Alcohol is a culturally expected part of adult life, and it can be a challenge to find alternatives when you are struggling with sobriety. Isolation makes recovery more difficult, and the loss of social groups and activities is a major hurdle for many people to overcome.
Fortunately, a new trend is making it easier to enjoy the energy and excitement of night life without the temptation for over-indulgence. So-called “sober bars” and parties provide the same experience of a regular bar or night club but without the alcohol and drugs that can trigger a relapse.
What Is a Sober Bar?
Sober bars or sober parties are locations and events created with teetotalers in mind. Many that have opened in recent years operate as non-profit ventures launched by addiction recovery services in an effort to fill a niche.
Alcohol-free bars started in Europe and have been gaining traction in U.S. cities over the past decade. These bars are built to rival the atmosphere of a normal bar or night club, and they may serve food and alcohol-free “mocktails,” specialty sodas or even milkshakes. They may also offer entertainment like live music, pool tables, darts, trivia nights, karaoke and other events.
Part of the focus of a sober bar is building opportunities for socialization. People frequently rely on bars as a way to meet dates or make friends. Offering opportunities to get the social benefits of a drinking buddy without the actual drinking makes dry bars a new and even revolutionary way to socialize.
Enjoying a Bar Without Alcohol
Of course, you do not have to go to a special dry bar to enjoy a night out without alcohol. Drinking at any bar or night club is not required, and many bars offer incentives like free drinks to designated drivers.
The problem is that temptation to drink can be overwhelming when you are surrounded by alcohol, and this can trigger a relapse in anyone trying to stay sober. Well-meaning friends can also pressure you into drinking or put you in an uncomfortable situation.
For this reason, it’s often best to avoid bars altogether when you struggle with substance abuse. However, many people in recovery struggle to find alternatives that will fill empty time, provide a place to go on the weekend or offer socialization opportunities or chances to meet people.
This is the niche that sober bars seek to fill, and they can only grow more successful as the idea gains traction with non-drinkers of all kinds.
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Who Benefits from Sober Parties?
People who struggle with substance abuse aren’t the only ones who benefit from dry bars and substance-free entertainment.
Pregnant women, young adults and individuals whose religion prohibits alcohol can all enjoy the atmosphere and socialization perks of a bar without the pressure to drink. Because bars and clubs have traditionally provided the primary place to meet up or hang out, people who cannot or choose not to drink may feel left out or isolated. Dry bars solve this problem.
A growing acceptance of alcohol-free socialization venues helps recovering addicts to shake the stigma of recovery and enjoy the social benefits without a danger of relapse. The best part of going to a party isn’t the drugs and alcohol but the atmosphere and people. When alcohol is removed from the equation, many people may find that some of the positive associations they’ve developed with drinking can actually be gotten in a healthier and safer environment.
Are Sober Bars the Future of Partying?
Although they’ve been gaining traction, especially in larger cities, sober bars are still far from universal. While it’s unlikely that alcohol-focused venues will vanish any time soon, a growing social acceptance of substance-free spaces is good for everyone.
The underlying causes of alcoholism are complex and vary between individuals, but the cultural acceptance and normalization of binge drinking certainly contributes to the rates of alcohol abuse around the world. If the cultural scripts surrounding socializing and having fun begin to change, many people may benefit. It’s always possible to live a full and fun life without alcohol, and specialized venues for parties, concerts and get-togethers help to drive that message home.