I first heard about the “sober curious lifestyle” during conversations with some clients about Depression, Anxiety, Sleep challenges and Alertness. Then, given my curious nature, I looked more in-depth into what that means and why many people concerned about their mental health are introducing this concept in their lives.
The first thought that came to mind as a psychotherapist was the uniqueness of this “experiment” in inviting people to realize and acknowledge their interdependency with alcohol. Some clients wondered if they could live without it or with radically less alcohol consumption. Some clients wanted to know how different they’d feel and act if they stopped consuming alcohol or having only one drink a week. Most started the sober curious lifestyle after learning that alcohol is one of the five most addictive substances.
Canada’s guidance recommends two drinks a week to avoid alcohol-related consequences on yourself and others. “The 2023 guidance recommends that people consider reducing their alcohol use because overwhelming evidence confirms that when it comes to drinking alcohol, less is better.”
Some of my clients have a history of alcohol dependency in their families or themselves. Some chose an utterly sober life because of the suffering they experienced growing up in a family where alcoholism was present.
Alcohol, for some people, can feel like a source of self-soothing and successfully numb the sharp feelings attached to stress. Some people didn’t have enough opportunities growing up to learn how to move through intense emotions and develop and cultivate healthier ways to manage and navigate life’s difficulties and challenges. For many of them, using alcohol becomes a venue to relax and soothe, which can become a slippery slope zone. And, because alcohol is a depressant, it creates the illusion of enhanced mood and relaxation.
Understanding Sober Curious.
Ruby Warrington developed the “sober curious” concept in her book Sober Curious Reset. The “sober curious” movement’s goals include many of the Mindfulness practice principles:
- Self-inquiry: Questioning your alcohol use.
- Stepping out of autopilot behaviours: Increasing awareness of your drinking habits.
- Conscious choices: Think about your decision to drink on each occasion.
In a world that often glorifies alcohol and excessive partying, embracing a sober curious lifestyle might seem like an unconventional choice. However, it’s a decision many individuals, including myself, have made for various reasons. I read that 34% of Americans are trying to drink less after becoming more aware of the psychological, cognitive and physical effects of alcohol. Here is a video that explains some of the impact of alcohol on the brain and body.
Being sober curious does not necessarily mean abstaining from alcohol altogether. It involves questioning our relationship with alcohol and making conscious choices about its place in our lives. It’s about being curious and observant of how alcohol affects our physical, emotional, relationships, and mental well-being. This self-inquiry can lead to profound insights and a greater understanding of ourselves.
Benefits of Embracing Sober Curiosity.
Most people report that they experience heightened awareness. This means becoming more attuned to our bodies, emotions, and thoughts. We can better identify patterns, triggers, and coping mechanisms, leading to improved self-awareness.
Reducing or moderating alcohol intake can have numerous health benefits, including better sleep, increased energy levels, and improved digestion and body complexion.
It surprised me to hear from some sober curious people I met through my work as a psychotherapist how they felt that their relationships were enhanced! Alcohol can sometimes hinder meaningful connections with others.
People shared that reducing alcohol intake allowed them to engage deeply in conversations and build more authentic relationships. They engaged in less superficial conversations drowned in an alcohol-fueled haze. They felt more present in conversations, allowing them to truly understand and connect with people on a deeper level, fostering more genuine relationships.
Contrary to popular belief, socializing without alcohol can be incredibly enjoyable. Sober gatherings open doors to new and exciting activities and engaging conversations we might have overlooked. From hiking trips and board game nights to art classes and live performances. There are stories about how drinking coffee instead of alcohol contributed to the revolution of ideas, including the French Revolution, that some believe was fueled by people gathering in cafés to discuss inspiring ideas.
Increased productivity was another anecdotal experience some sober curious clients shared in therapy sessions. They experienced greater clarity and determination in pursuing some goals. Most felt a more significant and consistent mental and physical energy and better sleep patterns.
Sober curious people noticed increased emotional resilience and spiritual growth as they learned healthier ways to cope with stress and challenges rather than relying on alcohol as a crutch. Some clients mentioned that drastically reducing their alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a week helped them to connect with their inner selves and the world around them on a deeper level. They felt more connected with nature and adopted new habits to release stress.
I suppose financial freedom is essential to most of us. In that case, the financial aspect of adopting a sober curious lifestyle cannot be overlooked. The money once spent on expensive drinks or late-night bar tabs or dinners can now be redirected toward activities, hobbies, or personal goals that perhaps bring more lasting happiness and fulfillment.
Tips for Embracing the Sober Curious Lifestyle
Start with Intentions: Reflect on why you want to explore sobriety. Set clear intentions for your sober curious journey, focusing on personal and relationship growth and well-being.
Take Small Steps: Embracing sobriety doesn’t have to happen overnight. Gradually reduce alcohol consumption and observe how it affects your life.
Seek Support: Reach out to like-minded individuals or consider working with a therapist or counsellor interested in mindfulness, cognitive and emotional grounding techniques and personal development.
Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation, journaling, walking, taichi, or yoga to stay connected with your body and inner self.
Embrace New Activities: Explore activities that don’t involve alcohol, such as hiking, art classes, or joining a book club. This opens up new avenues for joy and fulfillment.
Be Kind to Yourself: Sobriety is a journey, and setbacks can happen. Practice self-compassion and remember that progress is more important than perfection.
The sober curious lifestyle is an opportunity to break free from unconscious habits and embrace a more purposeful way of living. It’s about nurturing curiosity and self-awareness, leading to personal growth, improved relationships, and enhanced well-being.
While this journey may not be for everyone, it offers countless benefits, from improved physical and mental health to deeper connections with others and oneself. If you are curious about life without or much less alcohol, I encourage you to try it. You might be surprised by the positive impact it can have on various aspects of your life.
*Please click here to get help for substance abuse.
*If you or you are considering supporting someone withdrawing from alcohol or other drugs. In that case, it’s crucial that the person speaks to a health professional first, as complications can occur, and they may need medical assistance. The most severe withdrawal manifestations include delirium tremens, hallucinations, and seizures.