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6 Things NOT To Say To Your Sober Friend

by Landmark Recovery

April 16, 2020
Two women talking together


So, your friend has announced that they don’t drink alcohol anymore. Knowing how to respond to this statement is as much as about what you should avoid as what you should say and do. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of the top 6 things not to say to your sober friend.


To recover from alcohol use disorder, a person has to go through a transformation which takes dedication and commitment. Someone struggling to recover is dependent on the support of others around them. It’s vital to understand that any attempts to manipulate them into drinking alcohol can have a disastrous effect on their efforts to stay sober. Even if you say the wrong thing unwittingly, your friend could be triggered to relapse.


To support your friend at the time they need help most, avoid asking them any of the following questions…


Things Your Sober Friend Doesn’t Want To Hear

A woman sitting with her friend, a woman who has recently become sober

1) But why don’t you drink?

2) How long have you been sober?

3) I didn’t think you had a problem…

4) I’m not going to drink, then

5) Oh go on, just a little one! You only live once!

6) Maybe you shouldn’t come to the bar with us


1) But why don’t you drink?

Sober people get tired of answering this question. In fact, sober people are pretty content with not drinking but they do get bored with this line of questioning.


Flip this on its head and imagine someone asking why you are drinking alcohol. You wouldn’t be particularly impressed with the intrusion. So, if your friend is fine with you drinking, why should you be bothered if they choose not to drink alcohol?


Some people might have experienced some embarrassing or frightening alcohol-related experiences. Constantly reminding them of this is likely to make them feel uncomfortable. While you might be genuinely interested, they could regard a simple question as interfering. Leave the contents of your friend’s glass alone. It makes no difference to you what they drink.


2) How long have you been sober, then?

Again, this puts someone firmly in the spotlight. If someone is not stable in their recovery journey, this could make them feel quite uncomfortable.


Getting sober is by no means always a smooth ride. A high percentage of recovering alcoholics relapse more than once before they reach long-term sobriety.


So, instead of asking someone how long they’ve been sober, try focusing instead on how well they are doing. That said, it’s still unnecessary to go overboard. A sober person typically doesn’t want you to make them the center of attention. Move swiftly on to the next subject, and don’t bring up the theme of sobriety unsolicited.


3) I didn’t think you had a problem…

While this comment might be well-intentioned, it does nothing to reinforce a person’s resolve to remain abstinent.


Indeed, by denying a problem exists, your friend could even feel you’re implying that they don’t need to stop.


If you make a leading statement like “I didn’t think you had a problem”, it can also make someone feel worse. The comment is laden with the stigma attached to an alcohol problem. Even if only implied, this can compound the feelings of guilt and shame that a person in recovery often experiences.


A more compassionate approach would be to say, “Well done, I’m proud of you and so pleased you’re making more positive choices.”


4) I’m not going to drink then

So, you head to a bar with your friend and they order a coke. Your response? “Oh if you’re not going to drink I’m not going to drink.”


Remember: someone in recovery doesn’t necessarily want you to stop drinking. They don’t want you to make a fuss of it at all. You should drink what you would normally drink. Don’t draw attention to the issue.


5) Oh go on, just a little one. You only live once!

Live a little, don’t be boring.”


The problem a sober person has when they hear these words is that they feel they can’t interject with, “But I’m not boring…” because that in itself sounds… well, boring!


Unfortunately, the nature of addiction is such that an alcoholic can’t have just a little one without craving more.


See, for alcoholics in recovery, a single drink can be enough to trigger a full-bore relapse. To support someone recovering from alcohol abuse disorder, don’t encourage them.


Chances are, if you find yourself encouraging someone else to drink, you could have a drinking problem yourself. Beyond this, to object to someone’s intent on changing their lifestyle is simply selfish. Ask yourself some searching questions instead starting with why you would want someone else to drink with you against their will. Be honest. Why?


6) Maybe you shouldn’t come to the bar with us

That is just mean! Because someone doesn’t drink, they can’t go to the bar with you? What if they are happy just to socialize with no alcohol involved.


The best advice here is simple: continue as normal with social arrangements and don’t exclude friends in recovery from an invitation to a bar. The choice is theirs.


What To Do Next

Now you know what not to say to your sober friend, you should be much better equipped to deal with this situation if it crops up in the future.


If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts here at Landmark Recovery. Call us today at 888-448-0302 and we’ll help you get back on track.


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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.