Written by Lindsey Whittaker
Edited by Deb Kavis
Years ago before I started working in the addiction field, I had friends who didn’t drink. They were sober for many reasons with varying differences. The one thing that always remained the same, however, was that as a “normie” I never knew how to be around them in situations where alcohol was involved.
Do I drink in front of them? Should we go somewhere that doesn’t serve alcohol at all? What if my friend relapses while I’m with them? Do I quit out of solidarity? What do I do?!
It’s like their personal decision to abstain from alcohol profoundly affected me in ways I couldn’t explain. I felt almost responsible for it. I took it personally.
But here’s where I was getting it all wrong. In some ways, it did have something to do with me. We’re friends. Naturally, I care about them. However, in so many other ways, it was not about me at all. Now that I know more about alcoholism and alcohol abuse disorders, I feel sorry for how I handled those social situations and wished I had been a better friend.
I don’t think I knew better.
Today I am sharing my lessons learned with you. In case you have a sober friend or family member who has decided that the dry life is for them here are a few dos and don’ts.
Don’t Take it Personally When They Don’t Want to Hang Out
Embarking on a new lifestyle, your freshly sober friend will be going through a lot. Dealing with past issues, going to therapy, attending meetings, going to work, while simultaneously figuring out how to live sober in a world that drinks are just a few of the obstacles they will face. They are going to be rethinking their current relationships and envisioning how their new life will look. Sometimes that won’t involve remaining friends with people who continue to drink.
Keep in mind that they are merely doing what is best for them to stay sober so don’t take it too personally if they need space.
Never Try to Get Them to Drink With You
Being an alcoholic is severe. It’s more than just drinking, it’s survival.
If someone is an alcoholic and they’ve told you that’s why they don’t drink anymore, don’t push it on them. If you want to be a good friend, always respect their decision and their recovery.
Don’t focus so much on their decision to quit drinking. Instead, consider why it bothers you so much not to be drinking.
Do Ask Them How They Are Feeling About Sobriety
When the people we love are going through a tough time, we don’t always know what to do. Most times it doesn’t matter, some things are just too terrible to do anything about.
However, what always works is being there together in the awkward discomfort. A simple “how are you feeling?” or “how can I help?” can go a long way.
Do Support Their Healthy Lifestyle
When someone quits drinking, they tend to pick up on other healthy lifestyle habits. Why not try and support that?
The next time you need a hang sesh, invite your sober friend to do something healthy. A yoga class, hike, or grabbing a juice or smoothie are all great options.
This way you know there won’t be any opportunity for awkward moments involving alcohol. Plus you’ll be positively contributing to your friend’s recovery, and you can focus on more important things like having fun together.
Go To a Support Group Like Al-Anon
One of the best things you can do to support your friend is to explore recovery on your own time. Ask questions and try to understand the why behind their disease. Al-Anon is the perfect place to do just that.
Al-Anon is a support group, much like Alcoholics Anonymous, but for friends and family. You can share your experiences, work the 12 steps, and learn about addiction in general.
Best of all, you’ll be around other people just like you who are trying to figure out how to have a relationship with someone who struggles with alcohol use disorder.
In conclusion, you can be friends with someone who doesn’t drink anymore. At their heart, they are still the same person, just a version that doesn’t use alcohol as a lifeline.