Sobriety has been all over my newsfeed lately. It’s gotten so trendy Instagram is filled with #sobriety hashtags, and even, “sobriety influencers.”
I’m conflicted about all of this because while I can vouch for feeling much better when I don’t drink, I find dinner with friends, without wine, less joyful! Which is why, I guess, I’ve joined the mindful-drinking movement.
I dipped my toes into the world of sobriety about seven years ago when I decided to stop drinking at my annual Christmas bash where wine flowed (too) freely, and I invariably spent the next day nursing a massive hangover.
I liked how that conscious decision not to drink on specific occasions worked. I adopted the same plan for all other big parties, as well as for New Year’s Eve (I refuse to start a New Year feeling crappy). I even extended it to my birthday celebrations. Every occasion, I didn’t want to ruin by being hungover the next day got the complete sobriety treatment. Later, I added dinner parties since I seem to have no control over how much wine gets poured there either.
In other words, I have gradually eased into a more sober lifestyle by making all my biggest, most festive events alcohol-free (for me, not for other guests).
Things took a more serious turn about five years ago when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hip. I did all kinds of research on causes and ways to minimize the symptoms. It always came down to two things: lose weight and cut back on alcohol, which is called a trigger food because it causes the inflammation that makes symptoms of arthritis worse.
As time went by, I also began to realize how much I hated waking up in the morning feeling crappy after a great night out with friends. I knew I had to do something – great nights could not automatically turn into shitty mornings. And it was evident that when I didn’t drink or when I at least restricted myself to two glasses of wine, I slept better and always woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Late last year, I decided life was too short to wake up so many mornings feeling under the weather.
I committed to doing Dry January, and although there were a few times during the month when I wished I was joining in on a great bottle of wine, I stuck with the program, and it was awesome.
Not only did I feel more clear-headed, but after just one week of zero drinking, my arthritis symptoms were significantly reduced. That nagging pain in my hip almost disappeared, and I was more limber. All my stretching exercises were more comfortable to do — a dramatic improvement in every way.
I extended Dry January into February before finally succumbing to a beautiful Barolo wine over dinner with one of my besties – who also happens to be a great wine aficionado.
Dry January was a game-changer for me. Since then, I’ve started drinking more mindfully, i.e., I’ll imbibe when out socially, but I don’t drink at all at home. When out to dinner, I have been relatively good at sticking with my two glasses of wine (ok, sometimes three!).
At the gym, on the morning that I am writing this, I realized I had not had any alcohol for five days and how much better my hip felt. There is one particular exercise that I am only able to do when I have no alcohol inflammation raging in my hip – this morning, it was a breeze!.
Over the last six months, I’ve seen how alcohol affects my arthritis, and it’s unbelievable to me that knowing how much better I feel when not drinking, I still order wine. But I love socializing, and a cocktail or glass of wine enhances that experience. And I pay the price every single time. But my drinking has been vastly reduced since Dry January.
Because I am out and about so often, I’ve been looking for evidence of the sobriety trend in action to determine how real it is.
Sober-curious makes for great headlines and book sales, but what’s really going on? I live on Manhattan’s Lower East Side near an area called “Hell Square” because of all the bars. I have not seen any of them going out of business or even being less busy. If anything, more bars have opened.
Read on below for more.
So Who Has Given Up Drinking?
Over the last decade, among my large circle of friends and acquaintances:
- I have one friend who has never drunk alcohol while I’ve known her (she’s in her 30’s).
- One friend stopped drinking about five years ago after he felt it had gotten out of hand (he’s in his 40’s). He doesn’t appear to miss drinking at all. He even wrote a major musical about the whole experience.
- One friend is always on and off with alcohol. However, she’s always on pot.
- Where I see a major shift is in how many of my friends are now more mindful of their drinking. In situations where we would previously have ordered another round, we now ask for the tab. We’re also all ordering way more bottled sparkling water!!
Based on Google Trends, online searches for sobriety started ticking up in January (after the publication of Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington in December 2018).
- By April, there was a massive spike for sober-curious, and it continued its upward trend in June.
- It is breaking out strongest in Colorado and Oregon (possibly related to legalized weed in those States?)
What About Mocktails?
I am not into fake cocktail culture at all.
- When I’m not drinking alcohol, I’ll order a bottle of sparkling water.
- The idea of substituting something caloric but without the buzz strikes me as absurd and a waste of money. I’ve tried at least a dozen different mocktails from the top mixologists in the city, and they’re all underwhelming.
- Based on my observations, bars seem to have trimmed their offerings of non-alcoholic cocktails.
- But there appear to be more bars that specialize in non-boozy nights – but I don’t see any of them gaining traction – at least not yet.
- The jury is out. But I am not a fan of any of these fake cocktails.
They were hot for a second in NYC but then were banned? I’m not sure what the situation is in other States.
- I’ve mentioned before that I ordered a CBD-infused cocktail in NYC ($18) and got violently ill. Not doing that again.
SOMETHING is happening with drinking. I can’t tell, however, how much of it can only be considered a hot new fad and how much of it will stick. Mindful drinking, on the other hand, represents a genuine culture shift.
Lots to figure out here but certainly interesting (perhaps high) times ahead.
Have a great weekend, everyone!