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Halifax organization helps people who choose not to drink navigate the holiday season

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The holiday season can be an overwhelming time for people who are newly sober or sober-curious.

For people in the Halifax area who aren’t sure where to turn for support, an online platform called Sober City can be a helpful resource.

Founder Lee-Anne Richardson says she felt “completely alone” while getting sober almost nine years ago. While there were traditional 12-step groups available to her in Nova Scotia, she says there were not a lot of other resources for people who were newly sober.

“For a few years I was thinking, ‘What can I do to bring community together, to bring other people who are thinking about sobriety, or who are maybe brand new sober, how can I get people to come together?’ And then in 2020 was when I started Sober City.”

Every Sunday, Richardson hosts online meetups that are open to anybody over Zoom.

“We talk about our struggles, what’s going on in our lives, hear other people’s stories and basically stay on the right track around accountability and things like that,” she says.

Richardson also provides a bar and restaurant guide on her website.

“I looked at close to 400 bars and restaurants around HRM and I analyzed their menus to see who offers a good mocktail menu, who offers non-alcoholic beer, things like that,” she says. “If you’re about to head out somewhere check and see what they have available for you if you’re newly sober or even if you just dabble in the alcohol-free life.”

Richardson says the guide can be especially helpful this month, when many people are getting together with family, friends and co-workers for the holidays.

She adds that people who are newly sober, and people who have been for years, are “bracing themselves” for this time of year, especially when it comes to receiving gifts.

“People assume if you’re over 19, well, a bottle of wine would be perfect! It’s the easy gift. But I think more people should give themselves a little more credit and be more creative in their gift-giving because, honestly, you might not know who is trying to take a break from alcohol, or trying to cut back or who has abstained completely. So giving gifts of alcohol can be very detrimental.”

Richardson says she has found more people are looking to live an alcohol-free life since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“I think a lot of people, with the boredom of staying inside over the past few years, and no one could really see what they were doing at home, so people wanted to maybe drink a little bit more, to cope too. I’ve see a big influx around that.”

She says, at this point in the pandemic, more people are questioning their relationship with alcohol.

“They’re reaching out to organizations like me and others around the city and reaching out and thinking, ‘Maybe I should cut back.’”

Richardson says it’s a great time for people to consider going alcohol-free because there are more non-alcoholic drinks available now.

“Restaurants are thinking more about us, rather than just offering pop and milk. They are giving us more options.”

Sober City is hosting a “Sober Holiday Party” with two other local organizations this Saturday at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning in Dartmouth, N.S.

“We’re hoping for a really good crowd. It’s just going to be mingling, free food, it’s free, everything’s free,” Richardson says. “It’s going to be an amazing way to kick off the season and be around other people who understand what it’s like to live completely alcohol-free in this city.” 

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