How to Deal with Friends and Family Who Drink

Friends and family who drink

Yay, we’re sober!

Oh hey, most of the rest of the world isn’t!

A lot of us experience this recognition early on in recovery. In order to make progress and stay on our path, we need to let go of many of our “lower companions” with whom we used. But what about close friends and family who drink like normies?

If your family drinks beer at Thanksgiving or wine on Passover, do you need to skip these important gatherings? If your sister is getting married and there will be a champagne toast, do you need to leave the room?

We didn’t get sober to hide out from the world. We didn’t get sober to only feel safe in rooms of fellow recovering addicts. We should be with our families, and we should celebrate and enjoy life with those we love. And that means most of us are going to spend a lot of time around alcohol.

When I went to my first family wedding in sobriety, I made a plan. At my sponsor’s suggestion, I had a four-step plan:

  • I made sure at least three family members knew I was sober and wasn’t supposed to drink anything alcoholic.

  • I made a plan to call my sponsor halfway through the wedding to check in.

  • I made sure to ask about the nonalcoholic drink options.

  • If I felt I needed to leave, I could, no matter what anyone thought or said.

At one point during the reception, a distant relative tried to force me to drink. Another cousin—one of those who knew I was sober—came quickly to my defense, and put a glass of sparkling cider in my hand instead.

Obviously, we are responsible for our own sobriety. At the same time, having folks around who know we’re in recovery can make all the difference.

The key to staying safe when others are drinking? Make sure someone else knows you’re a sober alcoholic or addict. Text sober friends before, during and after the event. Make sure that there’s something nonalcoholic for you to enjoy, and, above all, if you feel shaky then walk out the door as fast as you can.

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