Thursday, July 18, 2024
featured storyHEALTH

‘Sober curious style’ a choice to avoid alcohol for a while can greatly improve your quality of life

Sober curious style might be your best choice if you feel like reducing your alcohol intake would have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. You don’t have to struggle with addiction to recognize that drinking doesn’t serve you.

Whether you’re sick of weekend hangovers, starting the day fuzzy headed after a couple of glasses with dinner the night before, or wondering how alcohol is affecting your moods, making the choice to avoid alcohol for a while can greatly improve your quality of life.

People know that consuming alcohol has negative side effects. Besides the obvious hangovers, it can also affect the moods and ability to focus, even in small quantities. What’s more, it can cause irritation to the gut and increase the likelihood of developing a number of serious illnesses.

It’s easy to shake off a few weeknight drinks when you’re in your early twenties, but as life goes on the hangovers seem to get worse and last longer.

Social drinking is so normalized that choosing not to drink purely for wellness reasons is quite unusual and can often draw questions and assumptions. The sober curious movement aims to normalize the choice not to drink, even if it’s not because of addiction issues.

Sobriety vs sober curiosity

People don’t need to meet the criteria for alcohol addiction in order to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and how it affects their lives. This is where sober curiosity comes in.

While the desire to take a break from drinking is nothing new (challenges like Sober October and Dry January have been around for years), the term ‘sober curious’ was coined by author Ruby Warrington more recently.

Warrington released 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.’ The name pretty much says it all!

Warrington describes a number of behaviors in her book that probably sound familiar to many. For example, drinking socially but never craving a drink or needing to drink daily.

Your drinking might be on the same level as those in your social circle, and doesn’t seem to hurt you or the people around you. You’ve never had a “rock bottom” moment that made you think your drinking was a serious problem, and you don’t feel dependent on alcohol.

Despite all of these behaviors that would suggest you have a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol based on social norms, you still have some doubts.

Drinking alcohol has been grandfathered down as a societal norm for centuries and has become an accepted addition to all kinds of celebrations and life changes. Having a glass of wine to wind down after a stressful day or going on a night out with friends after a breakup aren’t seen as problematic behaviors.

While this attitude towards drinking rings true for many, some are interested in an alternative approach. It’s not necessarily unhealthy to celebrate and commiserate with alcohol, but it’s also healthy and valid to question that connection and find other ways of responding to the emotions and life events.

Feeling pressured and alone

Choosing not to drink for reasons that aren’t directly related to health or religion might get a few strange looks. As unfair as that is, it can often make it harder to say no. Drinking is seen as harmless by so many that it can feel like you’re struggling with these feelings alone. The reality is that there is a growing community interested in mindful drinking.

In addition to the growing interest in all areas of wellness, sober bars have been popping up in cities all over the world. They provide a space for people to meet and socialize, providing the connection they all crave, without the need to involve alcohol.

The millennial generation are being referred to as ‘generation sober’ as they embrace this new health-conscious lifestyle that is becoming more and more normalized.

Sober curiosity begins with reflecting on how alcohol impacts your life, as well as questioning drinking culture in general.

Anyone can benefit from trying out sober curiosity. As mentioned before, it’s not aimed at those with serious alcohol dependence issues, but there is still a wide spectrum that can include concerns about your relationship with alcohol.

How do you use alcohol?

You might be concerned about a habit like having one drink every evening to unwind after a long day, or relying on alcohol to get you in the mood to socialize. Usually, alcohol doesn’t even have the intended effect in the long-term and creates more anxiety.

You might not feel the need to quit entirely, but think that taking a break from alcohol would benefit you. Similar to the month-long sobriety challenges that have been popularized, it doesn’t need to be permanent. You’re simply curious about how avoiding alcohol might fit into your life.

You can choose to avoid alcohol for a couple of weeks, a month, or even a year. Alternatively, just say ‘for now’ and see how long it feels right. You’re also free to have the occasional drink if you want to, which is one of the main reasons sober curiosity differs from total sobriety and may not be suitable for those with addiction issues. It’s possible that a few months of practicing sober curiosity will help those with problematic drinking habits to drink more mindfully and in greater moderation in the future.

It’s easy to think of all the ways avoiding alcohol restricts you, so it’s important to focus on what you’ll gain when you start. For example, rather than lamenting that nights out with friends won’t be the same, think about the things you can do with the extra energy you’ll have without the hangovers!

If alcohol was a major part of your social life, plan some alternative ways you can spend your time. If you still feel like you can go to a club with your friends on the weekend totally sober, more power to you! Others might want to plan daytime activities and engage in other hobbies that satisfy the social animal inside all people.

Plan your response

If you know you’ll be in a situation where alcohol will be offered, prepare your answer in advance. It’ll help you stick to your guns in the moment. That being said, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you don’t want to explain, ‘no thanks’ should be enough.

Make an effort to connect with others who don’t drink or who you feel drink in moderation and are open to sober activities. Go for brunch (without bottomless mimosas), grab a coffee, join a book club, take up rock climbing, whatever you feel like!

If it all sounds a bit extreme and you’re not ready to take a break from drinking yet, consider starting by drinking in moderation. There are moderation management programs that can help you explore this option.

They encourage steps like keeping a diary of your drinking, including your motivations and how you felt after. They provide clear guidelines for moderate drinking, and you can connect with a community of others on the same path.

Non-alcoholic options are increasing

Sober curiosity is a growing trend that will likely become more and more common. Even the major alcohol brands are taking note and are coming out with more non-alcoholic beers, wines, and even gin.

When it comes to physical and mental well-being, there is no one-fits-all answer. You might notice that one glass of wine makes you feel groggy the next day, while your friends seem to throw back several with no adverse effects. All you can do is listen to your bodies and find what works for you.

 

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