“I’m never drinking again.”
If you’ve ever been hungover, especially after you’ve passed from young adulthood into the throes of adult-adulthood, you might know this refrain. It’s followed by a week or two of temperance, only to get derailed by a birthday party or other social gathering.
After singing this refrain myself during one particularly fiery summer, I’ve been experimenting with periods of a slow-to-no approach to drinking that has me happily in bed by midnight. I’m desiring the creativity, quiet, and productivity of a booze-light weekend over the social bar scene, and I’m all-too-ready to ditch the bar tabs.
Most of all, I’m ready to say goodbye to those indulgence-driven headaches that seem to come harder and faster with each passing year.
So I was excited when I saw the buzz around being sober-curious: how casual drinkers are rethinking their habits and opting for lower consumption. I find I’m not alone in exploring my behavior—and am part of a larger movement towards a “less is more” approach. So, if you’re hoping to cut back (or cut it out!) here’s how I’m approaching this curiosity.
Identify Your Patterns
Lazy weekends are my most vulnerable time—because, I tell myself, why not? Especially if I’ve spent the heat of the day hiking with my husband; we too easily convince one another to head to a local brewery to finish out the afternoon with a brew and some oversized lawn games. Cute, right? But it can open the door for a highly unproductive and binge-y evening.
Get to know your patterns; watch when you tend to reach for a drink and start practicing awareness around it. If you’re a casual drinker, challenge yourself about why you’re drinking a cocktail instead of a non-alcoholic alternative. Check in with your emotions, how your physical body feels, and engage on the benefits and drawbacks of this consumption. You don’t have to put limits on yourself just yet, but really really notice your behavior.
Create Awesome Alternatives
Find alternatives that inspire and motivate you, and pursue them. Quit the mindset that these are negative “sober alternatives”—instead, think of these treats as additive indulgences. A rich shrub-and-seltzer with fresh fruits or veggies is perfect for warmer weather, while a warm organic cider or spiced chai are perfect for cozier seasons. Life’s indulgences go beyond intoxicants.
If you’re looking for a super-simple approach, there is so much that a glass of water can quench. Get fancy with sparkling water, infuse it with spa-inspired fruits and veggies, or go straight for the tap. Next time you’re considering something to sip on, swap in a glass of water first; it gives you more time to think about what you’re actually looking for and hydrates you in the process.
I also have a self-imposed rule that my “nightcap” is always a mug of herbal tea. It’s a grounding habit, and puts a hydrating and calming lid on my day, even if I’ve had more drinks than I planned to. This ritual is a non-negotiable, even when traveling or when I have an apartment full of visiting family or friends.
Enlist An Accountability Buddy
When you’re trying to adjust wavelengths, but are still surrounded by booze-centric events, it’s easy to cave. Find someone who will support you—even if they’re not sober-curious themselves. But bonus if they are.
Arranging in advance to have a friend that you don’t have to “explain yourself” to will help you stay anchored. Repeatedly explaining why you’re not drinking to individuals who are drinking is exhausting and—especially if you’re just starting to re-evaluate your habits—it can be tempting.
Maybe this person is even remote; a text before, during, and after the event to check in can be helpful. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn and celebrate a moderate evening if you planned one! A close friend will be happy to celebrate this with you, even from afar. Here’s a simple structure for getting started with an accountability buddy.
Reallocate Your Time & Money
Now for the most fun part: you get to decide what you do with your extra time and money. Maybe you plop a cool $40 into your savings account instead of going out. Or, maybe you invest that money in yourself through gym memberships, classes you’ve wanted to take, or your favorite fulfilling treats.
Wake up early, sleep in without regard, whatever fills your body and soul. In a society that’s ruled by booze, consider this your secret weapon: you have more time, money, and/or energy than you would have otherwise. But don’t fill up your newfound time scrolling Instagram—use this mindfulness around consumption to get more intentional about the ways you spend your time. This kind of self respect is an often-forgotten treasure.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a list of 21 activities you can explore instead of drinking and feel good about in the process.
It’s important to note here, that this all must come with a healthy dose of checking your privilege: it’s fun and cutesy to call yourself sober-curious, but the world of alcoholism and sobriety is much more complex than that. For casual drinkers, it’s a more simple challenge of identifying fun alternatives that reduce access and exposure to alcohol, but for those dealing with addiction, this can be a difficult and painful lifelong process.
Moderation does not work for everyone—sometimes it’s best to cut off drinking completely. So, watch if and how you evangelize sober-curiosity or a low-vs-no-alcohol lifestyle. Ask friends and family who need support how you can support them properly so that you can avoid perpetuating harmful discussions.
Most of all, be patient, embrace where you’re at in the process, and stay excited about the opportunities that lay ahead.
(A non-boozy) Cheers to staying curious.
Alcohol addiction is serious and has severe consequences for each community it impacts. If you or someone you love is struggling, using alcohol to numb feelings on a regular basis, or is regularly and negatively affected by drinking, seek out a local support group or call in to a hotline to find the best ways to help.
Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.