I have been sober for the last two years and it hasn't been easy. In past blog posts, I have spoken about why I no longer drink alcohol and my journey to sobriety. These things haven't been easy and, if I'm being completely honest, I regularly think about drinking alcohol or think of things I could do drunk that would be really funny (obviously they wouldn't).
I guess, for me, the only way I have found it easy to not drink alcohol is because I stopped drinking in August 2019 and took myself out of situations where there was lots of alcohol involved at first so that I wouldn't be tempted; as actually getting used to the idea at first of no longer drinking alcohol is tough. But then the pandemic hit and I was fortunately in a situation where no one was going out so I didn't have that temptation to turn to alcohol.
However, it's now December 2021 and as everything is back open in the UK again (well, for now at least), that means people are free to go out to places that involve alcohol whenever, and wherever, they would like to do so. So, for those of us that are sober, this does mean that the temptation is there to drink alcohol, particularly as there is such a strong drinking scene in the UK, particularly at Christmas.
So what can make this time of year easier?
Well, if you're reading this and have a sober friend or two and think there's nothing you need to do to help them, that's where you're wrong. In a country like the UK where the drinking culture is so big and anyone who decides to go against this cultural 'norm', for whatever reason, is seen as a social outcast, we need all the help we can get to make going out easier and so that we feel accepted.
So, here are all the things you can do to help make your sober friends life easier (and if you are the sober friend, send this post to your friends so they know what they can do to help you):
1. Continue to invite them to places
It seems to be a popular opinion that if one of your friends is sober, that means they can no longer go out to all the places you both used to go to, such as pubs, bars, clubs, etc. This couldn't be further from the truth. However, it is worth pointing out that each individual is different, so it depends on how they're feeling. If they've just started being sober, they may be less likely to go to these types of places, just because they may find it too soon and too difficult to refrain from drinking. My advice is to message them individually and not on a group chat and tell them that you're thinking of getting a group of people together to go out to 'x' place and that you want to know if they want to come. Make sure you make it clear to them that there is absolutely no pressure on them to go if they don't want to or don't feel up to it and that they won't really miss out on anything if they choose not to go, as FOMO (fear of missing out) when you're sober is completely real.
2. Plan sober activities with them
I don't know about you, but I regularly see groups of friends posting pictures/videos of them on social media doing activities that all involve drinking alcohol. I don't know if anyone realises this, but it's actually possible for you to hang out with your friends without alcohol being involved. I'm sure we all know (and quite possibly have) that one group of mates where they only ever see each other when alcohol is involved. I'm not saying they can't do that, but these people often call each other their closest friends. Alcohol makes us think and act differently, so I'm not entirely sure you can call a group of people that you have only ever been surrounded by when there is alcohol involved your closest friends, but each to their own I guess. There are plenty of sober activities you and your friends can take part in and you shouldn't always leave it to your sober friend(s) to suggest these activities either. It can be really exhausting when everyone in the group chat is constantly suggesting doing something, but that something always involves alcohol, when all you want to do is do something sober. Sober activities can be great bonding experiences for you and your friends and I personally believe it is a way for you to become closer.
3. Hold off on drinking alcohol
If you enjoy drinking alcohol and don't have a problem with it, what I'm not saying here is that you have to give up drinking, either altogether or just when you're around your sober friend(s). What I am saying is that you should maybe not drink as much as it can be really uncomfortable to be around a load of drunk people; regardless of whether you know them really well or not. After all, you should want everyone who's in your company to feel as comfortable as they possibly can be. You don't always need to get blackout drunk and it is possible for you to not drink as much as you normally would just this once.
4. Don't force them to drink
This is a big one. I can kind of understand that because there is such a big drinking culture in the UK and such a little understanding of those that are sober that it can be all too easy to believe your friend will be okay by just having one drink. But we all know that it is never just one drink and that just one drink more often than not turns into several drinks, which then leads to them getting drunk. For me, I know that if I have just one drink, it will send me on a downward spiral and back into a place that I really don't want to go to. If someone doesn't want to drink, for whatever reason that may be, don't make them drink. Even if you don't understand it, it is their own choice and even if you find it weird, they are more than likely the one feeling much more uncomfortable about not drinking and having to try and fit into a drinking culture whilst remaining sober than you are.
5. Don't ask too many questions
It can be very exhausting when you give up drinking alcohol as literally the entire world and its dog wants to know why you aren't drinking and what led you to this decision. Sometimes, there is only one reason; but other times, like with me, there are multiple reasons. It becomes really tiring trying to explain to everyone you know why you no longer drink; particularly when you used to be a regular drinker and people don't accept it when you say "because I just don't want to". If your friend tells you they no longer drink, don't demand to know why and instead just say that's fine and let them know they can speak to you if they want to about, but that if they don't want to, that's also okay. It's a difficult thing to be sober in a world that's full of alcohol, so in making this decision, they are being incredibly strong and you should support them with it.
6. Don't be judgemental
I've heard it all before where I have told someone I no longer drink and have been hit with "don't be so boring" or "just get over yourself and have a couple". All we sober pals want when we quit drinking is for people to be supportive. We are more than aware that there are going to be many people who judge us for it, but we don't expect our friends to be this way and if they were our real friends, they would be supportive. After all, you wouldn't judge someone for quitting smoking or drugs, so don't judge someone for quitting alcohol.
7. Become aware of their triggers
As someone who is sober, there can be many different triggers that may lead me to want to drink alcohol more than I do at other times. This varies from person to person, so it is important you find out what your friend's triggers are so that you can ensure they avoid them and if they do come across a trigger (which it's more than likely they will), you can help them through this and ensure they stay sober. For me, my triggers can be watching someone drinking an alcoholic drink, whether that's on TV or in-person, that I used to like (particularly drinks with mixers) and it makes me wish I could just have one more of that drink. Even though I am aware that doing this will send me back to a place I don't want to go to, it's still a struggle for me to hold off from drinking it. So don't just assume your friend will be fine, even if they have been completely sober for a very long time, because it's more than likely they struggle on a daily basis, particularly if they come across one or more of their triggers. Just make sure you're there for them to help them through this and that you continue to be there for them always.
These are just some of the ways you can help your sober friend(s). There is nothing worse than when you become sober and you really hope your friends will understand your choice, but they instead decide to judge you and belittle you for your choices. In following the steps I have outlined above, you can become the best sober ally for your friend(s). I know it won't be easy for you, but it's much harder for those who are sober. Just make sure you are there for them and are there to help them through this journey.
If you have any more questions about sobriety, want to know more about being sober or how to be a good sober friend, feel free to either email me or DM me on Twitter or Instagram. I am always free for a chat and will always aim to get back to you as soon as I am able to.
Finally, this is my last post before Christmas (but there will be another post just before the new year on my yearly round-up of the year), so I would just like to wish you a very merry Christmas and here's hoping it's better than last year.
Love Beth xx