As a modern society, we've created a lot of ways to curb our bad drinking habits — the most prolific manifestations being month-long sobriety themes: Dry Jan, Feb Fast, Dry July, Oct-sober. These alcohol-free periods are usually inspired by very festive festive seasons, health kicks or a desire to better yourself. But if you feel like your relationship with alcohol needs some proper therapy — to make it a happy and healthy one that you feel completely in control of — you might need something more. You might need 101 Tokens.
Created by Benny Wallington (below), the elevator pitch for 101 Tokens is this: "We're a community of conscious drinkers, working to retrain our booze brains by making ourselves accountable for our drinking. When you sign up, you have 101 tokens to spend in a year. So that's just under two tokens a week. A sip of alcohol is a token, and so is a whole night of drinking. But the crucial part is recording whether a drinking session was worth it or not. You look back and see when drinking was worth it and when it wasn't, and from that, find the patterns in your drinking. Find what's missing when it's not worth it, and change it. The goal is to discover your personal optimal drinking habit, with added bonuses: saving money, feel fitter and get more from your life."
The concept of 101 Tokens was born in the first 24 hours of 2016, when Benny found himself nursing a beer while re-watching the football highlights. His housemate came in and suggested they go to the pub, and as Benny went to get up, he spilled the beer all over himself. "I just thought, screw this. I'd been drinking for three days straight, I was turning 30 that year and I needed to change things. So instead of going to the pub, I stayed home and wrote the rules for 101 Tokens."
He knew he needed to make himself accountable, so he posted his plans online, and kept a monthly online diary chronicling his journey.
In 2017, Benny found people wanted to join him in doing 101 Tokens, so he started a community. "I made a basic website, a private Facebook group, invited friends and family, and we got almost 101 sign-ups. Everyone started sharing how they were going, how they were feeling and we talked a lot about what we were doing instead of drinking. The motto was 'Drink Less, Live More' and we helped encourage each other to achieve our goals. In a year we had people start businesses, buy houses and have babies."
In 2018, the community is open. There's an app to help keep track of your drinking, and a calculator that (rather terrifyingly) will tell you how much you spend on drinks annually, and how much you could save.
One of the main differences with this drinking system is that the tokens are uncapped. So a glass of red with dinner is worth the same as a booze-laden event, like a wedding. Benny says there are a few reasons for this, the first being that originally the system was created for himself, and he didn't want the times he did drink to have a cut-off cloud looming over them. Which makes a lot of sense in terms of not turning the system into something you grow to resent, as a lot of people end up doing with Feb Fast, et al. The uncapped drinking also allows space for people to find their own limits. "I know what happens, people think they can drink what they want on those token days, and they want to 'make it count'. Usually they drink too much and end up ruining their night. So that's why the enquiry is there."
The enquiry part is where the real changes are made. After every drinking session, you're required to note whether it was worth it. It's a "yay" or "nay." Did you say something you shouldn't have? Spend way too much? Feel generally anxious about how you behaved? Or miss the 8 a.m. Pilates class you really wanted to go to? That would be a nay night. Did you have a great time? Catch up with friends you really wanted to see? Try a great new bar? Pace yourself and feel pretty OK this morning? That's a yay night.
You're then encouraged to look at the pattern in your "nays," and find the common theme in what made them not worth it. Was it the people you were with? What you drank? What you didn't eat? Your mental state? The time of week? Benny says he had one community member with eleven tokens used in her first month, and nine were "nays". "I asked her why, and she said she was going to the same pub all the time after work and drinking just because. She was over it. So we knew it was the location that had to change. I knew she was a bit of a foodie, so I suggested she stop hitting that pub, but instead use the money to go with her mates to a new restaurant once a week."
Benny notes that it's important to recognise that you'll always make mistakes. He admits he still can end up with a "nay" night. "I got 95 percent "yays" last year, but I still mess up. I'll go out, see someone I haven't seen for ages, get over excited, get in on rounds of double shots and lose my inside voice. I'll end up losing my jacket, smashing my phone or with a can't-move hangover the next day. But that's a rarity now, where it used to be common. I'm a whole lot better than I used to be, and that's the whole point."