Looking for hope in a brutal fire season.

“Even if fire hasn’t touched us, we’re all part of California’s figurative tent city,” laments Emmy award-winning KGO-TV reporter and Marin resident, Wayne Freedman. His professional photography of late looks more suited to dystopian film than the adventure and nature varieties. In California, fall is becoming more and more synonymous with fire and losses—of homes, lives, livelihoods, and landscapes—and it’s creating a disruption in the force for North Bay residents. 

But it is also synonymous with the resiliency and gratitude among the locals. Heather Orosco, a resident of Marin, spent much of the last week of October and first week of November without power. She brought Ziploc baggies filled with ice home on the bus from work in San Francisco every day to keep her groceries chilled and charged her phone enough to check in with her mom, Ginger Orosco, in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, which was devastated by the Tubbs Fire in 2017. That fire stopped within a couple hundred feet of her family home on three sides. 

This go-round, Ginger is counting her blessings once again. Now skilled at quick escapes and transient travel tricks, she texted Heather after the winds died down from her life in the new normal. “Blue sky and not a trace of smoke in the air this morning. I am unpacking my car and no longer worrying about this!” What is past is past, even if it might happen again in the future. 

We are strong. We are resilient. We got this. 

Editor’s Note

As I write, the Kincade Fire has already destroyed an area twice the size of San Francisco. Skeletal images of the Soda Rock Winery ablaze, displaced friends and their fur babies marked safe on social media, crowdsourced threads on how to keep food from spoiling during blackouts, air quality warnings—it’s not the kickoff to the holiday season I was hoping for. And yet it’s not unfamiliar. Increasingly, this is the reality of climate change, and we are learning what it means to live accordingly. In times like these, the North Bay feels close, like one community united instead of a patchwork of micro-cultures and counties. We are in this together. 

And we are unstoppable. As Jeff Goldblum famously quipped in Jurassic Park, as only Jeff Goldblum can, “Life finds a way.” Nature and communities rebuild organically. But this does not mean we don’t have to work for it. As we welcome winter and reflect on our tribulations and bounties in 2019, we are reminded of what it means to be human. Our responsibilities to one another and to the planet are often framed as black holes, inescapable and intense. But I think we are better served if we reclaim these responsibilities as bright stars in the darkness. We have the power, individually and collectively, to work with the planet instead of against it. Every day, we discover new ways to heal our fragile sphere and new ways to live in harmony with it. 

The same is true of our relationships. If we trust compassion, humor, and hope to guide us in thought and action, our responsibilities to one another feel a lot more like joy than effort. Humans thrive in community, and we aim to shape the ones we frequent for the better. One of the joys of being a part of the Sensi community is showcasing the arts, culture, people, and businesses of the North Bay. We share stories and connect people. We deal in community. We reflect and reflect on the brightest stars in our galaxy. You are our community, and we joyously accept our responsibilities to you. See you in 2020!

Patty Malesh

patty.malesh@sensimag.com

The pet wellness industry is taking off, with a barkload of new ways to give your pooch some extra pampering.

I’m sitting at my desk in the early hours of the morning struggling to write the anecdotal opener to this story. There’s soft music playing, so soft I can hear Gidget’s content snores coming from the pineapple dome she sleeps in when I’m at my desk. 

If the music were too loud, she would stomp as much as a chihuahua could out to the living room to get in her pressure-activated heated bed, engulfed by the soft white throw blanket I bought for myself. Gidget saw it, she liked it, she wanted it, she got it.

This is the way it works. The nails on my fingertips are past due for a manicure (Gidget got hers done today). My dinner was peanut butter spooned from the jar. Gidget dined on a gourmet blend specially formulated to deliver the exact level of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, probiotics, and minerals she needs for optimal health. After dinner, she got a bath and a towel massage before tucking into the pineapple. That’s when I sat down to start writing. 

I work hard so my dog can have a better life. The meme is real.

Hoomans and Floofers

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Gidget may be a furry freeloader, but she’s my furry freeloader and I love her hard. Because she is awesome. All dogs are. Fight me: I’m an elder millennial, and I’ve got a generational army of pet-pampering 20- and 30-somethings to back me up.

