How To Deal With Loved Ones Who Don’t Support Your Sobriety
Let’s say you’ve been at this no-drinking thing for a while now, and a big weekend is approaching. You feel okay about having fun without alcohol, but there is one thing you’re not too sure about.
Someone in your life – a friend, family member, or partner – just doesn’t understand why you’re doing this.
They’ve made some comments and occasionally pressure you to ditch this sobriety thing and have a drink with them.
The stress is getting to you, but what are you supposed to do?
How do you handle people who don’t support your sobriety?
- Figure Out Why You’re Not Getting Support For Your Sobriety
- Moving Forward With Your Sobriety & Support Systems
Figure Out Why You’re Not Getting Support For Your Sobriety
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a big fan of identifying the underlying causes of things to determine how to move forward. I strongly believe that being curious about problems is the key to solving them.
So whether it’s your best friend, your mama, or your partner, it’s important to understand why this conflict exists in the first place.
I will break down several possibilities, but only you truly know your relationship and can determine what’s going on. My purpose is to get you to start thinking about these reasons and offer you solutions to manage them.
I’m going to ask a series of questions and if it sounds like a YES to you, keep reading that section. If not, you’re welcome to skip ahead.
1. Is this person a drinking buddy or part of your drinking crew?
If the answer is yes, then it should be fairly obvious why he or she is not thrilled that you’ve decided to lose the booze for at least 30 days, if not long-term.
But what’s really driving that?
- Do you enable each other?
- Are both of you a little out of control with the drinking?
- Is this the person you call up every time you want to go out and binge?
Some people like to drink completely alone, and others like to have a binge buddy – someone who makes them feel like their behavior is okay (even though it’s not).
You’re potentially taking that away from someone.
By saying, “I’m not drinking,” you’re signaling that something is wrong with how you’ve been drinking up to this point.
The people in your life who haven’t reached that conclusion will resist that, and the resistance can come in many forms. Maybe you’re getting harangued by them, pressured, or joked about.
Their behavior is not REALLY about you, and the worst thing you can do right now is internalize it. You’re doing a good thing for yourself right now.
Keep your focus on that.
So how do you manage the pressure from drinking buddies?
Set firm boundaries. “I’m not drinking during January” or “I’m not drinking anymore, period.”
Don’t get swept up in their poking and prodding about it.
“Oh, why not?”
“You’re so lame!”
“So what’re you gonna do for fun?”
“Come on, Saturday brunch won’t be the same without you!”
“Okay, but we’re all drinking. You’re going to make us feel bad!”
None of these things are your problems to fix.
People who support your sobriety will not try to pressure you to drink. People who don’t will go to great lengths to get you to start drinking again.
If you’re getting pressure, it’s not necessarily because they don’t care about you or want you to live your best life. It’s likely that THEY aren’t ready to change.
They want you to stay with them, rolling around in the proverbial muck. Or maybe this is a wake-up call to see that this isn’t a good person to have in your life.
You may have to set this friendship aside for a little while, and if it means your biggest support comes from AA meetings, group counseling, or a new fitness class you’re joining, that’s okay. Maybe your friends will come around, and maybe you will all move on with your lives separately.
Either way, you will be okay. I promise.
2. Does your husband or wife not support your sobriety? Do they still drink?
When a friend doesn’t support your sobriety or goals, it’s hard. When it’s a spouse or significant other, it can feel damn near impossible. The root cause of their resistance to your sobriety likely comes from a similar place.
- Afraid you’re going to change in ways that threaten your relationship.
- Angry that they’re losing their drinking buddy.
- Feeling left behind in a way.
- Feeling defensive because they still drink and your quitting feels like a judgment against them.
- Worried you’ll “make them” quit.
- Mad that you made a decision like this without their full approval.
Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
A supportive partner who doesn’t have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol will be able to abstain from drinking around you if that’s what you need. But a partner for whom drinking is still a major part of their life might be unable to.
Here’s my advice on what to do:
Put your recovery first.
