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Sobering Up: Questioning & Reclaiming A Relationship to Alcohol

A close-up image of a bucket of ice with two opened bottles of champagne in it. There is also an unopened bottle of champagne in the ice.
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Being sober can change your friendships, romantic partnerships … even your relationship to yourself.

American drinking culture lies in the realm of extremes — but choosing to abstain is often stigmatized. After choosing sobriety or sober curiosity, how are social relationships and community affected?

Work parties. Weddings. Sports games. Many social situations are closely entwined with alcohol and a culture of drinking. But there are lots of people who are choosing a path outside of the mainstream … and committing to a life without alcohol.

There are multiple reasons for being sober. For some, it’s part of the recovery from a substance use disorder or addiction. For others, the choice is in response to questioning how alcohol makes them act and feel.

Host Anita Rao talks with two people who collectively have close to two decades of experience in sobriety. J.Nicole Jones is the co-host of the “Sober Black Girls Club” podcast and host of “The Grief Bully” podcast. And Tawny Lara is a New York City-based millennial who writes about the intersection of sobriety and sexuality as The Sober Sexpert. She’s also the co-host of “Recovery Rocks” podcast and is writing a book called “Dry Humping: A Guide to Booze-Free Sex, Dating and Relationships.”

Thank you to David, Cara Smelter, Chelsea and Madison Speyer for sharing their stories for this episode!

Sobriety 101 - Terms & Applications

Sober (n)

  1. not affected by alcohol; not drunk.
  2. abstaining from a substance such as alcohol, drugs, etc.

“I did explain on the first date that: No, I don't drink, I'm sober. And she's like: Wow, that's really different. You're like a unicorn when you're in your 20s.” - J.Nicole Jones

Recovery (n)

  1. a return to a desired state of health, mind or strength.
  2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

“Recovery is really figuring out why you were consuming in the first place … For me, it was really getting in touch with my mental health diagnoses with depression and anxiety, learning that I was self-medicating.” - Tawny Lara

Sober curious (n)

  1. According to author Ruby Warrington, who coined the term in 2016, sober curiosity is “to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.”

“Ever since we got the term sober curious, we've seen the rising ubiquity in dry months — you know, Dry January and Sober October.” -Tawny Lara

Stay Connected
Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.