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If you are a teetotaller because you merely wish to live a healthier lifestyle, then you will probably know how difficult it can be to break this good news to your old drinking buddies.
The unfair reality is that if you wish to remain teetotal, you need to develop a few strategies for coping in social situations without giving in to peer pressure.
If you have stopped drinking alcohol because you are recovering from alcoholism, then the importance of learning these strategies becomes much more important. This is because your choice to stop drinking is literally keeping you alive.
Alcoholism kills around 2 million people each year across the world, and so your choice to embrace sobriety is literally helping to prevent your own death at the hands of alcoholism.
If you are part of an active drinking group, then at least a few of your friends are likely to struggle with your decision not to drink alcohol. Others will understand your decision and show compassion and respect, but the ones who are not able to understand your decision may pressure you to abandon your sobriety.
If you are recovering from alcoholism, you must really question whether these people's friendship is worth more than your own life. Given the danger that a relapse would bring, it may be better just to avoid these people entirely.
In the UK, a 'lad' culture exists where young men drink lager, watch football together and engage in what we call 'banter' or what the American's might call 'locker room talk'. Drinking alcohol is the cornerstone of this culture.
If you simply turn up at the pub and declare 'you no longer drink alcohol', not everybody will be able to swallow this decision lightly. Drinking alcohol is part of the groups underlying identity and DNA. If everybody stopped drinking alcohol, it's likely these sorts of social groups would simply cease to exist.
The good news is that you are able to implement strategies to help even the most hardened group of 'lads' accept your decision to stop drinking alcohol.
The vast majority of people abusing drugs and alcohol did so inside their social circle. It's may be the case that you were the group 'clown', and the one with the 'red nose'. All of your friends drank or used drugs, but not to the same degree that you did. If this is the case, your friends may support your decision to stop drinking because it's obvious that your drinking or drug using is simply out of control.
It's hardest for your friends to accept your decision to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs when your use of these substances was considered manageable or moderate by your social circle. In this situation, it may take a while for your friends to adjust to your new-found sobriety.
When you first break the news, at least some of your friends will struggle to accept your decision. However, as the saying goes, 'time heals all wounds.' By the third or fourth social outing, the vast majority of your friends will have adjusted to your decision to stop drinking.
The principle we are trying to get to is this: don't judge your friends' response to your decision to embrace sobriety on what they say when you first tell them. Instead, judge their response when they have had time to process your decision over 3-4 social outings.
If some friends are still pressuring you to drink once you've not drunk on 3-4 occasions, then you might wish to visit these people individually and when alcohol is not present to try to educate them on your reasons for not drinking. Admittedly, having to pull up a friend in this manner is rare, as most will be able to accept your decision before the need for this arises.
It may be an idea to declare your wish to embrace sobriety before you meet your friends in a drinking or drug-using environment. If you wait to tell your friends of your sobriety at a point where alcohol is being served up, then it's highly likely these people simply won't take you seriously.
It's also a good idea to give your friends concrete reasons why you are no longer drinking. Doing so makes it easier for your friends to accept your decision. If you merely say 'I am not drinking anymore and that's that', your friends may struggle to wonder why you are not drinking anymore.
In some situations, it may be better that you simply do not socialise with certain people whilst you are new to your recovery. Staying away from these 'relapse triggers' allows you to build up your recovery so that your intent to stop drinking becomes stronger and stronger. It may be best to only meet certain people in situations where alcohol is not available.
Eventually, you will become less vulnerable to relapse meaning you can once again hit the bars, pubs and nightclubs with your former drinking buddies without the risk of giving in to peer pressure and other forms of relapse triggers.
For many of you, going to pubs with your friends may have been the only social outlet you had. Your decision to remain sober means it's a good idea to build out the list of social activities you engage in. If you don't, you risk craving human interactions simply because humans are social creatures.
The need to form social bonds is as innate as the need to drink water and eat food. A void will be created by your decision to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs.
The best way to fill this void is to rethink how you are spending your social life. You can begin to fill up this time with activities that do not involve the use of mind-altering substances.
Good examples of such activities include:
It's best to take up an activity that is conducted in groups, so going to a yoga class would be better than going to the gym or running alone in the streets.
In time, you will come to realise that there is a lot of enjoyable activities you can do that does not involve drugs or alcohol.
We feel support and compassion should be what you expect from your friends when you tell them of your decision to stop using drugs or alcohol. At the opposite end of the spectrum are judgment and stigma. If your friends begin to call you 'sober Steve' or 'teetotal Tommy', then this might be a sign that you need to re-evaluate your definition of a 'friend.'
If certain people meet your decision to stay sober with ridicule and abuse, then it's time to consider ending this friendship.
If you would like guidance on living your life in recovery, contact Rehab 4 Alcoholism today on 0800 111 4108 to speak to our helpline advisors in confidence.
We assist in placing you into a suitable and local rehab clinic that will allow you to detox and rehabilitate in safety. You elected rehab clinic will also help you integrate into a local Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery group.