Sobriety isn’t necessarily the norm in America, but neither is addiction. Most people drink alcohol at some point in their lives, and the statistics say that over two thirds of American adults drink at least once a year. Yet for most people with a drinking problem, the tendency to enjoy a little too much alcohol in the company of others isn’t a habit that developed in a total vacuum.
About 16 percent of the population across all ages engages in dangerous binge drinking, most commonly between the ages of 18 and 34. That entails consuming enough alcohol to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.08 grams – about 5 drinks for guys, and 4 drinks for girls within 2 hours. While just about a quarter of people in that age group binge drink, the challenge of remaining sober while going out with friends who aren’t is a big obstacle in the path of total sobriety. For those who recognize a drinking problem and aim to fix it, the idea of a social life without life’s all-important social lubricant can be hard to imagine.
But the truth is that alcohol is far from necessary to have a good time, especially with others, and enjoying a vibrant, healthy, fun and extremely exciting social life is more than possible while completely cutting the booze.
Owning Up to the Decision
The hardest blow to your social life while going sober is the fact that you must accept that things will change. You can’t simply decide to stop drinking, then go out with your buddies on a bar crawl and think that just sticking to the club soda and tagging along will basically make everything be just like it was. Don’t be embarrassed by your decision to stay sober, or intimidated by friends that might consider your choice incredulous or whimsical. It’s a powerful, and respectable choice, and one that takes hard work and determination to maintain. Feel empowered by it, rather than diminished.
That’s the main change you must make in your mindset – you must accept that what you’re doing is for the better, and everything that follows suit is a necessary consequence that you’ll gladly adapt to.
Being sober doesn’t immediately destroy every bar experience ever. In fact, you might find yourself enjoying the night even more without drinking, allowing yourself to stay sharp and not have to worry about getting home, or waking up with guilt and shame. However, that isn’t to say that the first few days, weeks and even months won’t be fraught with moments of awkwardness, and challenges that you might not have expected. You’ll have to develop an adamant reflex to say no to drinks, even when offered, and calmly explain your sobriety. You might have to build a thick skin and some patience when people can’t seem to understand your decision, or assume that it’s enforced by religion.
And yes, you’ll lose friends. You might even lose all your friends. But you’d have to ask yourself if they ever actually cared about you if they don’t want you around while you’re sober, and can’t hang out except to drink. Perhaps they’ve got a problem of their own, something they’ll have to eventually sort out on their terms. As mentioned, things will change – sometimes rather drastically – and that’s part of what it means to quit a bad habit and live life more honestly.
Embracing a New Kind of Social Life
If you’re finding yourself bored or boring in old social settings, and are losing friends left and right because they’re getting uncomfortable with your sobriety, then don’t lose hope. That doesn’t mean you’re boring, or that going sober means you’ve completely killed all the fun in your life and eliminated any chance of ever being silly again.
Instead, you might have to embrace a new kind of social life. That means meeting new people, doing new things, and enjoying all the benefits of sobriety. Start by being a bit more active. An amazing place to meet people is in classes – dance classes, martial arts classes, CrossFit classes, spinning classes. Take your pick, and find whatever tickles your fancy the most. If you’re in a group therapy program, then take that as another opportunity to meet more sober people. Some establishments and social occasions cater specifically to sobriety, like juice crawls and sober raves, if you’re into that.
By freeing yourself from alcohol, you’ll realize that your schedule and selection of social locations is no longer limited by what you can drink, for how much, and where. Instead, you can focus on the activities themselves, and even make time to have fun during the day instead of deep into the night.
If you’re finding yourself in situations with old drinking buddies where you really can’t find anything in common other than the pints and shot glasses you used to share, then you must accept that there isn’t much reason left to continue that friendship.
You Won’t Lose Your Real Friends
Friendships are meant to be held together by more than drinking, and you’ll keep all the friends who you can really have a good time with without getting buzzed. And don’t give up that easily on some people – it might just not be their time yet. Perhaps your journey will be a single factor in a growing list of reasons to jump to sobriety as well, and you might be surprised to get a message in a year or two from a changed person looking to reconnect and catch up over coffee.
The worst thing you can do is go around evangelizing your sobriety – it’s not something you can market to others as a fad to jump into. They need to make the decision on their own, and you can only lead by example. But by leading your way into a different life and changing the way you live to protect your sobriety and let it flourish, you’ll discover a whole new and awesome way to enjoy your free time and spend time with others – all without alcohol.