Dry bars? Non-alcoholic events? Cat Pritchard wonders if we are finally sobering up to a new, more conscious, reality.

It happens every winter. A few friends drop off the social circuit citing the diagonal rain and horizontal comforts of bed as good enough reasons to stay in and finish Season 4 and 5 of Breaking Bad. At best, you might coax them out for a 2-for-1 winter special. But then you had better be special. And when they do finally meet you out, you will probably discover that “I’m staying dry” excuses had nothing to do with the weather. They have sobered up to the reality of life with alcohol.

There are few more damning sentences to be passed down on a group of close friends than when one member mumbles sheepishly into their scarf “I’ve quit drinking”. (It’s even worse when they announce it proudly.) The subtext is clear. It’s a judgment on the group. They all drink the same amount, which means this upstart thinks they should all be in an AA group not a WatsApp group. Delete profile.

One sober person in a group makes everyone feel uncomfortable. It’s too sobering. It makes you question your superficial habits and deep-seated issues. And who wants to do that? Isn’t that the point of alcohol? To drink until we are numb to reality, external or otherwise? That seems to be the South African narrative sometimes. At least for generation Xers. In some circles, it’s probably more acceptable to do coke behind the bar than order a Coke from it. Which is why seasoned tea totalers know to order a sparkling Appetizer in a glass. It looks and acts like wine, which is to say it makes others feel more relaxed around you.

Stop smoking. Fine. Give up sugar. Great. But quit drinking? You might as well tack that letter A onto your dull pinnanfore because, in their eyes, you are just one Kombucha shot away from signing up to an extremist cult. Which is probably why most people give up drinking in the winter, to keep from judgment’s eye and temptation’s hand. That, and the fact that they can’t fail to notice that every single Summer selfie had them toasting another sunset (and sunrise) with the same bubbly smile and red-eyed glaze. There are only so many Essentiales a sustainable liver can take.

The upside is that we live in a global village not a backwards town. You can “unfollow” the village idiots any time you want. And dry is the new black. Or so the Millenials are telling us. Which means you don’t have to wear your sobriety like a wet blanket or hide your sparkly eyes under an umbrella of shame. If Generation X thinkers enabled our drinking problem with the invention of Uber (we’ll get you home safely!), it’s the Millennials that are set to make a mocktail of us all with their freshly-squeezed mix of business ideas that embrace sober thinking and conscious actions.

To catch you up, dry bars and sober raves are all the rage in those trendy capitals beyond our seas. Not to be confused with dry (salon) bars, which will give you a quick blow before work, dry events like Morning Gloryville ask people to “rave your way into the day”, with top DJs and themes that encourage them to let loose on the dance floor, getting their endorphins pumping before they hit the corporate pavement, two hours later. Most of these monthly events offer smoothies, coffee and juices as added extras while some even go so far as to have places for yoga, massages and other alternative activities. South Africa is catching on. In Summer, the No Danger Diaries team puts on its popular Secret Sunrise events in Cape Town and Johannesburg where people buy tickets to dance at a secret venue, disclosed a few days before the event. The venues, which include hip inner-city rooftops with breathtaking views, are as much an attraction as the events themselves. Being conscious folk, the team don’t even add to the existing noise pollution. These early morning events are all “Silent Discos” where everyone wears a set of headphones that picks up the DJ who guides their morning “workout”.

Dull and boring these events are not. In fact, this new dry movement is doing a good job of rebranding our idea of sober and dull into conscious and mindful, where people choose to wake up and celebrate every day, the natural way. It’s like the local Dry Space blog says: “life’s too short to be wasted”. Cheers to that.

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