Buzz Free Buds: Sober Squad Provides a Safe Space for the Sober Curious
Sober Squad is a local group founded by Paige Holmgren and Kolten Schnell with the intention to create a “community that is sober curious, or who actively don’t drink,” according to Holmgren. In circles where going out on the weekend and having a cocktail is the routine, there may be friends who feel friction with the pattern. “Sober Squad was created so people who live a similar lifestyle can meet each other,” says Holmgren.
While the concept of abstaining from alcohol often conjures up reasons associated with religious affiliations or even addiction, Sober Squad is dismantling misconceptions of sobriety by offering a space for sober curious discussions to take place. Alcohol can function as a social binder, which then can make statements such as, “no, I don’t drink” ironically taboo. “Sobriety exists outside of recovery. Not drinking can be a normal thing in life. Sober Squad isn’t like AA—no one comes to identify how long they haven’t been drinking,” says Schnell. While Sober Squad welcomes and invites those who are in recovery, it’s also for those who are just interested in finding a space to learn more about sobriety.
“Sober Squad was created so people who live a similar lifestyle can meet each other.”
“Sober curious folks may actively drink but still join [our] activities that are not surrounded by drinking [alcohol],” says Holmgren. “We welcome totally sober people and people in recovery but we also welcome people who are reevaluating their relationship with alcohol—anyone who is interested in a lifestyle with less alcohol.” Holmgren explains the phrase through her own experience, saying, “I went through a phase [of] being sober curious. I drank when I wanted to, but I was curious about a lifestyle without alcohol as the center. I quit drinking when I was 23. Sober curiosity can be an indicator of life without drinking,” she says. Schnell adds, “There is a lot of pressure in society to drink to have a good time. At [Sober Squad], there is a place for everybody within sobriety, and it’s a spectrum. Everyone can reevaluate their relationship with alcohol.”
Part of investigating and testing new boundaries with alcohol is having a supportive environment to socialize without boozy pressure. Once Schnell and Holmgren began discussing and putting together the foundation for the group, the need for more sober environments became clear. Holmgren says, “Our KPIs [key performance indicators] for Sober Squad were first to ensure there was interest. Once we had 30 people interested in joining a group, we figured we could expand the idea, and put more time and energy into it.”
It quickly became apparent to Holmgren and Schnell that many people in Salt Lake City were interested in and excited for a sober-focused group and participating in sober-focused activities. Once it became clear that there was a need for a group like this, Sober Squad had its first meet-up at Curiosity (a zero-proof bar in Salt Lake that recently closed its doors). Sober Squad continues to focus on similar gathering places that offer cocktails and spirits without alcohol to enjoy activities such as meeting for mocktails, enjoying N/A beers or N/A ciders, coffee meetups, game nights and snow and ski days. Being curious about sobriety is really just the first step in seeing what a life without alcohol looks and feels like. Exploring these life choices can be simpler when one is surrounded by like-minded people who can provide support or advice on the journey. Many of the attendees of Sober Squad have differing experiences of sobriety yet each found community within the group.
“There is a lot of pressure in society to drink to have a good time. At [Sober Squad], there is a place for everybody within sobriety, and it’s a spectrum. Everyone can reevaluate their relationship with alcohol.”
If you’re interested in joining Sober Squad, you can follow them on Instagram @sobersquad.slc and check out their GroupMe linked in their bio. GroupMe is a messaging platform where Sober Squad events and meetups will be discussed and members can chat about topics based on varying interests, enabling folks to build friendships within the sober community. Popular spots to find alcohol-free libations in Salt Lake City include Second Summit Cider, Backdoor Bar and Renourish Kombucha Tap Room, among other locations.