A Therapist’s Journey in Being Sober Curious

For much of my adult life when I think of a beautiful fancy dinner to celebrate a birthday or anniversary it always included a gorgeous glass of wine to compliment the meal.  I have loved the ritual of exploring the wine list, even if I am likely going to order something I am familiar with already.  I love to smell the wine when they bring the sample to the table and I love to give that hopeful server the look that says…”yes sir… this is the perfect choice and you have enhanced my meal by pouring this glass for me!”  Aaaahhhh yes, drinking wine.  I mean, why not?  I take care of myself.  I eat well (mostly).  I crossfit, I yoga, I hike.  Okay truthfully I do not hike but really do mean to get into this at some point in the future.  So the point is that I deserve a little treat right?  I am well aware of the fact that some people cannot drink alcohol in a way that is healthy in their life.  After all, I am a therapist and I get that we are all wired differently, have different histories of family addiction and simply experience the world in different ways.  I have great respect for people that I have known over the years who have chosen to cut out alcohol and seek the support of AA or other well respected support systems designed to offer people a sober path through life. But if I am being honest I really never considered that there was anything in between.  I thought there are people who drink in a way that works in their life and does not cause a problem and then there are people who cannot drink in a way that works.  I have always felt assured that my desire to drink wine was typical, socially acceptable and my guilty pleasure along with watching terrible reality TV shows. But then something strange happened… I entered my magical mid-forties and started realizing that drinking wine may not be all it’s cracked up to be and here’s why…


More and more over the last couple of years I have noticed an increase in my couples and individual clients bringing up the topic of alcohol.  Sometimes they are exploring how alcohol is showing up in their life in a way that is not feeling good anymore.  Or perhaps a couple is noticing that their most challenging arguments occur when they are drinking.  Now let me be clear that I am not necessarily talking about people partying “like it’s 1999” here.  I am talking about people who drink a couple of beers or a couple glasses of wine and then are noticing that they do not like the results either in their behavior or in how they feel the next day.  So of course I had to get really curious about this and the research began.  I started joining the ”Sober Curious” movement.  I read books and articles.  I talked to colleagues and found podcasts.  I started to notice something really important.  Alcohol is so normalized in our society that we are sort of socialized to believe that unless we are getting DUI’s, losing our jobs or having major issues in our family due to our drinking then it really is not an issue at all.  In the books and research I started reviewing, a fascinating point was brought to light for me.  In our society people are not often considered to have an alcohol addiction unless they stop drinking and seek some type of treatment.  Wow, how bizarre is that right? How strange to think that we can often ignore behaviors around binge drinking by qualifying that it was a bachelor party, or my birthday or Taco Tuesday.  It seems that in many cases as long as people show up to work, looking healthy and are functioning in their daily lives we are not stopping to think about the implications of this behavior 


Ok, I feel it is important that I be super clear that I am not trying to be the sober police or preach to you that alcohol is bad and you should stop drinking.  First, I would be a gigantic hypocrite since I drank wine like three days ago and I truly believe that we are all adults and need to figure out what works and does not work in our lives.  I am just sharing with you my journey because I have been finding it kind of mind blowing that I had really never given this topic much thought previously.  I just felt comfortable with my ideas that normal drinking involved enjoying at certain events, holidays, with certain people etc… without noticing things like how much my sleep is negatively affected after even just one glass of wine.  I am no spring chicken so sleep has become more important to me in recent years.  I no longer have time to sleep in on Saturdays to catch up after a late night.  I have soccer practice and gymnastics for my kids and I do not want to miss a minute of their busy lives! 


Maybe you are reading this and you are wondering, “what is she talking about?  I love drinking and it is not doing anything problematic for me…”  If that is the case, okay cool.  But just listen to this one additional point please!  Much of the research that I have been doing finds that sober sex is frequently reported to be better and more satisfying than sex while intoxicated.


-.  “What is that you say?”  Oh yes friends that’s right.  I know it sounds counterintuitive since media will often portray alcohol being a precursor to a romantic evening.  But the thing is that alcohol dulls our senses which is why we can feel more relaxed, but unfortunately it is dulling all of the other senses that can make sex so fantastic.  If you do not believe me then please do this research for yourself.  All I have to say on my research on this topic is, “Cheers to sober sex!”

So if you are still reading then I am thinking either you find what I am sharing somewhat interesting or perhaps your partner gave this to you and is watching you read it so you can then discuss further.  Either way I appreciate you sticking with me and considering what I’m sharing around sober curiosity.  If you are remotely interested in learning more about this topic please check out great books like “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace or “Quit like a Woman” by Holly Whittaker.  Or just google “sober curious” and see what you can find. Whatever you choose to do with this information is up to you.  My hope is that you can figure out what works best in your life and your relationship.  Now, if you do choose to dabble in this world of sober curiosity then I highly suggest you try my new favorite mocktail which is club soda (or tonic) with a bit of really good quality cranberry juice and a generous squeeze of lime… delicious!  As for my journey, it will continue as I figure out what makes sense for me and my relationship.  I do feel empowered by being more aware of all of these factors and by the idea that regardless of how “normal” drinking is in our culture it is really up to me to determine what helps me to live my best life…and this is my hope for all of us.  Good luck in your personal journey!

If you have any questions about Therapy With Heart’s services please contact us.


Shannon Mandadi


(480) 203-2881
8737 E. Via De Commercio, Suite 200 Scottsdale, Arizona 85258