Why so­bri­ety is trend­ing among mind­ful mil­len­ni­als.

Vancouver Magazine - - CONTENT - by Mar­garet de Silva

For a grow­ing num­ber of twen­tysome­things, a fo­cus on healthy liv­ing is re­plac­ing the need to get wasted ev­ery weekend. Should we all re­con­sider our re­la­tion­ship with al­co­hol?

There was a Time when Jac­ques Mar­ti­quet couldn’t imag­ine a night out with­out a drink. Ex­tro­verted and charm­ing, the 22-year-old UBC phar­ma­col­ogy grad­u­ate nonethe­less felt ner­vous about step­ping onto the dance floor with­out a so­cial lu­bri­cant. “I used to be pretty anx­ious, and I wouldn’t dance in pub­lic,” he ad­mits.

How times have changed. As the founder of Par­ty4Health, Mar­ti­quet has or­gan­ised more than 40 sober events, al­to­gether at­tract­ing more than 1,500 par­tic­i­pants in the past year. These have in­cluded bike raves, hike raves and undie runs—all of which have in­volved danc­ing in pub­lic, of­ten in cos­tume or un­der­wear—with­out the ben­e­fit of liq­uid courage or drugs.

Mar­ti­quet is part of a small but sig­nif­i­cant co­hort of young peo­ple turn­ing their backs on drink­ing cul­ture. It’s part of an in­ter­na­tional move­ment to­ward “mind­ful drink­ing”—mind­ful­ness and mod­er­a­tion that em­braces par­ty­ing with­out get­ting plas­tered.

And it couldn’t come at a bet­ter time. Sta­tis­tics re­leased this month from the Cana­dian In­sti­tute for Sub­stance Use Re­search (CISUR) show in­creased al­co­hol and cannabis con­sump­tion across all age groups in B.C. It’s a stark con­trast to in­ter­na­tional trends, with stud­ies from more than 20 de­vel­oped coun­tries in­di­cat­ing de­creased al­co­hol con­sump­tion among young adults world­wide. In the U.S., Nielsen re­search in­di­cates that 18-to-34year-olds are drink­ing less than those in other age groups, while in the U.K. of­fi­cial youth drink­ing rates are at his­toric lows. And even across Canada, the fastest-grow­ing group of “risky drinkers” are not teenagers, but women over 35.

Dr. Tim Stock­well from the CISUR sug­gests that B.C. could be an out­lier due to the in­tro­duc­tion of re­laxed liquor laws in 2014, grow­ing ac­cep­tance of cannabis and in­creased fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity. “There’s of­ten an uptick in con­sump­tion with the strength of the econ­omy,” he says. “We know that per capita con­sump­tion has been go­ing up since the end of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis.”

Even so, there ap­pears to be an ap­petite for drug- and al­co­hol­free events in health-con­scious Van­cou­ver. Be­fore he founded Par­ty4Health in Jan­uary last year, Mar­ti­quet helped run morn­ing Wake n Shake pre-work yoga dance par­ties that reg­u­larly at­tracted about

100 peo­ple and in­spired him to start his own or­ga­ni­za­tion. Par­ty4Health now reg­u­larly hosts be­tween 100 and 700 peo­ple—most of whom are un­der 30—at sober bike raves, um­brella dances and morn­ing beach par­ties. The group could soon have com­pe­ti­tion from U.S.-based Day­breaker, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that runs sober 6 a.m. yoga raves in 26 ci­ties world­wide and is cur­rently ad­ver­tis­ing for peo­ple to host YVR events that in­volve an hour of yoga fol­lowed by two hours of danc­ing.

These in-per­son dry events re­flect a growth of global on­line sup­port groups for non-drinkers and “sober-cu­ri­ous” in­di­vid­u­als. U.K.-based Club Soda and Aus­tralian-based Hello Sun­day Morn­ing are two in­ter­na­tional brands that claim thou­sands of Cana­di­ans among their dig­i­tal fol­low­ing, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of Van­cou­verites. But the ques­tion re­mains—can mind­ful drink­ing make an im­pact in boozelov­ing B.C.?

Mar­ti­quet is op­ti­mistic. Although not a tee­to­taller, he no longer needs al­co­hol to get a party started. For one thing, he says, it’s harder to dance with a drink in your hand. But he is also se­ri­ous about chal­leng­ing so­cial norms.

It’s harder to dance with a drink in your hand.”

“It frus­trates me that par­ty­ing is re­garded as an en­emy of pub­lic health. In my life, par­ty­ing is ex­actly what I need to re­vi­tal­ize,” says Mar­ti­quet. He ar­gues that a night out doesn’t have to lead to vi­o­lence or al­co­hol poi­son­ing. “That’s a spe­cific type of par­ty­ing that has been com­modi­tized by the drug and al­co­hol in­dus­tries.”

Still, it’s not easy to break the so­cial pres­sure to drink dur­ing pa­tio sea­son. Club Soda co-founder Laura Wil­loughby says bars present a ma­jor hur­dle by not stock­ing at­trac­tive non­al­co­holic op­tions. She en­cour­ages con­sumers to play an ac­tive role in get­ting kom­bucha, craft so­das and fancy mock­tails in stock. And this gen­er­a­tion could be ready for change. “There is a ris­ing mind­ful­ness in young peo­ple and it can lead to more-crit­i­cal at­ti­tudes to­ward mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial that is shoved down our throats about al­co­hol,” Mar­ti­quet says. Whether that trans­lates to a real re­duc­tion in of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics re­mains to be seen.

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