Every start of a new year, many people set goals with most of them resolving to quit or try and curb their drinking habits. This is termed as Dry January– the name for when people refrain from drinking any alcohol as a personal challenge. But the push for sobriety is gaining momentum and there is a month to reinforce it: Sober September.
Sober September is all about a month-long challenge for folks who want to revamp or take a break from their relationship with alcohol. The choice not imbibe coincides with the National Recovery Month, which is considered as month of renewed energy.
Sober September may have been born out of people’s attempts to have a calmer month in between all that hype and torture experienced throughout the year. And with September’s back-to-school feel, some people take it as a time to detox from alcohol as well.
However, some credit can also be given to our friends across the pond — since England-based charity Cancer Research UK was credited with creating Sober September back in 2016. Either way, #soberseptember is spreading quickly on social media and becoming the new “Dry January” in no time.
Although the media coverage of the sobriety “trend” can be somewhat annoying to those of us in recovery and being a “sober tourist” can be sometimes problematic, it’s hard not to applaud anyone who is interested in taking a hard look at their drinking and stopping, even if just for a short time.
With the undeniable harms of alcohol, anyone who wants to take a step back from boozing is welcome in the sober club.
Recently, a study published in The Lancet concluded that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink. Beyond that, the CDC reports that the short-term health risks of excessive drinking include things such as injuries, violence, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, and miscarriage or stillbirth. They also list long-term effects to be many chronic diseases and other serious conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, certain cancers, learning and memory problems, mental health issues, social problems, and of course alcohol use disorder.
Of course, those are all terrifying statistics if you’re looking to completely change (and let go of) your relationship to alcohol. But what are the benefits of doing something like the 30-day alcohol-free challenge of Sober September? Well, there are several.
First, think about the real reasons why you are sober curious. Are you hoping to get better sleep this month? Are you wondering what your body will feel like after no booze? Are you wanting to avoid hangovers after a summer of a bit too much excess? Are you wondering if your drinking may be going too far and you want to calm it down a bit? Either way, figure out your “why” before plunging into the Sober September trend. Then, get a notebook and keep track of how you feel, including cravings and moods, every day of the month.
Second, read up on what a sober month might entail. This won’t be all easy-peasy for you because it’s not always simple to be the only sober person in the room, so you might want to make sober friends or even find a sober date. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a sober bar, you can try that too — but I also highly recommend that you try some fun, sober activities with friends, too.
And last but not least, learn a bit about what recovery is actually about. Go to an open recovery meeting or check out an online sober community, talk to people about why they quit drinking, consider what it means to be a gray area drinker, recognize that you don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to stop permanently, and connect with others who are sober this month as well as those who are in recovery. There is always something that you can learn from people who have been there before.
And whether or not you decide to make Sober September a permanent fixture on your yearly calendar, a one-time experiment, or a lifelong journey into recovery, be sure that you’re open to wherever this journey takes you — the good, the bad, and the undoubtedly ugly crying that so often happens to us in early recovery. Or, at least, in early alcohol-free trials.