Sobriety support is changing and new, diverse options are giving people the chance to recover from alcohol use problems in ways that work best for them. A growing number of millennials and Gen X’ers are choosing these alternative sobriety support groups and methods to chart their recovery journey and liberate their lives from alcohol.
New, online-based sobriety groups and communities are growing in popularity as more people seek to cut or quit alcohol use and go alcohol-free. These groups are different than the usual Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups. They do not require participants to identify themselves as an “alcoholic”. Unlike AA these groups have often paid membership and a range of content from free Facebook groups, podcasts, and videos, to meetings and private-forum access, private coaching, and master classes.
Following is a list of some of these new and successful sobriety support groups and methods:
- The Luckiest Club
- Offers private meetings and private online forums to connect with others;
- Costs at least $14 a month;
- SoberSis, and
- This Naked Mind.
These new sober and sober curious communities have different messaging. Some of which include:
- Don’t ask if you’re an “alcoholic” – you’re the product of a society that glamorizes “attractively-packaged poison.”
- Slipping up isn’t a relapse, it’s a “data point” from which to learn.
- You can find “freedom from wine o’clock” – and have fun doing so, liberated from alcohol.
All these groups have different methodologies. For instance, Tempest, which was recently acquired by Monument, has a female-focused holistic approach. The program includes mindfulness practice and cognitive-behavioral therapy and positive psychology. The Luckiest Club is more focused on meetings. SoberSis specifically caters to women who consider themselves grey area alcohol users. This Naked Mind’s Alcohol Experiment helps people get sober through a journey of facts, neuroscience, and logic. Project90 targets high achievers of both genders.
There’s one unifying theme across all these programs and that is resisting telling members that sobriety is the only acceptable end goal. These groups helps people to build lives that they do not want to escape from through alcohol. They help to uplift the overall quality of life of participants.
Most members are close-knit and have a high team spirit. They start their own book clubs, meet up at retreats, go for sober dance parties and enjoy alcohol-free drinks together at sober events.
People who are joining these groups find them to be less judgemental, more empowering and a fun way to go alcohol-free or cut down on alcohol use.
Alcohol problems are on the rise, specifically for American women
Rising alcohol use means rising alcohol problems around the world. One study published in The Lancet found that global alcohol use increased from 45% in 1990 to 47% in 2017. Researchers predict this will rise to 50% by 2030.
The COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse for alcohol problems. Many countries noted a rise in the number of heavy alcohol users or a rise in the amount of alcohol used by heavy users. In the United States (U.S.), for instance:
- Alcohol consumption increased by 14% in 2020 compared to 2019, as per a JAMA Network Journal study from September 2020.
- A study by RAND published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that alcohol use problems increased among both men and women (69% and 49%) respectively.
Alcohol use problems have been especially rising among women in the United States.
As Movendi International previously reported, alcohol use among women in the U.S. has caught up to the level of men. This trend is leading to severe consequences in terms of alcohol harm in women.
Younger generations less likey to consume alcohol
While alcohol problems may be rising in older generations, more and more younger people are choosing to ditch booze. The current sober curious trend is largely driven by millennials. Meanwhile, Gen Z’ers are the least alcohol-consuming generation in history.
- According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers at the University of Washington, there was a decline in each past-month alcohol use, heavy episodic alcohol use, and cigarette use among Gen Z’ers in Washington between 2014 and 2019.
- Similarly, the New Frontier Data Consumer Survey revealed overall disinterest in alcohol and tobacco among individuals in Gen Z.
- The 18 to 24-year-old age group already reported being more likely to not consume alcohol at all.
Women reclaim their power through new sober groups
Research indicates that women are less likely to seek help for their alcohol problems. They are more likely to have poorer outcomes from the conventional 12-step programs.
This is where the new sober support groups and programs come into play. More and more women are finding these groups helpful for their alcohol-free journey.
Similar to AA, these new sober clubs and groups offer community, accessibility, and privacy. Claire Davey, a Ph.D. candidate in the UK studying alternative paths to sobriety for women, explains what is unlike AA:
This concept that people don’t actually feel they’re surrounded by ‘alcoholics.’ They’re surrounded by women experiencing problem alcohol use or gray-area alcohol use.”Claire Davey, Ph.D. candidate studying alternative paths to sobriety for women
This concept is appealing to members who join, especially women.
Women are also saying the groups are a way for them to radically reclaim their power from the alcohol industry that has targeted them for years with marketing ploys.
Very smart people with loads of money, power, and access benefit from our believing that [alcohol use] is an act of empowerment for women, instead of what it is: a drug designed to keep us down, no matter how much we [use],” wrote Holly Whitaker founder of Tempest in her book Quit Like a Woman: The radical choice not to drink in a culture obsessed with alcohol, as per Insider.Holly Whitaker founder of Tempest
Possible downsides to non-AA sober groups
Geri-Lynn Utter, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia who specializes in addiction, while welcoming these new sober groups, fears they might allow people with more serious alcohol problems to not tackle their issue.
If they engage in a program like that and they fail, then that’s a realization that we may need a higher level of care,” said Geri-Lynn Utter, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia specializing in addiction, as per Insider.
We may need to look this in the eye and we may need to call it what it is.”Geri-Lynn Utter, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia
Given the difficulty to measure the success of peer support groups, some addiction specialists are of the opinion that peer support networks whether it is AA or non-AA should only be used with known-to-be effective treatments for alcohol use disorder, like medication and behavioral therapy.
Another downside to peer support groups for sobriety is that they are rarely managed by licensed mental health professionals. This is true of both AA and non-AA groups.
One downside of the new non-AA sober groups is the cost they entail. Gaining access beyond the basics to private forums, meetings, and coaching is expensive. For example, Project 90 targets entrepreneurs and executives over 35. Therefore, the price of entry runs from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on how much personalized attention a participant is looking for and needs.
Free non-AA groups and creating your own recovery journey
While the new, hip sober support groups and programs can be costly, there are free evidence-based non-AA methods available. University of New Mexico psychologist Katie Witkiewitz recommends the mutual-support programs SMART Recovery. They also reject the “powerless” ethos of AA.
Meanwhile Sober Instagram offers some great options too, for example under the hashtags #sobercurious and #alcoholfree or #SoberInspiration. This way people find Zoom meetings, in-person meetings or are able to join Slack channels to help her get sober.
New tools are democratizing sober support, where people can build their own sober journey by picking different elements from different programs such as AA, working with a therapist, listening to The Naked Mind podcast and attending meetings by the Sober Black Girls Club.