Sober Curious: Are you curious?

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.

Credit: The Nielsen Company. February 7, 2018.

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.  

One Shot of Sober Curious, Please.

The Beginnings

There is a new trend taking off and it will leave you in the dust if you do not catch on: The Sober Curious movement. In a nutshell, “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” means when an individual has consumed alcohol in the past and does not like the way it makes them feel, but that individual is not completely done consuming alcoholic drinks. Confusing right? Splitting up the two words might make more sense.

Sober- not drunk, or not affected by alcohol; abstaining from alcohol.

Curious- eager to learn or know; inquisitive; prying.

Combining both words, we get, someone who identifies as sober curious means they are interested in the idea of abstaining from alcohol or staying sober, sometimes. The sober curious movement creates a culture for people to feel comfortable in their sobriety. Often the first response to someone denying to drink is “what’s wrong with you”, “come on, just have one”, or “you’re boring”. These typical responses are negative and can be corrupting to an individual who is trying to recover from their alcohol dependence. Additionally, negative words towards turning down a drink can lead to irresponsibility when consuming alcoholic drinks, including binge drinking, underage drinking, and risky behavior while drinking.


Social Media Presence

People have practiced sober curiosity long before the term was coined. Remember the post you use to see on Facebook every start to a new year? After an extensive holiday season of eating good and drinking long, your social media friends might have gone to their news feeds to express their sober start to the New Year and challenge their friends to join in on the movement. This public health campaign is better known as “Dry January”.

When a research study conducted in 2016 followed participants of the “Dry January” sober movement, results showed 82% of the participants said they felt like they accomplished more, 62% had better sleep habits, and 49% of the participants stated they lost weight while staying sober. These social media sober challenges did not end at just January, the challenges continued into other months such as “Dry July” and “Sober September”.


In recent years, sober social groups and communities have begun to gain recognition. On Instagram, @ASoberGirlsGuide, @SoberGirlSociety, and @TherapyForWomen are just a few examples of unique accounts that are tailored towards living a sober lifestyle and encouraging sober curiosity. Sober Girl Society has over 40 thousand followers, all inspiring to live healthier lives. Not too long ago, the Sober Girl Society provided a post for her followers to discuss in the comments what being sober curious meant to them. Reading through the comments, I could tell that the discussion was meaningful and educating to the followers. Sober Girl Society is providing a safe space for individuals, specifically women, to ask question, seek help, and build a community that encourages sobriety and independence from alcohol.






Culturally Acceptable

Although practicing sober curious behavior is not recommended for people who are alcohol dependent, the sober curious movement has sparked ideas for alcohol dependent communities to join in on the culture. Non-alcoholic bars are popping up everywhere. Owner of the sober bar, Sans Bar in Austin, Texas, Chris Marshall has been sober for the past 12 years. He opened Sans Bar to provide a comfortable place where people can socialize, eat drink non-alcoholic drinks, and meet other sober friends. The feedback from Sans Bar has been so accepting that Chris has taken his sober bar on the road. Chris has opened other sober bars in Kansas City and Massachusetts, and has also hosted pop-up bars in popular cities such as New York and Washington D.C.  

Additionally, Ruby Warrington, author of the book “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.”, is also the co-founder of a posh New York City venue called Club SÖDA NYC. Just like Warrington, Club SÖDA NYC is a sober curious social community offering a list of non-alcoholic drink options for consumption.

I believe the sober curious initiative will gain cultural acceptance the more people learn and understand the meaning behind the movement. Proof of the acceptance is in the abundance of social media pages and groups promoting the movement, as well as the communities providing sober atmospheres.  The interesting thing about being sober curious is that there is no right or wrong answer as to how much you identify with it. The way everyone expresses their sobriety is unique and personal to themselves. There also is no shame associated with the movement. People can drink, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, without the having to answer questions, nor feel embarrassment.



Sober Curious – The New Norm for Drinking Culture?

What is Sober Curious?

