Hanging out with your friends helps you let go of the personal and professional stressors from the day. Drinking, laughing, and socializing can be fun. Too much of this kind of fun can become a problem, and you may be considering taking some time off and enjoying a sober lifestyle for a while.
You wonder if your friendships will be the same once you stop drinking. Will you be able to hang out with your friends at the bar or a party and have the same amount of fun when sober? Will your friends continue to invite you to social events and gatherings? What will they think about you when you stop drinking?
These are common questions among people who are cutting back or quitting drinking. Answers may not come until you have made lifestyle changes. However, there are guidelines for how to be sober and keep your friends.
Take a Deep Dive Into Your Relationships
You have spent a lot of time building relationships with friends and know their personalities and can likely predict how someone will respond to you being sober. You may have one friend that thinks getting sober is a great idea, and they get sober too. Other friends may not be so supportive.
There is typically a friend who tries to prevent you from getting sober. They may spend a lot of time tempting you to drink. They may switch tactics and start teasing or pressuring you when you don’t give in.
By analyzing your friendships, you can prepare yourself for their expected responses. You may also want to prepare for a friendship to end, especially if it is a friendship that only revolves around alcohol.
Changes in relationships can be a good thing. Supportive relationships will evolve and become more meaningful, and you will develop new, sober friendships to replace the ones that didn’t last.
Be Honest With Everyone, Including Yourself
If you hang out with friends where alcohol is available, and they ask you why you are not drinking, be honest. Don’t try to make up an excuse for why you aren’t drinking. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physical or mental health, avoiding hangovers, performing better at work or school, or just being tired of getting drunk.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you are no longer drinking. You can say no without fear of losing a friend. Good friends will appreciate the truth.
Also, be honest with yourself. Is hanging out in places where alcohol is easily accessible making sobriety more difficult? You don’t have to put yourself in situations that may trigger a relapse. It is okay to avoid bars and parties when you are sober. You may find going to a bar and watching everyone else drink and act wild is no longer your kind of fun.
Create a New Kind of Fun
Getting sober means, you get to start trying new activities that give you the same results alcohol gave you, like stress relief and laughter. There are thousands of options. Pick one and invite your friends to join you. Most likely, several of your friends are looking for something new too.
Whether you want an adrenaline rush or a relaxing, low-key evening, there is no shortage of activities. Examples include rock climbing, hiking, zip-lining, watching a movie, fishing, gaming, or learning a new skill.
Create a New Circle of Friends
If none of your drinking friends want to do other activities with you, that’s okay. You can do things on your own and quickly meet new people who are sober and looking for friendships. The first time you attend an event alone may make you nervous. But each time after, you will have more confidence and feel proud of yourself for the progress you make in your sober life.
Examples of how to meet sober friends include the following:
- Take a college class on a subject that interests you
- Join a self-help group
- Join virtual sober groups
- Volunteer for a local organization
- Take a class to learn a new hobby
- Join a club (book, sports, drama, photography, fitness, etc.)
- Attend a spiritual or religious event
Join your town’s social media page to discover all the events happening in your area where you can meet new people with similar interests.
Always Have a Plan B
There may be times when hanging out with your friends means doing so in an alcohol-fueled environment. You may be the best man at your best friend’s wedding, a super bowl party, or a birthday party at the club. Just because you must attend doesn’t mean you will break your vow to stay sober. Implementing some simple actions will keep the focus on the event and not on your being sober. Try these:
- Hold a virgin drink in your hand, which looks like the actual drink. Sweet tea looks like a lot of whiskeys. Daiquiris can be made without liquor. If people see you with a drink, they may assume it is alcohol and not try to tempt you into drinking.
- Have an exit strategy, even if it is a made-up strategy. Suddenly not feeling well, an emergency at home, a friend needs a ride, you need to meet someone, you must attend a self-help group, or you have to be up early the next day.
- Offer to be the designated driver. Not only will you stay sober, but your friends will get home safely.
One way to always have a plan B is actually to have a plan B. You don’t have to make up an excuse when you keep your schedule full of sober activities that can help you get out of situations that tempt you to drink.
For more ideas on how to stay sober and keep your friends, work with an individual counselor who specializes in alcohol-related issues. Or join a local recovery support group. You will learn more about yourself and how sobriety can be fun and fulfilling.