When I’m conscious about my intake, I’m nicer. Plain and simple.
This new mindset eschews sobriety’s traditional all-or-nothing mentality, allowing you to write your own definition of what sobriety means to you.
Some people abstain from drinking but tinker with psychedelics while others cut out the snortables and injectables but welcome a few drinking nights per month. Regardless of the substances involved, the sober curious movement is all about finding what works best for your health and lifestyle.
For me, this meant seeing what would happen if I cut my usage in half.
Going semi-sober gave me permission to create my own code of intoxication ethics and pay attention to what allowed me to unwind and still feel my best while ditching the labels.
I’m still figuring things out, but I’ve already found some perks along the way; here are four that surprised me.
I’m still a ways from being considered “casual user or drinker.” But even in my small efforts to moderate, time has expanded exponentially.
In my experience, time becomes liquid under the influence. That 6 p.m. glass of chardonnay can become a 6 a.m. cocaine binge real fast. Then, of course, the next day it hurts to even text. In total, that’s at least 36 hours for one night out.
When I calculated my more casual drinking hours before I cut back, I redid the simple multiplication over and over again because I couldn’t believe I was spending 35 hours of the working week partying or thinking about when I could start up again. It was a full-time job, sometimes remunerated by great memories, but most often paying in punishing mornings.
I used to think there were simply not enough hours in the day. But now, just by reducing my intake by half, there are beautiful, spacious pockets of time in my life. With my extra hours, I’m learning Chinese, reading, and able to fully realize my interests like I did when I was an unemployed, sober ten-year-old.
I used to bring myself up and need something else to bring myself down almost every day. Even though I was sleeping OK, I’d wake up agitated and completely devoid of natural energy.
Substance use can be disruptive to your sleeping patterns, brain, and just about every inch of your body. To process everything you’re consuming, your internal organs have to work overtime. When you don’t give them a break, you might be left feeling fatigued and foggy.
Plus, it turns out that not blacking out can do wonders for sharpening your memory.
Booze and poos really do not mix. Why? Frequent excessive drinking can damage your digestive tract and lead to malabsorption. That’s when your intestines aren’t able to digest all the nutrients in your food.
What’s worse? The dehydration from binge drinking and doing drugs cut with who-know-what can make for some pretty gnarly, rock-solid stools and painful bowel movements.
It’s the question most people ask themselves before exploring some level of sobriety: Will I still have a social life?
When I started moderating, against all expectations, I found my social life was better than ever.
When you hate yourself, it’s easier to hate on other people than to address your own demons. Even though I was a bit of a mess, I loved to point the finger at everyone else’s drinking and drugging. I used the law of relative inebriation to defend my habits. A bottle of wine and a baggie deep, I’d start gossiping about my friend who was blacked out in the corner. “Now that’s a real problem,” I would say.
When I’m conscious about my intake, I’m nicer. Plain and simple.
I gossip less. I don’t sleep with people I don’t like. I’m not an endless spout of stimulant-induced rants. I’m not waking up to three separate texts from unknown numbers saying “hey I’m the guy you kissed at the bar.”
As a bonus, with more time spent sober, I’m able to offer my full empathy and attention to my closest friends.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “If I gave my use an inch, it’d take a mile.” Semi-sobriety isn’t an option for everyone, and you shouldn’t attempt it if you’re in recovery for a substance use disorder.
Even if you don’t have a substance use disorder, the effort to decide where substances fit into your life can be more exhausting than liberating.
You might find your mind constantly preoccupied with questions surrounding drugs and alcohol:
- “How long until I can drink again?”
- “Can I go on a coke bender for my cousin’s bachelorette party?”
- “What occasions are appropriate to drink at? Birthday parties? Weddings? My Tuesday night TLC binge-watch?”
Try to be realistic (I know, easier said than done) and find that sweet spot between roasting yourself into a self-loathing rage and holding yourself accountable. If the whole process is causing stress, though, it’s worth following up with your primary healthcare professional or reaching out to a therapist.
You’ll also want to skip semi-sobriety if you’re in recovery for a substance use disorder and already sober. While cutting back on drugs and alcohol offers a host of benefits, reintroducing substances after a period of sobriety poses several health risks, including an increased chance of experiencing an overdose,
especiallyif you resume using opioids.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but these tips can help you start strong.
Set a clear goal
Making a clear goal is the cornerstone of successful change. Though you could go in with the vague goal of “consume less,” you might find it easier to have a clear objective in mind. It doesn’t have to be a big goal, either. Stick with a realistic, unmoving goal.
For added motivation, write it down or make it your phone background.
Identify your triggers
When you reach for a drink or start looking for a bump, think about what’s going on behind the scenes. What prompted that action? Were you feeling shy or self-conscious? Did an after-hours work email send you over the edge? Are you trying to avoid a difficult conversation?
If you aren’t sure what your triggers are, consider keeping a journal where you log what you’re feeling as soon as the desire comes up. Once you’ve logged a few situations, see if you can notice any patterns. Maybe it’s certain friends, having a bar cart at home, or experiencing certain sensations in your body.
Once you identify your triggers, you can cement some strategies to overcome them.
Get in touch with your motivation
Cutting back on alcohol and drugs can bring a lot of benefits, but it’s important to determine which ones matter most to you.
Take a few moments to write out your big “why,” alongside all the benefits you stand to reap by cutting back. Do you want to spend more time with loved ones? Improve your sleep? Tame your bowels?
Whatever your motivation is, keep it front of mind as a simple and authentic reminder you can go back to when temptation strikes. Make it a ritual to read this list daily or even multiple times a day.
Rethinking the role drugs and alcohol play in your life, but not quite ready to go fully sober? Semi-sobriety can be a helpful way to analyze the motivations behind your use and evaluate its impact on your physical and mental health.
But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t pan out. Semi-sobriety isn’t for everyone, especially those living with substance use disorders. If you’re finding it difficult to cut back, reach out to a trusted healthcare professional or therapist.
The following resources also offer free support:
Kiki Dy is a copywriter, essayist, and yoga instructor. When she is not working, she is probably shortening her life span in some fun-filled manner. You can contact her via Twitter, which she intends to use professionally despite her username.