Sober Curious: Why Are So Many Young People Giving up Alcohol?

Despite more active social lives, are more young people giving up drinking to prioritise their health?

4 min read

A recent study said that women who completely give up alcohol have better mental health.

The results, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal proved a diminishing link between women drinking and their mental well-being. The study also claimed that moderating your drinking isn’t enough, to reap the benefits you must go full cold turkey and put the bottle down for good.

While this all makes intuitive sense, I felt reactant to follow through.

We have little pleasures, and alcohol is one of them. But could more young people, keen to foray into the wild world of wellness, disagree with me?

FIT spoke to a few young Indians who are giving up their buzz – not because they are in recovery, but to pro-actively care for their health. Let’s decode the ‘sober curious.’


The Not so Wild World of the ‘Sober Curious’

Sobriety – a word typically linked to addiction and recovery, has now slid into the wellness arena.

In late 2018, American author Ruby Warrington came out with a book called Sober Curious which gave rise to the term and explained that giving up alcohol would lead to increased overall health and well-being.

And thus began a slow but steady movement with people giving up the rum.

The sober curious, presumably a person walking around with a halo on their head for resisting temptation, is finding company among many young people aboard the wellness wave.

FIT spoke to a few of these people,

  • Fawzia Khan, 24, Photographer and
  • Abhishek Ranjan, 22, Multimedia producer

Fawzia told FIT that her venture into giving up alcohol did not happen with a bang, but was more of a gradual realisation that her life was better and healthier without drinking.

It wasn’t that conscious of a decision. The drinks became few and far between and one day I realised that I hadn’t had alcohol for over a month and it seemed like a good time to just do away with it all together.
Fawzia Khan

Abhishek, on the other hand, was pro-actively looking out for his health, and said “It was slowly becoming a routine. I would go out with friends, drink and next day get a hangover.. I wouldn't feel active through the day and would eat carbs to get over it. Besides, it harmed my body in other ways as uric acid levels and blood pressure increases.”

I decided to put an end to it to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Abhishek Ranjan

On the health benefits, Fawzia says, “It’s been beneficial for both my physical and mental health - mental especially. There were so many drunk nights after which I would wake up so stressed about what had gone down. Physically I’m not as sick as I used to be before and I’ve got more stamina to work out and be stronger.”

Does this affect your social life? Not if you have understanding friends it seems.

At times my friend insist that I join them for a drink. But with time, I have learnt to say no politely and still enjoy everything. 
Abhishek Ranjan

“When I first started telling people they were shocked,” said Fawzia. People complimented her on the tough move, but she adds, “It’s really not that hard, I don’t miss it. People would pester me to drink but I would be cool with a soda and now so are they.”

Most importantly, she adds, “ I enjoy myself sober a lot more.”


Does Co-Opting the Term Strip it Off its Very Serious Meaning?

Just last year, WHO published a report on global alcohol consumption which found that between 2005-2016 in India, consumption doubled from 2.4 liters to 5.7.

So, the emergence of a sober curious movement is one that is both heartening and surprising as younger people generally have a more active social life which is code for free-flowing booze.

Now, I’ve known and had addicts around me and personally, the term sober hung heavy with tough, quiet moments.

Sobriety was a word seeped in trauma, deep introspection and re-building– all done away from the spotlight, in an almost sombre space. Anonymously.

But given the popularity of going sober without being an addict, I was curious to explore my own relationship with the word.

A site called Sober Bitch, run by Beth Holden, a 21-year-old former addict, paved the way.

She wrote a nuanced, open post about being misquoted in an article about sobriety and wellness and declared,

We are absolutely allowed to still go out and have fun in whatever way we want and can safely do. I want young people to know it is possible to still go out late and have fun while sober. 

Reveling in your sobriety, that audacious, empowering notion, stuck with me. It said that you can be on the road to recovery and still have fun. It stripped away the heavy shroud of seriousness from the term, that mixed with shame and victimhood could often drag you down.

The way I see it now is this – sobriety may be a complex term, but the rising popularing of ‘being sober' can only be a positive, only if it will make people introspect on their relationship with the bottle.

I still am wary of cutesy terms like ‘sober curious’ or ‘wellness drinking’ but as far as fads go, I’m hopeful that this won’t minimise the seriousness of alcoholism and addiction as a disease, but will instead spark conversations on sobriety and drinking among more people.

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