Chris Marshall had a rocky past with alcohol. As is written in a recent feature posted on NPR, he drank throughout much of his teen years, receiving a DUI at the age of 16. After he got sober and become a substance abuse counselor, he realized that it was hard for freshly sober people to rejoin the ‘real world’ after completing treatment or rehabilitation.
It’s one thing to stay sober in an environment with no alcohol, but how do you resist a night out with friends at a trendy restaurant? Alcohol is everywhere, ingrained in much of our social, evening, and weekend activities, and it can be difficult to still feel social without its consumption—whether you are recovering from alcohol addiction or not.
Enter: sober curious. A new trend making its way through cities and countries, being sober curious can vary in meaning depending on who you ask. For some, it is a way to explore a permanently sober lifestyle. For others, it simply means incorporating more alcohol-free days and activities into their routine.
Marshall explored this idea and created a new nightlife option for sober curious folks, named the Sans Bar in Austin, TX. Since its inception, the bar has become a traveling pop-up bar making its way throughout the US, visiting various cities and encouraging more alcohol-free activities. In the video below, you can see Marshall demonstrating a few sans-alcohol drinks that his customers enjoy.
Personally, the Topo Chico with raspberry sounds right up my alley.
But the question is, is it sustainable? Can sober curious go from a grassroots effort to a cultural phenomenon, without the stigma of “not drinking” tied to it? Although I do think certain trends pass through for a season, I believe sober curious can withstand the test of our generation. Why, you ask? Because our society is trending towards health, prevention, and wellness in all areas of our life. A report published in 2018 by Nielsen reported that 67% of Americans say they will be prioritizing healthy or socially conscious food purchases in 2018. Although this data does not focus on alcohol drinking specifically, it does highlight the growth in general health and wellness consumption trends in the US market.
And it is no secret that alcohol is bad for us. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use over time can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, certain types of cancer, learning and memory problems, mental health problems, social problems, and more. Americans are concerned with what they are putting in their body, and I think this timing of the sober curious trend is conducive to continued growth. And as you can see above, healthy, non-alcoholic beverages are on the rise.
As if that wasn’t convincing enough, Instagram reveals even more. Accounts focused on living sober or being alcohol-free have gained popularity recently, some—like Sober Girl Society and Sober Nation—amassing over thirty thousand followers each. There is even a post on Sober Girl Society’s page specifically referencing the sober curious trend, and asking her followers to define what it means to them.
I feel strongly that being sober curious can become a regular, run of the mill way of life for many. I feel the timing is right, and the opportunity to melt the hardened stigma around not drinking is here. But the trend won’t grow on its own! We need to do our part to show support for these spaces. Request them in your area, patronize events/activities that purposefully are alcohol-free, or simply do your part in making those without alcohol comfortable in drinking situations.
With our help, sober curious can become the new sober normal.