The Fear of Socialising Without Booze

I admit it, I’ve been an A-grade show pony since I was a kid; a super-social animal who enjoyed being around people and making them laugh. I always had lots of friends, a love of parties and a strong case of FOMO.

And as it happens this was not only part of the reason I drank – to quell my social anxiety and enable me to show up as the life and soul of any party–- but it was also a bloody great humongous hurdle in my mind to stopping drinking, or even cutting back. I felt sober people were weird, boring social outcasts and not to be trusted, much in the same way as I do about people who don’t like cats.   

For years – and by years, I mean decades – I would lurch from thinking I had things ‘under control’ to a crisis of sorts. You know, the ones where you said or did something you shouldn’t; offended a boss, snogged someone inappropriate (I have the most hilarious story involving Spanx – mine) or smashed your front teeth out on a pavement in the Valley during a failed piggyback attempt. Man, that last one was costly.  

This would invariably lead to a period of immense shame and an attempt to ‘sort things out’. Sorting things might involve going to see an alcohol counsellor or going on medication such as Naltrexone or turning up at an AA meeting full of remorse, never to go back because ‘I wasn’t like those people’.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the situation where, on the back of a mortifying episode I’d convince myself after a few days that it wasn’t really that bad after all. I mean, c’mon it’s just a bit of a laugh, right? No big deal. Then I’d be back on, big time, by the weekend. Rinse and repeat for at least twenty years.

By the end in all of this, I’d stopped even pretending that this night out would be different because I’d only drink certain drinks. Or that I really would stop at five drinks, or by 9 o’clock. Or that I’d definitely come home with my keys, my wallet and my phone this time. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t even fool myself anymore.  

No, I knew after about the first half an hour to an hour that sense of blissful ease would come over me, that sense that all was actually ok with the world after all, and I wouldn’t give AF. Not about myself, not about my drinking, not about anything. I’d have lost control already and that would be that; I’d have no idea about the latter part of the evening, how I got home, the money I’d spent and how I’d behaved. That’s just how it was now.

By the final time I reached out for help to stop drinking in 2017, there was little, if any, fun in any of it. I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore. I remember one night near the end where I was alone on my deck, crying, not even wanting to drink the drink in front of me but I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t have the strength. Even then the alternative – not drinking – seemed worse than this abyss of despair and unhappiness.

Still, the survival instinct is strong. I knew where this was headed if I continued and it wasn’t a happy ending. I wanted to live. Thankfully with the aid of a stint in an inpatient detox unit, I was able to.

My next challenge when I got sober was, or so I thought at the time, reinventing myself or at least discovering who I was. I mean, who the hell was I without booze? I had no clue. I’d been a big boozer for three decades, my whole adult life. I didn’t know how to operate in the world without it. It was terrifying.

And, what was I going to do now, socially? Would I be a social pariah? I didn’t want to ditch my old friends as they were my mates, with or without booze. Would they ditch me though, now I could no longer come and party? If I’m honest I avoided non-drinkers like the plague, assumed they were beyond tedious and would never in a million years dream of dating one. And here I was, one of them. Ugh, these were massive concerns of mine.

My plan was to continue to see my existing friends in a different capacity, like coffee or brekky or a movie instead of dinner and drinks or a day party that would turn into a 16-hour smash fest.

But this left a big gaping hole for me – Friday and Saturday nights. When I quit, I don’t think I knew a single person who didn’t drink and certainly not one I’d actually want to socialise with. But here I was sober, so they couldn’t all be awful, surely? I was absolutely committed to my sobriety, but I didn’t want to be a lonely, Billy-no-mates or feel like I was missing out. I wanted to focus on what I was gaining on this journey, not what I was ‘losing’. And my social life wasn’t going to be one of them, dammit.

So, I set about hunting down a new tribe to hang with. I googled and searched and yet I couldn’t find anything. I found AA useful as a tool in the first few months, but it wasn’t for me longer term. So that left me with … a fairly lacklustre social life.

And that’s when I decided to start Untoxicated (Booze Free Fun and Friendship); ultimately I created what I needed. An option for normal(ish!) people to hang out together socially, have a laugh and do some fun things together, mainly on the weekends. Movies, picnics, dinners, bars, art galleries, bushwalks, roller discos – you name it, we do it.

It started slowly and some weeks only one person would show but it grew and grew and now we operate in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, hosting events weekly and fortnightly. We have grown into an awesome tribe of people, over 4,500 of us, and the team of us who run it are all volunteers.

We welcome anyone, you don’t have to be sober 24/7 – the only stipulation is no drinking at the event. We offer a space where people can catch up, put their problems aside for a hot minute and feel like they belong somewhere – whether they are sober or sober curious. Many members do still drink but have a wide range of reasons why they want to socialise sans the hard stuff. 

We want to help break the stigma and pressures of choosing to socialise without alcohol, by showing it is possible to have a fun, social life with great people who are just like you, without booze.

