With summer in full swing and a wave of event invitations and promotions flooding your inbox, you might find yourself contemplating a journey into the world of the “Sober Curious.”
Sober Curious involves rethinking your relationship with alcohol and how it affects your overall health. Whether you feel you've been drinking too much socially, or are tired of experiencing occasional hangovers and disruptive midnight awakenings, you may be ready to join the movement.
If you’re curious about becoming Sober Curious, this article examines the benefits of drinking less or not at all, provides strategies for navigating social events without booze, and offers recipes for mocktails that are as healthy as they are delicious, especially on a hot summer day.
The Sober Curious Movement
Over the past few decades, binge drinking (5 drinks at one time for men and 4 for women) entered the American culture as a regular part of socializing, especially with college students and young adults. Alcohol-related content on social media, such as viral challenges and influencers glamorizing excessive drinking, created a sense of validation and social acceptance around binge drinking.
Additionally, the rise of "party culture" and the desire for instant gratification in the fast-paced digital age led to excessive use of alcohol, often overlooking the potential harms to physical and mental well-being.
In 2018, British author and journalist, Ruby Warrington, published her book "Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol,” and a movement was born.
In the book’s introduction, Warrington writes that being Sober Curious, “means not having any rules about not drinking — since we all know rules are made to be broken. And, for me, it means leaving space for an immaculately informed and superconscious choice to take a drink on occasion.”
She explains, “Most of all, it means being honest with myself about the way alcohol makes my mind, my body, and my soul feel — and trusting the wisdom of my being rather than the external messaging about alcohol we are bombarded with daily.”
The Sober Curious movement offers an alternative way to socialize and have fun without relying on alcohol.
According to a new poll by marketing intelligence agency, Mintel, a growing number of Americans, especially younger consumers, have begun checking in with the “wisdom of their beings.” Almost four out of ten American consumers indicate they currently follow or would follow a Sober Curious lifestyle for physical health reasons and 29 percent say they would do so for mental health reasons. REF#1970
Over 40 percent of American consumers enjoy no-alcohol month challenges, such as Dry January and Sober October, and those that are sober curious want to limit their alcohol consumption to an occasional indulgence.
To respond to the growing trend to take a break from alcohol, the beverage industry is offering more alcohol-free alternatives, and many mimic the real taste of alcholic drinks. The rise of a mocktail culture has made it easier for individuals to explore a sober lifestyle without feeling deprived, left out, or judged.
The Benefits of Being Sober Curious
Most everyone who drinks too much has suffered the pains of a bad hangover. Many may remember the embarrassing things they did while drunk they wish everyone else would forget. Some may understand that excessive alcohol can cause a host of physical and mental health problems over time, from addiction to liver disease.
Becoming Sober Curious means that instead of trying to forget or ignore the bad effects of alcohol, you question and focus on all the benefits you can enjoy by abstaining or significantly cutting back. If you’re someone who values your health and wants to age well, embracing a sober curious lifestyle can lead to:
- Better mental clarity: Alcohol impairs your brain’s communication pathways and can limit your ability to think or talk clearly. Abstinence allows you to accomplish more at work and play, and enables you to maintain lucid conversations and enjoy the people you’re socializing with.
- Enhanced sleep: Alcohol may cause you to fall asleep easily, but it can also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night — often during the most restorative sleep stage — as the sedative effect wears off. Getting back to sleep can be difficult. Additionally, studies have shown alcohol increases the risk of sleep apnea, causing abnormal breathing and a temporary loss of breath that can lead to more serious health issues. REF#1971 When you avoid alcohol, you can improve your sleep, which is essential for your overall well-being.
- Improved relationships: Alcohol can cause aggression or anger and cause you to do or say things that damage your relationships. Not drinking saves those relationships from your potentially destructive behavior.
- Good hydration: Since alcohol is a diuretic, drinking too much can quickly dehydrate you. If you don’t hydrate with at least an equal amount of water between alcoholic beverages, it can lead to serious issues such as heat stroke and kidney failure, especially if you’re drinking on a very hot day. Stick with non-alcoholic beverages to keep your body physically healthy through good hydration.
- Better mental health: Alcohol is a depressant, slowing down your brain activity. While it initially feels like a stimulant, helping you break out of your shell and reducing feelings of anxiety or fear, over time, it can increase the risk of developing depression. Without alcohol, you improve your chances of good mental health.
- Reduced risk of cancer: The National Cancer Institute reports that the more a person drinks, the higher their risk of certain cancers, including mouth, voice box, throat, esophagus, breast (in women), liver, and colorectal. REF#1972 Abstaining from drinking any alcohol is an important strategy for reducing cancer risk.
- Strong immune system: The National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism confirms that excessive alcohol consumption can slow your body’s ability to fight infections, even 24 hours after you’ve been drinking. REF#1973 While avoiding illness is always a good thing, in this era of Covid-19, it’s a huge benefit to have a strong immune system at large gatherings where you may be exposed to viral and bacterial infections.
- Positive sex life: Alcohol puts a damper on your sex life. It may initially reduce inhibitions, but it can increase the likelihood of sexual dysfunction or inappropriate sexual behavior. Without alcohol, you can enjoy more natural and healthy sex.
- Fewer accidents: Around 31 percent of all fatalities from car accidents are caused by drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol impairs your coordination and reaction time as well as your judgment. Not drinking can save lives. It can also prevent you from falling and injuring yourself.
- Overall wellness: By avoiding the physical and emotional effects of alcohol, you can enjoy better health and well-being.
Strategies for Navigating Social Events
Maintaining a sober lifestyle, especially during social events and gatherings, can be empowering and fulfilling. But cutting out alcohol entirely can also be difficult. Being Sober Curious does not require you to abstain always and completely. You get to decide if, when, where, and how much you want to drink. Having a few practical strategies will help you navigate those situations where you want to stay sober and enjoy yourself without relying on alcohol.