Sober curious is a movement characterized by eliminating alcohol from the lifestyle for health and wellness reasons. It asks people to “imagine what it’s like to be hangover free,” and is meant as a way to encourage people to take a break from drinking. For some, this means participating in “Dry January” or “Sober September” to see if it is something that they can do. And if they do make it through, and notice the benefits, they may be more likely to make this change over the long-term.                                                     

The sober curious initiative is gaining popularity among Millennials, those aged 22 to 38. They are beginning to realize that going out and always feeling the need to drink is not necessarily fun or feasible. Many in the Millennial generation are trying out this movement in order to not feel the social pressure to drink, and they also want to drink less. Sober curiosity does not necessarily mean that one must abstain from drinking alcohol completely; it just means altering drinking habits to become less frequent. Instead of drinking being a weekly occurrence, it becomes something that happens only once a week or on special occasions, such as birthdays, holidays, or certain celebrations. For some, however, sober curious might mean completely abstaining from alcohol.

Alcohol as a cultural norm 

Alcohol is viewed in our society as something that must be present for a number of reasons. Need to have fun, relax, forget about what’s troubling you? The answer is always most frequently to grab a beer, take a shot, down a bottle of wine. Alcohol is ever present and is the main staple at parties, celebrations, and sporting events.

However, for those who do not drink or are wanting to limit their drinking, being in these social situations and surrounded by alcohol and people drinking can be daunting. For the sober person, it can be uncomfortable when they are bombarded with questions about their drinking habits. As someone who very seldom drinks, and spends most parties standing around with a cup of water, I can attest to the discomfort that these questions bring. As a younger adult, it was harder to socialize at parties when I didn’t drink, so I usually did not go. However, as I became older and felt more comfortable telling people “drinking just isn’t my thing,” being okay with being sober became easier. 

The social pressure to drink is real and can get people into trouble. People drink in order to socialize and fit in, and this is harmful because it can escalate into even worse habits. It can push someone to an alcohol use disorder and can be detrimental to their health.

Being sober is stigmatized by people who do drink, and therefore sober people are seeking out ways to socialize and have fun with other people who also want to be sober. For those who still like to be in a bar setting, a number of dry bars have been gaining popularity among the sober curious crowd. Bars such as The Sans Bar, cater to this crowd by serving non-alcoholic beverages. The drinks served at these bars are not just your ordinary O’Douls, they are very sophisticated drinks known as “mocktails.” They have all the complexities of a normal cocktail but without the alcohol. This is appealing to the sober curious individual because it is a safe space where they can go to socialize, be around other non-drinkers, and not feel pressure to partake in the drinking culture or be questioned about their choice to not drink.

 Mocktails – alcohol-free cocktails – that are served at dry bars.

Beer companies that market low-alcohol or alcohol-free options are also catering to the sober curious movement. Heineken has just come out with a new zero-alcohol beverage, Heineken 0.0. Because not drinking is stigmatized, it is important for some people who do not drink or are trying to cut back on drinking, to look as if they have a drink while in a bar. The Heineken 0.0 beer tastes very similar to the alcoholic beer and has kept the same packaging – the iconic green bottle – which allows non-drinkers to drink the beer while out at a bar and other people would have no idea that it was a non-alcoholic drink.

Heineken 0.0 – Zero alcohol beer.

What are some of the risks of chronic or excessive drinking?

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption led to about 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost in the United States from 2006 – 2010. Drinking alcohol can contribute to both short-term health risks – car crashes, suicide, risky sexual behaviors, alcohol poisoning – and long-term health risks – chronic diseases, depression, dementia, alcohol dependence.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website note the damaging effects that alcohol – both chronic and occasional alcohol use – can have on the body. Alcohol can majorly impact the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and the immune system. In addition, it is a carcinogen and can cause several types of cancers, such as liver, breast and esophageal cancer to name a few.

Effects of alcohol on the body – from Daily Mail

Agencies such as the NIAAA and CDC, which are tasked with conducting research and the dissemination of health information to the public sphere, can only do so much to change people’s views on the risks of alcohol consumption.

Is being sober curious worth it? What are the benefits of participating in the movement? 

A large number of people who are sober curious or participated in Sober September, Dry January or the like, have reported positive experiences from their time off from drinking, or just drinking more mindfully. They have reported feeling healthier, feeling more creative and productive, weight loss, and have had less trouble sleeping.  

