Are You Sober Curious?

By: Jon LaFleur MSN, RN, CCS

Whether it’s Sober September, Dry January or you just want to explore and change your relationship with alcohol, the “sober curious” movement is for those who want to be more aware of their drinking patterns and give up alcohol for periods of time in order to enjoy positive experiences without alcohol and reap the health and wellness benefits.

Sober curiosity involves becoming more aware of your drinking, decisions around drinking, and developing a healthier relationship with alcohol. This often means cutting back… at social events, going to sober bars or avoiding alcohol completely for periods of time. According to Beverage Daily, nearly 40% of U.S. adults closely or occasionally follow a sober curious lifestyle.

What’s Driving the Sober Curious Movement?

A desire to improve one’s health.

The number one reason people cited for wanting to follow a sober curious lifestyle was to be healthier and feel better, which can mean better sleep, improved liver health, decreased risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease, or decreased anxiety, just to name a few.

In just three weeks after quitting alcohol, you can expect these benefits:

  • Liver health improves
  • Blood pressure stabilizes
  • Heart health improves
  • Sleep quality improves
  • Better kidney health

While some past studies had shown a relationship between decreased mortality and moderate alcohol consumption, there was more going on than just a simple cause and effect relationship between alcohol and health. In most cases alcohol doesn’t have any health benefits, and the most compelling studies only recommend consuming about 10 grams of alcohol daily, which is about 2/3 of a standard drink.

A desire to save money.

Eliminating alcohol consumption is a great way to make your paycheck go further. Cutting out light to moderate drinking could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. You can also reduce related costs such as catching a rideshare after drinking, paying for rounds, and making impulse purchases.

At an average cost of $5 per drink you can save…

  • 3 drinks per week = $780 saved per year
  • 1 drink per day = $1,825 saved per year
  • 2 drinks per day = $3,650 saved per year

A desire to feel better and function better.

Eliminating alcohol can help you make better decisions and improve your mental clarity. Many younger adults say they are choosing to eliminate alcohol to improve their mental health and increase their productivity.

Fear of alcohol use disorder.

In a January 2023 NCSolutions consumer sentiment survey, 28% said they don’t drink because addiction runs in the family and 20% because they worry about becoming addicted. Research has shown that genetics are responsible for about half of the risk for alcohol use disorder. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.

Alcohol use disorder is associated with dementia, poor academic performance, job-related problems, family problems (including divorce), and an increased risk of injury, violence, or death; alcohol use is the seventh leading cause of death and disability.

Challenging socially expected drinking.

We are living in a complicated time when there is a prominent drinking culture. Alcohol is associated with both physical and psychological addiction, yet it is widely, widely available. Not only is alcohol available at just about any grocery store or gas station, but it is being served in places that it historically hadn’t, such as movie theaters and “drinks to go”.

While alcohol had long been socially acceptable, it’s now almost socially expected. Remember how popular the idea of “day drinking” became during COVID or how ordinary it is for TV shows to have at least a couple characters who always have a drink in hand and everyone else treats it like it’s completely normal.

Many are pushing back on this normalization of expected drinking and the stereotype that those who do not drink are less social or have less fun.

How can non-drinkers overcome barriers?

Whether it’s for a month or a lifetime, non-drinkers can face a lot of challenges and even stigma. The following practices can help you address some of the issues you may face and increase your ability to achieve your goals.  

Know your why.

When changing your relationship with alcohol—or any habit—it’s helpful to understand your motivation and goals. Write them down in a journal. When someone is questioning or pressuring you to drink, be firm and respectfully tell them your why. Practice it at home if you’re concerned about a particular person or situation. Some other phrases that can be helpful are, “I feel better without alcohol,” or “Drinking just doesn’t work for me.”

Seek social support.

Open up about your curiosity with friends and family who you feel can be supportive and help you succeed. Cultivate a group of sober curious friends who you can have fun without alcohol and perhaps be accountability partners.

Boost your self-care.

Take extra good care of yourself during this time. A good self-care routine is a great way to feel less stress, stay motivated and keep your head in a good space.

Track the benefits.

Are you sleeping better? Having fewer hangovers? Noticing your savings starting to build up? Write it down in your journal. If you’re having a craving or difficulty, read your journal entries. Being reminded of your success is a helpful motivator.

Change up routines.

Think about the places or situations where you usually would drink and come up with alternate habits to replace them with. For instance, instead of driving past the bar where you used to stop on the way home from work, take a different route or start a new after-work activity. If you usually drink alone, make plans with a friend outside your home. Find different ways to fill that time…try a new hobby, explore a new interest, make art, learn to play an instrument. Whatever you used to think you’d do if you only had the time; do it. 

Get alcohol out of the house.

It’s harder to slip up if you have to take extra steps to have that drink.

Explore non-alcohol alternatives.

More and more NA drinks are on the shelves at grocery stores and coffee shops… sparkling waters, fresh juices, Boba teas, kombucha and other probiotic drinks, cold brew coffees as well as NA wines, beers and spirits. Mocktails are gaining popularity, too. Just do an internet search for some recipes to try.

How do you know if you should seek professional help?

The sober curious lifestyle is not a good fit for those diagnosed with or are concerned they may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). In either of these cases, it’s best if you consult with your doctor or a reputable addiction treatment center if you would like to quit drinking because going through an alcohol detox when you have AUD can have serious or even life-threatening complications including seizures.

If you’re not sure you have an alcohol problem, some of the warning signs include:

  • You drink alcohol despite experiencing negative consequences.
  • You need more alcohol to experience the same effects as in the past.
  • You have blackouts or flashbacks.
  • You feel sick, dizzy or shaky after drinking.
  • You can’t stop drinking when you want to.
  • You’ve neglected your family or other responsibilities because of your use.
  • Your loved ones have expressed concern about your drinking habits.

Pine Rest provides addiction treatment services at every care level to support the recovery journey. At our residential detox, clients are monitored 24/7 by medical staff to ensure safety. As soon as clients arrive, they are given medications to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In addition, they will receive genuine care and compassion from a staff highly trained in addiction, who will also provide support, knowledge, and resources to help begin their journey in recovery and sobriety. If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at 866-852-4001.

You are not alone! We can support you or your loved one at every step of recovery.

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