Consider these six strategies:
1. Choose Activities That Don't Involve Drinking
Look back on your childhood, before you discovered alcohol, when all you needed was your imagination and a friend or two to have a good time. Embrace the opportunity to explore alternative activities that don't revolve around alcohol. Seek out events or social gatherings that focus on shared interests, such as outdoor adventures, art exhibitions, or city walking tours. By engaging in these activities, you not only get a distraction from alcohol but also develop connections with like-minded individuals who share your passion.
2. Ignore Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Take the initiative to create your own memorable experiences during social events. Focus on being fully present. Engage in deep conversations, enjoy the atmosphere, and appreciate the company of those around you. By immersing yourself in the present experience, you'll find that the fear of missing out on drinking diminishes, and you can fully enjoy the moment.
3. Select Mocktails and Alcohol-Free Alternatives
More and more, restaurants, bars, and private events offer creative and delicious mocktails that are refreshing on summer days and nights. When attending events where alcoholic beverages are served, opt for those alcohol-free alternatives that can be as satisfying as their alcoholic counterparts. By choosing mocktails, you can participate in toasts and social rituals without compromising your commitment to abstaining or having just one drink.
Additionally, check out the growing number of bottled and canned non-alcoholic beverages and stock your home with those drinks to have and share when company comes over. A quick Internet search should provide lots of options. You can also find lots of mocktail recipes to make yourself.
4. Build a Support Network of Like-Minded Individuals
Surround yourself with supportive and like-minded individuals who can contribute to your success in maintaining a sober lifestyle. If you have a problem with alcohol abuse and are struggling to avoid alcohol, seek out sober communities, support groups, or online forums where you can connect with others who are also on a similar journey. Sharing experiences, advice, and challenges with people who understand your perspective can provide valuable insights and encouragement.
5. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Care
Incorporating mindfulness and self-care practices into your daily routine can strengthen your commitment to sobriety. If you don’t already have a regular practice, try meditation, yoga, journaling, or spending time in nature. When you commit to improving your overall well-being, you can strengthen your resolve and deflect social pressure by focusing on your goals.
6. Develop Effective Communication Strategies
Communicating your intentions and boundaries with friends, family, and event organizers is crucial in maintaining a sober lifestyle during social events. Consider informing close friends and family members about your decision to be sober curious, as they can help hold you accountable and support your decision. Also, explain your reasons for this decision so you set expectations and prevent any unwanted offers or peer pressure. Having open and honest conversations about your sobriety can foster understanding and create a supportive environment for you to enjoy events without alcohol.
A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Beverages
If you’re sober curious, there will be times when you choose to have a drink with friends at the end of a long work week or to celebrate a special occasion. But for those other times when you’d order a cocktail, many specialty beverage brands are now creating distilled non-alcoholic spirits that go well alone or with soda, tonic, or other common mixers.
Unlike mocktails that are often very sweet and made with fruit juices and/or soda, distilled non-alcoholic spirits may approximate the taste of liquors such as gin, Campari, bitters, or other liquers. Or they may be in unique flavors that include herbal extracts. Their balance of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and salinity are more complex than soft drinks or fruit juices and make you feel like you’re having an adult cocktail. The difference is that they don’t alter your mental state and are 100 percent healthy for you.
Check out the growing variety in liquor stores, specialty markets, and on the Internet under the label non-alcoholic spirits.
Recipes for Non-Alcoholic Drinks for Every Occasion
At home, take control of your urge to drink by having the ingredients on hand to make your own refreshing mocktails. Gaia Herbs has created a number of mocktail recipes that mix natural ingredients with healthful herbs to support different aspects of health and wellness.
You can find all our mocktail recipes on “Gaia Herbs Recipes for a Healthier You,” a
compendium of all current Gaia Herbs recipes.
One of our favorites is our unique version of a margarita.
Grapefruit-Echinacea "Margarita" Recipe
Smoky, spicy, and tingly (thanks to the Echinacea), this mocktail is not only refreshing but may help support your immune system all summer long.*
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- 2 tablespoons honey syrup (see recipe below)
- 40 drops Certified Organic Echinacea Supreme Liquid Herbal Extract
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup seltzer
- Rosemary sprig, for garnish
- Combine all ingredients except for seltzer in a shaker and shake well, until combined.
- Add seltzer, and stir to combine.
- Fill glass with ice.
- Pour grapefruit mixture over ice, and garnish with rosemary sprig.
Embracing the Sober Curious movement offers a refreshing alternative to the normalized culture of excessive drinking. By prioritizing mental clarity, physical health, and meaningful connections, you allow yourself to discover a new and fulfilling way to navigate social events and engage with friends, colleagues, and the people you meet. Being Sober Curious can be your ticket to a happier, healthier, and more balanced life.
- 1. , "Nearly 4 in 10 US consumers closely or occasionally follow a sober curious lifestyle", Mintel. 1 1. , "Nearly 4 in 10 US consumers closely or occasionally follow a sober curious lifestyle", Mintel.
- 2. Evangelia Simou, et al, "Alcohol and the risk of sleep apnoea: a systematic review and meta-analysis", PubMed, February 2018. 2 2. Evangelia Simou, et al, "Alcohol and the risk of sleep apnoea: a systematic review and meta-analysis", PubMed, February 2018.
- 3. , "Alcohol and Cancer Risk", National Institute of Cancer. 3 3. , "Alcohol and Cancer Risk", National Institute of Cancer.
- 4. , "Drunk Driving", NHTSA. 4 4. , "Drunk Driving", NHTSA.