Sober Curious & Social

In Do, July 2022/August 2022 by Eric GinsburgLeave a Comment

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Zero Proof is building a community for Raleighites who want to drink less or ditch alcohol altogether.

Jacqueline Lee feared that if she quit drinking, her social life would end. “I have always been very social,” says Lee. “I love parties and getting to meet new people, but all of those events usually revolve around drinking or meeting at a bar.”

At 25, Lee didn’t know many people who were sober. Searching online, she couldn’t find a Raleigh community built around alcohol-free experiences outside of recovery and treatment programs. So she created one.

Launched in 2020, Zero Proof has already offered a staggering buffet of sober events, ranging from aerial yoga to drag shows. Hourlong hikes at Umstead also have proven popular. But she has also organized a series of alcohol-free concerts, dinners and even an outing at Boxcar Bar + Arcade.

“For years, I didn’t stop drinking because I didn’t know anyone my age who was sober,” says Lee. “When you stop drinking, it can feel really lonely, so anything I can do to provide an avenue for people to connect with other people who are experiencing the same thing is really worthwhile to me.”

Mocktails may be easier to find here recently, but Raleigh falls behind peer cities. Lee quickly discovered Charlotte’s alcohol-free Counterculture Club, while Austin brags the nonalcoholic Sans Bar. Lee may have initially felt like an outcast for ditching alcohol, but her efforts are actually making Raleigh more inclusive and current.

Zero Proof typically hosts three to four events each month, and the schedule is heavily influenced by participants. Some local businesses like Current Wellness are eager to partner with her, but it’s not always an easy sell. “It’s challenging when you’re trying to plan alcohol-free events because a lot of businesses don’t want to do it on Friday or Saturday since alcohol is such a revenue driver,” says Lee. But the Zero Proof trailblazer—whose main hustle is at a marketing firm—hasn’t let that stop her.

Zero Proof isn’t a support group, at least not in the classic sense. Instead, it attracts a wide net, including those who are sober curious or want to drink less. Most attendees are in their 20s or 30s. And that’s partially intentional; Zero Proof is open to all—but Lee, now 27, hopes to create a social community for young people like her that normalizes not drinking. 

“I have countless new friends who are also sober,” Lee writes on Zero Proof’s website, “which makes me not feel so alone in a culture where alcohol is everywhere”—proof positive that Zero Proof’s spirited social options are filling a void for the spirit-free community.

Jacqueline Lee; founder of Zero Proof

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