The Sober Pagan Reviews
The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Concentration Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol
by Ruby Warrington
I can’t remember when I received this book. Maybe six months to a year ago. I haven’t been exactly sober or even remotely “sober curious” this past year so it sat on my shelf with my other recovery books. Once in a while, I’d dust them off – ya know, when I was dusting off all my other books. But I never cracked it once – not until yesterday.
I read it cover to cover yesterday.
First off – “Sober Curious” is not what I thought it meant. I thought it meant that a person was “curious” about “sobriety” – and while this is somewhat true, especially since in the introduction, the first question is “Would life be better without alcohol?” (Warrington, 1) – the term “Sober Curious” is a path of sobriety – as opposed to say, the path outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous. As Warrington writes,
“What if you find yourself at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting…and because it
feels like you’re lying to yourself and everybody else, you choke on the word ‘alco-
holic’? What if you cannot admit (as required in the first of the infamous 12 steps)
that you are ‘powerless’ over alcohol – and that your life has become ‘unmanageable’
as a result? Because you’re not, and it hasn’t.” (Warrington, 9)
I read those words and I was like – OMG THAT’S ME! You know the power of identification. And I could really identify with that statement.
Ruby Warrington has her own drunkalogue, which she calls a “boozestory”. It follows more or less the same path that many of us took – although there’s a generational divide – but like so many women, we both were influenced on the drinking and drug use of the men we consorted with. To this day, I thank the Goddess that I was never with a man who was an active I.V. user when I was with him – I am sure I would have picked up the needle. I might not even be alive today.
Warrington has a Facebook page as well as a Twitter presence. She has an author page on Amazon,com, as well as Goodreads and other literary websites. Her personal website is here: http://www.rubywarrington.com/. She is also the founder of the website, The Numinous, which has all kinds of spiritual information on it. You can check it out here: https://www.the-numinous.com/ There’s a mailing list, to which I subscribed.
Warrington is also the founder of the sober event, Club S?DA NYC (Sober or Debating Abstinence), which featured talks, meditation, guest speakers and interactive elements which was launched in February 2016. The questions – and answers – that came from these events were the foundation of Sober Curious.
Much of the book read like a “Harms Reduction” manual – I recently joined a women’s Harms Reduction group on Facebook – but Warrington makes it clear that to be “Sober Curious” means to think of yourself as a sober person. She writes,
“If not suffering from the chronic, progressive brain disease of alcoholism, as a
garden-variety habitual drinker, I knew what I had to do – which was to begin
to think of myself as a sober person. Somebody who does not drink alcohol,
period.” (Warrington, 22)
a few pages later, she doubles down on this:
“Before we go any farther down this rocky part of the path, let me get clear on
something. Rule number one of changing your drinking habits is: You have to
change your drinking habits.
“I repeat. If you’re slowly getting on board with the idea that anyone who drinks
regularly might be kind-of-just-a-little-but-addicted-to-booze, then the only way
to get unaddicted is to STOP DRINKING BOOZE. Same goes if you just want
to drink differently from the way you’ve been drinking. Or even want to think
differently about drinking…
“This may or may not look like total, lifelong abstinence to you, and this is perfectly
okay. But this is also not about ‘moderation’.” (Warrington, 27)
Not to be argumentative here, but if it’s not AA-style abstinence and it’s not “moderation”, then what the hell is it? For someone who said that the word “alcoholic” stuck in her throat, she waxes poetic about how wonderful AA is – and how “privileged” she was to be able to access it – to make the “choice” to quit drinking. (Warrington, 27)
However, the more I read, the more I liked what I was reading. I particularly liked the chapter, “Spirits and Spirituality”. She writes that she has been to mystics who “believe that when you drink alcohol, your spirit renounces your body, creating room for other spirits (or non-true versions of yourself) to take over.” (Warrington, 89). I have heard this too, mostly at Native American AA meetings. It’s an interesting concept. Of course, some people might argue that we are more ourselves when we are wasted. But Warrington argues back that addiction is a “connection crisis”, created by “consumer culture or capitalism”, which “breeds competition” – “the fuel for many of our addictions”. (Warrington, 94). She goes on to write,
“When we’re ashamed of our perceived ‘otherness’ and have been programmed to
believe that what we have and who we are is not ‘enough’ (to make us loveable and
valuable to our peers), alcohol, a substance that switches off the part of the brain that
monitors how we are perceived and that also appears to be the lifeblood of our social
connections, becomes very appealing indeed.” (Warrington, 95)
Another question she asks is, “Who Am I (Without Alcohol)?” As someone who has gone over seven years without a drink, I do know who I am without alcohol. The main payoff is the end of hangovers. Even if I am not sick with a migraine or my guts in a mess from drinking – and eating whatever bar-food junk I’m eating when I’m drinking – I’m just tired out from the way alcohol messes up my sleep. To me, that’s the main reason not to take a drink – so I wake up feeling like I want to wake up.
I do think this book is written for the Social Drinker – the person who doesn’t drink to assess – and if they do drink on a daily basis, it’s no more than a glass or two or wine or beer or maybe a mixed drink. Calling yourself “Sober Curious” or “Sober Sober” instead of “Alcoholic” may make you feel better about your relationship to alcohol – but on the other hand, the end result is the same. Total and complete abstinence. Which is a great place to be – if that’s where you want to be.
And for some of us, it’s just not that simple. We have other issues – mental health issues – domestic violence issues – the list is endless. When I quit drinking and drugging back in 1990, my problems increased. I stayed sober but it wasn’t easy. And when I got diagnosed as bipolar, I had all kinds of new medications to deal with – some of which messed me up way worse than drinking and drugs ever did.
Chapter 10 is entitled “An Alternative 12 Steps for Living Sober Curious”. I list them here because I like any variation on the traditional AA 12 Steps but also because I think they’re really quite brilliant. In the chapter, she fleshes each step out and explains how it works; I only list the steps here.
“Sober Curious 12 Steps”
Just say no to moderation.
Know your triggers.
Embrace Sober Firsts.
Don’t make booze the bad guy.
Don’t judge others or preach.
Be grateful for the reminders.
Find your Sober Curious crew.
Feel your feelings.
Replace spirits with sprit.
Remember the Big Picture.
At the very end of the book is a list of resources. I urge you to check them all out. I did! I am on a bunch of new mailing lists now. There are always sober resources out there – AA isn’t the only place for recovery. But sometimes you have to do a little legwork on your own.
All in all, I have to say that this is one of the most positive books about sobriety I have ever read. It’s a very quick and easy read – I read it within the space of a few hours. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to change their life for the better – the first step is always to put the “plug in the jug”. It all follows from there.
Warrington, Ruby. Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. NY; HarperOne, 2018.
About the Author:
Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.
Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan but she gets along with a few of the masculine deities. She loves to cook and she is a Bills fan.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.