Are you at the right place ?

Are you at the right place ?

January, 2022

Alcohol: when sobriety becomes cool

Madame Figaro - Credit, Christelle Laffin

Between the stars who stop drinking and the success of the Dry January challenge, sobriety is becoming the health macro-trend. Posture or real measure, this salutary decision redefines our relationship with alcohol, and generates a new business.

For it was via a video on his Twitter account that Anthony Hopkins proudly celebrated his forty-five years of sobriety in December 2020.

Hollywood is sobering up...

At 83, the winner of the Oscar for Best Actor for The Father, by Florian Zeller, in 2021, is one of the spearheads, in Hollywood, of the old school alcoholics, for whom radical abstinence is literally a way of life. When alcoholism, a chronic and destructive disease, is diagnosed, total sobriety is the only recommended remedy. This is the case with Ben Affleck, whose relapses and returns to rehab have undermined his love life and career for fifteen years, or Brad Pitt, who officially thanked his friend Bradley Cooper, sober for sixteen years, for helping him stop after the "excess of too much" that cost him his marriage. "I took away his right to drink: I had gone too far," said the ex-husband of Angelina Jolie, forced, ad vitam ,to exchange the vintages of their vineyard Miraval against his "new favorite drink": a mixture of soda water and cranberry juice. Imperative for the stars whose dependence is installed, sobriety is also chosen more and more "in full consciousness" for the others... and the stars testify it.

Last November, pop star Adele revealed to Oprah Winfrey that she quit drinking after a post-divorce period where she "single-handedly kept the alcohol industry afloat." "Sobriety allows you to know yourself better, to refocus. I had a lot of work ahead of me," the singer explained. In December, former cocaine-addicted child star Drew Barrymore spoke about her sobriety in an almost innocuous way on CBS.

Sobriety allows us to know ourselves better, to refocus.

"Not a drop in two and a half years.... Drinking hasn't made me good at anything."

An amazing "coming out" of sobriety for a wine producer, Barrymore Wines, since 2012. "A necessary step of honesty with myself, for my sanity," she says. No longer hiding her struggle with alcohol, or putting down her glass when she feels herself slipping to the dark side of addiction: in both cases, "the word has been set free," explainsMarie-Dorée Delachair, a psychotherapist specializing in addictions, who has treated stars during her thirteen years of practice in Los Angeles. "Less and less 'anonymous', alcoholics are more visible. The shame disappears by putting words to one's ailments. Identifying oneself as 'clean and sober' is in vogue," she says.

Here's to you!

Cette This trend is found among all drinkers, whether occasional or regular. With the Dry January, the alcohol-free January challenge imported from across the Channel, taking a break redefines sobriety: it becomes cool, because it is chosen for one's health and that of one's wallet. A challenge, especially in France where, after two anxiety-inducing periods marked by festive Zoom aperitifs and very watered-down meals, consumption has increased by 17%, according to a BVA survey for the Ligue contre le cancer. And binge-drinking is still taking its toll on 18-24 year olds, 45% of whom exceed the red line of 3 glasses a day. However, before the confinement, among regular drinkers (that is to say 9 French out of 10), 19% already wished to give up.

Motivation does not weaken: for the Dry January 2022, the French Federation of Addictology has welcomed a 30% increase in registrations to forums and newsletters. Another engine, and not the least: the healthy macro-trend carried by the networks and the media, which also encourage moderation if not abstinence, at least punctuality. "Clearly, I am surfing on this trend to motivate my patients," explains Dr. Fatma Bouvet de la Maisonneuve (1), an addictologist psychiatrist. "The 16-17 year olds are involved in the organic movement and healthy eating. Their parents are getting into sports and drinking less themselves," she observes.

Abstinence under pressure

The stigma of the "no fun" teetotaler in society seems to be fading. "At a dinner party, it is easier to refuse a drink by arguing that you are also careful about your diet. Before, we were 'breaking the mood'", reminds the specialist. But it is difficult to limit oneself, to privilege sobriety in a country where consumption is normalized and abstinence is suspect.... In Tournée générale. La France et l'alcool (Éditions Flammarion), the journalists Thomas Pitrel and Victor Le Grand underlined how much our conviviality, as well as an important part of our economy, still depends on alcohol.

"When we celebrate, when we spend time together: we drink. We are only 'exempt' from drinking in case of illness, pregnancy, or for religious convictions. The pressure, friendly and familial, remains constant", notes Thomas Pitrel. An insidious norm that the journalist Claire Touzard denounces in Sans alcool (Éditions Flammarion), diary of her withdrawal in which she explains how, in the country of gastronomy and good bottles, not drinking excludes because it questions those who continue.

