Kate's Blog

How To Stay Sober (When All Your Friends Drink)

The chances are that if you’re a big drinker, then your friends are too.
We tend to surround ourselves with people who are just like us. But what do you do when you want to change… and the people around you don’t? If you feel nobody understands why you’re trying to stop, then this post is for you.
Here’s how to stay sober – and motivated – when all your friends drink:

No1-min-min-min-minBe prepared to say no.

If you think that going out for your regular Friday night drinks might be your undoing, then don’t go. People won’t be offended for long – and it won’t always be like this. In the early days, when you’re trying to build some sober momentum, sometimes you have to turn things down. This doesn’t mean you need to sit at home feeling lonely. You can be proactive and organise something you want to do, like going out for lunch or a trip to the cinema. If you do decide to go to the pub, think about what you’ll say if someone offers you a drink. Remember: you’re in control. This is your decision.

No2-min-min-min-minWhen you’re tempted to drink, ask yourself why.

Alcohol has become so integrated into our daily lives that it’s hard to think of an occasion where booze can’t be justified. We drink when we’re happy and when we’re sad. We drink because it’s Friday or payday or someone’s birthday or just because the weather’s nice. Whatever the reason, most of us are in the habit of using alcohol as a shortcut to feeling another way. So rather than just trying to stop yourself drinking, try and figure out why you want to drink. What is it you’re really feeling? Are you angry, sad, lonely, stressed? Is there another way you can manage your emotions? Do you really want to drink or are you turning to it out of habit?

No.3-min-min-min-minList your reasons.

Sometimes, when you’re caught off guard or you’re being pressured to drink, it can be hard to remember why on earth you’re doing this. So make a list. Keep it in your purse, on your phone – somewhere you can access it easily. Only you know why you’re trying to stop drinking. Don’t let yourself be derailed by a friend who only knows half the story.

No.4-min-min-min-minGet some perspective.

We live in a very boozy world. So many people are convinced that alcohol is sexy, glamorous and sophisticated; everything you need if you want to express yourself and live life to the full. That’s total nonsense, of course. Being sober does not mean you have to spend the rest of your days living like a nun, drinking cocoa and going to bed early (unless you want to, that is). If you look carefully, you’ll see there are loads of people out there leading full and happy lives without alcohol. Just look at Eva Mendes, Kristin Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Davina McCall, Bradley Cooper or Gerard Butler. They’re all sober. And are they boring? No!

I’d love to know…

How, specifically, have you handled people who were uncomfortable with your sobriety? What worked and what didn’t? Please share your ideas and stories below.

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. 


46 Responses

  1. I always play the tape forward, I can’t stop at one or two, but perhaps they can. Their night won’t end in a sad drunken mess on the floor, but mine will!

    1. Great tip. Playing the tape forward is a really good way of getting past that initial romantic idea of drinking!

      1. I live in the MidWest and that’s all my current friends do. Being single it’s lonely and hard not to go drink to have adult time.

        1. I live in the Midwest too and I can vouch for that! All my friends want to do is drink…I organize a hike? They want to drink before it….it’s very frustrating and kind of lonely.

    2. Anna that is such a good way to look at it! I dont even find alcohol enjoyable if I stop at 1 or 2 lol sad! Wasnt always this way but all that matters is it is now!

    3. Wow. that’s the truth. i am just starting my sobriety after years of needing to. my friends have made plans for us that include apps and cocktails. i will play the tape forward and have a mocktail!!

  2. At the moment I am trying to concentrate on the crippling hangovers and the times when I only planned to have one or two but didn’t and the mess I managed to get myself in helps to stop the voice that tells me that one drink will help me to relax, have more fun, fit in ect. I was invited to work drinks on Friday, I have told them that I’m on a health kick and wouldn’t be drinking, they kept pushing the issue so I didn’t go in the end. Hopefully things will get easier on this front! X

    1. That’s great Robyn – really pleased to hear you standing your ground like that. And yes, it will definitely get easier with time!

  3. I’ve reached my happy weight and stopping alcohol played a big part so I focus on my weekly Slimming World session where I’m on the social team- I’ve also recycled all my bigger clothes. Not for everyone, but my perpetual resolutions were to cut down/stop drinking and lose weight and it’s magic to begin each New Year with a sense of commitment and achievement. @Alcohol’s full of empty calories’ is a statement of fact which passes as a reason for sobriety, though none should, ideally, be needed…………

  4. I just recently said no to visiting a very dear friend for her birthday weekend because I didn’t want to drink alcohol. Wine and good beer have been a part of our friendship for a long time. She reacted fine when I cancelled, no big deal, but I was 100x more nervous about it than her. I’ve been going with the story that I’m just “taking a break” from alcohol right now, but that’s not working anymore. I’ve “quit” several times and am now back to day 16. It’s at the point where I just need to say I quit, not only to others but to myself, and that’s what’s working for me. Letting people think I may possibly drink again is no good for me – it messes with my mind too much. The transformation has to begin or I will never get there. Thanks for listening!

