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When You Don’t Drink But Your Friends & Family Do

I was very lucky when I began my journey into not drinking because my husband and I did it together. In fact he started a day before me because we still had a few beers left in the house and I had to drink away the temptation first!

Don’t let other people spoil your sobriety – it’s yours not theirs

The fact that I was not alone was hugely important and it still is. But when you don’t drink and you are the only one in your family or group of friends who has decided to make this change, having personal support is vital. I often talk to people who are struggling because their spouse or partner is still drinking or their friends have been weird.

Other people’s reactions and behaviours can affect us so much that we often keep this ‘secret’ to ourselves and while our journey and our lives are our own, we do have to live it around other people. So, do we tell or don’t we?

when you don't drink

At first I didn’t tell anybody. To be honest, the constant conversations I was still having with myself were exhausting enough and I didn’t have to strength to mention it to ‘other people’ as well.  I also kept it quiet partly because it was nobody else’s business and maybe I was afraid of failing (like I have done with stopping smoking so many times) but I was also embarrassed and worried about what they would think of me –  that I had a problem.

sober parenting

We didn’t even tell the kids until about a month later when we casually asked if they had noticed anything. The little one said that it was much calmer and there was no shouting or arguments. The big one just sort of grunted and said he hadn’t noticed anything at all!

I then sort of mentioned it to my brother and his wife during a Skype conversation. They were both impressed and apart from my sister in law saying that she did Dry January once and found it miserable, not much comment was made, at first anyway. Now 9 months later they are both interested and curious as to how we’re still going strong! Phew!

My mother in law and her partner, on the other hand, were totally different. We never mentioned anything to them at all until they came to visit about two months after we stopped.

“Ohh, I’m dying for a gin and where’s the beer like?” Where the first things out of their mouths when they arrived at our house. You should have seen their faces when I offered them a cup of tea instead!  To be fair, it must have come as a shock as during their previous visits there was beer, wine and gin on tap from the moment they arrived to the end of the ‘Last Supper’.

When you don’t drink you can be subject to some corking comments as was our experience of my in-laws during that first visit and then again when they came out for another visit and we were “still off the drink!”

First 100 day sober? It’s easier than you think

The first thing they did was rush to the shops and get their supplies in. Throughout the week they kept asking the kids to get their special grape juice because they had hidden it and were obviously scared of what would happen if they accidentally said the ‘W’ word.

when your friends drink

Some of the comments I remember were:

What’s this shite like? Shite! (referring to the non alcoholic beer)

And, where can I buy your non alcoholic rubbish?

What would happen if you had one….?

We can’t toast your birthday because you’re not drinking

When Josh (our eldest son) is 18 you’ll have to start drinking again so he can take us out for a pint

You won’t want to go out will you, seeing as you don’t drink.

And perhaps the best one, When will you be able to drink again?

My mother in law even left her half empty bottle of gin “just in case”

Even with the obvious benefits after such a short amount of time like the weight loss, a sense of calm and more energy, they still seemed a bit put out that it was thanks to giving up the booze.

They were not the only ones though to show their dismay that such a radical change was due to actually giving up alcohol – who’s have thought that removing a poison from your life could be good for you, eh?

I got some great comments such as, ‘You look amazing, what’s the secret?’ Then when you mention that you’ve quit drinking, they look so disappointed or incredulous. One of the other mums in the village laughed and said ‘that’s impossible, I’ll have to join a gym or something instead’ I don’t know about you but the idea of sweating in a gym with a group of Spanish mums is far less appealing than laying off the booze.

We are social animals and people matter to us, their opinion matters…we want to be liked, have friends – even my husband who is always saying that ‘life would be much easier if it wasn’t for the people’ does actually live with us and therefore has to face ‘people’ every day.

I love the quote, “what other people think of you is none of your business”. It makes total sense and I wish it were true, but deep down it does matter to us.

sober bliss

It is one thing owning your sobriety, being proud of what you are doing and giving anyone the proverbial finger if they are rude, unkind or unsupportive but it is quite another thing to live in your own bubble with no outside contact whatsoever and when someone says something about our sobriety it does affect us whether we want it to or not. That is why when you don’t drink, having some sober support is is so vital, whether it be in the form of a mentor, a coach, a sponsor or a friend. You need that one person on your side, helping you through.

Often I hear from people who say that their friends are not helping and this can be tough if they are your friends and not just drinking buddies. However removing alcohol from your life is a lifestyle choice, it is positive change and if your friends can’t cope with this and blame you for their discomfort, then it does upset you.

Perhaps your decision to stop drinking makes their own drinking very real and they feel the need to justify their feelings and their drinking habits. Sometimes it really is them and not you. They just don’t know how to handle your new found sparkle – or the reason for it.

Perhaps your decision to stop drinking makes their own drinking very real and they feel the need to justify their feelings and their drinking habits

People can also jump to conclusions, they assume that you were pouring gin in your morning coffee or something in order for you to have to stop. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t but it has nothing to do with anybody else unless you want it to. Or they might ask how much you were drinking and then go on to explain how much they don’t drink and that they can moderate and that it’s all good with them, theydon’t have a problem thank you very much!  I think the best way to deal with this is just to let them get it off their chest and move on.

sober and happy

I also feel that the best way to inspire and motivate the sceptics and the doubters is just to show how happy and at peace you are. You don’t have to explain your reasons and the evils of alcohol, just being you, sober, happy and healthy is enough to perhaps get them halfway to joining you. And those people who still judge you unkindly or suddenly make themselves scarce, well, perhaps it’s for the best.

That brings me on to another common question. What to say to people when they ask why you are not drinking. Well, that is entirely up to you. Some of us are out there from day one, others prefer to wait until a big milestone or just not mention it at all. I am now quite happy to tell people that I don’t drink and I am honest with my reasons, but at first I just kept my head down and soldiered on – just me and my husband trying to do what we knew, deep down, was the right thing to do.

I never really made a ‘big announcement’ to the world but slowly started mentioning it to people. I think the first person I told was our local shopkeeper because he asked why we weren’t buying beer anymore (I think he noticed his weekly takings were down!)

I have sort of mentioned it on posts on my personal FB page and it is interesting to see the difference in likes and comments on a sober post compared to a ‘look what my dog did today’ post….

The whole business is very personal and ‘other people’ differ.  Some can be supportive, helpful and lovely. Others very odd and rude, then there are the complete dicks who deserve nothing less than short shift.

Happily, my own experience (apart from the in-laws) of coming out so to speak, has been positive. I have a friend who is also sober and we share our grievances and grumble at the comments made by other people. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes hurtful but hey – it’s their problem not ours.

If you are a friend or a relative of someone who has decided to stop drinking, then the best thing you can do it to give them a big hug and make them a cup of tea (some chocolate would also be nice!)

1000 1000 Gayle


Hi, I’m Gayle. Mum, teacher and living a life of sober bliss. My mission is to help you change your relationship with alcohol to help you rediscover your true self and live a life of sober bliss.

Written by: Gayle
  • Hi Gayle, beautifully written piece, you bring a refreshing calmness and reassurance that being a non-drinker is ok. Very honest and genuine account, this has kept me inspired to continue my chilled life not drinking anymore.
    Thank you for sharing and best wishes for the future.
    Kindest Regards Clint

    • Hello Clint, thank you! Yes, being a non-drinker is OK, more than that actually, I believe it is a positive lifestyle choice and something to be proud of! Great news on your chilled life, I just love this. You too, stay inspired!

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