It was only when I decided to quit drinking that I began to realize how deeply ingrained alcohol is in our lives. From the chalkboards advertising Happy Hour lining every pavement in NYC, to the ubiquitous wine list you’re handed as soon as you sit down in a restaurant, alcohol is everywhere. From drinks after work to bottomless brunches. Sex on The Beach to Christmas Cheer. With all this promotion, it can seem like booze is the lifeblood of our social lives. And the reality is, that for regular drinkers, it’s often something we imbibe in without thinking. I say “we” since this used to include me. But around five years ago, I began to question my drinking choices. Not least because I could no longer ignore what turned out to be an inconvenient truth: More often than not (like always), alcohol made me feel like crap. Even though I thought I was drinking to get happy. An “inconvenient” realization, since it soon became clear that changing my drinking habits would require some serious effort—not least because booze was everywhere. And while I don’t identify with the term “alcoholic,” the fact that booze is also one of the five most addictive substances—yes, more so than cocaine—was not going to make it any easier. Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-alcohol. I also have no desire to be the judge of anybody else’s drinking choices. I actually happen to believe the transcendent, altered states of consciousness we can achieve with alcohol are a vital, and way underserved, aspect of being human. If anything, cutting alcohol out of my life has given me a newfound respect for this ancient mood-enhancer. Booze is potent stuff, yo! And yet we use it like it’s salt. Questioning how, why, and when we drink has been the crux of my “sober curious” journey, which has led to another important (for me) revelation. Without alcohol in my life, I feel connected to my spirit—which is to say alive—in a way I haven’t since I was a kid. For whatever reason I was under the impression that utter confidence in who we are is not our birthright. Spoiler alert: It is! If I feared feeling less confident, less connected to my friends, or thought life would become monotonous without booze, it turns out that, in my case, the opposite was true. Sure, the first few social occasions without a trusty cocktail in my hand felt scary to say the least. A bit like the first time you jump in the pool without armbands. And then something changed. Not “needing” the crutch of alcohol has become as liberating as it is empowering, in all areas of life. Like learning to swim, there’s a sense of “I got this”—no matter how deep and dark the water. Increased confidence is one thing, but as for the other positive effects of not drinking? How long have you got? For anyone seeking a more mindful life—which I’m just guessing might be you, I believe that being fully mindful means being fully present. Fully in it. And whichever way you spin it, alcohol (for me) will always be a way of getting out of it.
3 Ideas for a Sober Social Life
- Get creative. A craft workshop, art or cooking class, provides an activity to bridge the I-feel-awkward-without-a-drink-in-my-hand gap. Plus it gives you something to chat about, until you remember you don’t actually need a drink inside you to get down to the real talk.
- Breathwork can be a way to have a truly transcendent experience—no substances required! It’s also super healing and fun to try with a friend. Check out practitioner Erin Telford for regular events and online sessions that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
- Club SÖDA NYC is an event series for the sober curious that I created with meditation artist Biet Simkin. Think motivation, mingling, and learning new ways to get way high on your own supply!