What Do I Tell My Friends or Family About Why I’m Not Drinking Anymore?

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Making a commitment to stop drinking is a decision that not only affects us but also the people closest to us. First, take a moment to honor yourself for committing to getting healthy and improving your life. Great job! Choosing whether or not to disclose your decision to stop drinking and/or work a program, and who to disclose it to, is ultimately your choice. We have found that that consultation with other members of the program and our sponsors to be helpful in this process. Their experience, strength and hope can provide you with some insights as you navigate your decision.

Friends and family members who we are closest with who are often quite supportive in the process. Telling them is often easy. And frankly, if you’re anything like most of us were when we came in, they’re probably going to be relieved. Having a support network in recovery is an important tool. Members of the program will help with that right off the bat. However, adding to that network with the support of some of your closest friends and family members is never a bad idea.

There are those friendships where it may be unclear if the relationship was based around partying or stood on a solid foundation. We suggest proceeding with caution around these relationships. We have found time to be the greatest indicator of how to handle those situations. For friends with whom you did a good amount of partying, it is probably best not to get into too much detail about your decision. Respectfully let them know that you are taking some time for yourself and focusing on your health and other goals. If they are also struggling in any way, your decision to stop may be threatening to them. So, they may not be supportive. Many of us have found though that with some time, some friendships in which there was a great deal of partying are able to remain in tact after some time has passed. After some good sobriety has been achieved, often both parties can reunite as two people rather than fellow drinkers. Again, counsel with other alcoholics is always a good idea in these situations as time spent with people from our drinking past can be a slippery slope.

There are those friendships too that were based more on the drinking or partying than a real solid foundation of friendship. It is suggested to steer clear of these relationships for quite some time. In most cases, once you are removed from the situations in which you used to spend time with these people, they are not going to come seeking you out. Perhaps, this is a gift. If you do encounter some of these people and feel pressured, threatened or harassed in any way, get out of there as quickly as possible. Call your sponsor or another member of the program and get to a meeting.

And then there will be those who simply don’t care. Another important consideration here is that we must think about our relation to drinking and how that differs from others. As active alcoholics, we were often obsessed with drinking: how much, where we're going to get it, who’s drinking, who’s not. Most normal people don’t have these kinds of obsessions or observations about drinking in general. So the good news here is that the vast majority of people simply aren’t going to notice or care all that much that you’re not drinking anymore. While it may feel like the most important thing to you right now, they are just content to be in your company and socialize and really don’t care what you have in your glass.

One word of caution, here is that in some cases it might be a good idea to wait until you have some solid sobriety under your belt before sharing beyond immediate family members. Many people get the program right away. However, for others it can take some time to be on good footing. So, waiting to share your decision may save you some embarrassment or discouragement if your start is a little shaky.

So remember the important thing here is that you are making this decision to improve your own life. Some people are going to be supportive. Some may not. Some will be indifferent. Who you tell, when you tell them, and how much you disclose is ultimately your decision. Getting support and hearing about the experience of other recovering alcoholics and your sponsor by attending meetings and making outreach calls proves very helpful. Also remember, don’t overthink it. You’re not going to do any of this perfect. The only thing you have to do perfectly is not drink and go to meetings. Think about the slogan “progress not perfection” for everything else. Know that this is a process. You’re getting better a day at a time and more will be revealed. You may lose some friends as you recover but you will always have the support and friendship of your fellows in the rooms wherever you go.