Last year, a mom from a local online mom’s group requested recommendations on where to go for a kid-free girl’s getaway. 60 of the 81 moms who responded suggested wine country or another option centered around alcohol. As moms we basically live in full throttle. Add husbands, careers, laundry, dishes, packed lunches, year-round bathing suit season, and a social life- and I am certainly not judging the desire to relax with a little wine on vacation! However, with roughly 21 million people in the United States currently addicted to alcohol or other substances there are too many mommy’s who have, or will, cross the line from normal drinking into problem drinking. Then what?
I made the decision to live sober in 2008. With the help of a community support group and a series of great outpatient therapists, I began changing myself and my lifestyle. I remember my last drink. I was at a PF Changs in Cincinnati a few days before Thanksgiving having dinner with my best friend since the third grade. We both ordered a glass of wine. After about halfway through the glass I started to feel what had once been the warm and fuzzy feeling of the beginning of a buzz. After years of highschool, college, and early 20-something alcohol misuse, that feeling was no longer a comfort. It was more like the doors of a jail cell being slammed shut and locked for an indefinite period of time. I pushed the half-full glass of wine away. I was done with alcohol.
I cannot say learning to live alcohol-free was easy. There were many times when I wanted to use alcohol to numb, celebrate, participate, or distract. At around three months sober, I was having a career and family-of-origin induced mini-meltdown at a gas station in Fort Lauderdale, where I was living at the time. As I pumped gas into my car, I remember thinking “I’ll just walk inside, buy a bottle of wine and a 12-pack of beer, go home and drink.” I immediately called a sober support and shared my plan. I screamed, “I just want to drink!” She calmly said, “okay, then drink.” It was in that moment that I realized how committed I was to living this new way. Despite the way that I felt, alcohol would not improve my mood or circumstances. If I chose to walk through it all sober and feel and process my feelings, I had a chance to positively influence the outcome.
Ironically, when I pulled away from the gas station that night, I’d accidentally left the pump in my gas tank. As the gas sprayed everywhere and the attendant ran out to collect a hefty check, I laughed hysterically. I was living fully present in a moment of total chaos and surrender and I felt truly alive and grateful.
Fast forward eleven years. Mindfulness and living in the moment are household phrases and gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and now even alcohol-free are on-trend. If you’d told me back in 2008 that sober curious and abstinence would ever be a “thing,” I truly wouldn’t have believed you.
I believe sober curiosity, also known as mindful drinking, is an incredibly important and enlightened movement. It encourages awareness of the reasons why we drink as a society. “Am I trying to change a feeling or circumstance?” “Do I not want to feel or deal?” “Am I bored?” “Do I not think I can connect and build relationships without alcohol?” “Do I need to make changes in my life but don’t know how so I numb the feelings of doubt and fear?”
It also encourages awareness of the effects alcohol can have on the body and the mind. “I need to keep my gut and body healthy to achieve my fitness goals.” “When I drink, I focus less and I am less productive.” “I sleep better when I don’t drink” “I connect with the world and with people in a deeper way when I am sober.”
Sober curiosity increases self-awareness, self-control, and may help prevent the development of substance use disorders, which are rapidly on the rise in this country year after year.
Speaking of substance use disorders: Do I think sober curiosity or mindful drinking is enough for someone who is battling an active addiction? No, I believe abstinence is the best solution once a substance use disorder and problem drinking pattern has been developed. Due to the way addiction acts in the brain, the only way to change addictive patterns and behaviors is proper treatment, abstinence, and a consistent program of recovery.
Yet, the sober curious trend is certainly helping progress the recovery movement as a whole, which greatly benefits individuals who live abstinent or who will eventually live abstinent. It normalizes living alcohol-free and promotes conversation about health and wellness-centered lifestyles. Additionally, it has prompted many sober celebrities to speak out publicly about the benefits of recovery and popular national brands to launch products promoting sober curious and abstinent living. For example, Coca Cola’s new brand Bar None advertises “spirits without spirits” and many popular restaurants in major US markets are adding a variety of alcohol-free mocktails to their menus. Sober bars are also increasing in popularity such as the Sans Bar in Austin, Texas or Listen Bar in New York, New York.
Perhaps, a decade from now sober will not only be “sexy,” but it will be a fully integrated part of societal norms.
Laura Kunz is a Cincinnati, Ohio native who resides in Jupiter, Florida with her husband, Travis and two children, Kennedy (age 5), and Anderson (age 1.5). She’s worked in the behavioral healthcare field since 2009. In 2015, she began working for Futures Recovery Healthcare as the Outreach and Community Liaison. Futures is a residential treatment center in Tequesta, Florida providing detoxification, residential, and aftercare services for families and individuals with substance use and co-occurring disorders. In her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with family, friends, and neighbors, enjoying their boat on the Jupiter waterways, exercise, cooking, and creative projects.