If a friend turned down cocktails after work with a quick “No thanks, I’m sober,” you’d assume the same thing I would — that they’ve got a rough past with alcohol, and when they realized it had gotten totally out of hand, they put on the brakes, hard. More power to them! That’s a courageous and admirable choice to make. Grappling with alcohol addiction is a notoriously difficult fight.
But what do you do when you’ve never been addicted, but you’re starting to get uncomfortable with the role that alcohol plays in your life? You don’t want to say you’ll never ever have another glass of wine again, but maybe you realize you need to get intentional, take a long break, and re-evaluate your relationship to drinking.
This kind of intentional break is a gray area, which makes it hard to explain. You don’t really fit the “sober” mold, because somebody who’s been an alcoholic and is now sober stands in constant danger of a relapse.
If you’re not sober, then what are you?
Until now, we’ve never had a word for this. But thanks to millennials, the driving force behind this trend’s growing popularity, we do now. The word for you is “sober curious.”
What does “sober curious” mean?
It’s personal, so it means different things to different people, but the gist of it is that you’re committed to figuring out what your life is like without alcohol in it. Maybe you’ll start drinking again, maybe you won’t, and maybe you’ll go back to the occasional drink with a totally different attitude. What matters is that you are using the label to explore your life outside of drinking. You’re learning how to have a good time and sustain close friendships without alcohol. You’re figuring out who you are without alcohol in your life. The focus on “curiosity” is important — being sober curious is a time for self-exploration, paying attention, and asking questions.
Why we need the movement
The culture surrounding alcohol makes it hard to turn a drink down. Nobody wants to look uptight, or (God-forbid) judgmental. This movement changes that. It gives us a graceful and intentional way of saying that we’re perfectly capable of having a wonderful evening without a drink. It’s not about shame over past mistakes, and it’s not about worrying about other people’s attitude around alcohol. It’s about you, and you alone.
Why would somebody decide to go sober curious?
There are as many reasons as there are people:
- Maybe you just want to work on your social skills without the crutch of a “social lubricant.”
- Maybe you noticed that you resent being your group’s designated driver, and you started wondering why it mattered so much to you.
- Maybe you’re wondering whether you might be relying on alcohol a bit more than you used to in order to have a good time.
- Maybe your curiosity is about wellness in the same way somebody might try out being a vegan, or go sugar-free — you noticed that alcohol is affecting your sleep, or your mental or physical health, and want to do better for your body.
- Maybe you’re just trying to save the money, and don’t feel like shelling out six dollars for a cocktail every week.
- Maybe there’s addiction in your family, and you want to tread carefully around alcohol for that reason.
- Maybe you don’t have any reason at all, but you figure that by the end of a month, you’ll have learned something.
You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself, actually. Not only can it be an opportunity for deeper self-discovery, but it also spreads the word about an important new movement that the world might need more than it knows.