Updated: Mar 15
I've realised that I use the term sober curious quite often in my posts. I haven't explained what it means.
‘A Sober Curious person is someone that is questioning their drinking habits’
I hadn't heard of it either until 6 months ago when I was already 18 months sober. I didn't know that there were others like me. Others that questioned.
I was in my local book shop mooching along the aisles trying to find something, anything about addiction. I asked the lady at the counter in a quiet voice,
'Do you have any books on alcoholism?'
'I'm sorry I can’t hear you... what's was that? botulism?'
'Er, no ALCOHOLISM, you know... people that drink too much' I said far too loudly.
I felt heads turn my way and saw eyes appear over the top of open books.
'Oh, sorry yes, come with me'
I followed her to the back of the shop to the self-help section.
'Have a look here' she pointed to The 12 steps and a book about brewing your own beer.
'Thanks, I'll have a browse'
As she walked away I imagined what was going on in her brain,
‘That woman has a baby in a pram and is looking for books about alcoholism. How awful’
She probably thought what a terrible person I was. The scenarios swilling around in her head would have been if rock bottom moments. Me, drunk in charge of a little one whilst lying in a pool of sick. Lowest of the low situations. She probably wanted to call a help line or ask me politely to leave.
I wanted to grab her and pull her back and explain that I wasn't like that. My sort of drinking wasn't like that. I felt the need to justify myself to her. I didn't - I let her go and left her with her thoughts. I sat down cross legged next to the row of books about booze. As I pushed one book onto the other they made a thump sound. I rejected each one based on title.
Giving up Alcohol with the Help of God
God gave wine
And something called Spirit Junkie.
I’m sure they were all good reads and had their place in the recovery book market but they weren’t for me. I’m not spiritual and I don’t believe in God. I believe in science and I have a very sapien gait.
I kept flicking through and was annoyed when nothing jumped off the shelf. Giving up drinking can be a lonely time and on the floor of the bookshop with my pram looming over me, I felt like there was no one out there like me.
I got to my feet and was heading to the door when a gentle hand landed on my forearm.
It was the girl from the counter.
‘Have you read this?’
It was a book called Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington.
‘I used to drink too much’ the girl said.
‘I read this, and it helped me understand my habits’
I instantly felt awful, she hadn’t been judging me earlier, she was concerned. I took the book from her hands and thanked her. Our eyes met briefly, and it was clear that this moment was special. I felt a warmth, a knowing, pass between us. It felt nice.
I turned the book over and read the back. I was shocked. It could have been me. This woman was me. She was questioning her drinking habits. She knew she could be better - without alcohol. I was inspired.
I bought it and felt happy as I slid the brown paper bag under the pram.
I devoured the book over the weekend and, for the first time felt that I wasn’t alone.
After I finished it, I decided to have a search online to see if there were others? Other middle-aged women desperate for change.
Within 5 seconds I found a plethora of articles on sober curiosity. I found sober social groups and chat rooms and blogs. It was endless. There were hundreds, thousands of women like me. All struggling with anxiety after drinking, all feeling guilty and yearning for something else.
A sober curious community was within my reach. I was excited. I soaked it up quicker than a jug of Pimms. Every article I read made me feel more secure. I had validation. I knew I was doing the right thing. All of these amazing people were getting sober… There’s a whole band of us, a tribe. Everyone of their articles had a place in my heart. Stories of love and recovery.
I found an article in The Guardian in which Ruby Warrington described a sober curious person’s mindset,
“It’s a questioning mindset to every drinking situation. Rather than go along with the dominant drinking culture”.
“There’s this idea that you’re either a problem drinker or an alcoholic, or a normal drinker who has no issues with alcohol. More and more we’re seeing there are shades of grey when it comes to dependence on alcohol,”
I was lost in that shade of grey for years. Too drunk to realise I had a problem. But not drunk enough to deserve intervention. I realised then that too many people had been slipping through the cracks. Stuck in the pub with a huge glass of wine hating every minute of it. I wanted to help them, somehow be part of this community and share my own story.
I was sober curious just like all these other inspiring women. I wanted better for my life than a quick shag and sloppy conversation. I wanted to connect.
The sense of relief was overwhelming.. I was one of many.
I finished my book on my ownfuck-upery 6 months before finding this tee total army. I didn’t know there was a word explaining what I was. I’d written my book alone in my office believing there was nobody but me. Then a whole new world opened up.
So, now, when I’m feeling sad or alone, tapping away at my desk with a warm coffee next to me, I simply click and be amongst words and people that heal me. It’s wonderful.
There are so many great reads out there. Just google ‘sober curious’ to find books and events near you.
My book still needs some work. It’s finished but it’s a bit shit, it’s there, sitting on my bedside table getting dusty. Kids, jobs and strange Chinese viruses are getting in the way of me fixing it…But one day I aspire to be amid those amazing writers, those brave women that tell their stories. One day.
oh, and I keep meaning to pop back in to that book shop and thank that girl. I will. I promise.
Pic - Why? thats my why.