When someone makes the decision to get sober, it’s a big, brave step.
Regardless the reason, there are a lot of people who have put the bottle down for good. Feel awkward or don't know what to say or do to support a sober friend or family member? Here are three major things you can do to be an ally when someone in your circle decides to live alcohol free:
1. Offer words of support and encouragement!
When someone has decided to stop drinking, it’s often after much soul searching. If they share that they’ve come to this decision, don’t question their decision or attempt to make them feel bad about it by saying things like, “But I don’t think you have a problem,” “Can’t you just stop for a while?” or “Can’t you just drink wine/beer?” These questions are not helpful, and can really strike a nerve for the newly sober. As can voiced concerns that they will be “less fun.” Yeah, believe it or not, people actually say that.
Instead, you can say things like, “If you feel comfortable, can you tell me more about what made you come to this decision?”, “How is it going?” and “How can I be of support?” You may not understand why they’ve stopped drinking, which is OK. But do offer words of support and encouragement.
2. Continue to be a friend.
Sometimes when folks get sober they feel like their friends disappear. Don’t be that disappearing friend. Your newly sober friend is learning all about that and how to navigate a world where drinking is everywhere. You might need to change how you spend time together now that your typical Friday happy hour is out of the question. Ask to meet her for coffee, yoga, a hike—something that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.
You can also just ask her what her threshold is for being around alcohol. This may vary—some folks avoid being around it during early sobriety, with “early” varying for each individual. Sober folks don’t stop living and socializing, but they do have different thresholds for being around their drug of choice. It can be tough because again, it’s everywhere.
3. Serve alcohol-free drinks at parties and events.
It’s not uncommon for sober folks to show up to a party to find out the only alcohol-free option is tap water. They still enjoy beautiful food and drinks—just not ones with alcohol in them. Have sparkling water on hand (who doesn’t love a La Croix?), or consider mixing up a batch of one of these “24 Deliciously Simple Non-Alcoholic Cocktails.”
You may find that even your guests who do drink alcohol, as well as pregnant friends, appreciate these options.
Erin Shaw Street (@erinshawstreet) is a Birmingham, Alabama based writer, editor and media consultant. A former newspaper and magazine editor, advertising writer and non-profit communicator, she is a person in long-term recovery with a passion for examining the media narrative around addiction.
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