Kate's Blog

3 Ways To Deal With Unhelpful Advice About Your Drinking

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.

Be compassionate.

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?

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


32 responses

  1. I went for lunch last week at at my regular restaurant and the server is a very good friend of mine. When I ordered water instead of my usual wine, she was really surprised. I just told her I am playing an April Fool’s joke on my liver for the month of April. Now when April is over, I will be ready to share my journey with her.

      1. Hi Kate, I especially relate to your comment about “they’re not having thought about it as much as we have”.
        They are well meaning, I agree. When I have shared with others and get the “Just drink on the weekend” response
        I realize they don’t know the struggle we all face.

  2. I can totally relate to this. My boyfriend doesn’t see the problem in my drinking but he is supportive. He tells me “I’m sure you’ll have some drinks on our vacation” but doesn’t realize that is hurting me not helping me. My dad also is the same, encouraging me to be healthy and happy but tells me that I can have alcohol but need to stop after 1-2 drinks. If only it was that easy! Thanks for this!

    1. Argh, it’s so frustrating. They sound supportive but also NOT supportive, all at the same time! Showing them how happy and healthy you are without alcohol is a great way to change that. Keep going Haley!

  3. This rings so true! I’m currently on Honeymoon and partner and friends we’re all saying so fun Jimmy is out on holiday? Or you have to drink it’s your honeymoon!
    Well you know what I haven’t and it’s been amazing time! I’ve seen everything crisp and clearly!
    As for how I respond I use the line – thanks for supporting my life choices. I say it with a dry humorous tone and they normally laugh with me. I doesn’t matter to me if that think I’m silly or that I think them silly so just laugh through it!
    May is my 8 month soberversary and I can’t wait for the next 8!

  4. My friend said to me-does this mean I am drinking alone? I guess she needed my as her drinking buddy to feel ok about it. Can you give me any insight into this comment Kate?

    1. It sounds as if she doesn’t feel comfortable drinking on her own. That’s not your problem though. Ultimately, she should want to spend time with you because you’re good company, not because of what you drink together. I’m sure once you’ve been out a few times together she’ll see you are the same fun person to be around, whether you drink or not 🙂

  5. I found your blog about two months ago, while searching for sober bloggers as a form of support. My drinking wasn’t black-out drunk, but it was a more subtle have a couple drinks EVERY night kind. I watched your three-video series about four times over, over the course of a couple weeks to build up to actually quitting. It took time and a lot of mental planning, getting used to the idea and imagining all the scenarios that would arise. I kept it to myself, not sharing with my boyfriend and others closest to me until I had made the decision for myself. My boyfriend has been supportive, and I’ve made sure to make it clear that I’m okay with him having drinks around me – because of course, my decisions shouldn’t negatively affect anyone else around me (what I mean by this is just because I chose this doesn’t mean I should slam those around me for not choosing the same course of action). I’m lucky that I’ve had support but I’ve also had some interesting responses. Mainly, being a female, most people I’ve told instantly think I’m pregnant. Even strangers are quick to say “what, are you pregnant?” once I tell them I’m not drinking. I tend to laugh and find the humour in these assumptions and I’m treating it as a social experiment, being aware of the social norms instilled in us around drinking alcohol. HOWEVER, the most outrageous response came from someone I was serving at the bar – a complete stranger – who told me “wow your summer is going to be so boring… you better be careful, your boyfriend is going to dump you for putting him through a sober summer”. I simply responded with “good, I don’t want to be with someone who is shallow and empty enough to dump someone for not drinking anyway”. He was very much taken aback by my strong and confident response. Little does he know my boyfriend is a loving and compassionate man who’s love is truly unwaivering. He doesn’t have to change his drinking for me, but he understands we both perceive alcohol differently and this is what I’m choosing to do to better my health. I think the key (or one of the MANY keys) to having other’s opinions and advice is to see the humour in it. By instead being offended by this strangers response, I laughed and stood strong in my decision. I had told him I was quitting for 100 days (as I still don’t feel it necessary to share with people that I will most likely quit for longer) he told me “I’d say just quit for 20 days, that’s how long it takes your liver to regenerate”. I laughed and started quoting all the examples you gave in your video series regarding the tests with lab rats, stress, adrenal fatigue, etc etc and assured him 20 days will not simply prevent future damage from continued consumption. I found I way to strengthen my position while educating him a little on his short-sighted views of drinking. Who knows, by staying positive and keeping light of the situation, maybe I gave him a little something to ponder for himself. 🙂 keep at it everyone and remember to laugh it off! You’re doing this for you and no one else. Xo

    1. That is an outrageous response! I’m glad you put him in his place though 🙂
      Congratulations on stopping drinking Saralynn, keep going!

