The Beginner’s Guide To The Sober-Curious Community

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The Beginner’s Guide To The Sober-Curious Community

Refinery29

By Elizabeth Gulino

January 2, 2020

There’s nothing like a hangover to make you swear off drinking forever. No matter how much you enjoyed yourself the night before, once you’ve woken up you start to question whether it was all worth it. With your head pounding, your tongue dry, your stomach heaving, the hangxiety reaching its peak, you start making promises: This is the last time I’ll ever do that. The pledge is so common, it’s a running joke among you and your friends and the rest of the world. The punchline, of course, is that a few weeks or even nights later, you’ll be right back at the bar. 

But over the past year or so, the punchline, along with the spirits, has been changing. Many of your friends, and even you, have been staying away from the liquor store, or at least showing up less frequently. According to a study conducted by Nielsen, nearly 50% of all U.S. adults are making an effort to limit their alcohol consumption; look only at millennials and that number rises to 66%.

This group of modern-day teetotalers have started to identify themselves as “sober curious.” It’s a term with a flexible definition. It encompasses people who are ready to dry out entirely, and those who are more interested in cutting back.

The increased desire to explore a sober curious lifestyle makes sense when you put it into the context of the modern wellness revolution. People are increasingly conscious about what they’re putting into and onto their bodies — they want their produce to be organic, their meat (if they eat it) to be hormone free, their milk to be non-dairy, their beauty products to be clean, and their clothes to be ethical. So it’s no wonder that they’re rethinking the whole alcohol thing. 

“The more time, money and energy people are putting into their overall wellbeing, the harder it becomes to justify the overall toxicity and health risks (particularly mental health risks) of drinking,” says Ruby Warrington, author of the book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol and creator of the term.

Then there’s all the stuff you don’t necessarily feel happening, but is significant nonetheless. “There are many alcohol-related health risks that can appear later in life if you drink too much over time, including certain cancers, liver disease, cardiovascular disease and more,” Joseph R. Volpicelli, MD, PhD, tells Refinery29.

For many people who’ve been drinking since their mid- to late-teens cutting back or quitting entirely may be mostly a novelty thing at first; they jump on the Dry January trend with their friends just to see what it’s like. But very quickly, the health benefits of ditching alcohol can make the case for keeping it up, Joseph R. Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D., tells Refinery29. Within days or weeks, you’ll start to sleep better. You’ll have more energy during the day, and it’ll be easier to concentrate. You may feel happier, less anxious. The effects will be more pronounced for heavier drinkers, but even among more moderate alcohol users, many say they notice big benefits.

Cutting down on alcohol doesn’t just have to be about your health. It could mean a more fulfilling social life, a better way to connect with others, or a greater peace of mind. “There’s increasing access to other ways to switch off and unwind — such a yoga, meditation, and even CBD and cannabis — that don’t come with the same negative side-effects of booze,” Warrington says.  

While people for whom sobriety is a life or death choice may feel frustrated at the growing number of people “exploring sobriety”, few people would argue it’s actually harmful to experiment with cutting back or cutting out alcohol. So if you’re curious, we’ve rounded up the very best influencers, events, products, and books available for those who are curious about being sober curious.

Ruby Warrington literally named the trend. Sober Curious, her 2018 book, perfectly encapsulates what it means to be in a gray area relationship with alcohol. Based on almost a decade of her life identifying as sober curious, Warrington’s book is a great asset to those exploring the liquor-free-ish way of life.

“I realized that a lot of people felt the same way as me — like they knew alcohol could be problematic for them, but didn’t see themselves as alcoholics,” Warrington says. “[They] were either afraid to talk about it, or didn’t have an outlet for an open discussion about the problems even “normal” drinkers experience.”

After publishing her work, Warrington has delved into the sober-ish world. She hosts sober curious retreats, which are weekend workshops filled with interactive sessions about how to explore a healthy relationship with alcohol. The next one will be in February 2020 in Kripalu, Massachusetts.

Note: These retreats are not addiction recovery programs. They’re for people who want to explore how giving up alcohol will affect their wellbeing. If you think you may be reliant on alcohol, she suggests talking to your doctor.

Sure, you can stick to seltzer when you’re out with friends. But there are other options for sober-curious dabblers. Take Kin Euphorics. The company makes non-alcoholic drinks — a canned “spritz” and two drinks that are meant to be diluted with mixers or enjoyed on the rocks, like spirits — that contain adaptogens (herbs that may help manage stress), nootropics (compounds that purport to support cognition), and other nourishing plants (such as hibiscus and licorice root).

The taste of these beverages is a nice change from the usual water or soda, and the company claims the drinks are meant to change your mood, depending on how they mix with your body chemistry. After one, you might feel super-Zen, or super-hyper and ready to dance — but not drunk or high.

Jen Batchelor, co-founder and CEO of Kin Euphorics, tells Refinery29 that the outpost’s purpose is to “elevate your state.” Whether euphorics can actually do any of these things is still very much up for debate, but the concept is cool and attention-grabbing — especially if you want to be distracted from the fact that your night is alcohol free.