Dry January? Try “Sober 2023”

Organizers behind Vancouver’s sober events talk community, commitment, and Dry January

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      Dry. January. 

      It’s the optimistic, often New-Years-Hangover-induced commitment pledged by many at the start of a new year. But while gyms across the city might be jam-packed with people pursuing a different health goal, where do the sober gather in solidarity? 

      That was what Mic Deane, co-founder of Sober Babes Vancouver, found herself asking when she decided to take sobriety seriously in January 2022. 

      “I didn't really find anything for people to socialize,” she told the Straight. “That was pretty shocking to me, because it's just a huge gap.” 

      She made a TikTok asking where all the young, sober, queer people of Vancouver were. People answered, saying that they, too, were looking for some sense of community.After a group chat promptly grew too large for any sort of organized discussion, Deane (along with her cofounder Zalika Brown) eventually made the Instagram page.

      The group began hosting events, from free picnics in the park to sober sip and paint nights to 100+ person drag shows. Their most recent gathering took place just last Sunday, when Sober Babes held its first ever coffee morning walk— a concerted effort to move back to the lowkey, easy access events like the free picnics of last summer. 

      “Even though it was hammering down rain, I think we had about 20 people there,” said Deane. 

      “It was just so nice and so fun and I just laughed so hard about the whole thing, because we didn't have to do any planning, there was no organizing in it; we were just walking along the beach getting to know people.”

      This is Sober Babes Vancouver’s first (dry) January, and Deane said that the page has seen a rise in popularity as more Vancouverites find themselves seeking sober spots, with hundreds of new followers in just the first nine days of 2023. 

      She also noted the importance of community when it comes to keeping sober, and how her meeting a new friend in the early days of her own sobriety contributed to her sticking to it—even when she reached the difficult hurdle of two to three months in. 

      “That was the point where I was starting to get kind of lonely and I didn’t have anyone in the same boat as me,” she said. 

      “It’s a very unique experience being younger and sober or trying to get sober—I felt like I just didn't see myself represented anywhere as a young, sober, queer person. And I think it's so important to be able to see yourself in someone else.”

      The group plans to host the morning coffee meetups on a monthly basis in different areas of the city. While Deane wasn’t going to spoil everything that Sober Babes has planned for 2023, she did note that workout classes, yoga, speed dating for Valentine’s Day, trivia nights and more will all be in the works. 

      “We’re just trying to make sure we have a variety of different things for all the different people who want to come to our events.”

      And Sober Babes Vancouver isn’t the only group bringing together the city’s sober community. Fiona Hepher, the co-founder of local non-alcoholic drink company Sansorium, said in an interview with the Straight that there will be two events hosted by the company in the next month alone; a Moves in the Market disco party on Saturday, January 14, and a wine tasting on January 17

      Hepher started Sansorium with her sister and mother after the latter decided to go alcohol-free at the start of 2020. 

      “It not only changed her life physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but it changed our relationship completely,” said Hepher, who herself has been sober-curious for the past decade. 

      “Seeing her liberate herself from it really just changed the way I saw my mom, and it brought us a lot closer together—and now we work together everyday.” 

      Sansorium, which offers a wide variety of alcohol-free wines, beers, and spirits, has been hosting events since it opened in spring 2021. Hepher says they’ve had a hand in over 60 events in 2022 alone, from sponsoring concerts to pop-up shops to wine pairings with restaurants. 

      She says that the reception to these events has been refreshingly warm and welcoming. 

      “I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for many many years, and no one ever thanked me for being anywhere. So it was really cool to have that.”

      The upcoming sober disco party will be held at the Juice Truck on Main street, and will feature a bar full of sober drinks, a DJ, and a lot of disco dancing. 

      The January 17 wine tasting will be something of a repeat for an event that Sansorium hosted last year, where around 70 people attended and sipped up to 30 different non-alcoholic wines from around the world. 

      It was a popular event, according to Hepher. 

      “People were walking out with cases of wine at a time,” she said. “We were shocked." 

      This year’s tasting event will take place at Werklab, and will feature more group tastings alongside an education on how the wines are made and how the industry has taken off over the past few years. 

      For those who can’t make the event, Hepher noted that a number of local restaurants carry more than just a G&T-without-the-G for those looking to try something tasty and alcohol-free, including (but not limited to) St. Lawrence, Guilt & Company, Nightshade, and Zarak by Afghan Kitchen. 

      “Something that drives hospitality down in January is Dry Jan, but because we’ve done so much footwork over the past year getting restaurants onboard, you don’t have to not go out because you're not drinking alcohol,” she said. 

      “You can still go out, you can still ritualize it, you can still have fun with your friends—but drink what you want to drink.”

      Both Sansorium and Sober Babes Vancouver plan on hosting sober events well past Dry January, so keep an eye out for their upcoming event announcements if you’re looking to do a Booze-Free Feb, Moderation March, non-Alcohol April, or even an alcohol-free 2023.