Published on January 24th, 2020 | by Deb Wolf0
Current prEvents — January 24, 2020 — The Times Argus
By AMELIA SHERMAN
Ah, January. The New Year is still fresh on our minds, and the air is swirling with flurries of resolutions that intermingle with fluffy flakes of snow.
One popular resolution this year is committing to a Dry January. As straightforward as it sounds, Dry January means taking a 31-day break from alcohol beginning with the first day of the New Year. Dry January is one of many month-long themed challenges that have achieved popularity in recent years, such as Inktober, when artists commit to making an ink drawing on each day of October, or Movember, when people who are able to grow facial hair sport a moustache during all of November.
While it runs the risk of getting lumped in with the various fad-like challenges that abound these days, Dry January marks an important turning point in popular opinions surrounding sobriety. It’s also a part of the growing “Sober Curious” movement—a new cultural phenomenon in which people, who may not necessarily identify as alcohol dependent, experiment with living a sober lifestyle. Type the phrase “Sober Curious” into any search engine, and you’ll be inundated with books, articles, and social media influencers who espouse the benefits of exploring sobriety as an opportunity to learn about oneself and improve one’s own physical and mental health.
Melissa Story, Director of Training and Leadership at Recovery Vermont, is excited about the Sober Curious movement; “These kinds of conversations are what help reduce the stigma around recovery. . . Just a few years ago, people weren’t even thinking about these topics. With rise of the opiate crisis, it’s getting people’s wheels spinning about recovery, being sober, and changing their lifestyle.” Story recently co-facilitated a conversation with the public about the pros and cons of the Sober Curious movement as part of a recurring event hosted by Recovery Vermont called The Recovery Collective. The Recovery Collective meets monthly to discuss different recovery-related topics and is free and open to the public. More information regarding The Recovery Collective can be found at https://recoveryvermont.org/events/.
Story adds that the Sober Curious movement can be a catalyst for individuals to glean a deeper understanding of their own relationship with alcohol; “It’s about self-awareness . . . It asks you to pause and make note of the decisions you’re making.”
That newfound self-awareness can have a powerful impact. A 2018 study from the University of Sussex showed overwhelmingly positive effects on the lives of individuals who participated in a Dry January. Among those results, some of the most uplifting findings included that 93% of participants experienced a sense of achievement; 88% saved money; 76% learned more about when and why they drink; 71% slept better; 67% had more energy; and 58% lost weight.
Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, has summed up the experiment nicely; “Put simply, Dry January can change lives. We hear every day from people who took charge of their drinking using Dry January, and who feel healthier and happier as a result. The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize. That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.”
Tangible impacts of the Sober Curious movement can be found in Vermont. Deli 126, a popular eatery and music venue in Burlington, offers a “Temperance Menu” which features non-alcoholic mixed drinks, or “mocktails,” for people who want to enjoy an evening out without becoming intoxicated. In February 2019, a restaurant in Burlington called The Great Northern hosted a Sober Dinner with an array of mocktail options to honor those living in sobriety.
Why is the Sober Curious movement important? Laura McKowen, author of We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life, described the stigma she faced in recovery before sober curiosity entered the public sphere; “Sobriety was for people with A Problem, and it was handled elsewhere. Quietly. Without ruining the party.” Fortunately, this dynamic is changing. Reducing the shame and secrecy surrounding sobriety makes lifestyle changes less isolating and more attainable for those in recovery as well as those dabbling in a dry lifestyle.
Whether Sober Curious, Sober Serious, or not sober at all, the self-awareness and reflection promoted by this movement are excellent stepping stones to a meaningful 2020.
Amelia Sherman is the Youth Resiliency Educator with Central Vermont New Directions Coalition and a freelance writer located in Montpelier.
Resources in Washington County, VT:
Treatment Associates (802) 225-8355; Central Vermont Addiction Medicine (802) 223-2003; Central Vermont Substance Abuse Services (802) 223-4156; Washington County Youth Service Bureau (802) 229-9151; Central VT Treatment Partners (802) 371-4875.
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Current PrEvents is produced by Central Vermont New Directions Coalition as part of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant from the Vermont Department of Health. View archived editions of Current PrEvents at cvndc.org