Friends – some holding wine and others water – clink glasses at a dinner table.
Centr Team

How to go alcohol-free without losing your friends

Centr Team

Thinking about quitting alcohol? Well, you’re not alone: more and more people around the world are getting sick and tired of drinking. There are obvious benefits to your health and your wallet – not to mention never having to write off a weekend because of a hangover. But what if you’re the only teetotaller in your friendship group?

If a trip to the bar is your default social activity, it can be a little scary to imagine life without booze. Maybe you’re worried that people will think you’re a buzzkill, or they’ll just stop inviting you out.

Here’s a handy guide to navigating the first few months of your alcohol-free life – without alienating your friends.

1. Don’t lecture

There’s a reason people worry when they see you ordering a sparkling water instead of a beer – they’re afraid that you’re about to start lecturing them.

In fact, you might even want to. When going alcohol-free makes you feel great, of course you want to tell your friends about it. But remember, nobody wants to feel bad about their lifestyle choices. They won’t thank you for it, and they’ll probably be annoyed.

Don’t shame your friends. Let them ask you questions if they want to. When they see you’re not going in for the kill, they’ll be more comfortable and relaxed around you.

2. Talk about it

Picture this: you’re making plans with a friend that doesn’t know you’ve quit drinking, and they suggest meeting up at a bar. A lot of us might be tempted to keep sobriety a secret so we’re not seen as a drag or a killjoy.

Always try to be up front if you can. If you’re happy to meet up at the bar, just let your friend know that you won’t be drinking but you’re happy to hang out. Chances are, they’ll have questions. But the more you talk, the less awkward, you and everyone else will be. You don’t owe anyone an answer, but running from those conversations will get tiring – and fast.

3. Be ready to make new plans

Friday night drinks might seem like a bore when you’re not drinking. You can try to offer an alternative that you know other people will enjoy too – maybe a new place to eat, a game of basketball or even a camping trip, if you have the weekend free. Being proactive and excited about social engagements that don’t involve drinking will stop your friends from feeling like they need to work around you. You might find you want these different social opportunities anyway so you can have fun, too, when you hang out – after all, being in a group of drunk people can be decidedly un-fun when you’re stone-cold sober.

A man and a woman hike through a meadow.

A hike with friends is a great way to combine quality time and fitness, with little chance beers will make an appearance.

4. Honesty really is the best policy

When you start talking to your friends about it, you might feel pressure to come up with a ‘reason’ to justify it: doctor’s advice, trying to save money, not enjoying the taste. That might keep them satisfied for a little while, but soon they’ll want to know more. When drinking culture is so central to a normal social life – from weekend barbecues to family events and nights out with friends – excusing yourself from it could bring up a bit of resistance from others.

Just be honest from the /get-go – you’ve got nothing to gain by spinning complicated lies. Plus, lying never feels good, particularly with friends. They might try and give you a hard time for a while, but if this is important to you then stand by it. Be firm and keep it simple.

5. Remember: nothing is ‘your fault’

So far, these tips might make it sound like the real work of keeping friends comes down to you. But it doesn’t. You shouldn’t be penalized for choosing not to drink. You don’t have to buy your friends their drinks or always worry about being ‘extra nice’ to make up for it.

You’ve made a choice. It’s a sensible, healthy choice: more money, fewer empty calories or drunk-food choices, and without hangovers you’ll have more time and motivation to hit the gym. Real friends will respect and appreciate that these things are important to you.

But even if they don’t, it’s fine to be the booze-free buddy. You’ve got nothing to apologize for.

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