Maybe you’ve heard about the book “Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington. Or maybe a celebrity mentioned their own sober curiosity on a podcast. Whatever piqued your interest, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about being sober curious.
According to Warrington, sober curious means choosing “to question or get curious about every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.”
There are also subcategories of this movement. Mindful drinking can be defined as making a mindful decision about each drink, while sober consciousness is the awareness of why you are not drinking.
If you want to dip your toe into this to-drink-or-not-to-drink trend a good place to start is with a few key questions: Why do I want to drink? How will I feel if I drink? What will happen if I don’t drink?
Before starting this journey, you should be free of an alcohol dependency diagnosis and as with any health or lifestyle change, it’s best to talk to your healthcare professional.
Health Benefits of Going Without
The physical and psychological health benefits of even temporarily not drinking are immense. In a 2020 study conducted by psychologists at the University of Liverpool and the University of Sheffield, respondents who participated in “Dry January” (not drinking for the month of January) found their high blood pressure was reduced, that they lost weight, slept better, were more productive at work, felt happier, and had more energy.
Many of these findings should not be surprising since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant as well as a toxin. In addition, recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other credible health institutions, have become skeptical of the purported benefits of alcohol. Meanwhile, there are several additional perks to not drinking.
Dr. Vitaly Blatnoy, a Central Florida dermatologist, says limiting or cutting out alcohol all together can help reduce the appearance of aging on skin as well as diminish acne and rosacea breakouts. Likewise, a study conducted by the University of Texas – Austin and Brown University found that alcohol abstainers had better mental health and little to no major depressive episodes compared to heavy, binge, and chronic drinkers.
The classification of moderate, heavy, binge and chronic drinkers is not made arbitrarily. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, moderate drinking is having one or less standard drinks for women per day and two or less standard drinks for men per day, and not drinking daily. A standard drink is any beverage containing 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. This amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1 1/2 ounce of 80 proof spirits.
Any amount of drinking alcohol beyond the moderate level can increase the risk of a variety of health problems including cancer, liver disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and pancreatitis. Also, alcohol can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other infections.
How Much is Too Much
The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings one’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or higher. This corresponds to drinking five or more drinks in about two hours for a man and drinking about four or more drinks for a woman in the same timeframe.
The category NIAAA refers to as heavy alcohol use is drinking four or more drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week for men and three or more drinks any day or more than seven drinks per week for women. Both categories are associated with alcohol use disorder, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and a preoccupation with alcohol.
What to Expect
Discovering which drinking category you fall under can be surprising. Don’t let that stop you from continuing to be curious. There are more questions you can ask yourself before attending an event where an abundance of alcohol and drinking may occur: Am I expected to drink by my friends or my family? What happened the last time I had a drink? Can I have fun without drinking? Am I anxious, if so, is there another way I can help myself relax?
You may find that choosing not to drink can be difficult to do when you’re around others who are drinking. Some sober curious adherents recommend taking up a hobby, finding like-minded people to hang out with, playing board games/cards, volunteering at an organization you care about, meditation and journaling, or starting a regular exercise routine.
Nina Dalo from Lake Mary says she became sober curious because she felt like alcohol was stealing her time. “If I have a drink with dinner, I don’t want to get up at five to go to the gym. I started being sober curious to see how much of my time I’d get back.” Now, two years later with only a handful of drinks in between, Dalo says she’s got a lot of time back and is happy with her choice not to drink.
JM (who wanted to remain anonymous), is a medical professional from Dr. Phillips, and only drinks occasionally. JM says they tried out “Dry January” a few years ago just to see what it was like. For JM the experiment was a success. “It taught me to be conscious and mindful about each drink I take or don’t take,” they say.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
Why do I want to drink?
How will I feel if I drink?
What will happen if I don’t drink?
Am I expected to drink by my friends or my family?
What happened the last time I had a drink?
Can I have fun without drinking?
Am I anxious, if so, is there another way I can help myself relax?
Health Benefits of Not Drinking:
Reduce the appearance of aging on skin
Diminish acne and rosacea breakouts
Better mental health
Little to no major depressive episodes
Lower blood pressure
More productive at work
Things to Do Instead of Drinking:
Take up a hobby
Hang out with other non-drinkers
Start a regular exercise routine
Play board games/cards
Volunteer at an organization you care about
Meditate and journal
Start a regular exercise routine