Being sober in New York City boasts its own unique set of challenges. Perusing recovery in a bustling & cosmopolitan city brings both opportunities and obstacles alike. While it may seem like everyone spends their days working and nights drinking and partying, there is a growing community of people in the Big Apple who are turning towards an alcohol-free life.
Whether someone self-identifies as in recovery, in a program of harm reduction, clean, sober, or sober-curious, NYC has a whole slew of options and communities that offer fun, relaxation, spiritual growth, and physical fitness, and don’t involve alcohol or substances. Here is a list of communities and non-drinking activities that can aid you in your path of recovery.
They say the opposite of addiction is connection. Whether it’s connecting with yourself, another person, a group of people, or a whole community, New York City has no shortage of people, places, things, and ideas to connect with. For those who are looking to alternatives to the traditional 12-step route, NYC’s recovery fellowship options are nearly limitless.
Sober communities offer their members a chance to network and gain insight into their own addictions through the bond of shared experiences. These 12-step alternatives and alternative recovery communities make the path to sobriety more accessible to those who find that the 12-step approach doesn’t fit into their own recovery plan.
BIGVISION is a nonprofit that organizes free sober events/activities for young adults (18-35) in recovery from substances, ranging from adrenaline-fueled activities like Outdoor Trapeze and Indoor Go-Karting, to creative workshops like knitting and jewelry-making. A sampling of some upcoming events include comedy nights, fitness classes, and more. BIGVISION loves hearing from its community members, so if you have an idea for an event, let them know!
Alternative Addiction-Recovery Groups
One of the best things about New York City is that no matter what kind of addiction you’re struggling with and what kind of help you’re seeking, the solution is right around the corner. Every addiction is as unique as the person suffering from it. For over 70 years, the 12-step recovery model has helped alcoholics and addicts around the world, but despite their success, 12-step programs are not for everyone. Luckily, NYC is home to a wide variety of support programs, groups, and addiction recovery professionals to support every type of addiction imaginable.
For people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction that want a non-12-step solution, there is Refuge Recovery, a Buddhist-oriented model that focuses on the practices of mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity. Smart Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery is a group designed for anyone looking to abstain from addictive behavior and empowers the individual to make decisions based on logic and reason.
Those struggling with trauma, abuse, codependency, cancer, grief, low self-esteem, and more can find support through shared experience in support groups, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy). By relying on the power of peer support, professional guidance, and mindfulness exercises, these therapies can make a tremendous impact in the lives of those whose addiction is tied to trauma.
While being part of a sober community may be crucial to many people’s recovery, some find that their own recovery thrives with one-on-one counseling, recovery coaching, and case management. Luckily NYC has no shortage certified recovery coaches, life coaches, doctors, psychiatrists, and addiction recovery professionals.
For people in 12-step recovery, NYC offers some great lifestyle meetings for those in AA and NA, to check out, including meetings for young people in recovery, LGBTQ meetings, men’s meetings, women’s meetings, agnostic meetings, late night meetings, meetings in every language, and meetings and groups that deal with recovering from every type of substance and harmful compulsive behavior.
It used to be that going out in sobriety meant ordering a bland and predictable seltzer with lime or painfully sugary Shirley Temple, but fear not. With a surge of alcohol-free pop-up bars (and permanent ones!) emerging in NYC, you now have options for choosing between handcrafted, elevated booze-free drinks that will keep your palate on it’s toes. You’ll thank us in the morning.
Getaway – NYC’s First Alcohol-Free Bar
NYC’s first permanent booze-free bar, Getaway, recently opened in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and boasts a delicious, sophisticated menu using seasonal fruits and pricey botanicals that will not disappoint. Sam and Regina, the co-founders of Getaway, carefully choose 0% ABV ingredients to go into every drinks–drinks with traces of alcohol, such as bitters or kombucha, are not to be found here. With names such as “Daters Gonna Date” or “A Trip To Ikea,” who wouldn’t be intrigued? The former contains medjool dates, peanut butter, lime, banana syrup, vanilla, macadamia nut milk, and Coco Rico soda; the latter is spicy and has mango & jalapeño purée, lime, elderflower tonic, and black sesame. Show them some love the next time you’re in Greenpoint and support a business that is working towards increasing sober accessibility in New York City.
