Parents face immense pressure to protect their families and their income with everything happening worldwide. This can create a boiler room environment inside the home. When drinking is involved, it can make things even tougher. Is choosing a sober curious lifestyle a possible solution?
During the earliest months of the pandemic, alcohol sales in America increased by 243%, domestic violence increased nearly 10%. Years later, some experts predict an annual rise in alcohol sales of about 3% from 2021 to 2026, so Americans don’t seem to be slowing down.
But the question remains: Is self-soothing with alcohol making it worse for families? The “sober curious” movement may be part of the answer to providing healthier and more intentional coping skills for stressed-out parents.
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What Does Sober Curious Mean?
Sober curious is a philosophy of living. It is the intentional and deliberate choice to pause drinking booze for a designated amount of time. Instead of drinking, the sober curious replace the default alcohol habit with positive, life-affirming activities that make you feel more present in daily life. It’s also non-judgmental and avoids labeling people as alcoholics or recovering alcoholics.
The sober curious movement was first trademarked by Ruby Warrington, a British author, through her now-famous book, Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. She promotes the choice of sobriety as a conscious lifestyle.
According to Warrington, sober curious means “to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation, and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.” She came up with the idea after too many groggy mornings from over-drinking the night before. Later, she went on to host alcohol-free events for adults who decided to stop over-drinking as a way to self-medicate from daily stress.
Abstinence from Alcohol Has Its Perks
The benefits of the sober curious lifestyle don’t just extend to those who are binge drinking, which the National Institute of Health defines as having 4 (for women) or 5 (for a man) drinks in a two-hour period. The Center for Disease Control has also found that binge drinking is often the cause of partner violence, car crashes, suicide, and chronic disease. These are good reasons to pause when you’re a stressed-out parent!
Drinking less alcohol can also benefit more casual drinkers. Proponents of the sober curious lifestyle often report better sleep, less anxiety, more intentional focus, and better decision-making in their everyday lives. As an added bonus, the sober curious community feels that they are part of a hangover-free movement that fosters health benefits, deeper relationships, and mindfulness about what they are putting into their body.
Many people have decided to focus on the sober curious movement as an act of self-care and well-being. For instance, Dry January and going for an alcohol-free mocktail have been trending since Warrington wrote her book. As a result, many people and parents are now waking up to a healthier way of life. Americans who have taken part in the sober curious movement have reported feeling more present, increased creativity, and weight loss.
In addition to improving well-being, pausing on alcohol can also boost your bank account! According to research, Americans have reported saving more than $300 a month by saying no to booze. In an unpredictable economy and a chapter where you want to stay healthy, pausing on the liquor is an easy way to save money. Alcohol consumption not only weakens your immune system but also depletes your wallet. Looking at a pause on drinking as an act of empowerment is the key to making this lifestyle shift.
Thoughts from a Mental Health Expert
Families are no longer sheltering in place due to threats from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean families aren’t still experiencing extraordinary stress and external and internal pressures. This is a critical moment for parents to make good decisions for their families and be alert. So what do the experts say?
“Parents have a rare opportunity to model coping [skills] during an unusual hardship. I urge parents to consider what they want their children to learn from them during this time,” says Dr. Lauren Fisher, PsyD., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and co-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness, which provides substance abuse counseling as a part of their mental health services. Her practice offers low-fee wellness consultations for $30 for a thirty-minute session. You can learn more about them on their website.
Additionally, Dr. Fischer shares, “I’m hearing people say that they will indulge in unhealthy mechanisms for now and then “clean up their act” later. Why would we make things any harder than they will already are? My advice – start now. The more resources we have on a daily basis, the better our daily [quality of life] and individual outcomes will be post-pandemic.”
This brings us to another point. When alcohol is used to fix a problem, it can often make everything worse.
Thoughts from an Alcohol Recovery Center Professional
“These are powerful days for self-examination. Are we taking care of ourselves?” asks Amber Chamberlain, Senior Business Development Officer & Treatment Advocate for Recovery Centers of America at Maryland Center for Addiction Treatment. “Are we willing to provide ourselves with what it takes to live well and be well? Sometimes our use of alcohol is a part of coping more than thriving. Are we willing to self-responsibly acknowledge this?”
For those who can not physically or mentally stop drinking, Chamberlain goes on to advise, “Recovery Centers of America is one the few national integrative recovery systems in the US for which in-network insurance benefits can be used for medical detox and rehabilitation services. Others rely on out-of-network benefits or are entirely out of pocket, which creates a hardship for families.”
Furthermore, it is important to note that there are several options for people looking for support if they would like to stop their alcohol consumption to prevent or address alcohol use disorder.
Sober Curious Is Not All-or-Nothing
It’s important to note that sober curious is not an all-or-nothing approach to changing your relationship with alcohol. This lifestyle fosters a deeper connection with your motives as you explore the triggers of your drinking.
After choosing to abstain from drinking for a period of time, you will have more clarity. You may decide to never drink again. Or having a cocktail on special occasions might be the best approach for your life. Many people on the sober curious journey choose their own path only after they decide to put a pause on their alcohol during a time of duress. Whether you decide to mindfully drink or abstain indefinitely, adopting a sober curious parenting style will enrich a deeper understanding of your motives for drinking.
One thing is certain, by lowering your binge drinking while your nerves are being challenged, you are increasing your own health outcomes and helping to better protect your family. Remember that your kids learn from your example. And a pause on alcohol consumption can actually be surprisingly fun and empowering.