Sober Curious — What It Means to Question Your Alcohol Use

April 18, 2022

If you find yourself curious about sobriety, which in the recovery community is called, “sober curious,” we’d be willing to bet that there’s some sort of issue with substances in your life.

Drinking alcohol is socially acceptable in today’s world. Going to happy hours during the week and spending time at bars on the weekend are common. Recently, marijuana has become more socially acceptable with its legalization in certain areas.

However, you may notice yourself drinking or using substances to the point where it’s creating some definite problems in your life. You may have thought about cutting back or getting sober, but you don’t like the all-or-nothing mindset that comes with being sober.

Maybe you’re not chemically dependent on any substance, but you do it more often than you would like. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re “sober curious” to some extent. 

According to Ruby Warrington, author of Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol, and founder of Club Soda, being sober curious means, literally, to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.”

It’s essentially a movement that focuses on developing a healthier relationship with alcohol and drinking less of it. This approach is ideal for an individual who doesn’t have a chemical dependency problem.

The Origins of the Sober Curious Movement

For the majority of the last century, recovery from alcohol addiction has meant complete abstinence. It was in the late 1930s that the complete-abstinence-based program Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

The AA philosophy has some key points :

  1. If you’re an alcoholic, you’ll never be able to drink normally again. A.A. doesn’t teach moderation.
  2. You must admit that you are completely powerless over your alcoholic addiction and that you lack the adequate power to do anything about it.
  3. After you get sober, if you don’t maintain a disciplined relationship with a higher power, you are likely to return to destructive drinking.

AA and programs based on it have been the dominant approach in the addiction/recovery world. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that the term “harm reduction” started being thrown around. 

Harm reduction is a different approach to recovery as it’s not based on complete abstinence. Harm reduction is based on the underlying assumption that, regardless of laws, people will use/abuse mind-altering substances, including alcohol.

This approach focuses on reducing the harmful effects caused by drinking and using drugs. Over the years, harm reduction groups have been successful in:

Harm reduction is about meeting people where they are at, not telling them that they all need to be completely abstinent.

Without a doubt, sober curious shares similarities with harm reduction. However, it wasn’t until the release of Ruby Warrington’s book that the term and idea became popular.

In her book, Ruby talks about the concept of questioning your personal relationship with alcohol. From this concept, an entire movement based on individualizing sobriety has been born.

Goals of the Sober Curious Movement

If you’ve thought about cutting back on your drinking/using but don’t see the need for quitting entirely, a sober-curious lifestyle might be for you. Examples of sober curious goals can include:

Adopting the Lifestyle

The first step on the path is getting curious about your drinking patterns.

Think deeply about the relationship you have with alcohol. Perhaps you drink to deal with social anxiety, or you’re trying to avoid dealing with a traumatic event that you suffered in the past. 

Once you get an idea of what your drinking patterns are, think about the outcomes of your drinking. You may tell yourself alcohol makes you more fun to be around at parties when it actually makes people want to be around you less.

Take note of these types of inconsistencies between what you think and what is actually happening. 

The next step is to find out what sober curious means to you. What would your version of the lifestyle be?

Attend some concerts, parties, or sporting events and stay sober to see what it’s like. Plan a time in the not-so-distant future when you are going to take a break from drinking entirely. 

Once you’ve taken the first two steps, you can really dive into the lifestyle by building a support network.

Find other people who are sober curious and talk about what it means to them. You can find many sober events on social media at venues like sober bars.

You could join a sports team, take a cooking class, or attend a meditation retreat. Focus on doing positive things without the use of alcohol.

The Benefits of the Lifestyle

Heavy use of alcohol can have long-term effects on your health. These effects include:

There are mental and physical benefits to adopting a sober curious lifestyle and cutting down on your drinking. These benefits include:

Being sober curious is a positive thing because it helps raise your self-awareness. By being curious, you may find that you have a much worse problem with drinking than you thought.

You may try some different ways to moderate your drinking and find that you can’t. By being curious, at least you’ll know if moderation or complete abstinence is for you.

The movement gets people thinking and talking about sobriety without telling them they have to be completely abstinent to be in recovery from alcohol addiction. This type of mindset might help a person with a serious problem open up about their drinking.

If you or someone you know is questioning your drinking habits, you’re already sober curious. Here are some self-help organizations that are great resources:

IOP at ASIC Recovery

Sober curious? Looking for substance abuse treatment in Texas? At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a supportive recovery network. Click to learn more.

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