how to enjoy a sober nye

From energy drinks to buddying up with fellow abstinent ravers, here’s how to see in the new year feeling brand new

Hero image in post
Hero image in post

From energy drinks to buddying up with fellow abstinent ravers, here’s how to see in the new year feeling brand new

By Kyle MacNeill19 Dec 2023
9 mins read time
9 mins read time

New Year’s Day, same old feeling. Few moments in life are more nauseating than sitting down for the final roast of the festive season, harangued by your family while hungover, staring at a hodge-podge of dodgy beige stodge and drowning your sorrows in bread sauce. And, likely, even more booze. When was the last time an NYD didn’t feel like an NDE?

Not everyone, though, is in the same gravy boat; instead, they’re able to see the year in feeling spritely. But how have these lucky folk managed to swerve the most morbid of morning-afters, the most dreaded of dreary-eyed days?

It’s pretty simple: having a sober New Year’s Eve. For those of us used to getting absolutely sledgehammered during the festive period, the idea of this might be impossible to entertain. Especially because NYE is the biggest alcoholiday of them all.

“There is so much socialising at Christmas and NYE and the attitude around us is always that it’s a time to get absolutely hammered,” says Millie Gooch, author and founder of Sober Girls Society. “When something is so normalised and prevalent, it can be really hard to opt out of it without feeling like you’re a complete killjoy or alone in your decision. Christmas is also a tricky time with emotions, so a lot of people use alcohol as a coping mechanism,” she adds.

A survey from alcohol.org, who run alcohol and drug rehab centres across the United States, suggests that on average, we put away 4.4 drinks during the night; but most of us, in our heart of hearts, know that this number is a lot more. Drug dealers also make a packet during the festive period, dishing out pingers to ravers looking to peak at midnight.

But the times are changing. More of us are now happy to end the night with a countdown and not a comedown, riding the natural high of the new year and staying stone-cold sober. After all, many of us are now going to the pub or even the club sober all year round.

Thankfully, new sober nights out are making it easier. Mina, the London-based DJ, started Club Soft in the summer, a dry rave built on having it large without the lager. “I felt disillusioned with the current nightlife model that centres around alcohol. Currently people have to drink in order for venues to stay open, and going out late is difficult for a lot of people who don’t drink,” she says.

Turns out it’s, not too unsurprisingly, really lovely for your mental health. “The benefits have honestly been endless (which sounds like I’ve joined a cult), everything from my relationships with friends to the relationship I have with myself is better,” Gooch says.

So we know the why, but how do you manage it? Here’s how.

The big night out (or in)

First of all, work out exactly where it is you’re going. For now, it’s unlikely you will find a sober night out like Club Soft on offer this NYE, but a private event with fellow teetotal ravers could be a wicked motive. Chances are, you’ll be heading to a house party or a club night. Both have their pros and cons, so weigh them up and work out what seems best for you.

Gaffs can be a little tricky in the sense that there’s no need for people to queue for drinks or be sneaky about doing drugs, meaning it’s right in your face. Equally, though, you can distract yourself with excellent chat, escape to a quieter room if you need to, or easily head in and out without having to negotiate with a bouncer.

Going out-out can create more pressure on having a certified big night and make you feel like you need to get faded to keep dancing. On the other hand, a banging soundsystem is a nice reminder that it’s the tunes, rather than tins, that made you fall in love with dance music in the first place.

“Make sure that the event you’re going to has really good music or involves an activity that you actually enjoy or or you’re with great people who are funny and interesting to talk to,” Mina says. Being dry, after all, doesn’t mean being dry. “Then it won’t feel like a chore, hopefully you’ll forget about drinking because you’re just having a good time anyway.”

“I still go out-out but it’s taken a mixture of practice, finding places I actually enjoy with music I actually want to listen to, and doing it with people who support me,” Gooch says.

On that note: your big night out could centre around karaoke or bowling, rather than raving. Or it could be a big, or very small, night in. From a dinner party to a murder mystery soiree to simply binging a new series in bed, you really don’t have to spend NYE having a mad one. But, assuming that you do choose to go out…

Prep for pre (not) drinks

Being primed for the night ahead is important. We don’t mean guzzling a load of KSI’s spenny pop (though, the caffeine might actually help) but just having an action plan in place. First, make a commitment to yourself that you’re going to try your very best to stay sober and remind yourself why you’re doing it.