Millennials have been accused of killing a whole host of things.* Really, we’re just redirecting our limited discretionary funds to things we deem more worthy than, say, an intrinsically worthless shiny stone that De Beers’ marketing firm convinced Americans is a token of love and esteem that lasts forever. (Read: millennials are killing diamonds.) 

Millennials do spend money on pets. This year, the US pet industry is projected to rake in $75.28 billion, up more than 30 percent since 2010 according to the American Pet Product Association (APPA). A majority of millennials (76 percent) would be more likely to splurge on luxury items like expensive treats or a custom bed for their pets than for themselves.

“The pet care industry is booming, as people around the world—especially millennials—blur the line between human child and animal,” according to Business Insider. The senior brand manager of Purina, Ryan Gass, suggests that millennials are putting off marriage and having children, turning to pets to “fill that void,” but I don’t know what void he’s talking about, so we’re moving on. 

Millennials’ love for their pups is so intense, it’s spawned its own language. Us hoomans chase our heckin floofers, iPhones in hand, snapping pics of their snoots and bleps to share with frens, posting with captions about the goodest boy in the world. 

This has all led to a rise in what more serious folks call the “humanization of pets.” Sounds ominous. But it indicates how much our lives and our pets’ lives are intertwined—and therefore following the same trends. And what’s trendier or more millennial than wellness, wellness everywhere? 

In 1979, veteran journalist Dan Rather quipped during an episode of 60 Minutes, “Wellness…that’s a word you don’t hear every day.” Fast forward 40 years, and we’re hearing the word so much every day it’s almost lost all meaning. The fresh “pet wellness” phrase could mean pets are doing well overall or it could mean pets are judging you for not drinking kombucha. 

Don’t worry, dogs don’t judge. But they are getting more probiotics in their diets, just not from kombucha. Probiotics in sales of pet foods grew by 139 percent last year, according to the Nielsen market report, “Trends in Pet Care Mirror Those of Pet Owners.” We eat super foods; our dogs eat super foods. We take CBD; our pups take CBD. We get massages; our dogs get massages. We have fitness studios where you can work out with your dog, acupuncture for pets, doggy day spas with swimming pools you can rent out for puppy parties. 

Laying on Hands

Oh, yeah, and dog Reiki is a thing here, too. Gidget hasn’t tried it yet; she—like me—thinks it sounds a little bit woo-woo. 

This is how Health mag describes the basic principle: “Energy medicine (or biofield therapies) is the act of channeling and manipulating the energy that courses through your body in order to heal it. This can be done with hands-on practices such as acupuncture and Reiki, as well as sensory-based experiences, like the use of crystals, sound baths, and aromatherapy.”

In Denver, Zen Pet is all about these modalities. Run by Dr. Becca Klobuchar, the mobile holistic veterinary medicine’s range of services is rooted in energy balancing and Chinese medicine.

“I began exploring holistic therapies in an effort to provide pets with additional healing options when traditional treatments were unsuccessful,” says Klobuchar. “The intuitive treatment modalities I use approach pets’ health from the physical, energetic, and spiritual perspectives.” 

The energy balancing service is based on the concept that all living things have their own energy field that, when not in balance, can lead to disease, emotional stress, and pain. During a session, the ancient practice of “laying on of hands” transmits the healing energy of the universe through the practitioner to the animal for healing effects. 

While energy medicine is the farthest mystical extreme of the modern wellness world, there are some forms backed by science. Acupuncture, for one, and even Reiki. Health reports that a 2010 review of research in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found strong evidence that bio- field therapies such as Reiki and therapeutic touch can alleviate pain. 

The caveat: It could be a placebo effect, and our pups aren’t swayed by the power of suggestion. But if you think it’s working for her, then the session is working—for you. It’s called the “caregiver placebo effect,” and there’s nothing wrong with it. As long as it’s used in conjunction with traditional vet visits—a supplemental part of a whole wellness plan. 