In an article from NPR, Aaron White, a scientific advisor at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said of sober curious people: “[…] at the end of that month — just after one month — people, by and large, lost some weight. They had improvements in insulin sensitivity, their blood pressure numbers improved and their livers looked a little healthier.” White goes on to say that while there were only modest improvements in the health of an individual who abstained from alcohol for that month, the results were still worth noting. Over the long term, the benefits of sober curiosity might outweigh the costs of drinking.

Will Sober Curious become culturally accepted?

I believe that the Sober curious initiative can grow and become culturally accepted. At this moment in time, being completely sober or a light drinker is still seen by many people who drink regularly as strange. Especially when so many social activities and work functions rely on the presence of alcohol to make the atmosphere feel “normal.” I believe that as a society, we need to work on de-stigmatizing the sober culture.

The sober curious movement will also allow those who do not want to drink to essentially “opt out” of the social pressures of drinking. So many people who do not want to drink do so in order to fit in. What the sober curious initiative offers is unique in that it is catering to a marginal group of people who feel as if they need to hide the fact that they do not drink alcohol. The dry bars create a social network where an individual can feel comfortable about not drinking while being surrounded by like-minded individuals who also abstain from alcohol for various reasons. If more people are aware that this option exists, it may become just as culturally acceptable as drinking has become, and the social pressures associated with drinking will disappear.

With the growing wellness and self-care craze that has currently taken off on social media, I think that the Sober Curious initiative has a place right alongside quinoa superfood salads and goat yoga. If enough people get on board, especially the wellness influencers on social media, the stigma surrounding being sober will be a thing of the past! 

Sober Curious- Not Just For Health Tourists

People start and (sometimes) stop drinking at all different phases of life for all different reasons. The expectation, however, is that everyone’s drinking. The internet, the bartender and the billboards all tell us that’s what you do. Period.

In the era of health experiments like detoxes, yoga retreats and juicing, we take a touristic approach to health experiences. Sober curious is something I perceive to be similar in this way, which means it can be marketed in the same way. The buzz word was 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.”

Additionally, bars for the sober curious are popping up everywhere, such as Sans Bar in Austin, TX and Ambrosia Elixirs in Williamsburg, NY. 

According to a British study from 2016, those who participated in Dry January experienced varying health benefits, including “increased drink refusal self-efficacy” and, of course, no hangovers. The significance of the short breaks in drinking influencing health in this way speaks to the idea that people can experiment with sobriety the way they can experiment with the Keto/dairy free/gluten-free/vegan/vegetarian/Paleo/Whole30 diet. Grocery and supplement stores have entire departments dedicated to diet categories, and alcohol stores and departments can easily be merchandised in this way for zero percent products. The increase in non-alcoholic beers and mocktails makes it easy to see how this would be possible.

By marketing sobriety as a healthy experience, we open peoples’ perceptions of sobriety, and the conversation around sobriety becomes more open as a result. In my experience with intentional sobriety, people almost always have needed an explanation for the absence of a drink in my hand. I’ve even been seriously confronted about pregnancy before. I have yet to become pregnant, but that seems to check out more easily in a crowd than the long-winded, baggage-ridden idea that I’m not a great drinker and have damaged a lot of relationships with my drinking, not to mention a murky family history with addiction. No, no, no, you get back to your game of pool, though, I promise it’s not a big deal!


Click the image to see the SoberGirlSociety Instagram profile!

I’ve never participated personally in a sobriety challenge like Dry January, only the challenge of getting truly sober. It was genuinely difficult surrounded by friends who never took a break from daily drinking after college ended and were relying heavily on it to manage their vulnerability and mental health issues. I have a personal notion that my not drinking made people uncomfortable, knowing that they, too, probably should have taken a step back from the bar. This illuminates the ambivalence we’ve discussed in class and the idea that there is such a thing as responsible drinking for some of us. People say that the binge drinking criteria seems too low- “five drinks in a night?! That’s a Tuesday at home!” I think the ugly reality may just be that many young adults don’t have the best drinking habits, but no one wants to admit that.

Sober curiosity is an easy movement to promote and absolutely has a place in the era of wellness exploration. Dry bars and social circles based on sobriety (that don’t meet each other in recovery meetings, per se) are carving out their places in this world of heavy drinking. 

Is “Sober Curious” the new trend for the upcoming new decade?

