Some people may be aware of how their drinking may be causing problems, for their health and their behavior, but are afraid of the process of recovery, thinking that sobriety will take them out of social settings where they have fun. Other people would not normally be interested in drinking to excess, but may consider it a requirement to be a part of social circles they are attracted to, that involve late night music and dancing.
For people in both of these groups, a nightclub in Sweden has created "Sober," a very innovative and new event that creates alternatives to a culture in which drinking may seem inevitable.
The event of Sober, and why it's getting attention
"Sober" takes place at a nightclub in Stockholm, it's unique draw being that all alcohol is banned. Not only is it not served, but also breathalyzers are placed at the club's entrance, to guarantee no one who takes part will be under the influence of alcohol.
Comedian Mårten Anderson created Sober after he himself started living a lifestyle of sobriety, and wanting to spread its benefits to others, while still being a part of a culture, where in his words "People spend too much time getting hammered." Coming out of personal experience, Anderson realizes that alcohol encourages people to muffle their feelings and experiences, and can be a part of living a life on autopilot.
For him, sobriety shouldn't just be understood as giving up something, but of learning how to live a full life on your own, experiencing life's sensations fully, rather then dulling or forgetting them in substance abuse. Sober shows people how to hear music, dance, meet new people, and engage in all the other exciting draws of club life, but without alcohol to dampen their senses and take their minds away from the present moment.
The experience of "Sober"
So far, on its first of what is planned to be a monthly event, Sober attracted more then 900 clubbers, some of who are in recovery, and others who are not. Some may have simply been curious, but going without alcohol creates a sense of safety that a lot of people can benefit from, making this a far more diverse crowd then a conventional nightclub.
So teenagers, Muslims who do not drink for religious reasons, breastfeeding moms, and people simply wanting to avoid a hangover because they had big plans the next day, all found the atmosphere freeing and beneficial. Together, this huge mass of people danced to music provided by two DJs, and drank juice cocktails and alcohol-free beer and champagne.
Anderson and the other organizers of Sober go out of their way to replicate the club experience faithfully in all other ways, not really setting it apart from any other loud and color-saturated dance club in the city. One club goer even remarked that at first, being able to cut loose and dance without feeling tipsy felt strange and awkward, but within a few hours he was shaking on the dance floor with total abandon, remarking that "it's not that difference once you get used to it."
The next event is scheduled for October 29th, with plans to add a more intimate "Sober Lounge" in addition to the larger dance party.
What those of us who don't live in Sweden can learn from "Sober"
Ultimately, Sober is an experiment to prove that alcohol isn't necessary to have a good time. But Mårtin would like to take it a step further, showing that, at least sometimes, alcohol actually makes your experiences and your life less enjoyable.
In an interview with Vice, he spoke critically of addiction prevention messages that focus only on the negative consequences of drug use. He feels like it would be more effective to, instead, encourage people to "get high on life instead of substances," thinking through the reasons behind their drinking and drug use, and questioning if maybe there aren't some better alternatives.