The "Sober Curious Movement" (And How I Accidentally Became a Part of It)

Blogger and multi-media queen Lizzy Fay (Instagram here) posted a snippet from the Tribune today about the Sober Curious Movement, which is probably the absolute dumbest name I’ve ever heard for just going out and not buying a drink, but what do I know? Anyway, my distaste for the name aside, this is something I chatted about at the beginning of the year on my Instagram. Drinking out has just gotten too pricey for what it is, and I’m not young and able to bounce back like I did in college.

In December, I started to think back on my Chicago drinking experiences--they were all trash. They cost me a TON of cash, I felt like trash as soon as I left the company of my friends, and it left my stomach a mess for days. My first St. Patrick’s Day in the city was a shit show—I had my wallet stolen and passed out on the floor of my closet with my shower running for THREE HOURS. God what a mess.


But then I thought back to my recent outings. I had the most fun I’ve ever had at a Christmas party by having ONE glass of champagne for the toast and then slamming Shirley Temples all evening. I had a blast at a work all-hands meeting having one glass of white wine and ginger ale the rest of the evening. I had one Tequila Sunrise at a winter party for work and still had a blast with coworkers. I had a Pepsi at the House of Blues and only spent $4, then went to Bar Louie next door and shared some apps with a friend for $18 total. I started thinking “why the hell do I drink?”


And with the exception of “fruity cocktails on vacation are fun” I couldn’t come up with an answer.


So I decided quietly that I just wouldn’t drink except for special occasions, and when I drink on those I would limit myself to one drink. I didn’t say a word about it until late February, when I had spoken to several people who had made a similar choice. Then I made a quick Instagram story about it, let people know they weren’t alone doing it, and moved on.


I chatted with a couple of friends about it recently. One was like “hell yeah me too” and the other said “but why though?” And those are basically the only two responses I’ve gotten. People don’t usually just let it go if they enjoy going out, and that made me realize that the ONLY reason I’ve been drinking in Chicago is because of other people’s expectations.


Growing up, there wasn’t alcohol in the house. My parents don’t like beer, mom kind of likes wine but only really sweet wine, and it just wasn’t something that mattered. My mom’s side of the family has a long-standing tradition of a yearly Golf Outing Reunion, and I saw alcohol there a lot, so it wasn’t like I was sheltered or something. My friends didn’t drink, my parents didn’t drink, and I didn’t drink. In my small town, underage drinking wasn’t like it is up here in the wealthy suburbs—underage drinking here was done by the “redneck and proud” kids more than anything else. The same kids who hated school, never participated, and just wanted to grow up and do something easy. It wasn’t “cool” to drink and there weren’t rich kid designer drugs around—there, it was heroin or meth pretty much exclusively. Intoxication wasn’t part of my life then, and wouldn’t be until college.


Even in college, I was usually the sober friend. I had a car so I could drive friends and sorority sisters to bars (this is the days pre-Uber, when frat’s would send pledges to drive but that was it). I partied some, but I would get tipsy and start ordering water. I didn’t experience my first hangover until SENIOR YEAR.


Here’s the weird thing: in college, when I would say “I don’t feel like drinking tonight” or “one is plenty tonight” my friends would say “okay cool!” and move on with their night. But when I moved to Chicago, that attitude changed. There was more peer pressure than college, not less. When I said I just wanted a Pepsi up here, friends would ask “but why? We’re at a bar!” My two most recent boyfriends were pushy about it. One said to me (shortly after we decided to take a break, but were trying to reconcile) when I didn’t want to drink in the 90 degree heat at Lollapalooza, “This is why we broke up. You’re no fun. You’re a killjoy.” It stung. I was dancing, laughing, singing to bands, running around just like everyone else. Why was not drinking the issue?


Now, at 28, I realize it’s because some people feel uncomfortable or like I’m guilting them for drinking, when I don’t drink. That’s not the case. It’s weird that people think I care enough about their individual habits to guilt them for a perfectly normal adult activity. That’s not why I’m not drinking. I care about ME, that’s why I’m not drinking.


I would rather spend my money on a fitness class, shoes, purses, my Disney trip…a billion other things, than a drink. One drink is about the same as splurging on an Uber/Lyft from SALT to my apartment. I’d rather have the ride home after class. One drink usually means I start having Charlie horses in my calves while I sleep, and an upset stomach in the morning. I’d rather sleep soundly. It has literally nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how I feel and the money I have.


So in conclusion to this rambly AF post, you do you. You want to drink? Cool. You don’t? Cool. I want to be sober all year but have some fun unique cocktails with my mom in Disney World? Awesome. You want to party every weekend? Great! I literally don’t give a f*ck. I don’t want any of my friends to feel like I’m guilting them, because I’m not. It’s a choice for me and my wallet and my body. Don’t let your sober friends make you feel weird, and sober people don’t let your drunk friends get pushy, and if they do, ask them why and see if you can ease their minds about it.


Wow what a word vomit mess this is. Oh well, I stand by it.