    1. That is an excellent point. I told people I was doing Dry January, Fitness February, then I drank again in March so they didn’t know I was trying to quit alcohol for good. I think just telling people that are used to me drinking that I am quitting alcohol, I don’t have to say I have a problem with alcohol, just that I don’t like the way it makes me feel anymore. That way, I won’t have an “excuse” to drink, since people won’t be pressuring me!

  5. I’ve just got back from Venice for my 50 th birthday and on my birthday meal the waiter just assumed I drank and put a complimentary drink in front of me. I was too embarrassed to say anything so my husband drank both. A French couple sat next to us and refused theirs telling the waiter they were non drinkers. I think I need to not care what people think of me so much. It’s been 9 months now and my husband thinks I should learn from that French couple and be proud!

    1. Maybe you should be loud and proud – the waiter probably wouldn’t have cared anyway! But I know how awkward it can be sometimes. Congratulations on your 9 months 🙂

    2. I haven’t had a drink for 102 days now and survived my first hen party on the weekend without it! I think everybody else is more bothered by it than me.

      1. Hi Emma, how did the Hen Party pan out then? I’m going away for a full weekend with the girls and just don’t know what to say regarding me not drinking! I know as soon as we set foot on the train the corks will be popping! I was considering saying I’m on antibiotics and can’t drink but I should have to lie. I just can’t bear the thought of peoples faces, I am normally the party girl xx

  6. I’ve found having an ally to be a great help in social situations. Before heading along to gatherings/parties/work-do’s etc, I make sure I know someone that’s going that I’ve confided in and who knows a bit of the backstory to my quitting drinking. There’s been a few times where my ally has chimed in to take the spotlight off me when I’ve been asked about my drinking. On the whole though, I’ve found people to be surprisingly non-judgmental of my choice 🙂

    1. There is another truth to that, if people are judgmental, or try to force you to drink, it says a lot about their relationship with alcohol. I know I used to inwardly give an eye roll to people who didn’t drink,because I drank a lot. I only felt comfortable around people who drank as much or more than I did. They are also the ones that are the least supportive of me not drinking. I didn’t realize that other people that I socialized with occasionally didn’t drink, or drank very little, and its been a nice surprise. They are the ones that wouldn’t give my not drinking a second thought.

  7. When I first stopped drinking I would give reasons such as “I’m taking a break from wine”, “I’m trying to lose weight”, “I can’t just have one so I better have none” or “Im not ready to start drinking again yet”. But all these kinds of ‘excuses’,however valid, invited too much attention, questioning, or unhelpful’advice’ (like the classics “a couple won’t hurt” or “life’s too short to not enjoy it”). So now when asked why I’m not drinking I smile, relaxed & proud, and reply honestly with “I don’t want to”. Irrefutable,,,,and often the response is “I wish I could stop drinking”!

  8. I’ve found being honest is the best policy. I tell my friends drinking wasn’t working for me so I’ve given it up. That way nobody tries to pressurise me into drinking. Long term friends and family have seen the predicaments I have got myself into over the years and understand. Others are amazed at my willpower and some openly admit that they would love to cut down or stop drinking altogether, but can’t seem to manage it. It’s still early days, I’m at day 51 today but have never felt better! I’ve lost weight and have gained back the respect of my daughters, who bought me a card and gift for reaching day 50. When you’re waivering think of the money your wasting and what it’s doing to your health and the people you love.

    1. I can totally relate. I have friends who are like sisters to me and we have enjoyed many parties together. My father was an alcoholic and I have found myself to be one also. I do not drink all of the time but when I do, I don’t know when to quit sometimes. I feel like I gain more confidence when I drink but know I make an ass of myself sometimes and hate myself the next day. I really just need to realize that I need to abstain altogether. I have lost my exhusband and my Dad due to alcohol and my sons hate seeing me that way. I have to take better care of myself as I want to be around for them. I need to go to my church and join an AA group. I love my friends but need to avoid the temptation for awhile.

  9. Hi Ive been sober for 8 months now and have had periods of sobriety over the past five years. It isnt easy because of all of the above. I remember my parents having a drinks party many years ago and an elderly gentleman refusing a drink saying that ‘it didn’t agree with him’. I have found this comment the best one with people I don’t know very well as they can’t argue with it and it kind of is the truth. All of my close friends and family know and are very proud of my achievement and no-one puts me under pressure. However last week I hosted a book club with supper and wine! One of my close friends brought along some non alcoholic beer for me. I had to gently point out that that was for non-alcoholics. I think the main part of being labelled an alcoholic is the label itself but once I get over that (which compared to the way it was) is relatively simple I really don’t care what people think. It has taken me a long time to ask for help and be out of the cycle of denial and misery. Everyone in my circle has benefitted from my sobriety and I help others who I see struggle. I do just do it for today and take small steps. I rarely really want a drink as I find the pleasure of not being hungover and looking ghastly is more attractive than an initial hit that I used to get from a glass of wine. You do find other things to do and life is so much more productive and enjoyable.

