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What Is Sober-Curious?

Posted by Shannon Fletcher on
What Is Sober-Curious?

It's a lovely evening out. You've got one foot out of the office when your colleagues ask if you’d like to grab drinks. You agree, because…why not? Once in the bar, it’s a flurry of gossip, laughter, and shots. Wait, how many has it been? Two? Or three? No, wait, it’s four because Tom from Accounting just ordered another round. And before you know it, you’re drunk. 

Let’s be clear: getting drunk is not a major concern if you indulge occasionally. But you don’t. Beyond after-work drinks, you also have dinners, wild nights out, and nightcaps. Scaling back on your alcohol consumption would probably do you good. The only question is, how? Meet the sober-curious movement.

What is “sober-curious”? 

According to Ruby Warrington, a writer in New York and the originator of the term, being sober-curious means “to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.” Put simply, sober curiosity helps individuals explore elements of a booze-free lifestyle without entirely abstaining.

How to cut back on alcohol (without feeling miserable)

Now, here comes the most crucial question: how do you incorporate sober curiosity into your life—so you maximize wellness and waste fewer mornings hung over, tired, anxious, etc.? Here are three strategies.

#1: Be honest about the role alcohol plays in your life

Ask yourself: what are you hoping to achieve with alcohol? Are you popping open that bottle of champagne to celebrate, or are you hoping it’ll erase your existential fears? Be extremely honest because this helps you find alternative and arguably healthier ways to achieve the same feelings. Here are a few examples (some are unorthodox, so keep your mind open!

  • Feeling loved and socially connected: Recognize that you don’t have to drink to have a good time with colleagues, friends, and family. Why not propose alcohol-free activities, like going hiking, camping, or even to the museums?
  • Getting a buzz: Searching for a relaxed, happy feeling? There are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks—featuring ingredients like adaptogens, nootropics, and, let's not forget, full spectrum CBD—that’ll give you a buzz minus the dreaded next-day hangover. Psst: getting to the big O could also help!
  • Enjoying the bar atmosphere: As surprising as this may sound, you can enjoy the bar atmosphere without slinging back consecutive shots. Ask the bartender for non-alcoholic drinks. Order snacks to munch on so you reduce your stomach's capacity for alcohol. Or, hey, you could even try to re-create the bar atmosphere at home!

#2: Practice mindfulness when you do drink

The next time you indulge, don’t drink as though you’ve just been through an intense spin session—instead, savor every sip as though it came from a wine bottle with a thousand-dollar price tag. Practice mindfulness. What does it taste like? Is it sweet, tangy, or slightly bitter? How does it feel in your mouth? Is it smooth, bubbly, or gritty? Truly paying attention to your alcohol consumption may cut down on the amount you drink.

Find that hard to believe? Well, there’s research to back that up. According to a 2017 study, researchers found that heavy drinkers who received 11 minutes of mindfulness instruction reduced their alcohol consumption significantly.

#3: Disengage from “all or nothing” thinking 

There is no one standardized way of practicing sober curiosity. Just because you do well one week, and then slip back into old habits the next week, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Zoom out; look at the big picture.

Instead of despairing and declaring that you “just can’t do it”, understand that it took you a long time to develop your current relationship with alcohol—and that changing it will thus require effort and time. Acknowledge every bit of progress you make, no matter how small. Treat yourself with kindness. Rebuild and reimagine your relationship with alcohol in a safe space.

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