When you first decide to stop drinking, navigating your social life can be tricky—especially if alcohol has typically played a major role. During early sobriety, it’s important to avoid tempting situations that may trigger you. You’ll need to find fun alternative activities that don’t involve alcohol.
Many people also wonder how to explain to their friends that they don’t drink anymore. It can feel uncomfortable, and you may worry about whether your friends will understand, or how they will react. In this post, we’ll provide some helpful guidance for starting the conversation.
Tips for Telling Your Friends You Don’t Drink Anymore
Remember that the decision to stop drinking is your decision. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and you don’t need to justify your choice—even to your closest friends.
Still, your friends will likely ask why you’re turning down drinks or invites to go out. These tips will help you address the situation, and prepare for the varying responses you might receive.
Keep It Simple
It’s up to you how much information you want to share with others. With some friends, you might feel comfortable having an open, honest conversation about your sobriety. With others, it’s fine to keep it simple: “I’ve decided to cut back on alcohol,” or, “I’m not going to drink anymore.”
People may press you for more information, but don’t feel obligated to provide it. You can say:
- It’s just something I’ve decided to do.
- It’s just a personal choice I’ve made.
- I feel better without alcohol.
- Drinking just doesn’t work for me.
- Drinking is a slippery slope for me.
If it makes you more comfortable, you can say some of these statements in a lighthearted or joking manner. Or, you can tell people that it’s your choice and you don’t feel the need to explain. Here’s the main point: You choose how much information to share and who you want to share it with.
Ask for Support
Recovery is a journey that’s easier with supportive friends and family members. Ask your closest and most trusted friends for their support. Let them know what they can do to help you.
For example, perhaps you’d like to avoid bars for a while. Ask if there are other activities you can do together—like watching movies, visiting an arcade, playing sports, etc. Or you can simply ask them to respect your decision, and remember not to pressure you or offer you drinks.
Read More: Dealing With Triggers in Recovery
What If My Friends Have a Negative Response?
A good friend should support you and understand your decision. However, some people may have responses like teasing, pressuring you, or insisting that you don’t have a problem and don’t need to change anything.
If your friends have a negative response, remember that their reactions are not about you. Your decision may cause them to consider their own drinking habits, which could stir up some discomfort. Maybe they worry that you won’t have as much fun together when you’re not drinking, or they don’t want anything about your current friendship and shared social life to change.
But if your friends are rude or disrespectful about your decision, you may want to reevaluate these friendships. Are they true friendships, or are they rooted in activities like drinking alcohol? If these people can’t support you and respect your personal choices, are they the sort of friends you want to have?
If you find yourself frustrated, thinking, “all my friends drink, but I don’t want to,” it may mean you need to expand your social circle. Consider forming new friendships that don’t center around drinking—or getting closer to acquaintances and friends who have other, healthier hobbies.
How to Respond When People Offer a Drink
Finally, it’s helpful to have some go-to responses handy for when either friends or casual acquaintances offer you a drink.
Here are a few suggestions for how to tell friends you’re not drinking:
- I’m cutting back on alcohol for a while.
- No thanks, I’m taking it easy tonight.
- I’m driving tonight, so no drinks for me.
- I’m sticking with soda tonight, thanks.
- No thank you!
Most people will take “no” for an answer, so there’s no need to overthink the situation. It can also help to have a drink of water, soda, or even a mocktail in your hand. You may feel more comfortable, and fewer people will offer you drinks or ask questions.
Have an exit plan in case you start to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. You can simply leave without making an excuse, or you can say that you have to get up early, have plans to meet another friend, or aren’t feeling well.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that you’re making a smart, healthy decision for yourself and your future. The reactions of other people don’t matter, and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone.
If you’re looking for support to cut back or quit drinking, online programs like Ria Health can make the whole thing easier. Members get access to expert medical advice, anti-craving medications, weekly coaching meetings, and more—all through a handy smartphone app.
Read More: Keeping Party Drinking Under Control
- Bustle. How To Tell Your Friends You’re Sober, According To An Expert, & How To Counter Hurtful Comments. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- The Bold Italic. Telling Your Friends You’re Sober. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- Vice. How Your Social Life Changes if You Give Up Drinking. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- Metro UK. How to ditch alcohol and keep your friends. Accessed January 21, 2021.