What is the “Sober Curious” Movement?

Gone are the days of describing our relationship with alcohol with the all-or-nothing “I’m an alcoholic” or “I’m not an alcoholic.” Like most things in life, our relationship with alcohol exists on a spectrum. 

Per Collin’s Dictionary, ‘sober curious’ is defined as considering giving up or reducing alcohol consumption. There are two key points in the definition of “sober curious”:

  1. Consideration: Every sobriety or moderation journey begins with exploration and reflection. The only requirement to change your relationship with alcohol is curiosity in how drinking less can give you more. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that box is already checked. 
  2. Flexible goals: Being sober curious doesn’t mean giving up alcohol entirely, forever. Exploring how creating distance from alcohol looks different for everyone and all pathways are valid. 

Are you looking to change your drinking habits? If you identify with or are interested in learning more about being sober curious, that’s an act of self-care. Let’s discuss the origin of the term and movement, what it actually looks like to be sober curious, and the benefits of sobriety. 

The origins of the sober curious movement 

As science and culture evolve, so does our understanding of human nature and the language we use to describe it. New terminology has been adopted, such as alcohol use disorder vs. alcoholism, mindful drinking, and sober curious. Alcohol-free challenges such as Sober September and Dry January have also become increasingly mainstream. While not all of these terms have a clear origin or champion, the introduction of ‘sober curious’ is more clearly defined. 

Author and thought leader Ruby Warrington published her pioneering book ‘Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Deep Connection, and Limitless Presence Awaiting Us All On The Other Side of Alcohol’ in 2018. While the concepts she explores have existed previously, Ruby is credited with the introduction and proliferation of the concept. She also hosts a Sober Curious podcast, which made our list of best sobriety podcasts.

man laying in grass thinking

What does it mean to be sober curious? 

So what does sober curious mean? Warrington’s work asks readers to question their relationship with alcohol and asserts that the essence of being sober curious is both simple and powerful: asking yourself, “Would my life be better without alcohol?” Sober Curious, available for purchase on Warrington’s website, “demonstrates how alcohol is a weak imitation of the joy, inspiration, confidence, connection, and overall sense of aliveness that can only be generated from within—while offering a tantalizing glimpse of the well-being that awaits when you give up drinking. 

How to explore sober curiosity

If you’ve considered how your life might be better without alcohol, you’ve completed the first step of sober curiosity. So, how do you continue on your journey of sober curiosity? This often involves education, reflection, and action. 

  • Education: Educating yourself about how alcohol affects health and wellness can help you answer the questions about how alcohol currently impacts your life. It can also help you hypothesize about how removing it can impact your overall health and wellness. Reading books like Sober Curious, browsing the Monument resources section, and talking openly with friends and family can be a great way to get more insight into the complexities of the human relationship with alcohol.
  • Reflection: Reflecting on your relationship with alcohol will ultimately illuminate how you’d like it to change. Many people ask themselves,should I stop drinking alcohol?” and answering this question often includes getting clear on your ideal self, values, and the steps you need to take to get there. Another frequently asked question is, “Should I moderate my drinking, or should I quit altogether?” The abstinence vs. moderation question often requires self-reflection as well. Here are questions to consider when deciding how you want to make a change.
  • Action: After reflecting on your relationship with alcohol, you can set goals for how you want it to change. That could look like reducing your weekly consumption by 50%, tapering your drinking until you achieve sobriety, or any other form of alcohol reduction. That could also mean changing how you think about drinking through practices like mindful drinking. Many people start reducing their drinking by identifying new hobbies that don’t center around alcohol and introducing alcohol alternatives to create new routines and rituals. It’s important to note that making a change can be hard, and you don’t have to do it alone. You can seek online alcohol treatment for additional support without having to check out of your life.

Exploring your sober curiosity can have several benefits, such as gaining a greater understanding of how your relationship with alcohol can affect social anxiety, depression, or other aspects of your mental health. You might also discover health benefits of drinking less, like getting more blissful sleep and having more energy.

