Friedrich Nietzsche once wisely said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
Living a sober life has proven the truth of this statement to me, in more ways than one. Don’t get me wrong–putting down my drink du jour and grabbing on to sobriety was and is the single smartest move I have ever made. A move I don’t regret for one second. But it’s the process of being a sober person that I continue to find a puzzle.
Responsibility & Perspective: Being the Lone Sober Friend in a Crowd of Drinkers
The delicate tango of having a social life but no drink in hand is foreign territory for me. The few times I’ve joined the ‘we-still-party-why-don’t-you’ crowd, it felt as awkward as my first middle school dance.
It feels a lot like stepping on toes. I often cha-cha when I should waltz. My quest to find the right rhythm has led to a newfound sense of personal responsibility.
My number one priority is staying sober. Everything I do must be designed to keep me centered in sobriety. Staying focused on what I’ve learned about being sober keeps my goals in perspective.
Reality Check: How Many of the Crowd are Actually Friends?
The truth is, the life I lived when more days found me drunk than sober wasn’t a pretty life. And the people who were my friends–well, a better way to say it might be ‘drinking buddies’. Beyond a shared shot (or twelve) there was (and still is) little we had in common.
One of the questions I had to ask myself early on was: am I missing the actual people I used to drink with or am I just bored? It still surprises me to realize how many of my decisions to drink (and to hang out with the crowd) were made out of a sense of boredom.
Real Relationships: Practice May Not Make It Perfect, but Don’t Give Up on All of Your Friends
I’m happy to say there are still several friends I’ve been able to maintain good relationships with since becoming sober. With practice, I’ve developed a simple guide for planning a non-drinking event with a drinking friend.
- The day is the New Night: Since most of my drinking escapades were accomplished during happy hour and later, scheduling friend time for the daylight hours helps eliminate one aspect familiar to my addiction.
- Be Honest: I’ve found that the more honest I am about my struggles and my successes, the more positively the true friends in my life respond. That is a really good ground to grow a friendship.
- Find Other Common Interests: In my sober life, I have new interest and hobbies. Including friends in those activities allows a sharing of new memories–and successfully keeps me away from bars and parties.
The Bottom Line: Boundaries Will Help
The answer to the question of how to hang out with friends who drink is both simple and complicated: boundaries. The counselors who helped me understand my addiction gave me the tools to see that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing scenario. But if I exercise healthy boundaries that protect my sobriety, I can successfully (and soberly) have it all.