How to support your sober friends – what NOT to say

How to support your sober friends - Silver Magazine article

If someone has quit alcohol, how can you support them?

Firstly, why someone has quit is almost certainly none of your business, even if you’re bursting to ask. So how can you support your sober friends, if they decide to take the plunge and quit?

It’s becoming more common for people to pledge sobriety, but ignorant comments – well-meaning or otherwise – can have a negative effect on people who are trying to cut out alcohol. We’ve compiled a helpful guide on what not to say to anyone who you know has stopped drinking.

1. Why aren’t you drinking?

It’s none of your business for a start. As a general rule of thumb, if people want to explain their reasoning to you, they will. There are a number of reasons why one may choose to stop drinking; maybe it’s for health reasons, or maybe they’re just bored of drinking. They don’t owe you an explanation.

You can be supportive without needing to know the reasons why someone’s sobriety. Accept their wishes and support them with their choice.

“Remember, no means no.”

2. Come on, just have one!

It’s not up to you to dictate what they do. It’s completely their choice, and you need to respect that. And for many people, ‘just one’ really isn’t possible.

If their reasons for going sober are related to addiction issues (which you may not be aware of), that ‘one’ drink you’re encouraging could have a catastrophic affect on their progress.

Remember, no means no. Don’t force anyone to do something they don’t want to do. Respect their decisions.

2. You’re missing out

How do you know? Drinking makes many people deeply unhappy, for a start. If someone has stopped drinking, we can assume that they did once drink, and therefore know of the effects of alcohol. Only they will know if they are ‘missing out’, and it’s up to them to make that decision.

There’s a big misconception in society that one must drink alcohol in order to have a good time. How do you know you’re not the one who’s ‘missing out’? Particularly in terms of a good night’s sleep and improved wellbeing. Tomorrow’s hangover isn’t looking too enviable…

A group of people socialising in nature -

4. I won’t tell anyone if you have a drink…

If you say something like this to someone quitting booze, you really need to look at yourself. What are you doing? Why would you do this?

Again, this can be more harmful than good. If their sobriety is health-related, whether mental or physical, your ‘secret’ could be devastating.

5. What do you do for fun?

There are many ways to have fun and unwind that don’t involve an alcoholic beverage. By resting the notion of a good time on drinking, you’re subconsciously eliminating other avenues of fun, which they may or may not be struggling with.

Instead, ask them what they like to do on weekends, and see if you can get involved. You may find yourself a new hobby, and you’ll be taking the expectation to drink away from them.

“There are many ways to have fun and unwind that don’t involve alcohol.”

6. You’re boring now

This is not a good way to support your sober friends. Sure, we’ve all had a good laugh at one of our friend’s drunken behaviour in the past, and maybe we’ve even been the ones embarking on a reckless inebriated journey! However, telling someone you preferred them when they were dancing on tables, staying up until 4am or leading the party can be damaging. You’re implying here that you find their actual personality boring, and would rather spend time with them under the influence of alcohol.

You’ve also no idea how behaving like that made them feel inside. Consider – if they’ve quit, you could reasonably assume it wasn’t making them happy.

If this is how you genuinely feel, it may be time to reconsider your friendships. If not, maybe try to rephrase certain things in order to make your sober friend or family member feel supported and loved.

Why sober is the new cool

7. We’re going to the pub, but I’m assuming you won’t want to come

Assumptions of any kind are not generally welcome – who are you to make that choice for them? Also, just because someone isn’t drinking alcohol at the moment, it’s not to say they don’t still enjoy the social atmosphere of their local public house!

Luckily for us, there are now many alcohol-free alternatives to our favourite drinks, and even so, sometimes a nice cold soft drink is a welcome refreshment. Don’t start leaving people out of your plans because you’re assuming they won’t want to come. Let them make that decision for themselves, and make them feel welcome and supported.

You could also start planning activities that don’t always involve the pub, to ensure you’re still spending time with your loved one, and showing them that you enjoy their company and want to be supportive of their sobriety.

Helpful links

Alcohol Awareness Week
Al-Anon – for the family and friends of alcoholics
Alcoholics Anonymous


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About Carly Pepperell
Carly gets to do everything under the sun, including writing, editing, taking photos, creating stories, and swanning around at launches. She can down a glass of Prosecco without pausing for breath, and aims to be the youngest Pulitzer winner ever.

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