Fall can be a tough season for sobriety. Summer events and festivals are full of options for fun activities, variations of lemonade and even the simple joys of being outside.
But as the weather turns crisp, socialization moves inside. It becomes glaringly obvious that the idea of “going out” is really shorthand for “standing around while holding alcohol.” That’s when I, standing around with my tea or soda or (cringe) plain glass of water, start to wonder: what part of this is supposed to be fun?
When I first quit drinking, I barreled headfirst through the awkwardness. My mantra was “anything you can do, I can do sober.” I went out dancing, to shows and bike jams, just with a different beverage of choice. I had some good times, and I spent some nights holed up in the venue’s bathroom because that was preferable to one-sided slurry-worded conversations.
I quickly saw how synonymous “fun” was with “let’s get drunk”. So many cultural realms – art, music, dining out – are deeply wedded with drinking culture. I took booze out of the equation, and expected the fun to remain.
But not all events or venues plan for a good time without drinking. The fact that people will be getting tipsy (or plastered) is almost a given, and the leap from “let’s go to this place and stand around holding glassware and king cans” to “BEST NIGHT EVER [emoji emoji]!!” is often alcohol-induced.
At smaller independent events, there’s often at least a box of wine and donation jar or cooler full of Lucky Lager, and maybe as an alternative, some plain water. If not, then it’s a long line for the one bathroom to sneak a refill from the rusty tap. That’s not exactly party material for the sober guests.
I realized that I was either going to have to settle for a life of no fun, or redefine what fun meant. So I started seeking out venues that seemed more welcoming to sober patrons, and relegating the rest to the B-list.
Any place that has a non-alcoholic beverage menu that would be equally at home at The Pancake House is not sober-friendly. Just ‘cause I’m not ordering a pint doesn’t mean I have no tastebuds, and I’d like to drink something that wouldn’t normally go in a child’s sippy cup when I’m out for the night.
“Adult beverage” has become shorthand for a booze-infused drink, but really, can’t we all enjoy something a little more stimulating than Sprite on the rocks? Any bartender worth their salt should be able to mix up a tasty concoction with or without liquor, and I’m happy to shell out $5 for their expertise.
I’ve started to expect more from a night out than a dank dark room with loud sounds and lots of people falling over on me. Unless a musician or performance is going to blow my mind, there’s gotta be something else going on.
Maybe it’s really great people, or a witty MC. Maybe there are games (yes, adult fun can include an activity section too), or cool vendors, or tasty snacks.
After dropping the bottle, I raised the bar. I started hunting for venues and events that offer more interaction, variety and creativity. It took a bit of work, but I found fun again.
Anastasia Chipelski is the Managing Editor at The Uniter. She’ll meet your pint with a cup of tea or fancy soda: Cheers.
Published in Volume 70, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2015)