      1. Hi Kate,
        I love your blog! Someone commented about your 3 video series. I would be interested in seeing those. Where can I find them? I have adrenal fatigue and I think I now know the cause!! Thank you for all your support!

        1. Hi Elise, my 3 part video series was a free mini workshop I ran earlier this year, to give people a taste of my online coaching programme. That workshop has closed now and is not available to view. I will be running something similar later this year, so make sure you keep an eye out for it!

  6. So hard when all the family drink hard and fast.
    Was out with hubby last night,
    He know I off the booze a month now and I feel great.
    He ask me a few times if I was having a glass of wine knowing I was off it.
    He is a big drinker and has never being off it , he is 66.
    I am a bit fearful that I might have to make big changes in my life and maybe loose some near and dear to me.
    Wish me luck , I love your site and your a real inspiration to those seeking refuge from da booze.

  7. My partner told me he finds my sobriety annoying and that it highlights his drinking and he misses drunk sex! I was very upset a bit astounded and the next day he tried to play down his comments! It’s certainly had an impact on opinions of of or relationship. We’ve been together 25 years with two children!

    1. Wow Samantha, what an awful thing to say to you! I’m kind of speechless and wish I could smack him for you. Lol. But seriously, this is your journey, and an important one. Stay strong and find others who are supportive. Hopefully he will come around.

      1. Thanks Lisa
        I’m feeling stronger in my sobriety it’s a difficult journey I’m replacing alcohol with exercise and trying to get fitter. I was a Weekend binge drinker so tired of the hangovers! Need to live free! I will see how things go just a silly selfish childish comment!

    2. Samantha! That is such a shocking thing to say to someone. But if you take a moment to take the hurt and insult out… he said “it highlights HIS drinking”. He is commenting from a place where he is perhaps looking at himself and is uncomfortable with what he sees. If you can remind humble and calm, remember how we have all he conditioned to think… it is so natural to many to be drunk often or all the time… so for him, he’s probably not sure how to be any other way. PLUS, your relationship was partially built on being drunk together, when you take that away… he probably feels you’ve taken away a little bit of the foundation of your relationship. BE PATIENT! But remain strong in your decision. He might come around, given time. My boyfriend still says “well you might have a drink eventually”, which I think comes from a fear of the unknown. He didn’t meet me sober, and a lot of the fun we had was around drinking. He’s probably afraid that will go away. So I’ve started trying to have fun new ways, even if it’s just taking him around to stores to buy new kombucha to try with me. (Kombucha is the drink I picked up when I dropped alcohol, and it’s worked wonders to have something new and fun and flavourful to try, while having health benefits as well). I hope you stay strong and stand your ground. You are a separate entity from your husband and have achieved sobriety! This is for you! Just keep going!

      1. Thanks Sara Lynn
        I know I think it was a mindless ridicilous comment that really upset me. I did question my sobriety a bit. He will have to get used to the face that I don’t drink anymore he still does not loads just a couple of beers a evening. He will get used to the fact I don’t and hopefully won’t make any more comments like that!!!! Jot what you expect from a loved one he’s just thinking of himself and unlike him it was childish. Is kombuca available in UK? Thanks for your lovely comments x

  8. Sadly, some people will never ‘get’ it. Remember they are seeing it through their eyes, not yours; if loving, they may think you are too hard on yourself and deserve what they see as ‘a treat.’ I’ve made significant changes to how I eat and treat both the same, with a polite ‘thank you, but the real treat for me is being healthy.’ The only one that gets to me (on a bad day!) is, years into sobriety,being told I have no will power or i could stop at two like a normal person ! It’s still tough at times but so worth it!

    1. Thanks felicity
      NO willpower! How ridicilous it’s them that has no will power!! Isn’t it crazy that not drinking alcohol is the only drug we have to justify not taking! Even my gp said a glass or two won’t hurt!

