If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, you know how difficult it is to find nighttime social activities that don’t involve drinking. After you complete a rehab program or stop drinking alcohol, it is common to become bored and feel isolated, especially in the evenings. Additionally, many people who struggle with alcohol addiction and have stopped drinking used to spend a lot of time at bars and don’t know what else to do with their time once they’re in recovery.

The instinct to not go to a bar when you are in addiction recovery is a good one. Even though you might feel strong enough to resist the urge to drink, spending time at a place where the main focus is consuming alcohol opens the door to relapse. People at bars, even if they are your friends, often do not understand addiction and will encourage you to drink. Going out to places where you used to drink can also set off a number of triggers ⁠— music, smells, familiar sights or feelings ⁠— that can lead you to fall into a familiar habit: drinking. It takes a long time to practice and reinforce new habits, and returning to bars and hanging out with people who are drinking can easily get in the way of your new life.

In the United States, drinking is the norm at social events. More than half of Americans report drinking any alcohol in the past month, and more than a quarter said they binge drank in the past month. If you like to meet people and socialize, particularly in the evening, it’s hard to find a space where sobriety is the norm.

An exciting new trend is emerging, however, to meet the demands of being sober and social. Sober bars like the Getaway bar in Brooklyn’s hip Greenpoint neighborhood are on the rise, serving nonalcoholic beverages and offering a different kind of nightlife where people who don’t drink can gather and have fun.

What Are Sober Bars?

A “sober bar” might sound like a bit of an oxymoron, like a restaurant that does not serve food. The idea behind the sober bar movement, however, is that a bar is a place for people to meet, relax, socialize and have fun ⁠— not a place to get drunk.

So, what do you do at a sober bar? What does a sober bar look like?

If you walked into a sober bar and you didn’t know any better, you would probably think it was a regular bar. Many sober bars are chic and play music that you can dance to. People at a sober bar, at first glance, may look no different than people at a regular bar as they stand at tables, lounge in chairs, or order a drink at the bar. Of course, the main difference is that all of the beverages served are alcohol-free drinks. Most sober bars take a hard 0% alcohol policy and do not even serve alcohol-free beer because it contains a small percentage of alcohol.

While there isn’t any alcohol in the drinks, the beverages served at a sober bar go beyond soda water and lemonade. Bartenders create unique craft cocktails, or “mocktails,” that allow patrons to enjoy a delicious beverage without the impairment, danger or negative health and mental effects that alcoholic drinks have. Essentially, sober bars offer all of the same positives of a traditional bar ⁠— fun spaces, opportunities to meet people and tasty drinks ⁠— while cutting out the harmful aspects.

What’s really interesting about sober bars is that they are not just a place for those in recovery to go. These establishments are part of a larger sober life movement that embraces sobriety as a lifestyle, largely by people who have not experienced addiction. In this way, sober bars are not just a recluse for people in recovery who cannot go to bars. They are a true alternative to bars that offer a place for people who want to be sober and have fun without stigma.

Sober Curious Movement

Some people who like to go to sober bars are simply taking a break from alcohol or are experimenting with getting sober. They are part of the sober curious movement and are not drinking as a proud choice, but rather a last resort. Millennials make up a large proportion of the movement, which may be because they’re more likely to live in cities where sober bars are popping up. That being said, younger people are better educated about health and the negative impacts that alcohol has on the body. In this way, the sober curious movement is part of a larger health movement in the United States and abroad.

In general, people are paying more attention to what they put into their bodies. With the knowledge of how alcohol affects metabolism, mood, brain chemistry and sleep, many Americans want to have a social life without compromising their health. Additionally, addiction is losing the stigma that it once had and people feel more comfortable talking about their recovery and sharing their experiences. The decision to be sober is increasingly seen as a decision to be healthy.

Enhancing Addiction Recovery

Sober bars can play a very positive role for the recovering addict. They can offer a space for those in recovery to interact with a larger group of people in a healthy environment, without stigma. The decision to stop drinking is, essentially, a decision to be healthy. In this way, people in recovery are actually part of the same health movement that is driving the trend of sober bars.

While it’s important to focus on your sobriety, attending meetings and forming connections with other people who have similar experiences, it’s also important to have fun. The need to get out and laugh, talk and dance is not something you can turn off when you decide to stop drinking, nor something you should turn off. Relapse prevention, especially for those in early recovery, is crucial, and finding a way to have sober fun can make a huge difference.

If you think that you or a loved one is living with addiction and needs treatment, reach out to The Recovery Village to speak to a representative today. You are not alone. Treatment is available.