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What Is the Sober Curious Movement?

June 14, 2023
26 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 14, 2023
26 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 14, 2023
26 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 14, 2023
26 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 14, 2023
26 min read

Picture this: it's a sunny weekend, and you're attending a trendy rooftop party. Most people are mingling with a drink in hand. But you? You're sipping on a sparkling water with a twist of lime, feeling completely present, connected, and genuinely enjoying every conversation. No alcohol, no haze — just pure, unfiltered enjoyment.

Welcome to the sober curious movement!

“Sober curious” is more than just a buzzword; it's a lifestyle choice that's gaining traction around the world. But what’s it about, exactly? Being “sober curious” means that we’re open to questioning the role of alcohol in our life. It doesn't necessarily mean teetotaling — it's about expanding our options by becoming more mindful and intentional about why and how often we choose to drink. 

Ultimately, the sober curious movement is looking beyond habitual patterns and social routines we tend to fall into if we follow the pack without questioning what other options might be out there.

Where Did It Come From?

While choosing not to drink isn’t a new concept, the sober curious movement offers a fresh take on it. It's less about "never touching a drop again" and more about pausing and asking, "Hey, why am I reaching for that drink?"

Ruby Warrington, a journalist, gave our curiosity a name with her 2018 book Sober Curious. But even before her book hit the shelves, many folks were already pondering their relationship with alcohol.

  • The Temperance Movement and Prohibition (1820s-1933). Just about 200 years ago and lasting for 100 years or so, several movements advocated for reduced or no alcohol. Remember hearing about the temperance movement in history class? Prohibition (for our American readers)? That was all about ditching the booze, mostly for social and moral reasons. (But don’t worry, the sober curious movement has a totally different vibe!)
  • Hello, wellness era! Fast forward to the 21st century, and something cool happened. We all got a bit obsessed with feeling good, inside and out. Yoga classes, meditation apps, green smoothies — you name it! As we became more health-conscious, many began wondering how alcohol fits in. Plus, thanks to social media, we started chatting more openly about our lives, including the ups and downs of drinking. And “quit lit” started to get popular, offering us a glimpse into the lives of real people who’ve given up the booze for the better.
  • The non-alcoholic beer trend in Japan. With Kirin leading the way by launching “Kirin Free” back in 2009, beer companies like Asahi and Suntory have released non-alcoholic beers, which have become especially popular among the younger generation and office workers looking for healthier alternatives.
  • The Dry January campaign (2013). Originally launched in the UK, Dry January is now a worldwide phenomenon. This challenge encourages people to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January, promoting the benefits of reduced alcohol consumption.
  • Sober October (2014). Similar to Dry January, this initiative encourages a month of sobriety and has garnered participants from all over the world.
  • Redemption Bar (London, 2015). A series of venues scattered around trendy areas like London’s Shoreditch and Notting Hill where you can “spoil yourself without spoiling yourself” offer a completely alcohol-free menu.
  • Club soda events (2015). Originating in the UK as an online community, club soda events are now happening in parts of the US. These mindful drinking festivals celebrate the best of alcohol-free beverages.
  • Sans Bar, Austin (2017). A national pop-up experience and bar in Texas, Sans Bar is renowned for its fantastic alcohol-free cocktails and its vibrant events featuring live music.
  • Nirvana Brewery, London (2017). UK's first non-alcoholic brewery offers a range of tasty beers for those looking to cut back on alcohol.
  • Listen Bar (2018). This New York City establishment’s website reads: “All our bartenders are musicians. All our drinks are alcohol-free. And yes, Snoop Dogg asked us to name a drink after him.”
  • Altina Drinks (2018). An Australian company takes the lead in creating zero-alcohol cocktails that don't compromise on taste.
  • The Virgin Mary (2019). Claiming to be Ireland's first alcohol-free bar, this Dublin establishment aims to provide the authentic pub experience without the booze.

What's the Vibe Today?

Today, being sober curious is like being in a fun middle zone. It’s not about saying goodbye to alcohol forever, but it's about having thoughtful chats with yourself about our drink choices.

With the rise of tasty non-alcoholic beverages, fun sober hangout spots, and events where the main buzz comes from the DJ's beats instead of the drinks, it's clear the sober curious movement is here to stay. It's all about feeling our best and making choices that suit us!

Here are a few examples of the sober curious movement in the news in recent years:

Why Is It Gaining Popularity?

Science gives us some pretty compelling reasons to become sober curious :

Navigating the Nuances

In the evolving dialogue around alcohol, a variety of terms and concepts have emerged, each catering to a different approach or philosophy. As conversations around alcohol become more nuanced, it's valuable to understand the distinctions.

