Thoughts on Sobriety

A long-overdue catch up on all things sobriety and sober curiosity!
Wellness blogger Jessica Sturdy of Bows & Sequins shares about her sober curiosity and what she's realized from not drinking. Pictured is a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling rosé next to a bottle of red wine on a patio at sunset.

I can’t believe I haven’t written about experimenting with sobriety, or being sober curious, yet. I’ve shared a fair share on Instagram over the last fourteen months about my journey with doing periods of sobriety, or “sober stretches,” as I like to call them. (A few videos, along with a bunch of mocktails, are saved to this highlight.)

I’ve shared little tidbits on the blog (here, here, here, my Weekend in Milwaukee, and here), but I’ve been promising you guys a more in-depth post about sober curiosity.

First, let’s think about stretching for a minute… It’s something that’s a practice, right? Something that you have to be consistently mindful of. Your body feels better right after doing some stretching, but when compounded, you change your muscles and body over time.

Last January (of 2023), I had one of the worst hangovers of my life early in the month. (Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But surely, one of the worst hangovers of the last five years.) We were spending the night at a friend’s house, lots of our good friends were over, we stayed up way too late playing games and having fun, and I accidentally drank way too much since I wasn’t being mindful. We started off the evening with a few Aperol Spritzes, my friend made whiskey cocktails, I had multiple types of red wines, etc. Mixing much?? Since it was over the course of many, many hours, I wasn’t sick or blacked out by any means, but I felt like absolute dog shit the next day.

Experimenting with Sober Curiosity

Sober Curiosity was something that had been on my mind for a few years… Ever since the term ‘sober curious’ popped up in culture a few years ago,I’ve always had this little voice in the back of my head piquing my interest in the topic.

After that fateful hangover, I decided not to drink for a few weeks until we went to Santa Barbara. While I did drink wine on that trip, I definitely tried to be mindful of how much I was consuming. Once we got back, I didn’t drink alcohol for another two weeks. I had some wine on Valentine’s Day, but then wanted to really stretch it and see if I could go a whole month.

I definitely went a month, but maybe more like two or three? Now a year later, it’s hard to remember the specifics. I went to LA with Dave and two of our friends in mid-April (to see Phish, no less) and didn’t have a drink the whole time. I visited my friends in Miami for a long weekend and only had mocktails. At the end of April, I know I did drink one night at an engagement party with my college friends, but that was a one-night thing. It felt good to let loose and I still felt great the next day. I remember I did have a couple of drinks at a Cubs game in early May, but again, it was a mindful decision that I felt good about.

Last Spring, or really from January to June, the times I did drink were definitely the isolated events, not the other way around.

Once summer kicked off and we were entertaining on our rooftop again, it seemed like there was always an event where drinking felt like the right decision—a big party at our place, a trip, a birthday, etc. And once I was drinking more often, saying yes to having some wine at home during the week became the norm again.

By the time this past October rolled around, I was itching for another sober stretch. Enter Sober October. I’ve never done Dry January, but it’s essentially the same thing… 31 days of not drinking, but this time before the holidays kick off instead of right after.

For as much as I loved being mostly sober last spring, I absolutely HATED Sober October. Like, loathed it. I don’t know if it was more the hard and fast ‘rules’ around the dates (because obviously, I had gone more than a month without a problem before), but it felt like jail instead of liberation. It felt annoying to want to do something, but feeling restricted instead.

The holidays kicked off in November, we got engaged at the end of December, there was a lot of celebrating in January, and then we had several trips planned in February. I’m tired just thinking about the last few months, which is probably why I’ve been craving another sober stretch

I’ve seen snarky women online say things like, “I don’t understand why people make being sober a big deal? If you don’t want to drink, just don’t have a drink.” That’s a wonderful thought for them! If I didn’t hate the judgemental tone so much, I’d envy their point of view. But we all grew up in different environments, we’ve all lived our lives with different people and in different places, and that’s not the sentiment for me or most of the people I know. But again, that’s just me!

Sober Spring and Mocktail March

By the end of February, life was feeling a little bit dull. (This definitely comes through in this post I wrote.) Sure, it could be the winter blues this time of year. And I know I’ve got a lot of my plate with work and wedding stresses. But I could just tell that I wasn’t feeling like myself. Without any travel on my radar for the next six weeks, I decided not to drink for most of March.

I tried to find a fun moniker for not drinking in March, but only found Sober Spring. I believe Sober Spring is a three-month sober sabbatical from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice. This year, that would be 3/19/24-6/20/24. I wanted to not drink most of March (instead of waiting until the 19th) and wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to three months sober, so I came up with Mocktail March instead!

The Benefits of Being Sober Curious

I was curious as to how this sober stretch would feel, but after ~5 days in March, I could already see some of the perks I remember loving last Spring. I’m more alert, more clear-headed, and more witty. I find myself having a lot more patience with those around me, too. Without drinking, I have a sharper recall and better memory. I find myself actually remembering those little things that I make a mental note for, versus forgetting. And I feel like I have more of an internal spark, if that makes sense?

