The sober-curious and sobriety movement has evolved over the past few years. Many of us are recognising the health benefits—both physical and mental—of an alcohol-free lifestyle. Although the conversation has opened up on how to be happy without the substance, there still remains some stigma on sobriety being synonymous with ‘having a problem’. Yogi, retreat leader and certified recovery addiction coach Mary Tilson launched Sun & Moon Sober Living to offer free resources to facilitate discussion for anyone sober and sober-curious. It aims to reduce the negative connotations and provide an all-inclusive platform for a like-minded community. We speak to Mary on the many benefits of sobriety, her eight-year journey and what to expect from her brand new podcast.
How has the conversation around sobriety evolved over the years? When I first got sober over eight years ago, sobriety seemed to be synonymous with “having a problem”, and was really only discussed in the context of addiction recovery. It often felt like then, and it still does now but to a lesser degree, that you had to give a convincing argument as to why you weren’t drinking, as if the myriad of health benefits weren’t enough. Today, I feel like we’re starting to see a very strong shift happening, as there’s greater awareness of the harmful side effects of alcohol, and more prominent voices are getting behind the sober movement.
Non-alcoholic bars are popping up more, celebrities like Katy Perry are joining the movement by endorsing De Soi, a line of non-alcoholic aperitifs, Adele recently spoke out about how alcohol negatively impacted her mental health, and even the new Sex & the City Reunion gave a depiction of the high-functioning alcoholic with their portrayal of Miranda. While I still believe we have a long way to go, the decision to be sober has definitely become more of a socially acceptable decision that people are beginning to view as empowering rather than shameful.
What are the benefits of sobriety? Where to begin! The easiest way to understand would be to look at all of the negative ways alcohol impacts your health. Despite the common myths about alcohol helping us wind down or relax, it actually alters our brain chemistry in a way that leaves us feeling more on edge and anxious, so reducing anxiety and improving your mental health is a big benefit. Alcohol consumption is also linked to poor sleep and insomnia, multiple types of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, weight gain, and addiction, to name a few.
I recently heard William Porter, author of Alcohol Explained, describe alcohol as the “anti-fitness” because of the way it impacts heart health—quite the turnoff for any wellness enthusiast. Some of the greatest benefits I’ve experienced are reclaiming precious time and energy, physical and mental health, building more meaningful relationships, improving my sleep and learning effective coping strategies and emotional regulation techniques without relying on alcohol as a crutch.
Can you tell us about your project for Holistic Sober Living? Yes! Sun & Moon Sober Living is an inclusive online platform to explore sobriety and be part of a like-minded community, whether you are already sober or sober-curious. We offer free resources on the website and social channels, online meetings, and the newly launched Sun & Moon Sober Living Podcast.
My vision with Sun & Moon Sober Living is to normalise conversations about sobriety and addiction and help others feel supported and empowered by this choice with no labels or stigma attached. Holistic Sober Living is about so much more than just giving up a substance, it’s about understanding what drove us to drink and numb out in the first place, and building a foundation of wellbeing that enhances all areas of our lives.
Can you tell us about your new Podcast?The Sun & Moon Sober Living Podcast features interviews with experts in the field of Addiction Recovery, Mental Health and Holistic Wellbeing, as well as an inspiring variety of people who are thriving in sobriety across all industries. What’s become apparent through my own experience and working with others, is that conversations about sobriety are often confined to anonymous recovery circles and treatment centers, when the truth is, there is a massive percent of the population struggling with alcohol use disorder or who just simply want to experience more health and vitality in their day to day life than alcohol allows.
What are some holistic ways to recover from addiction? When it comes to addiction, it’s essential that we don’t just focus on giving up the single substance or addictive behaviour, but address the underlying causes and build a well-rounded skill set to give us more agency over our choices moving forward. When we focus too much on a single behaviour it’s easy for transfer addiction to occur, which many liken to a game of “whack-a-mole”—as soon as you get one under control, another pops up.
A holistic approach incorporates the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects in the healing process. As my teacher, Nikki Myers, Founder of Y12SR (Yoga for 12-Step Recovery) often says, “the issues are in our tissues”. This is why somatic practices like yoga are an important companion to the cognitive and spiritual tools of traditional addiction therapies. Examples include traditional rehab programmes, group and 1:1 therapy, attending recovery meetings, self-inquiry, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and spending time immersed in nature.
What are some things you’ve learned along the way in starting Sun & Moon Sober Living?One of the biggest things I’ve learned from speaking openly about my own sobriety is how many people are either personally struggling with alcohol or have had their lives affected by a loved one with alcohol use disorder. It’s this strange phenomenon, where on the one hand, it seems everyone can relate in some way but on the other hand we continue to encourage a culture of secrecy on the topic.
I’m always educating myself and reading up on the latest research on the neuroscience of addiction, and the ways alcohol impacts our physiology, as well as healing modalities to support long-term recovery. I’ve been fascinated to learn more about the relationship between trauma and addiction through the work of Peter Levine, Gabor Mate, Besser Van Der Kolk, Nikki Myers and many others. These findings reinforce the importance of taking a holistic approach which incorporates the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual as well as external factors including environment and social relationships. Education on the topic also helps us become more compassionate towards ourselves and others who are suffering from addiction.
What’s next for you? Sun & Moon Sober Living is really just beginning! In addition to the free community meetings, online resources and podcast, I will soon be offering more in-depth courses and 1:1 Holistic Sobriety Coaching for those who want to go deeper into this work. You can find more information and subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch through our website and follow us on Instagram.