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From a public health perspective

The Sober Curious Movement

What does it mean to be ‘sober curious’?

The sober curious movement, coined by author Ruby Warrington in 2018, aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding sobriety by encouraging and promoting mindful drinking. To be ‘sober curious’ you therefore don’t necessarily have to be considering the permanent and imminent removal of alcohol from your life, but instead, be in a state of active self-reflection regarding when, where, who with, and under what circumstances, you engage in drinking.

Could we not all benefit from being ‘sober curious’ then?

Well, yes, I guess we could!

Purposefully and consciously reflecting on your relationship with alcohol can only be a good thing. For some, it may help identify and unearth some damaging drinking patterns, whereas for others, it may instead provide them with confidence in their ability to enjoy alcohol free of pressure, dependency, and addiction.

Dismantling the stigma

In a society where regular and excessive alcohol consumption is woven into the fabric of everyday life, it can be hard to explore and trial alcohol-free living without feeling judged, ridiculed, or like you’re missing out on a key aspect of social life. Whether you’re attending a wedding, a graduation, or just a Saturday night dinner with friends, alcohol will likely be present and pertinent, making broaching the subject and setting boundaries highly challenging.

The sober curious movement has highlighted and expanded the conversation surrounding sobriety within many spaces where it was previously untouched. It has provided a safe platform for open and transparent discussion and has empowered many people to exercise autonomy over their alcohol consumption patterns in the face of opposing societal pressures and expectations.

So, now we have an understanding of the movement and what it means to be sober curious, how can we put this into practice?

Some questions to get the ball rolling…

It can be hard to know where to start, so here are a few key questions to activate those curious brain juices and promote self-reflection. It might be beneficial to grab a pen and paper here to note down some of your answers!

  • How do you feel before, during and after drinking?

  • Do you ever feel pressured to drink? If so, how does this make you feel?

  •  How would you feel if you were to abstain from drinking in an environment where those around you were drinking?

  • Can you identify any patterns surrounding the contexts within which you drink?Consider your emotional state, the environment you’re in, the time of day and the people you’re surrounded by.

  • Does alcohol benefit your life? If so, how?

  • Does alcohol hinder your life? If so, how?

This condensed list of questions should hopefully help to assist you in reflecting on your relationship with alcohol and expose some insightful patterns. With this said, the next steps you choose to take are entirely up to you. Some may choose to explore the prospect of removing alcohol from their life entirely, while others may instead opt to maintain a state of active self-regulation and curiosity. There is no right or wrong here. All the sober curious movement encourages us to do is practice and maintain conscious reflection, in order to identify unhealthy drinking patterns and prevent them from arising.

So, let’s start making space for these conversations, reflecting on our relationship with alcohol, and work towards dismantling the stigma associated with leading an alcohol-free life.

If you’re struggling with any of the topics mentioned in this piece, or would like to educate yourself further on the support available in Aotearoa, here are some useful resources to help guide you in the right direction:

- Amohia Te Waiora:

- Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health:


Written by Martha Robinson




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