Alright, let me pull no punches.
I was a lush. A chaotic, self-destructive drunk. I did so many things under the influence of booze that would make your moralistic skin melt. I was a bad man.
Speaking in such a manner makes it seem as if this is “all behind me” and that I’m some virtuous “galavanter” marauding the high-and-mighty landscape lecturing all on the perils of the demon alcohol. Bullshit. I’m not. That core essence that led me to abuse alcohol is still in me. From my life, I’ve merely removed the major outward expression and liberator of that personality.
Booze was great. I loved it. It unleashed me from the chains of cultural submersion. I don’t believe alcoholism is a disease, or even a “condition.” I believe it’s just very bad, harmful learned behavior that some of us, by nature of our personality profile, are more prone to indulge in.
So I find the new “sober curious” thing (movement) quite interesting. Many young, socially-vibrant people are double-thinking the unpleasant social and physical aspects of alcohol and taking a break from da booze, if not permanently, at least for the denoted hashtag month.
In the far corner, about a dozen women in a group are clearly enjoying themselves too, but they are not drinking alcohol. They’re sipping handcrafted mocktails, with names like Baby’s First Bourbon and Honey Dew Collins, featuring nonalcoholic distilled spirits.
They’re part of a sober social club, made up mostly of women in their 30s who want to have fun and make friends without alcohol.
Another social club member, Kathy Kuzniar, says she used to obsess over whether there was enough wine in the house. She says she feels calmer since she became sober, and she has lost 30 pounds.
“I’m creative again,” Kuzniar says. “And I know I wouldn’t be doing those things if I was still drinking.”
Not too long ago, a group of women in a bar who were not drinking alcohol would have seemed kind of strange. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86 percent of adults over 18 report having had an alcoholic drink or drinks at some point in their lifetime, and 56 percent say they’ve had alcohol in the past month. Still, abstaining from alcohol — on a short-term basis or longer term — is becoming more common.
The “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” movement started as a challenge for those who felt they’d partied a little too hard over New Year’s weekend. First there was “Dry January,” when people could brag on social media about how they were taking a break from booze. Now there’s “Dry July” and even “Sober September.” And the movement has spread across the U.S., with people challenging each other to see what life is like without alcohol and share in that experience.
Instagram accounts like Sober Girl Society and Sober Nation have tens of thousands of followers, as does Ruby Warrington, author of the book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol, which was released last December.
Chris Marshall of Austin, Texas, has been sober for the past 12 years. He started drinking in high school, he says, and got his first DUI at 16. Then he joined a fraternity in college and kept drinking.
“All my drinking was really centered around community and wanting that connection so badly with other people,” he says.
He finally got sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. He became a substance abuse counselor to help others but found that being in recovery was often really lonely.
“Those early days of abstinence from alcohol were so tough, because I had no friends,” he says.
At Sans Bar, one popular mocktail is the Alright, Alright, Alright — a blend of muddled blueberries, Meyer lemon, smoked honey, apple cider vinegar and mint. Julia Robinson for NPR
So he created Sans Bar, a sober bar in Austin. It’s open on Friday nights and some Saturdays — a comfortable place where people can talk, make sober friends, listen to music and, of course, drink some good nonalcoholic drinks. (Marshall likes ginger beer, which he says offers a nice burn in the throat that people sometimes miss when they’re no longer drinking alcohol.)
Sans Bar has become so popular that Marshall took the concept on the road this year. He organized pop-up bars in Washington, D.C., New York and Anchorage, Alaska. And he has opened new sober bars in Kansas City, Mo., and western Massachusetts.
“What I want to create across the country are these little incubators for social connection,” he says.
Let’s see where this leads. While I certainly applaud these people for their focus on sobriety as a simplification and preservation of disciplined lifestyle, I’m not sure how I feel about a new “temperance” movement. In today’s social environment, virtuosity is weaponized and cheapened by the leftist culture of platitudes and I fear that this “sober curious” movement is simply an outgrowth of this paradigm.