January 10, 2020

Sober-Curious: I’m Not an Alcoholic, but I want to Give Up Drinking.

Whenever I’m out socially with my friends, my favorite thing to say is “Oh, nothing for me, thanks; I’m not drinking tonight.

After I say it, they roll their eyes and laugh because, in true form, at some point, I end up having a glass (or two) of Malbec, a couple cocktails, or several light beers. It’s not that I can’t do it (refrain from drinking); it’s just that my intention to not partake in alcoholic beverages is often thwarted by revelry, peer pressure, and FOMO.

I make this bold proclamation about not drinking whenever I go out because I’m “sober-curious.” I’m truly curious to know what it would be like to “switch over” and live entirely sober for real—which means no more alcohol at all, ever.

Drinking certainly encourages an entire spectrum of human behavior—from rip-roaring, crazy good times, to horrible and horrifyingly bad decisions. Drinking is a buffer and a cushion. If we set limits and know when to stop, it can be really fun and lively; but all too often, we don’t stop. We have too much, and our social experience turns chaotic and detrimental.

I can have a good time without alcohol, so why would it be a big deal if I decided to quietly stop altogether, just because I wanted to? With good reason, my buddies would be skeptical of my decision. They would question the “why” part, because, let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with alcohol. They would surely ask, “Why can’t you have a few drinks occasionally in social settings and why would you purposely choose to submit yourself to this extreme rule if you don’t have a problem?”

Mainly, I think being “sober curious” stems from my genuine desire to live cleanly. I aspire to eat clean, exercise clean, and process my human journey in a clean, clear way. I want my body to feel good with all my thoughts intact. I want to take care of myself in a way that eliminates the backpedaling “amends” I must make when I overdo it. I detest facing the daunting task of “catching up” again after my hard-won efforts are “ruined” by a night of too much alcohol.

When I have a few drinks, many of my bad habits rear their ugly heads. Drinking too much quickly bridges to eating too much, and then I just get loud, which is always a “treat” for everyone around me. The next day is wasted because I am physically sick, I feel lazy and lethargic, and I end up spending hours feeling remorseful. I feel like I have to apologize for my behavior. And, make no mistake, I tend to feel this way even when I don’t overdo it.

Why do many of us continue to repeat this cycle? Because having a few drinks often helps us feel confident, fluid, and loose. Drinking takes the edge off our busy, overtaxed existence. Having a cocktail or two provides much-needed stress relief, and let’s face it, most of us are stressed beyond capacity for one reason or another, day in and day out.  

Recently, I “tied one on,” which is probably why I’ve been thinking so much about sobriety. I haven’t been drunk in a long time, but drinking to excess (even occasionally) is a problem I can’t deny. I vomited that night, and I barely slept. When I got up, I felt dead to the world. It certainly made the next day difficult to get through, which led me to reflect and look further into my desire to just stop the madness and be sober all the time.

One thing I know for sure is that choosing sobriety even if I don’t have a problem is probably a good thing. I like the idea of choosing sobriety before my problem chooses it for me.

Perhaps choosing sobriety before a problem develops is about simply choosing to be present and real over altered consciousness. Maybe it’s about facing my feelings of emotional or social discomfort, instead of hiding behind the mask that alcohol provides. Perhaps it’s about wanting a deeper, more authentic connection to myself and others.

Drinking isn’t the only way I can have fun. I know for sure that when I’m hiking or doing anything enjoyable outdoors, I feel high on nature. I feel fresh and good, emotionally and physically, and that’s a feeling that doesn’t come from a bottle. 

I want to try having a social life that does not revolve around drinks. I know it’s fun, but I’m curious to see if it’s indeed really necessary to knock back a few or if I can just enjoy my evening without them. No one is paying close attention to what’s in my glass anyway, so why would it matter? I can imagine that I’ll feel great, and the bonus is I’ll have a little more money left in my wallet at the end of the night, and no headache the next morning. 

I know from experience that it can be annoying to be around tipsy people when you’re the only sober one. It’s uncomfortable to listen to friends slur or get rowdy late into the evening—but I’ll have to keep my judgments to myself, because abstaining from alcohol is my journey, not theirs. I’m not better or more enlightened than anyone else because I’m choosing not to drink. I’m just sober. It’s that simple.

Hi, I’m Kim, and I’m sober-curious.

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