No matter what your partner is doing at home, you have to focus on the things you can control right now, which are you and whether or not you’re going to drink.
Make this a priority.
Create a sober support network.
You can’t do this alone, especially if you have somebody important in your life who is still drinking heavily and not giving you the support you need. Find your sober network.
Go to an AA meeting, attend group counseling, attend Al-Anon support meetings (for family members of alcoholics), or find a sober Meet Up.
Lean on friends and family who DO support you. Join the Soberish Facebook Group. Find people who can lift you up.
More>> How To Find Sober Friends As An Adult
Don’t let your partner drag you down with them.
This is the hardest one. Be supportive of your spouse if they are going through some major challenges with alcohol.
DO NOT let them drag you back into problematic drinking.
Support them and get them to consider some counseling or treatment. If they continue to get worse, you may have to leave them.
I know that last part is heavy, and you will cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, focus on YOU and building a new, stronger foundation and community.
More>> Alcoholism was Hard on my Marriage. So was Recovery.
4. Have you let this person down in the past?
Sometimes a lack of support is partially (or completely) our own fault.
Have you promised this loved one several times in the past that you would stop drinking, only to relapse and go back to heavy drinking? Have you made grand announcements of how you would change this or that, only to give up shortly after that?
To be frank: Is this person tired of your shit?
I ask this lovingly as someone whose “shit” MANY folks have been tired of in the past. I do not begrudge anyone for deciding a relationship with me was not in their best interest.
If you’re known for making promises you don’t keep, you need to be patient with your loved ones and prove to them that you’re serious this time.
The WORST thing you can do right now is to put too much stock in the support of people you have let down in the past and then play the victim when you don’t get it.
If that sounds harsh, it’s because it is, and you need to hear it. I needed to hear it.
Your cycle of failure will be endless unless you learn to take some responsibility. You might have to build support systems outside your friends and family first.
Do whatever you have to do.
Go to places where people know what you’re going through. Go to AA meetings, join online groups (Facebook or elsewhere), and see a counselor.
There are thousands of us in the world: people who have let everyone down and know what it’s like to be trying to do better for the 100th time without anyone believing they can do it.
We will have your back until you can win back the trust of your loved ones.
5. Does this person just not get it?
Sometimes it’s the case where people don’t know how to react to something like hearing you’ve given up booze.
It’s a weird, awkward conversation. Why is that?
The stigma around addiction is still difficult or strange for many people. For others, alcohol is such a common part of everyday life you might as well have told them you’re giving up water or bathing.
It’s not that this person doesn’t support you or is trying to sabotage your goals. It’s more that they are indifferent or don’t know how to react to you at all.
Figure out why. Talk to them.
Is it that they don’t understand how alcohol can be problematic for someone? Are you not known to be a big drinker to begin with, so why would you bother to give it up?
Is quitting alcohol silly to them?
Whatever the case may be, get to the root of it.
It might not be that serious for them, and it’s okay. Don’t make it awkward. Just be confident in your reasons for not drinking and explicit in what you need from them.
Chances are, you’ll get it, but only after you ask.
Sometimes it’s the case that a person isn’t intentionally being unsupportive. It’s just that we haven’t been clear with them about what we need.
Check to see if that’s the case before jumping to conclusions about whether or not this person is supportive of your sobriety.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own.
Moving Forward With Your Sobriety & Support Systems
Change is hard. Sobriety is hard.
You’re doing a transformational thing right now, and you would have all the support you deserve in a perfect world. But if you don’t, just remember that many of us out here understand what you’re going through and can fill in the gaps opening up in your life.
Some people will come around, and others may drift away, but you will come out a better, happier version of yourself on the other side.
Give it time.
Journaling Activity For Today
Here are some writing prompts to help you process today’s topic.
- Is there anyone in your life who is not giving you the support you need right now? What do you think is causing that? What will you do about it?
- Is there anyone who is giving you great support right now? What has their support meant for you?
- What do you wish your friends, family, and/or loved ones understood about what you’re going through right now?
- How do you plan to handle people who aren’t supporting your decision to not drink?