Today’s blog is for you if you keep getting unsolicited, unhelpful ‘advice’ about your drinking from friends and family.
You know what I mean, right?
- Your partner can’t see what the problem is and thinks you’re overreacting.
- Your best friend says you should quit during the week, but weekends are different…
- Your sister thinks cutting down would be ‘more realistic’ than stopping completely.
- Your mum reckons it’s wine that’s the problem – you should switch to beer.
- Your book group just want to know when you’re going to be fun again…
- And your Auntie thinks you should be going to meetings, because that’s what they do in movies…
My goodness … we’ve all been there and it’s painful!
All that ‘advice’ can leave you confused, doubting yourself and wondering whether you are doing the right thing… and that can stop you making any progress at all.
Here’s why unsolicited advice is such a problem, and three suggestions for dealing with it…
Why does it happen?
Most people love to give advice. And your friends and family love to give you advice, because they care about you. They don’t mean to be negative – perhaps they want to reassure you, or make you feel better.
And to be fair to them, if you’ve kept your drinking well-hidden, it might be a bit of a shock. You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff, but they haven’t. The chances are they’re responding from a far less knowledgeable place.
Plus – let’s be honest – your sobriety can bring up some awkward questions for other people. It can make them reflect on their own drinking. Maybe they’re already worried but aren’t ready to do anything yet. Deep down, it might be easier for them if you stay as you are.
Why does it matter?
When it comes to alcohol-free living, having the right mindset is crucial. Sobriety will push you out of your comfort zone, so it helps to start out feeling positive and motivated.
Listening to negative, confusing comments from people you care about is one of the quickest ways to derail that positive energy. Most of us already have our own chatter going on inside our heads, so we really don’t need external negativity too!
Don’t invite negative comments
Before you think about how to respond, it’s a good idea to check and see whether you’re actually inviting unwanted feedback. Are you actively asking for other people’s opinions? If so, ask yourself why.
Only you know how alcohol really makes you feel. Everyone else is on the outside, looking in. When it comes to alcohol, most people have very fixed views that aren’t based on fact.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really important to talk about this stuff. You need to be able to share wins, swap ideas and get feedback from people who ‘get’ it. But if those closest to you can’t offer that, I’d recommend finding a coach or a support group that you really gel with.
Three possible ways to respond:
Once you’ve ensured that you’re not making it easy for people to dish out unhelpful advice, look at strategies to counter their negative comments.
Here are my three favourites:
Be really positive.
The next time someone says, ‘You’re STILL not drinking? I thought you’d be bored of that by now’ make sure you respond positively (even if you have to fake it). Just smile and say, ‘It’s going great thanks – I feel brilliant’. That helps to close the conversation down. Then turn the question around and ask them how they are.
Ask them directly for their support.
Another strategy is to let people know that their negative comments are affecting you. Explain that right now, you’re not asking for their opinion, advice or approval – but you’d appreciate their support. Seeing how their negativity impacts on you could be a big wake-up call for them.
People tend to respond with doubt and negativity because of their own limited beliefs about what their life would be like without alcohol. That’s ok. They often mean no harm and are just caught up in their own world. Perhaps they’re intimidated by the thought of you doing something like this. Just remember, it’s not really about you; it’s about them … so you don’t need to pay attention. Let the comments bounce straight back off.
Now I’d love to hear from you …
Have you had to deal with some unhelpful advice about your drinking? Are you going through it right now? What are your tips?