Chiro for Canines

Dog chiropractic is an another emerging field gaining traction as a beneficial supplemental treatment therapy. At Denver Central Chiropractic (DCC) in Centennial, Dr. Erin Moran is providing holistic health care to both people and pets—“holistic health care for you and your dogs.” While it’s still an emerging field, animal chiropractic at its core follows the same principles and practices as the human kind. She suggests you consider chiropractic treatments if your pooch is showing signs of pain: reluctant to climb stairs, difficulty getting up after laying down, constantly licking or chewing paws, walking differently.

“Dogs get the same back issues as people, and chiropractic is a great option to address those issues without the use of drugs or surgery,” says Moran. “People get great results from seeing a chiropractor, and I want people to know that their dog can experience the same benefits.” 

It’s a nonsurgical, drug-free option for correcting disorders related to a fixation in the spine or joint. When vertebrae become immovable through trauma, injury, or standard wear-and-tear, the joints between them become jammed, often affecting the nerves in the congested area. Those nerves are the communication link between the brain and the spinal cord, so when they are out of order, it can set off a cascade of effects that leads to pain and loss of function. 

But pets can’t tell us where they hurt or why they’re limping, so treatments are a bit more complicated. When working with animals, Moran looks for abnormal or restricted movement, with a goal of restoring it to reduce pain and improve mobility. 

“The results I’ve seen have been amazing,” she says. Moran has helped dogs who have lost the use of their back legs because of slipped discs; after adjustments, they’re able to regain use of their legs and walk again. She also treats arthritic dogs, “getting the pep back in their step so they can have a better quality of life.”

Healthy pets can experience benefits of spine checkups, too, she points out—especially active and athletic ones. The DCC website is clear that the practice is not meant to replace veterinary medicine. Rather, animal chiropractors work in conjunction with veterinarians, treating areas that often go unnoticed by traditional care.

And that pain in your back as a result of hunching over your desk spoon-feeding yourself peanut butter while your pooch snuggles in your new comforter? As it turns out, living with a dog is good for human health as well. Having a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and may even help you live longer. So says science. So they deserve to live the same aspirational lifestyle to which we have made them accustomed. It’s the least we can do to repay the unconditional love 

Rebecca Treon contributed to this piece.

Why our vote for Proposition 7 won’t change the way Californians experience time.

Time. Twice annually, we screw with it. Take an hour from one day; add one around four months later. Every autumn after we “fall back,” I scowl at a night sky that’s jumped the gun and made early evening feel more like eternal night. I dream of revolution and revolt, of a march on Washington at dusk on the shortest day of the year. 

I want to see tens of thousands of Americans, all shades, all genders and sexualities, the richest oligarchs marching arm-in-arm with subway buskers, documented and undocumented, millennials and boomers, Texans alongside Californians flanked by Detroiters, all side-by-side in solidarity and unison chanting, “Hell, no! Hell, no! We won’t let our hour go!” and holding signs with slogans like “Keep Your Laws Off My Clocks.” Signs with photoshopped images of Johnny Cash giving us all the bird, only in this version, it’s Father Time underscored by the slogan “Time is Mine!” And I am not alone. 

Research has shown that time shifts in either direction—springing forward an hour and falling back—can trigger depression and bipolar disorders. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is associated specifically with losing an hour of afternoon light at the onset of winter, while increased rates of suicide, miscarriages, and heart attacks correlate with the start of Daylight Savings Time every spring. Time change also leads to negative, even dangerous, physiological and cognitive impairments, albeit short term, due to changes in our circadian rhythms. 

This burdensome practice is surrounded by lore. Did the idea stem from a misread of Ben Franklin’s 1784 satirical letter to the editor in the Journal de Paris, in which he suggested Parisians wake earlier to save money on candles? (I doubt it.) Was it to give farmers an extra hour of daylight during the grow season? (No. No it wasn’t.) Did the US begin the practice as a fuel-saving measure enacted during the World Wars as it was in Britain and Germany? (Sure, but not for peacetime use.) Was the candy lobby really behind the 2007 postponement of our annual fall back to standard time from late October to early November? (Yes. Yes it was.)

Time may change me…

Time didn’t used to be malleable. Time change did not become law until April 12, 1966, when congress passed, and L.B. Johnson signed into law, the Universal Time Act mandating Daylight Saving Time (DST) observance from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. This means that your living friends and family members, anyone who remembers 1970, also remembers a time when time didn’t change.

