I’ve enjoyed grabbing drinks, going to cocktail-hour, and having wine-time thoroughly throughout my 20s and 30s. I never felt like alcohol was a problem for me, but instead, just a major component to any festivity. I had never been introduced to the concept of exploring my relationship with alcohol and of a “sober curious” lifestyle.
Alcohol has become an intricate part of any get-together or celebration. This is even more true in Nevada, where we offer a 24-hour lifestyle and every corner store has a full liquor section.
I grew up in Reno, where if we are going, to be honest, you didn’t need to be 21 to get your first taste of liquor.
It was fun to drink through my “younger years” with booze-filled events.
Wine-Walks and Beer Crawls were guaranteed every month. Wine Club was more about finishing the bottles, than tasting the varietal grapes. And get-togethers with cab rides home were always fun, but always hurt the next day.
I remember being in my mid-20s and my older friends would tell me how debilitating their hangovers had become. I was convinced this was just an excuse they came up with to get out of hitting the clubs, mid-week Trivia, and Sunday Afternoon Martini-Madness.
As I “got older” I quickly came to realize that hangovers were not a farce, and were instead a cruel reality.
Prepping for a night of drinking became the norm: drink lots of water, make sure you eat, take some Advil, drink more water in between drinks, try ALL of the hangover prevention tricks and cures. It was inevitable though, the hangover with headaches, nausea, and a general sense of ick would always follow.
Entering the milestone of motherhood, I was reminded that it was important to find some “me time” in the midst of the chaos. What people really meant was, “kick back with a cocktail, and take the edge off.”
I was bombarded with memes, clothing slogans, and social media telling me: Mommy Needs a Beer, Surviving Motherhood 1 Glass at a Time, Life Happens-Wine Helps, and Mom Juice Needed.
I was surrounded by a culture that seemed to be capitalizing on alcohol consumption and the stresses of motherhood.
Social-Distancing Led to Self-Discovery
This past year has given us time to think and reflect, whether we’ve liked it or not. When covid first hit, I was like most adults of legal drinking age; every day brought cocktails and an occasion to drink.
Zoom happy-hours? Check! Supporting local business by purchasing libations to go? Double-check! Living in a hazy state of unsure reality? BULLSEYE!!!
It wasn’t until late 2020 that I was introduced to the concept of exploring one’s relationship with alcohol and heard the term “Sober Curious” for the first time.
But What Does Sober Curious Mean?
Sober Curious simply means that you’ve chosen to avoid alcohol for personal or wellness reasons. It is based on curiosity about the reasons fueling your desire to drink and the way alcohol affects your life.
The difference between those who stay sober because of dependency or addiction, Sober Curious people may not necessarily meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder or intend to give up alcohol permanently.
Drinking is the Norm
Social drinking has become so normalized that many people find it MORE unusual when someone chooses not to drink. I find myself having to explain myself constantly, often notifying others that I’m not pregnant, and just not drinking by choice.
The idea of being Sober Curious is not new. Many people have taken month-long sobriety challenges like “Dry January” or “Sober October” which allow people to reevaluate their alcohol use. Some also try to break habits like drinking in preparation for big trips or to meet health/weight goals.
The Sober Curious movement, however, extends the consumption of alcohol for an indefinite period of time. A participant may decide to reintroduce alcohol to their life or remove it completely.
Room for Interpretation
Credit for the term “sober curious” goes to Ruby Warrington, author of “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.”
In the book, Ruby describes patterns that felt all too familiar to me:
Drinking socially, but not craving or needing to drink daily.
Drinking no more than others in your circle.
Drinking that doesn’t appear to hurt you or anyone else.
Never hitting a real low, but realizing you don’t really like drinking all that much
Not seeing yourself as alcohol dependent, and wondering why you drink at all.
What Sober Curious Means to Me
The idea of examining one’s relationship with alcohol isn’t uncommon in the least. Yet because so many people consider social drinking to be harmless, it was hard for me to grapple with the idea of being Sober Curious alone.
Finding there was a defined movement aimed to help create a community and answer questions about mindful drinking and sober curiosity, has been helpful and empowering.
As I examined my relationship with alcohol, I realized while I didn’t consume alone, I usually over-consumed when with friends and in a social setting. I also learned that while I like to enjoy a delicious cocktail or a refreshing beer, I don’t enjoy the effects alcohol has on my body. Most of all, I am someone who likes to be in control, and getting drunk definitely caused me to lose grasp of that.
No Defined Timeline
Being Sober Curious allows participants the chance to see how sobriety and moderation fit into their life. Some people choose to remove alcohol for 2 weeks, 2 months, or even 2 years. Others don’t set any time limit but commit to going without “for now” or indefinitely.
