Kate's Blog

5 Unhelpful Things People Say When You Quit Drinking

When you quit drinking, friends and family can be keen to share unhelpful ‘advice’.

Sometimes it’s because they genuinely want to help. Other times it’s because your decision is bringing up stuff for them. 
No matter what their intention, many of the things people say aren’t very helpful to hear. 
And whilst we’re all adults here (so we can make our own decisions!) it’s still pretty off-putting when your nearest and dearest are convinced you’re doing the wrong thing.
Today I want to shine a light on 5 of the most unhelpful pieces of ‘advice’ you might hear if you quit drinking… 

1. “Have you tried drinking a bit less?”

It’s hard not to roll your eyes at this one. I mean, doh – of course you’ve tried cutting back already! It’s one of the very first things you did, right? The chances are you’ve tried to moderate again and again, but nothing works consistently.
What really sucks about this question is the implication that you should be able to drink a bit less, if you kept trying, or if you were more like the person asking the question. But as I’ve explained many times on this blog (here and here) moderation rarely works, so don’t waste your time on it. 

2. “Are you being realistic?” 

Let me guess: you’ve finally decided to take a proper break from drinking so you can test drive sobriety properly. (This is a great idea, as I explain here.) And then all of a sudden, someone voices one of your deepest fears. Is it realistic? Will you be able to do it? 
I think this unhelpful question comes from a well-intentioned place, but it ignores one important point: repeatedly trying to moderate isn’t realistic either! Trying to exercise control over a mind-altering drug that zaps your willpower is never going to be a recipe for success.

3. “But you’re not an alcoholic! You drink the same as me!”

Far too many people think there are just two types of drinkers: ‘normal drinkers’ and raging alcoholics. As long as you’re not in the second category, then you’re fine… right? This is totally wrong and unhelpful. You don’t need to wait until things get ‘bad enough’ for you to quit. 
Keep in mind that the only person who really knows how alcohol makes you feel, is you. Your decision to quit might make other people feel uncomfortable about their own drinking, but this is not your responsibility. You can’t control this, so don’t let it hold you back. 

4. “Is this a good time to be doing this?”

You want the honest answer to this question? No, it’s probably not the right time. In fact, it’s never going to be the ‘right time’ because no such thing exists. There will always be a reason to wait. There will always be a birthday or a holiday, an anniversary or a special occasion coming up. 
The reason this question is so unhelpful is because part of you is already thinking it. So when someone else voices it too, it gives that line of thinking even more power. Don’t let that happen! Whilst there isn’t a ‘perfect’ time to quit, there’s never a bad time to let go of a drug that’s holding you back. 

5. “Are you still going to be fun?” 

This question is pretty insulting. The not-so-subtle implication is that you need a drug like alcohol in order to be interesting. As I explained in this blog post, the contents of your glass do not dictate whether you are fun or will have fun. 
All this question does is reveal the limiting beliefs of the person asking it. It’s a discreet way of pressuring you to fit in and act as you always have done. Please don’t let other people’s discomfort keep you stuck, or repeating behaviours that are not working for you. 

If you’d like some help to quit drinking and create an alcohol-free life you love, click here for details of my online course.

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. 


18 responses

  1. Oh my! I have dealt with all of these questions o er the past 6 months !!!! I’m not letting it deter me at this time!!!!!

  2. I had a ‘friend’ say to me: “But, I like you better when you drink”..
    How awful is that? It brought up – and is still bringing up – so many different twists and turns in my thinking: Am I boring / bad company if I’m not boozing? Did she actually mean what she said, or is this about her? That comment, for me anyway, was one of the most cutting things anyone has ever said to me – given the context, and my own private worldview at the moment.

    1. I feel for you – that is not a nice thing to hear. Whilst I don’t know your friend, what I suspect she’s really saying is “I like it better when you’re drinking because then I feel better.” Perhaps she’s self conscious about her own drinking. Or perhaps she needs to drink to have fun and unwind… and she imagines it’s the same for you too. I’m sure this comment is not really about you 🙂

    2. That’s awful Leisly09! It is one of my deepest secret fears. I’m lucky that my wife tells me she prefers me sober, and I have a few friends who I met through work so they knew me sober before they knew me drunk so I know they genuinely like me for me. But as for everyone else, I’m happy to let them go if need be.
      That comment says more about you than her – that she is insensitive, not a supportive friend, and selfish – she’s thinking about how you not drinking will effect her!!
      As time goes by you might decide to let go of ‘friends’ like these, to make room for more supportive encouraging friends.
      Good luck!
      P.S I’m sure you’re great sober! 🙂

  3. Thank you. This is very helpful. I’m worried about Facing the crowd at thanksgiving. Was planning some creative dodging. I’m only 40 days in right now.

