Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
You may have heard of Dry January or Sober October on social media. These trends that challenge people to go without drinking alcohol for a month as a sort of experiment and/or health detox are becoming more and more popular. Those who partake in these sobriety challenges are considered to be “sober curious.”
What is Sober Curiosity?
Sober Curious is a movement that began in the UK and has rapidly grown in popularity across the US and other developed nations. It’s intended primarily to help individuals become more aware of their drinking in order to form a better relationship with alcohol. It’s about being mindful of your drinking habits, questioning why and how much you drink, and how is it really making you feel. It does not mean you intend to give up alcohol permanently, at least not yet.
Being Sober Curious is great for people who drink socially and don’t care for the hangovers and become intrigued to try “life” without going out drinking for a while. The sober curious approach is also great for grey-area drinkers who aren’t sure if they have an attachment to alcohol or not. Either way, giving your body and mind a break from alcohol can help you feel and see things more clearly – and you might be surprised what you find on the other side.
Let’s talk about Grey-Area drinking…
If you have ever questioned yourself about your own relationship with alcohol, you may have been in a grey area. That is the margin between only drinking when you want to and having it completely under control versus having an unhealthy attachment or dependency on alcohol – up to and including alcohol addiction, now called an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
Because of our society and its enmeshment with alcohol at every turn, from sporting events, dinners out, to quiet evenings at home watching TV shows and ads full of people drinking a glass of wine, whiskey, or beer. We’re literally encouraged to drink everywhere (even on morning TV talk shows!) and once you are aware of it, you will notice it all the time. It’s not hard to see why many people walk a slippery slope with alcohol.
The real problem is that because alcohol is so ingrained in our everyday lives, it’s now considered strange to NOT drink.
And this is where the Sober Curious movement becomes a helpful tool for individuals to use to take back control over their own habits and health without feeling like the odd duck.
When you hop on the Sober Curious bandwagon, you get to join others who are interested in trying out sobriety for a while because they WANT TO. It is truly something they are choosing to do and that mindset is the key. When it’s not a rule that you HAVE to follow, we as humans always react more favorably because we aren’t going against our grain.
When you take a break from alcohol, you start to be mindful of when where and how much you would be drinking during the trial period when you are experimenting. And, you know that you don’t have to never drink again, so that makes it easier to stick to the goal. However, if you miss a beat and have a drink, you can call it a “reminder” instead of a “relapse” which is way more supportive instead of shame-based.
Tips for embracing your Sober Curious side…
Embrace true curiosity about your relationship with alcohol. How does your body feel after a few weeks without drinking? Do you find that you sleep better and have improved focus during the workday? Did you eat less junk food, remember the night’s events with clarity, not have those awful feelings of “hangxiety,” and actually stick to your morning workout routine? Your body and mind need 3 full weeks of sobriety before it really begins to feel the full beneficial effects of not drinking, so remember to be patient as you go through the experiment.
Make decisions to not drink ahead of time and plan what alternatives you’re going to order instead if you do go out to dinner or dancing. Or even plan to limit yourself to 2 drinks and ask a friend to help you stick to it. When you make thought-based decisions, there is less tapping into the pleasure-seeking reward center of the brain and you can enjoy just being with good company or engaging in activities.
Look at your groups of friends and what you tend to do during your free time. If most of your friends are drinking often and that is what your social life looks like, you may need to change things up. Add new activities to your life that don’t involve drinking and you’ll meet some new like-minded people. It doesn’t mean you need to abandon your old friends, just accept that they’re not in the same place with you around sobriety and you may choose to go home a little earlier than they do – or plan events together that don’t revolve around alcohol.
When you are practicing mindful drinking, take inventory of why you drink… Are you feeling insecure? Are you more interesting when you drink? Is it because of a stressful day or relationships? If you have the urge, are you HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired)? Are you just bored? Change events and patterns in your day-to-day activities so you don’t feel deprived.
You may not realize that realize alcohol is a coping “skill” and that you can cope in other ways. Make a list of healthy alternatives to make yourself feel better (or rewarded as the case may be). You can try yoga or painting. Practice a YouTube meditation. Watch an entire season of your favorite show on Netflix. Go for a walk, plant some new herbs, snap photos of flowers, take a bubble bath, get a massage, or call it a day and head to bed early. If you find yourself needing to cope away bad feelings too often, you might want to talk to a therapist to get resolutions for the real underlying concerns in your life.
Are you on the sobriety bandwagon and your partner isn’t? Couple’s therapy can help you both adjust to the new dynamic because there is guilt/shame for the person who is still drinking and there is judgment from the other. Your partner may think those fun nights out together are gone for good so it’s important to communicate and make a plan for alternatives to keep the bond strong.
When you do drink, notice the taste, temperature, and smell. Do you like it? What about it do you like? Are there other beverage choices that might give you the same joy without the alcohol? How long does the good buzz last before you crave another drink? How many drinks did you feel you needed to feel as good as you wanted and did you easily stop at that point or keep going? How do you feel the next morning and was it worth it?
The Today Show reminds us that “Booze-freedom doesn’t need to mean boredom.”
They’ve rounded up some great mocktail recipes – including some that have ingredients that produce natural calming effects. Many bars and restaurants are becoming more inclusive of their Sober Curious patrons and are including creative mocktails on their menus. Not every place has great options yet, but changes to society take time and we expect this Sober Curious movement to make some impactful waves in the way new generations approach alcohol as they strive to live more balanced healthier lives.
Being Sober Curious isn’t really about moderation – it’s about being mindful.
It’s about drinking differently or not at all. It’s about making a choice to abstain or drink less. It is certainly not a punishment. It’s up to you how you want to live your life – just be sure the choices you are making are your own and not what society has told you to do.
There are a ton of resources available for anyone considering testing the Sober Curious waters. There are great books known as “quit lit”, supportive Facebook groups, and enlightening podcasts and videos. Here are a few that we have found immensely helpful and think you might find value in them too!
- Challenge – Sober Sis’s ’21 Day Reset’ Challenge
- Challenge – Naked Mind’s THE ALCOHOL EXPERIMENT
- Book – This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace
- Book – Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol by Ruby Warrington
- Book – Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions Hardcover by Russell Brand
- Book – Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction by Noah Levine
- DVD – Pleasure Unwoven: An Explanation of the Brain Disease of Addiction by Kevin McCauley
- FB Group – Be Sober – Quit Drinking & Enjoy Life by Simon Chapple
- FB Group – The Alcohol Experiment – Private Group by This Naked Mind
- FB Group – ON THE MOCKS: Mocktails, Non-Alcoholic Spirits + Sober Curious Fun
- Podcast – A Sober Girls Guide Podcast
- Website – Recovery Support for Higher Education Students
- Website – Employment Resources for People in Recovery