Socialising in early sobriety can be really hard to do in your old social circles. Sometimes you may just need to pause it for a wee while until you gain a bit more sober muscle. Now, over 2 years in for example, socialising in bars doesn’t phase me, but that wasn’t always the case.  Our social events help people get used to being in social settings like restaurants, around alcohol, but in our own little tribe where it is literally and metaphorically taken off the table.

And so it turns out that without the booze, I’m pretty much the same person, just a much better version. Fundamentally I’m still a social butterfly, the person who brings others together socially, the life and soul. To my surprise, the booze didn’t define me after all. And it doesn’t have to define you either.  


Faye Lawrence is 46 and mum to two adults as well as a very badly behaved Bengal cat. She’s a bit of an idealist and believes in a world where everyone belongs.

Faye’s professional background is in marketing, communications & corporate affairs, predominantly in the not-for-profit sector.  She also holds a psychology degree, graduating a month after she got sober in 2017, and reckons that a person-centred, strengths-based approach works for pretty much everything in life.

Faye Lawrence - Untoxicated

Your post has come at just the picture perfect time because f have decided to stop drinking. Having just decided to stop, I’m less than a month into abstinence, I too have been going to AA meetings weekly. However, I don’t meet all the criteria to be an alcoholic. Even so, I want to be able to socialise and have fun with interesting like-minded people. I love cycling, hiking, movies, reading, picnics without the flies and stimulating conversation. Being elderly doesn’t stop me because I want to maintain my physical, mental and emotional fitness w/o jeopardising my “ joie de vivre”.

Thanks for sharing very inspiring.

Sounds perfect for me. I can’t believe that on this holiday I really haven’t felt like drinking at all. I think this email came to me at the right time. I can really relate to your blog. Thankyou Mazz

Hi Faye enjoyed reading your journey & identify with many of the circumstances you have encountered. I also felt that those around me would not be able to relate to me if I no longer drank alcohol. After initially experiencing some curiosity and I guess peer pressure etc from those I knew I stuck to my guns and found that it was generally accepted that I no longer drank grog. Its been about 4 months now and I know that every aspect of my life is better for it. I don’t like to look backwards but can truly say I literally pissed a decade of my life down the drain & came close to losing the one person who means everything to me. I don’t kid myself that it is going to be easy to stay away from grog. The temptation is always there but it gets a little weaker every day I hold out. Thanks for the blog to share my journey. Wishing the best for you & yours.

I admire what you did. I eish we had a group like that here in U.S.. im way to shy to do it or make new friends.

Thank you I have drank for most of my life had a 10 year break lost an 18 year old son I live in Hervey Bay QLD would love to talk to like minded drunks without AA

Hi what a great idea, any plans yet for WA. Thanks!

You are a great inspiration.

My love affair with alcohol (wine to be precise) goes back to my late teens and I am now 68! In March last year I decided to stop drinking for a month… and I still haven’t had a drink. I’m feeling so much better about myself and my friends have got used to me drinking my kombucha!! But sometimes I think it would be nice to meet like-minded people who can go out and have a good time without alcohol being the focal point. I know there must be baby-boomers out there who have similar views. Have they come across Untoxicated ?

That’s a great article. The journey discovering our unique identity and savouring this wonderful existence we are so fortunate to have here on planet earth …so worth trading alcohol for. Introverts will find the journey ‘different’ but ultimately (speaking from experience) extremely rewarding and life changing.

This is fantastic – any idea when it might be coming to Perth? I am fine with socialising in the normal places but get pretty bored with people once they start getting drunk!

What a great uplifting very real article…..Made me feel so much is possible,

fabulous.. absolutely fabulous xx

Faye – thank you. You could have seriously been writing my life story and the thoughts in my head as we speak. I am in my last day of a three week in-patient detox and I am terrified of what life will be like. I honestly don’t know who I am without it. What do I even like to do? Your blog could not have been sent to me at a more important time in my life and I just wanted to say thank you – researching Intoxicated in Sydney immediately!

I am in awe of the strength that this story and stories like it exemplify. I’m doing January and February ‘dry’ and I am only a ‘moderate’ drinker, but it’s so tough socially! Was at a weekend away with 7 others last Australia Day and it wasn’t easy.

What a fabulous idea!! I would love for something like that to expand to Adelaide!! I’ve been sober curious for a while and at 50 feel like I want to live a more authentic life. I too experience social anxiety and the booze helps with various social occasions. I’m just sick of drinking.. and everyone around me getting drunk!

What a fantastic idea; and congratulations actualising it! I live in Adelaide and would love to be able to create group here. Can you assist me; steps to take etc. If you require my background info, only to happy to oblige. I too found it difficult to get out & Thank you Faye

Hi Faye, I love the sound of Untoxicated, any progress here in NZ for a branch? I live in Auckland and have too many friends who need lots of alcohol to survive.

Well done! #proud #proudtibeaf #af thank you for sharing.

