“What?”, “Like Really?”, “You’re kidding me?”, “Noooooo!”, “Why?”
Any of these sound familiar? I would get this response every single time I mentioned I don’t drink any more. And I know I have said each of these, whilst I was still drinking, when someone would tell me they weren’t drinking anymore. So having been on both sides of the fence in this situation, I feel more than qualified to talk about it!
First up- It’s them, not you! No really, it is, I’m not just trying to make you feel better. It is most definitely them! You have made a decision, for whatever reason and for however long, to stop taking a drug. With any other drug, would you expect this response? Hell no! You’d be expecting slaps on the back, little cards telling you how great you’re doing and friends saying “Yes, I’ll do it with you”! But not with alcohol. Rather than well wishes, you are met with exasperation and CIA style interrogations.
When you choose to get sober you are raising your middle finger to the ingrained societal belief that alcohol must accompany emotionally charged situations. Celebrating? Champagne! Grieving? Whiskey! Stressed? Wine! Lonely? Gin! But everyone does it, so it’s fine! There is safety in numbers.
But what happens when you decide you don’t want to do this anymore? Your friends get uncomfortable. They are no longer surrounded by people who are getting just as drunk as they are. There is a SOBER person in the group who will remember everything that happens and can remind them of it the next day.
When you decide to stop drinking, it is like you are holding up a gigantic ass mirror in front of you, for your friends to look at themselves. You don’t intentionally pull that mirror out, you didn’t know your sobriety would morph into a reflector, but it happens, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Your friends will inevitably look at their own drinking habits. Do they drink too much? Has the nightly glass of wine become more of a habit? Is it acceptable to spend half the weekend hungover when there are kids to look after? Is it OK to be worrying about going into the office on Monday as they can’t remember what they said to Rachel from HR? These thoughts are not easy. Challenging behaviours that have become the norm is uncomfortable.
You know this because you have made the decision to stop. But your decision to stop has a wider impact on those around you and you need to be ready for that. Some friendships will stay, some will change and some will sail off into the distance.
If you lose friends, don’t be angry with them. Don’t resent them. Your actions have probably made them think and reflect on their own. Some can deal with that, some can’t. They’ll come back into your life, at some point, if it’s right.
Just know…. It’s them, not you!