How To Make Sober Friends If AA Isn’t Your Thing
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
Quitting drinking completely changed my life. It delivered the happiness and confidence I always assumed came with drinking. I thought drinking made me gregarious and quieted my introvert insecurities, but I realized how disconnected it actually made me feel and made me feel even more insecure (hello do I have wine teeth?).
Most people are scared that quitting or even questioning the role of alcohol in their lives will make them a social pariah. I was. And that doing something good for yourself and mental wellbeing means uninviting yourself to all forms of social connection.
How unrealized this fear has been for me. I find more connection with my friends and family, now that I’m able to be authentic, present, and intune with myself. And my yearning for more like-minded connections has given me friends in the sober community that have made the real difference between a simple lifestyle change to a completely empowering and inspiring place I call home. I feel so lucky.
Though it’s not always how it works. The opposite might come true. Quitting drinking may cause you to lose friends who feel insecure about your not drinking. Or to not feel at home with your work drinking buddies or women’s (wine) book club anymore. It’s not always easy at the networking events or celebrations. Being sober is definitely being the odd one out. Sometimes it’s being the only one defying societal conventions and not following the herd. You might find yourself the only one in your group of friends or general vicinity that is embarking on this lifestyle change. And in order to not feel alone or isolated, it takes deliberate and intentional action to find your new lifestyle reflected in other inspiring men and women.
So how do I make sober friends? Of course there is AA—the ubiquitous one-size-fits-all solution to quit drinking and find community, but it’s not really my thing and it’s okay if it’s not yours either.
So here are eight other ideas to get you out of the house and meeting other inspiring trailblazers:
This is the widest and broadest way to start your search. Meetup is a social network website that let’s the community organize their own events. In my hometown of San Diego, I’m part of groups like the San Diego Recovering Women’s Social Club, San Diego Women’s Alcohol-Free Meetup, and Sober AF. Together we go to brunch, play arcade games, go on hikes, and do cycling classes. This is how I met my podcast co-host! You literally have no idea what the world could bring you if you open your mind to it (her line btw). See what’s going on in your hometown or county by visiting meetup.com and searching for groups with keywords like: sober, alcohol-free, recovery, etc.
Bars and Raves
Who would have thought? Yes, there’s a growing trend of 100% alcohol-free bars and pop up raves that are more about dancing and expanding your mind than losing your mind. See if morning dance parties Daybreaker or Morning Glory visit your town.
And sober bars? Imagine the vibe of meeting new people, singing your favorite song or playing pool while sipping on deliciously crafted mocktails. These new bar owners are activists. We don’t need to numb, or damage our health and wellbeing to enjoy nightlife and going out. Check out SansBar in Austin, Texas, upcoming opening of SansBar in Los Angeles, or their pop-ups around the nation. You’ve got Listen Bar if you’re in New York, Redemption if you’re in London, and Virgin Mary Bar if you’re in Dublin.
Not drinking is a radical act of self-love and new movements are moving past the traditional paradigm that drinking is an issue for only a small portion of the population. Instead they’re questioning the norm that alcohol is requisite for a fun and fulfilling life, creating communities, and offering tons of support and resources, from conferences, sobriety schools, and hangouts in real life. Check out Hip Sobriety’s roster of events near you, SHE Recovers meetups, and Club Soda NYC events.
Other Community Meetings
Ok yes, you may luck out if you live in a big city with some of the aforementioned ideas. But if there’s no sober revolution happening in your town yet and going to AA is just not aligned with your inner values, why not check out other widespread community meetings? There’s SMART Recovery, which has meetings all over the world just like AA but is founded on modern science, positive psychology and empowerment. Or Refuge Recovery, also a growing community of meetings based on Buddhism. Or Women for Sobriety, a female empowerment and healing program with meetings all over. There’s also plenty of spaces that encourage growth, learning, and development away from alcohol like yoga workshops and personal development seminars. For example, Shine is an inspirational variety show based on crafting an alcohol-free experience of learning and growth.
Retreats and Travel
Meeting new like-minded people while also getting out of your comfort zone is the recipe for lasting friendships. Sober-minded retreats encourage you to work past your adversity, embrace your vulnerability and find connection with soulful searchers. Try SHE Recovers retreats, the Sober Glow Adventure retreat, or Bigger Life Adventures yoga retreats.
And how about meeting other like-minded women while exploring a new city or scuba diving? You know, one of the harder myths about alcohol for me to debunk was that it was necessary for a good vacation or to experience the local culture. And yet drinking while traveling always left a dark cloud on the trip and didn’t leave me in the mood to be fully appreciative of my new surroundings. Sober Outside is a travel company that organizes co-ed and women’s trips for people who are looking for meaningful interaction while discovering a new locale.
If You’re in the Commonwealth
The scene that’s going on around sober living and mindful drinking in the UK makes me jealous. With outstanding organizations and conversations being made mainstream about how awesome it is to not drink, they’re forming a new definition of normal. Dry January, Dry July, and Sober October were all birthed in the UK as public health campaigns, de-stigmafying the quest to drink less or quit. Club Soda is a huge movement there, with festivals, meetings and socials. And there’s also One Year No Beer, for fitness and growth minded challengers. If you’re in Australia, check out Hello Sunday Morning for community events and conversations.
This is still the 21st century and a lot of community can be built online, not to mention growing bonds there first until you actually do meet in real life! On Facebook, join groups like This Naked Mind or Club Soda Together (and shameless plug for Euphoric Alcohol-Free!). People share their challenges and epiphanies allowing you to offer advice and get inspired. The sober-sphere on Instagram is huge with a wide range of influencers and newbies embarking on their journeys. Search sober or alcohol-free or teetotal and follow people who inspire you or who you relate to. Comment on their posts. Engage in their stories. It won’t be long until you have a sober following.
Create the Community You Want To See
If these ideas don’t work out for your location, why not create the community you so deeply wish existed? Go on meetup.com and start a sober social group. Plan alcohol-free book clubs, kombucha tastings, hikes or brunches. There’s bound to be others around you discovering a happier alcohol-free life that want to connect. My friend Danielle did exactly that and has created a community of almost 200 sober sisters! If she wasn’t brave enough to put herself out there like that, we probably wouldn’t have met. Crazy how the world works when you actively go forth towards your dreams.
As Goethe said, “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”
There’s so much happening in our sober community, I probably missed your sober movement with real life events. Feel free to message me to get it added!