(TMU) — For many adults, going to the bar is a regular pastime—if not the default social activity when going out for a night of socializing and hanging out.
But for many people struggling to free themselves of addictions like alcoholism, it can be difficult to go to a bar without dealing with the pressure of having an alcoholic drink, risking the danger of falling off the wagon and relapsing back into harmful behavior.
And for those who aren’t struggling with addiction, there are some people who simply don’t feel like submerging themselves into a drink-soaked space that inevitably entails hangovers, DUIs, and the many problems of excessive alcohol use—ranging from fatty liver and cirrhosis to various cancers, stroke, dementia, anxiety, and depression, let alone the social ills related to the substance.
And as alcohol-free options become increasingly attractive to people across the United States, new “sober bars” are popping up for recovering addicts and alcoholics seeking community, fun, and support as well as those who simply want a healthy alternative to the boozy default.
These bars look just like the real thing, but alcohol isn’t part of the equation—instead, one can find fun-loving adults enjoying the night scene over sober beverages like matcha tea frappes, fruity infusions, creative virgin cocktails, and even an ice-cold non-alcoholic beer like Heineken 0.0.
One such example is the Cherokee Recovery Village in Barstrop, Texas, where adults can find a sense of belonging without the need to imbibe.
At first glance, the village looks like a traditional tavern—it’s dark and dingy, with shelves filled with non-alcoholic beverages, KEYE reports. But rather than beer and liquor, patrons can find kombucha and coffee while taking part in traditional bar or club events like karaoke, fundraising events, and community dinners.
Cherokee Recovery Village owner Paul French, who is himself a former addict now working as a licensed chemical dependency counselor, said that the venue’s ambiance is offering crucial help for those in recovery.
“This is exposing yourself to triggers intentionally to weaken those triggers.
It will allow you to eventually go into establishments where there’s drinking and partying and craziness and it won’t affect you as strongly as it did.
You can come in and you can drink. We only have healthy beverages.”
The “sober bar” is also an excellent way for people to remain committed to their 12-step program beyond the confines of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or one’s home. French added:
“People need connection once they start a recovery program.”
Despite its name, the Cherokee Recovery Village isn’t only for recovering addicts. Those who are sober curious have also found the sober bar scene attractive. French said:
“It has really wakened people up on the health benefits of getting sober even if it’s just for a short period of time.”
But for former drinkers like Ember Zenchyshyn, who has been sober for 3 years now and admits to drinking until she couldn’t anymore, the dry tavern is not only providing a fun lifestyle option, it’s also preparing her for when she inevitably goes back to the bar—and has the willpower to refuse a drink. She said:
“You’re not going to be able to avoid stuff forever.
It’s life, you just don’t want to get into recovery to stop living life, you’re getting into recovery to enjoy life.”