There are so many buzzwords around the mindful drinking movement, it can be hard to keep up. If you’re someone who is interested in putting your health first, taking a step back from drinking can be a good first move. After coming out of a multiple-year-long pandemic, many people may find themselves drinking more alcohol than usual, or using alcohol in ways they hadn’t before; to cope with stress; when they receive bad news, or simply because there’s nothing else better to do.
But giving up alcohol isn’t always a black and white issue. Sobriety isn’t solely for those with addiction or health issues. Rather, sober curiosity stems from the desire to drink less to feel better – whether that means mentally, physically, emotionally, or all of the above.
To simplify things, we categorize sobriety into three categories: sober, sober curious, and sober sometimes. Here, we break it down even further.
The majority of people who are sober are not necessarily choosing that life voluntarily. Whether it’s chosen for them through alcoholism, health conditions, pregnancy, or another reason, oftentimes, sobriety is a forced decision. Those who are sober usually make an effort to never be mentally altered, which includes alcohol and drugs.
These individuals may or may not look for an alternative to alcohol, depending on their relationship with it. Many who suffer from addiction find that the act of drinking (whether the substance is alcoholic or non-alcoholic) can be just as dangerous as the drinking itself.
Unlike those who depend on sobriety for their physical or emotional health, sober curiosity describes a person’s relationship to sobriety that is mutually consensual. It is not required; rather, it’s akin to an experiment. According to Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power, those that belong in the first group of “sober” need to abstain from drinking alcohol in order to regain their health. Whereas those that belong in the “sober curious” group, abstain from alcohol to enhance their health and wellbeing (Parade).
This doesn’t mean that individuals who are sober curious haven’t had negative experiences with alcohol at one time or another. They could’ve, in fact, realized after a weekend of drinking too much that they want to re-think their relationship with booze. The difference is that there’s a personal choice made by the person to compare how they feel with and without alcohol in their life, before coming to a conclusion on where they stand with it in the future.
There’s also less of an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to being sober curious. It could lead to a long-term commitment not to drink, or it could just be a one-off experiment that the person doesn’t feel like they want to pursue again.
Lastly, we like to think of a new wave of sobriety as “sober sometimes.” Put simply, these individuals are looking to cut back on their drinking, whether for monetary, health, or wellbeing purposes, but are not strict on maintaining sobriety for any specified length of time. They may decide that they only drink on the weekend, or allow themselves to drink when they’re out to dinner but not at home, or maybe they only drink when they’re in a certain frame of mind. Sober sometimes categorizes an extremely free way of sober thinking; that an individual can determine whether or not they want to drink on their current feelings at the moment, rather than how it will affect them in the future.
Sober sometimes can also describe when a person drinks alcohol, but in a way that is much more limited. For example, they may choose to make a cocktail with one part alcohol and one part alcohol alternative. They’re drinking, but in a way that achieves a slower alcohol effect and limits the likelihood that they end the night feeling drunk or not themselves.
All this to say, gone are the days where sobriety is an all-or-nothing concept. There are a vast amount of benefits to cutting back on drinking, even if it’s on an intermittent level. So then, why wouldn’t we all want to be sober curious, or sober sometimes? After all, anything is better when it’s in moderation.