Take a quick glance at Laura Silverman’s Instagram account, and the photos aren’t unlike any other D.C. denizen with a vibrant life: images of friends, drinks, still life scenes of her adopted hometown, smiling selfies.
Look a little closer – and at her handle, @boozefreeindc – and you’ll notice something that sets her apart from others sharing their lives on the web. As someone who’s been sober since 2007, Silverman uses her Instagram, and her blog of the same name, to show that life in D.C. can be spirited when you’re spirit-free.
Booze Free in DC is one of the many iterations of Silverman’s personal journey, and just as importantly, another way her desire to help those around her through her own experiences has manifested.
“Fast forward many years of sobriety and doing my own thing,” Silverman says, “And I was ready to level up my life. At almost eight years of sobriety, I formed a digital community called The Sobriety Collective, which was a way to showcase people who were sober, in recovery or however they wanted to describe themselves. It was especially for creative types – writers, musicians, photographers, comedians, entrepreneurs, people who have some sort of creative output – that were very much sober, recovering out loud and non-anonymous.”
Ginger Basil Grapefruit Spritzer
1 grapefruit (plus additional grapefruit for garnish)
2 cups of ice
3 (12-ounce) cans of ginger soda
Handful of fresh basil
1/4 cup of basil simple syrup
Juice one large grapefruit and segment additional grapefruit for garnish if desired. Fill a pitcher halfway with ice. Pour soda, fresh grapefruit juice and simple syrup. Mix well. Garnish with grapefruit slices and fresh basil.
Recipe by Karina Carlson, @thisiswellread
Fast forward a bit more, and Silverman explains that though The Sobriety Collective was rewarding, and showcasing that you can still have a dynamic and creative life while sober is very much possible, she began to feel stuck. She worked to “retool her energy” into something new, but still aligned with her mission. She thought about relocating, starting something in a new place, but when that didn’t pan out as planned, she had an epiphany of sorts.
“It wasn’t D.C. that was the problem. It was just that I was feeling stuck in my life,” she explains. “So this is where the idea for Booze Free in DC came from: Let me focus my attention back into my adopted hometown and see what I can do. I had this vision of creating a guidebook for the D.C. area from a wellness, and especially from a zero-proof, booze-free perspective.”
And thus, Booze Free in DC was born. Silverman notes that the guidebook idea came from the trend of so many travel guides leaning heavily on bars, distilleries, wineries and breweries as local attractions. While well and good for people who drink, that approach can silo people like Silverman, or anyone limiting or stopping their alcohol consumption for any reason.
She thought about her blog initially as a true book, but at the encouragement of a mentor, turned it into a website. The blog format allows the content to be fluid and relevant to all, and gave Silverman the opportunity to dive right into her passion.
Chock full of resources, there’s much to be gleaned from Booze Free in DC – sober or not. Relying on pillars like play, renew, support, learn and of course, drink, Silverman keeps the site full of places to find the best zero-proof cocktails, outdoor activities, and ways to connect with other like-minded people.
As with everything, Covid-19 put a pin in some of Silverman’s plans. But, that didn’t stop her from once again getting creative and keeping up with the times and needs of her community.
“I thought, ‘Well, how can I pivot in this new environment? How can I give back to the D.C. area and how can I show that my web presence, and the person behind it, is still relevant in this new environment?,’” she explains of this change. “So I wanted to put together a guide to exploring the D.C. area from a booze-free perspective while in quarantine.”
Keeping the same pillars and adding some new, it’s a one-stop shop for everything from practical government guides, ways to support the community and receive support if needed, zero-proof drink delivery options, and so much more. On Cinco De Mayo, Silverman and Booze Free in DC hosted a virtual happy hour to teach easy and fun zero-proof, seasonal drinks alongside some other food and beverage professionals as a way of connecting with others in a time of disconnection.
“It felt really fun and intimate,” she recalls. “I wanted there to be some master teachers that were representative of the D.C. area, guiding us through drinks that were easy and accessible, and that people could do like in their kitchens.”
“I also wanted to feature other D.C. entrepreneurs, bartenders, restaurateurs, in a recipe book that would go along with the ticket price. Half of the proceeds went to this new nonprofit in D.C. called In This Together that is partnering with Hook Hall Helps to provide meals to those facing food insecurity, especially because of Covid-19.”
In the short time Booze Free in DC has been around, Silverman has surely created a lasting impact for those seeking resources both before and during our current pandemic. As Zoom happy hours, alcohol deliveries and time spent alone in boredom all multiply, this begs the question: What if you don’t identify as sober, but want a reprieve from drinking with friends via video chat? What if you’re considering sobriety but don’t know where to start? What if you’re just on a break from booze for a week or so? Is this a space for you, too?
Silverman says she’s glad I asked, as her point of view has evolved greatly through her years of being sober. Once understandably feeling protective of her sobriety journey and what it took for her to get there, she’s still proud of all she has accomplished, and welcomes all into this community, whatever their journey and relationship with sobriety looks like at the time.
“If you ask me now, I think there’s a wide sobriety spectrum with anyone from a pregnant woman needing different options, to people who abstain for religious and medical reasons to people who are mindful drinkers and trying this sober curious thing out. So who am I to judge someone for where they are on that spectrum? I love people coming from all over, who may drink and want some healthy options, [and] those who don’t drink and just want to learn more about things like booze-free culture and lifestyle.”
A devoted mental health advocate, too, Silverman is cognizant of the challenges our current reality can have on people sober or not, and hopes to provide resources on overall mental health and wellness through her site.
“Quarantine is either exacerbating issues, or allowing the issues that formerly were there to kind of trickle away and give birth to a new way of being,” she explains of why this is a focus at the heart of her current work. “And so people can either drink less and feel healthier, or fall further into habits that they already had. With isolation, there are people who have baseline depression anyway, and this will exacerbate whatever they’re feeling. It’s super important to be able to support people’s mental health and journeys in sobriety, or just simply trying on sobriety.”
No matter where you are on the sobriety spectrum, Booze Free in DC will welcome you with open arms. It goes without saying that we have some of the best bars, restaurants and things to do here, and if you choose to stay sober in D.C., life will be just as fun and exciting as it was before, and maybe even more balanced.
For Silverman’s Covid-19 guide, visit www.boozefreeindc.com.
Bartenders with Booze-Free Options
Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Visit www.nrgprovisions.com for more information.
Booze-Free Brands Native to the DMV
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