“We don’t have to drink. There’s nothing that says, as an adult being, you have to consume alcohol,” says British writer and founder of the movement Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington. In December 2018, Warrington released the book Sober Curious, which offers an eye-opening new way to think about our relationship with alcohol.  Sober Curious reveals the enormous benefits that come from unlearning the mindless habit of drinking.

Think of sober curiosity as a “wellness” approach to (not) drinking alcohol.  The idea isn’t a hard stop to drinking or a 12-step process to sobriety, Warrington said. It’s not a recovery method for alcoholics, either. It’s about recognizing drinking habits and acting on that understanding. Maybe it means cutting out all alcohol, or just not drinking on weekdays. Warrington added that it’s the idea that alcohol determines our fun, intimacy, friendships, and experiences to the point that some Americans have tapped out of the present and aren’t fully living.

But how effective is this sober curious movement? Are women really  going to put down their cocktails and “mommy juice” for mocktails and lemonade?

My immediate thought was drinking has become way  too accessible for drinkers to stop now. We are drinking at work, in the early mornings, and on  Sundays, the day that was once considered a holy day. People are even drinking alone and getting alcohol delivered directly to their homes. The means of getting drunk has become limitless, so why stop?

There are many reasons to cease or  limit your alcohol intake. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention excessive drinking can cause chronic disease such as liver cirrhosis, unintentional motor vehicle traffic injures and violence.  However, many drinkers are unaware of the harm alcohol can cause. Drinkers feel since they are “drinking responsible” they are safe from consequences. Unfortunately, for some, just because you are binge drinking at home or taking an Uber  instead of driving doesn’t mean you don’t have a drinking problem. 

So really how did we get to the point where we feel like drinking is inevitably? If you decline a drink, you are scolded and peer pressured to just take a sip. I blame social media.  Social media networks have wired our brains to believe that there is nothing wrong with drinking in excess. There are so many memes that encourage to drink when you are sad, when you want to have fun, or relax. We are inclined to post a picture of us drinking to show fun is happening or to prove that we are taking time out for ourselves by having a drink.

In order to combat drinking as a negative reinforcement, we  have to replace memes that encourage drinking whenever there is a slight inconvenience or memes that justify drinking for every occasion. These  new memes can motivate drinkers to feel stimulated without drinking and enjoy activities such as working out, reading, or cooking

.Image result for when my friends ask if i wanna go to the gym  Image result for when my friends ask if i wanna go to the gym

Society has made us believe that binge drinking is euphoric. If I drink this bottle of wine, I will be having the time of my life. The sober curious movement challenges that social norm and forces drinkers to be more mindful about consuming alcohol. It’s a movement that brings awareness of drinking dependence. Even if people start going to the bars and having 1 drink instead 1o that is proof the movement is working.

  The new decade is now less than six months away,  will the sober curious movement be the new wave? 

Sober Curious: A Night Life Alternative

 Consuming alcohol has almost become synonymous with going out on the weekend with your friends especially if the pre-determined meeting location is a bar. The situation usually plays out by one friend getting there earlier, and ordering a drink from the bar while they wait for the rest of the group. Then the rest of the friends or group arrives, and you all order another round of drinks while you wait for the food, and then maybe one more round of drinks before you all leave for the night and head your separate ways.

Now, one can say that this may be a scenario that can be quite expensive with the group in the example ordering three round of drinks and according to an article entitled The Recent Evolution of How we Get Tipsy“, that covered an NPR alcohol report, it actually is! This report found that as production of alcohol in America has become more efficient, alcohol prices have declined 39% from 1982 to 2012. During that same time span, the prices of alcohol at bars and restaurants has increased 79%.Prices of Booze At Home and Away That increase of price is coupled with the fact that bars and restaurants are now starting to focus more on the sale on alcohol rather than the sale of food. This led to Americans in 2012 to spend an estimated 40% of their expenses at bars and restaurants on alcohol, in comparison to just 24% in 1982. 

So with Americans spending a majority of their money while eating out on something that is unhealthy, in bars and restaurants where the alcohol is getting more expensive, what happens if you want to escape this culture for a weekend or two but still want to attend a bar-esque atmosphere with your friends?

