It seems not even sobriety will be saved from enjoying a made-for-Instagram moment, with new hashtaggable terms like “mindful drinking” and “sober curious.” No longer do you have to feel left out or uncool for being sober. You maybe don’t even have to completely stop drinking alcoholic beverages?
– “The New Sobriety,” The New York Times, June 19, 2019
You’re out with co-workers, all of you festooned in your finest festoonery, ready to blow off some steam and your workaday cares. One drink leads to another, guards are let down, undies are yanked up. A harmless wedgie, sure, but tempers flare, as do nostrils and blue jeans, surprisingly back in style. Before you know it, there’s yelling. Fists and artisanal canapés are flying. The evening ends in tears, regret and badly soiled festoons.
A tale of too many mai tais? Not at all. The night’s libations were strictly alcohol-free: seltzer-and-juice cocktails along with exotically infused beverages. Teetotallers on tirades?
Welcome to the world of the “sober furious” or “mindful raging,” a trendy new movement that serves up all the simmering resentment of binge drinking with none of the hangover.
“The sober furious are a new generation of health-conscious social influencers who are reluctant to put poisons into their bodies but still want an outlet to release the emotional poisons that come from living in a loads-crappy world,” said Trinka Bellweather-Shwank, proprietor of Whiskey-A-No-No, one of New York’s juice bars catering to the sober furious. “Plus sometimes you just want to let loose over the way your partner maybe possibly looked at that girl. Why let sobriety and a clear head stand in the way of a messy emotional train wreck?”
Dale Thwinbed, a 27-year-old tattoo appraiser, was looking for the smug satisfaction of telling people (whether they wanted to hear it or not) how physically great he felt from not drinking, or least not drinking very much – well, certainly drinking less than average, probably – but didn’t want to lose the cathartic release of punching someone square in the face when a discussion gets out of hand about whether Donald Trump would be less of a putz if he had a hipster beard.
“He wouldn’t,” said Thwinbed, cocking his fist.
Combining concoctions and conniptions, Thwinbed began frequenting sober destinations like The Grape Juice of Wrath in trendy Soho, where he would quickly down several Peach Schlopps (peach extrusion, lavender, velveteen water, candied lime, paint), then “sober-dial” every one of his co-workers to berate them for not coming to his poetry etching.
“I didn’t want my lack of drunken impulses to prevent me from letting them know they are dead to me,” he said. “I like the combination of sober sanctimony and drunken obnoxiousness.”
As with any social movement, there are factions and off-shoots. Disney Alwater runs Chagrin & Tonic for the “sober serious,” people who say no to booze but don’t want to eschew the blues.
“Crying for no reason, it’s not just for the blotto anymore,” said Alwater, who encourages patrons to sob inconsolably, and not merely because they paid $15 for a drink that doesn’t even have booze in it. “You shouldn’t have to be drunk to tearfully unpack your daddy issues in front of friends and strangers embarrassed on your behalf.”
To help patrons with their sober wallowing, Chagrin & Tonic hosts themed events such as Mopey Mondays, Why-Can’t-I-Get-With-The-Ladies Night and You-Don’t-Even-Karaoke.
At the other end of the faux-fuddled spectrum is the “sober glorious” movement, in which practitioners down Tallulah Sunrises (lime juice, tonic water, wintergreen Tic Tacs, Uncle Joe’s Blintz Extract, cherry juice, gabardine, bisque) and then tell people they just met how much they love them, because, you know, you real get me, like, really, you’re my best friend. And then they promise to hang out more, become the best dancers ever, go home with someone who is suddenly really good looking and wake up with regret. But it’s clear-headed regret!
Finally there is the sober injurious movement, in which people enjoy the benefits of staying sober without losing the thrill of falling on their face in the parking lot.
“The key is being mindful about what I drink and how I hurt myself,” said sober-lifestyle Instagram chaperone Mya Miagopolus, sporting a hazelnut caftan and a saffron-infused arm-cast in an Etruscan linen sling. “When I trip over a bar chair and knock out my front teeth, I’m the only one to blame, not alcohol. Do I find that empowering? Yeth!”