Are You Sober Curious?
You heard it here first, Sober Curiosity is the next big thing.
Okay, so…what does that even mean?
The term Sober Curious was coined by the author of the book Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington. In this article Warrington states “Being sober curious means, literally, to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.”
To be clear, being Sober Curious is not the same as being sober. This is more accurately articulated when Sarah Sheppard, writer of this article states “Unlike sobriety, which is often a lifestyle chosen as a result of alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, sober curiosity is often defined as having the option to choose, to question, or to change your drinking habits for health-focused reasons (mental and/or physical). The sober curious movement has encouraged individuals to recognize the often-unhealthy habits that are associated with alcohol. Sober curious culture encourages a sober lifestyle, but welcomes individuals who aren’t willing, ready, or planning to give up alcohol completely.”
When I take a step back, I can’t help but realize that our society revolves around alcohol and within the last year or so, that realization hasn’t been sitting well with me.
It has been ingrained in us from an early age that alcohol is the secret elixir that makes us all feel more relaxed, cool, powerful, like we fit in. I mean, think about it — can you remember a group function where alcohol wasn’t lurking in the shadows? From weddings, to holiday gatherings, networking events, book clubs…I’m willing to bet that alcohol is likely the star guest — the unsuspecting popular kid who always gets the invite to whatever event you begrudgingly RSVP’d yes to.
How many times have you secretly prayed they served booze at that baby shower you don’t have time to attend?
As with everything, the younger generations are becoming more woke than the generations that preceded us; millennials are cultivating a self-awareness that our parents did not have the luxury to access and cultivate for themselves. As Sarah Sheppard puts it:
“As plant-based diets, yoga, and mindfulness rise in popularity, so will sober curiosity. Often referred to as “generation sober,” the millennial generation has embraced sober curious culture and has actually made sobriety more culturally acceptable.”
This thought is further articulated in this article where Adrienne Matei states “While having a cool life may once have meant getting in at 5am and sleeping with your makeup on, today’s luxury looks more like having a chic “spirit-free” beverage, leaving the party at its peak, completing your nighttime skincare routine in full, and getting a good sleep so you’re ready for a productive morning.”
With TikTok, YouTube and Instagram awaiting us with the mindless swipe of a finger, we have become sponges, soaking up every piece of health & wellness information with the promise of looking and feeling our absolute best. Thanks to the pandemic, we are more glued to our phones than ever — a once bored itch that now needs to be scratched incessantly. I can speak for myself when I say that if I have questions or curiosities regarding my health, TikTok and Instagram are oftentimes my go-to resource — for better or for worse. My sense is that I am not alone.
Sober curiosity piqued my interest in 2020 when a popular influencer I follow on Instagram began speaking on it. She was candid with her followers when she first began experimenting with the concept. After diving into the sober curious lifestyle for several months, really submerging herself in this newfound community, she later declared herself completely sober. I was shocked as I didn’t realize she had a “problem” with alcohol in the first place. I was equally surprised when she confessed that she in fact did not have a problem with alcohol, rather, her issues with alcohol had to do with it’s chokehold on our society in terms of how heavily we rely on it and the many problems that arise from our alcohol-obsessed culture.
To be completely honest, my first thought was that I should probably unfollow this girl. We weren’t going to have much in common anymore if she was going to be preaching about sobriety on her stories all day. After all, if you know me, then you know I enjoy my weekend libations - glass of wine by the fire, dirty martini on a night out with the girls, spicy margarita during the summer months - just to name a few favs. But to my surprise, I found I was reluctant to give up on her. While I admit I put this influencer and her sober curiosities on the back-burner for quite some time, I couldn’t deny that the idea of questioning my relationship with alcohol had sparked an interest in me that I couldn’t quite put down.
I began wondering things like, why do I want a glass of wine every time I go out to dinner? If we use James Clear’s “Habit Loop”, from his book Atomic Habits, we can see how my habit of ordering alcohol when going out to eat formed over time:
Cue: Entering restaurant
Craving: To feel relaxed after a long, stressful week
Response: Ordering glass of wine
Without realizing it, it had become a ritual; a subconscious craving that was only satiated with the proper response — a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in my hand by 7:00pm on a Friday night.