Last spring, I didn’t lose any weight because I was justifying lots of food indulgences since I wasn’t drinking. Dessert? I didn’t have any wine, so, why not?! I mean, I was baking cookies on the weekends and we were ordering not one, but TWO(!) desserts when we were out if they looked good. (When does dessert not look good??) Since I was actually game to have dessert and our dinner bills were so much smaller with less alcohol, getting an extra dessert always felt like a fun little treat.

Speaking of dinner bills, they somehow seem free when you’re not drinking. I’m kidding, but they are sooo much cheaper without wine or cocktails. Added bonus, for sure!

This past October, I really noticed how bad my sugar cravings got when I stopped drinking. After some Googling, apparently that’s a thing. This time around, I’m trying really freaking hard to limit my sugar intake! So we’ll see if any weight loss happens. I’ve also been upping my workouts and trying to eat pretty healthy, so it will probably be hard to prove that any slimming is due to a lack of alcohol. But I will say, being sober increases the likelihood of weekend workouts!

Another intresting thing this time around is my Oura Ring. (Again, I owe you guys a full review soon!) I didn’t get my Oura ring until June last year, so I never had it when I was doing my stretches of sobriety last spring. I started wearing it in the summer, when drinking was more of the norm.

Now that my ring has had almost a year to get to know me and my body, you should see my stats since I’ve stopped drinking this month!! You would think I’m the Queen of the world, you guys. I haven’t input any information that I’m not drinking, but every single day it’s congratulating me on my sleep, giving me crowns, and telling me I’m ready for anything that day brings me. It’s honestly kind of wild!

Between not drinking and doing the mouth tape, I’m getting the best quality sleep I’ve ever gotten since I started wearing my Oura Ring.

Whenever I consume alcohol, my heart rate lowers much later into the night. So even though I’m asleep, my body isn’t getting the deeper, restorative rest that it needs to function at it’s best. There are a few other factors with HRV (heart rate variation) and sleep cycles, too, but it seems like the main factor in Oura’s “Readiness Score” (how ready for the day you are) is based on which point in the night you reached your lowest heart rate. (This probably seems confusing to people who don’t track their sleep, but I’m more than happy to try to elaborate if you leave a comment!)

Another big factor with all of this is my anxiety, medication, depression, and hormonal issues. I’ve written at length about all of these issues (click each word to read those posts), but when it comes to alcohol, I’ve always been someone with major “hang-xiety.” (Anxiety exacerbated by a hangover.) But the problem, I’ve realized, is that hangovers aren’t really the issue. Even if I’m not hungover, my anxiety is so much worse after I’ve been drinking. And I’m pretty positive big daddy Zoloft prefers me not drinking, too.

I’ve also noticed that my skin looks SO much better when I’m not drinking. It’s clearer and brighter, especially with the longer I’ve been without a drink! I also feel much more creative the longer I’ve gone without drinking. Is it the alcohol it self, or is it alcohol’s effect on your sleep?? So many questions.

Moderation Isn’t The Problem

What’s kind of depressing about all of these realizations over the last fourteen months is that moderation isn’t the issue. I had less than one glass of wine at dinner last weekend since we were celebrating with family and my ring knew something was off. It gave a message along the lines of, “Something kept your heart rate up last night, but don’t worry. Take it easy today and you can get back on track!”

I wish I could remember who/where to credit for this, but somewhere along this journey I read something that said days off are the most important thing to consider about your drinking, not necessarily number of drinks. For example, if you were to have five drinks in a week, it would be better to have those five drinks in one day and have six days without any alcohol versus having one drink on five different days.

So where does this leave me??

If I only knew, you guys. I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around all of this sobriety stuff because I feel so torn. I know I can have fun without drinking and I know waking up the next day is so much better when I haven’t been drinking. But as a bit of an epicurean, I genuinely love trying wine and cocktails. I love the taste of tequila and bourbon, and I love everything there is to love about wine. I love learning about it almost as much as I love drinking it.

But then on the other hand, I remind myself that I also love the taste of cake and chocolate chip cookies and key lime pie and mac & cheese, but I really try to limit those things because I know they’re not good for me. You know?? I wish I could eat a tub of ice cream every night, but this is real life, not a fantasy land. So is the same thing true for me and alcohol??

After writing all of this out, it’s more clear why I haven’t yet shared all of this with you. Typically, I like to wait until there’s a shiny bow to tie the story together, but I just don’t know what exactly the future holds with me and drinking.

Even as I’ve been writing this post for the last week, there’s always so much more on my mind when it comes to this matter. I had intentions to publish this much earlier in the week, but it’s never really felt finished. I have loads more to say, but considering we’re pushing 2,200 words, I’ll leave it here for now.

In therapy, when you’re feeling anxious about the future, they always tell you to try to focus on the right now. So right now, I’m going to focus on Mocktail March by not drinking alcohol for most of the month, and we’ll see how the rest of the spring goes!

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  1. 3.15.24
    Dana Dickerson said:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jess. I had COVID last October and it kind of messed with my liver. After blood work showed some signs of decreased liver function, I’ve been told by my doctor to avoid alcohol and acetaminophen for six months and then test again. Your info was helpful!

  2. 3.15.24
    Kim P. said:

    I’m glad you shared this! I’ve been having a lot of similar thoughts over the last six months or so — feeling so much better when I don’t drink, but not feeling like I need or want to give it up completely. I like your idea of “sober stretches.”