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The Trouble With Sobriety Becoming “Trendy”

Have you seen the articles saying that drinking less is trendy, or  trending? “The New Sobriety, Where it’s OK to Drink a Little,” one headline proclaims, and the subhead explains “Everyone is sober now. Even if …they drink a little?” In the article itself, “Sobriety has become ‘the new black’,” is quoted from another website.

I don’t get it. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with talking about sobriety this way; it just doesn’t feel right. On one hand, anything that promotes sobriety is helpful, but on the other hand, it’s kind of surprising, as if some people want to sound hip so badly, they’ll grab onto anything that might sell and perhaps appeal to millennials. To experts who deal daily with the ramifications of people drinking to excess, it must seem very odd to see drinking discussed as an Instagram-worthy. Then again, they may say that anything that gets people talking about drinking too much, and the “safe” level of drinking is fine in their book.

Problem is, everyone knows a person (or about someone), either a friend or a family member, whose drinking has reached this level, and how seriously it can impact a person’s life and the lives of people who care about them. That’s not “fun” to talk about, or cool and trendy, however. 

To say it’s OK to drink a little seems a little peculiar—why bring it up in the first place? Most people drink responsibly, and to focus on how it’s OK to drink a little bit ignore the fact that there are those who can’t, and  a switch can turn at any time and result in a big, not-so-trendy problem. The tone of some of the articles appearing is glib, such as this: For the “New Abstainers, sobriety is a thing to be, yes, toasted over $15 mocktails at alcohol-free nights at chic bars around the country, or at ‘sober-curious’ yoga retreats, or early morning dance parties for those with no need to sleep off the previous night’s bender.”

There is a movement called harm reduction (or Mindful Drinking, also a book) which holds that for some people, it’s OK to simply cut down on drinking. But from what I’ve read, people who can cut back are not truly addicted to alcohol — that’s not what addiction is. While some people report they stopped on their own, if they truly have a substance use disorder, that can result in the DT’s and other life-threatening events if they don’t seek addiction treatment for their alcohol abuse issues.

One person in the article cited here said, “People invest so much of their identity in their lifestyle choices, and it’s the same with drinking. Everyone is either a wine-guzzling party animal or a clean-living health freak.” Such a comparison doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. 

Some of the current articles also mention that people are eating healthier today, and that cutting down on drinking may be part of this “health craze.” It’s another way that the media seems to downplay the importance of sobriety, by linking it with a general health craze.

Finally, articles like the one referred to here point out that a number of places have opened that are liquor-free, which is all well and good. But sobriety is not a fad or a trend to be touted.