Most people have long viewed alcohol consumption as a binary situation, especially when it comes to alcohol use disorders. Either you abstained from drinking altogether, or you didn’t. However, recent movements like mindful drinking and sober curiosity have made moderation a viable alternative. A mindful drinking approach might not be suitable for everyone, but it can be an appealing option for those who want to reduce their alcohol consumption without giving it up entirely.
In this article, courtesy of Sunnyside, we’ll take a look at the differences between sobriety and mindful drinking, which one is best for you, and tips to help you follow either path.
The Difference Between Sobriety and Mindful Drinking
Drinking mindfully and staying sober are both about cutting down alcohol’s power over you. In spite of this, the approaches to achieving this are entirely different.
When dealing with drinking issues, sobriety is typically considered the traditional approach. Sobriety argues that controlled drinking is not realistic and is a slippery slope, so all alcohol must be avoided by those who wish to achieve sobriety or control over their drinking. People who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol often strive to achieve lifelong sobriety but getting there can be challenging. Without the proper treatment and support, some people won’t be able to achieve sobriety on their own. Furthermore, in some cases, it can even be fatal for those who suffer from severe alcohol abuse disorders to try to quit drinking cold turkey.
For those cases, drinking mindfully becomes a better alternative to sobriety. Mindful drinking, also known as controlled drinking, involves monitoring alcohol consumption to avoid problematic drinking. The idea behind mindful drinking versus sobriety is that not everyone wants to be alcohol-free. Mindful drinking programs have significantly grown in popularity recently, even though it has not been as popular historically for treatment. If you are someone that’s unwilling to give up alcohol completely, but you still want to reduce the amount and frequency of your alcohol consumption, this model can work wonders as a reduction strategy.
Sobriety Vs. Mindful Drinking: Which is Better?
Mindful drinking and sobriety are extremely personal choices, and no one option is suitable for everyone. Making an informed choice that is realistic and healthy for you requires an honest assessment of your life, health, and patterns.
Consider the following factors when choosing one method over another:
Mindful Drinking Over Sobriety
It’s easier to adopt mindful drinking if your goal is to simply cut back on your alcohol consumption and if you haven’t dealt with alcohol use disorder.
Furthermore, if you are at a place where stopping would be dangerous for you or find it too difficult, working your way slowly by following the mindful drinking approach might be more effective.
Consider mindful drinking if you:
- Want to improve your sleep
- Want to cut back on your drinking for weight purposes
- Start to have sleep issues from your drinking
- Enjoy your drinking but don’t want to overdo it
Strategies such as tracking your drinking using a mindful drinking app, setting a drinking limit for yourself, and keeping a drinking diary can help you if you are interested in reducing your drinking without stopping entirely. By reducing your use to low levels and drinking in a safe and responsible manner, you significantly lower the risk of alcohol-related problems.
Sobriety Over Mindful Drinking
While sobriety isn’t easy, it might be your best choice in cases where you find yourself unable to drink in moderation or if you have a history of issues with alcohol use disorders.
Consider sobriety if you:
- Drink excessively or binge
- Get into legal or financial trouble because of your drinking
- Have performance issues at home, work, or school due to your drinking
- Spend a lot of time drinking or hungover
- Have trouble cutting down on your drinking
Alcohol is associated with a variety of health risks, including liver damage, mental health issues, and sleep problems. You lower the likelihood of these issues surfacing when you don’t drink it. Furthermore, no matter how temporary sobriety is, there are plenty of benefits to being sober.
It is also possible to reset your tolerance through sobriety. Drinking more increases your tolerance, so it takes more drinks to feel intoxicated. It can be challenging to control your drinking when you’ve developed a high tolerance.
You can reset your tolerance by abstaining from drinking for a period of time, which could even make mindful drinking easier.
Tips to Keep Sober or Be More Mindful
It isn’t easy to follow either sobriety or mindful drinking, so you’ll need all the help you can get. Here are a few tips to help you develop a healthier relationship with alcohol:
Tips for Mindful Drinking
If you are looking to drink less without cutting back entirely, consider these tips:
- Keep track of your drinks: Pay attention to the drinks’ quantity, size, and alcohol content.
- Set limits and be intentional: Come into the situation with an idea of how much you would like to drink and learn how to say “no” to yourself and others.
- Make sure you drink in safe situations: Don’t go to places where you know you’ll be tempted to drink too much, such as parties. Avoid putting yourself in situations where you are more likely to drink in excess in order to succeed. At the very least, you’ll be able to avoid hangovers.
Tips for Sobriety
When it comes to sobriety, different approaches may be required. The following tips can help you stay sober:
- Don’t be afraid of therapy: An experienced therapist can help you identify underlying factors, understand your issues, and prevent future relapses with individual, group, or family therapy. Inpatient or residential therapy may be necessary, depending on your needs.
- Join a support group: AA and other mutual-support groups can assist you in stopping drinking.
- Involve your family and friends: You can achieve and maintain sobriety with the help of loved ones, including your family, friends, coworkers, and others. Include them in your treatment plan.
- Be persistent: It is important to remain persistent throughout sobriety, even when you encounter setbacks. In the event of a relapse, regroup, reorganize, and restart your program.
- Seek a prescription: Several medications are available to treat alcohol use disorders. Using them can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and discourage future use.
Choosing to remain sober or drink in moderation may seem easy, but following your chosen path might not. Moderate drinking can put people who have struggled with alcohol consumption at risk of relapsing. Cold turkey quitting, however, can also be dangerous. For those who want to gradually wean off alcohol, mindful drinking can be a good starting point and those who want to simply cut back on their drinking. Whatever you decide, you must be persistent, patient, and supportive of yourself.