Which of these terms speaks to you the most? That might just be where you fit!

  • Sober. Being sober traditionally implies complete abstinence from alcohol. For many, it's a lifelong commitment stemming from past challenges with addiction, health concerns, or personal beliefs.
  • Sober curious. A relatively recent concept, being "sober curious" involves questioning and re-evaluating one's relationship with alcohol without necessarily committing to full-time sobriety. It's a space for those keen to explore the physical and emotional benefits of reduced alcohol consumption.
  • Moderation. As the name suggests, moderation revolves around limiting alcohol consumption to a balanced and controlled level. It might involve setting specific boundaries, like designated alcohol-free days or reducing the number of drinks per sitting.
  • Cutting back. Similar to moderation, cutting back is about consciously reducing alcohol intake. However, the focus here is more on gradual reduction rather than on setting immediate boundaries. This approach might appeal to those who want to decrease their reliance on alcohol without strict parameters.
  • Mindful drinking. This is a holistic approach to alcohol consumption. Mindful drinking doesn't set strict limits but encourages people to be fully present and aware of how, when, and why they drink. It's about noticing the effects of alcohol on one's body and mind and making conscious choices accordingly.

Whether you resonate with a particular term or find yourself floating between them, the key is to prioritize your well-being and make informed choices that align with your goals!

Becoming Sober Curious

Thinking about taking the plunge? Here's how to navigate this new path:

1: Start With Self-Reflection 

Self-reflection means taking a moment (or several) to think about our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It's like holding up a friendly mirror to ourselves and genuinely looking at our reflections without judgment.

Why Is Self-Reflection Important for the Sober Curious Journey?

  • Understanding the “why.” Ever reached for that drink and paused to ask, "Why am I drinking this?" That’s self-reflection in action. Understanding the motives behind our choices is crucial in setting the stage for change.
  • Spotting patterns. By regularly checking in with ourselves, we might start to see patterns. Maybe we tend to drink more when we're stressed or during social events. Recognizing these patterns is the first step toward making mindful choices.
  • Enhancing self-awareness. The more we reflect, the more we understand ourselves. This heightened self-awareness can empower us to make choices that better align with our values and well-being.
Tips To Foster Self-Reflection
  1. Question your patterns. Start by asking yourself why you drink. Is it a coping mechanism? Habit? Peer pressure? Being honest with yourself is the first step.
  2. Start journaling. Grab a notebook and write down your thoughts and feelings about alcohol. It doesn't have to be a daily diary; even occasional entries can shed light on your feelings and patterns.
  3. Build in mindful moments. Carve out a few minutes each day — maybe in the morning or before bed — to simply sit with your thoughts. Focus on your feelings about alcohol, without any distractions.
  4. Chat it out. Talking to friends or joining sober curious communities can provide fresh perspectives. Sometimes, just the act of voicing your thoughts can lead to new insights.
  5. Set checkpoints. Decide on specific times, perhaps once a month, to intentionally reflect on your drinking habits. It's like a personal progress report!

2: Start Slowly

Just as with any significant lifestyle change, sometimes the best approach is to wade in gently. Here’s why:

  • Less pressure. When we ease into a change, it feels less like a jarring shift and more like a natural progression. We’re giving ourselves permission to adjust without a stopwatch ticking.
  • Builds confidence. Each small success reinforces our belief in our abilities. Before we know it, these little wins accumulate, boosting our confidence!
  • Offers flexibility. Going slowly allows you to evaluate and recalibrate our approach. Didn't feel right skipping that Friday night drink? That's okay! Adjust and try a different approach next time.

How To Start Your Sober Curious Adventure … Slowly

  1. Designate alcohol-free days. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, try setting specific days in the week when you’ll abstain. Maybe start with one day, then two, adjusting as you go along.
  2. Find your drink. Spend time sampling non-alcoholic beverages. With the booming market of alcohol-free spirits, beers, and wines, you're bound to find a few you genuinely enjoy. Having a go-to drink can make social situations more comfortable.
  3. Set boundaries. If you know certain situations trigger your desire to drink, it's okay to avoid them initially. If avoiding them is impossible, prep in advance by bringing non-alcoholic beverages or having a supportive buddy by your side.
  4. Celebrate the small wins. Every time you choose to be alcohol-free, even if it's just for an evening, give yourself a mental high-five. Recognizing your efforts, no matter how minor they seem, can be super motivating!
  5. Stay curious and kind. Remember the essence of being "sober curious" — it's about exploration without judgment. If one approach doesn't work, try another. And always be gentle with yourself — every journey is unique!

In the end, the sober curious movement is all about aligning your choices with what feels right for you. And if taking things one step at a time is your jam, then rock on! Cheers to embracing the journey, one mindful moment at a time.

