People everywhere are buzzing about sober curiosity. Celebrities, athletes, social media influencers—and even everyday folks—are increasingly speaking out about minimizing the role alcohol plays in their lives.
“With the sober curious movement, people are starting to evaluate how alcohol is impacting their physical and mental wellness,” says Chris Nixon, LMSW, an addiction medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health. “We live in an alcohol-dominant society, but with this movement, we’re really giving people permission to choose not to drink—to be sober curious.”
What Does Sober Curious Mean?
Coined by 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, “sober curious” literally means getting curious about your alcohol consumption. The idea is to question the personal and societal reasons why you drink rather than mindlessly sipping.
“The goal is to explore your relationship with alcohol, as well as the health and wellness perks that may stem from shifting your focus away from the bottle,” Nixon says. “And it stems, in part, from the Dry January movement.”
Maybe you’re questioning whether your drinking habits are enriching or complicating your life. Or maybe you’re curious about the health perks of an alcohol-free lifestyle. Or maybe you just want to take a break from booze. No matter the reason, being sober curious allows you to opt out, without swearing off alcohol altogether.
What Are The Benefits Of Limiting Alcohol?
There’s no denying that alcohol plays a prominent role in our culture. We use it to connect, socialize, conduct business and even as a form of stress relief. Unfortunately, regular drinking can have serious health consequences on a variety of organ systems:
- According to the National Cancer Institute, drinking just one alcoholic beverage daily increases the risk of several types of cancer.
- Updated dietary guidelines debunk the idea that moderate drinking lowers the risk of heart disease. “We now know that there’s a strong correlation between moderate alcohol use and cardiovascular issues,” Nixon says.
- Drinking alcohol negatively affects the brain, with research suggesting that alcohol use is especially problematic for young adults.
In addition to reducing your risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, getting sober curious—or giving up alcohol completely—may help boost your mood, improve your immune response and help you shed excess pounds.
Ways To Get Sober Curious
Nixing alcohol can be complicated. Whether you’re networking with colleagues, making new friends or trying to unwind after a rough day, there’s usually alcohol at the table.
“With the sober curious approach, you don’t have to cut out alcohol completely,” Nixon says. “If you have a glass of wine daily, try dropping down to three or four drinks each week. Then you can reduce your intake even more over time.”
A few other suggestions to cut back on booze:
- Go green: Why not turn your daily cocktail into an opportunity to boost the nutrients in your diet with green juices? Break out a blender and mix together spinach, kale, bananas and pineapple, for a tasty elixir with serious health perks.
- Hit the coffee house: Instead of bellying up to a bar, consider meeting friends and colleagues at your local coffee shop or tea house.
- Experiment with mocktails: If you have soda water and fresh juices like lime, orange and lemon, you can get creative and make alcohol-free beverages at home. Booze-free spirit brands like Seedlip and DRY are increasingly available at restaurants and bars, as well as in bottles for homemade libations.
Where Sober Curious Falls Short
It’s important to note that sober curiosity is NOT sobriety—and it’s not right for everyone. People who have a complicated relationship with alcohol and those who have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder should talk to their healthcare provider.
How do you know if you have an alcohol problem? Pay attention to these warning signs:
- You use alcohol despite experiencing negative consequences.
- You’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol, meaning you need more booze to experience the same effects.
- You experience nausea, dizziness or shakiness after drinking.
- Your loved ones have expressed concern about your drinking habits.
- Your mind is constantly preoccupied with drinking—and when you’re going to get your next drink.
To find a doctor or therapist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.
Christopher Nixon is the director of Addiction Medicine at Henry Ford Maplegrove Center.