The Naperville area has seen a surge in non-drinking meetups recently. One such event is Dry Naperville Social (DNS), which hosts several gatherings every month that are focused on accepting women who choose not to drink alcohol or support those who do not want to drink around them during these occasions; this has become one of the fastest growing networking communities in the area with close to 1k members on Facebook within less than 6 months.
Deshaies and Sarah Mossenson met at a Women in Business conference for millennials where Deshaies was speaking about her experience creating an alcohol free meetup for millennial women. Mossenson had already been hosting a weekly sober social night at a restaurant in the city for six months.
The two decided to join forces and add their meetups to Meetup.com, leading to more than 1,000 women joining on the first day. Deshaies said it’s only been growing from there: Their Facebook page has 12,100 likes and there are seven chapters total across different Chicago suburbs and cities around the world (including Manila and London).
Deshaies says she credits its success to there being “a large demographic of millennial women who want an alternative way to connect.”
The move from coffee shops to restaurant settings reflects how sober meetups have become mainstream in recent years as they have grown into more elaborate events that feature activities besides coffee and conversation. A decade ago, when Gisela Gonzalez joined one such group in San Francisco, they were limited to just coffee outings at cafes. Now they are held in all types of restaurants and bars across the country. The movement has become so mainstream that Reddit hosts more than 100 subreddits with names like “Sober Chic” and “Sober Fun.”
Kolkman says that the safe space that DNS provides allows her to connect with women from different backgrounds who are free to discuss their sober lifestyles without judgment. For women like Nikki Flynn, one of the leaders of DNS, this community has allowed them to break down barriers they once thought were unbreakable – such as building unbreakable friendships.
“When people are sober you can make authentic connections,” said Ms. Gonzalez, who is 30 and lives in Philadelphia, where she works as a senior analyst for an asset management firm. She favored the Alcohol-Free Social Club over other meetups because it had more women her age compared to traditional “girls’ nights out.”
Claire Emerson, 33, who works for a healthcare consulting company, was attracted to the Alcohol-Free Social Club because she liked that it was “not just drinking” but also included other activities like playing board games.
She cited research that says alcohol can often act as a social lubricant and impede healthy interactions by diminishing inhibitions. She also cited research that says alcohol can often act as a social lubricant and impede healthy interactions by diminishing inhibitions.
“Alcohol made me feel like I needed to be outgoing and loud,” said Ms. Emerson, who is originally from Oklahoma City but now lives in New York. “When you meet someone new, sometimes first impressions are shaped by how much you drink. Here you get to know people without all of those barriers.”