Exploring the benefits of sobriety 

As noted above, a key pillar in sober curiosity is imagining and exploring how removing alcohol from your life, either in part or in full, can ultimately enrich your experiences. To fully do so, it’s important to understand the wide-ranging benefits of sobriety. These benefits can also provide motivation to cut back on drinking. The rewards of drinking less span all dimensions of wellness.

woman boxing in a gym

Physical wellbeing 

Alcohol increases the risk of many health conditions and can have a negative impact on daily bodily functions. Fortunately, healing from alcohol use is possible, and the inverse is also true: cutting back on drinking can quickly and meaningfully improve physical fitness. 

Physical benefits include:

  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Reduced risk of liver disease
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved metabolism 
  • Weight loss (due to the relationship between alcohol and weight
  • Increased energy

You can reference the alcohol recovery timeline to get a sense of when benefits will materialize.

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Mental wellbeing 

In addition to your physical health, alcohol affects your mental health. Many people drink to deal with uncomfortable feelings, and while it can be effective at first, using alcohol as a coping mechanism ultimately makes things worse. However, by cutting back on alcohol, you can break this unhealthy cycle and create the space to build healthier coping mechanisms. 

Mental health benefits of sobriety include:

  • Reduced anxiety and hangxiety 
  • Breaking the cycle of how alcohol and depression interact 
  • More energy to partake in self-care
  • Increase confidence and selfworth 
  • Less alcohol-related guilt and shame 

Social wellbeing 

Last but certainly not least, alcohol affects not only our relationship with ourselves but how we interact with those around us. Whether or not your alcohol consumption has impacted your relationships, cutting back on drinking can improve the strength of your connections. 

Social benefits of sobriety include: 

  • More authentic connections 
  • Being present with your loved ones
  • Being able to show up for your loved ones without being under the influence 
  • Clearer boundaries 
  • Fewer alcohol-related arguments 

It’s also important to know that these benefits happen on different timelines. Also, to facilitate healing and growth, it can be helpful to have the guidance of an expert therapist. At Monument, we offer online alcohol therapy tailored to your needs and goals.

three people looking at open sky

Can anyone be sober curious? 

While the sober curious movement has been largely celebrated and applauded, some people believe that the sober curious movement isn’t inclusive of those with alcohol dependence or those who can’t simply cut back on drinking on their own. This perspective is rooted in the idea that everyone’s journey is unique, and everyone has different needs. 

At Monument, we believe that sober curiosity and an infinite spectrum of experiences and needs can coexist. We believe that everyone’s journey, in some shape or form, begins with that same question: how can I get more out of life by removing alcohol? What might that look like? What’s my next step? 

The path we choose to take from there is uniquely ours. That could look like reading a book, joining an online alcohol support group to learn more, or enrolling in a personalized treatment plan. It’s important to note that our relationship with alcohol is influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors, which can also affect how we cut back. People with more severe alcohol use disorder and/or longterm heavy drinking patterns may require more support, and there is absolutely no shame in that. There is no one-size-fits-all way to cultivate a sober curious lifestyle.

For those looking for guidance throughout their sobriety or moderation journey, that’s what Monument is here for. We connect our members to options for therapy, medication to stop drinking, and community support, entirely online. 

No matter where you are on your sober curious journey, we‘re proud of you, and you are never alone.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Randy SmithRandy graduated from Pitzer College with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. This educational foundation has been instrumental in their approach to content creation, allowing them to craft narratives that are engaging and deeply impactful for readers seeking guidance and support in their recovery process. Randy has a rich background in media studies and a profound commitment to mental health and addiction recovery, making significant contributions to Monument's content strategy. Starting as an Editorial Consultant in October 2020, they quickly rose to a full-time role, leveraging their skills to produce insightful content that resonated with individuals on their recovery journey. As a Content Associate and later as a Content Manager, Randy's work focused on providing resources to help individuals understand and navigate the challenges of sobriety. Collaborating with licensed therapists, they developed articles that were informative but also empathetic and supportive. Randy's pieces, particularly on managing sobriety during holidays and overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors, have been invaluable in guiding many towards positive steps in their treatment journey. Randy's tenure at Monument was marked by a deep dedication to empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary for recovery. Their work in content management played a pivotal role in shaping the narrative around addiction recovery, offering hope and practical advice to those in need.