SOCIOLOGY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Are you changing because you have to or because you want to? Many people receiving treatment at CeDAR experience compulsive, harmful drinking. The inability to manage any alcohol intake presents them with a binary choice: recover and remain abstinent or continue drinking and experience worsened health problems.
There are also many people who start to sense their drinking as hurtful or unhealthy and start to make changes. This harm might be from too many hangovers or concerns about the long-term consequences of too much alcohol.
Recent articles across the United States have discussed the culture of sobriety or minimal drinking. These include the following:
- NY Times “The New Sobriety” link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/style/sober-curious.html
- NPR “Breaking the Booze Habit, Even Briefly, Has its Benefits” link: https://apple.news/AzZYvhjI8SHuG6dGPPgYvuw
Each of these articles analyzes people who are choosing to cut back their alcohol intake out of health and wellness concerns. A newly cited phrase in these articles is that of being “sober curious.” While not entirely committing to complete abstinence, a sober curious person is seeking to experience friendships and culture, at times, without the presence of alcohol.
One article cites British research studies which showed how some health markers improve in a person after a month of abstinence from alcohol. These include:
- improved sleep
- weight loss
- liver healing.
After just a single month of abstinence, the body was thankful!
The other article explores the new wave of bars and entertainment venues hosting alcohol-free nights. Although this might sound strange (“Huh…Go to a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol?”), the increasing popularity of such events is a positive sign, for both those looking to cut back and for those who already abstain.
A Culture of Wellness
Some of these trends may involve the ever-increasing culture of wellness in America. It seems counter-intuitive to eat organic food and spend an hour at the gym, only to lose those health benefits at the bar. Taking a closer look at alcohol intake seems very reasonable, especially in the areas of weight loss and daily energy.
For someone who maintains reasonable control over alcohol but is still drinking too much, cutting back might be successful. It is important to remember that this often is not feasible for our patients at CeDAR. Moderate drinking might be someone’s goal, but it likely is out of reach despite the best of intentions!
Heavy Drinking and Alcoholism are Different
There is a profound distinction between alcoholism and heavy drinking. For someone who has compulsive drinking patterns, being sober curious will probably not work. They instead need to accept that any alcohol is too much, leading to consequences and loss of control.
Understanding the health effects of alcohol as well as the emotional and cultural layers can help people refine their personal choices. This might be someone who wants to have a “sober January” or socialize at times without booze. This might be someone who has accepted that any amount of alcohol is too much for them.
Cultural flexibility is overall positive, helping people live a life of wellness with or without an alcoholic drink.