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Sober Living Movement Gains Followers


The story of people trying to avoid alcohol, which can be hard if you attend weddings or funerals or office parties or almost anything that can involve drinking. In the last few years, a movement called sober living, or sober curious, has been gaining followers. April Fulton reports on the people who want to socialize without alcohol.

APRIL FULTON, BYLINE: It's a Saturday night. People are enjoying a few drinks at Harvard & Stone, a popular bar in a hip Los Angeles neighborhood. A dozen women clearly enjoying themselves are sipping some pretty good cocktails made without alcohol.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, my God. I got the Honeydew one. It's at the very top.

FULTON: The drinks feature a brand of nonalcoholic distilled spirits called Seedlip.

JOEY BERNARDO: All of the fun of spirits without all of the liability.

FULTON: Joey Bernardo is the bartender.

BERNARDO: The Honeydew Collins is going to be coconut milk, a little bit of Seedlip, a little bit of lime juice, and then we top it off with fresh honeydew juice.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's really good (laughter).

FULTON: These women are part of a sober social club. There are more than 100 members, mostly 30-somethings. They work out, they have demanding jobs, and they say they feel better without alcohol. Here's Stephanie Forte.

STEPHANIE FORTE: My overall health and, like, my skin, my eyes, my - I lost weight. I have thyroid disease. When I quit drinking, my thyroid medication, the dosage was cut in half.

FULTON: Not too long ago, a group of women not drinking alcohol at a bar would have seemed strange, but it's become more common.

FORTE: Not everybody wants to get wasted when they go to the bar.

FULTON: The sober curious movement started as a challenge for those who felt they partied a little too hard over New Years. At first, it was dry January; now there's dry July and even sober September. Instagram accounts like the Sober Girl Society and Sober Nation make going sober look glamorous. But many people have not had an easy road or a catchy name to describe their relationship with alcohol.

CHRIS MARSHALL: I was 23 years old when I got sober.

FULTON: That's Chris Marshall from Austin, Texas. He's been sober 12 years. He started drinking in high school, got his first DUI at 16, then joined a fraternity in college and kept drinking.

MARSHALL: All my drinking was really centered around community and wanting that connection so badly with other people.

FULTON: He finally got sober through Alcoholics Anonymous. He became a counselor to help others but found that being in recovery was often really lonely. So he created Sans Bar.


FULTON: It's a sober bar open on Friday nights, where people can talk, listen to music and, of course, drink some good nonalcoholic drinks. On a recent Friday night, Rob Zaleski and Kim Daniel walk in. They're going without alcohol for 30 days.

ROB ZALESKI: We kind of came to a realization that we were drinking way too often and way too much.

FULTON: They're sharing their experience on Instagram using the hashtag #boozelessATX. They've been taking archery lessons, playing flag football and, tonight, Sans Bar.

KIM DANIEL: We're finding that we can fill our days, but sometimes the nights are hard. And this is a great option for us.

FULTON: Sans Bar has been so popular Marshall took it on the road this year. He organized pop-up bars in New York, D.C. and Anchorage. He's expanded into Kansas City, Mo., and western Massachusetts. Marshall has seen a lot of changes in the way people view sobriety. Back when he was getting sober, you either drank or you didn't. Now there's a whole spectrum.

MARSHALL: Not everyone identifies as sober all the time.

FULTON: Now, this is important - if you're drinking heavily on a regular basis, seek medical advice. But if you can experiment with cutting out alcohol, Marshall says be vocal about your plans not to drink, bring a friend who supports you and demand a good substitute beverage.

April Fulton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

April Fulton is a former editor with NPR's Science Desk and a contributor to The Salt, NPR's Food Blog.