What Does It Mean to Be Sober Curious?

Taking a break from alcohol for better health

A woman in her kitchen creates a healthier non-alcoholic beverage with sparkling water, lime and oranges. San Diego Health Magazine

Taking a break from alcohol for better health

From artisanal cocktails and wine bars to local craft breweries and distillers, alcohol is a prominent part of San Diego society. Yet a growing trend is encouraging people to take a closer look at their relationship with alcohol and its impact on their physical and mental wellness. 

Known as the “sober curious” movement, it focuses on re-evaluating alcohol use and adopting a more mindful approach to it. The trend stems from the 2018 book “Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington, which helps readers rethink their relationship with alcohol. 

People drink for a wide range of reasons, including celebrating, socializing or relaxing after a long day. It’s easy to drink without really thinking about it — a glass or two of wine with dinner, a few beers after work. The sober curious movement urges us to take a close look at when and why we consume alcohol, and how we might benefit from drinking less. 

What it means to be sober curious

As the name implies, people who take part in the sober curious movement are curious about what might happen if they took a break from alcohol. Rather than giving up drinking forever, the goal is to cut back. 

For some, this may mean avoiding alcohol for a set time: “Dry January” is a prime example of living alcohol-free for a month. Others may decide to drink only on weekends or special occasions. 

But what about the reported benefits of alcohol? For example, isn’t red wine good for your heart?

“There are some observational studies that seem to suggest this, but many of the data are conflicting,” says Saeed Afaneh, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center San Marcos. “There is no strong evidence for any health benefits of alcohol, especially for reducing risk of heart disease or stroke.” 

Benefits of drinking less alcohol

Reducing your alcohol intake may offer numerous benefits, especially if you are concerned about its effects on your physical or mental health. These include:

  • More restful sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Increased energy 
  • Better mental clarity
  • Improved mood 

“I find alcohol is highly correlated to debilitating anxiety and/or depression,” says Dr. Afaneh. “Excess alcohol consumption can also be the main cause of problems, such as liver disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. The most common reason that I advise patients to reduce alcohol consumption is to reverse its negative impact.” 

Are you sober curious? 

If you’re considering giving the sober curious movement a try, start by taking time to reflect on your alcohol use. Ask yourself why you drink and how it makes you feel physically and mentally — both while you’re drinking and the day after. 

Depending on how often and how much you drink, there are several ways to reduce your consumption. 

If you imbibe frequently, start by taking a week or so off. If you usually have a few drinks, limit yourself to one for a while. Take this opportunity to try non-alcoholic wines, beers or “mocktails” as alternatives. If you can, recruit a friend to join you for support. 

Finally, if cutting back is difficult, consider seeking help. 

“If you are having trouble reducing your alcohol consumption, you are among those 29 million people in the United States above the age of 12 who struggle with it,” notes Dr. Afaneh. 

“Your doctor has many resources, including medication and the guidance of alcohol treatment specialists, to help you be successful, so reach out.” 

San Diego Health Magazine Winter 2023 Cover

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.

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