Virtual Sober Communities
Meetup, an online resource for local meet-ups, has a handful of sober NYC groups, including “Zero Proof Party Zone” and “Sober NYC,” which regularly post about sober happenings throughout the five boroughs. Also of note are “closed” Facebook groups and other online “clubhouses” for people in recovery in NYC who wish to communicate about shared interests, ask questions, and offer feedback.
Dance Movement Classes
There is a range of substance-free dance movements that offer classes, workshops, and one-off dance parties that bring together sober-minded individuals who use their bodies as a vehicle of expression. Groups like 5Rhythms, The Get Down, and Daybreaker (a booze-free early morning dance party) take the focus away from substances and emphasize connecting with those around you in safe, inclusive spaces. You won’t have to worry about someone spilling their drink on you or encountering disruptive, inebriated individuals. Win and win.
Workout classes like 305 Fitness, Barry’s Boot Camp, modelFIT, and SLT cater to all your moods and needs. 305 Fitness boasts a dance cardio class along with a live DJ and light show, while Barry’s Boot Camp offers a combination of cardio, weight training, and anaerobic exercise under intense red lights to fuel your workout. ModelFIT offers a sculpt class, cardio sculpt class, and a dance cardio class for those who have a bit more experience. Those who want an intense, full body workout can head to SLT. Workout classes are a great space to connect with others, many of whom are also mindful about health and wellness.
Rest And Renew
Full-body massage parlors are all over NYC, but have you gotten a massage specifically for your face? FaceLove does exactly just that. The most popular service, FitLove, is a facial massage with firming exercises and relaxing upper body stretches that claims to increase circulation, boost your complexion, strengthen face muscles, and reduce fine lines & wrinkles over time. We oftentimes don’t realize the stress and tension that our faces alone carry, and this service is a great way to take care of this oft-underlooked part of our bodies.
For a detox from New York City (and to live out your ultimate Thoreauvian dream), check out Getaway House (no relation the aforementioned alcohol-free bar), which offers tiny cabins you can rent out in the woods with simple, spare furnishings. With no Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to unplug, recharge, and truly enjoy the benefits of nature unencumbered.
The Role of Arts and Culture in Recovery
Museums and Galleries
New Yorkers might feel jaded when it comes to visiting the bounty of galleries and museums the city has to offer. However, sobriety can offer a new lens on viewing art. It encouraged me to slow down and really absorb what I was seeing instead of rushing through an exhibition for the sake of going through it. Additionally, I’ve found that museum trips are the perfect solo activity, as I prefer to move at my own rate rather than have to play catch up or slow down for a friend who might accompany me.
Let’s start with what’s affectionately known as the Museum Mile on the Upper East Side, which consists of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, Neue Galerie, Cooper Hewitt, Museum of the City of New York, and Museo Del Barrio–all along Fifth Avenue. Some overlooked museums include the Museum of the Moving Image and the Museum of Arts and Design, which has a fascinating show about punk graphics called “Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die” on view until mid-August. The sheer number of shows available to us are hard to quantify, but following your favorite institutions on social media can be a great way to stay apprised of current exhibitions.
Enriching The Sober Mind
For those of us who aren’t in school, it takes effort to seek out intellectual stimulation and regrow the brain cells we might have lost when we were in the throes of our substance use disorder. Luckily, you have options like attending lectures or talks at the 92nd Street Y or Brooklyn Brainery, which offers a spectrum of unique workshops and classes hard to find anywhere else. The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) offers Continued Education classes in fashion and related industries, like marketing, design, business, computer technology, and business that cater to all kinds of schedules.
With a bounty of sober communities, activities and events that bring sober people together, New York City boasts an almost endless variety of treatments and activities that benefit recovery. In the greatest city in the world, surrounded by people from all walks of life, of every race, creed, and color, all trying to live without alcohol and drugs, remember: you are not alone.
Marina R. for Avenues NYC