Whether it’s grabbing a few cocktails after work, meeting up with a cute date for drinks, or chatting with your girlfriends over a bottle of wine, bonding over booze is the norm.
But, there’s a growing new trend that dares to buck tradition, and dare we say, replace booze with...water, or maybe another non-alcoholic beverage that wets your whistle.
It’s called sober curiosity, which is exactly that: being curious about sobriety. It’s a holistic approach when it comes to drinking, and has been compared to “mindful drinking.” With an increased interest in all things wellness-related, more people are questioning their relationship with alcohol and are seeking a healthier choice when it comes to how and why we socialize and drink.
Why Women Are Sober Curious
The reasons for exploring life without alcohol vary from woman to woman. Some might not like the way they feel after a wine night while others might just question why they’re drinking in the first place.
“My experience with sober curious women has typically involved people who are questioning whether they have the ability to stop drinking,” Dr. Irene Little, founder of Access Counseling and author of “The Book of Addiction: A Parent’s Guide to Restoring Structure and Serenity to Your Home, tells Organic Authority. “Often they question whether they will be better off abstaining from drinking. The motivation for this has typically been triggered by either someone mentioning they might have a problem, or gaining weight, or experiencing a consequence from drinking that they had not intended. They are not ready to commit to total abstinence but want to get support and feedback about their drinking patterns and have decided to commit to short term abstinence.”
According to Mandi Green, a wellness coach based in North Carolina, the sober curious women she’s worked with had reached a point where alcohol affected them differently than it did when they were younger. “Now, even drinking one to two glasses of wine has a much stronger effect on the way they look (bags under their eyes the next day), the way they feel (depressed and groggy the next day) and their general well being (just not feeling like themselves),” she says.
“The other common thread is that they all have a genuine concern and curiosity of why they have not been able to quit on their own, as in, they don't understand why it's so hard to quit, and they do not identify or feel they are alcoholics.”
Health Benefits of Sober Curiosity
From mental clarity to feeling more physically energetic, the benefits of laying off the booze are numerous.
“Natural weight loss, improved relationships, even more sexual desire, and a lot of symptoms, like hemorrhoids, headaches, bloating, having visible drained look, have just gone away,” Green says about her sober curious clients who “across the boards they have all felt better mentally and physically” since skipping alcohol.
Another perk? Green says a lot of her clients notice they are drinking with more awareness. “As in, they don't feel the need to buffer with alcohol. And if they do feel that need, then they maybe don't want to drink,” she says. “The confidence comes to them by [knowing] that they learned to like alcohol and they can unlearn it also. It really empowers them to be able to not 'need' wine to relax.”
Like trying anything new, Green says it's important to recognize that the unlearning process for your brain is built from repetition. “Drinking is a habit. And we change habits through repetition of our thinking as much as our actions,” she says. “So, bringing awareness to [your] thoughts and beliefs and feelings around drinking will have a tremendous impact on their success in not drinking.”
Green says it’s also key to remember “that anytime we try something new there will be the potential for failures along the way and that it's OK. Brush yourself off and begin again. You don't have to completely derail for a week before you get back on track. And you don't have to beat yourself up about it either.”
Non-Alcoholic Drinks Demand
Non-alcoholic brands are also benefiting from the sober curious trend. “Our study revealed a Google trend that stated that global consumers explicitly mention ‘non-alcoholic’ 81% more often than just one year ago,” Heidi Dillon Otto, portfolio director Distill Ventures, which provides investment and support for startup drink brands, tells Organic Authority. “Over the last few years, health and wellness have become more and more important to people all over the world. At the same time, people are looking for new experiences, and want to get the best out of everything they do. This has inspired greater curiosity around different flavors, and people want better choices.”
Otto says she sees the sober curiosity movement more about choice. Distill Ventures conducted an eight-month-long study, which found that in the U.K, a global trendsetting market, 59% of consumers order a non-alcoholic drink on nights out when they are also drinking alcohol. They also found that 61% of consumers reported they wanted a better choice when it comes to non-alcoholic drinks. “Whether consumers choose to drink spirited or alcohol-free drinks, we are excited to see the variety of choices that are starting to become available, both on menus and with new product launches.”
Choice Is Key
Little says having access to a variety of non-alcoholic beverages is key for those who exploring sober curiosity.
“Drinking non-alcoholic beverages is often a tool to help people with the challenge,” she says, who adds that her clients often prefer mocktails or non-alcoholic beverages that “look” and “taste” like an alcoholic beverage without the effects of alcohol.
“I encourage people to consume non-alcoholic beverages when they are with friends or in social settings,” says Little. “It is important to make it known that you are committed to be alcohol-free for the night.”
While Little says that it’s very much “one day at a time” for those who are exploring sober curiosity, being able to order a beverage that suits your needs and doesn’t make you feel “left out” and makes it easier to stay on track.
Is Sober Curiosity Here to Stay?
On a business front, Otto says it’s hard to predict what the future will look like. “Although non-alcoholic is growing fast and the hospitality industry is starting to take it seriously, the reality is that most bars and restaurants still do not offer a great range or experience if you are not drinking alcohol at that moment,” she says. “For this trend to continue to grow, the range of ingredients required to make non-alcoholic drinks easily needs to expand, with wide availability in bars and in stores to allow consumers to easily create great non-alcoholic drinks at home.”
Holistically speaking, Little hopes sober curiosity is here to stay.
“I hope sober curiosity remains a trend because there are so many benefits to the individual and to others who need to be in recovery but have trouble admitting or seeking help,” she says. “When people who do not have a problem with alcohol are committed to reducing their drinking, they are helping to reduce the stigma in sobriety.
“Too often people who do not drink are viewed as different or are assumed to have a problem with drinking. This leads to people who need to be in recovery fearful that they will be judged or not included in social situations. People have a basic need to belong and the more we can normalize social situations without drinking, the easier it becomes for people to seek support for recovery from alcohol use disorders.”
Plus, if skipping booze makes us feel good, then why wouldn’t the trend continue? After all, if we’re able to downward dog daily and take shots of turmeric in the name of good health, there’s no reason why swapping a cocktail for a mocktail can’t be as easy as taking our green juice in the morning.