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Sobering Up: Questioning & Reclaiming A Relationship to Alcohol

Being sober can change your friendships, romantic partnerships … even your relationship to yourself.
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Being sober can change your friendships, romantic partnerships … even your relationship to yourself.

Work parties. Weddings. Sports games. Many social situations are closely entwined with alcohol and a culture of drinking. But there are lots of people who are choosing a path outside of the mainstream … and committing to a life without alcohol.

There are multiple reasons for being sober. For some, it’s part of the recovery from a substance use disorder or addiction. For others, the choice is in response to questioning how alcohol makes them act and feel.

Host Anita Rao talks with two people who collectively have close to two decades of experience in sobriety. J.Nicole Jones is the co-host of the “Sober Black Girls Club” podcast and host of “The Grief Bully” podcast. And Tawny Lara is a New York City-based millennial who writes about the intersection of sobriety and sexuality as The Sober Sexpert. She’s also the co-host of “Recovery Rocks” podcast and is writing a book called “Dry Humping: A Guide to Booze-Free Sex, Dating and Relationships.”

Thank you to David, Cara Smelter, Chelsea and Madison Speyer for sharing their stories for this episode!

Sobriety 101 - Terms & Applications

Sober (n)

  1. not affected by alcohol; not drunk.
  2. abstaining from a substance such as alcohol, drugs, etc.


“I did explain on the first date that: No, I don't drink, I'm sober. And she's like: Wow, that's really different. You're like a unicorn when you're in your 20s.” - J.Nicole Jones

Recovery (n)

  1. a return to a desired state of health, mind or strength.
  2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.


“Recovery is really figuring out why you were consuming in the first place … For me, it was really getting in touch with my mental health diagnoses with depression and anxiety, learning that I was self-medicating.” - Tawny Lara

Sober curious (n)

  1. According to author Ruby Warrington, who coined the term in 2016, sober curiosity is “to choose to question, or get curious about, every impulse, invitation and expectation to drink, versus mindlessly going along with the dominant drinking culture.”

“Ever since we got the term sober curious, we've seen the rising ubiquity in dry months — you know, Dry January and Sober October.” -Tawny Lara

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Kaia Findlay is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show. Kaia grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a household filled with teachers and storytellers. In elementary school, she usually fell asleep listening to recordings of 1950s radio comedy programs. After a semester of writing for her high school newspaper, she decided she hated journalism. While pursuing her bachelor’s in environmental studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she got talked back into it. Kaia received a master’s degree from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism, where she focused on reporting and science communication. She has published stories with Our State Magazine, Indy Week, and HuffPost. She most recently worked as the manager for a podcast on environmental sustainability and higher education. Her reporting passions include climate and the environment, health and science, food and women’s issues. When not working at WUNC, Kaia goes pebble-wrestling, takes long bike rides, and reads while hammocking.
Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.