Woman working to create alcohol-free ‘counter culture’ in NC city

North Carolina news

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – A Charlotte woman is on a mission to create more alcohol-free events in the city.

It’s no secret the Queen City is becoming the queen of cocktails and for those who choose not to drink, social situations that revolve around alcohol can be tricky.

Molly Ruggere started Counter Culture Club in 2019, focusing on an inclusive community for people who choose not to drink.

Right now, the group is only for women, but Ruggere is hoping to add a men’s group into the mix in the near future.

“It was honestly causing more problems than pleasure, so I decided to give it up at 27,” Ruggere said.

She hasn’t had a drink for over three years. In that time, Ruggere realized that all the places she’d meet up with friends, primarily all revolved around booze.

“I was really happy and healthy in my sobriety. I was the best I’ve ever been in terms of my mental and physical state, but I was missing a community –  a social community and I was looking for some like-minded friends,” she said.

Counter Culture Club is a community with members right here in Charlotte, but also all over the world.

Members can take advantage of virtual coaching and seminars and those who live locally can take part in the various social events Ruggere puts together.

“We have a monthly dinner club where we meet up at a different local Charlotte restaurant each month, we do a lot of outdoor activities, so we went to the Whitewater Center last weekend, we’re going to be going on a flower picking trip,” Ruggere explained.

The local chapter has more than 60 members and is growing fast. Ruggere said their numbers are proof that more people are dabbling with cutting out alcohol.

“I think people are getting more curious and pursuing changing their drinking patterns and I know for a fact that the younger generations are drinking less,” she said.

As Ruggere pointed out, more Charlotte businesses are taking notice, creating custom ‘mocktail’ menus and offering other exciting drink choices that go well beyond a soda.

“I know for me, when I go to a restaurant and they have a menu dedicated to non-alcoholic drinks, it’s really exciting and it makes you just feel more included,” she said.

Fear of missing out on social gatherings or feeling excluded can be one of the toughest parts of choosing not to drink, which can be made even tougher when holidays like the Fourth of July roll around.

Ruggere said there are a lot of ways to handle situations where alcohol may be present with grace. The biggest thing she suggests is bringing your own non-alcoholic beverages to any gatherings.

“It will make you feel more comfortable if you have a drink in your hand that isn’t alcohol, so no one will offer you anything. Also, drive yourself or make sure that you have a way to get out, or a way to leave if it gets to a point where you’re uncomfortable,” she suggested.

Ruggere said that surrounding herself with the right people is a big part of her sobriety success and says events, like concerts, where she always used to drink, are that much better now.

“I enjoy it more if anything else because I’m at present, I’m not worrying about getting in the drink line or going to the bathroom 100 times or any of that, my primary focus is what I’m doing rather than what’s in my cup.”

Counter Culture Club hosts free yoga every Sunday at 10 a.m. at Camp North End. That event is open to the public to join.

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