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Sober bars help people in recovery stay social

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Cherokee Recovery Village in Bastrop, TX. (Courtesy: CBS Austin)

AUSTIN, Texas (KEYE) -- Recovering addicts or people new to sobriety often run into a struggle when trying to socialize with friends.

A typical night out at a bar can be a trigger and challenge to their sobriety.

“Sober bars” are now popping up all across the nation, including Central Texas.

After a long day, Ember Zenchyshyn usually heads to her local dive bar to unwind.

But what’s being served at the Cherokee Recovery Village in Bastrop, Texas isn’t alcohol, but a sense of belonging.

"I can't do this alone,” said Zenchyshyn,” I need to have the people walking through this with me and kind of be a part of something."

Zenchyshyn has been sober for three years.

“I would just drink, and drink and drink," she said. "And then I would get tired of that to the point to where I couldn't do it anymore."

But Zenchyshyn says she still likes to have a good time. “I didn't want to give up the fun lifestyle. I didn't want just to go home and go to sleep at 10 and not do things."

So, between the dark dingy atmosphere, entertainment, and a shelf stocked with non-alcoholic beverages, the 'sober bar' gives her the best of both worlds.

"This is exposing yourself to triggers intentionally to weaken those triggers,” said Paul French Owner of the Cherokee Recovery Village.” It will allow you to eventually go into establishments where there’s drinking and partying and craziness and it won’t affect you as strongly as it did."

French is a licensed chemical dependency counselor, and a former addict.

“You can come in and you can drink. We only have healthy beverages,” explained French.

He says the ‘sober bar’ helps to support those on a 12-step recovery program, “People need connection once they start a recovery program."

The Cherokee Recovery Village isn’t just for recovery addicts. French says it’s also for those who are sober curious, which has become a national movement. “It has really wakened people up on the health benefits of getting sober even if it’s just for a short period of time."

For Zenchyshyn, it's a space that will one day give her the will power to walk into any bar - having the will power to say 'no.’

"You’re not going to be able to avoid stuff forever,” she stressed. “It’s life, you just don’t want to get into recovery to stop living life, you’re getting into recovery to enjoy life."

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