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What Does It Mean To Be Sober Curious And Should You Try It?

Did you smash Dry July like a boss last year? Think scaling back your alcohol intake on a more regular basis might be good for your health? If so, you could be part of a growing number of Australians who fall into the category of ‘sober curious’.

Though the term sounds a bit vague, it’s actually quite simple.

In a nutshell, being sober curious is about choice and change. It’s having the option to adjust your alcohol consumption for health reasons, either drinking less or giving up alcohol completely. The idea has been around forever, but it’s now turning into a bit of a movement.

sober curious

Image: Seedlip / supplied

With society becoming increasingly health aware, many of us are now questioning where alcohol fits into a healthy lifestyle. Some even describe it as the next logical step in the wellness revolution.

Millennials are said to be leading the way, but they’re not the only ones hopping on the bandwagon. People of all ages are now embracing the decision to drink less or no alcohol, and it’s having some wide-reaching impacts.

Starting a conversation around drinking

Psychologist Tara Hurster, an addiction specialist from The TARA Clinic in Sydney, believes the sober curious movement is creating a welcome conversation around Australia’s ‘macho’ drinking culture. It’s challenging social norms and empowering individuals.

Citing Australia’s corporate culture of boozy lunches and after work drinks, Hurster also says individuals and companies are now identifying the lost productivity that comes from alcohol and other drugs – estimated by The Alcohol and Drug Foundation to be around $6 billion.

As a result, many companies are embracing a more sober curious work culture in an effort to not only improve productivity but also empower employees to put their health first.

How do you have fun without alcohol?

Media presenter and sober curiosity advocate Tamara Wrigley has been a non-drinker for ten years for health reasons. It doesn’t agree with her body. Yet, she is still asked one question above almost all others when she reveals she doesn’t drink: ‘But, how do you have fun?’

Image: Lyre / supplied

“Since when do you need alcohol to have fun?”, Wrigley says. “Alcohol, like anything, can become an addition. To those that currently drink alcohol, and I’m not begrudging them, my question is, would they be craving it if you stopped? If so, that’s the problem.”

Going alcohol-free is a personal choice, yet there is still stigma which surrounds people who decide not to drink. Thankfully, Wrigley says this appears to be changing. And, though you might think going alcohol-free is a death sentence to your social life, it’s true you can have just as much fun when you’re not drinking.

Sober bars and alcohol-free social groups such as Untoxicated, which hosts regular events including dinners, bush walks and movie nights in cities around the country, are just two of the many offerings becoming available to people who don’t drink.

What to drink when you’re not drinking

One of the more intriguing side effects of sober curiosity is the emergence of non-alcoholic beers and spirits, with big-name brands even getting in on the action.

Carlton & United Breweries and Heineken have released zero alcohol beers, while alcohol-free distillers such as Seedlip from the United Kingdom and Sydney-based Lyre’s have been embraced by non-drinkers wanting more sophisticated alternatives. You can now buy spirits that look and taste like gin and rum – all with zero alcohol.

Seedlip founder Ben Branson likens the growth of non-alcoholic beverages to vegan food, which, though once seen as just lentils and nuts, has come a long way in recent years.

sober curious

Image: Seedlip / supplied

“The way people are choosing to socialise has changed a lot in the past five years, where drinking has become a ‘part of’ rather than the ‘reason for’ going out,” Branson says.

“Over the past couple of years, we are definitely seeing a paradigm shift in the way that people approach alcohol. People are becoming increasingly mindful of their health, what they put in their bodies, and where their food and drink comes from.”

“Some key advice for those defining themselves as ‘sober curious’ is to not sacrifice being social. It’s learning that you do not ‘need’ alcohol to be social or to feel included.”

If you are concerned with being on the outer, and don’t want to get into the conversation yet again, drinks such as Lyre’s and Seedlip could be the perfect alternative.

Lyre’s co-founder Mark Livings believes one of the advantages of no-alcohol spirts is there’s no obvious visual cue you’ve made the choice to reduce or not drink alcohol.

“It’s the perfect way to avoid social pressure,” Livings says. “Additionally, in the age of FOMO, people are increasingly prioritising the ability to perform the next day for work, without the consequences of a hangover, or to continue looking after their health.”

Even if being sober curious isn’t for you, it doesn’t hurt to weave elements into a balanced life. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation’.

(Lead image: Lyre’s / supplied)

Published 17 February, 2020