"Being sober is much more subversive than we think."

The grey zone Beyond the Sunday lunch or the drink with friends, there are the professional cocktails that we chain together and the drinks to relax in the evening. The "medicinal" alcohol consoles a bad news, allows to face the children's homework or a file to finish late. And the bottle of wine for dinner, started while cooking, is finished mechanically at 11 pm, in front of a series... Thus, without being stamped addicts, many regular consumers exceed the maximum limit of 10 glasses per week, according to Santé publique France, and find themselves in what Stéphanie Braquehais calls the "grey zone", at the border of "good drinking" and too much drinking.

She analyzes it in Jour zéro (Éditions de L'Iconoclaste), a testimony about her awareness and her radical sobriety approach. "Alcohol was too present, without it taking a dramatic turn, but I didn't always know how to manage it," explains this former RFI correspondent. For her, abstaining from the crutch drink "implies becoming aware of the silent injunctions of society. It's a work to do on oneself, on one's relationship to the world."

In full consciousness

The same approach - discovering who you become when you don't drink - led a British journalist based in New York, Ruby Warrington (2), to explore intermittent abstinence and its benefits. The #sobercurious movement grew out of her book of the same name, a phenomenon of Quit Lit, an entire field of personal development in the United States and Britain.

Since then, "sober-curious" followers have taken over Instagram and Twitter, sharing recipes for virgin cocktails, inspirational slogans and intermittent sobriety tips. For these mindful drinkers, this one-time sobriety is akin to testing the vegan diet or trying a new yoga class: a wellness practice... Cutting back, saying "pause" or "stop" to alcohol: the key is to get off the autopilot of one's habits to better appreciate the moments without.

Digital sobriety

Finding sober peers is motivating: more than half of the 70,000 members of Club Soda, a vast international digital community, aim for moderation, not abstinence. Online and in-person social events and programs teach them how to reduce their drinking habits. Growing steadily, the group is attracting increased interest from 20 - somethings who express concern about the impact of alcohol on their mental health.

Cutting down and then quitting or just slowing down with the support of a guilt-free group coupled with expert advice is also the focus of online programs, such as Digital sobriety coaching options are expanding: apps (Try Dry, Sober and Calm, Stop Drinking, Stop Alcohol...) count drinks, days but also hours of abstinence, and "gamify" the journey by replacing the reward of the alcoholic "buzz" with virtual medals, a reminder of the savings made or the benefits for one's figure or sleep. Being sober has never been so much fun, especially since the offer of 0% libations, fun and refined drinks with tastes similar to their alcoholic versions, is growing every day.

The "alcohol-free" people

Prescriber stars and entrepreneurs are not wrong: Brad Pitt co-created Enroot, a fermented bubble tea. "A lifelong teetotaler, Blake Lively launched Betty Buzz, a low-calorie fizzy soda that can be mixed - or not! - with the alcohol of your choice. Californian Katy Perry has concocted a line of aperitifs with botanical extracts, De Soi, infused with adaptogens like maca or reishi mushroom, energizing and relaxing.
And France's Constance Jablonski is getting close to champagne with French Bloom, a glamorous effervescent that fills all the boxes for millennials: vegan, organic and alcohol-free.

Sales of reduced alcohol content (5% or less) and non-alcoholic beverages have been steadily increasing for the past seven years. According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, a British specialist, the market is expected to grow by 30% by 2024, driven by non-alcoholic beers and ciders, 92% of the current supply. "Since the decontamination, in Paris, the list of mixologists' mocktails has grown considerably, and not only in trendy bars," observes Fatma Bouvet de la Maisonneuve. It was her patients who introduced her to, the first online sales site dedicated to non-alcoholic drinks, wines and spirits. Today, the site offers two hundred references, including Le Petit Béret (and its 0% wines), a best-seller since the internment. From now on, those who are thirsty for sobriety can toast to the good health of a market they helped to create...

The drunkenness of being yourself

But perhaps the real gift of abstinence lies in the empowerment it brings. "There comes a time when sobriety, even when surrounded by drinkers, is no longer a punishment but a privilege. It just feels good," promises Marie-Dorée Delachair. Carried by the rise in power of the assertion of identities, the neo-sobriety pushes "to the courage to be oneself", to send the injunctions and the labels flying. And to find or rediscover an "existential intoxication": that part in us, a vital and creative force that we had drowned, even partially and only at times, in alcohol. Abstinent since August 31, 2018, Stephanie Braquehais experiences this impression of self recovery. She discovers herself "more introverted than she imagined when she was drinking, more attentive to others, in kindness". "Sober, I am me. I have reclaimed my spirit. We realize that we are very well as we are and that we do not need to change", she assures.

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