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Everything You Should Know about Sober Bars and Their Benefits

Editor Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
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Social drinking has become a big part of our culture. With frequent weekend outings that are perfect for unwinding and letting out some steam after a hectic workweek, it’s easy to fall prey to the allure of alcohol. The statistics only confirm it: 67 million Americans binge drink at least once per month, and many do it every weekend.

Therein lies the problem, since binge drinking eventually leads to more harmful behaviors and developing a drinking habit. What’s more, even if it doesn’t escalate, binge drinking still endangers our health and impairs judgment, as shown by the statistic that almost half of all murders involve alcohol.

Fortunately, there might be an alternative to the social drinking phenomenon cropping up — sober bars. Let’s have a closer look at this alternative to social drinking and all of its benefits, especially for individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder:

Sober Bars — Socializing without Alcohol

One of the most alluring aspects of regular bars is the socializing part of going out on the town. There’s also some peer pressure, or social pressure, to drink while you are at a bar. For example, former drinkers report that when they avoided drinking at a bar, they often faced intrusive questions about religion, pregnancy, illnesses, and other socially acceptable reasons for not drinking.

Since society places expectations on bar patrons to consume alcohol, it’s no wonder that nondrinkers are feeling somewhat alienated from the more pleasant aspects of frequenting bars, such as socializing. However, sober bars provide them this opportunity. What’s more, frequenters of sober bars will undoubtedly have at least one thing in common to bond over — avoiding alcohol.

Finding a Group of Like-Minded Individuals

Many of the usual sober bar patrons tend to be former drinkers or individuals otherwise affected by alcohol use disorder. Some might avoid alcohol because a close family member was alcoholic, or if they suffered from alcohol abuse in the past themselves. However, recovering from alcoholism or AUD is a long and lonely road to walk, and it helps to spend time with like-minded individuals who have the same path ahead of them.

Former drinkers who had first started drinking socially tend to equate alcohol consumption to spending time with friends and acquaintances and making good memories. But as they quit drinking, they also lose that sense of camaraderie. They can feel this quite strongly while spending time in a bar surrounded by their non-sober friends.

It brings back the temptation to consume alcohol, and it is difficult not to succumb to it. However, if they spend time in an alcohol-free establishment, the temptation is much easier to keep under control and even defeat.

Having Fun with and without Alcohol

Another aspect of social drinking is the fun that is usually associated with a wild weekend night out. It’s almost expected to consume some substance when you’re bar hopping or going to a rave as if the act of drinking is what makes it possible to have fun.

While alcohol may lower inhibitions, it can also impair judgment, which pushes many drinkers into actions they’ll regret or at least want to forget. The latter is often what happens. A former drinker can experience euphoric recall, which makes them remember only the positives that came out of alcohol use during their previous binge. As such, they might remember the feeling of confidence and having fun, rather than the devastating hangover that often follows. Even if they remember the suffering, some drinkers will vow never to drink that type of alcohol again, and then forget all about it.

Former drinkers learn over time that having fun without alcohol is not only possible, but also the only healthy way to have fun. The existence of sober bars allows them to strengthen this knowledge and keep them on the path of sobriety while still retaining the beneficial effects of spending time in a social setting.

Sober Bars as Places to Escape Alcohol

Unfortunately, alcohol is everywhere today — it’s on TV, in movies, in the ads, and every restaurant or bar. For individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder, coming to terms with this reality can be exceptionally hard and make their recovery more difficult to achieve. Being offered a drink in a socially acceptable setting is frequently enough for a relapse — sometimes even seeing bottles of alcohol stacked on a store shelf.

That plays a major role in why it feels so good for a former drinker to spend time in a place where they don’t have to worry about drinks being easily accessible to them. They can enjoy the atmosphere of a bar without feeling tested continuously and tempted to break their sobriety. For individuals who are lifetime abstainers and wish to stay that way, it’s much easier to avoid alcohol than to explain why they abstain from it.

Key Takeaways

The trend of opening sober bars can have a significant impact on the society that has begun to accept drinking as an essential part of going out and partying. However, for now, it mostly provides sanctuary to individuals who abstain from alcohol for different reasons. 

For former drinkers who frequent these sober bars, it’s an invaluable experience that strengthens their conviction to recover from alcohol use disorder. Those who started their drinking in social settings particularly benefit from sober bars, as they can enjoy the socializing aspect of barhopping while not being tempted to consume alcohol.

A sober bar is also a great place to escape the overwhelming presence of alcohol in our daily lives — one without which many former drinkers would have a much harder time fighting the urge to relapse. AUD is a difficult condition to overcome, and any help along the way for those who are affected by it is beneficial and welcome.


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