Will sobriety change your social relationships? The short answer—probably. While I didn’t experience everything on this list, through discussions with others and reading quite a bit of “Quit Lit” over the past 16 months, some common occurrences emerged (Note: This list does not include those with whom you should make amends.).
1. Many people feel uncomfortable around non-drinkers. You may no longer receive invitations to gatherings, or if invited, you might be bombarded with questions about why you no longer drink. It can be helpful to prepare in advance. How much of your journey do you wish to share?
2. Some people connect your drinking to their own habits. If you choose to quit, others can become uncomfortable with your choice, associating this change with their own drinking habits. Be patient—just as we must adjust to sobriety’s path, give others time to adjust their thinking as well.
3. There will be talk. Much of this can lead to positive change, sparking others to examine their own habits. And yes, there will always be a few “queen bees and king pins” who seem to enjoy your struggle. It happens—best to practice sending peaceful vibes their way and let it go.
4. Remember that some people have experienced horrible situations with loved ones drinking. When they discover that you no longer drink, even if you never shared a cocktail with them before, they might connect you to past hurts and distance themselves. Again, be patient and try to understand the burden they carry.
5. Some still ride the high horse. They see your sobriety as a character flaw and begin to distance themselves. My advice is to peacefully ride away. You know something that they haven’t quite figured out yet. Whether it’s money, food, alcohol, or (insert issue here), most of us struggle with something that we enjoy a bit too much, something that we must constantly keep in check.
My own journey also included an immense wave of support, friends who said, “Great! How can I help?”, people who proudly shared their years of sobriety, people who are supporting a friend on the same path, or even people who recognize that they should modify their habits.
Sobriety improves our ability to observe and reflect. These responses to sobriety (many of them hurtful) are part of human nature. Sobriety helped me recognize weaker moments where I’ve lacked grace and understanding with others. A powerful awareness emerges from sobriety, a healing, higher level of understanding. Once developed, your body and mind begin to heal, and later you develop deeper connections with others, becoming a stronger friend and advocate.
Thanks for reading!