WTF is Sober Curious, Anyway?
By Maureen Pollard,
Emotional Health Editor
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. www.maureenpollardmsw.com
Being sober curious is an idea that’s gaining traction in a social environment. It supports the idea of harm reduction over abstinence. This concept is focused on being curious about what it feels like to live a sober lifestyle, without making a commitment to give up alcohol completely. It means exploring the option to choose, question or change your relationship with alcohol to improve your physical and mental health.
Some people are introduced to alcohol at a young age, and often long before people reach the legal drinking age. As a result, it can be hard to know or remember what life was like before alcohol use became routine.
People often use alcohol to overcome social anxiety. What began as a way to fit in or to lower inhibitions about being with others can become a habit that’s hard to break because we’ve been doing it so long. It can also begin to interfere with our functioning if we rely on alcohol to get us through the tough spots in life.
Sometimes people drink because they enjoy the feeling that washes over them as alcohol enters their bloodstream and brain cells. Alcohol can have a pleasant effect for some people, but in time your tolerance may increase. It may take more alcohol to achieve that effect, which also increases the likelihood of negative effects such as physical illness and low mood after drinking.
"Don’t apologize for abstaining. Be confident that you’re doing this for you. It isn’t hurting anyone else, even if it makes them uncomfortable because your experience may lead them to examine their own relationship with alcohol."
Whatever your reasons for drinking and however long you’ve been doing it, there may come a time when it feels like you’re not getting those positive effects and the negative effects start adding up. You may notice harm to your physical and mental health as well as damage to your relationships.
If you feel like alcohol is taking up a lot of your time and energy, and causing more difficulties than it solves in your life, here are some ways you can be sober curious:
Be clear about why you’re experimenting. Whether you’re tired of hangovers or want to be able to get through difficult days without drinking or want to remember the time you spend with friends, knowing what motivates you will help you decide how to explore your options.
Plan your replacement beverages. Whatever you usually drink, you’ll be in the habit of holding something. Do you want to gulp pop all night or can you imagine yourself enjoying a few creative, non-alcoholic “mocktails”?
Let your friends know. Treat it like an adventure and let the people you spend the most time with know you are trying this new thing. If you’re enthusiastic enough about it, you may become a trendsetter in your party group!
Don’t apologize for abstaining. Be confident that you’re doing this for you. It isn’t hurting anyone else, even if it makes them uncomfortable because your experience may lead them to examine their own relationship with alcohol.
Celebrate sober firsts. If you’ve been using alcohol for fun and for coping for as long as you can remember, being sober curious really is a brave venture. Plan your experience, share your journey and embrace the possibility that you can bring some changes to your relationship with alcohol that might make your life more enjoyable.