If you’re able to, one of the best things you can do is to open up about it to your mates to stay accountable and create a support network. Sure, you might get a few incredulous takes or judgy reactions, but your true pals will accept – and very likely respect – your decision. “Generally people are usually quite understanding and I have lots of friends who either have quit drinking or are cutting down so it doesn’t feel like I’m on my own,” Mina says.

Sticking with these fellow sober souls from the pre-drink stage is an ace way to look out for each other. If you’re anxious about picking up drugs, delete any numbers you might have before the start of the night. While it’s not a long term solution if you are dealing with addiction, it’s a concrete way to moderate your behaviour and avoid any drunk texting.

Liquid courage

Being so used to drinking alcohol can make the liquid logistics of a sober NYE feel like a challenge. What beverage is best as a replacement? Well, it really depends. Drinking trusty aqua can be a good idea on a big night out if you’re worried about looking out of place, considering that many ravers can be found waving a water bottle in the air. Or, be proud of your hydration and zest it up with a twist of citrus. “I’m enjoying having a nice glass of water with ice and lemon at the moment,” Mina says.

If you need a caffeine kick to keep you going, energy drinks while out or coffee beforehand are a good shout (though don’t overdo it, you don’t want to get the jitters). “Honestly, if I know it’s going to be a big night out, I’ll pre-drink with an iced coffee,” Gooch says. “Also, nap before so that you're ready to go, take regular breathers and don’t force yourself to stay and have a good time – you’ll know when you’re done – leave when you feel it.”

Craving a pint? Alcohol-free lagers and bitter beers are a whole lot better than they used to be and, again, a neat way to blend in with the crowd.Aside from that, it’s really up to you. With more and more people giving up alcohol for good, virtually every single form of booze is now available in a zero-ethanol version. But, hey, tan a cranberry juice, get on the Schloer, or down a bottle of Robinsons orange and barley. Go crazy, you!

Mid-rave cravings

You’re halfway through the night and it hits you. God, I really, no I mean I really, want a beer. Or a bump. Or a burger (this one’s allowed!) But how do you deal with the cravings? This is where your friends, you know those really nice people you hang out with, come in.

“It's important to be with people who support you – whether they’re sober or not isn’t as important,” Gooch says. “Get people to keep you accountable, be honest about when you’re feeling urges, cravings are thought to pass within 20 minutes so distract yourself during them.”

Perhaps counter-intuitively, making a beeline for the bar can be A-OK. “Go straight to the bar when you get somewhere and get a non-alc drink so you can avoid giving in if someone offers you a drink,” Gooch says. “Constantly think about tomorrow and how you want to feel when you wake up!”

Staying resolute

With a little bit of what DJ Luck and MC Neat once called luck, you hopefully made it through the night. Congratulations, a hangover-free NYD awaits. But remember, you don’t have to end it there. If you’d like to ride the wave and continue the momentum, you’ve just accidentally started Dry January.

Or possibly your entire New Year’s Resolution, if you’re keen to jump on the bandwagon of being on the wagon for good. “Obviously life always has its challenges but I find managing my mental health much easier and I’m able to implement the things I know will make me feel better, instead of spending the time hungover!” Gooch encourages.

Most importantly, if you had a mega night, remember it. The difficulty of stopping drink or drugs is getting over euphoric recall, a pesky dopaminergic tendency to remember the good things about being drunk or high rather than the bad things.

While reflecting on said bad things can be a helpful way to break through this way of thinking, so can meditating on the good things when you don’t indulge. Proving to yourself that you can still have fun while sober is powerful stuff indeed.

And if you didn’t manage it? Show compassion to yourself; staying sober, especially in this kind of environment, really isn’t easy. Kudos to you for trying. At the least, you will be a little less hungover than you could have been if you had started drinking from the earliest opportunity. If you still feel bad, maybe skip the bread sauce. Trust us, it’s the easiest sauce to get off – and you’ll instantly feel a lot better.

But hey, enough of dodgy 2023 and onto 2024 – what are Mina and Gooch’s New Year’s Resolutions? “Just continue to prioritise health, exercise and having fun," Mina says. And Gooch? “My resolution is just to make it through another year, lol." We'll raise a glass of iced lemon water to that!