Sober curious? How to have fun without alcohol

Photography by Ewen Spencer, from THE FACE Issue 10

Young people are, famously, giving up the booze. Considering it? Here's how to still socialise successfully in 2024.

The Baileys has been drained, the chocolates inhaled. Just like that, we’ve crash landed into 2024.

With the NYE comedown still lingering, the mind can easily shift towards sobriety. What if I sacked off Thursday night pints and trained for a marathon instead…?

If you were thinking of going sober, now would be a good time. Young people are, famously, giving up the booze. In fact, there are now more people in their late-teens and 20s who don’t drink than at any time in the past decade.

I, for one, am here for it. But going sober can seem daunting, especially when it comes to socialising. So, for the sober-curious out there, we asked five people how they did it last year.

"Dealing with stress and challenges is so much easier"

Being sober has benefited me in many ways. Dealing with stress and challenges is so much easier. Not waking up with a hangover or in pain after a couple days of partying means I can get on with my tasks [rather than] wait until the afternoon when I am functioning properly again. This way, I have more time to pursue my goals and I remember conversations with people. It feels fucking great. I’m not sure I’m in a position to give people advice, but for me, I have people around me who support me and love me. That’s how it worked. Manager of a bar, 25 (he/​him)

"I'm not waking up feeling groggy and hungover"

Going sober has honestly changed my life for the better. I’ve noticed my health and skin improve. I’m not as tired. It’s also helped my mental health loads because I’m not waking up in the morning feeling really groggy and hungover.

Being autistic and having ADHD, I find it really hard to socialise. I never really used to enjoy drinking anyway, but it felt like it was a way for me to be seen as normal. When you are at parties or nightclubs or small social gatherings, I just find it so hard to be myself. So I used [alcohol and other drugs] as a crutch.

My advice would be to find healthy coping mechanisms, going to therapy and working on mental health. And making sure that you’re keeping yourself on track and holding yourself accountable – that could involve having an accountability partner who is sober.” Product designer, 27 (he/​they)

"My nights are much more valuable"

Quitting alcohol has benefited me in many ways, but the main one is having more control over my life generally. I was missing things with my hangovers, like work or social obligations. At first, I struggled to socialise, because I leaned on alcohol as a crutch to make socialising easier. I can socialise [sober] but I think you convince yourself that you can’t when you drink.

I was scared about going out for the first time without a drink, especially to sex clubs and things like that. I just felt really anxious. But I’ve now found that if I overcome this challenge of not drinking when I go out, I only go out when I actually want to. I don’t go out for the sake of it anymore and therefore my nights are much more valuable. Adult entertainer, 24 (she/​they)

"The relationships I have now feel more real"

Now I’m sober, I actually have a life. I have been heavily addicted – everything revolved around getting money or using. The relationships I have now feel more real because they’re not based only on one interest: using together. Fully accessing my emotions might be painful sometimes, but it’s more healthy.

I had to stay away from almost 90 per cent of the people I used to interact with because it was an environment of using and I knew I couldn’t stay clean while being there. I also had to relearn how to party and dance while not using. I’d say don’t aim too high, just do it day-by-day. If that doesn’t work, do it hour-by-hour. Manager in a factory, 26 (he/​him)

"I can still go out and enjoy myself"

If I could get away with being, like, absolutely fucked all the time then I would, but the consequences for me are quite high. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am at this point. So why would I risk it, you know?

One of the biggest challenges was that I thought I was going to get FOMO, but actually that hasn’t been the case. It’s been a lot more chill. I think in the early days, when I was like a couple months sober, I did get that. Like, I want to be in a club.” Now I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I can still go and enjoy myself, just minus all of the shit that I used to take.

If I was going to provide any advice to anyone, I would say: who are your friends when you’re sober? Hang out with the people that you see when you’re not on drugs and see what you have in common, then you can reassess who is enriching your life and who isn’t. Freelancer, 26 (he/​him)

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