By Sarah Williamson
Meet Sober Coach Sarah.
Sarah has spent the last 12 years coaching and mentoring people who've struggled with their addictions and mental health, she knows that choosing to change your relationship with alcohol before you hit rock bottom is a powerful and positive choice to make.
Sarah is passionate about spreading the message that our lives can be joyful and fun on the other side of our drinking careers and there's no need to feel lonely, stressed or bored on this journey.
Dear Sober Coach Sarah,
I would like to know how you navigated friends invites? Birthday nights out being arranged months in advance? Or meet up for drinks and a catch up at the pub? These are the things I find hard, I don’t really want to be around other people drinking, but so much of my life is around the pub and nobody really wants to meet for a coffee on a Saturday morning, they want to meet for a drink on an evening after work. How can I approach these situations?
Thank you, NH
Thanks so much for your question/s. All of these old circumstances need a fresh approach once we make the choice to take alcohol out of the equation. I cannot tell you exactly what is right for you but I can certainly share some of my experiences and insights.
I find it difficult being out in the evenings at this time of year and double difficult meeting people in the pub for drinks. I no longer love drinking cold drinks in the eve especially when it's cold outside (I'm making the assumption that you're in the Northern hemisphere), I'd rather be drinking tea and not have to travel!
I started inviting my friends to do new activities once I had decided I was going to stick with sobriety for an extended period. I totally appreciate your friends might not want to do a coffee on a Saturday morning so how about one of these: A dog walk (borrow one if you need to), a cinema trip (I know not great for a chat but still good for spending time together and enjoying a shared experience), bowling (where the focus might not be quite so much on drinking), an escape room, brunch out in a cafe or invite people to your house. You could invite a friend to call round on their way home from work for a cuppa and piece of cake or for dinner. If these relationships are really important to you you will find a common ground to meet on it might just take a period of adjustment.
I now accept that one of the reasons I used to drink so much was that I'm an introvert, I used alcohol to make uncomfortable situations more bearable and, for me, I often needed the alcohol to 'enjoy' group get togethers. I now prefer to socialise in much smaller groups, or 1:1 and most of my socialising tends to be done during the day (I realise I might sound like a Granny as I say this but I'm prepared to tell you the truth).
One of my greatest joys in sobriety has been making new friends, sober ones. Use the Sober Girls Yoga Facebook group post that everyone adds their location in. Scroll through and see if anyone lives anywhere near you then make contact and see if they want to meet up. If you are on Instagram use appropriate hashtags to find local sober people. Eventbrite lists sober events. Google search sober/alcohol free listings.
Over the last few years there are more and more of us out there living our sober lives, supporting others who are coming behind us to do the same. I thought I had all the friends I was ever going to need before I stopped drinking and now I have many more amazing people in my life that I never expected.
If your old friends don't want to leave the pub setting then be brave and try some new activities yourself. What have you always wanted to do but never quite found the time, energy or money for? If you are saving money by not spending it on alcohol is there a lovely evening class you'd like to join, a dance class, singing, painting, drawing... anything where you will meet new people where the activity is creative or educational and not based around what we are drinking is a good spend of your time. I started pottery classes last year and I am rubbish at it but I LOVE it!
Good Luck NH and remember if your friends don't/won't/can't cheer you on in your sobriety you've got the whole SGY community to do that for you.
Dear Sober Coach Sarah
I'm really enjoying Dry January and will probably choose to have a Dry Spring this year too but I am worried about telling my friends and family about this - I think they will probably judge me. Do you have any advice?
Thank you, FR
Congratulations on your Dry January and I'm delighted to hear you are considering a Dry Spring! Good for you! When I was newly sober I struggled with telling my social circle. I found myself over explaining my choice to colleagues, oversharing on a mums night out and justifying my choice to a waitress in a bar! I'm never normally like this!
Maybe because I like to people please? Saying 'yes' comes so naturally to me. I had these ridiculous thoughts that turning down a G and T at a leaving party felt unsociable, saying no to fizz at a birthday felt rude and that replying that I’d prefer a soft drink at the races was not playing the hospitality game correctly.
I didn’t want anyone else to feel uncomfortable. I was in discomfort myself and didn’t want to share it. I didn’t want anyone to have to make a special effort for me and I didn’t want a light shone on my choice or anyone to ask me any questions about it.
I was NERVOUS and a bit SCARED.
This has all been a gift of a lesson. With the passing of time I’ve become so much more practiced and therefore better at saying no to the alcohol pushers (and I used to be one of the worst alcohol pushers – "go on surely one won’t hurt")!!
People displeasing has become so much easier (and of course no one is really displeased – that was all my own interpretation of a situation that simply only existed in my overworked mind and not reality).
Being alcohol free has allowed me to stop worrying so much what others think in all areas of my life and I am crystal clear about the fact that my choices are about me and not about anyone else – and I’m pleased about that.
If you'd like a book recommendation The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban is an excellent read and very helpful on this subject.
Good luck and best wishes,