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What Does It Mean To Be "Sober Curious"?

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Illustrated by Lindsay Hattrick

We chat with Ruby Warrington about her new book on the topic

We've long been following Ruby Warrington—author, modern-day mystic, and founder of cosmic lifestyle platform The Numinous—on her journey into what she calls the "Now Age," where she takes new age practices and updates them to adapt to our modern lives. Back in 2017, the former UK Style Times features editor released her first book, Material Girl, Mystical World, a guide to living a high-vibe life, using the same practices she talks about on The Numinous, including everything from tarot and astrology to shamanism and celebrating the Divine Feminine.

And now, Warrington is back with her second book. But this time, it's a different approach to cultivating a wellness-focused lifestyle. Rather than focus on healing crystals, it deals with exploring and understanding our relationship with alcohol. Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol takes a deep dive into exactly what the title suggests—what can happen when we choose to live a life without alcohol—even if we don't think we have an alcohol problem.

If you're expecting something preachy, don't. This isn't a prescriptive book, it's more of a description of Warrington's journey toward a level of sobriety with which she feels comfortable, and can be considered a handbook to starting one of your own.

Below, we chat with the author about her new book, what it means to be sober curious, and so much more.

How would you describe sober curiosity vs. sobriety?
Being sober curious means choosing to question everything about your relationship to alcohol, as opposed to simply going along with the dominant drinking culture. Some of these questions might be: How does alcohol really make you feel? Why is there often so much pressure to drink? Are the hangovers worth it for the highs? You can then use your answers to inform whether or not you want to drink. Sobriety, on the other hand, is more associated with abstinence-based recovery programs, and simply means abstaining from all mood-altering substances. Being sober curious may or may not lead to a person to being completely teetotal, and it's for everybody, whether or not you have a problem with alcohol.

What are the benefits of being sober curious?
The biggest is feeling like you are the one in control of whether or not you drink—and experience the negative consequences. Often, it doesn't feel like we have much choice to become "a drinker." The benefits of not drinking, meanwhile, are huge! Better sleep, more energy, a more optimistic outlook, more confidence, bright eyes and clear skin, more authentic relationships, etc.

In the book, you mention that we're "all a little bit addicted" to alcohol. Can you speak a bit more to that?
We're biologically hardwired to become dependent on booze, one of the five most addictive substances on the planet, which also happens to be marketed at us heavily from all angles. I think this makes it harder not to form some level of attachment to alcohol.

In your opinion, why should we consider sobriety if we aren't people who struggle with addiction?
Why not consider it? Like I said, often, we're not given the option as to whether or not we use alcohol. Nobody is literally forcing us to drink, but it can feel that way in our teens and college years when alcohol first enters the picture for many of us. It's just something that adults do. It's often only when a person cuts out alcohol that they realize how much of an impact even "normal"-levels of drinking have been having on their overall well-being.

What do you think has contributed to the growing number of people choosing to live a sober or sober curious lifestyle?
I see more people getting sober curious as the logical evolution of the wellness revolution. For anybody investing time, money, and energy into their wellness and self-care practices, continuing to drink can feel counter-productive—not to mention, you notice the negative after-effects.

On a wider scale, we are living in times of very rapid and often unsettling change. This has led to a spike in mental and emotional health issues, and while, on the one hand, it might be tempting to use alcohol to "escape," there's a growing awareness that booze actually spikes anxiety levels and exacerbates apathy and depression.

What made you decide to open up and write about your own journey—and struggle—with alcohol?
Based on conversations among my friendship group, I knew I wasn't the only one who had conflicted feelings about alcohol—and yet didn't see themselves as candidates for AA. I began to feel strongly that it was important to create a space for people to talk more openly about alcohol and the impact it has on our lives, outside of addiction recovery circles.

How has exploring your own sobriety changed your life?
It's made me see how much alcohol touched every area of my life—from my well-being and relationships to my work and family life. Removing it has brought so much clarity, confidence, and connection, things that I never even knew I was missing out on when I was regularly using alcohol to not be fully present in my life.

Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to begin their own sober curious journey?
First of all, tell somebody else that you're doing it—or even better find somebody who wants to get sober curious with you. It's important to have support and people to talk to when you're making any big lifestyle change. Then commit to an extended period of abstinence—anything from one to three months is a good place to start—so you can experience all the benefits of not drinking, as well as put yourself in some situations that will challenge your preconceptions about your relationship to booze (a sober wedding, vacation, or big birthday party, for example). Writing down your reasons for getting sober curious and keeping them in your wallet or on your desktop will help you stick to your guns!

Do you have any tips or advice on socializing and dating sober? How can we get over FOMA?
They're all in the book! Most of all, it's important to stay focused on all the positive things you are cultivating in your life as a result of not drinking versus going into thinking you are in any way "denying yourself." The only thing you miss out on by not drinking is getting drunk!

What has been the proudest moment on your journey?
Publishing my book, without a doubt. The reception has been 100 percent positive—and I'm especially happy with the feedback I've had from people in traditional 12-step recovery programs thanking me for making it more normal to talk about all levels of problematic drinking, and making sobriety more accessible and socially acceptable.

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