As you consider what you like and dislike about alcohol, you might choose to drink occasionally. This is one of the key differences between the Sober Curious Movement and total sobriety.
In my case, I have not set a timeline. If I feel like drinking again, I may do so. For the time being the absence of alcohol has been empowering and honestly, I have not missed it much.
Think of the Positives
It matters more about what you get from your Sober Curious journey, and less about the way you structure it. The key lies in exploring your relationship with alcohol.
If you’re considering the benefits of exploring short-term sobriety, it’s important to focus on what you will gain, as opposed to what you may lose. Reminding yourself that cutting out the booze can energize and empower you, leaving you open to new, rewarding opportunities.
Instead of thinking about the drinks, you’ll be missing, instead focus on the positives:
No more hangovers.
More solid sleep.
Potential weight loss.
Better focus and concentration.
Returned (or increased) libido/sex drive.
More money in your pocket.
Less late-night trips through the drive-thru or need for “drunk munchies.”
A diminished sense of anxiety or depression.
Improved General Health.
Better control of managing emotions and keeping healthy relationships.
A New Reality
The reality of exploring a new lifestyle can involve making different choices about how you spend your time. You may begin to determine how to navigate social situations differently.
For me, I always come with a plan. If it is a house-party situation I always make sure to bring something festive, that I feel like drinking.
If going out, I look for a “mocktail” section on the menu, or simply ask the bartender to make a fancy cocktail non-alcoholic. Just because I’m choosing to abstain, does not mean I don’t deserve a pretty and festive drink too.
And when in doubt, it is truly ok to decline an invite. A simple “No thank you,” is perfectly fine. You do not need to explain yourself unless you want to of course.
Once you make the choice to go alcohol-free, you may find that there are other personal changes and growth on the horizon.
Many people find that once they quit drinking, they have more time than they did before. Finding new hobbies and connecting with like-minded people can help you stay motivated and in-tune with your new lifestyle.
Some positive possibilities to consider:
Explore the area’s expansive collection of parks. There is somewhere new to discover every week.
Go for a daily walk, and soak in the sunrise/sunset.
Get back into an old hobby.
Connect with lost friends or loved ones.
Spend some quality time reading the stack of books you’ve told yourself you would finish.
Learn something new: take a class in person through TMCC or online.
Save the money you would have spent drinking, and go on a DREAM vacation.
If the idea of “going cold turkey” seems more daunting than freeing, maybe moderation is right for you.
Moderation management helps you explore your relationship with alcohol and reduce the harm associated with its use.
This is good for those who are interested in going Sober Curious but feel as if a bit more structure and support is needed, than simply going without and seeing what happens.
Call Your Medical Professional
Please note, that I am not a doctor, and this article is not meant to offer or solicit medical advice. This is purely a personal journey I would like to share, that I think others would benefit from hearing.
If you find it difficult to avoid alcohol despite your best efforts, a good step may be reaching out to a professional who specializes in recognizing and treating alcohol dependency.
Northern Nevada offers many good resources for alcohol and substance treatment including:
The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) is a confidential, free, 24hr, information service for individuals and family members facing mental and or substance use disorders. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Interested in exploring your own relationship with alcohol? Below are several resources and books that helped introduce me to a Sober Curious Lifestyle:
“Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Deep Connection, and Limitless Presence Awaiting Us All On The Other Side of Alcohol” by Ruby Warrington
Starting a new journey is never easy, especially when it is a discovery of self and health. It is important to remember the reason for starting the exploration of Sober Curiosity and reevaluate over time.
More importantly, it’s imperative to approach a Sober Curious lifestyle with gentleness toward yourself. Whatever you decide to do with the information gained, whether through this article or through your own self-exploration, it’s important to prioritize yourself.
Remembering this is YOUR journey is essential. It’s important to understand that we are all doing the best we can. Allowing ourselves grace and space to examine our inner workings, will bring a stronger sense of compassion and understanding. Something we all could benefit from nowadays.
Is Sober Curious for You?
Have you explored a Sober Curious lifestyle? Do you refrain from drinking alcohol? Is sobriety something you have considered?
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Sarah Bear Rively is a Reno resident for over 30 years and loves the uniqueness of Northern Nevada. Sarah and her husband are parents to a sassy, smart, considerate “three-anger". Sarah has spent the majority of her career helping Reno’s at-risk populations through non-profit and social service work. She now proudly works for the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sarah considers herself a fun-loving person who enjoys laughing, getting creative, helping the community, and spending time with family. You can follow her in real life on Instagram and TikTok.