  10. I definitely agree that being loud and proud is the best way forwards – well,it is for me at least!
    I had got myself into a habit of drinking social just for the sake of it,and then suffer the consequences.
    My problem is that the older I get,I have found that alcohol agrees with me less and less.
    When I was 18,I could drink all night and then carry on as normal the next day….fast forward 30 years,and now even half a glass of wine will induce an agonizing headache the next day,or worse still within an hour of drinking it !
    So I have finally come to the sensible conclusion to give up alcohol completely.
    I love being different, and I am actually looking forward to announcing it to people when the circumstances arise !
    My resolution has already been put to the test several times,and my only regret is that I did’nt decide to become teetotal years ago !

    1. I love your comment Sarah. I too like being different from everyone else now … but I didn’t to start with. It’s funny how we change. Keep up the great work!

  11. Hi I’m just starting this journey today. The last straw was Friday night when I went home with a stranger on a night out with friends and don’t remember meeting him – sobered up trying to find my way home. My blackouts are so frequent and well managed now that my friends think I’m making conscious decisions yet I don’t ever remember a thing. I haven’t confessed this to them, but I am deeply ashamed as I am a mother and in a relationship. This was my lightbulb moment, enough now, enough x

  12. I am on day one. My goal is to get through it without wine. Drinking wine seems so respectable but also deceiving. Aside from social drinking I enjoy drinking alone. I am tired of the consequences and the obvious routine on Friday nights which last through Tuesdays. I am grateful for this site.

    1. It’s day 2, I’ve felt great today, long walk with a clear head. No sick feeling no headache and best of all no guilt. I sometimes wonder if people realised how much I really drank, I very rarely get any comments, only, “you fell asleep-AGAIN”. I am very worried about my health and weight so I really hope I can stick to this. Not sleeping now as overly well though. I’m not a jealous person at all, but I could be of all the great folks that stick to a sober life. Good luck to us all!

    2. I’m on day 5.things are ok,30 years as a functional drinker.my friends all drink and have parties coming up.this will be a challenge.

  13. I’m almost 90 days in….so happy…it’s kind of bittersweet..if that makes any sense.
    Today my sister called me and said, “if you were still drinking I’d ask you to go have a glass of wine with me.” My feelings were kind of hurt. I told her I’d love to go. I could drink ice tea or soda water with lime. Her comment threw me for a loop. I think it’s other people who have the problem with us not drinking, It’s not us.

  14. I drink because I feel shy around crowds of people (that I don’t know) without alcohol, plus a lot of other reasons. All my friends drink to excess but can handle it better than me and I can’t stop at just a couple. My most recent drinking experience ended up in me having to be taken home from the bar early and put to bed by my boyfriend because I was so drunk I couldn’t stand. I have tried going out with friends and being sober but I don’t enjoy it at all. If I quit drinking then I’ll miss out on all the fun my friends will be having without me. I would still see them but it wouldn’t be the same. I know people will say, “Oh, you need better friends,” but I really couldn’t ask for better. They’ve been there through everything. It’s just me personally that is too insecure to stop. I don’t know what to do because I’m turning into a mess :'(

    1. You sound exactly the same as me Lauren. I wouldn’t say I drink more than others, I just can’t handle it. I end up really drunk and should go home but instead I keep going and then blackout and can’t remember a thing. This happens almost everytime I go out. Then the next day I feel dreadful, ashamed and embarrassed.
      I have made the decision to stop drinking however, like you, I am terrified if missing out on the fun. Drinking gives me confidence that I wouldn’t normally have xx

  15. I quit drinking for 15 months, and was the happiest I’ve ever been. Lost some friends because of it. I was the party girl and some people just couldn’t handle me not drinking. It was great, I would go out dancing, laughing and have a blast still. It changed my life for the better in everyway,But still got attitude about it. I told people I just wasn’t drinking and they would say well now you’re just boring, first thing before hanging out with me for even 5 minutes. I started drinking again, then stopped for 7 months. Then started again when my husband kept saying that he wished I could just have a glass of wine with him. So I did do that and then I finished the rest of the bottle too. Every single time one glass turns into the bottle. I have realized this is a problem and this is my second day without a drink. Don’t get me wrong my husband is supportive and says you are so much happier sober and if you want to be, be sober. But he thinks i’m taking it too seriously and that it’s not really a problem. When I quit drinking the first time, he fully agreed that it was a problem and that I was out of control. I’m sorry for such a long post. I’m afraid, afraid of the rude comments again, the pressure, I do not ever want to drink again. But it is summer bbq drinking season, I’m just afraid.

