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Sober Curious Movement

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 17, 2023

Table of Contents

Increasingly, sober curious individuals are starting to examine the role that alcohol plays in their life more closely.

There are many reasons why people might want to avoid alcohol, or why they might become curious about the potential benefits of a sober lifestyle. Whether you want to improve your physical health or sharpen your state of mind, eliminating alcohol short-term underpins the sober curious movement.

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Some people manage to drink alcohol in line with moderate drinking guidelines and trigger no meaningful adverse outcomes.

While alcohol is legally and socially normalized, alcohol misuse and abuse often lead to the development of alcoholism, clinically described as alcohol use disorder. A chronic and relapsing brain condition, alcohol use disorder typically causes myriad personal and professional problems, and requires evidence-based treatment to maximize the chance of sustained recovery without relapse.

With many aspects of contemporary culture appearing to revolve around alcohol, it is not always practical to avoid alcohol completely. From office parties and networking events to celebrations throughout the party season, many people start considering limiting their alcohol intake.

What does it mean to be sober curious, then?

What is Sober Curious?

The spark of sober curiosity typically ignited by concerns about how alcohol is impacting your life. This may prompt you to start questioning drinking culture in general and your own patterns of alcohol consumption in particular.

To be sober curious is to avoid alcohol, whether for personal reasons or for health and wellness reasons. The concept is underpinned by curiosity about why you consume alcohol in the way you do, and how your alcohol intake impacts your personal and professional life.

Unlike those who abstain from alcohol because of physical dependence or addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder, sober curious individuals may not satisfy the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.

The concept of sober curiosity is not new. For many years, sobriety challenges like Dry January  and Sober October have prompted an increasing number of people to re-evaluate their alcohol use.

That said, many people still accept that alcohol can be used as a stress management tool when confronted by life stressors. Alcohol as a social lubricant, especially to celebrate special occasions and holidays, is also deeply ingrained into U.S. society. Indeed, social drinking is normalized to the extent that it becomes more unusual for someone not to drink alcohol.

The sober curious movement offers lots of latitude for alternative approaches.

The expression sober curious was coined by author Ruby Warrington. In her 2018 book Sober Curious, Warrington outlines the following patterns familiar to many sober curious individuals:

  • Drinking alcohol in a social setting without ever craving alcohol or feeling a physical need to consume alcohol daily.
  • Not appearing to drink any more alcohol than others in your social circle.
  • Never hitting a significant low due to your alcohol intake.
  • Not viewing yourself as physically dependent on alcohol.
  • Exhibiting patterns of alcohol consumption that do not seem to harm you or others.

While many sober curious individuals may identify with the above patterns, they may still question the role of alcohol in their lives.

The aim of the sober curious movement is to validate your questions about alcohol and to foster a community for all those who are curious about drinking alcohol more mindfully.

What Does Sober Curious Mean?

To be sober curious means that you are starting to question the ways in which alcohol impacts you and your life, for example. Those who are sober curious may start to explore their reasons for drinking alcohol and may also examine the way they feel when they drink alcohol. This often leads sober curious individuals to question the implications of moderating their alcohol intake, or even stopping drinking completely.

Being sober curious is like a brief dress rehearsal for long-term sobriety. This sobriety trial often shines a light on the unhealthy habits often associated with alcohol consumption, leading sober curious individuals to make longer-term changes.

An image of a woman who is Sober Curious

Sober Curiosity

Alcohol might be legal and widely considered safe in moderation, but is still a powerful CNS depressant and the most abused addictive substance in the United States.

Immoderate alcohol consumption can trigger many adverse outcomes, such as:

  • Frequent illness.
  • Hangovers.
  • Insomnia.
  • Problems with focus.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Mood swings.
  • Increased risk of liver disease.
  • Heightened risk of certain cancers.
  • Alcohol use disorder (alcoholism).

