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When I chose an alcohol-free life almost seven years ago, there was primarily one single school of thought for why some people drink and some don’t.
People who drank were labeled normal and people who didn’t drink had “a problem.”
No matter what I did or said, I felt I’d forever live with a label that others assigned to me—alcoholic, addict, sober, in recovery—labels I didn’t identify with or take pride in.
So, I made it my mission to create a welcoming space for others who also wanted to change their relationship with alcohol but, like me, didn’t fit in with the way society defined drinkers and nondrinkers.
Others were creating similar spaces, and conversations invited people who identified as “sober curious” and wanted to explore living alcohol-free to join what’s become a powerful movement.
Due to the success of the dialogue in these spaces, I can say I am actually no longer part of the movement. Why? Because what began as a journey to change the way we talk about sobriety and recovery is becoming an acceptable lifestyle choice.
Perspectives and perceptions are changing. People who identify as sober-curious or alcohol-free are being applauded and admired versus shamed and shunned.
It’s not that alcohol is suddenly seen as taboo or that people no longer do a double take when you say you don’t drink. It is that those of us who have changed our relationship with alcohol are no longer hiding on the fringes of society and wondering where we fit in.
We see people like us everywhere. The medical and wellness fields are starting to report more and more about the dangers of alcohol rather than sharing studies touting the benefits of it. We’re finally hearing about how there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Researchers and doctors are admitting the benefits of alcohol for heart health have been overstated for years and they’re cautioning patients that drinking is a huge risk factor for developing cancers.
The social scene has also come of age and created both spaces and options for those who choose to keep the spirits out of their glass and instead alive within their souls. Alcohol-free bars have popped up worldwide, both literally and figuratively. Some spaces are holding pop-up events where they might be alcohol free for a night while other bars are completely free from booze but full of laughs, camaraderie, and unforgettable nights instead. Cities across the United States—including Austin, Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Portland, and San Francisco—all have alcohol-free spaces. Globally, cities like Berlin, Dublin, London, Melbourne, and Tokyo have also embraced the alcohol-free lifestyle.
Beverage makers have caught on too! Alcohol-free beer is no longer an afterthought with a bottom of the barrel approach to options. From craft makers to commercial brewers, alcohol-free beer now is a class and a category of its own with as many flavor profiles as its harder-hitting cousin. Distilleries and wineries have taken note as well, offering spirits and wines that pack all the flavor and complexities drinkers have become accustomed to without any of the less favorable side effects.
Not only do spaces and drinking options exist where being alcohol-free is the norm, but even meeting friends and finding romance has become easier for those who choose not to drink. Apps like Loosid cater to nondrinkers exclusively while Bumble has added an option to filter choices to only show those who do not drink. That’s right. No more awkward conversations when you turn down drinks! From vacation planning to parenting and everything in-between, being a nondrinker no longer leaves you in the lurch.
As living alcohol-free has become less of a movement and more of a lifestyle, the greatest growth I’ve witnessed is in the support and community. Church basements are no longer the only meeting ground for nondrinkers. The circles of support for those living alcohol-free have grown exponentially and have strived to create choices that include everyone, no matter what their story or background is.
It makes sense. Alcohol infiltrates society across the board. It is used by rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, married, and single alike. Drinking happens regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and even age. Yet, for the longest time, nondrinkers really only had one option when it came to bonding with other nondrinkers or finding support on their journey. If they didn’t fit in there, they were out of luck.
I love the fact that is no longer the case. If you’re looking to connect with and find people who are living an alcohol-free lifestyle, you can now find communities worldwide and at your fingertips in an instant. The biggest surprise most people find when they begin exploring life without booze is the mindset around it.
Gone is the idea that we’re choosing to be alcohol-free due to shame, guilt, or a rock-bottom experience. That’s not to say that isn’t behind the choice for some people, but more and more often the choice not to drink is driven by other factors. A desire to live a healthier, more authentic life. A curiosity about how life might be different if alcohol wasn’t a part of it. A need to be more present and more mindful.
The reasons people give for changing their relationship with alcohol are as numerous as the people themselves, but there is an underlying message and a unity among us. We’re not ashamed of ourselves or missing out on anything by being alcohol-free. Instead we’re proud, empowered, free, and happy to be living the amazing lives we’ve chosen to live.
If you’re curious about what a life with less or no alcohol in it can look and feel like or if you’re on your journey and looking to connect with others like you, I’d love you to join the more than 280,000 people who have tried The Alcohol Experiment. The members of our free community are all proud and happy to be living free from alcohol and eager to support you as well!