The term Sober Curious is curiously trending right now. I have yet to find myself enamored with the term. I mean, you are either sober, or a drinker, right? If you are sober curious, does that make you a drinker who wants to slow down? Or a drinker who likes the idea of being sober but just cannot stop their daily tipple? Or are you keen to moderate? Sober curious is an oxymoron!
The thing with drinking is that people who drink a lot find it hard to stop. In fact, Tempest recently did a survey of 2,500 people to find out how long it took them to realise they had a problem with alcohol, and that they needed to getting help.
The results were staggering – the average amount of time it took for them to make changes was 11.2 years! That means that millions of people are struggling to change their drinking habits alone – year after year.
People are Stuck in the Drinking
As Janet Gourand acknowledges, “They are stuck because they have not yet discovered that connection is the opposite of addiction – and that we need to connect with others on the same path.”
The irony about being sober curious is that most of these people who want to dabble in being curious are the ones who do NOT have a drinking problem per se. They are the ones who have a glass here and there and who wonder what it would be like to have no glass here and there at all.
The thing is, the people with the drinking problems are the ones who often slide into their alcoholism without even realising it, until they need help. Then suddenly they are addicted to the booze, oops!
People who drink like this are usually the kind of people who simply cannot moderate. They are not the sober curious brigade. I mean, ask most of the members of Tribe Sober, and they will tell you, “It is impossible to moderate!”.
Sober Curious or Alcohol Dependent?
There are those people, however, who can go to a dinner or a braai, have one glass of wine then switch to tea. Lucky buggers! And then THEY decide to go sober.
This article is for the people who have a drinking problem. I would like to convince you to try being sober curious. Are you the kind of person who likes the sound of being sober curious because it provides you with a loophole to be good? Or do you convince yourself to be curious about being sober knowing that you do not have to commit to being sober? The door to the bar is always ajar, ahem.
In an article on Healthline, the Stages of Alcoholism, Kristeen Cherney notes that there are 5 stages to alcoholism. The phrase alcohol use disorder is used a lot these days for people who abuse alcohol but who are not yet full blown alcoholics. There are degrees of alcohol abuse out there and every country has its fair share of problem drinkers.
The 5 Stages to Alcoholism
- Sporadic bouts of drinking and binge drinking – experimenting with alcohol and drinkers testing their limits, not really understanding the dangers of such behaviour. Binge drinkers often drink on weekends, from four to more drinks per hour, in quick succession.
- More drinking, more often – the infrequent drinking in large amounts is increased to a few more drinks in the weeks. Every weekend is party time and then mid-week is time for a beer or something to ease the pain. These kinds of drinkers start to make an excuse to have a drink – seeing friends, work is so busy, they are bored or lonely. The drinking starts to feel good and becomes associated with the happy buzz.
- The more frequent drinking becomes a problem – it starts to impact daily living. The drinker wakes up hungover more often, feels grumpy and sick, feels not right. Less sleep, more anxiety, more weight issues and less self-contentment. All of these impact relationships, introversion and the ability to connect meaningfully with others.
- Reliance on alcohol – the need to drink drives the person to go out and have a drink, or to buy in drinks and drink alone at home. There is an attachment to alcohol. And then there is a need to drink more quantities of alcohol as the usual amount does no longer have the desired effect. Then, the next morning, the drinker feels much worse for wear: nausea and a huge hangover, body tremors, sweating, very grumpy and short-tempered, racing heartbeats and lack of sleep.
- Alcohol addiction – this is when the drinker can no longer go without the alcohol. He or she has to acknowledge on their own that there is a problem. They are craving the alcohol but it is making them feel sick and ashamed, guilty and unhealthy.
Looking at these 5 steps, it would seem that the sober curios individual is around stage 2 or 3. They take note of their drinking and decide that they would like to take a break and dry out for a while. They wonder what it would be like to be sober for a while. They can dry out, sort out their sleep issues and health niggles for a few weeks, then go back to a few glasses here and there.
Ahem! Most of us reading this have been there, done that. We tried the breaks: 2 weeks here, 4 weeks there, the dry January then the dry 66 days. We tried, really! We all know deep down inside that ANY level of drinking is dangerous, full stop.
Being Selectively Sober
The sober curious movement is about being selectively sober: it is your choice to be sober for a while, or forever. People who drink socially, or sporadically, may wish to be sober. They do this for their health. Sober curious people are experimenting with giving up the rare drinks they enjoy because they want to see if it makes a difference to their lives and health. They usually don’t have a drinking problem.
For me, the fact that people are considering giving up alcohol is a sign. A sign that they are uncomfortable with their drinking. And need to make a change. Remember that any amount of alcohol is dangerous, full stop.
Sober curious people may give up drinking for a month, or 6 months or longer, or shorter. And then they have a drink. But they never reach stage 4 or 5 where they are desperate for the next drink. So they say!
The best part about being sober for a while means that drinking holes like bars have to offer alcohol free options. There are people in groups who do not drink with their friends and are looking for an alcohol-free drink to enjoy in the drinking setting. Mocktails instead of cocktails.
Renee Deveney (the Recovery Village) notes that “The sober curious movement also coincides with the growing popularity of other mindfulness activities. When searching for more information on what it means to be sober curious, you’re very likely to run into descriptions that include “mindful drinking.””
The benefits of being sober curious for a while mean better health, better sleep, more focused at work and in relationships, weight loss and stamina in terms of exercise and life’s challenges in general. Those people who decide to join the sober curious movement because they have an issue with alcohol could succeed… or should really go for professional help.
What do you think about being sober curious? Do you think it is an option or just a trendy thing to do?
If you are ready to embark on your sober curious journey then join our tribe!