Book Review: Sober, Curious
I have been stalling on posting this review for the past few weeks - not because I didn’t like the book (I loved it!) - but because I wanted to accompany the review with some form of personal commitment and, as with everything in life it seems, the timing wasn’t right.
Yes, January has just departed and along with it up to 80% (apparently!) of the resolutions that welcomed in this not-so-new-anymore Year. I don’t believe this is the time for resolutions of any type, possibly the worst time of year in fact. January is when nature sleeps, nourishes and recharges and so should we. In my opinion the onset of Autumn or Spring is the time for intention seeking and setting (see here).
Sobriety is fast coming centre stage. From magazine editorials to almost daily newspaper articles and a growing number of sober friends, sobriety and the accompanying clear head, clear mind, improved sleep, clarity and so much more, tops the headlines. Read my recent article on Dry January in The Gloss magazine.
I have always loved Ruby Warrington’s writing from her days as feature editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine and have always felt kinship with her words. For many years she lived her dream, partying with celebrities and superstars over champagne and a zany, cocktail-fueled London lifestyle. She is sober now and lives in New York with her husband, where was quickly plunged into the growing spiritual mystical wellbeing scene. She saw a need for something that presented these subjects in a modern fresh way and about 2-3 years ago created The Numinous, the high-style digital magazine covering all aspects of spirituality in the modern age or ‘Now Age’ as she calls it (astrology, yoga, meditation etc.) to fill this void. [Mark my words - this to is coming centre stage, once again!].
“I always had a strong sense of the magical and the more I dabbled, the more alive, excited and curious I became – much like Alice In wonderland really,” she said. “At first, people rolled their eyes at my ‘woo woo’ website, but astrology is becoming more mainstream now. Club SÖDA NYC: an alcohol-free community for people to get together followed soon after. Her first book ‘Material Girl Mystical Girl’ recounting her journey to the Numinous and beyond was published in 2017.
Through the pages of her latest offering, Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol (Harper Collins) she tells us that from the age of 15 she was teaching her brain that she needed alcohol to function, which left her insecure in other areas of life. “I was drinking because everybody else was, because alcohol was always at the ready, presented as a tool to help us deal with life.” Sounds familiar?
However, unlike most recovery circles, Warrington’s story is not one of reaching rock bottom or the outcome of any major life event and she can’t remember exactly when she quit, nor does she count the days. ‘On Sundays’, she writes, ‘when my head hurt from drinking. And not just my head, but also the contents of my head. When my gut roiled, my tongue was furry with forgotten words, and even my hair felt hung-over, greasy and crispy dry at the same time. Smelling of cigarettes and sour breath. Sometimes on days like these, it felt there was a hollow where my heart was supposed to be.’ Once she realized that alcohol was holding her back, even when she was making so much progress in other areas of her life, the questioning started and her attitude to drinking changed. Considering the overall toxicity of alcohol, some physical and emotional benefits would be expected as the poisoning effects of the toxin wear off, but she was caught off guard by the “toasty warm sense of physical well-being” and sense of calm that began to become her new normal. “
I know that as alcohol has been such a big part of my own adult life, that the thoughts of living without it are terrifying. Over the past few years I have cut down hugely, mostly because my body just can’t take the affects any longer and seems to be crying out for me to stop! While my January wasn’t ‘Dry’ as such, I probably had no more than 12 drinks during the entire month (I wasn’t counting), so I know I don’t have a problem per say, but I too am curious about the reported clarity, focus, energy and of course…..clearer skin and sounder slumber. As Warrington writes: “As long as you still hold alcohol as something that brings you pleasure and joy, it will remain in your life. It is only when you retrain your brain to think of it as something that limits you, that real lasting benefits can be realized. If you really want to experience the energy connection and aliveness, then cut it out.”
She is adamant that rather than cutting it down or cutting it out for one month, an extended break of a minimum of 3 months to one year is needed for the body and brain to form new neural pathways. “Those pathways that led us to a drink are very deeply engrained and we need to rewrite these. From my experience saying I’m only going to drink at weekends or only drink 2 glasses, or however you try to moderate, will inevitably lead you back to drinking at some time.
From navigating those ‘Sober Firsts’, being the only nondrinker at the January book club or heading to the pub for a relaxing end-of-week drink, some practical tips are outlined to get us through potentially difficult situations: “Don’t make a big deal of not drinking,” she advises. “Offer to get that first round, so you can quietly buy a soft drink for yourself. Don’t lie about why you are not drinking either. Tell people it makes you feel like crap and see if that sparks a conversation. And most importantly, play it forward to the end of the night and the next morning by thinking about how great you will feel.” To me, this is key and has already helped me say NO many times.
From my research over the past year or so, it really does seem that our collective conscience is starting to slowly shift away from alcohol and having read many personal stories, not one is of regret - only that the change wasn’t made sooner. As Warrington adds, ‘‘the clarity that comes with cutting out booze can feel like something of a spiritual awakening, the renewed sense of optimism and being fully present with yourself as a fast track to connecting with yourself and the world around you.’ My timing is good too as there are more alcohol-free options available now with the advent of Kin (US only as yet) , SilkTree and others coming to the market imminently.
Onwards and upwards and here’s to my Dry February. Commitment made! ! Anyone care to join?