Book Review: Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington

This post is going to serve double duty today — first, it will be a review (really, more a personal reaction than a traditional “review”) of the book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol by Ruby Warrington.

Second, it will act as a catch-up on my own Sober Curious journey. Today is Day 20.

The drinks in this photo are “Light My Fire” mocktails, a recipe from We Are Raising the Bar – a company that creates monthly themed boxes of zero-proof spirits and other mocktail ingredients.

So, first, the book.

I had heard the term “Sober Curious” well before I knew there was a book with the same title. At the end of April, I went on the San Diego Book Crawl (13 independent bookstores in 2 days) and I happened upon Sober Curious at one of the used bookstores we visited. That was about a week into my own Sober Curious journey, and I snatched it up.

THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK: I think Warrington does a great job telling her own story and how she got to her own decision to be Sober Curious. She has a good deal of research and uses insightful quotes from other sober/sobriety experts. She has excellent insight into the social aspects of booze and sobriety — I particularly resonated with her bit about how saying you’re “gluten-free” is widely accepted and not seen as diet-y or fatphobic, even if you don’t have Celiac, disease but the same social acceptance isn’t always extended to people who say they don’t drink unless they say they’re an alcoholic.

I also really like her alternative 12 steps. While Warrington does sing the praises of AA and the services it provides, she also notes that it doesn’t resonate with everyone, particularly since a number of the steps focus on god, and Warrington (like myself and I’m sure many others) has a complicated relationship with organized religion. Warrington instead focuses the recovery aspects relating to a “higher power” as a higher Self. It’s not a Judeo-Christian construct, it’s just YOU…without booze.

THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK: Like a lot of modern self-help books, it gets a little too “just be better, bestie!” for my taste. As excellent as Warrington is at presenting what led her to be Sober Curious and why, she lacks the same follow-through in sharing what keeps her Sober Curious and the results aside from vague “it’s just good.” Warrington also owns a company that focuses on astrology, tarot, energy healing, and similar practices. Now, a lot of that vibes with me, and I didn’t mind it (though I know some might), but I agree with Warrington herself who says it gets a little “woo-woo.” I don’t mind the “woo-woo,” but I want there to be more explanation/reasoning. Don’t just tell me to manifest or say affirmations; tell me why they’re important to my own Sober Curious experience.

THINGS I AM ON THE FENCE ABOUT WITH THIS BOOK: Warrington presents a difference between being “Sober Curious” and “Sober Sober” that I do resonate with, but I also think it walks a fine line of, like, women who say they want another word for “feminist” because so many people think “feminism” is a bad word. (Look, I 10000% get it — I was that woman once in my life too, and I fully understand that language is nuanced and complicated AF). I like the idea that “Sober Curious” exists in a gray area — it says “I’m sober right now, but that might not always be my choice/path” — and I think there’s something really powerful in that. I also think it invites confusion, similar to the term “damp drinking” (e.g., “I only drink on Fridays and Saturdays” or “I only drink at social events but not at home”). Warrington herself says at one of her company’s Sober Curious events, someone asked about if being “Sober Curious” meant they could drink “in moderation.” This was Warrington’s reply:

“The question of moderation is relevant only if you still believe that your happiness is connected to alcohol – if you still trust that alcohol is how you experience relaxation, connection, inspiration, and joy. If you’re at this event, then it’s likely that life has shown you otherwise. Getting Sober Curious is about learning to trust the truth of your experience and your body over all the external messaging about booze. What do you truly need alcohol for, even in moderate quantities, anyway?”

Ruby Warrington, Sober Curious Chapter 7: “Getting High on My Own Supply”

So, I guess I’m just not sure why, in Warrington’s perspective, “Sober Curious,” “Sober Sober,” and “Sober” all need to be different things.

I’m also on the fence about #6 in her Alternative 12 Steps: “Don’t judge others or preach.” And not just because, well, yes, sometimes I’m judgemental, lol. I struggle with it because of this part of the description of what that step means: Focus on living your own magnificent Sober Curious life and be a positive role model with the choices you make. “Act natural” about not drinking…” (there’s more, but this is the part specifically I want to talk about.)

As someone who spent way too much time and energy in the MLM space (and, side note: if I still owe you an apology for any time I tried to pressure you into buying a product or program you didn’t really want or need, please reach out. I really am sorry.), I immediately bristle at the “just be a role model and people will follow” mentality because it feels like an old upline coaching strategy.

BUT ON THE FLIP SIDE, I’m a blogger and I love social media, and I do really like writing and talking and sharing about stuff that’s going on in my life. If you follow me on my Booktok/Bookstagram accounts, you know I am an evangelical for spicy romance novels! How many people did I convince to read Twilight back in the day because I just couldn’t shut up about it?! Or how many new Community fans did I create by quoting/sharing/again, never shutting up, about the show?!

So how do I “act natural” and “don’t preach” at the same time?

From the outside, I’m sure many will say, “Just share! Write, post, do you. It’s what you like to do, and anyone who knows you will understand that.” And, yes, whoever is thinking/saying that as they read this is right, and it is probably what I will end up doing. But the reason the thought of it gives me pause is because of my own personal “boozestory” (as Warrington calls it).

I do plan on going into this in much more detail in future posts, but the short version of it is this: when other people shared their own stories about not drinking or simply said “Oh, I don’t drink,” I FELT judged/preached too, even if that’s not what they were doing. I fully acknowledge this is 100000000% a “me problem. ” This was an in-my-own-head, trying-to-mindread, projection-101 issue, but it’s also my true lived experience. And it made me feel like shit* and I don’t want to make other people feel like shit.

(*Of course, as the last twenty days have shown me, it made me feel like shit because there was a teeny-tiny voice inside me going “hey, um, I don’t think I want to drink alcohol anymore…can we stop?” and I kept drowning that voice in Sauvignon Blanc. And when I saw others embrace teetotalism, that teeny-tiny voice was like “you know, it might be good if we tried that,” and I shut it up with a Blonde Lager. And so on, and so on.)

I also feel the need to talk about my own journey with sobriety because, well, people buy me a lot of booze-themed gifts for my birthday and holidays and special occasions, and I don’t want them to do that anymore. (I don’t want them to stop buying me presents; gifts are my love language! But I don’t want them to waste money on something I’ll never use or will regift immediately.)

And, finally, there’s a lot more of my own “boozestory” that I want to share because, as four and a half years of therapy taught me, it helps me process things by putting them into writing. Sure, I could just write it in a journal, and I probably will for a lot of the aspects of it, but I also got a lot out of reading Sober Curious and seeing parallels between pieces of my story and pieces of Warrington’s, and so I’d like to offer the same to anyone who might be reading this.

In conclusion: the book was probably 3.5 stars, but I’d rank my first 20 days of sobriety as a 10/10.