Not every state hopped on board in 1966, and that was their right—at the time. Hawaii and Arizona keep the same time year-round. (They look at us and SMDH.) And strangely enough, though the practice is said to be linked to farmers, it is the farm lobby we have to thank for delaying the mandate in peacetime that FDR hoped to enact permanently after WWII. By 1966, however, congress could no longer tolerate the free-for-all that led to inconsistent time practices across states and regions, voting to lock it all down under federal law. Specifically, time was now under the purview of the Department of Transportation staffers, overlords—er, I mean overseers—of time zones and the “universal observance of Daylight Savings Time.” It makes sense when you think about it. Our time lords are transit professionals because it’s not just time travel that matters, it’s time that matters to travelers (and goods and the sellers of goods). The Universal Time Act marks the end of chapter one in our story about changing time. 

Then things get weird. In 1972, the law was amended for states that spanned two time zones, allowing them to opt out of the observance of Daylight Savings Time in part or all of their state. Enter Indiana. Pay close attention; this isn’t pretty. Taking full advantage of this legal tweak, most of the counties in Indiana decided to observe Eastern Standard Time year-round and opt out of Daylight Savings Time. A few rogue counties followed their inner Johnny Cash and decided to choose #TeamCentralTime and #TeamDST, thereby syncing them with Chicago, Illinois, year-round but with Indianapolis only during the national observance of DTS. This hot mess lasted until 2005 when, because of this legal loophole, Indiana was granted the gift of time. The state was allowed to refuse to observe DST like its Hawaiian and Arizonan kin. Then in 1986, Ronald Reagan signed into law yet another time f**k whereby DST began on the first Sunday in April, rather than the last, extending DST from approximately six months to approximately seven months in duration. 

Then again in 2005, George W. Bush, with much encouragement from the candy lobby—and the golf lobby and big barbeque (what?)—saw opportunity in one more hour of daylight guaranteed through Halloween. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed the start of DST to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November. Our current approach to time, in California and 46 other US states, began after the passage of this act on March 11, 2007. 

…but you can’t trace time.

When all is said and done, I’m not mad at it. The way I see it, we are now only four months shy of year-round late-day sun. I am holding out hope that we can just go Full Monty this time, all 12 months every year from now on, instead of eking in that direction by falling back later or springing forward sooner until time stands still enough to fuse together as one again. 

With any luck (and a bit of lobbying), this past November just may have been the last time California f**ks with time. In the 2018 California general election, ballot Proposition 7 passed with 7,167,315 “yes” votes, just shy of 60 percent of total votes and a fairly strong victory for proponents. Prop 7 called, in its own cute and totally user-friendly-ballot-language kind of way, for the end of time change protocols and procedures in our great state. However, the ballot proposition was not a straight vote to make Daylight Savings Time permanent because…laws. Rather, it gave the state legislature the authority to “change Daylight Savings Time period by two-thirds vote, if changes are consistent with federal law.” And right now, federal law still prohibits doing so. Unsurprisingly, then, the one thing we can all agree on is changing time is never simple. 

In January 2020, Democratic Rep. Kansen Chu from San Jose, an original sponsor of Proposition 7, vowed to move California Assembly Bill 7 forward in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications committee. In order for the bill to become law, it needs a two-thirds vote from both the Assembly and the Senate. Even if it does pass, however, we still need to deal with that pesky federal law. Currently, there are four bills in the US Congress designed to grant states the power to change the changing of time—but not in a timely manner. Congress has until December 2020 to act on these bills. Le sigh

Luxury has gone to pot.

 At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted. 

It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.

Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”

Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first. 

Consumption and consumerism

Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn. 

And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.

If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new. 

With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)

This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”) 

Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.

“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”

Some like it haute

With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”

Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.” 

“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.

To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.” 

They say they’re not alcoholics, and they’re certainly not anonymous. What is sober curious—and can sobriety really be fluid?

I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter. 

On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back. 

I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God). 

Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.” 

On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like
#soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.” 

Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”    

I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.

In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.

Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.

Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”

A Little Bit Addicted?

“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”

Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?” 

Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.com that being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.

Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.

Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.  

I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.

Cheers to that. 

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