Dry July: 7 ways to catch up with friends that don’t involve a drink

For the ‘sober curious’, Dry July can be a great way to kick off an alcohol-free lifestyle. But how exactly do people manage to stay social?

By Carolyn Tate

It’s that time of year when friends start posting about Dry July on social media. This is closely followed by countless articles in the media about people who have discovered the joys of giving up the booze. Their transformations are so positive and compelling it seems like everyone has joined a cult – only this cult results in better sleep, more cash in the bank, and lower cancer and heart disease risk, to name a few perks.

Taking some time to reset our relationship with alcohol can be a welcome opportunity at this time of year, but if you’re used to socialising with a drink in your hand, the idea can also be intimidating.

If you’re ‘sober curious’ – that is, you’d like to take a break from alcohol to see how you feel – but you’re a little bit anxious about how it will affect your ability to socialise, you’re not alone.

It's natural to feel nervous about socialising without alcohol at first, many people do. Especially if drinking has been a long-standing part of your routine. But Dry July doesn't have to mean a dry social life. With a bit of planning, you can still have a month of fun and connection… you might even find you have some new experiences too.

Here’s how July and beyond might go down for you:

1. Host a gourmet tea or coffee tasting

Who says tasting sessions are just for wine? Instead, invite friends over for an exploration of premium teas or coffees.

Source a variety of high-quality blends and learn about their origins and brewing methods together. Pair your sips with artisanal chocolates or freshly baked treats for an indulgent afternoon.

It's a sophisticated way to expand your palate – and lively conversation is sure to follow.

2. Organise a group cooking class

Channel your inner chef and gather friends for a cooking class. Whether you're mastering the art of Thai curries or perfecting your pasta-making skills, cooking together is a fantastic way to bond. 

You can do this at home and take it in turns to teach each other your own specialties, or find a local cooking school that offers group classes. If you want to get extra fancy, hire a chef to come to your home.

The best part? You get to enjoy the fruits of your labour together at the end.

3. Plan an active outdoor adventure

There are many health benefits to being out in nature, so you might like to lace up your walking shoes and head out for a bushwalk or a leisurely bike ride.

There’s plenty of opportunity to chat and catch up while you’re getting some gentle exercise and fresh air. You can also pack a picnic and make a day of it, or turn it into a photo walk, taking pictures of nature while you’re out.

The endorphins from physical activity combined with good company will leave you feeling better than when you started - and no hangovers!

4. Host a craft workshop

Unleashing your creativity and gathering friends for a DIY craft session can be a lot of fun – you could discover some hidden talent, or you may just have a lot of laughs at your attempts.

Either way, we reckon that’s a win! Whether you're trying your hand at pottery, learning to knit, or maybe creating some inspiring vision boards, crafting together is a wonderful way to bond with your mates.

Many local art studios offer group classes, or you could invite someone to lead a workshop in your home. The focus on the activity encourages conversation and laughter, while keeping your hands busy. Plus, for better or worse, everyone gets to take home a unique creation as a memento.

5. Arrange a wellness day

For the ultimate indulgence, create your own wellness retreat with friends by mixing and matching activities to suit your preferences. 

You could start with a gentle group yoga session in a local park, and follow it with a guided meditation to calm the mind and reduce stress. You could then move on to a session at a local float tank centre or sauna, and then cap off your day with a nutritious, shared meal,  perhaps a colourful smoothie bowl bar where everyone can customise their dish.

Not only is this a great alcohol-free way to socialise, it also promotes overall health and wellbeing, and it might even inspire some ongoing healthy habits.

6. Organise a local foodie tour

If you love your food, you might like to go on a walking culinary tour of your city – or you can also drive if the venues are spaced further apart – nobody will be over the limit. 

Research and map out a route that visits diverse local eateries, from hidden gems to popular hotspots. Plan to visit four or five venues, sampling their signature dishes at each stop. This could include anything from artisanal cheese shops to family-run bakeries or fun food trucks. As long as you’re not over-indulging at any one spot, you can fit in the next course! 

As you travel between locations, don’t forget to take in the local sights and architecture. It's a delicious way to discover new favourites, support local businesses and engage in lively food-focused conversations.

7. Look out for sober events

Keep an eye out for alcohol-free events popping up in your area. Many cities and towns in Australia now host sober curious meetups, dry discos, and alcohol-free pop-up bars. Check local event listings, community boards, and social media for these gatherings.

Untoxicated is an Australian organisation that arranges meet-ups and trips, and you can also find sober events on Meetup

Don't overlook daytime events either - farmers markets, craft fairs, and outdoor concerts can be fantastic for socialising sans alcohol. These events not only provide a fun, booze-free environment but also the chance to connect with others who might be doing the same thing as you.

These are just seven ideas but your options for drink-free socialising are really endless. Tailor your activities to things you enjoy, and visit the Dry July website for more ideas and inspiration.

Bonus tips: when you can’t avoid alcohol-fuelled events

While alcohol-free activities are great, you might still find yourself in situations where drinking is the norm. Here are a few ideas on how to handle it with grace:

●  Be prepared with your favourite non-alcoholic beverage. A sparkling water with lime in a wine glass can help you feel part of the festivities without the alcohol, and there are plenty of popular alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits to explore too.

●  Have a simple explanation ready if asked why you're not drinking. Something like, "I'm taking a break to focus on my health" is usually enough.

●  Also, you don't owe anyone an explanation for your choices. A simple "No, thank you" is perfectly acceptable.

●  If you're feeling pressured or tempted, enlist the support of a friend who knows your goals. It can help to have a buddy to keep each other accountable and focused.

●  Think about what you’re gaining by giving those drinks a swerve: a clearer head, better sleep, and more authentic connections, for starters.

●  Try to focus on the company and conversation rather than what's in your glass.

●  Remember that the early days are always the hardest when breaking a habit. It might feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first, but pretty soon, you’ll be feeling fresh and loving the feeling that comes with taking a break. You might even want to keep Dry July going indefinitely!

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