Image Credit - Andrew J. Williams III (@bespokeagencydc)
What if there was a database on all things non-alcoholic– from booze-free bars to bottle shops, brands, and even recipe books? Luckily for us, there is! Zero Proof Nation (ZPN) is a haven for the sober-curious, sober people, pregnant individuals, and all those who may not want to drink. There is an international map with the locations of sober bars, stores, and sellers! There’s even a section dedicated to blogs, online resources, and more!
This month I sat down with Laura Silverman and talked about her journey and ZPN. As the daughter of a U.S. Diplomat, Laura grew up overseas. She spent most of her childhood in Central and South America, the Middle East, and the States. Her experience with various cultures gave her a unique perspective, helping her see that there was always more to a story. Laura didn’t drink until college. Between the parties, clubs, and socializing her drinking “grew into binge drinking and got worse and worse every year.”
By the time she graduated college, she would be hospitalized twice for alcohol poisoning. Laura shared the sentiment that many feel, regardless of their relationship with alcohol: “There didn’t seem to be a way to socialize without alcohol…I just remember feeling like I couldn’t stay alive if I didn't stop drinking.” But in 2007, Laura realized something. Alcohol didn’t give her a life, it constructed something that sucked the life from her. At 24 years old, Laura sought professional help to find the life she wanted.
Laura’s sobriety was continuous, but her recovery was certainly not linear. At first, she felt like “it was either you're an alcoholic or you're ‘normal.” The non-profit She Recovers tells us we are always recovering from something - codependency, drugs, grief, whatever it may be. For her, the twelve steps were a foundation. When AA didn’t continue to help her, she was disheartened: “It didn’t work for me anymore, but it seemed to work for everyone else… I was told that if I wasn’t doing this certain thing then I wasn’t properly sober.” At the time, she wished there were more resources for those who didn’t resonate with Alcoholics Anonymous or more traditional forms of treatment.
For a while, Laura stayed away from non-alcoholic beverages. In her first year of sobriety, she didn’t drink anything related to alcohol (e.g., non-alcoholic wine or beer), only Diet Coke or club soda and lime. Yet being in her 20s - the age where one is young enough to go clubbing but old enough to get married - she felt being sober at this time of life was hard. She found the myriad of wedding and party invites she received left her feeling isolated because there were “never any options for people like me and pregnant people… only soda, seltzer, and bad non-alcoholic beer. It was a joke of a landscape. I wanted more.”
The lack of variety and accessibility to non-alcoholic beverages was understandably frustrating: “I wanted to find what was out there, and there just wasn’t much. I remember thinking, there had to be more – I wanted there to be more.” Laura would find her more through creating it.
With over ten years of sobriety under her belt, she wanted to do more. She started noticing more non-alcoholic beverage brands, but there wasn’t a defined movement. Even then, she knew “it” was going somewhere and wanted to be a part of it.
Zero Proof Nation started as a hashtag on Instagram about the growing non-alcoholic beverage industry in America. As an extremely creative mind, Laura had been toying with the idea of a platform for all resources non-alcoholic. All she needed was the perfect time. But there never is a perfect time, she thought. A friend told her “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good” and she was sold.
In October 2019, Zero Proof Nation was founded. It started as a way for her to “give people in the industry a platform to share why they do what they do. To create a resource for people who are genuinely interested in learning more about non-alcoholic beverages.” The ZPN Instagram feed and growing website soon became a resource for businesses and consumers.
How does this tie into Sobar? ZPN and Sobar share a common goal - spreading the word about alternatives and encouraging an environment where people can be sober-curious. Ten or twenty years ago, “no one was talking about any other options – either for recovery or for beverages. I wanted alternatives.”
“Everyone has their own journey and you're allowed to do what works for you. It’s all about variety... I really needed to hear that message when I was first starting out; it felt like there was only one prescribed path. As long as we’re kind to each other and respect each other – there's no one size fits all...except for maybe a pair of extremely stretchy leggings.”