3: Find Your Tribe

As the saying goes, "it takes a village." While the sober curious journey is deeply personal, a supportive squad can make all the difference.

The Power of a Supportive Tribe:

  • Shared understanding. Having people around who “get it” means not having to explain or justify our choices. They understand the ups, downs, and in-betweens of being sober curious.
  • Strength in numbers. On those days when motivation wanes or doubts creep in, our tribe offers that much-needed pep talk, reminding us of why we started this journey in the first place.
  • Socializing redefined. With a group that shares your sober curious mindset, social events don't always revolve around alcohol. Discover new activities and redefine fun!
  • Keeps us accountable. Our tribe can be the gentle nudge (or firm push!) we need to stay committed to our goals, especially on tough days.

Building Your Sober Curious Tribe:

  1. Join online communities. Numerous online platforms and social media groups are dedicated to the sober curious lifestyle. It's a fantastic way to connect, share stories, and seek advice. Reframe is a great place to start!
  2. Attend alcohol-free events. Keep an eye out for alcohol-free events or meetups. Whether it's a mocktail mix-off, a sober dance party, or a yoga and non-alcoholic brunch combo, it's a great chance to mingle with like-minded souls and can be a goldmine for connections.
  3. Share your journey. Open up to friends or family about your decision to explore a sober curious lifestyle. You might be surprised to find some of them are curious too!
  4. Join Local Meetups. Platforms like often have groups dedicated to sober living or mindful drinking. It's a great way to make local connections and even find new hangout spots.
  5. Start Your Own Group. Can't find a group that fits your vibe? Create one! Gather a few friends interested in the movement and start your own monthly hangout or discussion group.

Finding your tribe is all about creating a circle of positivity and mutual understanding. And who knows? In addition to finding support, you might also forge some lasting friendships!

4: Educate Yourself

Knowledge is power. Delve into the science of how alcohol affects the brain and body. The more you know, the more empowered you'll feel about your choices.

Books and Podcasts for the Sober Curious Soul

While it's one thing to experience the journey, it's another to immerse oneself in knowledge and shared stories. If you're looking to deepen your understanding or simply seek some inspiration, we've got a delightful list of books and podcasts for you. 



  • The Sober Curious Podcast by Ruby Warrington. The author of Sober Curious dives deeper with thought-provoking conversations around the choice of living alcohol-free. Ruby chats with experts, advocates, and everyday folks about their own sober journeys.
  • Edit Podcast: Editing Our Drinking and Our Lives by Jardine Libaire & Aidan Donnelley Rowley. The hosts delve into life beyond alcohol, touching on topics like love, health, and relationships. It's a refreshing and genuine conversation about redefining life sans booze.

Whether you're looking for scientific insights, personal tales, or a blend of both, these books and podcasts offer a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration. Happy reading and listening!

See for Yourself!

As Ruby Warrington writes, “For many of us, getting Sober Curious begins with a simple question: Would my life be better without alcohol? To discover the answer for yourself, all that remains is to put the cork back in the bottle, open your eyes, and see.”

Being sober curious means forging a path that's authentic to us. It's about making choices that align with our well-being and enjoying the many benefits that come with it. Join the movement and see what it offers you!

Summary FAQs

1. What is the sober curious movement?

The sober curious movement is a modern cultural shift where individuals choose to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol, opting to reduce or eliminate its consumption without necessarily identifying as having an addiction.

2. How did the sober curious movement start?

Over the past decade, the movement has gained momentum, fueled by wellness trends, celebrity endorsements, and a growing number of venues and events catering to those opting for alcohol-free lifestyles.

3. Why is self-reflection important in this journey?

Self-reflection helps individuals understand their personal reasons for drinking, their triggers, and the emotions tied to alcohol consumption. This awareness can lead to more mindful drinking choices.

4. Is it essential to quit alcohol altogether?

Not necessarily! The sober curious path is about exploration without judgment. Some might choose total abstinence, while others might opt for mindful drinking or occasional consumption. It's about finding what aligns with your personal well-being.

5. How can I start my sober curious journey without feeling overwhelmed?

Consider starting slowly. Designate alcohol-free days, discover non-alcoholic beverages you enjoy, set boundaries for triggering situations, and always celebrate your small victories.

6. Why is finding a community or "tribe" beneficial?

Having a like-minded community provides support, shared experiences, and accountability. Being part of a group can make the journey more enjoyable and less isolating.

7. Are there any recommended reads or listens for those exploring the sober curious lifestyle?

Absolutely! Books like This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker provide great insights. Podcasts such as The Sober Curious and Edit Podcast also offer valuable conversations around the topic.

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