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Sober Social Society

Issue 28

When I stopped drinking alcohol almost four years ago, I seriously thought that my life was over. I believed I would never have fun again, never be fun again. The word BORING came to mind. I was convinced that I would forever be boring because before putting my wine glass down for good, I thought people who didn’t drink were really boring. I actually felt sorry for them. Big Alcohol had me thinking that fun could not be had at any social gathering that didn’t provide alcohol.

An interesting side effect of becoming alcohol free was the opening of my eyes to the incredible pressure there is to drink in the US. I asked myself: When did it become okay to drink alcohol at a six-year-old’s birthday party? When did it become a thing to take your children trick-or-treating with your wine glass or Yeti cup so that you can get your treat too at nearly every house in the neighborhood?

The tipping point for me was taking my three- and seven-year-old grandchildren to Disney on Ice, only to have a dad spill a 40-ounce beer down my back. Seriously, a full-service bar at a Disney matinee? And just recently, someone shared that her local zoo offers canned wine, hard seltzer and a margarita machine. We can’t even visit the zoo without booze?

When you first quit drinking alcohol, it can feel like everyone is having a good time except you. And if like me, you created a life where booze was often the main event, it’s understandable to think life would suck without it.

The reality is that these thoughts of being funless (not really a word, but I like it) and boring couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2022, an idea was born by Zero Proof Experiences (ZPE) founder Susie Streelman. For her, the hardest part about giving up alcohol was giving up the social life she loved.

I drink. I just drink differently, and I deserve a pretty glass and a place at the table.

Feeling like “the Other”: You feel singled out. The lone wolf. This is the one we hear over and over. And feel over and over. You may hear, “Oh, that’s right, you don’t drink anymore.” But, put a koozie over your can or get a fancy YETI. No-one will even notice.

There’s nothing nonalcoholic available: Sometimes water may even be hard to get. Take a can or a bottle of your favorite n/a beverage along in your purse. Look up the menu or call ahead and ask if the bartender could create a zero-proof cocktail.

Now that you’re sober, socializing seems challenging: You have always used alcohol in the past as a social lubricant. We have found that it’s much easier making connections with others without alcohol. You are already bonded by your commitment to being present. We are much better listeners. We are much more interesting without the booze.

When you get the courage to ask for something non-alcoholic, the wait person looks at you like you have two heads: Plan ahead. Have a couple “go to” recipes. Susie created Mocktail cards. I order my fav – Club Soda with a splash of pineapple juice, muddled jalapenos, a lime with a salt rim.

Know that socializing alcohol free gets easier with practice. Nothing feels better than socializing without a worry of how you will get home or waking up hangover-free. Whenever I start to feel like everyone else is drinking except me, I remind myself why I got sober — to be the best partner, mother, grandmother, friend, and colleague I can be and to cherish this one precious life.

Peggi Cooney
Peggi Cooney
Peggi Cooney, Chief Connections Officer of ZPE is also a social work instructor/coach for UC Davis. She holds a MSW and spent 16 years in Child Welfare and Adult Protective Services. Peggi published her first book, This Side of Alcohol in November 2021. She is currently working on her next book about secondary traumatic stress and its effect on those in direct practice, such as social workers, health-care professionals and first responders. Peggi resides with her husband Paul in West Sacramento and Lake Almanor, California.
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