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How to Socialize When You Don't Drink

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Studies show that over a third of alcoholics recover completely from their dependence. You may be wondering how they did it. Did they have to completely avoid outings with old friends at the local bar? Did they lose friends? Below, you will find tried and proven tips for how to socialize when you don’t drink - or don’t want to drink.

How to Be Social Without Alcohol - 6 Tips

The answers to these questions change from person to person. There is no single way to live sober. Some things will work for you while others won’t. And that’s okay. Part of being sober is accepting that everyone — yourself included — is on their own journey of self-improvement, and everyone’s journey will look different.

Most people early on in their sobriety should refrain from seeing old friends or hanging out at old haunts, but what about later? Here are some things you should consider before seeing your non-sober friends again.

1. Figure Out Who Your Real Friends Are

When wondering how to socialize without alcohol, take a moment to think about the people you used to hang out with before you were sober. Which ones were genuine friends, and which ones were drinking buddies? Who did you share things in common with, and who did you just drink with? Do you miss the friends you used to drink with, or do you just want to have someplace to go?

If you have trouble making these distinctions on your own, a good indicator of who your real friends are is how they take the news of your newfound sobriety. The friends who accept you for who you’ve become are probably those you should keep close.

2. Make New Friends Who Don’t Drink

After figuring out who your true friends are, your social schedule may look a little bare. The good news is you can always start fresh.

Make new friends based on other common interests, or strengthen relationships with people in your sober network. These could be people from your AA meetings, local yoga classes, or your new workplace. It’ll be easier to let go of old friends who drive bad habits if you build bonds with new people who support your future and are also comfortable socializing without alcohol.

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3. Set Boundaries

The first thing you should do once you start hanging out with others is to be honest with them about your sobriety. Set clear boundaries on what they can expect from you, and stay away from the people who push you past those lines. Most sober people find that many of their friends accept their sobriety and are happy to accommodate their new boundaries.

Tips for not drinking in social situations are individual and depend on you. It’s totally up to your preferences and personal stability where to draw these lines. Maybe you’re comfortable with joining your friends at a bar only once every two weeks, or not at all. Perhaps you’re only comfortable going if your sober companion can come with you. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Talk to a trusted loved one and/or therapist about setting these boundaries if you need help.

4. Be Prepared for Positive and Negative Reactions

Even among the friends you want to keep in your life, you may face lighthearted peer pressure or outright confrontation. People may tease you about not being “fun” anymore, nag you to have just one drink, or even insist that your sobriety is a ploy to avoid other issues in your life.

If these comments start to make you uncomfortable, you can prepare excuses to make an exit, such as “I need to get up early tomorrow” or “I’m not feeling well.” Form a plan of action if these jabs continue — you could decide to stop seeing these friends altogether if you find it difficult socializing without alcohol, or you could take them aside and talk to them about how they’re making you feel.

Whatever happens, don’t feel like you need to stick to the boundaries you set initially. Things change, people change, and none of us should do things we’re uncomfortable with.

Pro tip: If you have to attend an outing where alcohol is present, sip on a non-alcoholic drink as a way to blend in and deter peer pressure.

5. Go to Places Without Alcohol

Whether or not you’re still comfortable going to a bar every once in a while, you should find places to go and activities to do that involve socializing without alcohol.

This could be as simple as substituting a happy hour hang-out for a casual coffee date during the day. Movie theaters, museums, farmer’s markets, parks, the beach — your community likely has plenty of options where booze never makes an appearance.

Pro tip: Explore some of these options on your own to get a feel for what’s most comfortable for you. Then invite friends and family along to make new memories in these places. Socializing without alcohol is possible!

6. Take Advantage of Your Free Mornings

A big perk of socializing without alcohol is that you can be up bright and early the next morning instead of feeling hungover [2]. Making use of that extra time by planning an outing, getting errands done, or catching up at work will make you feel accomplished and motivated to continue sober living.

Sober and Social at Avenues Recovery

If you struggle with any of these changes and need support or tips on not drinking in social situations, talk to a counselor or therapist. He or she can help you establish boundaries, set goals, or find new activities to replace social drinking.

At Avenues Recovery, we offer therapy for individuals, groups, families, and couples. Therapeutic approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to guide you on your journey to sobriety.

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