Why People are taking an Interest in Sobriety

The ‘sober curious’ movement has been around for several years, but as lockdown life looms large, it’s having a moment in Australia

During the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, alcohol sales jumped 26.5%. Australians started drinking daily as a way to cope with the uncertainty of a worldwide health crisis.

However, even outside of the first lockdown, alcohol has always been a part of Australian culture (like most parts of the western world). Those who dare not to drink as treated as “others” in social environments and constantly asked, “why are you sober?”

“Probably one of the biggest disincentives for people drinking less is the idea of being perceived in a certain way by friends and family. No one wants to be labelled the person that’s not fun, that you’re somehow a killjoy. It’s also how drinking becomes the foundation for many of our relationships. When people start dating, when they make friends, often drinking is part of how those bonds are forged, so not drinking viewed as opting out of that shared experience. It is quite hard to resist that without feeling like you become the outlier in the group, which nobody wants to be. It’s not an alcohol thing; any situation where everybody is participating on something, and you are the person who is not, is othering. But drinking is one version of this that comes up all the time. So, there is a huge amount of pressure to conform.”

However, some people are starting to break away from this classic social mould. After lockdown, the sale of low alcohol and no alcohol options skyrocketed. This breakaway from drinking culture is known as the sober curious movement, a shift towards better health and wellbeing. The central tenant of this – you do not need to be an alcoholic to have a destructive relationship with drinking.

It doesn’t mean it has to be all or nothing. Completely cutting out alcohol of your life may not be the goal. The sober curious movement is about being more mindful of your drinking habits and being aware of the benefits on cutting back.

This is not a new movement. However, it is going popularity in Australia, especially in Sydney were lock out laws diminished interest in late night antics. Even with the removal of this legislation, late night partying has never fully returned to its once popular status.

Lockdown has given the sober movement even more momentum. Rachel says, “It’s a very different psychological climate to the last lockdown, where there was this real doomsday uncertainty culture. None of us knew what was going to happen, so our responses to that situation were heavily fear based. People got into the habit of saying, ‘Stuff it, I’ll do whatever. Let’s through caution to the wind.’ This time, I think people feel more angry than fearful, which means they are more energised to retain more control over their choices. A lot of my clients are most concerned about not coming out of lockdown feeling terrible like last time, and for most of them that was driven by poor diet and alcohol intake.”

You may be thinking this is the end of the alcohol industry, but many industrial and boutique distilleries at looking at making zero alcohol options, which could be an amazingly profitable opportunity for businesses. For example, in 2020 Seadrift opened its door, the first non-alcohol dedicated distillery in Australia. And they’re not the only ones. With more and more options entering mainstream stores, this is showing Australia that sobriety is no longer an odd choice for people but a socially expected practice that many are taking up.

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