Last month, we talked with Laura Silverman of Zero Proof Nation. As relative newcomers to this space, we've had the opportunity to meet amazing people who are building and fostering sober communities. For Laura, that't meant finding ways to connect and stay connected during the pandemic. Here's our conversation.
AARON: How’s it going?
We talked a bit on the phone and you told me a little more about Zero Proof Nation. It’s so cool that there are these growing communities for people. What led you to create a community for others?
I’ve been a (social) non-drinker since July 2007 and for the longest time, there just weren’t any zero proof options that were sophisticated, fun, and, you know, cool. I had met Chris Marshall of Sans Bar a few years ago right when he started his concept in Austin, TX as a pop-up. We became fast friends and I had this idea that started with a hashtag (#zeroproofnation) and quickly became a way to feature folx and beverages in the space in a creative, colorful way. ZPN wouldn’t have become what it is today without the mentorship and collaboration I had with Chris. I’m excited for the future of Zero Proof Nation and where I’ll take it this year and beyond!
That’s amazing. There’s def something about needing just another person or two to build something for many. It’s so cool that it just came out of a shared experience and growing friendship!
Yeah. Totally. He’s amazing.
Have you and your community been connecting a lot over this last year? How?
Instagram has been an amazing connector! Social media can be harmful if you put all your stock into what people think and spend hours scrolling...but it’s also this beautiful way of bringing people together. I’ve deepened friendships with many, created new ones with others, and have been a source of support for a few who’ve reached out specifically to talk about their drinking.
For sure. Double-edged sword. I’ve used social more during the pandemic as a way to stay connected with others.
You mention people connecting about their drinking. Without getting into the program or historical ways people have addressed drinking, are you finding that communities on social are helping people be more mindful about their drinking? How has social changed the ways people address these things?
Absolutely! A few things I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, and especially this last year, is that there are more and more people who identify in multiple ways across the sobriety spectrum, whether not drinking booze for Dry January or taking a longer term break (possibly a lifetime break). People talk more about it on social and that kind of provides permission for others who may be thinking of making a change but don’t feel like they have a huge problem. There’s more of a sense of experimentation that social media can allow for and create opportunities to share progress.
That’s interesting. The spectrum of where people are with their relationship with alcohol. And there’s a community for each, or ability to express where you are with things.
It’s really fantastic to have such a wide array of communities -- whether you need help for your drinking or just want to find non-alcoholic options.
What advice do you have for people when they’re trying to do something like 30 dry days or 1000 hours?
Ironically, it’s something I learned from 12 steps ages ago: one day at a time. Which is really just to say: be mindful, be present. Don’t live in the past and don’t project into the future. All of this, of course, is much easier said than done. But if you’re doing a challenge for 30 days, my advice is don’t clench your jaw just waiting for it to be over. Be curious. See how you feel without booze. Incorporate the ritual of a zero proof beverage, like Betera (heyyy), into your day. Just observe.
Something that is happening now at Betera is we’re seeing people open up about their drinking and being more mindful about it. How can people support others in their life, their family and friends, who are trying to take a break?
I love that! What’s important is fostering an environment of inclusivity. So whether that means sharing zero proof options with them (e.g. messaging them about new brands or having some on tap at family gatherings, etc.) or just giving them the space to process their new (temporary or more permanent) lifestyle is key.
Totally follow. We did a dry Jan text thread with friends and it was a massive help. Lots of talk about other options, holding ourselves / each other accountable. Really helped people through it.
I’m sure that was incredibly helpful! Of course, people in your life know where to find some Betera ;)
HAHAHAH - I think we turned a few of them into Athletic fans too. There’s always room for both.
How was / is the pandemic for you? Did it test you? What tools helped?
It’s been so many / all of the things. Fortunately, I haven’t had a desire to drink in a long, long time. Like I said before, I’ve been a booze free babe since July of 2007. Maybe I wasn’t always as confident in my lifestyle choice as I am now. But what’s been exceptionally challenging about the pandemic is the isolation, particularly in the beginning of it all. My mental health has been all over the place and I found symptoms of situational/seasonal depression really rear their ugly head. I sought therapy for a couple of months. And I reached out to friends and family to just cry. I recognize I have privilege and I still hurt. What’s helped the most is moving my body. I exercise 5-6 days a week and I just FEEL better (hopefully I look better too, but that’s almost secondary).
I appreciate your vulnerability and openness.
Thanks :) The world needs more vulnerability and openness!
Right?! There will be plenty of looking back at this all and recognition of how much it tested people. Families with kids. People losing others. The isolation and loneliness. It’s all both a test and something we just didn’t have the tools or instruction manual to refer to. I heard someone say once that we’ve got to grade things on a curve.
I started talk therapy the week before things shut down. I’ve gone bonkers quite a few times during this all, and both therapy and taking extended breaks from drinking have def helped.
It was a big step to go and start, but so happy I did.
That’s so amazing! Good for you for recognizing you needed more support. It’s also really wonderful when more men get vulnerable; it gives other men the permission to share.
So, you were also tested with a career change. (So many tests!!!)
Must you remind me? ;) Yeah, I got laid off in May 2020. So many folx in the treatment industry found themselves without jobs. So what was my side hustle became my primary hustle: web design and development for therapists and other helpers. I want to make big things happen with Booze Free in DC (my local thing) and Zero Proof Nation (my national/international thing) to reach more people, help others, make a change, and yeah, make a financially comfortable life (not just a living).
Tell me a little more about Booze Free DC. What do you want that to become?
While Zero Proof Nation is my answer to the zero proof movement on a global scale, Booze Free in DC is my answer to the movement on a hyper local one. My vision was to create a space that acted as a wellness-based -- and especially a booze free -- tour guide to the Washington DC area for visitors and locals alike, which could be used as a blueprint for other cities. After living in the DC area for so long, I started to feel stale in my environment. So I decided to see it from a different angle and now there’s so much to explore!
I would love to connect with bars and restaurants to share my expertise in the movement -- whether that’s consulting on zero proof menu creation, connecting them with local booze-free beverages and/or national/international ones, and really establishing myself as the area’s go-to booze free babe.
What are you excited about for ZPN and where can people find you and your programming?
I think there’s so much potential with ZPN. I’m excited to continue being a resource for people to discover badass folx in the zero proof space and the stories behind nonalcoholic beverages. I’m looking forward to becoming even more interactive with the community, especially as my newly formed sober karaoke🎤 series in partnership with zero proof beverage brands (thanks to Betera for being the first brand to say yes!) picks up steam. Soberoke is for anyone on the sobriety spectrum who just wants to sing on a virtual stage and learn about / win NA beverages. Eventually, I’d love for ZPN to be like the Live Nation of zero proof event production. Can you imagine a Zero Proof Nation tent at Bonnaroo? Lollapalooza? Burning Man? South by Southwest? A safe space for people to come together and discover zero proof bevs while enjoying what they love most. Anyone want to help me make that happen? Email email@example.com or slide into my DMs via Insta: @zeroproofnation.
*picking jaw up from floor* So so cool! We need these things! The blue sky thinking is so awesome. Normalizing sobriety - wherever people are on their journey - is crucial.
Yes indeed! 👏👏 👏
Love it. Thank you so much for your time!!
Thank you, Aaron. And the whole Betera fam. I love what you’re doing and the healthy/delicious option you’re providing people wherever they are on their journey.
It’s been amazing to be a part of - and it’s helped us meet people like you! OK, so see you at upcoming soberoke?
See you then! 🎤