    1. Hi Michel, hope the summer went well for you. Journalling might be useful to keep on track and record all your success off booze. I’ve been on off for years but today decided to live sober and am getting so much benefit from this site xxx

  16. It is nice to read all of your comments. I am just starting my journey and feel this is going to be a real struggle for me. I need to stop because I have been diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis in the liver. I have a group of friends that we chat online each day and usually hang out together a few weekends a month. We actually call ourselves “The Wine Girls”. I also live in the wine country where it is part of the culture to drink! It has always helped my come out of my shell, open up and be more social. Of course one glass of wine turns into a bottle or more. I feel like every part of my life revolves around drinking! I am scared, but also can’t continue down this path because at this point it will kill me.

  17. I don’t have any idea what to do, I have had serious drink and drug problems since my early teens, after 4 previous, failed librium (chlordiazipoxide) detox’s and 3 almost fatal overdoses I went into a rehab centre to get serious help for my alcohol and heroin addiction. After walking out 6 weeks in (Xmas eve 2015). I moved to Wales (250 miles away) to try to re-start my life again and to try and have a decent relationship with my family. They have been incredibly supportive of my sobriety but they all drink constantly and I can’t go anywhere with them, without it ending in the pub. I know a lot of people seem to be able to go out and only have a j20 but for me it seems to just stress me out to the point of relapse (which has happened). I know there are no magic words or phrases but how do I decide if I want sobriety or my family more? I am 28 and just want a normal life. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    1. Hey Bean,
      Sometimes you have to chose between yourself and family. When they want to take you into trigger zones, have a plan to say no because you are busy doing something else. Got to a coffee shop and check out the same addiction blogs that give such great advice like the sober school, volunteer and give back to your community, revisit hobbies that used to bring you a calmness and happiness, and most importantly, if you are trying to stay sober, find your community of online and in-person support like A.A., where you have a commonality with people who share you story, know where you been, and can lift you up to keep going. The more we practice these things the better we’ll stay on the path to sobriety. I’ve been on and off the wagon for years as a highly functioning alcoholic in the NYC area. I’m so tired or the highs and lows. I’m ready to live a sober life and if people can’t support that, I need to limit my interactions with them until I am strong enough to be around them and say no, and stand my ground. I’m not worried anymore about if I’ll be missing out on fun because I don’t drink. I’m looking forward to what not drinking will bring, which is a life of balance for me. One of my favorite quotes to look at is “ I drank for happiness and became unhappy. I drank for joy and became miserable. I drank for socialbility and became argumentative. I drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. I drank for friendship and made enemies. I drank for sleep and woke up tired. I drank for relaxation and got the shakes. I drank for strength and became weak. I drank for confidence and became self doubtful. I drank for courage and became afraid. I drank for conversation and slurred my speech. I drank for a heavily release and woke up feeling like hell.” These are all the reason I would tell myself to keep drinking but the reality is it’ll kill me. Sorry for the long post, hope this helps. I’m 3 days sober on my millionth time quitting but this time it’s stick.

  18. I was never the kind of girl who could have just one drink. One drink didn’t make any sense to me sadly, so even though I didn’t drink every day or every week, I’m quiting because every time I did it it turned into a binge and I fell into a regret/shame/drink to feel numb again cycle. I just have to admit I have no control when I start…
    This is my week 1 and I’m really excited about it. I know my friends are gonna be pushy so I’m still not sure how to handle it with them. Maybe faking a stomach issue first until I’m ready to deal with them?

  19. I’m off to an afternoon/eve with friends shortly. First one since I decided that I neec to make some changes. I’ve bought some alcohol free lager in an attempt to make myself feel less out of place. I don’t know how it will go and my two closest friends there have already started teasing me. It’s good that i’ve discovered this page before going…i’m playing the tape forward as i type and feel more determined to have a great time without the hangover and regret/embarrassment of tomorrow.

  20. It is hard for sure. I am 6 days into my attempt to stop drinking after backsliding last week. I went to visit my boyfriend last night. He had just bought a breathalyzer for fun. He decided to test it out by having two large “cups of drunk.” I had come over to help him clean his house for his family and do something nice for him after being an emotional drunk a week ago. He got drunk and fell asleep on the couch. It was very hard to watch him down those drinks in front of me. I felt punished and almost a bit like a dog might feel when you eat something they love and know they can’t have in front of them. He apologized after he realized the next day what he had done. But, what a test of strength. I felt amazing afterward, not because of the time I spent with him, but because I stayed so strong.

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