Re-Thinking Drinking: For the Sober Curious

sober curious

Today’s big idea is for the sober curious, and that is that now is a particularly great time to give your relationship to alcohol some loving attention and thought. Because not only are we coming off of July 4th weekend, but we’re also coming out of a global pandemic. During quarantine, it was easy for alcohol to take on a different role in our lives. Maybe it wasn’t so much about getting loose and having fun, and more about dealing with stress and coping with uncertainty. It’s very understandable if it started to feel like something you needed, and not just something you did for fun. 

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Although there’s another reason why now is a good time to rethink drinking:

After you live through anything big and scary, it gives you a fresh perspective on life. That it’s short, and can be upended in a flash.

That insight can fuel a desire to be honest about how we’re living now versus how we want to be living. Which makes right about now the perfect time to re-evaluate what you’ve been giving your time, energy, brain space, and money to. So this week, let’s just see what’s ready to be seen in terms of our relationship to alcohol. I am NOT here to preach, or proselytize. I promise. This is a JUDGMENT FREE zone!! But alcohol is something I’ve been re-thinking for the past 6 months, and I’m here to tell you, it can be done. 

I entered the category of sober curious after we went to visit friends in the Catskills over this past New Year’s.

Since it was muddy, there wasn’t a lot to do outside, and since it was Covid, there wasn’t a lot to do indoors. So we stayed in a lot, and, truth be told, drank a LOT of wine. One night, several glasses of wine in, we were playing Taboo and I was giving my husband such a hard time about the clues he was giving–I didn’t think they made sense–that he got really offended and stopped playing mid-game. I came home from that trip feeling bad about the way I acted; exhausted because I hadn’t slept well, and bloated. I was just like, I need to clean things up. 

I stopped drinking for the rest of January, and then that felt so good that I kept going through February.  Since then I have started having alcohol again, but I’ve been keeping it to somewhere between one and three drinks per week. For me, and I know it doesn’t or can’t work exactly this way for everyone, but I’ve come to see that sobriety is a spectrum. Most of us have been taught that you either drank and were totally fine with alcohol, or you were an alcoholic and should never touch the stuff again. When the truth is, there is no one-size fits all solution. And thinking that you’re either OK to drink as much as you want or you can’t have any at all doesn’t leave a lot of room for having a very moderate–by society’s terms–alcohol intake. 

I fully understand that alcoholism is a disease

But I also think that our society pathologies only extreme drinking because alcohol is a huge money maker. If it’s only a problem if you have full-blown alcoholism, then you can keep drinking your three glasses of wine or what have you a day and you’re all good. 

Our culture’s obsession with drinking shows up in obvious ways–you can’t go to a restaurant without getting the drink menu set down first thing or any live event without there being a bar–and more insidious ways. Like, for example, I just googled ‘rose t-shirt’ and got 12,700,000 results in .84 seconds! Alcohol is ingrained in our celebrations, our daily rituals, our economy, and our consciousness. 

I can tell you that when you become sober curious and start to question what role you want alcohol to play in your life, you will start to notice that it is EVERY DAMN WHERE. 

And if you’re listening to this episode, clearly you’re a little sober curious or at least intrigued by re-thinking drinking. 

One of the fundamental truths of being a better person is that awareness is always the crucial step in the process of change

A good way to raise that awareness is just to notice when and where and why you get the impulse to have an alcoholic beverage. Is it because it’s 5 o’clock? Because you’ve had a hard day? Or you’re bored? Or because you’re out to dinner and it’s what you always do? Are you alone, or with someone else? If it’s someone else–who is it? 

That’s your tiny assignment–to notice when you get an impulse to have a drink. 

If you want to build on that initial awareness, get curious and ask yourself two questions. 

Two questions: 

Why now? 

This is a simple check-in–are you feeling blue? Are people coming over? Just ask, listen, and don’t bat away whatever you answer you hear. Be honest, but also be loving. Again, judgment free zone!

And then…

What else? 

Is there something else you could do that would fulfill the need? Whether that’s making yourself a tasty non-alcoholic beverage, or putting on some music, or going for a walk, or what have you. Again, just see. Ask and listen to what comes up. 

That’s it, that’s your two questions–why now, and what else

Just keep it simple. See what’s there to be seen. And then make whatever choice makes sense for you, whether that means have a drink or not have a drink. By asking yourself those two questions, though, it will be a conscious choice. 

Since my Dry January,  I’ve really enjoyed the process of rediscovering other ways to take the edge off and let my hair down and be silly. I’ll share those insights in other episodes this week. And I’m actually going to be interviewing TWO experts this week. First up is Sarah Kate, founder of the website Rethinking Drinking, who I’ll be talking to about the negative–and surprising–effects of alcohol, and Michelle Smith who describes herself as a retired wine mom, who’s going to help us understand how to tell if our drinking has become problematic, and what recovery looks like today.  

So come on back, or, if you’re catching up, keep listening!

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