I feel like I could have written this and I thought I was the only one.

Ive always been a heavy drinker. I would even change jobs to get out of bad drinking habits, when i just had to change me. Introduced to drinking at 13 & having the odd port with my mum would slowly become a habit and i was loving the feeling alcohol was giving me, being a bad sleeper also this i thought helped. Only mainly binge drinking on Friday and Saturday nights, ive since a holiday in September last year been drinking nearly every second night. Im sick to death with waking up each day feeling bad. I present myself very in control which im clearly not. I’ve just turned 46 and have a wonderful husband (who loves to drink also) and two beautiful kids 15 & 16. Im constantly feeling guilty about drinking in front of them but that voice in my head says its ok when i know its not. Ive decided to do Feb Fast this year & as much as im looking forward to no drinking I’m petrified at the same time. We have weddings and birthday celebrations coming up. Anyway I hope to start with Feb Fast & keep going. One day at a time. Thankyou for your inspirational words & wish me luck x

You give me hope!

What a great story .Good on you .Does your group ever get together on the Central Coast at all .

Endearingly honest, insightful, brave and inspiring! Love your work Faye

Fabulous! Most encouraging for me who is trying to sort my stuff. From my reading & your words, I like the idea of what is to be gained by abstinence rather than what we are losing. Thank you

Hi Faye

Hi Faye- would be great I have one of those set up in Newcastle ?? Your thoughts?

Hi Faye I have worked in the AOD field for a long time and are rapt that you have started Unintoxcated it is a fantastic idea it gives those people out there another option and they can see that life doesnt need to revolve around alcohol and what I like is that eople can still drink-I still go to 12 step meetings and will continue to do so.I hope you start a branch in Perth and WA oneday-saw you on the 730 report one night-its such a great idea-all the best.

Great story Faye, thank you for sharing.

Ha! I identify so much with that suspicion of, and antipathy towards, in my mind, ‘people who don’t drink’, i.e. anyone who didn’t drink as unrestrainedly as I did! They might as well have been another species! Also the knocking out of teeth (that was when I was 14, but it didn’t put me off drinking – it was just ‘bad luck’. ) Great what you’re doing Faye. I wish there had been more social opportunities like yours when I got sober – 21 years ago now – it was very hard because I was only 26, but I forged a new social life for myself and found new sober friends in AA, as there wasn’t anything like this back then.

Marvelous, and you are so beautiful.

Great blog, as I was reading it I was thinking, this is like someone wrote about me over the last 6-7 years :-). Would love if there was something like this in Ireland and would love to hear from anyone interested in bring this out of Oz to Eire.. 🙂 All the best !

HI Faye. Great article! Thank you for sharing. I will need to find ways to socialize alcohol free for sure, but just being in my early days of being alcohol free, I’m finding I’m so tired… from years of bad sleeps, sluggish from 12 years of wine almost daily and a bit fatigued of constantly hiding behind it to please others never once thinking about my needs or acting on them. Like you I don’t know who I am and I am currently quite happy sitting in quiet, solo, contemplating exactly that. I think I will just have to watch myself as as an introvert, who loves people but needs to be alone to recharge, I need to remain cognisant that I not isolate myself too long… I can get very cosy in my space and be there for hours… wanting to just recluse for days!

Hi Faye! Thank you for your article. We are the same age and your story sounds similar to mine. I am 25 days AF and so surprised at how NOT boring it is and how much better every minute of my life is. I can’t believe it took me this long to give myself this gift. Is there an Unintoxicated group in NYC? That’s where I live. Thanks!

I can recognize so much in there. Thanks for the blog.

Faye, thank you for your message. I’m currently in therapy with my 24 years old daughter for the first time in our lives and her main concern and source of stress is my drinking. I wish there was a support group like yours in the US!

Fantastic blog! It was great to get to know more about you and how the Meetup group was formed. I wish I lived in Brisbane so I could attend more events, sounds like so much fun!

Congratulations Faye`on putting your story out there to encourage others. I find you to be very special and very happy to know the real sober you.. I had a similar story where I decided that alcohol was overated and lead to trouble. Sorry I didn’t see you for xmas. I am still watching the calendar for events but am having an enforced holiday including a stay in the Neurology ward. Hope to rejoin you soon. Robert xo

I’m writing to Thank and Congratulate you, Faye, on a wonderfully open and honest article, and also to wish you sober success for the rest of your hopefully long, healthy and happy life!

Wonderful work Faye and immense courage. Thanks for sharing

Thank you for sharing your experience, your social concept without alcohol. It isn’t easy know where we fit in if we’re the non drinkers! I tend to steer clear for most social events! But to find a group with the same goals is a fantastic idea!! I would be interested to know if their are any Gold Coasters our there keen to start a group???

Fantastic would really like to find some sober buddies. AA wasn’t for me. I was sober 6 months then fell off the wagon. I need to start again. Thank you so much


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