2020 Was Going To Be The Year Of The Sober-Curious Movement. Now What?

Huffington Post, Julie Kendrick

From the clinking cocktails of Zoom happy hours to Ina Garten’s giant cosmo-for-one, there’s plenty of evidence that during the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing is leading to an uptick in social (and even antisocial) drinking.

According to a recent survey from Morning Consult, 16% of adults say they’re drinking more alcohol as a result of quarantine. And per Nielsen, the week ending March 21 saw a whopping 55% rise in the sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States, compared to the previous year’s figures.

But as some leaders of the burgeoning sober-curious movement are quick to note, that’s not the whole picture.

What exactly is the sober-curious movement, anyway?

Being sober-curious means being more intentional about how, when and why you drink. It’s a movement for everyone, even those who don’t have health- or addiction-related reasons to abstain from alcohol. It’s based on the idea that asking questions about alcohol, or consuming less of it, may lead to positive outcomes for one’s health, relationships, finances and more.

Before the pandemic, new brands of no-alcohol beverages were being introduced at a rapid clip, including alcohol-free beer, kombucha and even Seedlip, a distilled nonalcoholic beverage. Recent data from Nielsen showed slowing sales growth in the alcohol category. Even the once-oxymoronic field of nonalcoholic mixology was on the rise, with the publication of several books ― including “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason,” from former Bon Appétit editor Julia Bainbridge, which is slated for publication this fall.

“People don’t drink for all kinds of reasons, and those reasons just don’t need to be a part of the conversation,” Bainbridge told HuffPost. “I’m not a fan of the term ‘sober curious,’ but I do understand wanting a term for people experimenting with removing alcohol from their lives. Overall, I think it’s great that this conversation is being made more accessible. And it’s great that not drinking is slowly becoming more normalized. My book is doing its small part to carry that forward.”

While it may seem like everyone’s drinking right now, that’s not really the case.

Ruby Warrington, who coined the term “sober curious,” is the author of “ Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.” “I’ve been connecting with many people in the sober-curious and recovery community, and across the board, they’re telling me they’re so happy to no longer be using alcohol as a coping mechanism in times of stress,” she told HuffPost. “I’ve had a number of people say, ‘What’s happening now is bad, but it would be terrible if I were trying to do it while hungover.’”

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.

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