Updated: Nov 9, 2020
A buzz word or phrase creating a lot of, well, buzz in the sober community is the phrase Sober Curious. Taking the buzz a step further, I would have to say there is even a movement around this newly coined idea of sober curiosity. It doesn't take a lot of education, research, or analysis to figure out what the movement is all about. The name pretty much states the entire motive behind the movement. Curiosity. That's it. People are curious about the sober lifestyle. They are wondering what it means to live alcohol-free. They are exploring the idea of intentionally waking up hangover free. They are experimenting with the mental and health benefits associated with drinking less or no alcohol. They are intrinsically asking the right questions about the society of alcohol, and they are asking the questions willingly. This sentiment is completely foreign to those of us who have or still consider ourselves alcoholics, addicts, or in recovery.
Before I spend too much time expressing my thoughts about this movement, let's spend a little time talking about what it means to be sober curious. I spent a little time trying to figure out when the movement first started. It seems to be a fairly recent movement. In the past couple of years. Ruby Warrington published a book, Sober Curious in December of 2018 in which she dives deeply into the concept behind the movement. Essentially, the movement suggests people ask questions about their drinking. Whenever a person picks up a drink, they should ask why they feel they need to have a drink. Questioning our drinking, at the very least, refocuses our attention at the time of each drink. This, generally speaking, will cause us to pause and reflect on whether we need a drink and may afford us the motivation to set the drink down. Whether this works or not is subjective, but it is not really the foundation of the movement anyway. It is simply a way of approaching drinking that differs from the way we have been conditioned by the society of alcohol.
On a more fundamental level, sober curious simply allows us the ability to question alcohol on a broader level without the negative stigma associated with sobriety. The moment a person states they are sober, the questions begin flying, and they are not the kind of questions we enjoy answering. Assumptions are formed about our history and our reliability. Our character immediately becomes under suspicion. To avoid this negative interaction with friends, family, and strangers we quickly learn it is easier to avoid the conversation altogether. Unfortunately, this creates a common feeling of loneliness and isolation well known in the sober community. Sober curious takes this negative stigma away almost entirely. Rather than saying I am sober or I quit drinking, a person can make much less damning statements and escape the conversation with little to no feelings of judgment or discomfort. The sober curious person can simply say: I am playing around with drinking less, I am taking a break from alcohol, or even I don't drink on Tuesdays. Whatever discourse they choose, it is rarely followed by a condescending tone from the listener. In fact, I am willing to bet the response to the sober curious statement will be something like, Yeah, I need to do that too. Done! No judgment. No discomfort. No explanation. Nothing. There are so many benefits associated with a more positive interaction like this.
Sober Curious Benefits
As I just stated, there are definitely some benefits associated with a sober curious mindset or lifestyle. The first, as stated earlier, is the ability to evade the negative stigma generally associated with sobriety. The lack of a staunch commitment somehow eradicates the preconceived notions about a person's inability to handle alcohol. If you are or have ever tried to quit drinking in a traditional manner, you know exactly what I am referring to. Why this is true honestly escapes me. What is the difference between someone stating they want to cut down on drinking or a person saying they want to quit drinking? Both statements inherently come from the same place; a person holds some concerns about their drinking. Nevertheless, the latter statement certainly appears to carry with it incredibly negative connotations. With this in mind, the sober curious mindset is beneficial even if only from the standpoint of avoiding negative criticism for a specific lifestyle choice.
While I personally hold strong opinions regarding moderation, an argument can easily be made to support any amount of effort to moderate drinking. The sober curious mindset, if used correctly, naturally encourages a person to moderate their drinking by simply setting the glass down more often. Are there mental and physical benefits to be gained through this simple action? Of course, there are. I believe any time we spend away from alcohol is beneficial to both our physical and mental well being. Granted, the more time the better, but we should take what we can get. Every morning we wake up without a hangover promises the opportunity to be more productive, present, and aware. Every night we spend out with friends and family without alcohol promises a better conversation, more connection, and a genuinely better time. If a person is consciously questioning their drinking and making good choices because of those questions, I truly believe good things are in store for that person. To be clear, I actually think a person who truly questions their drinking habits and honestly answers their questions will naturally steer away from alcohol altogether, but we can talk more about that later.
