Two weeks ago, I began my sober curious journey. I knew I wasn’t addicted or dependent, but decided that it was time to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol. It had become just as much a part of my bedtime routine as taking off my makeup and moisturizing. I knew I could stop at any time, and I did frequently. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe my choices weren’t really serving me anymore.
I decided to take a harm reduction approach to alcohol. I’m not giving it up completely, but am instead setting boundaries around when I will choose to drink. For example, I am no longer drinking when I’m sad or overwhelmed. I only have a drink to celebrate happy occasions, like a birthday or a date night with my husband. I am also not drinking on week nights, full stop. If a special occasion happens to fall on a week night, I’ll be drinking Diet Coke. I’m happy with these constraints for now. Perhaps I’ll alter them down the road, but for now, they work really great.
It’s surprising that there have already been some substantial changes in the short two weeks since starting my sober curious journey. And since I know many people are watching this journey with some curiosity of their own, I’d like to share the positive changes I’ve seen so far.
#1. I’m sleeping better.
I really didn’t comprehend how badly alcohol was distorting my sleep. I thought I was sleeping well, but now that I am not drinking, I find myself waking up so much more rested than I was before. I feel like a fundamentally different person.
#2. My SSRI (anti-depressant/anti-anxiety med) is working!
About a year ago, my SSRI seemed to hit a plateau. It just wasn’t working like it used to. I guess unsurprisingly, this change happened to coincide perfectly with the time that I began drinking a lot more regularly than I had before. After two weeks of majorly pulling back on my drinking, I feel my anxiety finally taking a back seat again.
#3. I’m drinking less coffee.
Directly related to points 1 and 2, I am finding that when I am well-rested and un-stressed, I need less coffee!
#4. I’m so much more patient with my kids.
You’d probably not be surprised to know that between sleeping better and having my anxiety meds actually doing their job, I’m becoming a much better parent. I am more patient, more understanding, less likely to get overwhelmed. I can even see in how my kids respond to me that they can tell the difference, too, which is a bittersweet feeling.
#5. I’m getting back in touch with my coping skills.
When you get used to turning to alcohol to cope with your big feelings, it’s easy to forget that you actually know how to cope with those feelings without it. Several times over the last two weeks, I’ve had a bad moment or a bad day that left me wishing I could numb the pain with a glass of wine. But in sitting in that discomfort, I realized that I am perfectly capable of handling my big feelings.
#6. Alcohol is something I can look forward to.
It’s a bad feeling when you start to experience dread and shame for having a glass of wine in your hand. I had reached that point. I was beginning to wonder if my husband thought maybe I had a problem and wasn’t telling me. I was feeling self-conscious about it, and that was a sign that it was time to do something. Now, I don’t have shame when I drink. It’s something I do because it’s a special occasion, and that’s it.
#7. I have learned how welcoming the sober community is, and how defensive the #winemom community can be.
Here’s your obligatory not all wine moms. But seriously, a lot of them. I’ve learned that there are many people who don’t like for you to talk about your sober curious journey. They take your personal convictions for your own life as somehow an indictment against theirs, and they can get a little prickly about that. But in contrast, I’ve met so many wonderful, positive and encouraging people from the sober community who are cheering me on and helping me stay focused on my goals. That’s truly been one of my favorite parts of this journey!
If you’re considering starting a sober curious journey, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. The great thing about it is that you can make up your own rules. Maybe you want to try complete abstinence, or maybe you just want to cut down a bit. Whatever is on your mind, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try! There could be a whole new world waiting for you on the other side.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.