OPINION: Why sober bars are the future of socializing and relapse prevention

The recent rise of sober bars may come as a surprise to many, but it’s a trend that is quickly gaining momentum. Sober bars are exactly what they sound like: bars that don’t serve alcohol. Instead, they offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, along with an atmosphere that promotes socializing, relaxation and connection without the need for alcohol.

The growing popularity of sober bars can be attributed to several factors. First and foremost, they offer a safe and supportive environment for those in recovery. Sobriety can be a lonely road, and traditional bars and social events can be triggering for individuals in relapse. Sober bars provide an alternative where individuals can connect with others who are also in recovery without the pressure to drink or use drugs.

Secondly, sober bars offer a unique social experience that many people find refreshing and enjoyable. Without alcohol, people are free to connect and have fun without the social lubricant that can sometimes lead to damaging behaviors. Sober bars often feature live music, dancing, games and other activities that foster a sense of community and connection.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of therapy that teaches individuals coping skills and strategies to manage difficult emotions and behaviors. One of the core skills taught in DBT is emotion regulation, which involves learning how to identify and manage emotions in a healthy way. What does this have to do with sober bars? Everything.

Sober bars can be an effective way to practice emotion regulation skills in a real-world setting. Instead of turning to alcohol to cope with difficult emotions or social anxiety, individuals can use the skills they’ve learned in therapy to manage their emotions and healthily connect with others. Sober bars provide a supportive environment where individuals can practice these skills without the fear of relapse or negative consequences.

They can also serve as a valuable opportunity for individuals to hone their mindfulness skills, which are crucial components of DBT. Mindfulness entails being fully present in the current moment without any preconceptions or biases. In a sober bar environment, individuals can cultivate this mindset by being attentive to their surroundings and emotions without the influence of alcohol. By practicing mindfulness in this setting, individuals can learn to effectively manage challenging emotions and remain anchored in the present moment rather than getting caught up in past regrets or future anxieties.

In addition to mindfulness, sober bars can also be an effective way to practice interpersonal effectiveness, another core DBT skill. Interpersonal effectiveness involves learning how to communicate effectively and assertively while also respecting the needs and boundaries of others. In a sober bar setting, individuals can practice these skills by engaging in conversations, making new friends, and navigating social situations without relying on alcohol as a crutch.


Overall, the rise of sober bars is a positive trend that offers a safe and supportive environment for those in recovery, while also promoting healthy socialization and connection. These establishments offer a unique opportunity to practice DBT skills, such as emotion regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness, in a real-world setting. As the popularity of sober bars continues to grow, we can expect to see more people finding creative ways to promote healthy socialization and relapse prevention.

It’s worth noting that sober bars are not just for people in recovery. They can also be a great option for those who choose not to drink for any reason, such as pregnant women, designated drivers, or those who simply prefer not to consume alcohol. Sober bars offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, regardless of their relationship with alcohol.

Of course, like any social setting, sober bars are not without their challenges. For some, the lack of alcohol may feel like a limitation, and they may struggle to adjust to socializing without the use of alcohol. However, with time and practice, many individuals can still have a great time without drinking. Additionally, some may worry that sober bars will be boring or lack the excitement and energy of traditional bars. However, many sober bars offer a variety of activities, such as live music, dancing and games, that can be just as fun and engaging as any alcohol-fueled event.

It’s important to remember that sobriety is a personal choice; not everyone will feel comfortable or supported in a sober bar setting. For some, traditional social events may still be the best option. However, sober bars offer a promising alternative for those in recovery or looking for a unique and healthy social experience.

The rise of sober bars is a positive trend that reflects a growing awareness of the importance of healthy socialization and relapse prevention. These establishments offer a safe and supportive environment for individuals in recovery, promoting healthy social connections and practicing important DBT skills, such as emotion regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. As the popularity of sober bars continues to grow, we can expect to see more individuals finding creative ways to promote healthy socialization and relapse prevention and to make sobriety a more accessible and enjoyable choice for all.

Laura Petracek, Ph.D., LCSW, is a certified DBT therapist and author with more than 30 years of psychotherapy experience. She is a recovering addict who uses her personal experience to help others and is committed to providing high-quality services that meet individuals where they are on their personal growth journeys. Dr. Petracek is the author of “The DBT Workbook for Alcohol and Drug Addiction” and “The Anger Workbook for Women.”

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.