The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Finlay Games Pride

Making Pride more sober inclusive

Queer events and booze all too often go hand in hand, and this is especially the case for Pride events, which historically have been heavily sponsored by alcohol companies. What happens then if you are in recovery, choosing not to drink, or attempting to moderate your alcohol use?

This was a question I asked myself when I stopped drinking in 2010. I love Pride, everything from the parade, to meeting old and new friends, and dancing late into the night. How would I do this without alcohol?

It is well known that our LGBTQ community has a high prevalence of alcohol misuse. I do think then that it would be more ethical of companies, to consider this, and play a part in helping to make Pride a healthier, sober inclusive space for all. It isn’t about stopping people drinking, but about giving more choice and helping to encourage more mindful drinking. 

What companies and organisers can do to make Pride more inclusive

Stop using us to advertise alcohol. It frustrates me to be given ‘free products’ everything from flags, stickers, and bags, to advertise alcohol. As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol and is in recovery, the last thing I want to do is advertise it! 

Provide more alcohol-free alternatives. There are now many fantastic alcohol-free drinks. Everything from fancy cordials, through to low and no alcohol beers, wines, and spirits. I would love to see more of these included at Pride bars.

Promote mindful drinking messages. Performers and comperes interacting with the crowd could be more alcohol aware. Simple messages such as reminding folks to have water in between alcoholic drinks or encouraging people to try the low and no alcohol drinks, would help to make Pride more sober-inclusive.

What you can do to enjoy a sober Pride

Whilst we wait for companies to get on board with mindful drinking. There are still plenty of ways to have a fantastic Pride day without alcohol. Over the years, I have perfected a strategy and now as a sober person, I enjoy Pride even more.

Find a sober friend to go with you. Not drinking, especially if you are new to it, can make you feel like you are the odd one out. Ask a trusted friend if they will join you in being alcohol-free for the day, then, you won’t feel as alone. Having the support and accountability of someone else can help you to protect your sobriety but still enjoy your day.

Have an exit strategy. If you are struggling, you are better off leaving the event than losing your sobriety. Plan for what you will do if it gets too much. I simply leave without telling anyone and then text people to let them know I needed time out. As awkward as this might feel, it is far better than
risking your sobriety.

Connect with sober spaces and organisations. There are many sober spaces appearing now and many have a chill-out alcohol-free zone at Pride events. Often these hold alternative alcohol-free after Pride events too. I recommend checking out Queers Without Beers, who are holding a virtual Pride alcohol-free cocktail event on the 23 rd of June.

Create your own alternative after pride celebrations. If there are no alcohol-free after-party options, create your own! Rather than go on to a club after Pride, arrange a table at a restaurant so you and your friends can have a meal together. I have a group of friends that I do this with, and we all value the quiet time after a busy Pride day. Some of them do go on to a club afterward, but because I spent time with them, I don’t feel I missed out. 

I remember starting my first sober Pride feeling rather peculiar and awkward. However, by the end of the day, I had a huge sense of accomplishment. Even better, I woke the next day, without a hangover and with all the days’ memories intact. After many years of sober Pride events, I now appreciate the day far more than I ever did in my drinking days.

Finlay Games is a transgender gay man, with a passion for creating honest content and inspiring others to be their authentic selves. In 2011 under the name, ‘FinnTheInFinncible’ Finlay began sharing his gender transition story via his YouTube channel and accompanying blog, Finlay has since written for various publications, and spoken at several events, about his transgender experiences and his recovery from addiction and mental ill-health. He has just published his first memoir, ‘Top to Bottom’ which details his experiences through phalloplasty. When he isn’t busy trying to change the world to a better place, Finlay can be found dancing in the muddy fields of Glastonbury Festival, or ambling along the Sussex coast.

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