What’s Behind the Elective-Sobriety Trend

By Virginia Sole-Smith: For More Info, Go Here…

Why people are giving up drinking, even when they don’t have a problem.

On a warmer-than-average Thursday evening in February, 40 women gathered in Philadelphia’s industrial-chic Front Street Cafe for happy hour — but instead of ordering rosé or craft beer, they sipped artisanal mocktails and locally brewed kombucha. Billed as an event for “sober, sober-sometimes, or sober-curious women,” the first 15 minutes or so were stilted. People were nervous, conversations got stuck in small talk mode, and nobody could order a round of shots to fast-track things to insta-party. But before too long, the room was buzzing with conversation and laughter. And yet, nobody was getting buzzed.

“I used to think I lost my social anxiety after I had the first drink,” says Joy Manning, one of the party’s co-hosts. “Now I realize, the first 15 minutes of anything is just awkward. Once I adjust to the environment and start chatting with someone, I relax. And it’s amazing to see that happen across a whole room of people who aren’t drinking. We’ve been giving alcohol a power it doesn’t really have.”

In reporting this story, I thought often of all the times I’ve ordered a drink I didn’t particularly want to avoid the social awkwardness of not holding one; of how many friends’ pregnancies I’ve sussed out because it’s so noteworthy when they suddenly switch to seltzer. We’ve made alcohol a de facto part of ending the workday, eating brunch, celebrating birthdays, and so many other mundane moments of daily life; it is embedded in what it means to be a sophisticated adult, eating amazing food, wearing great clothes, and generally living the good life. “The dominant cultural message is that alcohol is a lifestyle accessory,” says Shaw Street, of the Tell Better Stories movement. The decision to step back from that can feel controversial, if not downright antisocial.

But this is where our culture was with smoking 30 to 40 years ago when smoking still seemed normal, and even cool. And that changed, through increased public awareness of health risks — but even more so, through good marketing.

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