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Sober Curious vs. Alcohol Dependent: Everything You Should Know

Millennial Magazine - alcohol dependent

Alcohol consumption skyrocketed throughout the pandemic due to several factors. Initially, many people viewed the first lockdown as a pseudo vacation— a “let’s make the best of a bad situation” thing. Then, two weeks slowly became two years.

With mass layoffs, mental health struggles, riots, and wars, it’s no wonder that many people have found their relationship with alcohol (seemingly) permanently altered. 

Enter the sober curiosity movement. What is it? How does it vary from being alcohol dependent, and how do you know if your relationship with alcohol is an addiction? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Sober Curiosity?

Sober curiosity is a rising movement, particularly among the millennial generation, that promotes experimenting with sobriety. People are concerned about their relationship with alcohol or notice the negative impact their consumption has on their goals. As such, they try to give up alcohol.

It’s important to understand that the sober curious don’t consider themselves addicted and typically don’t search “aa meeting near me” as a starting point. These people aren’t happy with how drinking and hangovers are impacting their lives and feel that quitting is the best option.

Many sober curious don’t give up drinking entirely. Instead, they give up drinking the majority of the time and use intention and mindfulness to decide when to have a drink or two— like during a special occasion. With this practice, the goal is to celebrate and participate rather than get drunk.

What is Alcohol Dependency?

Alcohol dependency is an addiction. The people experiencing alcohol dependency, a form of substance abuse, are unable to just quit or give it up. This experience goes beyond experiencing FOMO and being pressured by friends to participate in drinking events. Rather, alcohol dependency is a connection with the very act of drinking and the effect it has on the body.

People with alcohol dependency may similarly understand the negative impacts drinking has on their lives. However, their addiction precludes them from being able to make the change on their own. People facing substance abuse typically need support from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or rehabilitation to guide the psychological aspects of recovery. 

Signs of Alcohol Dependency

Many sober curious people often worry that they’re becoming dependent on alcohol or experiencing alcoholism. So, how do you know if you just need to re-evaluate your relationship with drinking or search “alcohol rehab near me” for professional support? Here are some key indicators.

It’s Impacting Your Finances

Drinking impacts everyone’s finances. Alcohol is expensive, and a bar tab goes up quickly. However, if your drinking is putting you into debt or putting your employment at risk, there’s a problem. Sober curious people may decide that their drinking is limiting them from reaching financial goals; people with an addiction can’t stop despite the financial impacts.

You Can’t Step Away

If you try to stop drinking but can’t stay away, it’s a sign of dependency. Similarly, if you find your thoughts consumed with alcohol when you’re not drinking, or you experience intense cravings, you’re likely battling addiction.

You Engage in Destructive Behavior

If your drinking is impacting your behavior or relationships, yet you continue to drink, there’s a problem. This aspect of substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with denial. If there’s a pattern of situations that damage your relationships or bring you shame, it’s time to get support.

What to do if You’re Sober Curious

If you’re sober curious, start by questioning what you have to gain by practicing sobriety. Create some goals that align with your sobriety, such as new fitness endeavors or engaging in non-alcohol-centric events. You can look up some fun mocktail recipes so you still feel included when participating in social events. Consider joining a sober curious community for more resources.

What to do if You’re Dependent on Alcohol

If you’re concerned about your dependency on alcohol or find yourself struggling to stop drinking, reach out for professional support. There’s no shame in admitting you need some guidance. Use a service like Alcoholics Anonymous to find a support option near you.

Alcohol dependency has become more prevalent in recent years, and many find themselves struggling to redefine their relationship with alcohol. By understanding your existing relationship and identifying your barriers, you can determine the best path for your health, finances, and relationships.

What do you think?

Written by Marni E. Goldberg

Marni E. Goldberg is a journalist covering the financial market and graduate of Wharton School of Business. She loves cooking, travelling in her spare time, and spending quality time with her family.

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