connect with others without a glass of alcohol in their hand.
She added: “It isn’t about saying ‘I have been in the gutter’ – it’s a positive change to make. We have a lot of laughter and fun, particularly when we are looking for those excuses to tell our mates.”
“We were talking to a company in the City and employee health and weight management were at the top of its to do list, and alcohol isn’t separate from that.
“So when company’s get a bottle of bubbly in, why not get a nice bottle of Elderflower Cordial too, so the team can choose?”
Club Soda has signed up personal trainers to cater to those wanting to lose weight as they embark on their mission, while the website offers yoga tutorials.
“You go home, you open a bottle of wine while you’re cooking and drink it – you need to do something else to distract yourself,” she said.
“You need to learn alternative ways to get that sense of relief if you want to improve your health. Even after three years when I’m really stressed, I can feel like a G and T. But I go and spend lots of money in Hotel Chocolat, instead.”
Club Soda’s four-week How to Deal With Stress Course, in Soho, starts on October 8.