What You Need To Know About Sober Curious and Your Recovery

The Sober Curious movement weakens the Alcohol’s integral part of our society.

For many, it is difficult to enjoy many mainstream events without the presence and pressure to consume alcohol.  

However, you can learn to enjoy life without alcohol.

The momentum behind the Sober Curious movement lets you take a step back from the pressures of having to drink alcohol when out with friends, at happy hour, or other events.

Our society favors alcohol. Drinking alcohol goes hand and hand with going out and have a good time. Advocates of the movement feel that being Sober Curious allows you to choose not to drink without the barrage of questions, raised eyebrows, and looks of concern from friends.

What does it mean to be Sober Curious?

Health concerns and wellness have forced people to question why they feel the need to drink.  Young entrepreneurs, executives, and professionals are not letting the stigma which comes with choosing not to drink stop them from wanting to enjoy themselves without feeling pressured to drink. This trend dubbed the Sober Curious movement is building momentum.

The Sober Curious Movement began with the release of British journalist, Ruby Warrington's book, Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.

In the book, Warrington defines Sober Curious as a mindset shift. Sober curious is understanding the harmful impact alcohol has on your body and mind, so you opt to drink spirit free, non-alcoholic beverages, as a healthy alternative.

However, sober curious doesn't mean you have vowed never to drink alcohol again. Going out and enjoying yourself sober is your choice, not a life-saving decision a person with an alcohol use disorder chooses to make.

In her book, Warrington highlights her experiences with and without alcohol. She felt continually drinking at social events, meet-ups, and work was taking a toll on her. Warrington knows her conscious decision not to drink allowed her to feel empowered with life. She was able to enjoy herself out with friends without the unwanted adverse effects of alcohol.

The Sober Curious Movement nonalcoholic spirit-free nightlife

As more people become conscious of health and wellness, it becomes harder to justify alcohol consumption. Warrington writes, "As we change our diet, work out regularly and adopt other wellness practices; it becomes harder to reconcile the way alcohol makes us feel. I think many people are beginning to ask if a few hours of 'pressing pause' on stress, anxiety, or loneliness is worth the inevitable payoff the morning after."   

In 2016, Ruby Warrington helped co-create, Club Soda NYC, a sober social community. Club Soda which hosts sober events, in hotels, We-Work spaces, and restaurants. The events allow people to enjoy themselves, connect with others, and experience life without the pressure or need to drink.

In many US cities, healthy alternative meeting spots, cafes, and clubs have opened which sell healthy botanical drinks and elixirs. However, some of these clubs offer both an alcoholic and nonalcoholic menu.

Therefore, Sober Curious events aren't entirely alcohol-free. The philosophy is that you have decided not to drink alcohol, even though it is available.  Events, restaurants, and clubs which offer spirit-free cocktails or beers offer participants to choose not to drink without the pressures and stress.

The attitude of the movement is my choice not to drink is no one else's business, but my own.

Sober Curious: Prevention or Recovery?

Sober curious and living life in recovery are not synonymous. When you are in recovery for an alcohol use disorder, you abstain from consuming alcohol for more reasons than health and wellness. The relationship you have with alcohol is dangerous to your livelihood, relationships, and peace of mind.

The sober curious movement is NOT an alternative pathway for recovery.  Warrington stresses that being sober curious is not a replacement for a recovery program. Choosing wellness over alcohol is not the same as sobriety.

However, the movement is synonymous with prevention. Taking a break from alcohol to learn to enjoy life without feeling the need to drink is a positive step. Once you decide to enjoy your life sober, whether it be because you are sober curious or because you are taking part in Dry January why not use this time to assess your relationship with alcohol.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, of ABC News challenges you assess your relationship with alcohol honestly. The questions she ask you to answer resemble closely to The Cage Assessment for alcohol use disorders:

Question 1: Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?

Question 2: Have you gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?

Question 3: Have you had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want?

Question 4: Have you continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious?

Question 5: Do you spend a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over other after-effects?

If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, you should be concerned and speak with an addiction professional or certified recovery coach.


Recovery is a process of change

When you are in recovery you have already asked, answered, accepted, and admitted that your relationship to alcohol is dangerous. Therefore your conscious decision not to drink is one of necessity to living a fulfilled life without alcohol or drugs.

When I first heard about the Sober Curious movement I remembered this incident which played a part in my relapse many years ago.

During the first few years of my sobriety in 1999, I became bored with AA and NA meetings. Instead of seeking for peers in recovery who I could relate with or meetings I enjoyed I strayed from the recovery community. I started spending time and associating with people who referred to themselves as Straight Edge - people who were drug-free by choice. Members of this movement were drug-free out of choice not because they struggled with addiction.  

