Have you noticed the buzz around buzz-free alcohol? Maybe your favorite Instagram influencer is posting about Monday Gin or the Athletic Brewing Company. Has an alcohol-free bar opened up in your neighborhood yet? If so, you can thank the Sober Curious movement.
Sober Curious is a phrase coined by author Ruby Warrington in 2016. According to her interview on ABC News, Ruby wanted to create a term that was non-judgmental and open-ended enough to really give herself permission to explore questions about drinking.
Sober Curious may have had its origins in the existing month-long sobriety challenges like Dry January and Sober October. What makes Sober Curious different is its focus on one’s relationship with alcohol as a personal choice. There’s a common misconception that cutting out alcohol means life becomes uninteresting, unpleasurable, and less fun. The Sober Curious movement tries to see this change from a different perspective – could my life be better without alcohol? Curiosity allows for flexibility without forcing oneself to commit to a change. Perhaps the Sober Curious movement has become a trend because people can experiment with sobriety while breaking from the stigma long associated with it. In other words, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to try sobriety.
There’s a fear that sobriety comes with loneliness. Alcohol goes hand in hand with being social and people who want to stop feeling lonely often rely on drinking. However, studies show that loneliness can be intensified with drinking and increases the risk of alcohol misuse.
Most of us are aware of the potential negative effects of alcohol to our bodies and yet it remains a compelling way to celebrate or escape. According to research, alcohol consumption in the US increased during the COVID 19 pandemic. COVID has made this impact due to stress triggered by financial difficulties, social isolation, uncertainty about the future, and boredom. It’s no secret that most people lean on alcohol to destress, socialize, celebrate milestones, and cope with challenges. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6% of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime and 25.8% of these people are reported to engage in binge drinking in the past month. Each one of us has a different relationship towards alcohol but being able to take a break from drinking might help you realize it’s not really necessary for you to have fun or manage stress in general.
If you aren’t dependent on alcohol but just want to evaluate the impact alcohol has on your life, the Sober Curious movement might be right for you. With Sober Curious, there’s no timeline for when you should start or end sobriety. The idea is aimed at helping validate your questions about drinking and creating a community for those curious about sobriety.
Anyone can benefit from being Sober Curious. You might want to address your drinking habits even if you don’t have a drinking problem. You might have noticed that drinking doesn’t really do much to address your problems anyway and often leaves you feeling more anxious, something known as Hangxiety. You may not feel a need to quit entirely, but you recognize that taking a break might help you find more productive ways of managing life’s challenges.
Going Sober Curious gives you the opportunity to see how sobriety or moderation might fit into your life – it is not a permanent change, at least not necessarily. Some people choose to avoid alcohol for two weeks, one month, or even up to a year. Others don’t set any time limit but commit to going without “for now” or “indefinitely.” The beauty of this strategy is in its flexibility.
You might decide to have a drink on occasion after weighing what you like and don’t like about alcohol. Many Sober Curious people who notice troubling patterns with their drinking often find that a few weeks or months of sobriety helps them practice more moderate and mindful drinking in the future. And what about all the health advantages that come with sobriety? Consider them a bonus!
We can extend the concept of Sober Curious beyond drinking to other behaviors as well – use of recreational drugs, smoking, and other potentially addictive behaviors. Being curious about our own tendencies, patterns, behaviors, and motives can be the game-changer. We tend to become fixated on a coping strategy when we believe it’s the only solution to our problem. Use curiosity and creativity to explore other ways of feeling better. You might just surprise yourself.
Should you want to learn more about Sober Curious Movement, here are some helpful resources:
- The Verywell Podcast
- Sober Curious Books:
– Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol
– The Sober Curious Reset: Change the Way You Drink in 100 Days or Less
- Youtube videos:
– Being ‘Sober Curious,’ an approach to not drinking with better wellness in mind
– Ruby Warrington: Sober Curious | Commune Podcast
– The ‘Sober Curious’ Movement: What Is it?
- Online articles:
– The rise of the sober curious: having it all, without alcohol
– The Beginner’s Guide To The Sober-Curious Community
If you believe your relationship with alcohol is problematic and you need more support, there are plenty of resources that address alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. Self-help resources like How to Change Your Drinking, Responsible Drinking, and Power Over Addiction (shameless self-promotion) can help you address problematic drinking. (Full disclosure, I make a small commission if you purchase books via these links).
If abstinence is your long-term goal, free community groups like AA, Refuge Recovery, and SMART Recovery are widely available. If you prefer to try moderation, check out Moderation Management groups or look for a harm reduction therapy group in your area. Meeting regularly with people who share your experience creates a sense of belongingness, understanding, and compassion and these have a huge impact on improving one’s relationship with alcohol.
If your history with alcohol is chronically problematic or if you’re also coping with depression, anxiety, or trauma then psychotherapy sessions – individual therapy and groups – can be especially helpful. Find a licensed professional who specializes in addiction or alcohol treatment and who will support you regardless in either moderation or abstinence.
Let us know if you decide to go Sober Curios. We’d love to hear how it goes and provide any additional resources you may need.