The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober - A review

A young couple sat in the boot of their car with popcorn, watching a drive thru movie.

An overwhelmingly positive outlook on sobriety, Sunday Times Bestseller The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray is a hugely important book for those curious about a sober lifestyle, those already living an alcohol-free life, and for the wider conversation about the relationship we have with alcohol as a society. 

Gray writes brilliantly about breaking the repeated cycle of drinking, poor decisions, and hangovers. In the preface, She talks about starting out writing comments on anonymous sober forums, and that she originally intended to continue this by writing the book under a pseudonym, but she realised this would continue the idea that it’s something to be ashamed of. The book is all the better for being so personal and honest, and whether you’re just looking to drink a bit less, or are wondering where to start on cutting alcohol out of your life completely, it’s a brilliant place to start.

The benefits of being sober:

She doesn’t mess around, and goes right in with a long list of how sobriety has impacted her life:

“I found that I was about a million times happier being sober than I ever had been while drinking… I found myself with dozens more hours in the week, heaps more energy, £23,000 more money over four years, deepened friendships, revived family relationships, better skin, a tighter body, tanned legs for the first time ever, the ability to sleep for eight uninterrupted hours, a bone-deep sense of wellbeing, a totally turned around positive outlook, and an infinitely more successful career. What’s not to like?”

What’s great about this book, is that it’s not a sanctimonious how-to guide from a place of ‘I’ve done it, so can you’, and it’s not a story about the author’s addiction with a view to guilt-tripping the reader into sobriety. It’s overwhelmingly positive, and is more about the author celebrating everything she’s gained from not drinking, while recognising that what worked for her during her personal journey to sobriety is not necessarily what will work for others.

Having said that it’s not a how-to guide, it’s still split into incredibly helpful sections with titles like “Learning to be sober”, “Being nicer”, “Socialising sober” and “Choose your own sober adventure”. So once it’s been read once, it would be really easy to flick back through and reference relevant sections as they crop up. 

Scientific research

Filled with insightful statistics and results from well-researched studies, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober mentions that two thirds of Brits are drinking more than they intend to, and yet drinking culture is such a norm, that when someone chooses to drink less or become sober it can still feel surprising to others. For that reason, this book is not only a great read for meeting readers where they are personally on their sober journey and how they view sobriety, but it would be great for someone thinking about becoming sober to recommend to their friends and family, to help others understand their choices and see them in a positive light.

One thing that really stuck out later in the book are Catherine’s thoughts on Dry January. While she says it’s a fantastic start and a positive thing, she urges anyone who is seriously sober curious to go beyond Dry January. In her experience a month isn’t necessarily long enough to experience all the benefits that sobriety has to offer, and yet it contains all the hardships of that initial decision to quit alcohol. Basically that short amount of time can present all of the challenges, and not enough of the good stuff! 

With prominent mental health campaigner and media personality Dr Alex George documenting his own sober journey on his social media channels and recommending this book recently, it shows that it’s already permeating the wider conversation about our collective relationship with alcohol in the UK.

An entertaining and insightful read that felt like a frank conversation with a friend, It's great to see The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober making huge waves within the sober community - and beyond!

Posted on February 20th 2023

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