The Rise of the Sober Curious Movement

The Rise of the Sober Curious Movement

How Tribe Sober was Born

Tribe Sober was created in 2015. The founder, Janet Gourand, had been struggling with alcohol dependence for years. When she finally quit drinking, she felt happier and healthier than before, so she decided to help others do the same.

Janet’s story is a familiar one. She started drinking at College to fit in, then drinking to socialize during her 20s and 30s. Alcohol became more of a coping mechanism in her 40s and 50s – to deal with the pressure of a high-powered job and family responsibilities. Upon arriving home after a busy day, opening the wine was the first task on the to-do list!

Alcohol is so normalized in a society that Janet didn’t think she had a “problem” – after all, her friends also drank a bottle of wine a night. After going through breast cancer,  she decided to “cut down.”  That’s when she discovered that she had become dependent. She tried over and over to drink less but found it impossible.

She went to AA, but that didn’t work, so eventually, she found a small community of women with good jobs and nice families (women like her) who were also battling alcohol dependence.  As a result, Janet managed to stop drinking and is now seven years sober.

Janet had discovered the power of community – and that “connection is the opposite of addiction.”  She also discovered that she had time on her hands now that she was no longer drinking or battling the after-effects! She decided to create her own community – and Tribe Sober was born.

With her decades of corporate experience as an HR Director, Janet was able to design and facilitate a workshop called “Kickstart Your Sober Life.”  This workshop evolved into a Zoom workshop during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also offered as an online course.  Hundreds of people have attended the workshops, and many are now thriving in their alcohol-free lives.

Over the years, Tribe Sober has added Challenges, Recovery Coaching, and a Membership to the mix. Janet also hosts a weekly podcast called Tribe Sober, where she interviews people in recovery and experts and authors.  This podcast has connected Tribe Sober with people worldwide, so the community has become international. 

Challenges Facing Tribe Sober 

Alcohol has become so normalized in a society that anyone who quits drinking goes against the flow. The non-drinker has to peel away from the herd, which makes them feel alone and vulnerable. It takes courage and confidence to be different, and connecting with a community of supportive people on the same path is a game-changer.  

As a society, we have been conditioned by marketing and social norms into thinking that drinking is essential to a happy life. The wine industry has mainly targeted women for the last 25 years.  After all, most movies or tv shows feature a glamorous heroine drinking a glass of wine at some point! These marketing campaigns have been a stunning success, and many women have integrated wine into their lifestyle, along with yoga, exercise, and eating organic food.    

If someone gives up smoking, their friends will congratulate them. However, the reactions will be less favorable if they give up drinking. Most people will reassure them that they are “fine” and tell them not to be so “boring”!

Opportunities for Tribe Sober

There are signs of a societal shift towards sobriety as part of the general wellness trend. One of the drivers of this shift is the fact that the health risks of alcohol are finally coming into the public domain. It was known in 1988 that alcohol was a carcinogen, but only now do we see articles explaining that alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer.  It’s particularly risky for women because drinking more than three glasses of wine a week will raise their risk of breast cancer by 15%.  

Another driver is that the “shame” around alcohol dependence is reducing.  Ten years ago, someone with a drinking problem would go to AA.  Even though AA has helped millions of people, its approach is not for everybody. Most people are not prepared to admit that they are powerless, diseased, or need to attend meetings for 30 years!

Janet Gourand went to AA but fundamentally disagreed with their approach.  She realized that daily, women drinking a bottle of wine needed a different approach. According to the World Health Organisation, if we want to be healthy, we should not touch alcohol. The low-risk limits of alcohol are just one and a half bottles of wine a week.

Tribe Sober is much “lighter” in its approach than AA.  They see quitting alcohol as an opportunity for people to open up their lives to new connections and activities and become happier and healthier.  The average Tribe Sober member will go through a few difficult months adjusting their behavior patterns as they stop drinking.  The next few months will be spent reconfiguring their lives and learning how to navigate our alcohol-drenched society as a non-drinker – and then they are done!

Quitting alcohol is just the first step.  The next stage is learning to thrive in sobriety rather than going through life feeling deprived.

Most people who have got sober with Tribe Sober tend to stick around. They love the community and become “Sober Buddies” to help new people. Some of them even train to become recovery coaches.

Ten years ago, rehab and AA were the only options. These days the landscape has changed dramatically, and now there is a new “modern recovery movement”- primarily online.

Sobriety is becoming cool, and many people choose it as an aspirational lifestyle rather than something they have to do because they have become dependent. There is even a monthly magazine, Hola Sober, which aims to rebrand sobriety and make it as glamorous as drinking wine and cocktails used to be!

Many younger people are choosing not to drink at all or at least to be “sober curious” and see what their life feels like without it. A recent study showed that 25% of young people in the UK don’t drink alcohol.  

Janet’s Advice about Business

It’s Never Too Late to Start a Business!

It was never my plan to start a business.  My corporate career was over, and I planned to enjoy my retirement, drinking wine and reading books. However, I soon got bored and decided to quit alcohol. That took six months of hard work, but then I was done – with time on my hands, I felt so great that I decided to start Tribe Sober and help others do the same.

Be in it for the Long Haul

It was never my ambition to make money from Tribe Sober, but I did need to cover my costs. These days, we provide a personal service to 400 members. For this reason, I have some help, meaning I have salaries to pay. Tribe Sober broke even after three years, and these days, I plough any profits straight back into marketing our services. We aim to reach out and help as many people as possible.  We know we are changing lives and want to continue doing that.

 Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I had no clear vision when I started Tribe Sober. As an experienced coach and trainer, I first stayed within my comfort zone, designing and facilitating workshops and retraining as a recovery coach. I began to realize the power of community and listened to my workshop graduates when they told me they wanted to stay connected and receive regular content. I created a membership, chatrooms, and regular Zoom meetups to meet their needs and keep them on track.  

 Be a Lifelong Learner

Your Weaknesses Could Become Your Strengths

As an HR Director, I had no experience in sales and marketing. When I started Tribe Sober, I realized that I would have to find a way of spreading the word if I was to achieve my goal of helping other people quit drinking. I quickly learned how to get media interviews and create content for my website and newsletters. I soon realized that sales and marketing was not about being “pushy” but about building and nurturing relationships. 

Find Your Passion!

Running your business is hard work, and it may be challenging to stay motivated unless you are passionate about what you do. I have discovered real meaning and purpose in my life through running Tribe Sober. Every day, I see evidence in our chat rooms that people are changing their lives, which gives me energy and makes me feel privileged to be doing this work.  

Go to tribesober.com for more information on the benefits of membership.  The Tribe Sober weekly podcast is available on Spotify and Apple.  Join Tribe Sober for personal, online, and community support to quit drinking and learn to thrive in your alcohol-free life!

Janet Gourand

[email protected]

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS

I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.

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