As the pandemic drags along into its second year, many of us have been leaning into "numbing strategies" like drinking alcohol to help get us through. But as the months go by, some of us are left questioning whether it's helping us, or making things harder (hangover, anyone?). Across our mental health programs and services, more and more people are questioning their relationship with alcohol and whether it still serves them - or they serve it. How do you know if you're one of them and what can you do about it?
What is "sober curious" anyway?
There's a growing movement of people who are exploring the vast spectrum of options between sobriety and alcoholism. Author Ruby Warrington is one of the pioneers in this landscape, with her aptly-named book "Sober Curious" and accompanying workbook "The Sober Curious Reset" leading many to explore a thoughtful 3o or 100 day break from booze. The intention? To create the (alcohol- free) space to consider the role that alcohol plays in your life, how you feel about it and whether you want to make a change.
How do I know if it's too much?
There are many ways you can find out what the healthy, doctor recommended limits are for alcohol consumption, but how you feel can be the best indicator. Do you wake up tired and headachey from too much the night (or day) before? Do you hide how much you drink or feel any shame? Do you get "hangxiety" - that jittery, negative self-talk spiral? Consider how you feel now, and whether some time off from alcohol could help you feel better.
What role do thoughts play?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be incredibly effective during this exploratory break. Psychology has shown us that our thoughts ("I'm failing at everything" can lead to feelings (sadness, worry), which leads to behaviour (grabbing a beer, or three). Taking the time and space to pause and think clearly about your thoughts can help you discover how your thought patterns could be leading to the feelings that make you want to drink more than you'd like to.
I don't want to be sober.
Many people in the sober curious movement aren't sober. Their relationship with alcohol is their own and they are intentional about when and how much they drink. It's not about giving it up forever (though some do) - it's about turning off autopilot and taking back control.
I can't do it alone.
Changing something like this - even temporarily - can be hard. Maybe even really hard if it's become a daily habit for you. Seeking out support and community, whether you know others who are going through something similar or want to connect with new people on sober curious groups on social media. Giving a voice to our struggles can be daunting - it makes it more real in a way. But when you do, you might just find others in your life who are on a similar journey, or are inspired by yours, and want to go through it with you.
Whether you are sober curious or not, any opportunity to take a time out and consider how we are really, truly doing right now and making necessary changes is a valuable exercise that benefits us all.