  9. A friend told me she would play whale music for me meaning she thought I’d become ‘new age’ or something. I wish I’d had the confidence to just reply ‘no need for that unless you want it on’ she just doesn’t understand how bad it had got for me to be fair

    1. Sometimes Susie as we are learning silly mindless comments come from sources were we least expect it! As felicity says they are only seeing it through their eyes! We will remain strong and sober and eventually I how that I can show others what a wonderful life yum can have with alcohol.

  10. I’m at home this morning with a hangover and lying to my boss about why I’m not in work today. This is not the first time I’m a weekend binge drinker and I’ve had enough. I keep getting stuck though I feel confident for a week then when I’m out I get the comments just like Kate says i feel so weak.

    1. Hi Mandy, it sounds as if you could really do with some support and a plan of action. You’d get a lot out of my stop drinking course – it’s six weeks of daily lessons plus the support of an incredible community. You’ve just missed the April course (those ladies are on week 3 already!) but you could always join the next one in July? thesoberschool.com/course
      We’d love to have you. In the meantime, keep going. Don’t give up 🙂

  11. Just before our last family holiday, I told my partner I wasn’t going to drink. At first he said ‘aw that’s a shame, what are you not even going to share a bottle of wine with me on holiday?’ (like it would RUIN the holiday.) But then he decided he would join me in not drinking. Well, we had a fantastic holiday and our children loved it. Because there were no hangovers, we were up bright and energetic every day, taking them all the places they wanted to go and joining in games instead of hiding behind our sunglasses saying we were ‘tired.’ I can’t tell you how guilty it’s made me feel realising what we have missed out on in the past. But not one bit of me feels I was deprived on my holiday because of not drinking. Instead, I feel like all my previous holidays were deprived because of drinking. My kids keep going on about what a great holiday it was. I’m so glad my partner decided to be supportive and stay sober with me, even though I didn’t ask him to.

    1. That’s brilliant, so good when our sobriety can rub off and give someone else the feeling of I wanna do that too! Good for you! And so nice feeling fresh and untired no hangover drama!!!

  12. Thank you Kate – I am really grateful for this blog as I have been thinking a lot about how people will react to my not drinking. All my closest friends and family are big drinkers. This is how we have fun and share the good times. So in many ways giving up drinking feels like giving up a part of myself and the life I know. I am afraid of feeling lonely. I am afraid of people thinking I am boring, or smug, or being extreme. However, I have come to the realisation that I am absolutely sick of the negative affects of my binge drinking much more. But I am a very sociable person who needs to connect with others, so this blog helps me feel less alone. Apart from my husband, I have not yet told anyone of my plans to stop drinking, and keep imagining what people are going to say. So I am considering a strategy of … just not telling anyone! Like, if I’m out, order a lemonade and let people think its a G&T? Always offer to drive? Make mocktails and still dance like a banshee and let everyone assume I’m as drunk as them? Isn’t it a crazy world when we treat sobriety as the dirty secret?

    1. Yep it’s crazy the only drug we have to justify not taking! I haven’t told anyone apart from hubby either just said having tum problems gets me off the hook or I drive! And it’s our personal thing so nobody needs to know until your ready. I was a Friday sat night drinker I’m sick of the hangovers guilt checking my phone to see if I txd anyone. The fog and tiredness all the next day. So I’m on my lovely sober journey. I feel alot better already alot happier and less anxious. I will others when I’m ready all my friends drink!!! So I have been a sofa hermit and not that sociable at the moment!

  13. I stopped drinking 8 months ago and haven’t missed it one bit. So many people around me though find my non-drinking threatening. They try to encourage me to have a drink and it’s clear to me now, that this is due to the fact they deep down are worried about their own drinking. People find it hard to accept life is much more fun and productive without alcohol. One sad fact is that there will be people that will no longer wish to socialise with you as you make them face their own fears regarding alcohol. It is a shame but there will be new people to meet who are more on your new wavelength. I have no regrets about stopping drinking alcohol and just wish I had done it sooner. Life is much more fun without the fuzz of alcohol.

  14. Yes I am experiencing this. I was told my “personality” is missed
    Someone asked my husband if he missed the “old” me .. or if he was upset that I’ve stopped drinking.. he said no!! ☺️
    yeah it’s not fun. I try to let it roll of my shoulders but it gets to me.

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