Sober Curious: An Excerpt

When I first got Sober Curious, one persistent question kept blinking into view, like a lighthouse on a stormy night:

Would life be better without alcohol?

This inquiry began as a conversation with my body before the words fully crystallized in my mind. On Sundays when my head hurt from the drinking. And not just my head, but the contents of my head. When my gut roiled, my tongue was furry with forgotten words, and even my hair felt hungover, greasy and crispy dry at the same time. Smelling of cigarettes and sour breath. Sometimes, on days like these, it felt like there was a hollow where my heart was supposed to be.

Another similar question had also been stalking me, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays, spent mainly, when I wasn’t buckling under the stress of what had been my dream job, counting the hours until the weekend:

Is this really all there is?

Back then, I thought of myself as a moderate to heavy social drinker. Meaning I drank no more than most of the people I did my drinking with, and never (except on vacation) more than two nights in a row. But still far surpassing standard government guidelines as to what was “healthy.” Seven units a week? I’m pretty sure I burned through those with a couple of cheeky midweek pints of Stella.

It’s impossible to pinpoint the precise moment these questions first began to demand answers. My memory is also fuzzy (funny that) about the circumstances leading to it. Was it something dramatic, like the time I fell, drunk, my friend and I each squished into a leg of an adult onesie, and bashed a bloody hole in my head? When instead of asking to be taken to the ER, I insisted that the best medicine would be a chunky slug of single malt whiskey? Or was it more mundane? One murky Monday morning too many hauling my woes to work like a sack of mildewed green potatoes. Since most of my Mondays used to feel that way, it’s very hard to say.

But whenever it was, these first questions soon led to other questions. As if they’d all been hanging around, like reporters outside a court of law, waiting for the first to get my attention so they could have their turn.

Would I be happier without booze? More productive? Would I feel more confident? What would it be like to never have to face another deadline half hungover? Would I be thinner if I didn’t drink? Look younger? Would I have less sex? More sex? Would the sex be better? Would I have anything to talk about at parties?

Where would the glamour go? Would people think I was boring? Exactly how boring would I/life become?

Since you’ve picked up this book, I suspect these lines of inquiry may be familiar to you, too. No? Then how about these:

Why is alcohol so . . . everywhere? How come I feel like an outsider, a weirdo, sometimes a problem, if I say I don’t drink? Why do I sometimes lie about why I’m not drinking? Where do I go to socialize without booze? How do I kick it with people who do drink if I’m not?

If you drink like I used to, maybe you’ve even been confronted with the big one: Does the fact I’m asking all these questions make me . . . an alcoholic?

I need to state up front that I am not a doctor, a brain scientist, or an addiction expert, and so it’s really not for me to diagnose your personal drinking habits. But whichever sorry Sunday or miserable Monday the questioning first began for me, it soon lit the touch-paper on a radical reevaluation of my relationship to booze—an experiment that has expanded up and out to touch every part of my life, and which has meant I’ve spent most of the past decade seeking answers to these questions, and more.

Doing so has completely changed the way I drink and the way I think about drinking. Has shifted my entire perspective on the ways in which we drink, and the role alcohol plays in our relationships, our creativity, our happiness, and our society. As a result, I’ve also created a life for myself that is so exhilarating and rewarding, sometimes it feels like coming close to what they call having it all.

I have termed this questioning as getting Sober Curious.

Find out about Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious program at Kripalu.

From SOBER CURIOUS: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. Copyright © 2018 by Ruby Warrington. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Ruby Warrington is an author, cultural commentator, and book doula. Her latest book is Women Without Kids: The Revolutionary Rise of an Unsung Sisterhood.

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