Declining an alcoholic beverage in a social situation can get real awkward, real fast. Boundaries go right out the window.
“How do you even have fun?!, “Wait, are you sober?,” and even “OMG, are you pregnant?” are tossed at you like they’re not extremely personal questions. But, hopefully, that type of experience will soon be few and far between as more people become sober curious.
We tapped Sarah Levy, author of Drinking Games, to learn more.
“‘Sober’ has such a negative stigma, and that connotation kept me from giving up alcohol long after it stopped working for me,” Sarah relates. “I think we have a tendency to focus on the gory, messy details of people hitting ‘rock bottom’ when we talk about sobriety, but you don’t need to lose everything or have a dramatic bottom in order to give up alcohol,” she says.
If you don’t like the word “sober,” she recommends saying you’re alcohol-free, sober curious, or simply choosing not to drink.
“You are allowed to take a break from drinking if it isn’t making you feel good anymore—period,” Sarah states. (Say it again for those in the back!)
“There has been such a shift in our perception of mental health over the past decade. We have a deeper understanding of the nuances of conditions like depression and anxiety, and I see us trending in the same direction with the word ‘sober.’ It’s not one size fits all, and everyone’s experience and reason for going sober are different,” Sarah says.
She adds that in order to shift our collective perception of what “sober” looks like, we should focus on the positive aspects of sobriety and highlight stories about people who choose to live alcohol-free lives for various reasons.
“First and foremost, the quality of your sleep massively improves when you stop drinking, and sleep affects everything,” Sarah explains.
“For me, better sleep led to more energy, less anxiety, and the ability to show up for plans and be a present participant in my life. Within a few months of not drinking, I also lost weight, my skin got clearer and less dull, my hair and nails were healthier, and I generally just felt lighter and more present,” she says.
And not to worry, cutting back on booze (or cutting it out entirely) isn’t the kiss of death to our social life.
“So many bars have amazing non-alcoholic options now, and I’m a big fan of brands like Kin and Ghia,” Sarah declares. “I’m old school—I love a seltzer with a splash of grapefruit juice and a wedge of lime. If I’m out and feeling adventurous, I’ll ask the bartender to surprise me with a fun mocktail. You can still switch it up and keep things interesting in sobriety.”
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