12 Lessons from a Sober Curious Year

Life is full of lessons. Some are learned quickly and easily, while others challenge us more than expected. From small conversations with strangers to turning points that have you waking up feeling like a completely different person, you can always learn from every situation.

Throughout the past year, our team at dri/kit has noticed common themes thread throughout every interaction involving alcohol. With each sober night and hangover-free morning, it's easier to reflect with clarity on how not drinking has shaped our lives. Below, we're sharing the most significant lessons we've learned that have made us thankful we've embraced the sober-curious lifestyle. 

1. It can be an isolating experience, but it doesn't have to be

When your evening plans previously revolved around grabbing a drink, no longer wanting to consume alcohol can make you want to spend most of your nights at home. It's a tricky situation, to say the least—you're still navigating how comfortable you feel going out and not drinking. Some nights, you don't mind being the only sober person, but other nights, you're so over justifying why you don't want to drink anymore that you Irish exit because you'd rather be left alone. 

It's easy to slip into the habit of wanting to stay in, especially after you spend several nights, weeks, or even months just laying low. However, when you continue down the path of not wanting to go out at all, it's very easy to feel isolated. But just because you don't want to have an alcoholic drink when you're out, doesn't mean that you can't go out at all!  

There are still ways to get your socializing cup filled. We found ourselves enjoying more daytime activities, meeting up with friends over coffee dates, and still saying yes to the late-night plans but opting to go for an hour or two instead of needing to be the last one standing. It's trial-and-error and takes some patience as not every night will be the same, but staying home every night is likely not the solution. 

2. You might outgrow certain friendships

If you start noticing that something feels off when you are out with the same friends, it might be because you've outgrown those friendships. Although recognizing when a friendship might need to end because of a divergence in your interests can be disheartening, it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. Nor is it necessary to have a big breakup. Your friendship served a purpose to you during a certain period of your life, and the worst thing you can do is try to force the friendship to carry on. If you no longer feel that the friendship flows or that you understand each other and enjoy spending time together, it's okay. 

A falling out doesn't have to signify the end of your friendship. Sometimes, you will be reunited further along in your life. It's up to you whether or not you want to address the differences or just let the friendship fade out organically. Remember, the more you listen to yourself and what you need right now, the more aligned you will feel with your decisions. 

3. You have to put in more effort than before

Whether that's creating conscious friendships not based on getting drinks together or going to a party with your supply of non-alcoholic beverages, we'd be lying if we said that there's no effort involved when you become sober-curious. But for us, that's what makes our journeys even more rewarding. The intention behind every action has a deeper meaning than it used to. 

Also, if you find yourself having a smaller circle of friends than before, don't stress. There are ways to meet new people. Many communities and fitness studios host events encouraging sober meetups. Explore different hobbies and ways to get involved by doing activities you love. You can also look in Facebook groups or use Bumblebff to find like-minded people. 

4. People's reactions to you not drinking are usually a reflection of their relationship with alcohol

How many times have you been out, and someone starts to aggressively question you as to why you aren't drinking anymore? The lack of understanding can be a bit jarring—we've definitely felt worse after a few interactions. As much as we sometimes may want to respond with the same intensity, more often than not, it just isn't worth the energy. 

Many of us grew up with ingrained norms and expectations around alcohol consumption. When someone chooses not to drink, it can challenge these norms, making others uncomfortable or defensive about their own choices. It may trigger their insecurities about their relationship with alcohol if they rely on a collective drinking culture for socializing. When faced with people who lack understanding or acceptance, we've found it best to defuse the situation, respond politely, and walk away. There's no need to justify or prove yourself to anyone. 

5. "No" is a complete sentence 

You are allowed to say no and not provide an explanation when someone offers you a drink. You don't have to justify and say that you're still fun to be around or have other vices that make up for it. Your decision as to whether or not you wish to explain why you aren't drinking is yours only. Learning how to create boundaries when discussing your relationship with alcohol is a key step in the sober-curious journey. 

6. Your energy is limited 

It's okay to have boundaries, say no to events, or no longer do things you used to think you enjoyed. How you spend your time is up to you, and you have every right to be protective of how, when, and to whom you give energy. Reframe thinking you "should" do something and ask yourself if it's something you actually want to do. Those who are understanding of your new choices will be there to support you, even when that means saying no to events that you used to always say yes to. 

7. Waking up not hungover is pretty amazing

Sure, you might not be the last one standing, but the chances of you being the first one awake are probably higher now! We've found that by refraining from drinking, we've shifted into becoming morning people and have embraced every minute of it. There's something so refreshing about waking up without the haziness. 

A hangover-free morning sets the stage for a more productive day. Without the physical and mental burden of alcohol-induced fatigue, you'll find yourself energized and motivated more frequently.

8. You physically feel and look better

It's not a new fact that alcohol disrupts the quality of your sleep. When you stop drinking, you have improved sleep patterns, leading to a more restful night. Alcohol can reduce your REM sleep, which is when your body repairs tissues and cells. 

Alcohol dehydrates and can cause water retention, resulting in dry, dull skin and puffy eyes. It can also contribute to collagen breakdown, stain teeth, and dilate blood vessels. While we don't want to scare you, we're here to remind you that your body will probably be much happier the less you drink.

9. Your mood tends to stabilize

Hangxiety anyone? Uuf, that is definitely on the top of the list of things we don't miss! Alcohol can have a significant impact on mood and emotions, often leading to heightened sensitivity, irritability, or anxiety the day after drinking. The longer we spent without drinking, the more we noticed that our reactions to events or situations that usually had us up in arms were no longer as intense. It was a slow and gradual process, but overall, we now feel a greater sense of stability and emotional resilience when faced with challenges. 

10. You become more aware of your spending habits

Who else has woken up after a night out and been too nervous to look at their bank account? When we drank, it was easier to say yes to everything, which sometimes resulted in overspending on way too many drinks that we didn't actually need. 

After this past year, we've noticed how the money we used to spend on alcohol we now save, reinvest in ourselves and our projects, and simply use in other ways. We became more conscious of using our money and seeing if our spending habits aligned with our priorities and values. 

11. Reframe your thinking

Your mind is a powerful tool. If you want to focus on the negatives, don't be surprised if, all of a sudden, there is more negativity in your life. However, when you embrace the good and cultivate a more positive mindset around not drinking, you'll see how your life benefits from being sober-curious. 

When faced with the urge to drink, it's helpful to reframe your thinking and remind yourself that you're not missing anything. You've likely been there and done that, and you know that the harmful effects of alcohol far exceed the perceived positives. 

12. The movement is only getting started

Although the term sober-curious has been around for several years now, more and more people are choosing to participate in not drinking or at least significantly reducing their alcohol consumption. From sober meetups to full morning raves, a broader cultural emphasis is on wellness and self-care. People are seeking healthier lifestyles in community. 

When we first started examining our relationship with alcohol, we were one of the few (if not the only person!) who did not want to be drinking during the week after work. Now, many of our friends and family have joined us. It's refreshing to see more people wanting to reevaluate their drinking habits to align with a more mindful and intentional lifestyle. 
As societal norms shift and more non-alcoholic brands join the space, we can't wait to see how the next year unfolds. 

Written by: Elena Rogers 

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