Research indicates that abstaining from alcohol for just one month might:

  • Reduce blood pressure levels.
  • Decreases the risk of alcohol-related health conditions.
  • Increase energy levels.
  • Improve sleep health.
  • Promote weight loss.
  • Boost your mood.
  • Streamline communication.
  • Improve personal and professional performance.

Alcohol Curious

For those who are alcohol curious but uncertain of how to proceed, it can be a useful starting point to reframe the way you view the process. Emphasize the things you will gain rather than worrying about what you are losing.

While everyone will have a different sober curious journey, the following framework may help you to explore your relationship with alcohol safely and productively:

  • Develop a sober curious plan
  • Connect with like-minded sober curious individuals
  • Switch up your routine
  • Explore moderation rather than abstinence
  • Engage with professional addiction treatment services if you are unable to moderate your alcohol intake

Develop a sober curious plan

If drinking alcohol is a central component of your life, a sober curious approach is likely to involve you making different choices about the way you spend your downtime.

Spending time outdoors with friends – hiking or a picnic in the park, for instance – is one way of moving your social life beyond venues that sell alcohol.

On occasions when you will come into contact with alcohol, either decline with a “No, thanks” or expand upon your sober curiosity if you feel comfortable doing so.

Connect with like-minded sober curious individuals

If the majority of your social circle drink alcohol, it can feel lonely when you start questioning and altering your patterns of consumption.

By seeking out other sober curious people, you can take yourself out of your comfort zone while surrounded by others pursuing similar experiments with alcohol consumption.

Switch up your routine

You may find that by temporarily removing alcohol from your life, you find yourself confronted by an abundance of free time.

Again, reframe the way in which you view this free time. Look to fill rather than kill that time. Some options include:

  • Volunteering your time or services.
  • Exploring local parks.
  • Practicing meditation.
  • Joining a yoga class.
  • Taking out a gym membership.
  • Spending some quality time with loved ones.
  • Catching up on some reading.
  • Reengaging with an old hobby or interest.
  • Taking up a new hobby.

Explore moderation rather than abstinence

If you are unsure about completely removing alcohol from your life, even briefly, consider instead moderating your alcohol consumption.

By attempting to moderate your alcohol consumption, one of two things is likely to happen. Either you will succeed and reduce your intake, usually with positive effects, or you will find yourself unable to moderate your alcohol consumption. If the latter occurs, you may have developed alcohol use disorder, an addiction characterized by compulsive consumption of alcohol despite obviously adverse outcomes.

Engage with professional addiction treatment services if you are unable to moderate your alcohol intake

If your experiments with sober curiosity have led you to realize you have a drinking problem, consider reaching out to a reputable alcohol rehab for assistance. With most treatment facilities offering outpatient programs, you don’t necessarily need to pack your bags and head to residential rehab, either.

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Get Sober at Renaissance Recovery

Sobriety, whether short-term or long-term, can encourage mindful alcohol consumption and lead to lasting and positive lifestyle changes. That said, the sober curious movement is not suitable for everyone. If you find it challenging to moderate or discontinue your use of alcohol, it might be time to consider enlisting some extra support.

Here at Renaissance Recovery in Orange County, we offer a variety of outpatient treatment programs for alcoholism (alcohol use disorder). This means you can get the structured support you need to address problematic drinking habits without the cost or the expense of residential rehab.

Choose from the following alcohol use disorder treatment programs at our luxury Huntington Beach outpatient center:

While there is no cure for alcohol use disorder, the condition typically responds positively to MAT (medication-assisted treatment). Medications approved by the FDA can alleviate the intensity of withdrawal and minimize cravings for alcohol. Medications can also be effective throughout ongoing treatment. MAT is delivered at Renaissance along these interventions:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapies like CBT or DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

Alcoholism has high relapse rates so your treatment team will ensure you are equipped with an aftercare plan and relapse prevention techniques to boost your chances of sustained sobriety.

Move from sober curiosity into sustained recovery by calling 866.330.9449 today.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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