Taking a break from drinking? Here are some tips for managing changes to friendships or relationships during an alcohol-free challenge.
Were any of your friendships, relationships or connections to other people established and developed in the context of drinking or partying? Many of us now live in societies where drinking has become the go-to pass time, and as such it has made its way into the fabric of the way we connect and spend time with friends, family or loved ones.
It can be a daunting prospect to tell those close to you, especially those whom connections were forged in the fires of drinking, that you are taking a break from booze as this may force the relationship to have to adapt, however true friends and loving partners will take the time to understand your choice and support you along the way.
Tips for managing your relationships during an alcohol-free challenge:
- Communication is key
- Have alternative activities at the ready
- Be patient
- Be prepared to re-evaluate friendships where necessary
Socialising with alcohol
To fully understand how and why your relationship with alcohol impacts those around you, it is useful to first understand alcohol in the context of socialisation. By nature, alcohol loosens inhibitions and can ease some of the awkward initial social interactions when meeting new people. It is understandable then that many people meet in a social situation where alcohol is present.
Beyond this, connections are often made through sharing aspects of one another's lives that you have in common, in the initial stages, this may include the enjoyment of consuming alcohol, but over time, as friendships and relationships strengthen, other hobbies and interests will likely over take drinking as the primary reasons for spending time together. However, socialising over alcohol may still be one of the first activities that come to mind – with bars and restaurants all over the place, it seems to be an easy option when looking for somewhere to go.
Changing the relationship
But this doesn’t explain why your relationship with alcohol changing might impact someone else. Why can some people have such a strong opinion about whether or not you consume alcohol?
One way to explain this is that it causes them to reflect on their own actions and choices, and call into question how they have spent their time and money. Another may be that they are concerned for how this change in lifestyle may impact your social interactions together. Generally, people are cautious of change and will try to avoid it where they can. By taking a break from drinking, inadvertently you may be removing part of the foundation that your friendships and relationships were built on.
That might sound scary, BUT THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!
By removing alcohol from your friendships and relationships, you are offering a new lease of life rather than destroying it. Just as taking a break from drinking can give you mental clarity, it can do the same for your friendships and relationships, allowing you to be more present and in tune with the other person's feelings. You are in a far better position to listen, support and enjoy spending time with someone when you are not numbed out with alcohol.
This is why you may need to put some thought into how you manage the transition of your social interactions with friends, partners or loved ones – and we have some top tips for doing exactly this!
Tips for managing your relationships during an alcohol-free challenge:
Communication is key
This might sound obvious, but talking to the person one on one about the reasons why you are taking a break from drinking, and your intentions for the challenge in the longer term will help. That is not to say you owe them an explanation – you do not need a reason to stop drinking, nor should you have to go into all the details about how you came to the decision, however offering them an insight into your decision making process might mean they have less reason to question your choice and remove any potential ‘mystery’. Not only will it allow them to understand the decision from your point of view, it will likely also show them that you care about having them onside during the process. It will be much easier for them to buy into, and support your journey if they feel included and educated on the subject.
Have alternative activities at the ready
During these initial conversations, and throughout your alcohol-free challenge, suggest alternative activities that you can do together that don’t involve alcohol. Not only will this make things easier for you, to be in places or doing activities that don’t tempt you into drinking, but it can also inject a little fun and excitement into your friendship or relationship as you try something new.
It is a good idea to suggest activities that your friend or loved one has a particular interest in as this will help to show you are making just as much effort with them as before, and allow them to feel comfortable entering into a new phase of your relationship.
This is not to say you can’t still enjoy your time together in bars or restaurants, but especially in those early days when temptation is everywhere, you may wish to find other ways to spend time together and solidify your relationship outside the confines of alcohol.
Be patient – change takes time
Depending on the person, you may need to be patient and allow them time to catch up on your new lifestyle. As mentioned above, people don’t tend to like change, so offering them a chance to get used to the idea of you not drinking – and to see that underneath everything, nothing has actually changed – will help in this transition period. It may be that your friends and loved ones are on side right away, but if they are not, give them the benefit of the doubt that they just need a little time to warm up.
Be prepared to re-evaluate friendships if they are not willing to support you
While most, we hope, will react positively to your news, and be willing and ready to support you from the offset, it is not guaranteed that everyone will have this reaction. If there is someone in your life that feels hard done by, you may need to consider the reasons why this may be, and re-evaluate if this is a person you really view as a ‘friend’.
At the end of the day, what you put in your body is really not anyone else’s business. There is nothing you cannot do as a result of taking a break from drinking – in fact, quite the opposite, so if there is someone in your life looking to slow down your momentum for an alcohol-free lifestyle, it speaks volumes to their intentions, morals and character.
The OYNB tribe
At OYNB, we understand the importance of having people to share your journey with, whether it is the successes, or blips along the road. This is why we centred our alcohol-free challenges around our community.
If you are on an alcohol-free journey and you would like to connect with other like minded people across the globe, then the OYNB Challengers community is the perfect place to do just that.
“I checked in with the Facebook group every day – and now have real accountability buddies around the globe that I count as friends. The tribe is awesome”
Ultimately, this is your journey and how you choose to include friends, family and loved ones along the way is your decision – regardless, the OYNB tribe will be there to support and cheer you on in reaching you alcohol-free milestones.