Making the decision to get sober can be huge. And while as the sober party we chose this lifestyle, it is our responsibility to keep ourselves on the right path. Having support from those around us is detrimental and can help us feel validated in our choice.
They need understanding
When someone decides to get sober it can cause awkwardness in relationships. Especially if the person on the other side is still a drinker. But, when there is an understanding of what the person choosing to sober is going through it can really help both of you thrive. For some sober people saying no to alcohol can be the easy part. I say this because for most of us, the thought of another drink and hangover has become repulsive. Where we struggle is in figuring out what life looks like now. How are we going to connect with others without a bottle of wine between us? And the hardest part, at least for me, is feeling it all. Meaning, we have to sort through years of emotions that we used to avoid by drinking.
Understand when drinking has become a problem
If someone is questioning their relationship with alcohol, don’t give them your opinion. Be a safe space and support how they are feeling. If you tell them “Oh you’re fine, you don’t have a problem.” or “What if you just tried cutting back?” that can make them feel unheard and invalidated. It is important to understand their concerns. If they worked up the courage to voice these concerns with you, give them that shoulder they need to lean on. On the other hand, saying “I agree, your drinking is out of control.” can also have a negative effect and cause them to go into defensive mode. I suggest, if your friend/partner voices a concern about their drinking reply by saying “Tell me more about this.” or “I can see why you feel this is a problem. If you decide you need to take a break from drinking I will back you up 100%”
Their sobriety has NOTHING to do with you
When talking about sobriety with a sober person don’t feel the need to validate your drinking habits with them. It’s very common as humans to feel the need to explain our own behaviors. In this case, telling a sober person, “I only drink heavily on the weekends.” or “Alcohol relaxes me and I have more fun.” is a huge turn off. It feels like an undermining way of saying, “I can handle my drinking, why can’t you?” I think you could agree that wouldn’t feel supportive. Not only that, it could cause them to second guess their decision. If this person is someone you love, I would guess that is not your intention. Best thing to do when drinking around them, is to not say anything about your drinking habits. It’s really that simple.
Don’t take it personal if they pull away from social interactions.
It takes a lot of self discovery to get sober. We are learning who we are, and what we love. Especially if our main activity was drinking. Some of us may realize we were leaning on alcohol heavily to socialize. So, taking that crutch away can paralyze us when it comes to being social. Give them that space if they need it. Don’t pressure them into going out or doing things that may be triggering for them. If anything, find out what new interests they have and join them. Make a point to do things with them where alcohol isn’t the main attraction.
Stop avoiding the topic
Especially early on, sobriety is all the sober person is fixated on, so having someone take interest makes them feel validated and seen. Ask them how many days/months sober they are. Tell them how proud you are of them. Always be interested in their sobriety, so that they know they can go to you when they need somewhere safe to land. If you avoid the topic don’t be surprised if they stop communicating with you. There is so much vulnerability involved, so be gentle.
Go at their pace
I understand that talking about sobriety all the time can be, well, a buzz kill. But if this is someone you truly love, try to see it through. If you think about it, getting sober requires creating a whole new life, you can understand why it’s front and center. As we create and discover new things, the need to talk sober will start to get less and less. It’s best to be patient and encouraging through that process of discovery. You never know, you might discover something new that you can do together.
Quick tip for the sober one in the relationship
I know it can be hard to see the ones we love and care about consume alcohol. Especially when we feel so good in our sobriety and know all the damage alcohol can do. It is best to focus on yourself no matter how hard that may seem. It takes a lot of energy to stay sober, so don’t waste it on someone who isn’t ready. Nobody is going to get sober because you are guilting them into it. Think about the reasons you got sober, and remember that it had nothing to do with someone telling you “You’ve had enough.” It was about you saying to yourself “I’ve had enough.” Read about my “I’ve had enough moment”
If you feel strongly about your friends/partners drinking, and it’s affecting those relationships may I suggest you reach out to a therapist. I went through a period where I struggled with the people I love drinking on the regular. I knew I didn’t want to feel this way and so I decided therapy was needed. It has helped me tremendously with how I view others’ drinking habits. Not to mention, it has given me peace of mind and I now can focus on my sobriety 100%.
Yours Truly Sober,