As we question our drinking lifestyle and make choices to drink less, some other very important though possibly subconscious things begin to happen to us. If you read my last blog, "Finding our Why's" you know there is power in questioning our mindset and perception of the world. When we begin asking the right questions and truthfully answering those questions, we open ourselves up to the potential of learning things about ourselves we never knew. One of the reasons we drink is to escape the truths we believe are either too hurtful or too overwhelming to effectively process. The numbing of our senses inhibits any chance of ever working through those feelings. The longer we hide from our true feelings, the harder it becomes to ever find our real truths and subsequently heal. While this process may take longer, if done sporadically or intermittently, I truly believe a person can eventually find their truths and begin to heal from this approach of living a sober curious lifestyle. Do I recommend it? Not necessarily. I think this road could be long, misleading, and incredibly frustrating. Nevertheless, whether this is a long road or not, it is, at the very least, a road in the right direction. I would recommend seeking out therapeutic help, or people who have successfully negotiated sobriety for advice once you begin to see your truths. Learning our truths can be disorienting and may cause some to venture back to the bottle simply to avoid them. Stay strong and work through them. Enormous benefits await you on the other side.
A Few Questions to Consider
As you know, if you have followed my blogs for any amount of time, I tend to support any effort to walk a sober path to recovery. There are no right answers and definitely no right programs for everyone. There are only the right answers and programs for you, individually. With that said, I highly encourage everyone to keep and maintain an open mind to new ideas and even ideas of a questionable nature. You never know what idea, thought, step, path, program, belief, or even dogma is going to be your thing. It may be right there in front of you all along, but maybe you are just not ready to receive it. At the right moment, bam. It may hit you like a fucking tidal wave and everything will instantly begin to make sense. With a closed mind, the tidal wave may simply wash right over you and leave you stuck in the sand of misappropriated and misguided beliefs. We cannot grow if we do not learn.
The idea of moderation and sober curious can not be broached, in my mind, without also bringing up the idea that alcohol moderation is a fallacy. I do not mean to state this in an overly generalized manner. I know there are outliers out there. I know a few of you. I don't understand you, but I know who you are. Here is a simple way to discern if we are an outlier... If we are here, we are not an outlier. We have questioned our drinking. We have held concerns about our drinking. We are worried, scared, or at the very least uncomfortable with our drinking habits. We are not outliers. Outliers never have to question, worry about, or even consider this conversation. it's simply not a thing for them. For us, we are here for a reason, and don't kid yourself, we are the norm. We are part of the normal curve.
Another question I have to ask may not be an easy one to answer. It may even feel uncomfortable for you, but I have to ask it. If you are sober curious. If you are wondering about life outside alcohol. If you are questioning your drinking lifestyle. Why not shoot the middle man and get right to it? Approaching anything with a half-assed attitude virtually ensures a half-assed result. Why not dig in just a little bit deeper? Why not learn just a little bit more? Why not step fully onto the path you already know will lead you to a happier life? You do know it, or you would not be contemplating it. You would not be here, right now. I can promise you this. If you are honest with yourself. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Whether you take the full leap or not, you will come out of your sober curiosity knowing one thing. You will know the extent of your addiction. You will have a better understanding of your relationship with alcohol. You will have given yourself some semblance of truth about your ability to live well with alcohol as a part of your life. At that point, you will most likely be ready to finally take the ultimate step toward your new perception of reality. It doesn't matter how you get there, it only matters that you arrive at the conclusion you are better off without alcohol.
Am I suggesting sober curious is not a good idea? Absolutely not. I'll say it again. Any amount of time you spend pondering your relationship with alcohol is time well spent. Any amount of time you spend without alcohol in your system is time gained toward a better quality of life. Any amount of effort expended toward learning more about yourself and your truth is effort expended in a powerful and insightful direction. Remember, there are no right answers or paths for everyone. You have to find your path on your own and through your own volition. Keep an open mind, though. You never know what lies in wait around the next bend or over the next pass. Your epiphany just might be in reach if you are able to see and receive it with an open mind.
Keep the conversation going. Ask questions. Reach out. Be curious. Try new things. Never settle. Do anything except remaining stagnant while living a life you are not proud to live.