Well, that is where the phenomena of “Sober curious” or “Sober Sometimes” comes in. NPR did a piece on this new social club that is mostly made up of women in their 30s, and the NPR piece stated that one of the main reasons behind the women joining the club was due to the fact that they “have demanding jobs and simply do not want to feel foggy or hungover anymore.” 

These social clubs usually have bars dedicated to them where people can gather, eat, listen to music, and socialize all while consuming non-alcoholic beverages. This gives individuals a healthy alternative to going to bars that serve alcohol but still allowing them to enjoy all of the other aspects that comes with night life.


Source: Julia Robinson for NPR

But, the question begs itself, how effective could this new initiative be, especially in a climate where drinking and going out is seen as the norm?. Well, the first step would to be establish more bars that are strictly dedicated to serving non-alcoholic beverages to its patrons. But to be competitive, these bars need to still offer the same amenities and activities that bars that serve alcohol do which would be good music, good food, and good service. That accompanied with word of mouth of the atmosphere of the bar being just as fun, then the growth for these types of establishments is endless, and will slowly become culturally accepted. But, for the latter to happen, individuals must be educated on the harms of drinking and how even taking a small break, if you choose not to become completely sober, is still a healthier option, and non-alcoholic bars are the way to go. But, if the value is seen in these sober bars, then potentially investments can be made into these types of establishments that will make them bigger and better than ever, and will make these bars an excellent alternative to individuals that want to go out and socialize with friends but do not want to drink.


The Culture of Abstaining From Alcohol

“Abstinence [from alcohol] was found to be associated with a staggering 45 per cent higher risk of dementia compared to those who consumed between one and 14 unites of alcohol a week.”

 -Sean Morrison, Evening Standard

I know what you’re thinking, who did this science experiment? Well, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris along with scientists from the University College London. They followed 9000 men and women with ages ranging between 45-55 over 23 years and found that 45% of those who did not drink developed dementia. Now, the downfalls of this is that their health history was not really controlled for, it is just that they abstained from drinking during the 23 period time period.

But, for the average Joe to google abstaining from alcohol, and retrieve these articles can be detrimental to the culture of abstaining from alcohol. By the way, this is the first image that comes up when you google “abstaining from alcohol.”

So why exactly is there so much pressure in some societies to consume alcohol? Is it really NEEDED to be social? Are we not FUN enough without it? Are you too RELIGIOUS and need to loosen up a little? I have heard it all. No, I am not too religious but my religion has forced me to do my own research. Why is alcohol so specifically forbidden in the Quran? Reading and learning and realizing that I really do not need it to have fun and I have more effective coping mechanisms, I decided abstaining from alcohol was the right choice for me.

So how do we get others to not only abstain from consuming alcohol but also make that idea culturally accepted? Well here are two ways to start:

  1. No Beer, No Botox, No Problem

Seems simple, educate the masses on what alcohol does to you. But the twist is, get them with what they care about most in today’s society: vanity. Vogue recently published an article on how giving up alcohol can transform your skin. “I always joke with my patients, ‘If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!’” says nutritionist Jairo Rodriquez, who gave the Vogue advice on how no drinking means looking more radiant and youthful. More women are also diving into the “sober curious” waters for vanity reasons and blogger Kate of The Sober School writes that the fewer calories, less bloating, beauty rest, and motivation to gym are all reasons why no drinking is really the right choice. Which leads us to tip number 2 for creating a more culturally accepting environment for abstainers.


  1. Success Stories Create Success Stories

Kate, a previous heavy drinker, started her blog page, “The Sober School” as a way to motivate herself to continue on that path as well as build a community for like women to join in and feel welcomed, whether you are new to the abstinence life or been sober all your life. Kate writes “I show them [women] how to have fun, relax and be confident without a glass of wine in their hand… and I can help you too” and suggests that there is no need to label yourself as being in recovery. She offers a 6 week course to women in need of help. This welcoming environment creates a culture of acceptance and hopefully a domino effect too. She has a page dedicated to “graduates” of her program and their testimonies, with women both young and old. And Kate’s page isn’t the only blog page out there. Hip Sobriety, UnPickled, Drunky Drunk Girl, and Sober Senorita are just a few of the FEMALE led blog pages. Some are about the process of sobriety and some about the success of sobriety, but all creating awareness in a positive, more inviting way.