This is a question I asked myself many times before heading off to my first sober rave for Halloween. I have raved many times in my life, all with alcohol, usually ending in a blur and a hangover. To be fair, I wasn’t sure what a rave was really like due to the alcohol distortion.
So, Halloween 2019 and 18 months sober seemed like a good time to find out.
I haven’t had a night out since I became sober. I don’t get that many as a mother of 3 anyway, but a sober night in town seemed way too scary! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had nights at social dances, nights at a festival (See Greenman Festival – Sober!) and parties; but never just a night out for a night outs sake.
I kept asking myself what the point of a night out was. I mean, why do we go out on a Friday night into town? I was impelled to go to this one for two reasons, firstly to tell you about it and secondly to support my local sober bar (also because My Love loves dressing up for Halloween and I love dressing up full stop!)
Yet the more sober events we have and the more normal we can make being sober, the easier it will be for so many people who are struggling with their relationship with alcohol to feel that they have a choice not to drink.
I had a think about what I wanted from the evening (see How to party sober at Halloween). I have always adored dancing. More recently I’ve taken up Ballroom and Latin dancing, but I still have that desire to just boogie around randomly to music. I also wanted an excuse to dress up, because there are far too few of those once you are a mother! I wanted a night out with My Love (see note above!) and l also wanted to meet people like me; people who had fought through their own battles to make positive changes in their life, especially by becoming sober. Maybe this night would lay the groundwork for some friendships and some local community.
(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)
So, Friday began. 1st November not the 31st October but hey ho, close enough to still call it Halloween. My boys had just come back from a week away on Halloween and we’d gone all out with the dressing up, trick or treating, party games and food. I love celebrations and I love making the children happy, but mix the evening with bickering older children and wilful toddler and I was feeling slightly fraught already.
Friday came and I wanted to take the boys to see the Adams Family (something that, to My Love’s horror, I have never seen). I had been mentioning for a few days that something didn’t seem right with the gears of the car and My Love had made jokes about my dodgy driving. While driving up the hill to the cinema, the gears gave up completely and we couldn’t move on a tiny road, uphill. My Love, still not entirely believing me, took over the driving and we eventually limped our way to a 3-hour parking spot near(ish) to the cinema. My Love was all up for sacking off the cinema and taking the car to a garage straight away, but I had got everyone out to the cinema so to the cinema we would go!
The film was fun, and The Baby was sat remarkably well while munching through a bag of popcorn. Afterwards, My Love got the car to a garage with the conclusion that the clutch had gone and I would be carless until Monday, with all the post half term, paid for activities starting again the next day (not to mention £400 down). Starting to feel slightly more fraught, I got the children into town on the bus and thought, while I’m here I’ll make it worthwhile and get their bus passes. Turns out that at 9 and 11 years old, they looked far too like 19 to be to get an under 19s bus pass without passports!
Needing to get the bus home, it was approaching 5pm by this point. The children hadn’t eaten and were getting ansy. I was still trying to work out how to, without a car, get my children to my mother’s in the sticks (she was having all 3 for a sleep over on proviso that I came after the sober rave to looks after the Bear’s blood sugars in the night), get home, dress up, get to town, party sober and get back to the sticks. Not to put it mildly, I had lost the will. It seemed that the universe clearly did not want me to attend this rave. Do you know why I went? Because I had promised you, my lovely reader, that I would. If I couldn’t just suck it up and make it happen, what kind of example was I?! And thank you for the incentive, it was so worth it!
My mother kindly picked up and fed the boys. She automatically said, make sure you eat, you need to line your stomach, which made me laugh! My Love and I then did a quick rush job to get the face paints on. Thank goodness for Snazaroo face paints, they glide on and off with no fuss – about the only thing of the day that was not a fuss!
(I earn a small commission for amazon purchases)
We jumped on the bus, frightening a few small children as we went and finally made it, at 8pm to the sober rave. We arrived on time, but early for a rave, for two reasons; our last bus to the sticks was at 10.55pm (so not long really), and sober people tend to follow their bodies natural rhythms more and don’t want to stay out until crazy o’clock. Also I had no idea if I was going to hate it and want to escape!
