EP 94: Reader Question – I Stopped Drinking but My Friends are not Supportive. How to deal?

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What do we do when our friends are judgmental or not supportive of our decision to change our drinking habits? Annie speaks about her own personal experiences with this and provides some great insight and advice as to how we can approach these scenarios.

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Emma Asks

I’ve had some ‘friends’ question me about not drinking and saying, ‘Wow, I’m not saying you were an alcoholic, but you must’ve been drinking quite a lot to have quit’ and other comments like this.  They were somewhat insulting and really pissed me off. I’ve had different feelings about this, but I was wondering if you experienced anything like this, and what exactly you can do about it? Is it normal to not have supportive friends when you stop drinking?

I Get It

I can relate to all of those comments and I had somebody on both sides. From hearing, “Why would you have quit drinking? I’ve never, ever even seen you drunk” It was almost undermining – like you don’t have to be visibly drunk all the time to not be happy with how much you’re drinking. Or to not feel like it’s healthy for you and not feel good about it. To other people who were just like, “There must’ve been something I didn’t know about how you must’ve really been suffering.” And again, like maybe, maybe not. The truth is that those comments interestingly always came from people who were struggling most internally themselves and mostly unconsciously. You quickly realize you won’t always have supportive friends when you stop drinking if they aren’t comfortable with their own drinking.

Cognitive Dissonance

It’s not like people realize that they’re struggling. I certainly didn’t realize that I had all this cognitive dissonance around my drinking. I didn’t realize that I had kind of this internal battle about both wanting to be healthier and happier, but then also craving and wanting a drink all the time. So when someone around them stops drinking, it kind of comes out that way. Somehow your decision can tip the scales for them and put it more in their own mind to question their own drinking.

Finding Supportive Friends When You Stop Drinking

I remember the first time I had a friend, seven years ago, who stopped drinking, and we had drank together. It really put me into a little bit of a turmoil.  My initial thought was, “Okay, well I need to justify why she’s different than me. I need to understand why she’s different than me.” So the first thing out of my mouth wasn’t necessarily, “Oh, congratulations, good job. Well done. I’m so supportive.” It was like, “Well wait, wait, what about me? I mean we drank together. Does this mean I have a problem?” Like, “What about me?” And it was a good friends I felt comfortable saying those things, but this is just kind of their way to say, “What about me?” I mean it’s really wearing their concerns on their sleeves to some extent.

Pot Meet Kettle

I thought that was really interesting. It took me a while to realize that the people who were the most aggressive and demanding my reasons, the least supportive were the ones struggling themselves. So if you don’t have supportive friends when you stop drinking it could be that they aren’t ready to look inside. Those people were who once the initial shock wore off started telling me exactly why they were in control of their drinking.

It Was Never About Me

That was funny because alcohol became the topic that we talked about whenever I saw those certain group of people. It’d would go like this- I’d walked up and they’d be like, “Oh, you’re still not drinking.” I went, “No, no, I still feel great. Not Drinking. You don’t want to be drinking.” They’d say something along the lines of, “Oh well, I just have one or two and I really can take it or leave it. I think about my drinking too, but I’ve realized that I just don’t have a problem.” They felt compelled to justify their drinking . All of a sudden it clicked for me and I was like, this isn’t about me. This has nothing to do with me. This is about what’s going on in their mind for them.  I’m just being a little bit of a mirror where a mirror didn’t exist for them before.

I think the main thing, is it’s not about you.

Keep Listening

Find out more from Annie on why it’s so hard to find supportive friends when you stop drinking by listening to the complete podcast.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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