What is “sober curious”? Sober curiosity often begins with some concern about alcohol’s impact on your life. It usually involves some questioning of drinking culture and your own patterns of alcohol use.3
In the words of author Ruby Warrington, “[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.”1 This movement introduces a sober culture that promotes anti-drinking in a very subtle way, without forcing abstinence on the person. It is having the option to choose alcohol or not for health-related reasons both mentally and physically, and it welcomes those who may not be able to or want to give up drinking completely.
Sober curiosity is not for everyone, especially those with an addiction to alcohol or alcoholism because it can cause harmful effects on the person. Instead, someone who has an addiction to alcohol should seek professional help for their issue and stop using as directed by a professional.
History of The Sober Curious Movement
This movement came from the book “Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington, who like many people wanted to regulate her drinking. She felt that her drinking was not out of control, she never blacked out or even drank two nights in a row, but felt she was unable to say no to alcohol altogether.
Ms. Warrington craved a middle-ground approach to drinking: the ability to interrogate her relationship to alcohol without ending it completely.2 In 2018, she published a book called “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol,” explaining the sober curious philosophy by “choosing to question” her impulse to drink. She believes that if you question your drinking habits, it will lead to healthier and more mindful drinking strategies.
Being sober, however, has not always been viewed as popular. Even when alcohol was illegal to use in the U.S., known as the Prohibition, many sought out illegal forms of alcohol to fuel their love for the substance, even though they could be criminally charged or fined for having it.
Today, ads on television often glamorize alcohol use as if it makes you cooler, more popular and more desirable. Our culture also utilizes alcohol as a major way to celebrate. An example would be a toast at a wedding or the way we use the word cheers before consuming a drink.
Events like tailgates and parties often include alcohol, some being centered around alcohol use and abuse. Drinking games have grown in popularity and players often binge drink because the game warrants heavy drinking.
Today, however, people have become more health conscious and realize that you don’t have to hit rock bottom to see that drinking is a problem. Dry January and Sober October are proof of this. For a whole month, people refrain from using alcohol to detox and renew their bodies. It is a portrayal of how sober curiosity works and doesn’t force abstinence on anyone, it simply is a break from alcohol.
Efficacy of Sober Curiosity
There is only a little research on the efficacy of the sober curious movement, however, one study which included 68 participants found that they significantly reduced their drinking after receiving 11 minutes of mindfulness instruction.2
In another study in 2016 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.5
The mindful drinking approach also draws on similar strategies to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an effective psychological intervention used to address depression and anxiety. By encouraging people to identify the impact alcohol has on their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, mindful drinking can be a powerful tool for people interested in reducing their alcohol consumption, but not for anyone with a severe drinking problem or alcohol-use disorder.2
Effects of Drinking Alcohol
Even though alcohol is legal to drink, it still has some short- and long-term consequences on your mental and physical health.
Some short-term effects of using alcohol include:3
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent illness
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Alcohol poisoning
Long-term effects of using alcohol include:4
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.
- Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment.
- Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence.
Not to mention, alcohol use puts the person using it and others around them at risk of being assaulted, using other substances and/or death.
Sober Curiosity is More Than A Trend
Everyone can benefit from abstaining from alcohol use for a short period of time. Whether it be to lose weight or improve mood and sleep, more people are finding that they feel and look better when they aren’t drinking. Especially in a more health-conscious world, we are finding supported research suggesting that alcohol may be bad for us and therefore, it is a benefit to abstain from using it, even in short periods of time.
Tips for Being Sober Curious1.Make a plan
Sit down and make a plan for how you will achieve your sober curious goals. Start with easy ways like avoiding happy hours and bars whenever possible, drinking and purchasing more non-alcoholic beverages and refraining from tailgating when attending sporting events. Once you have identified the ways for you as an individual to avoid drinking, write down your goals for being sober curious. For example, losing five pounds, saving money, sleeping 8 hours a night and/or being happier.
2. Recruit friends and loved ones to join
One of the most effective ways to do something challenging is to not have to do it alone. Many times, we fall back onto our friend groups or family members for support. Especially during a difficult time. Even if drinking isn’t a problem for you, it is extremely difficult to cut off any habit completely, so it is best to find support while doing it. It also can encourage another person to join the sober curious movement. Tell them your goals for abstaining from alcohol for a short period of time, encourage them to do the same if they want to achieve similar goals, and work on them together.
3. Find alternative ways to have fun and experience the high from drinking
Some examples of alternatives are going for walks, working out or shopping. Finding healthy ways to achieve the feeling you get from drinking will make it easier to refrain from using it. Just remember that when replacing one habit with another, you run the risk of abusing that habit, as seen in shopaholics and gambling addicts.
4. Avoid being peer pressured or enabled into drinking
Peer pressure is a common reason people drink, especially teens. One effective way to avoid peer pressure is to avoid events centered around drinking such as happy hours, bar crawls or drinking game nights. This may be difficult as the people around us expect us to attend important events but just attend the events you feel you can’t miss, such as a wedding. Make others aware of your goals and how important they are to you. When shots are being passed around, excuse yourself. When toasting, drink something other than alcohol.
Although these are all good tips to being sober curious, remember not to alienate yourself from your community, it could cause you to develop a mental health issue. Sober curiosity doesn’t mean you should cut off people completely or stay in your home on weekends to avoid drinking. It means that you are mindful of your drinking habit and despite the temptation of drinking, you refrain.
Seeking Help with Banyan
As mentioned before, sober curiosity is not for people, especially those who have an alcohol-abuse disorder. Our Banyan rehab locations offer many routes to recovering such as inpatient, outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment. We are spread out all over the country so finding a center has become easier than ever and no matter how severe your addiction is, our specialists can help.
- What Does It Mean to Be Sober Curious?
- Considering a Dry January? How to Embrace Mindful Drinking - The New York Times
- Healthline- Sober Curious: What It Means and How to Try It
- CDC Alcohol Fact Sheet
- NPR- Breaking The Booze Habit, Even Briefly, Has Its Benefits
Veterans Alcohol Abuse
The Different Types of Alcoholics