In speaking with friends and family, I know that I am in good company when I have these sober curious thoughts. Maybe you’re reading this and you realize that you have wondered the same thing — Why does something that makes us feel so good, so relaxed and connected in the moment, end up making us feel so shitty after the fact? The great paradox of alcohol.
Warrington remarks on this concept when she says “We drink out of habit and partly because we’re not presented with many of the tools that promise the same things that alcohol does: social ease, a quick fix to relax at the end of a hard day, a way to alleviate social anxiety, a way to forget our problems and spark our creativity, or a way to feel like it’s safe to be vulnerable in our close relationships.”
To clarify, I am not declaring my sobriety. To be fully transparent, I don’t really want to be sober. It’s not something I feel poses a problem in my life, for now. However, I do want to question my reliance on alcohol. I have gotten curious about the WHY of my drinking; Why am I doing this? What craving is it satiating? Do I want to feel relaxed? Accepted? Less socially awkward? Do I just want to have something to do with my hands? Are there healthier options? Is the hangover worth it?
Talene Appleton goes deeper when she says the following in this article:
“”Sober curious” is a social wellness movement that involves self-selecting out of alcohol consumption at times, without abstaining from drinking altogether. This movement encourages individuals to explore their relationship with drinking, as well as the physical and mental benefits that may come from shifting their focus away from alcohol.
Rather than quitting drinking cold turkey, the key component of a sober-curious lifestyle is for consumers to bring more mindfulness to their drinking habits. According to Sarah O’Brien, an Addiction Specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, sober curiosity is a judgment-free practice that allows room for growth and failure, with an emphasis on alcohol moderation.”
Some interesting studies on alcohol and it’s affect on the body from this article:
“A 2016 British study of about 850 men and women who volunteered to abstain from alcohol during Dry January found that participants reported a range of benefits. For instance, 82 percent said they felt a sense of achievement. "Better sleep" was cited by 62 percent, and 49 percent said they lost some weight.”
“Another study published last year by researchers in Britain compared the health outcomes among a group of men and women who agreed to stop drinking for one month, with the health of a group that continued to consume alcohol. They found that at the end of that month — just after one month — people, by and large, lost some weight," says Aaron White, the senior scientific adviser to the director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "They had improvements in insulin sensitivity, their blood pressure numbers improved and their livers looked a little healthier." The improvements were modest, White says, but the broad range of benefits the researchers documented was noticeable.”
Some more fun facts:
In September 2018, a bombshell study and commentary published in the Lancet asserted that “no level of alcohol consumption improves health” and cited alcohol as a leading risk factor in wo rldwide deaths.
** Cue the old wive's tale: "A glass of red wine a day is good for your heart."
Meanwhile, the position of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has become clear: Alcohol is unhealthy, and the more you drink, the higher your risk for myriad health conditions.
In the same Gallup survey, Americans who drink said they consumed 3.6 drinks per week, the lowest level in 20 years. Google searches for the term “nonalcoholic” rose in both 2021 and 2022.
According to an article by the New York Times, the non-alcoholic beverage market is going to be worth an estimated $1.6 trillion by 2026.
To wrap it up — again, I am not suggesting we banish our Pumpkin Heads to the basement fridge where they won’t reemerge until Uncle Earl shows up unannounced on Easter — I think the important thing to take away from this post is noticing the reliance we have on alcohol as a collective.
Diving deeper into this subject over the last couple of years, more so recently, has helped me a lot. I now notice a means to an end in terms of craving an alcoholic drink; I can now intuitively identify what craving I am seeking to satisfy and in turn, decide where I want to go from there, whether that's pouring a glass of wine or not. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with the occasional hangover (how have they not created a pill for this yet?), but, they are happening less frequently and I have found I am generally a happier person when alcohol is not such a prevalent crutch in my life.
After reading this, maybe you begin to examine your patterns revolving around alcohol; think Habit Loop and what it means to you personally.
If you're curious and want to learn more on the subject, I found these books to be really helpful resources:
Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker
How to Change Your Drinking by Kenneth Anderson
Thanks for reading and let me know if you enjoyed this post!
Ps. I want to note that Sober Curiosity is not a substitute for sobriety and people who struggle with alcoholism or substance abuse.