What Does It Really Mean To Be ‘Sober Curious’?

Have you ever questioned your relationship with alcohol and wondered if giving it up may have a positive impact on your life, your mental and physical wellbeing?

If you answered yes, then you are ‘sober curious’.

Sober curiosity is often defined as having the option to choose, to question, or to change your drinking habits for health-focused reasons, whether it be mental and/or physical. It means being more intentional about how, why and when you drink – ultimately choosing to drink less or not at all. It’s a movement for everyone, even those who do not have health or addiction related reasons to abstain from alcohol.

Though alcohol may not be a problem for all, it can still be a problem. You don’t have to hit ‘rock bottom’ to make a serious lifestyle change. Some people view alcohol as a tool to cope with stressful situations or to celebrate good news. However, instead of helping them, it may make them feel more anxious or upset.

Going sober curious allows you the opportunity to see how sobriety or moderation might fit into your life. Some people choose to avoid alcohol for two weeks, a month or even a year, while others don’t set any time frame but commit to going without it indefinitely.

As you consider what you do and don’t enjoy about it, you might make the choice to have a drink on occasion. This is one key difference between being sober curious and total sobriety.

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Being ‘sober’ hasn’t always been popular in Ireland as our culture, in many ways, revolves around alcohol and if you decide not to drink on a night out you are constantly asked why.

According to a report by the Health Research Board in 2021, Ireland ranks 9th amongst the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of alcohol consumption and 8th in the world when it comes to monthly binge drinking, defined as consuming more than six standard drinks in one sitting.

Key findings from the report show people’s consumption is at a significantly high level and there is increasing demand on hospital services due to alcohol-related harm. In 2019, on average every person in Ireland aged 15 and over drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol a year – the equivalent of either 40 bottles of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer. 

The report states that one in four people don’t drink at all in Ireland, so actual consumption rates among those who do drink would be much higher than this. 

In the report, preliminary data on alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic is analysed. Data released by Revenue in March 2021 shows consumption decreased by only 6.5% in 2020 (when pubs were shut for the majority of the year). Beer consumption decreased by 17% in 2020 compared to 2019, while wine consumption increased by 12% in the same period.

A new report by Alcohol Action Ireland, in collaboration with Dr Zubair Kabir of the School of Public Health in University College Cork, states that as many as four people could be dying due to alcohol abuse every day.

The new research claims the number of alcohol-related deaths in Ireland is underestimated by up to 25%, and that alcohol could be a factor in almost 5% of all deaths here.

If you think about it, being sober curious has technically been around for some time. Take ‘Dry January’ for example – this was designed to encourage people to abstain from alcohol for a month, or longer if desired. It is a way to reset or detox after the busy festive period, where copious amounts of alcohol may have been consumed.

By being sober curious you are re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol. Staying curious means staying mindful when you do drink, with the following questions coming to mind:

Why did you crave it? Are you enjoying the taste? How do you feel the next day?

I’m not suggesting that it is something everyone should do, but it is certainly something to consider in order to live your best life possible.

Cheers to that!

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