New Order

It’s hard to take the musician out of the bar, but you can take the alcohol out of the drinks.


In September 2020, a near two-week hospital stay underscored something I had known in my heart for a while: It was time to quit drinking. After the initial worry of a serious health scare had subsided a bit, a secondary wave of anxiety hit, because I realized how much of my identity was intertwined with drinking culture.

As a touring musician, occasional booking agent, and part-time trivia host over the past 20 years, much of my livelihood comes from time working in bars, where not only is drinking alcohol part of the lifestyle, but built into your compensation for the evening. Booze as currency becomes commonplace, in the form of drink tickets, inclusions on a tour rider, or what those in the industry know as a “shifty”—a free drink provided as part of your compensation after your work’s done. 

In the summer of 2021, as clubs opened and live music returned, I wondered about my ability to resume my roles, minus the drinking. While I had performed sober in the past, there was a certain amount of liquid courage that often played into my ability to get onstage, especially as someone who never necessarily felt I belonged up there. Two years into sobriety and eighteen months or so into playing live again, I’ve thankfully found that I can enjoy myself and attend or play shows. It might be at a different pace than in the past, and I won’t be closing down the clubs anymore, but I’ve felt relatively at ease. 

And the increasing number of NA drink options could not have timed out better for my new path. As a person who tends to always have a drink in hand, almost as a prop, having various options for a decent beverage has gone a long way toward my comfort level when I’m out. I’m very thankful for the efforts of local breweries and bars to provide something more than O’Doul’s or club soda. I don’t want to take up a barstool ordering water, and I don’t really drink soda, so having something that tastes authentic and enjoyable factors into where I spend my time and money.