ColumnsThe Seeker

Going Sober Curious in Charlotte

Extending Dry January into February and March

Katie Grant looks over her shoulder and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Moving Mountains Studios)

Not only was Dry January a success, but so was Dry February and half of March. What happened mid-March, you ask? Well, a girl’s trip to the Big Apple, so the strategic 75-day dry spell was apropos for reallocating funds toward my (very empty) travel bucket.

Saving money aside, I noticed a difference in my mental clarity, demeanor and morning routine during my sober curious journey. As a “lion chronotype”, I’m basically wired to be an early bird. I am a natural early riser, and my hours of highest productivity take place in the morning. The downside of this, however, is I have a hard time when my evening social calendar gets full. 

What I found was that blocking out 75 days of no alcohol at the beginning of the calendar year created a natural buffer around potential social events. “No, sorry, I can’t join you. I’m doing dry January/February to save money for a trip.” 

No one argued, I discovered, because most were going through it too, for one reason or another.

Also, because I swim three mornings a week, I found that earlier bedtimes without my beloved red wine led to better sleep, an easier wake-up and a better mood the next day during work hours. 

Here is another (not so) fun fact about me: I suffer from terrible hangxiety, even if I didn’t over-indulge!

I did a little reading to learn more about why this might be. In case you are also wondering, according to scientist David Nutt, while drinking, “Your body goes on a mission to bring Gaba levels down to normal and turn glutamate back up. When you stop drinking, therefore, you end up with unnaturally low Gaba function and a spike in glutamate — a situation that leads to anxiety”.

So the timing at the beginning of the year worked to my advantage to take a break from booze, focus on my physical and mental health, and reassess how I engage with alcohol overall. 

Below are notes about my sober experience from the first few weeks of the year: 

Increased Clarity and Perspective: Mindfully stepping away from alcohol adjusted my perspective on drinking habits. Just because I had a long day at work does not permit me the right to drink an entire bottle of wine while watching (and not really paying attention to) Love is Blind, even if season 6 was filmed in the Queen City. Half the time, I found myself mindlessly scrolling.

Improved Physical Health: Abstaining from alcohol for 75 days led to a more defined midsection. I wasn’t technically overweight before and tried to squeeze in a workout daily, but I always felt like I carried a little “fluff” in my low belly and love-handle area. During this process, I learned that the calories in alcohol can’t be stored for later, so the body’s metabolism has to focus on alcohol first. This diverts it from its task of burning fat. Who knew? 

Enhanced Mental Well-being: Alcohol can have significant effects on mental health, including increased anxiety, depression, and mood swings (see above note related to hangxiety). Taking a break from alcohol led me to feel more emotionally stable, but I am still seeing a therapist regularly to continue working on my general anxiety. 

Financial Savings: Cutting out alcohol for 75 days leads to hefty financial savings. Money that would have been spent on alcoholic beverages was redirected toward other priorities, such as credit card debt, travel plans and bulking up my savings account. 

With all of this said, I have been mindfully dipping my toe back into the alcoholic beverage scene, which I suppose is one of the points of a purposeful dry spell, right? To reframe your relationship with alcohol. 

In reverence of National Beer Day, which takes place on April 7, and so many other local events designed with alcohol culture as the scaffolding, I have learned that mindful choices are key.

For example, Charlotte SHOUT! is back. The 17-day festival launched on March 29 and runs through April 14. The annual event celebrates Charlotte’s creativity and innovation through art, music, food, and ideas.

I just purchased my general admission ticket to the Charlotte StrEATs Festival, which is part of Charlotte SHOUT! General admission allows participation in the StrEATs Tasting Tour, which features samples from restaurants and craft cocktails created by Charlotte mixologists. I skipped the VIP package to (1) save money and (2) make a mindful choice not to drink that extra hour.

Aside from events with food and drink as the focal point, I recommend checking out some of Charlotte’s “sober social events” where alcohol isn’t present, but maybe a non-alcoholic choice is.

Check out Counter Culture Club, for example, based in Charlotte and covered in-depth in Rayne’s feature story on the sober curious movement in our most recent Beer Issue (check for it coming online soon). 

They are “on a mission to create and encourage a more mindful, inclusive drinking culture.” You can sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date on sober-curious events, resources, coaching opportunities and more.

Another resource worth sharing is Sober Girl Society. Although they’re based in the UK, their newsletter and Instagram connect sober-curious folks globally, plus their content is encouraging to read.

Whether you’re sober, sober curious, or just taking some time off from drinking, there’s plenty to do in the Queen City that doesn’t involve alcohol (and without sacrificing your social life).

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