Breaking the stigma: Redefining sobriety for modern women

Breaking the stigma: Redefining sobriety for modern women

Drinking is an embedded societal norm. However, more women have adopted alcohol-free living for various reasons, whether they’re recovering from a substance use disorder or just don’t enjoy the feeling. Unfortunately, sobriety is often met with stigma. If you currently live or want to live a sober life, this guide will help you break negative perceptions and adopt a lifestyle that empowers you.

The Traditional Perception of Sobriety

Substance use disorders and sobriety have traditionally been perceived as male-dominated issues. However, a recent study has shown an 84% increase in alcohol abuse among women in the last decade, compared to a 35% increase in men. Women face increasing social pressures to drink. Whether it's the dating scene, girls' night out or work events, one's cup is rarely empty. Those who skip often face negative stereotypes:

  • Uptight or lacking a sense of humor
  • Dull and uninteresting to be around
  • Judgmental and critical of others
  • Socially inept and uncomfortable around others
  • Unrelatable with few shared interests

Despite these harmful typecasts, many women have resisted expectations and the urge to drink. Some women have never suffered from alcohol abuse or even a family history of it — sobriety is merely a preference. Regardless, there is a stigma associated with living a sober lifestyle. Modern women have the difficult task of breaking norms by redefining what sobriety means to them.

5 Benefits of Sobriety for Modern Women

Whether you've always been sober or recently adopted an alcohol-free lifestyle, the advantages of sober living make it entirely worthwhile. Here are five ways sobriety benefits your health and well-being.

1.   Improved Physical Health

Most millennial women don't think twice about applying sunscreen as a preventive measure against skin cancer. You only need one or two sunburns to increase your risk of the disease. We should treat sobriety similarly — as a preventive health measure. Sobriety enables women to prioritise their health and prevent adverse outcomes from alcohol and substance abuse. Long-term risks of excessive drinking include heart disease, liver disease, decreased immunity and a higher chance of developing breast, mouth and esophageal cancers.

2.   Greater Mental Clarity

Modern women living their best sober lives are more focused and emotionally regulated than those who drink. That's because excessive alcohol use reduces concentration and causes brain fog. It can also lead to poor decision-making. Alcoholism or uncontrolled drinking could result in Karsakoff syndrome — memory loss from vitamin B1 deficiency. Sober women typically needn't worry about Korsakoff syndrome, which involves memory-associated nerve damage in the brain and spine.

3.   Improved Skin

Sober living could be your ticket to the fountain of youth. Drinking too much alcohol dehydrates your skin and causes wrinkles. It also causes blood vessels to swell, resulting in a bloated face. Your body begins detoxifying and restoring itself when you stop drinking. Set aside the glass of wine for a brighter complexion, fewer fine lines and reduced undereye bags.

4.   Deeper Relationships

People may avoid you when you're drinking due to changes in your personality and reliability. Choosing sobriety could deepen your social ties, creating more fulfilling relationships with partners, friends and family. Sober women typically communicate better with others and are found more dependable.

5.   Financial Stability

Ladies' night has become increasingly expensive. Amid inflation, some establishments charge upwards of £20 for one cocktail. Sober living allows the modern woman to eliminate excessive spending on alcohol, save money and make improved financial decisions.

Redefining Sober Socializing and Celebrations

It may feel challenging or awkward to socialise and celebrate among non-sober people. You might feel left out at a party while watching friends loosen up and have uninhibited fun. Some people may guilt or shame you for not drinking with them. Women in recovery from alcohol abuse may find socialising especially triggering and will look to avoid uncomfortable exposure to substances. Likewise, they may worry about not fitting in, missing out on important occasions or feeling uneasy with questions about their sobriety.

Fortunately, you can redefine sober socialisation with the following tips and strategies: 

  • Hang out with friends who support your sober lifestyle.
  • Spend time with those who live soberly or respectfully avoid drinking around you.
  • Socialise in alcohol-free environments, such as coffee shops, movie theaters and community classes.
  • Always have an exit strategy if a party or celebration gets out of hand.
  • Be honest about why you're not drinking.
  • Hold an alcohol-free beverage — such as a mocktail — to feel like part of the group.

Depending on your personal needs and decisions, you may drink in moderation, practice mindful drinking — limiting yourself to one glass of wine — or take another personalised approach. Sobriety is a personal choice, no matter what your preferred lifestyle is. You don't have to struggle to achieve a sober lifestyle, either. You can find support groups and resources online to make it easier. Write or speak to other women for additional support and suggestions as you redefine sobriety for yourself.

Embracing a New Definition of Sobriety

Embrace your sobriety as a tool for personal growth. Don’t let others sway you when you’ve set your boundaries and decided on a sober lifestyle. Even if people try to convince you to take a drink, you must stick to your guns to break the stigma of sober living.

By Ava Roman

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of
Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll probably find her doing yoga or snuggled up with her cat and a good book.

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