I had started to cheer up a bit and to feel nervous, now that we had made it, but were greeted warmly on the door of Café Sobar by the manager in a captain’s hat and smoking jacket – it suited him well. Morticia stood behind him (I now recognised who Morticia was). It was quiet but still a good few tables full.
I looked around at everyone, mostly in full fancy dress, and wondered what they were hoping for from the evening. Some were lively and loud in big groups, still tottering on 6 inch heels – my desire for those died years ago! Some were in couples, some sat alone. I couldn’t help but feel amazed by those sitting alone. Yes, probably waiting for someone, but to arrive alone, in fancy dress and sit waiting with no alcohol, cigarette, book, phone or tablet to hide behind is something I would never be brave enough to do, so hats off to you.
We started with a Rose Lemonade and J20. Chatting, but in that slightly awkward ‘we’re here on a date, sober, in a rave, unsure of what to do, so better make conversation’ kind of way. The dance floor was empty but the 90s tunes started belting out from two DJs so I thought, ‘I’ve come to dance so I’d better start now!’ I did wonder if the 90s choice was due to the number of people who are now sober but were probably boozing away at school in the 90s – seemed like it was very much the thing then!
My Love dances beautifully in formal dances but doesn’t feel so comfortable with the boogying so he took a while to warm up, but I am so grateful to him for joining in. For me, it came back like I was still at a school disco. I was throwing myself around and loving every minute. Some single dancers joined the floor – I loved the guy in full colourful tie-dye and the male policeman in a skirt, boots and fishnets with huge muscles!
Harlequin, the sad clown, the bad fairy and some amazing blue wigged costume laughed and smiled from behind the bar, serving fizzy drinks, teas, mocktails and smoothies with a dab hand. Funnily enough, I didn’t want lots to drink. Not surprising really as, although I was dehydrating myself with the dancing, that doesn’t even come close to the alcohol dehydration. I had a rose lemonade, cup of tea, some of My Love’s avocado smoothie (sounded dreadful but was light, fruity, gingery and delicious!). I did have a full sugar coke near the end because it turns out my mother was right, I should have eaten more before dancing solidly for 3 hours!
90s made way for techno/trance – sorry if I’m completely wrong on that but hey, you weren’t there so I’ll definitely say it was one of them!! This was around 10pm and the floor was pretty much full. An incredible array of costumes had arrived from a full wedding sari to a beautiful Maleficent. A Donald Trump mask kept popping up next to me as I spun around, scaring the bejesus out of me!
The beats swept through me on the floor and my body seemed to know how I was supposed to move. I pondered that it must be similar to the ‘om’ chant in yoga; the vibrations are on a level your body and mind respond to it naturally and it can be felt by everyone on the floor. It was wonderful to be sober and aware of how much I was being swept up by the music. Also being sober, I could appreciate the skill of the DJs keeping the floor full and moving. This guy had it.
I wondered whether everyone on the floor was so friendly because they all knew each other or just because they had equally succumbed to the music. It didn’t seem to matter either way, maybe these smiles and this shared experience would start new friendships later down the line, at subsequent sober events (or may not if they don’t recognise me without all the face paint!)
As I was getting tired and thinking about heading bus wards, I was jumped by my niece and then more sedately by the nephew and sister. Turn out the 3rd DJ was my nephew DJing teacher who was there to do a set and support his sober friend (small world but growing community). I was so happy to see them and, tiredness forgotten, the boogying started all over again. My nephew looked hugely uncomfortable and said he hadn’t got his sober dancing shoes yet. Whilst this is such a common feeling for so many, he told me that he was impressed that all these people were dancing so freely while completely sober. I felt really happy to have shown him this, because these small moments can impact what we consider normal. For him, dancing always has to include alcohol, but maybe, having seen so many sober people raving, he’ll question that assumption.
For me, I loved every minute of my first Sober Rave and cannot wait for the next one. For me it really is about the dancing and the music (and the dressing up!). If music and dancing are not your thing, the maybe look for a different sober activity that you love.
Thank you to all the team at Café Sobar Nottingham for such a fab event and for all your hard work making the night such fun. Also thanks to DJs Es Vedra, Blimey O’Reilly, Chubz & Nukem and Charlie Four Four.