Wellbeing

How To Quit Drinking Without Losing All Your Friends

So, you’ve decided to quit drinking. Maybe you’re walking the sober route due to instructions imparted by your doctor, or perhaps you’re just done with the hangovers and the ever-escalating price of vodka sodas. Regardless, giving up alcohol in your early to mid-twenties is a surprisingly fraught decision, one with its own ample share of consequences.

Indeed, the stereotype of the non-drinker as a killjoy is one that you are going to have to tackle head on, and the palpable confusion strangers or business acquaintances give off when you deign their offer of a quick glass of wine won’t just resolve itself.

To that end, here are five easy steps you can follow in order to kick the bottle without having to kick away friends – or career opportunities – in the process.

#1 Be ready to talk about it

It’s only really when you stop drinking that you realise the significant role it plays in society. Booze is everywhere, and though it’s not the case that every single one of your friends and colleagues is an alcoholic, it’s certainly true that hitting the pub plays a not-to-be-dismissed part in Australian cultural life. People use a quick drink to relax; to seal business deals; to celebrate; to commiserate… Booze is everywhere, and pretending that the world is going to stop drinking just because you plan to is naïve.

By the same token, given alcohol’s prevalence, people are going to be confused by you rejecting even the odd tipple, and they’ll probably want to know why. Of course, nobody is ever entitled to an answer – you don’t have to tell a soul your reason for turning down drink if you don’t want to – but just know that you’re going to get asked about it. A lot. To that end, it’s best to be prepared for the ‘How come?’ conversation that you’ll inevitably have, and even if your response to a proffered glass is simply a smile and a ‘Don’t feel like it tonight’, plan out the chat ahead of time.

#2 Be honest

If you do decide to divulge why you’re living the sober life, just know that there is no ‘wrong’ reason for doing so. Every single human being on the planet has their own relationship with booze, whether it be a fraught, casual or even a non-existent one, so though you might feel the need to provide a particular line of reasoning for your sobriety, you don’t owe anyone the answer they might be expecting.

If you’re giving up drink because you don’t like the influence it has on your life, or you’re finding it hard to economically support, feel free to say that. Blaming your doctor is a good get out of jail free card – most people will smile and move on if you say that you got told to pack drinking in – but it’s not the reason you have to give. You do you, you know?

#3 Don’t feel the need to ‘make up’ for it

Along with the ‘sober person as dreadful bore’ stereotype, people also tend to assume that those who turn down booze are automatically offering up their services as a chauffeur in response. But just remember, not drinking doesn’t mean that you’re instantly the designated driver, or suddenly in charge of looking after your drunk mates on a night out.

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After all, avoiding a drink isn’t some burden you have to make up for by helping out in other ways; nor does it create the need to go out seeking brownie points. Stick to your guns and have the night out that you want to have, not the one that others think you should.

#4 Avoid lecturing

If there’s one thing people hate, it’s being spoken down to. Although you might have packed in booze for lifestyle reasons and as a result are keen to spread the sober word, know that your friends probably won’t want to hear it – particularly not on a night out. If somebody wants to talk to you about drinking and potentially how to curb it then they’ll bring it up. There’s no need to try and brainwash your friends. Be happy with your decision, respect theirs, and nine times out of 10 you’ll avoid problems and confrontation altogether.

#5 Offer alternative plans

Although it will be difficult for you to avoid places that serve alcohol altogether – unless you plan on eating in every night for the rest of your natural life or packing it all up and becoming a monk – it’s totally reasonable for you to suggest places that aren’t wholly booze-focused. Rather than the pub, you can offer up late night coffee shops as a meeting point, or encourage activities that can be enjoyed without a drink to wash it all down with: say the movies, bowling or some other equally wholesome activity like checking out local art galleries.

Again, as with all of these steps, you don’t want to deny your friends booze altogether, or make out that the only way you’re happy with hanging out is if everyone involved is sober – but remember, you can always take the initiative and make the plans yourself. No-one will begrudge you for doing so: that’s why they’re your mates, after all. Treat ‘em right, encourage their respect and they’ll stay mates whether you’re drinking or not. Promise.


Joseph Earp is a freelance writer and music critic whose interests include horror cinema, The Drones and cheap regret. He tweets at @TheUnderlook