Sober in New York Sober Tourist

When “Trying on Sobriety” is Offensive

((This blog post was written for people that I call Sober Tourists: People that typically don’t identify as addicts or substance abusers, but are curious about being sober. They try it for awhile until they get bored. Then they claim that they can relate to the struggles of people in recovery because they celebrated Dry January or completed Whole 30.))

Strangers frequently reach out to me asking for suggestions on how to get through 30ish days without drinking. I don’t think they realize that my sobriety doesn’t have an end point. It’s fine that someone who probably doesn’t have issues with substance abuse, is “trying on sobriety” for a little while, but why are you asking me, someone who does struggle with substance abuse, for advice? I can’t be your cheerleader for 30 days just so you can celebrate day 31 by posting photos of mimosas on Instagram.

If you really want to experience the lifestyle of us sober folks, try on RECOVERY…not sobriety. Almost anyone can take a break from drinking. Try doing that, paired with the emotionally exhausting work of identifying why you drink and why you’re choosing to give it up temporarily.

If you’re still eager to try on sobriety, here’s how to do it in a respectful way:

Get Active 

Interact with people that are dealing with recovery every damn day. Smart Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing, and Alcoholics Anonymous are just a few examples of free group meetings. There are even some online options. WorkItHealth can match you with an accountability buddy. Ascent has a great interactive forum. Holly Glenn Whitaker runs Hip Sobriety School.  Kelly Fitzgerald and Carly Benson run The Bloom Club.

Sit with the Shitty Feelings

If you’re trying on recovery correctly, it shouldn’t be “super fun”. It should suck. To truly experience recovery, wait until something really shitty happens in your life. Sit still with the feelings that arise. The feelings that you want to ignore. The feelings that would go away temporarily with the aid of alcohol or drugs or sex or shopping or eating or gambling but you can’t do any of those things because you’ve chosen the path of recovery.

Connect to Something Greater than You

This doesn’t necessarily mean “find God”, start mediating, go to yoga, or join a cult. It means figure out who you are without alcohol in your life. “Something greater than you” can mean soul searching, volunteering, or reconnecting with family and friends. And if at all possible, go to therapy. I can’t recommend it enough.

Surround Yourself with Booze & Drunk People

I wouldn’t recommend this to someone actually struggling with substance abuse. I only recommend this to Sober Tourists. Go to the bars or clubs that you frequent. Hang out with your friends that are still drinking. Experience all of this completely sober. Deal with how uncomfortable it is by acknowledging the feelings that come up. Stay out until you usually would if you were drinking.

Think About WHY You’re Doing This

Is it to learn about yourself? To learn about your relationship with alcohol? To prioritize your mental health? To brag to yourself and your friends that you did it? To experience a new lifestyle? To empathize with the recovery community? All of these are perfectly acceptable answers. When taking on a social experiment like this, really dig deep and figure out why you want to do it.

Sobriety is super trendy right now. Perhaps the trendiness is making you wonder what your life would be like without booze for a little while. I get it. I was a Sober Tourist. Twice. The first time was in Spring 2015, when my first published listicle *ever!* went live on Elite Daily: Ten Lifelong Lessons I Learned from 3 Months of Sobriety. I walked a mile (or 3 months…) in the shoes of sobriety, claiming that I’d changed. I didn’t. I went on to drink until I blacked out for another year before starting my second social experiment: this blog.

SobrieTea Party began in December of 2015. I wanted a place to document how I spent my 30th year completely sober. Now when I read old blog posts, I realize how pompous I sounded at times. I was preaching the lifestyle of sobriety and leading online sober groups without truly grasping the concept of recovery. My heart was in the right place, but I was speaking too soon about something I barely understood. Being a Sober Tourist helped me find my voice as a writer and ultimately my purpose in this world: to live my life in recovery and share my story. I just wish I went about it in a more respectful way.

Before you travel to a new city or country, you probably do research on said location. Apply that same mentality before visiting our Sober World, or any new lifestyle for that matter.

Tawny Lara is the founder of SobrieTea Party. She writes about being sober in New York City and hosts sober socializing events.

Copy Editor: Kelly Fitzgerald of Sober Señorita

Photographer: Josh Reyes

Photo Location: Reykjavik, Iceland


2 thoughts on “When “Trying on Sobriety” is Offensive

  1. Zach Job

    A lot to think about…thanks for this. I think with any decisions you have to ask why, and then keep asking why, and then why that why, and why that why, and so on until you really get to the root of what you are doing.

    I think I tend to look at the sober world as one that inhabits people who never drank or hardly drank and quite easily chose a sober life. I think I need to do a better job of acknowledging that it is also occupied by people that have struggled and are recovering. Quite possibly there is some denial involved in thinking I belong to the former group when I’m actually a part of the latter (I mean obviously, duh), possibly that’s what many tourists feel as well. Simply stepping into this with clearer eyes and a clearer intention hopefully makes it a more connected and respectful journey.

  2. Nicole Clarke

    Enjoyed the comparison between going on a vacation and sobriety. It’s certainly better to do your research before diving into a foreign country; likewise, reading about sobriety blogs and experiences can help one understand what it truly means – and feels like – to be sober.

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