Between Bella Hadid’s Kin Euphorics and Katy Perry’s De Soi, non-alcoholic spirits, wines, and sips are all the rage right now. Why? Influencers, celebrities, and wellness gurus alike are speaking up about opting for an alcohol-free lifestyle. This time of year, you may be questioning your alcohol intake especially as every event of the season is centered around a drink: there’s the wine at Thanksgiving, cocktails at the office holiday party, and boozy spins on our otherwise G-rated hot chocolate or apple cider. And though we may have once felt a pressure to partake in it all, the last few years have seen the sober curious movement shifting the narrative. So, is sober curiosity for you? Let’s investigate.
What is sober curiosity?
Let’s start with a very clear delineation of what sober curiosity is not: Sober curiosity is not the same as sobriety. Sobriety is going totally alcohol-free, and can be a result of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder. Sober curiosity, on the other hand, involves a choice to drink less or limit altogether for physical or mental benefits. It’s important to emphasize that leading a sober curious lifestyle is voluntary and not the result of a diagnosed condition. Individuals who are “sober curious” may notice that they’ve been drinking more than they’d like or that drinking no longer serves them and decide to question or change their drinking habits for health-focused reasons. Sober curiosity can mean questioning your relationship to alcohol (experimenting with what it feels like to not drink, and why), drinking less alcohol, or living alcohol-free altogether.
Why is sober curiosity trending?
I’m not sure what your social feeds look like, but as someone well-versed in the wellness world, mine are filled with health-adjacent influencers reflecting on their own sober curious journeys. Whereas Sex and the City gave cosmos their moment, 20 years later, many of us would rather Netflix and chill than go out to a bar, non-alcoholic bevvie of choice in hand.
But why now? 2020 saw many of us turning to alcohol to cope; Ina Garten breaking out the extra-large martini glasses broke the internet and virtual happy hours–however short-lived–seemed like the only way to socialize. With more time than ever spent at home, we also had the space to reflect on our habits, and question why we were so quick to pour a glass of wine when we needed to relax.
In her popular book, Quit Like a Woman, Holly Whitaker outlines our obsession with drinking. And with sober curiosity’s rise in social prominence, her words have not only influenced the wellness world, but the larger mainstream culture. Anecdotally, I’ve come across Instagram posts sharing the harrowing reality that alcohol is the only drug making people think there’s something wrong with you for not taking it. Unfortunately, it’s true—in a world rife with “mommy juice” merch, vinyasa and vino events, and just about every celebrity founding a wine or spirit brand, alcohol is so prominent in our culture that it can feel weird if you’d rather opt out. So now more than ever, whether or not people are wellness-obsessed, they are most likely questioning their own relationship with their alcohol of choice.
The benefits of limiting alcohol
Given the prominence and dependence of alcohol in our culture, it’s easy to see why breaking up with alcohol—in the short- or long-term—presents a challenge. It’s a part of how we socialize, conduct business, and build connections. Thankfully, one of the key progress markers of the sober curious movement has been proving so we can lead fulfilled lives even if we choose not to drink. And with that comes a host of health benefits. According to WebMD, quitting alcohol may lead to benefits such as better sleep, improved immune response, and healthier weight. In addition, since alcohol can greatly affect mood, as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression (hanxiety is no joke!), you may also experience boosted mood and self-esteem.
Where to find sober curiosity inspiration
One of the beautiful things about our digital world? If you’re considering making a lifestyle change, there’s no shortage of inspiration to help you get started and to keep you motivated. Below are a few Instagram accounts and books that I’ve found supportive in navigating an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Though she single-handedly spearheaded the vibrant, layered smoothie trend, Alison Wu has shifted her focus to include design, mindfulness, and sober curious content. She’s an inspiring example of what it looks like to embrace life’s ups and downs without seeking something outside of yourself to make the journey easier. Watch her reflect on her experience of living four months alcohol-free above.
Olivia Noceda is the mocktail-making queen. All of her recipes are inspiring and aesthetically-approved, but her alcohol-free drinks steal the show. She develops creative recipes for no-ABV drinks, like Sweater Weather Mocktail, Citrus Sour, Pumpkin Spice Espresso Mocktini (my fave), and more. P.S. Be sure to tune into her stories where she speaks vulnerably about her journey cutting alcohol out of her life.
This book has been one of the most influential resources in my journey, and many readers would agree. Holly Whitaker outlines her own experience in recovery from an alcohol addiction and uses her reflections to critique alcohol’s ubiquity in our world today. She offers particular focus on how Big Alcohol preys on women, exploiting our insecurities, wants, and needs to make alcohol all the more appealing. If you’re looking for a sober curiosity handbook, this is a great place to start.
Ruby Warrington’s book lays out the benefits of quitting alcohol in the sub-title, “The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.” Sounds pretty great, right? Warrington points out the incongruity of our green juice rituals, yoga practices, and self-care routines that sit alongside our drinking habits. Through research, interviews, and reflections on her own personal experience, Warrington breaks down the myths that keep us drinking and paints us a picture of all the opportunities sober curiosity affords us.
Ideas for sober-curious fun
One of the biggest obstacles to starting a sober curious lifestyle is the belief that we can’t socialize without alcohol. It’s a powerful misconception in our culture that we can’t have fun with friends, go on a date, or get through a family dinner without a drink in hand. But a little creativity can help you get outside of your comfort zone and discover new ways to put yourself out there. Below are a few ideas to help you begin.
- Try a new workout class. When I stopped drinking as much, I found renewed motivation to practice movement. I joined a barre studio and started seeking out yoga classes in my city. Bonus: It’s a perfect way to make new friends too.
- Go for a walk. Long live hot girl walks! Take one on your own, invite a friend, or suggest a little exploration-by-foot to your Hinge date.
- Cozy up at a coffee shop. I’ve swapped many of my weekend outings and socializing for slow mornings, keeping my beverage-of-choice options to coffee instead of booze. And because there’s nothing better than posting up at a café with your favorite book or best friend, getting out of the house before 10 A.M. is a win-win.
- Join a sports league. Pickleball, kickball, volleyball—the list of amateur sports leagues to join is practically endless. Research what’s available in your city and get ready to play. Don’t worry, the purpose is to have fun, and I’ve made plenty of friends who can sympathize with my terrible serve.
- Start a new hobby. Whether it’s sewing, scrapbooking, reading, crafting, or the like, finding something you love to do is a great way to engage your creativity and connect with other like-minded people (I have no shame: Open-knit night at my local knitting store makes Thursdays my favorite day of the week).
- Invite a friend over for a baking and movie marathon. Sweets and rom-coms—is there a better combo?
- Try meditating: Building a mindfulness practice is a solid strategy for reducing the anxiety that can make us want to reach for a glass of wine. Stretch out on a yoga mat or simply sit on the couch for a relaxing meditation sesh.
- Reorganize a room: Whether it’s your closet, bedroom, or kitchen, there’s a healthy bit of satisfaction that comes with tackling a project from start-to-finish. Pop in a podcast to make it all the more fun.