Top Tips for dealing with friends and family.

Top Tips for dealing with friends and family when you want to stop drinking.

You don’t even need to stop, maybe you just drink less or change your drinking.  But let’s face it, the first people to notice are your friends and family.

You would think you would just be able to make the change and no one notice, but oh no, we are a nation of drinkers (sorry I hate saying that, but it’s true). And most are too quick to comment on the fact you are drinking a soft drink.

For whatever reason you have taken steps to quit drinking, or even just reduce, gain control, great.  And as you know if you are even a week into this, you feel healthier, happier, you are sleeping better, work is easier, relationships have improved and you are exercising more (maybe).  Anyway it’s all good, it’s a win win.  You feel like you have discovered a secret.

That is, until you have to go out, or there is a family get together, or a work function.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  But it’s going to happen.  So here’s some tips:

·         Be ready: Be armed with a number of different things you can say.  It can be anything, the important thing is you are comfortable with it.  I am on medication is a good one, people don’t argue with that.  Be the driver, again no argument.  I am taking a break (makes it sound temporary even if it’s not).  I want to lose some weight (again most people are supportive of this one).  You are training for something (a particular exercise event like running etc).  There are a good few options.  Make sure you have at least one you can use that you feel comfortable with.  This will help you out in the first few weeks.

·         The other option if you are sure and you really want to put your money where your mouth is, is to say it outright, I don’t want to drink for a while.  It doesn’t agree with me, I don’t like how I am when I drink, whatever the reason is for your change.  This will stimulate some debate, so make sure you are ready for this.

·         As we are a nation of drinkers, be ready for people not liking your choice.  But you know what, here’s the thing, It’s your life, your choice.  Personally if someone really gives you a hard time about making a decision that’s good for you, its really not very helpful or supportive.  Surely if people care about you they are pleased that you are looking after yourself?

·         People prefer it if you all drink together, they are uncomfortable if someone chooses to be different, yet stay, as part of the crowd.  It’s just different, everyone needs to get over it.  In fact it’s better to have someone sober around, if anything goes wrong there is someone there to help out that’s capable. 

·         Persistence, if you really want to do this, be prepared to persist and keep saying the same thing, having the same conversation.  I think I did this for about the first year when I stopped drinking.

·         Opt out of rounds, otherwise you have to deal with the question over and over again.

·         Drink soft drinks that could be anything, sometimes no one will ask, as everyone assumes that everyone drinks.

Ultimately it’s a no brainer for me, plain and simple.  Alcohol is a highly toxic substance that effects the whole body.  For some people it can have disastrous consequences and if someone chooses to take a break, prioritise their health, whatever their reasons.  This can only be a good thing right?  And you deserve the support of your loved ones and most people will support you.

If there is someone in your life that repeatedly makes it difficult for you, maybe you need to have a serious conversation with them about this.  Pointing out that you are making a healthy choice, a good decision and if they care about you why are they not supporting you with that.

I have always found snippets of facts, making it about me, not them, educating people very slowly and in short bursts, works.

If you do this, be true to yourself, stand firm, make it about you, accept them for who they are and don’t judge and definitely do not lecture (that’s the important bit if you keep it about you people listen, if you make it about them and their drinking they may not). 

A wonderful thing happens (it takes time) people start asking questions in a positive way, being interested, learning from you and making changes themselves.  You will even have people start to confide in you that have problems with alcohol.

In my friendship group and family they are now very well educated about alcohol.  They are all making an informed choice.  Surely that’s a good thing? Right?

Stephanie Chivers is a recognised behaviour change and addictions specialist for more information contact  


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