Sober Curious: do we need a new relationship with alcohol?

Anish Patel @ 2022-05-11 23:53:57 -0700

Tinto - Sober Curious


As wellness becomes a topic of mainstream conversation, more and more people are finding that even though they don’t have an alcohol addiction, they might benefit from giving it up. If you’ve wondered this for yourself, you might benefit from becoming sober curious. Sober curiosity is a way to take a look at your relationship with alcohol in an honest, non-judgmental way, and experiment with ways to increase your quality of life. 

But what does it mean to be sober curious? And how exactly do you do it? We’ve got the answers to these questions and more in this guide to being sober curious.

What does being sober curious mean?

The term “sober curious” was coined by Ruby Warrington when she published her book, “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, And Deep Connection Awaiting Us All On The Other Side of Alcohol” in 2018. She wrote the book for people who aren’t alcoholics, don’t have a life-threatening addiction, and have perfectly functioning lives.

Still, she suggested that many casual and social drinkers also find that giving up alcohol makes a big difference in their lives.

Sober curiousity is the practice of getting interested in your relationship with alcohol. It’s a way of examining your habits because something has inspired you to look into what your life would be like if you didn’t drink. And it’s a way to really find out for yourself whether alcohol plays a helpful, neutral, or harmful role in your life.

In other words, it’s a way of getting curious about what sobriety would do for you.

How is sober curious different from sobriety?

Sobriety is a major lifestyle shift that tends to be the last resort for someone. Often, people choose sobriety because they feel that their lives have become unmanageable and their drinking is causing problems in their life. People from all walks of life can develop a dependence on alcohol and for them, sobriety is about choosing to go on living and is a very difficult adjustment to make.

Being sober curious doesn’t stem from hitting any kind of rock bottom, it can often come from noticing small things like your sleep patterns, your moods, your skin, or even just being inspired by a friend who quit drinking. It’s a practice of questioning your lifestyle and posing the question to yourself: is this serving me in any way? What do I really want for myself?

Sober curiosity is just that: curiosity. And it looks different for everyone. It could mean adjusting your boundaries around when you drink, what you drink, who you drink with, or how often you drink. It could also lead to you deciding to stop drinking alcohol altogether.

People who “try on” sobriety, as sober curiousity goes, aren’t in as urgent a situation as people who suffer alcoholism. They often find that taking a break and regrouping allows them to moderate their drinking, become more intentional about their drinking, and they may not have to draw hard lines like people who turn to sobriety do.

For example, a sober curious person may give up alcohol but be able to enjoy a glass of Champagne on holidays without the risk of it triggering an addiction. Or they may be able to say, “I’m going to give up alcohol indefinitely and see how it goes,” while someone suffering from alcoholism will need to say, “I’m giving up alcohol for the rest of my life”.

How do I become sober curious?

Sober curiosity looks different for everyone. It’s about reflecting, considering your personal habits in an honest, non judgmental way, and then experimenting with new habits to find what works for you. Sometimes learning a new relationship with alcohol means taking a major break from it.

There are many ways to begin this process. Here are a few.

Take up journaling.

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-reflection. A regular journaling practice can help you move through difficult emotions and help you clarify things for yourself. Try taking up journaling to jumpstart your sober curious journey.

Sit down and write through some of the following questions to get an idea of where you are and what you want for your life. Answer as honestly as you can—no one but you will see this! Revisit these questions every so often to see what’s changed and how it’s going.

Ask yourself:

  • What brought me here? Why do I want to explore sober curiosity?
  • How do I feel about my relationship to alcohol right now?
  • How does alcohol make me feel? What does it do for me?
  • What drinking choices have I made that I’m proud of?
  • What drinking choices have I made that I wish I hadn’t?
  • What feels doable for me to try moving forward?

Then, continue to check in with your journal as you go. Once a week, reflect on how things went with your relationship with alcohol. You can free-write about what you did, what happened, and how you felt, or you can use these questions to guide you:

  • If you drank, what was the experience like?
  • If you didn’t drink, what was that like for you?
  • How was your mental health this week? Emotional health?
  • How did things go with your relationships this week?
  • How about physical things like sleep, energy levels, or other health issues?
  • How do you feel right now about the drinking choices you made this week?

Speak with a licensed behavioral health professional.

A licensed professional can guide you through the process of looking at your relationship to alcohol. They can help you make a plan, and your journal can act as a drinking log that will help you process any patterns you’re finding or other things that come up.

They’re someone to be accountable to and are also equipped to help you process any thoughts and emotions that come up as you explore sobriety in ways that your loved ones might not be.

Take a break from alcohol.

After looking at your relationship with alcohol, you may be interested in taking a break. This can be a very revealing process and it’s helpful to have a journaling practice and/or a licensed professional or support system to help you reflect on how hard or easy this is.

How long should you go without alcohol? That’s up to you. You might take a few weeks, a few months, or a year. Make sure it’s something that feels realistic for you, but also enough time for you to get a feel for what it does for you.

During your break, try out new, sober activities that you wouldn’t normally do. It might be interesting to spend time in social settings where drinking is happening, but this can be really tempting, especially if you’re used to falling back on alcohol as a social crutch. Make sure you set yourself up for success by doing things that are supportive of the lifestyle changes you’re making.

Find like-minded people in your community.

If your practice of sober curiosity has led you to drink less or give up alcohol entirely, you might find that your relationships begin to change. You may not be on common ground with friends anymore, you might even start to change in what you’d like to do, talk about, and sometimes relationships will even come to an end as a result of your sobriety.

Remember that it’s okay for relationships to change and even end, and look for people who align with your lifestyle to make new friendships with. Take up new hobbies, look for opportunities in your community to meet people around activities that don’t involve drinking like higher learning, dance, sports, or other arts.

Practice mindful drinking

One of the most powerful benefits of being sober curious is it can help you bring a sense of mindfulness and intention to your drinking habits. You may start to notice that there are times you drank in the past that were more about coping with a difficult emotion than simply having fun.

But drinking should be an occasional option and it should be a fun experience, it’s not a sustainable coping strategy. Bringing mindfulness to why you’re drinking gives you a choice in the future about the role that you want alcohol to play in your life. It can help you learn to drink because you want to, not because you need to.

Sober curiosity begins the moment you start to wonder.

If you’re wondering how to be sober curious or whether it’s for you, you’ve already begun. Something has inspired you to reflect on your drinking habits. It could be something you’ve noticed about yourself, a specific event that happened, or it could even be something someone else did that either negatively or positively influenced how you view alcohol.

Sometimes just having friends around us who are making choices that help them meet their wellness goals inspires us to do the same. So don’t feel like something is wrong if you’re sober curious, it doesn’t mean anything catastrophic has happened. It could just mean that you’re on a wellness journey and this is the next part of your life to consider. It’s a very healthy way to examine your habits and decide what’s right for you. Be sure to reach out for support if you need it, enjoy the journey.

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