So, you got sober. Now what? Oftentimes, it can feel like a “sober social life” is the death of your social life. How many of us have friends that simply don’t drink at all? Very few. How can you ever go out to a bar again without being either tempted or bored?
Studies have shown that one of the resounding factors for why people both relapse and avoid treatment is due the unknown of what their social life will look like for the rest of their life.
However, there’s good news: people have done it, and continue to do it every day. In fact, many sober bloggers and people in this world maintain recovery and have built their own social lives by thinking outside the box and learning how to rely on their own intuition when it comes to navigating their social lives.
Below are five tips for maintaining a sober social life as you enter into recovery:
1. Major boundaries and frequent use of the word “no.”
Seems simple, doesn’t it? That’s the thing. It always seems simple in theory to say ‘no’ to something, but when you’re standing there, surrounded by the energy of people and the social graces it’s hard to actually say it.
“Just one sip.”
Even being in a situation around alcohol can derail you because you said ‘yes’ when you could’ve said “no.” There might be a period of time that you simply can’t be around bars or alcohol. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, there were social situations I avoided, such as ones with buffets, as I began to navigate recovery.
It is okay to say ‘no’ to a situation because you don’t trust yourself enough to be in that place. That is not a defeat. In fact, that is strength. The more we say ‘yes’ when we should say “no,” the more we disregard our well-being and what we truly desire, which is likely one of the reasons we ended up in the space that we were in in our addictions.
The same faces in the same places will get you into trouble. You know the situations that may infringe on your sobriety, and that includes your friends that you know are still drinking in the same capacity that you were. That also includes the memories you made at the corner pub down the street that you used to get free shots off the bartender.
These boundaries include not putting yourself around people or places that make it easy to drink or drug – no matter how strong you may feel. Those are dangerous practices for quite a long time, if not forever. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.
2. Healthy like-minded friendships
This goes along with the last tip, but cultivating new friendships with like-minded people is a huge benefit to people living the sober life. As Hip Sobriety founder, Holly Whitaker, said, “You will lose people that were in your life because of the alcohol. This is certain. There were a few incredible close relationships that I had with some people – especially towards the end – that were completely based upon our mutual love of alcohol.”
Throughout recovery of my eating disorder, my circle of friends in the last three years has reformulated to some extent, and the group of close friends I have today includes an entire spectrum of folks, each of which I am eternally grateful for. Some older friendships I realized were based off each other’s mutual addiction to the gym and counting calories. It came apart and fell away the moment we had to reshape conversations to talk about anything other than food.
Find the new experiences in your life like book clubs, climbing, church, yoga training, traveling, writing, social media that will usher in deeper, more authentic relationships in your life. Find the like-minded people so that you have something new to relate to.
3. Purpose and creativity
Nobody likes to admit this, but it can be really boring in the first few months of recovery – which can be a reason why people relapse at such fast and alarming rates, at roughly 90%.
“Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” You’ve likely heard that somewhat irritating expression before from a relative, but it does hold true in many ways. Now that you’re no longer hanging out with the people you drank and drugged with before treatment, you will likely feel a sense of boredom. I felt this many times in the first few months of my recovery, and I wish someone had addressed it with me while in treatment.
When you become so wrapped up in addiction, you lose everything else. Who are you without it? What do you even like to do? What are your hobbies? What were they as a kid? You have to dig deep, and be willing to take steps to explore.
When you’re feeling like you want to drink out of boredom, restlessness, or loneliness, call your support group. Make new friends, pick up some new hobbies, and return to the activities you enjoyed before you started blacking out and forgetting about life. Find employment, return to school, occupy your time. Having plenty to do will help with the feelings of self-worth, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and explore.
It’s easy to be negative, and it’s easy to cite ‘boredom’ in recovery and your sober social life. Mantras have a way of re-wiring some of that cognitive way of reaching into the negative pot. In my own recovery, I’ve used a lot of mantras and self-affirmations.
Not the annoying ones that center around “YOU’RE GR8!” but more reminders of the infinite possibility the world has to offer. I have an alarm set on my phone, and I also use an app called the Spirit Junkie App. Throughout the day, a different mantra pops up to remind me of some truth I’m probably not choosing to see in the moment as I sit at a desk and write or am contemplating whether or not I should eat.
It takes some getting used to, but this is truly a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and gives me the opportunity to rewire my brain on the daily. Because of these constant reminders, I work from a place of optimism and possibility, and negative thinking – at least momentarily – is no longer my default (though it always tries to be).
5. Go to a Bar with More Than Booze
It’s that simple… well, when it becomes that simple. You may not want to be at bars for a while, and that’s understandable. Eventually, you will be comfortable enough in your sobriety to want to join friends on a night out. If your friends who drink value your sobriety, then it would behoove you and them to choose a place where you can feel like you’re not always the odd person out. There are fun bars in this world, and you likely know what I’m talking about.
There are bars with bowling alleys and bars with arcade games. There are bars with reading nooks and libraries attached to them, and bars with coffee that serves your favorite vanilla latte when your friends order their gin and tonics.
Find a bar where the energy is moving and the board games are out on the table. You may have to initially recommend this as a pre-requisite to social night outs, but I guarantee you that your friends will go along with it. They will want to see you in your sober social life, and who doesn’t love a good game of Cards Against Humanity?
My loved one is addicted.
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