While it’s important to have a strong support network in recovery, some people come to a crossroads: can they maneuver in the same social circles as before, staying sober even if their friends still drink? Or are they better off choosing people who share the same sober activities they do? Each person’s circumstances are different.
A Lot Depends on Your Comfort Level
Many researchers have investigated the impact of social relationships on addiction recovery. What seems to matter most is spending time with positive, understanding people who respect your choices, instead of mingling with negative influences—either from your past years of alcohol use or people who currently don’t support your sobriety.
Additionally, many individuals who experience social anxiety in certain situations and mask it by drinking too much may not have received proper co-occurring disorder treatment. So it doesn’t matter if their friends imbibe or not: they’re still going to feel the same way because their anxiety disorder hasn’t been addressed thoroughly and treated effectively.
Finally, there’s also the challenge of staying sober while your friends still drink if you’re excessively triggered by certain things or environments. This is especially true in early sobriety when you’re still learning how to “urge surf” through such moments. This technique involves practicing mindful coping skills to acknowledge a trigger or craving but then ride out the compulsion to drink.
Your first priority is to stay committed to your well-being and sobriety. Here are some ways you can do this within your social group.
Tips For Staying Sober While Your Friends Still Drink
It’s essential to prioritize your sobriety and make choices that align with your goals. Good friends will respect and support your decision to remain sober, even if they continue to drink. Follow these steps to reinforce your individuality within the friendship.
- Communicate Your Boundaries: Let your friends know about your decision to remain sober and explain why it’s essential for your health and well-being. Clear communication is key, so they understand the importance of your commitment. Don’t go to places where you used to drink, and maybe take a sober friend with you for accountability.
- Educate Your Friends: Share resources and information about addiction and sobriety with them. It’s quite possible they aren’t aware of the full scope of your situation. The more they understand your journey, the more likely they are to be supportive and respectful of your choices.
- Practice Assertiveness: Be prepared to say “no” to offers of alcohol firmly and without feeling guilty. You don’t have to justify your decision to anyone.
- Have an Exit Strategy: If you’re in situations where your friends are drinking, have an exit plan in case you start feeling uncomfortable or tempted. Maybe set a time limit, and then excuse yourself when it’s complete. Or if you accept an invitation to an event where people are drinking, quietly let the host know that you’ll leave if you feel your sobriety is threatened in some way.
- Choose Sober-Friendly Pastimes: When making plans with your friends, suggest activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. These include going to the movies, trying out a new restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol, or engaging in recreational options like hiking or sports.
- Find Sober Support: Seek out friends who support your sobriety and share similar goals. You can also connect with support groups or individuals who understand the challenges you’re facing. This doesn’t mean you have to leave everyone else behind, but a sober network can be invaluable.
- Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and therapy to help you cope with any stress or anxiety related to social situations involving alcohol.
- Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety in social situations involving alcohol, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction issues. They can provide strategies and support tailored to your needs.
- Remember Your Goals: Keep your sobriety goals in mind and remind yourself why you made this important decision. Your health and well-being are worth it. If your friends are unsupportive or put your sobriety at risk, it may be necessary to reevaluate those relationships and focus on building more supportive connections with people who understand and respect your journey.
Great Oaks Recovery Supports You
At Great Oaks Recovery Center outside of Houston, we strive to provide dedicated whole-person care that establishes a foundation of wellness. Our board-certified professionals customize a treatment program to help you get stronger emotionally, mentally, physically, and socially. You’ll learn about cravings and triggers and develop essential coping techniques for managing them effectively. More importantly, you’ll establish more confidence in your choice for better health —a key factor that helps you choose more supportive people in your life. Give us a call to learn how we can help you create a better future.