Sober is the new black. There are plenty of people that are kicking off the new year with #SoberJanuary or #DryJanuary. Whether it be for health reasons, social reasons, or anything else, making the choice to be sober can be good for anyone!
The word “sober” tends to have a connotation of having to go home and watch movies while everyone else hits up happy hour. However, this has all changed. No one needs to feel isolated or left out because they are making a choice to stay sober. Menus are full of alcohol-free cocktails these days, and the wellness industry has flooded the market with non-alcoholic drink options, from CBD-infused lattes to cactus water.
Then why is it (pre-COVID), that the last time I was in a bar (again… pre-COVID), when I asked the bartender “What drinks do you have without alcohol?” he pointed me to a menu list of sparkling water, Coca-Cola, and three types of tea? “Anything else, maybe a mixed drink?” I ask. To which his response was “we could make a Shirley Temple.” I felt offended and left the bar shortly after this interaction.
With so many products out there now like Sōm, Seedlip, Free Rain, and even Coca-Cola recognizing that non-drinkers want to sip on something more sophisticated than soda sometimes, I see the tide turning in the right direction. Try my Booze-Free Fruit Sangria for a delish and healthy alternative.
I recognize and am deeply sensitive to those people who truly have a problem with alcohol or other substances and must stay away from any alcohol intake and likely not even frequent places that serve it. There is a new wave of people making the choice to go sober for reasons beyond necessity.
This new wave of sobriety is not full of anonymity and meetings and mantras. It is still a choice that many stand by strongly. There are the women and men who work in jobs that require them to go to industry events, who would enjoy a cocktail (sometimes due to societal and occupational pressures) only to feel miserable at work the next morning. Other people don’t like the swelling, bloating, loss of control, or taste of alcohol and choose to forgo it.
So much of who we are is summed up by our lifestyle choices, and the choice to participate in lifestyle sobriety can be a big part of that. The endless list of “why” questions you will receive by going ‘sober by choice’ can be a hurdle: Why, are you pregnant? Why, are you religious? Why, are you on medication? You should always remember, you are not obligated to explain yourself or to answer anyone’s questions about your lifestyle choices. You should do what is best for you and stick by it strongly.
According to a study by Nielson, 55% of consumers said they abstained from alcohol at some point during 2018, with 50% citing health as the primary motivator. The #SoberCurious movement on social media has taken off recently with people posting their silly, funny, happy times while being totally sober. In the United States, the number of people who drink alcohol has decreased by nearly 5% according to the WHO, and The Beverage Information Group reports beer sales have decreased 5 years in a row.
There are some amazing benefits to removing alcohol from your life:
- The joy of memories and the present moment. Many health coaches will talk about the importance of practicing mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means a deep focus on the present moment and enjoying what it is. When your mind is altered by alcohol, it is harder to live in the moment. You can take in every second and moment in a deeper way when your mind is clear.
- No more hangovers. Imagine not having that terror feeling of not knowing exactly what happened the night before. You don’t have that sinking feeling or the embarrassing moment of calling/texting friends to piece together your evening. Hangovers can cause you to miss work or special events because you’re feeling physically sick. Making the choice to lessen or eliminate alcohol from your life can change this!
- Deeper relationships. Getting to know people sober helps you get to know the real them (and you!). You can build relationships that have a foundation of respect, similar interests, and understanding rather than just having friends or partners that are drinking buddies.
- A greater ability to cope with adversity. Using substances to cope with hardship can feel good initially. However, the numbness can also prevent you from feeling the good, joyous, beautiful things in life! It is empowering to deal with all life can throw at you without the need for substances.
- Relief from depression and anxiety. Finding ways to deal with your feelings rather than covering them up with alcohol can be essential to helping your mental health.
Some physical health benefits of being sober by choice include:
- Less swelling and bloating. Alcohol is simply an inflammatory substance. This can be further exacerbated if you mix alcohol with sugary or carbonated liquids, leading to uncomfortable bloat.
- More quality sleep. While it is true that alcohol can work as a depressant to make you feel more sleepy or even “pass out,” learning healthy sleep habits while sober can help you get longer stretches of deep, quality sleep.
- Improved mental clarity. Our cognitive functioning can improve when we aren’t drinking. Our brains simply work better and are physically stronger when we are not drinking.
- Increased energy. The removal of putting toxic chemicals in your body can give you a boost of energy and make you feel more alert and focused.
- Healthier skin. Your liver can take a beating when alcohol is in your system. This can cause premature aging, blotchiness, poor complexion, and other skin issues that may be cleared up by a lifestyle change to sobriety.
- Decreased risk of long-term health issues. Alcohol use has been linked to liver disease as well as some cancers. Making the choice to have lifestyle sobriety be part of your routine can help prevent some long-term health risks.
- Better weight management and eating habits. Alcohol can make us gain weight! There is no secret about terms like “beer gut” or “wine belly.” If you have a sober lifestyle, you avoid a lot of late-night eating to “sober up” or “hangover foods” that can contribute to weight gain and unhealthy eating habits.
Lifestyle sobriety is a choice. I am not saying that it’s for everyone, or trying to take away from the mass success of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. A spokeswoman for Alcoholics Anonymous wrote in an email to The New York Times, “A.A. doesn’t have any comment on other methods for getting sober. There are lots of different options for getting sober. A.A. is not trying to convince anyone that A.A. is the only way to stay sober, we have just found a way that works for us that we share with others.”
You do not need to be an alcoholic to choose a sober lifestyle! You can make the choice for health reasons, social reasons, financial reasons, or simply as a challenge to yourself.
If you’re looking for resources to help you Go from Stressed to Strong, check out the following books: Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, and Living in Sobriety by Inc. Al-Anon.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need someone to speak to about your feelings, hello@LaurieAWatkins.com *All conversations are strictly confidential. Or call 800-923-4357. The Alcohol and Drug Helpline serves anyone who needs information, support or access to resources and treatment for alcohol or drug use. If you or someone you know needs help, the Alcohol and Drug Helpline is free, confidential, and available 24/7/365!