4 minute read

Does giving up booze mean giving up friendships?

As thoughts about giving up drinking grow stronger in your mind, you’ll almost certainly be thinking about what it means for your friendships.

You might be worrying that you won’t fit in anymore, that your friends will think you are boring, or that they’ll stop inviting you out. The reality is that friendships do change when you give up drinking and, in my experience, that change is one of the many positives I discovered when I put down the bottle for good.

First off, I assumed that everyone knew my relationship with drinking was way out of whack but actually, a few were surprised it was even an issue for me at all (clever me for my ability to hide what was really going on and to occasionally moderate). Of course, those friends didn’t know about the 4am wake ups when the fear, insomnia and desert level dehydration had taken over.

The thing that made the real difference for me in stopping drinking once and for all was my friends … they came at different times, supported me in different ways, but each of them played a part in where I am now.

Kudos to the friend who listened to me talk about drinking for years – how I wanted to stop, how it wasn’t a problem, then how it was, and never once rolled her eyes at having the same conversation over and over and over. But this friend is clever cookie who bided her time until the conversation where she (bravely!) told me she was worried about me. What an amazing friend but woah, it was shocking to hear it out loud, not least because it meant I then had to tick an extra box on those ‘do I drink too much’ quizzes!.

I still don’t know why that conversation was different to all the others but, by the next morning, I had resolved to stop drinking (albeit without a clear plan which made it tougher than it should have been). In hindsight, making the decision was the easy bit, it was keeping going that proved a challenge which is where my friends really played a massive role.

I decided early on to tell my friends that I had stopped drinking. I needed to hold my own feet to the fire but of course it was up to me how much I shared and that was really driven by my individual relationships.

And of course, my friendships did change as we all adjusted to years, in some cases decades, of boozing together. Adapting wasn’t always easy, but it was absolutely always worth it and the one thing I kept at the forefront of my mind was, whatever happened, however much I was tempted – or whatever I thought I was missing out on – booze and I were done.

It would be impossible to mention everything my friends did but shout out to the one who previously always arrived with a basket of cocktail making gear who simply switched it to a mocktail kit; the wonderful woman who texted me out of the blue to say how much better I was looking; the one who sent me a fabulous bottle of alcohol free gin to mark my first anniversary; and the friend I saw when I stayed in London who choose places with great alcohol free drinks without saying a word.

Losses along the way

Mercifully, there were very few friendships that didn’t survive my transition to alcohol free life, but I have made peace with their absence because, when the chips were down, my mental and physical health meant more to me.

On reflection there were comedic moments! Like the ex-friend who came for the weekend and berated me for not having her favourite cocktail to hand; or the ex-friend who rolled her eyes every time I ordered a zero beer; and how will I forget the ex-friend who ordered me a huge glass of red at dinner and told me to stop ruining her night!

No judgment, everyone drinks (or not) for their own reasons, but the ex-friend who talked about stopping even longer than I did, cried in desperation at how hard he found it to stop, and then swiftly berated me every time I mentioned not drinking, was not especially hard to move away from!

But back to the positive. If you are clear about your boundaries, stay focussed on the life you want to live, those friends who love you will celebrate your success and, as I now know, will far prefer the new improved version of you!