Edmonton’s Kaitie Degen has created a series of events in Alberta restaurants and bars for people who don’t want to drink.
She calls them Sober Saturdayz, and says most of her guests are trying to be healthier or recovering from addiction.
The 26-year-old knows more than most about substance-use issues. Her mother and uncles struggled with addiction for decades, and Degen grew up in the B.C. foster care system.
“Usually when (my family members) did relapse, it was when they were trying to reintegrate back into their friend group and go out and drink and go for dinner,” said Degen. “There were just no options.”
Degen gave up alcohol five months ago, after realizing she was drinking too much on weekends. Staying sober was especially hard in bars.
“I was too self-conscious to dance, I was too self-conscious to approach people to talk, I was nervous about what I was wearing,” said Degen.
“I wanted to socialize, but I couldn’t do it on my own.”
She and her friends came up with the idea for Sober Saturdayz and Degen ran with it — teaming up with trendy local venues to organize events. She also created a website, complete with recipes for fancy booze-free beverages.
Dr. Diane Rothon, medical director of an alcohol addiction treatment program, feels removing temptation can be helpful.
“(Alcohol-free events are) a great idea, because we know that drinking encourages drinking,” said Rothon.
Rothon says saying no can be tough when a bartender is pushing cocktails or friends are partying. For those who use alcohol to cope, she suggests counselling. An app or journal can also help track behaviours.
“A record, a diary… of the triggers that have caused them to drink and what they’ve been able to do about it,” said Rothon.
According to 2012 statistics from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, an estimated 3.2 per cent of Canadians age 15 and older have a drinking problem. Regular alcohol use can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases, including some cancers.
A list of Sober Saturdayz events can be found here.