Happy (Sober) New Year!

By Sue Smith 12/27/12

Everyone knows this can be a tough time of year for non-drinkers. So here's a guide for how to ring in the New Year without booze, from meeting marathons to drink-free dances.

5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1! Happy sober new year! Photo via

New Year’s Eve is almost always a bust. You can spend months planning your night only to end up at some lame party like New Year’s Fore Play at a club like Styxxx. Anyone would drink in that situation! You’d have to just to make it tolerable!

And the stakes are real, as New Yorker Alexis can attest. She says, “I relapsed on New Year’s Eve of 2010, so I realize I have to be vigilant around the holidays.”

That said, just because you don’t imbibe doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on New Year’s Eve. Put on your sparkly dress, get crunk on energy drinks—and listen up! Instead of paying $50 to be in a loud club awash with glowsticks and ecstasy, check out these fun, booze-free Dec. 31 alternatives.

Alcathons are 24-hour marathon meetings held in one space, so that people have somewhere to go while “normies” are having their Champagne toasts.

Go to an alcathon
“Alcathon” is another one of those made-up AA words, like “uncomfortability.” So what is it? Though geographical regions disagree on how it’s spelled (alcathon vs. alkathon), everyone can agree that it’s an essential tool for staying sober during the holidays. Alcathons are 24-hour marathon meetings held in one space, so that people have somewhere to go while “normies” are having their Champagne toasts.

In New York City, there will be one at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 275 North 8th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Meetings start at noon on the 31st and run hourly until noon on New Year’s Day. Click here for more alcathon options around the country.

Get down at a sober dance
While sober dances might sound a little lame—a bunch of non-drinkers hanging out in an auditorium like in high school?—we can assure you that the annual SoHo New Year’s Eve Party is not like that at all. The event includes a three-speaker meeting, dinner and masquerade ball. The website claims that DJs start “grooving” at 9pm, which might trigger your Lame-o-Meter—but Brooklynite Shannon says, “The SoHo dance is a rager. If you’re not there to dance, you should go somewhere else. It’s a sweat box of furtive glances at the dude you think is cute in your regular meetings.” Church of St. Anthony of Padua, 154 Sullivan St. (at Houston), Manhattan, 7:30pm–2am, $10–$15. Click here for more sober dance options.

Chill out with some yoga and meditation
The holiday season is always stressful, what with buying presents, visiting family, making plans—and not having enough cash for any of it. Not to mention that 2012 was a prickly year where we endured difficult events together as a nation. Shake all that off and practice some 11th-step meditation to ensure that 2013 is more centered.

Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles is hosting a two-and-a-half-hour New Year’s Eve meditation and intention setting with Dharma Punx founder Noah Levine. That probably sounds really intimidating—but basically it means setting your goals for the new year. Center Director Mary Stancavage says, “This is open to anyone, and we have people come for New Year's who have never meditated before. It's helpful to ring in the new year this way because the meditation helps you connect with what's really important on the inside—and setting an intention to honor that seems kinder than making resolutions. You can't break an intention.” And you don’t have to be Buddhist for this non-denominational meditation. 4300 Melrose Ave., 10pm–12:30am, $20 suggested donation, but all are welcome. Click here for more yoga and meditation options.

Laugh a little
Life on life’s terms can be a bummer sometimes. You might think that just because you’ve gotten sober, you’re impervious to things like bedbugs, car accidents and the flu. That just ain’t true. But one thing that is true is that these things can be less of a big deal—especially if you’re able to laugh at them and enjoy yourself. Because you’re not here to be miserable anymore.

Angelenos can check out sober comedian Rob Delaney, of Twitter fame, at the Hollywood Improv. 8162 Melrose Ave., $35 for standard admission or $70 for VIP, which includes a three-course dinner. 

If you’re in Northern California, The Sunflower Center, a community organization and vegan cafe, will host Funny Vibes, a free comedy and reggae New Year’s Eve show. “On a night when people are traditionally partying their hearts out, we want to help them celebrate their sobriety,” says the Center’s Chey Bell. There will be a midnight toast with the cafe’s signature drink, an organic hot ginger lemonade. 1435 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, Calif., (707) 792-5300 or [email protected], 8pm–1am, FREE.

Hang out in Old Hollywood
Engaging in the “Three Ms” of sobriety (movies, meetings and, well—ask your sponsor), will help you survive sobriety’s nail-biting times, so head to the movies this New Year’s Eve. Don your pearls and cigarette holder, get your guy to put on his tux and head over to Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, where they’ll be showing the 1960 Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine picture, The Apartment. One of AFI’s Top 100 films, The Apartment is the funny yet heartbreaking story of a poor schlub who’s trying to win over the most wonderful woman in town. The event also features a five-course dinner, and the staff is happy to accommodate dietary needs—as well as substitute sober options for the drink pairings. 320 E. 6th St., Austin, (512) 476-1320, free parking, 6:30pm, $75.

Lace up your roller skates
If you live in Minneapolis, check out the Pride Institute’s Rollerdome Sober New Year’s Eve, sponsored by GLBT in Recovery. Admission gets you skate rental, snacks and free parking. 900 S. 5th St., 9:30pm–12:30am, $5.

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Sue Smith is a comedic actor and writer in New York City. Sue has written and starred in tons of videos, including "Your Vagina Can Save the World," and "Juggalos: Are They a Gang?" Her writing has appeared in Jezebel, xoJane, Brokelyn, VICE and other, less trendy, publications. You can find her on Linkedin of follow her on Twitter.