The “sober curious” movement consists of individuals rethinking their relationship with alcohol and whether they are satisfied with the role drinking has in their lives. Being curious about sobriety doesn’t mean you are in recovery for addiction or even looking to be entirely sober. However, adopting certain ideas regarding alcohol from the sober curious mindset can provide unexpected benefits.
What Does it Mean to Be Sober Curious?
Being sober curious is different than people who have decided that they have an issue with alcoholism and want to become and remain abstinent. Being sober curious means just what it says–you’re curious about your current drinking and willing to consider different use patterns.
You may not have a history of addiction, but may see the benefits of changing your use of alcohol. There are many reasons you might be thinking about being sober curious, such as alcohol’s impact on physical and mental health and the quality of your social interaction, which are valid concerns worth pondering. This approach truly emphasizes curiosity and exploration of what an alcohol-free life can look like without expecting any set outcome.
History of the Sober Curious Movement
In recent years we’ve heard about other movements like “Sober October” or “Dry January.”1 These month long events emphasize and encourage people to assess their drinking patterns and consider drinking differently for a month. These programs have gotten a lot of attention and have had beneficial and sometimes eye-opening effects.
Ruby Warrington published a book in 2018 called Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.2 Her book sparked the term “sober curious,” which pushed the notion of month-long sobriety events to a lifelong practice. It is in no way encouraging complete prohibition or banning of drinking. The point is for individuals to evaluate their drinking, not just have someone else make decisions for them.
Benefits of Being Sober Curious
There are plenty of benefits to looking at our use of alcohol. You can save money, drive safely, and better protect your health and well-being. You’ll also have more control over what you say and do, with fewer regrets to clean up after a night of drinking.
Reduced alcohol consumption can help prevent adverse short-term side effects of alcohol use, such as:
- Hangovers and their associated anxiety
- Sleep issues
- Concentration challenges
- Lowered immunity
- Sexual issues
Living a sober curious lifestyle can help prevent adverse long-term effects of alcohol use, such as:3
- Liver disease
- Risks of various types of cancer
- Developing alcohol use disorder
- Behavior changes
- Relationship issues
- Unintentional injuries
Criticisms of a Sober Curious Culture
While it may seem that being sober and curious is a good thing, there are some criticisms of this approach. Some people take an all-or-nothing approach to drinking and believe if you think you could have a drinking problem, then you probably do. In their mind, you should stop drinking forever, and any divergence from this is a relapse of sobriety.
This concern is rooted in how this culture may lighten the severity of others with legitimate alcohol use disorders. Still, being sober curious in itself is a harm-reduction approach.4The safest and healthiest method is probably for all of us never to drink again. However, this is not a realistic or necessary task for everyone, and there are still benefits to looking at how we can drink in safer and less risky ways. Consuming less alcohol is far better than making no changes at all.
5 Ways to Live the Sober Curious Lifestyle
Some people worry that if they change their drinking, they will no longer be able to hang out with their friends in the same way. They might develop FOMO or fear of missing out. Remember that being sober curious doesn’t mean they can’t drink at all, but they are paying attention to what they use alcohol for and what adjustments they might want to make. This movement is about gaining awareness of how we can socially interact and live without alcohol and making decisions based on that.
The following are five ways to start living a sober curious lifestyle:
1. Plan Ahead to Abstain from Alcohol
It is possible to plan events ahead of time that doesn’t require alcohol to have fun. You can shake up the routine of getting drinks with friends by deciding in advance if you want to drink, how much you’d like to consume, and what you’ll tell your friends if they notice you’re drinking less or nothing.
2. Find a Sober Curious Social Group
You certainly don’t have to give up your friends if you decide to drink differently. You can expand your social group by finding a group of like-minded people who are also curious about their drinking and are willing to practice being sober curious. With sober curiosity being a growing social movement, you can look for social events and support groups focusing on this culture.
3. Develop New Sober Hobbies
It may be that a lot of the things you do for fun involve drinking, and it doesn’t have to be that way. You can feel social, have fun, meet new people, and have fewer regrets by changing your habits around alcohol. You can build confidence without relying on drinking and continue to assess your use of alcohol in an open-minded way.
Some possible alternatives to drinking with friends include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Getting outside to soak up nature
- Trying a new activity, sport, or game
- Going out earlier in the day
4. Consider Moderation
It’s possible to still drink alcohol while practicing moderation. Before you go out, think ahead about how much you’d like to drink, what time you would like to cut yourself off, or how many drinks you’d like to have per hour. You may even want to think about what you might drink that’s not alcoholic but might make you feel good and happy.
5. Explore Why You Drink
Consider what alcohol provides you. Is it relaxing? Think about other ways you can relax. Does it help you fall asleep? Read up on different ways to enhance your sleep. Do you feel like you only have fun while drinking? Explore other ways you can have a good time.
Finding Support & Professional Help
It can be helpful to find support as you look into being sober curious. You can find a therapist who can help you process what you’d like to do with your curiosity. Therapy can also help you sort through what deeper issues you may be using alcohol to cover up and find other healthy coping mechanisms besides drinking to find happiness, allowing yourself to foster a more beneficial relationship with alcohol.
If, through deciding to live a sober curious lifestyle, you do find you may have an alcohol use disorder, remember that there is no shame in going to rehab to better yourself. It also doesn’t have to flip your world upside down, as there are multiple options between inpatient and outpatient rehab programs that allow you to maintain your daily life.
Being sober curious isn’t for everyone, but choosing to reduce your consumption of alcohol provides health benefits for anyone doing so. There are many ways to practice being sober curious, so don’t be afraid to experiment and make the experience your own. Don’t let other people sway your decisions; stick to what works best for you. Remember that even though alcohol is a big part of everyone else’s life, it doesn’t mean you can’t decide what role it has in yours.