How To Stay Sober When All Your Friends Drink

mbg Contributor By Ezzie Spencer, Ph.D.
mbg Contributor
Ezzie Spencer has a Ph.D. in women's well-being. She is an author and the leader of her own spiritual practice, "Lunar Abundance."

My last drink was on my 30th birthday, in 2011.

I’d been meditating for years, and more conscientiously in the final year of my 20s: an hour or two on the cushion each day. I started to feel odd after drinking, and just wasn’t drawn to it anymore. Soon it was easy to drop my old habit of drinking.

There were so many benefits. I started to enjoy waking up without a dusty mind. I was surprised that I was enjoying more meaningful, entertaining evenings: actual witty banter at dinner parties (not just the type when I think I’m being funny!), deeper conversational connections at midnight (words remembered, not regretted, the morning after) and even better parties (yes, really).

In ditching the bottle, my confidence and intuition has increased, tenfold. My work now is far more intuitive, and my life more aligned with my natural rhythms. I’ve even dropped a dress size. Most importantly, though, my self-awareness, clarity and vision is enhanced beyond measure. And my productivity and physical energy are off the charts.

If you’re looking to become sober as a matter of preference, here are my core principles for navigating the alcohol-fueled world that we inhabit.

When you reach for a drink, first ask yourself: why?

Alcohol seems to be integrated into our lives: wine at dinner, sparkles for celebration, spirits for the dance floor. When I was working in the trenches as a lawyer, alcohol was my go-to, facilitating my off-switch.

We often use alcohol as a crutch to enhance our confidence, or as a distraction from our full range of our feelings—and this was exactly why I drank. It's really important to change our mindset about drinking. Rather than just trying to make yourself stop drinking, ask yourself why you need a drink. When you do this, you’ll start to witness your true motivation, and understand any deeper issues you may be avoiding.

Culturally, we play out a subconscious script that alcohol is necessary for social enjoyment, boldness, and creative expression. Really, it’s not. Drinking alcohol actually kept me playing small, and I’ve become so much more confident since embracing sobriety.

So when you habitually go for another drink, ask yourself whether there’s another way that you can express yourself or relax, or if you’re just unthinkingly playing out a cultural pattern.

Try pushing your boundaries just one time: go out sober, and measure the effects for yourself.

How to deal with pushy friends

Not drinking when you’re pregnant, or abstaining for health reasons? No one will bug you. But turning down a drink just because you don’t feel like it? Many just don’t get it. The bigger the deal you make out of being sober, the bigger the deal everyone else will make it out to be, too.

Drawing attention to your decision not to drink, or getting on your soapbox about why drinking is bad or "unspiritual" is pretty much guaranteed to annoy friends and family. People generally don’t like it when someone is judging them or proselytising.

So if you want a harmonious evening, just request an alternative beverage (H20 for me!) and be done with it. On some level, though, others can feel when you are not feeling fully aligned with your decision, and many will happily rise to trigger you, trying to force your hand.

In my experience, when you’re fully comfortable with your decision, the most frequent response you’ll receive is brief moment of curiosity—and perhaps you’ll even quietly inspire someone to make a change in his or her life.

And hey, if your friends really don’t get it, you’ll find that your social scene will naturally evolve over time. You don’t need to ditch your old pals, though: I still go out to dinners and parties with alcohol and enjoy myself. I laugh, chat, dance, and play.

Plus, I’ve discovered fun new communities (there are many people who love to party all night after a raw cacao smoothie, apparently!). What to do when you really want a drink? Ask for lime or lemon in your water: or go for a tonic, without the gin. Change your surroundings and remove temptation.

But if that doesn’t work, if you’re obsessing over having a drink and you can’t let it go, then my advice may surprise you:

Just have a drink, and be gentle with yourself about it. There’s plenty of time to become sober.

You will when you're ready. I don’t drink anymore because I just don’t feel like it. That took time. Listening to your heart, and going with the flow, is the easiest way to change a habit. And hey, my life is sweeter as a teetotaller.

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