By Rhys Evans, MD at Alco-Safe
There is an emerging trend with more young adults choosing to be more mindful of what they consume, including alcohol. The ‘sober curious’ movement calls for individuals to be more intentional about how, when and why they consume alcohol and urges everyone, even those without health or addiction-related reasons to abstain or consume moderately. It is based on the notion that understanding the impact of alcohol, or consuming less of it, may have a positive impact on health, relationships and finances. With an increasing consciousness, there is room to have productive conversations on the dangers of alcohol on a personal and societal level. This has the potential to shape a new generation of adults capable of engaging in responsible alcohol consumption behaviours.
What does ‘sober curious’ mean?
A growing number of ‘sober curious’ young people are starting to question the role alcohol plays in their life. These people choose to avoid alcohol for personal and wellness reasons because of a curiosity around the desire to drink and the impact of alcohol on their lives. Unlike people who pursue sobriety because of addiction or health reasons, ‘sober curious’ people may not necessarily tick all the boxes for alcohol abuse disorder, nor may they intend to give up drinking permanently. Curiosity about going sober is an opportunity for individuals to explore how sobriety or moderation can be life changing.
People turn to alcohol for a number of different reasons, including drinking to boost sociability, to escape problems and deal with stress or for enjoyment. The ‘sober curious’ movement turns the focus instead on reasons not to drink and it is this conversation that needs to be elevated, along with normalising abstention or moderation. A good place to start and amplify these conversations about the ‘sober curious’ movement is in the workplace. A strong awareness program about the dangers of alcohol and a clear company substance abuse policy supported by adequate testing procedures and intervention measures can drive a change in the reduction of alcohol consumption and foster more responsible behaviour.
Sober curious in the workplace
So how can organisations reach out to employees to create awareness around alcohol-related harm and ‘sober curious’ alternatives? There are a number of measures that businesses can take. Awareness presentations can be conducted either in-house or outsourced to a company that specialises in safety awareness for alcohol and drugs. Implementing a clear substance abuse policy is another essential measure, especially where the policy makes provision for people to come forward without fear of retribution if they feel they have a dependence or problem with alcohol. This is especially important in developing trust in the workplace, allowing employees to get help if they need it.
This policy serves not only to communicate the company’s stance on alcohol consumption and substance use in the workplace, but also as a conversation starter that can lead to productive engagement between employer and employee on the hazards of alcohol-related harm both in the workplace and at home. It also provides a space for reflection, as people start recognising when it is safe for them to drink, and how much they should or shouldn’t be drinking. Regular checks with employees by means of breathalyser or saliva testing acts as a deterrent against excessive consumption. This is necessary as blood alcohol levels can remain high after a night of heavy drinking, which can result in the employee not being allowed entry to the workplace.
On the road
By normalising the choice not to drink, movements like ‘sober curious’ can have a profound effect on other health and safety concerns. With an enhanced appreciation for the danger of alcohol-related injuries in the workplace, a further deterrent against excessive alcohol consumption and road usage is necessary. Police roadblocks with compulsory testing and zero tolerance for offenders is essential to communicate that there are severe consequences for their actions.
While the sober curious movement is still relatively fresh, such movements form a vital starting point for some very important conversations. These conversations can build momentum towards a bigger movement that develops a more sober culture within a company, and eventually a more sober society as a whole.