Being sober curious is becoming increasingly popular, and Sober October could be a starting point to explore the benefits of abstaining from substances in your own life. October is also Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a time to highlight the role of preventing substance abuse2 for individual and community well-being, remember those who lost their lives due to substance abuse and celebrate people in recovery.

Participating in Sober October is a great way to also participate in Substance Abuse Prevention Month and show support for your family or friends who may struggle with substance abuse or who are in recovery.

Understanding Sober October

Sober October started overseas around a decade ago as a fundraising effort, but it became more well-known in the U.S. because of the popular comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan. Several years ago, Rogan wanted to help his friend, who dealt with alcohol issues and weight gain. Rogan began a challenge for the month of October, following the Sober October framework. He and several other comedians, along with his friend who was dealing with problematic alcohol use, challenged one another to stay sober for a month from not just alcohol but also other substances. They also focused on fitness during that time.

Since that initial challenge, the comedians and fans of the podcast have made Sober October an annual tradition. 

Alcohol Abuse in New Jersey

According to the State of New Jersey, there were 82,644 admissions to substance abuse treatment programs1 in 2017. Of those, 27% were related to alcohol. Twenty-six percent of those admissions required intensive outpatient care and 11% were to a residential detox program. Counties with the highest numbers of admissions included Middlesex, Essex, Monmouth, Ocean, Camden and Atlantic.

If you’re concerned about your alcohol use or just think you need to cut back, Sober October could be a great jumping off point. If you know someone affected by substance abuse, participating in Sober October could be a way to show support and maybe learn a bit more what it’s like for them.

Rules for Sober October

While we tend to associate Sober October primarily with alcohol, you can take it as an opportunity to abstain from any substances you use. Some people even integrate other bad habits into Sober October. For example, maybe you give up social media as well as substances.

There are no specific rules for how to participate in Sober October. Make it your own and embrace the challenge in the way that’s best for you and will allow you to feel proud of your accomplishments.

See More: Tips for Staying Sober on Holidays 

What to Expect

We often think that if we aren’t addicted to alcohol or depend on it, it’s not harming us or causing problems in our lives. Even if you don’t meet the criteria for an addiction, you may find sobriety is beneficial and improves your quality of life. If you were to abstain from substances for just one month, benefits might include:

  • You may feel like your thoughts are clearer and your brain fog is lifting. Alcohol impairs your brain function, even if you don’t think you drink that much. Over the long-term, those effects can become more profound.
  • Alcohol slows down our metabolism, adds more sugar to our diet, and may lead us to make less healthy food choices. Cutting out alcohol can help you lose weight.
  • You might think drinking helps you sleep, but in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Drinking disrupts healthy sleep cycles. Giving it up, even for a brief period, may help you get restful sleep.
  • Alcohol dehydrates you, which can impact your thinking, your health, and your energy levels. Giving it up can allow you to rehydrate.
  • When you give up alcohol, you might spend more quality time with the people you care about so it can improve your relationships.
  • If you deal with digestive issues such as IBS, giving up alcohol can reduce symptoms.
  • Your immune system will get a boost, which is important going into flu season.

There are so many benefits of Sober October, but of course, there are challenges. You’re giving up something that maybe has become part of your routine or a coping mechanism for you. You might have to rethink how you do things and how you spend your time.

For people in recovery because of alcohol addiction, those challenges can be much more amplified. By participating in Sober October, you can gain a better idea of what it’s like to be in recovery and perhaps become a more empathetic support system for your loved ones.

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By – Nicole LaNeve
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  1. Department of Health Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “New Jersey Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatm[…]rview 2017 Statewide.” June 2018. Accessed October 1, 2020.
  2. “National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.” Accessed October 1, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.