What does it mean to be “sober curious”?

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Have you taken the plunge into Dry January to kickstart your year? Perhaps it was more ‘damp’ than dry? Or maybe giving up alcohol (or at least cutting down) was just a fleeting thought during that strange time between Christmas and New Year?

Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we all occasionally question our relationship with alcohol, and there are many reasons why we might.

For some, it’s the unbearable ‘hangxiety’. For others, it’s the negative impact alcohol has on our bodies and minds, where one heavy night can ruin the entire week ahead.

Your motivation to change is personal to you, and for some, it may be uncomfortable to acknowledge.

However, these months don’t necessarily prompt us to reflect on our alcohol consumption once they come to an end, and many of us end up reverting to old habits.

With that in mind, there’s a growing movement both nationally and globally – more and more people are looking inward and becoming more mindful about their drinking.

This movement is called ‘sober curious’ and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a curiosity about the role alcohol plays in our lives.

Being sober curious doesn’t mean giving up alcohol completely. Instead, it involves implementing small habits to reduce or moderate our overall alcohol consumption.

You could think of it as a middle ground between moderate drinking and a completely teetotal lifestyle, which is the ultimate goal for many.

To avoid disappointment if we ‘fail’ to completely stop drinking, being sober curious has become a popular starting point.

If you’re curious about becoming ‘curious’ but unsure where to begin, here are a few helpful tips…

What is your relationship with alcohol?

A good first step is to write down why you’re examining your alcohol use and the role it plays in your life. Ask yourself ‘When do I drink?’ and ‘Why do I drink?’ Is it to feel more at ease in social situations, or does it help you cope with stress? Maybe your social life revolves heavily around drinking.

Take note of how alcohol makes you feel, both in the moment and in the days following. What do you observe? If you attempted Dry January last month, how did it go? Did you encounter any specific challenges?

Putting pen to paper can help us understand the role alcohol plays in our daily lives, and our past experiences of reducing consumption can guide us towards our next steps.

Create a plan of action

What do you want to achieve? Is it to limit your drinks during social events, reduce your alcohol intake throughout the week, or take a designated break for a period of time?

Be mindful of upcoming occasions. Do you have a wedding, birthday, or holiday marked on your calendar? Let’s be realistic – there will always be something on the horizon, and you don’t have to miss out. Just make sure to prioritize what’s important to you and set achievable goals. Otherwise, it won’t be sustainable.

Do what’s right for you

During social events, we may feel pressure from friends and family to ‘just have one more’. We might even be met with surprise when we tell someone we’re not drinking.

Sound familiar? Remember why you’ve chosen to limit yourself to 2-3 drinks or abstain completely. This will help you stay on track.

You don’t have to justify your drinking choices to anyone, and if you feel pressured, you can always remove yourself from the situation or take a private break to collect your thoughts.

Try something different

More often than not, drinks menus now offer ‘low and no’ options – alcohol-free alternatives that can satisfy our cravings and make us feel included at social events.

These drinks are usually served just like their alcoholic counterparts, and you usually can’t tell the difference. Explore the different options and make it your mission to find your favorite flavor.

If you’re planning a night out with friends, do some research in advance to ensure there will be something on the menu that you’ll enjoy without experiencing a hangover the next day.

Discover sober activities

Being sober curious is the perfect time to explore activities with like-minded individuals that don’t involve alcohol.

Whether it’s a physical activity or sport, a new creative hobby, or a quest to find the best breakfast at a local café, make time for things you wouldn’t normally do (or may not have the means to do) when alcohol is involved.

Being sober curious is a choice for those who are able to make it. If you feel you need more dedicated support and advice on reducing your alcohol intake, you can seek assistance from our Be Well health advisors.

To learn more about Be Well and stay updated on all things health and wellbeing in Wigan Borough, be sure to follow us on Facebook (external link), Instagram (external link), and X (external link).

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