    1. 40 days is an achievement Jules. Congratulations! I can tell you that with each holiday/family event you get through, the easier the next one is. Make sure you have your toolbox with you. Your favorite NA drinks, an early evening escape plan, and reward yourself with an extra large dessert! I like to focus on hanging out with the kids too. They are having more fun than anyone and without a drop of alcohol.

  4. My Husband has been my biggest supporter until I recently asked him if he liked that I quit drinking…his answer, was Yes and No. Yes, he’s glad I’m not knockup drunk every night, but he said he also misses sitting down with me and enjoying a bottle of wine. I know he was being honest, but gosh, his answer made me feel bad.

    1. I’m wondering if your husband is confusing the pleasure he got from drinking with you, with the pleasure he gets from spending quality time with you? This is a great opportunity to show him that you can still have that closeness, no matter what’s in your glass. It doesn’t matter what you’re drinking – what counts is taking time out and spending that time together.

  5. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. As we were catching up the subject of wine came up-like it always seems to which is just weird. Anyway when I told her I was no longer drinking, her response was “well that is just sad.” OUCH. And I also look at it differently. Maybe the thought of not drinking is sad for her, but for me it is just the opposite. I feel empowered by NOT drinking. I don’t need or want to have to take a substance in order to “get through” this one life. I want to meet life head on with a clear head no matter how scary. I must admit, feeling all of my feelings without the crutch of booze was pretty overwhelming at first, and it is worth it. I’ll be at 2 years January 8. yay me.

    1. ScG I hear you. One of my sisters said the same thing. She said it is “Sad” and that “I am no fun anymore”. I try and let it roll off my back, but it does hurt when they do that. I just try and focus on my other 3 sisters and brother who are all proud of me. 🙂
      2 years January for me too!

    2. Congratulations on your sobriety! I’m sorry to hear you got that comment from your friend, but you have exactly the right perspective on it. That reaction is all about her… not you.

    3. I have a bunch of “friend” like yours, but I feel sad for them when I see them doing stupid things all night long. And they wake up the next day ful of regrets with a bad hangover.
      I took the Getting Unstuck Course and now I am almost 5 months AF life style that I love,
      In the beginning I was uncomfortable when people asked this question, I don’t care anymore, because like Kate say, they are talking about them, not about me.
      Congrats on your almost 2 years, that is awesome.

  6. I read your blog in December and decided to commit to 100 days starting with dry January. When I managed that I said 200, then the end of 2019 .. still sober and finding I have more fun without a drink… although I get comments from friends and colleagues about it being sad I’m not drinking… I just tell them I’m doing it for me and it makes me happier – and they’re funnier when I’m sober. I am worried about getting through Christmas and New Year but determined to make it to 2020 without a drink .This year has been a really difficult one and there were times I wanted to blot it out with wine, but if I had dealing with the difficulties would have been much harder

  7. I’m new to this sober thing … one day sober in fact! I have tried many times to moderate and can’t. This past few weeks I picked up Catherine Gray’s book and I’ve read and read and looked at blogs and now I’m actually commenting for the first time!
    Yesterday I told my parents I was going to try being sober. They worry about my drinking (though my dad is a big drinker also). Their response “can’t you just have a couple every now and then?” and “but you have this weekend away and Christmas parties and ….”
    I almost went home and drank wine … but I didn’t!! I read the book and went to bed early.
    My husband said ‘You’re not that bad” but he doesn’t see the wine I pour down my throat when I’m alone in the kitchen.
    So here I am. No idea how long for or if I’ll succeed but I love the term ‘test driving sobriety’ . I want to see if it’s my way out of anxiety and depression, bad decisions and sleepless nights. I want to find the real me again.
    Sorry to write loads … outpouring I think!

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