Last Updated on February 8, 2021
When a friend or family member makes the decision to get sober, you want to support them. But if your social gatherings often involve alcohol, you may wonder how to proceed. Is it okay to drink in front of your sober friend? How can you make sure your friend still feels comfortable?
In this post, we’ll offer a few tips and ideas for socializing with and supporting a newly sober friend.
Why It’s Tough to Be Around Alcohol in Recovery
Over time, addiction changes the brain and causes cravings. Long-term heavy drinkers often experience intense thoughts about alcohol. They begin to feel a strong desire or compulsion to drink. People in recovery from alcohol addiction often report alcohol cravings as a reason for relapse.
Common triggers for these cravings include the sight and smell of alcohol, being around people who drink alcohol, and spending time in places where alcohol is consumed.
Of course, every individual in recovery is an individual. Each person has different needs, comfort levels, and triggers, and the strength of these triggers varies. But it’s safe to say that if your friend is in early recovery, drinking in front of them may test their sobriety.
To Drink or Not to Drink Around Sober Friends
So, is it OK to drink around a recovering alcoholic?
If you want to support and honor your friend’s sobriety, the safest choice is not to drink alcohol in front of them. When you and your friend go somewhere together, it’s a great show of support to decline alcohol alongside them.
However, your friend’s recovery is ultimately their responsibility. If your friend knows that social situations or the presence of alcohol will threaten their sobriety, they may need to choose to avoid these scenarios for a while.
It’s a tricky question with no concrete answer. As you consider your options, keep the following tips in mind:
If you invite your newly sober friend somewhere where people will drink alcohol, or if you choose to drink around your friend, be considerate.
- Don’t offer your friend a drink.
- Try not to drink in extremely close proximity to your friend, pass drinks directly in front of their face, etc.
- If you’re hosting an event, make sure that non-alcoholic drinks are available, and that drinking is not the sole focus of the gathering.
- When possible, invite other guests who don’t drink. Your friend will feel more comfortable if they are not the only one.
- Help run interference if other people are pressuring your friend to drink, asking why they’re not drinking, etc.
- If your friend seems extremely uncomfortable, check in with them or offer to leave with them. Provide an easy out, like, “I’m starving. Do you want to go get some food?”
Some people in recovery do a great job of asking for what they need and communicating their boundaries. If your friend sets a boundary with you, be sure to respect it.
If you’re living with a recovering alcoholic, for instance, they may ask you not to keep a certain type of alcohol in the home. Or you may have a close friend that starts to reject party invites and asks that you don’t discuss drinking in front of them.
Again, your friend’s sobriety isn’t your job. But consider it a compliment that they feel comfortable enough to ask for your help, and respect their boundaries by following through on their requests (within reason).
Depending on how close you are to your newly sober friend, the easiest option is to simply ask. Are they comfortable with you drinking in front of them? What can you do to support them and put them at ease?
Addiction isn’t a shameful character flaw, so make sure you don’t communicate that it is, either verbally or through your facial expressions and body language. Your friend may appreciate that you don’t treat addiction as some sort of taboo topic.
Of course, you know your friend better than we do. If you believe your friend will feel comfortable discussing their recovery, ask. If not, simply understand that they are in recovery, and treat them with respect and consideration.
More Resources for Supporting Your Loved One
If you’re supporting a loved one through the recovery process, here are some more helpful articles:
- How to Help an Alcoholic Cut Back or Quit Drinking
- Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol
- Dating an Alcoholic: 11 Signs, And What You Can Do
- What to Expect When Your Spouse Stops Drinking
And if a friend or family member is struggling to control their drinking, there are new ways to access support. Ria Health offers medication for alcohol cravings, recovery coaching, support groups, and other powerful tools through a smartphone app. It’s evidence-based, cost-effective treatment that gets results.