When I decided to stop drinking, I was lucky that i had a great group of friends who supported my decision, but I know that’s not always the case. So many people decide to go it alone when it comes to sobriety. I get it: you don’t want to be a “buzz kill” (literally) for your friends and you don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But I think that having a strong support system is the difference between successful sobriety and unsuccessful sobriety.
So, here’s how you can be a good source of support for a friend who’s decided to stop drinking–either for good or for awhile.
1: Continue to invite them out: This probably seems counterintuitive, but it’s tough to decide to quit drinking and then find yourself home alone all of the time, while your friends are meeting up for dinner and drinks without you. You probably understand that they’re not inviting you because they don’t want you to feel uncomfortable in a drinking environment, but sometimes a chance to get out of the house and see your friends is immensely helpful–whether they’re drinking or not. Understand that your friend might turn down the offer if she feels like it would be difficult for her but please don’t let one “no” keep you from inviting her again. As long as you’re not offering your newly-sober friend drinks, the time spent socializing is sometimes beneficial, as is overcoming a hurdle of going out and abstaining–especially when you have your supportive friends by your side.
2: Meet them for coffee: For many of us, once you take alcohol out of the equation, coffee becomes a real treat–as does meeting friends for coffee instead of for drinks. I’ve said it before, but coffee shops offer a great place to visit with friends and people watch–much in the same way that a bar does. Invite your newly-sober friend for coffee and consider even making it a weekly date. The time spent enjoying a treat and the conversation that accompanies it will do her (and maybe you too) a world of good.
3: (Speaking of conversation) Talk to her about her sobriety: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how it’s going; ask about the challenges she’s facing in sobriety; ask about how her family is handling it. Don’t be afraid to dive deep. Our inclination is to skim over the hard conversations but if she’s open to talking, ask her how she’s doing…how she’s REALLY doing.
A reason why a lot of people can’t fathom the idea of giving up alcohol is that they’re afraid that, along with the alcohol, they’ll lose their close friendships–that alcohol is the glue that binds them to many people in their life. By stepping forward and sticking by a friend who’s decided to get sober, you’re showing her that you care about her in a way that some people can’t and that you will help her stay strong and accountable if things get tough. A true friend, through and through…