Deciding to take a break from booze can be a challenging time. It suddenly feels like everywhere you look, people are drinking and the world revolves around alcohol. It’s like after a painful breakup and all you can see are loved up couples everywhere! Alcohol gets splashed in your face everywhere you turn and meanwhile, you’re working around the clock to avoid it so you can break the habit and build new healthy ones.
Don’t worry, this rollercoaster of emotions won’t last forever, however it’s important that while you’re in the thick of it, you’re getting the support you need by building a support system around you to lean on. This might only consist of a handful of people (or even one!) and that’s OK. What is important is that you get your ‘team’ on board for the journey. I am not saying that they also need to quit drinking with you (that would be amazing but don’t set your expectations too high at this point), they just need to understand what you’re going through and get on board the rollercoaster that is early sobriety, and know that you will need them a little more than usual during this time.
When I quit drinking I didn’t realise the importance of clearly communicating to loved ones and friends exactly what I needed to feel supported. This meant that I ended up in situations that were really tough, and at times, feeling really unsupported. So in this blog, I have put together a list of 7 things you can ask your ‘support team’ (or just your BFF!) to do for you so that you feel the support you need at this time.
1. I am not judging your drinking, I don’t have the headspace right now!
Just because you have decided to change your relationship with alcohol, doesn’t mean that you’re expecting everyone in your life to also. Sadly, for some of our drinking buddies, it can feel like your decision to quit booze is like putting a mirror up to their own drinking. Let them know that right now you are too focussed on your own personal development to be thinking about theirs and the last thing you want them to feel is judged. More than ever, you need their support rather than them to push away from you.
2. Please don’t overload me with questions right now
When you share this big news with loved ones, they may feel compelled to ask lots of questions. Some common ones are “Do you have a problem?”, “Does this mean you will never drink again?’ and “How will you have fun without alcohol?”.
We really encourage you at the time of announcing the news to gently ask them to refrain from asking you the big questions right now. Let them know that you don’t have all (or any!) of the answers right now, and you need some time to settle into this journey. Ask them to instead ask you how they can support you. I know it may feel like you’re being slightly self-absorbed, however the clearer you are with your boundaries and needs at this stage, the easier it will be for them to support you without feeling confused.
3. I am going to be self-absorbed for a while
Speaking of self-absorbed, I want you to know that right now, you have full permission to be laser-focussed on yourself. It’s important that you channel as much of your energy as you can into your healing, personal development and learning how to be a happy, healthy sober woman. But it’s also super important that you clearly communicate this to those around you. They don’t know what is going on in your head or what your needs are if you don’t tell them.
4. Why encouraging me to have “just have one or two” is not being supportive
There is a reason why one or two never worked for you and why you are choosing abstinence for now. You have practiced moderation for a while now and you know that it is not your jam (welcome to the ginormous club baby). By choosing abstinence you are freeing yourself from the mental chatter about whether you will or will not drink, and not tempting fate by trying moderation, again! Explain this to your bestie and let her know how one or two drinks for you is a huge backwards step. And let her know that the best way she can support you is to encourage your decision to abstain completely from alcohol for now.
5. Please keep inviting me to places, even if I keep saying no
Going sober can already be a lonely time. The FOMO is real! You will need to feel loved perhaps more than usual right now. Let your bestie know that you may decline the invites to a lot of the drinking events in order to protect your sobriety, however that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be invited. Feeling left out can be soul destroying, and you’re already working through some heavy emotions, you don’t need this to be added to your list. Tell them you still want to be included, even though you choose an AF lifestyle. Although you may decline a lot of the invites to begin with, you will eventually start saying yes again when you feel strong enough to be around alcohol!
6. Let them know how they can support you when you do go out
Socialising sober can be overwhelming, at least to begin with. The security blanket alcohol provides has gone, so you might be feeling vulnerable right now. Before you go out, ask your bestie to be mindful of the fact that you may need to lean on them throughout the evening, and give them clear steps as to how they can help you. In my early sobriety, my bestie was briefed on a night out to be my support person, and she ended up leaving the event early with me and we went to a late night cafe for hot choc, cakes and a beautiful deep and meaningful conversation. BLISS!
7. Explore other ways to have fun with them and connect sans alcohol
There are so many ways to have an absolute blast, alcohol free. You can get your endorphins flowing by going for a hike, taking a yoga class or even attending a sound bath. There are now sober dance parties and raves plus bars serving only alcohol-free options! Why not do some research with your BFF and put together a list of fun things you can do together that don’t involve drinking.
It takes guts and strength to make this big life change, so you should be really proud of yourself. Know that this decision you are making for yourself, will have so many positive flow-on effects for your inner circle and beyond and the relationships that are worth keeping will get so much stronger.