When my peer group changed, I stopped going to meetings entirely, stopped meeting with my therapist and recovery coach. Therefore, I stopped working on becoming the best version of myself. My focus switched to living life as I always did sans heroin.  I managed this way for 9 years, though I was invincible, and then A tragic event on a job site left me traumatized. I was alone without a network of peers in recovery. Instead of going back to the rooms, my coach, or clinician I opted to fight my urges alone. Without support, guidance, and advice, my relapse was inevitable.

Celebrate recovery and connect with your recovery community

In recent years, our recover communities have worked to provide alcohol and substance free events, meet-ups, and celebrations for you to bond with others in recovery. Participating in these events strengthens your recovery, reduces the stigma you feel subjected too, and allows you to be proud of the work you have put into recovery.  

It is vital for you to remember your recovery is what makes you unique, a survivor, and a cherished member of your recovery community.

Therefore, based on my past experiences, I would not participate (especially if I were in early recovery) in sober curious events with or without support of my peer network.  

What works best for me is spending time with family, loved ones, and friends in recovery.

When you first come into recovery it is common to hear the slogan - people, places, and things.

Addiction treatment providers and research are in favor of changing past habits. In order to create these changes a person in early recovery is urged to:

  • Stop spending time with acquaintances who you drank or drugged with

  • Avoid the places you frequented

  • Replace the activities you participated in when drinking with new healthy hobbies or pastimes

Recovery is a process. Part of this process is creating new experiences with peers from your recovery community. Learning to enjoy life without the feeling or need to drink is essential in early recovery.

When in early recovery, attending sober curious events can work for some and can be dangerous to others. However, before you decide, please consider where you are at in your recovery, how safe and secure you feel in your path for recovery, and your sober support network.

If you choose to attend a sober curious event, club, or restaurant keep in mind:

Mainstream brewing houses do not have your best interest in mind. Even though O'Doul's and Heineken have created 0-proof products intended for the Sober Curious movement, the labeling suggests otherwise.

In the past, you could tell you were drinking a non-alcoholic beer because the label was different. New marketing directed towards young entrepreneurs who have chosen to partake in alcohol-free events offers one the ability to fit-in.  

In an interview with Vox, Phelps said, "Heineken 0.0 creates more opportunities to enjoy beer's taste. The 69-calorie product comes in the brand's signature green bottle or can (so it's indistinguishable from the alcoholic version) and is priced the same."

Not being able to distinguish which beer is yours could be dangerous. Recovery coach, Tod Dodge from the Lighthouse Recovery 365 program tells his clients when attending an event where alcohol will be served "never to lose track of their drinks." Dodge continues, "If a client puts down a bottle at a party or event and cannot remember which glass is his, instead of guessing it is best to order a new spirit-free drink."

Recap and Key takeaways

The Sober Curious movement:

- Allows it to be okay to not drink alcohol

I applaud the Sober Curious movement. It's commendable that you have chosen to examine the safety or necessity of your relationship with alcohol. Warrington states, "I want to make it okay for anybody who finds themselves questioning their drinking to be open about this."

- Prevents you from feeling the negative effects of alcohol on your body and mind

The movement takes preventative measures. While enjoying your alcohol-free days and nights be grateful for your health and wellness conscious decisions and hangover free mornings.

- Reduces the stigma surrounding why you have chosen not to drink.

Because the movement is trendy, it allows persons to take a break from drinking without pressure or being forced to explain why drinking is not a priority. While examining one's relationship with alcohol a person can start to understand that drinking has become problematic, dangerous, and unhealthy. If anything the Sober Curious movement has worked to remove the stigma associated with the peer pressures of alcohol.

- Offers you the ability to assess your relationship with alcohol.

The sober curious movement will allow you to take a step back and look at the pros and cons of your drinking without the fear of being labeled an alcoholic, being treated differently by family and friends, and taking steps to speak with a professional about the findings of your brief self-assessment. Remember to ask yourself those 5 simple questions about your drinking.

- Is not an alternative pathway for recovery

Warrington states, “Sober curiosity is not for people with alcoholism, who should seek treatment through therapy and rehabilitation.”

- Deters you from establishes connections with others in recovery

Establish connections to your recovery community, peers in recovery, family, friends and loved ones. Peer support and guidance from others in recovery helps you create your process for finding fulfillment in a life of recovery.

-Don’t let fear of missing out (FOMO) keep you from actively living life in recovery

Drinking wasn’t always dangerous or unenjoyable. Reaching the understanding that you must leave behind people places and things from your past can cause you to grieve and create a feeling of loneliness. As your ties to your recovery community and support network strengthen you will form new connections, friends, and peers in your recovery community who share the same goals, wants, desires, and expectations in life as you.

Has sober curiosity led you to believe your relationship with alcohol has become dangerous?

Did you answer yes to two or more of the questions, concerning the presence of a possible alcohol use disorder,  presented earlier in this post?

If so, Mark O’Connor of the Lighthouse Sober Living Recovery 365 is available to speak with you about the next steps you can take to find fulfillment in a life of recovery.

Call Mark O’Connor at 203-246-9534.