The Rest Is History

Sometimes things just come together. Like a perfect storm. Like it was meant to happen.

This is exactly what happened when I started Soberistas.com – I had stopped drinking, I had acknowledged I COULD NOT drink in moderation and I needed help. And nothing out there in terms of support for people with alcohol dependency issues appealed to me in any way, shape or form. So I set up Soberistas – in partnership with Sean, my business partner and tech man (I’m not techy), during my maternity leave in 2012. We both worked two jobs for a long time, and established Soberistas on a next-to-nothing budget. We had no money to spend on marketing or advertising, but somehow built a community of 20,000 in a year.

A few days ago, another ‘perfect storm’ came to fruition after many months of planning. I’d wanted to set up an online store for a while; somewhere selling clothes that challenged the misconception that sobriety is miserable and sad. Then, in late summer I met a bloke who had set up a social enterprise in Sheffield called Printed By us – the people working there have all overcome major life challenges such as homelessness and addiction and are now retrained in printing. So the two came together to make www.therestishistory.co, my new site. The clothes, mugs and water bottles are all printed by Printed By us, so they look fab and are making a positive social impact at the same time.

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I truly believe that we are in the early stages of a sober revolution, it’s not considered weird anymore to live alcohol-free. Examples: 3.1 million Brits have signed up for Dry January this month; the AF drinks market is booming; I’ve just spent the afternoon in London filming a segment for the ITV show Lorraine – and it’s not about ‘alcoholics’ and the misery of being a boozehound. It’s a really happy, positive piece about the joy of sobriety. Good for you ITV and Lorraine for catching this wave! (The programme will be aired on January 18th.)

The Rest Is History is making clothes for people like me who are proud of their booze-free lives. This is something I firmly believe in; wear your (sober) heart on your sleeve and make no apologies for living this life. You’ll find hoodies and T-shirts to help you feel good about your choice to live AF, and to make you feel good about supporting alcohol and drug misuse charities at the same time (10% of our profits go to such charities). Plus, you’ll find blogs like this one – I will no longer be writing on WordPress but will be posting regular blogs on The Rest Is History – sign up to our newsletter on the homepage and make sure you don’t miss them…

http://www.therestishistory.co

Bye for now…and thanks from the bottom of my heart for all your support. Lucy xx

The Rest is History For Healthy Souls top-12-1

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The Future of Soberistas

On Monday we announced that Soberistas would, from the 27th April 2014, be introducing a small membership fee of approximately £3.00 per month. Whilst the overriding response to this news has been positive, there have been some suggestions that the website should remain free to those who use it, or that we should seek finance from elsewhere. I’m writing this post in the hope of reassuring anyone with doubts that a membership fee is the best financing solution for Soberistas.

Hello Sunday Morning is a great Australian website which aims to offer individuals a chance to explore their relationship with alcohol, with a broader aim of addressing binge-drinking cultural norms. It is not wholly dissimilar to Soberistas in that it enables those who sign up to blog about their new-found sobriety, and to gain insight into living without alcohol. Since 2010, HSM has attracted over 20,000 people who’ve signed up to three months off the booze.

The following extract is taken from the HSM website;

“Hello Sunday Morning has now raised $200,000, including from Queensland Health, to support operations in Queensland. We are now looking to raise a further $300,000 to help the program expand operations across the rest of Australia. The funding will enable Hello Sunday Morning to:

1) Rebuild the innovative online and offline program to support a growing community of people who would like to change the way they drink;

2) Undertake a nation-wide media campaign to share local stories of change, challenging the negative aspects of a drinking culture that costs Australia $36 billion and 3,000 lives every year;

3) Complete invaluable research into the culture of unsafe alcohol consumption designed to improve online programs (applicable to other health issues), government campaigns and programs.”

The above extract demonstrates that websites such as Hello Sunday Morning and Soberistas can be about so much more than merely a blogging site.

With sufficient funding we will be able to greatly improve Soberistas (specifically, the website is currently hosted by third party software which restricts what we can offer our members in terms of functionality.  These restrictions can be addressed with additional funding). It will enable us to conduct research in order to improve the services we offer, and which would crucially be of great value in terms of reducing alcohol-related harms on a wider scale.

We would also love to facilitate the organisation of the real-life Soberistas meet-ups which have been taking place during the last few months around the country. Your feedback tells us that these are invaluable for aiding your sobriety and cementing online friendships.

Put bluntly, funding will arm us with the potential to greatly improve thousands and thousands of lives.

Soberistas has been in existence for less than half the time of Hello Sunday Morning (we launched on 26th November 2012) and currently has 25,194 members (albeit many of these are not always active). My partner Sean and I have financed Soberistas entirely on personal funding, a small amount derived from member donations and, more recently, advertising revenue. In order to sustain and grow the site to where it is today, it’s been imperative that we work on it for free and in our spare time (Sean works full time for the fire service and I am a full time mum of two). We have done this because we believe wholeheartedly that Soberistas helps people escape the hell of alcohol dependency and offers a lifeline that otherwise would not be so readily available.

In addition, my sister Claire has worked for free for us since September 2013 and has helped fund Soberistas from her own pocket. This is because she believes in Sean and I, and she believes in Soberistas.

Funding obtained through grants has been explored as a potential revenue source but we have not been successful in securing this (other than a one-off lump sum that we won last year in a social enterprise competition, and which was quickly swallowed up on much-needed technical improvements to the website, legal requirements and re-branding). In addition, funding which is derived solely from grants and loans is not a sustainable way to operate any business, and social enterprises in particular commonly fold after their initial financing from such sources runs dry.

Advertising and sponsorships are not secure methods of funding in the long term for relatively small sites (in terms of traffic) like Soberistas, and particularly in times of recession these financing sources cannot be relied on.

We are proud of the fact that we have managed to maintain and grow Soberistas from absolutely nothing, on a shoe-string, and with little more than the odd hand-out from people who really believe in it (i.e. my family). We are proud that we have worked every spare hour to help build a community that really helps people, a community which makes them feel less ashamed and desperate, and which offers a sense of optimism for the future.

I created Soberistas in the aftermath of one of the darkest periods of my entire life, and its core aim was (and still is) to offer a lifeline of support and friendship to those who feel utterly lost and hopeless because of everything alcohol has robbed them of. It has proved invaluable as a resource and I believe passionately that it has to continue, it has to grow, and it has to have proper investment and time devoted to it.

In addition to the obvious benefits to our members that a fee will bring, we’ll also be able to donate to a charity of Dr Julia’s choice (who so generously gives up her time for free every month to answer your questions in the Ask the Doctor feature) by way of thanking her for her monthly contributions to the site.

We believe in the future of Soberistas as a sustainable, modern and carefully-thought out social enterprise which, with the support of its members, can thrive and offer a lifeline to thousands more people in the years to come.

We sincerely hope that our members will see the vast potential in Soberistas to help not only them but many more people besides.