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Make New Friends & Keep The Old: Building a Supportive Network


friends of women hugging and smiling

When you quit drinking, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re losing your friends. And if you’re worried about creating and relying on a group of non-drinking social circles, this can be even scarier! In fact, making new sober friends can take some time and effort—especially if you’ve been in the habit of sticking with your old drinking buddies for years or even decades.


But it is possible to build a supportive network of friends who share common interests and values with each other. It’s also possible to navigate this big change without losing your existing friendships. With the right attitude, you can create a safe and supportive social environment that allows you to maintain your sobriety while still enjoying socializing with old and new friends alike.



When you first start changing your drinking habits, it can be hard to find others to socialize with.

You may feel like an outsider in your own social circle because most people won’t understand what you’re going through or why you don’t want to drink anymore. It can be hard for the people around us not only because they don’t know how different our lives are now that we’ve stopped drinking, but also because they think of alcohol as an essential part of any gathering–and sometimes even a reason for having one!


When you make a big change in your life, it’s important to have a support network made up of people who understand what you’ve been through and what you’re going through now–people who will remind you that you are not alone during difficult times; people who will celebrate each success along your journey; people who will give advice when needed; people whose lives have been changed by similar experiences so they know how hard it can be at times but also how rewarding it is once things start improving again!


So how do we meet new people who share our values? How do we connect with other sober folks when all our friends drink heavily? The good news is that there are many opportunities out there for making new connections.



Seek out common interests and values when meeting new people.

If you’re feeling ready to meet new people, consider seeking out common interests and values when doing so. This can be as simple as attending a sporting event or concert with other fans of the same team or band. You could also look into joining a gym, cooking class, hiking group, book club–whatever you love to do! MeetUp and Eventbrite have tons of activities in your area that you can browse through to find activities you’re interested in.


The first time you attend an event with strangers without a glass of liquid courage in hand can be daunting. But in my experience, I’ve found that stepping outside of my comfort zone and exploring new hobbies or activities has led to the most meaningful friendships. I encourage you to embrace the uncertainty and fear that may come with trying something new, because in that vulnerability lies the potential for growth and true connection.


Imagine the possibilities that open up when you replace the drinks-in-hand social scene with the richness of cultural events, sports, book clubs, or volunteer work. These sober alternatives allow us to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and, in turn, form bonds with like-minded individuals who share our values and passions. Embrace the chance to build relationships founded on the pillars of authentic communication and mutual respect, rather than the fleeting connections that often dissolve once the buzz subsides.



What about my old friends?

What about the friends from your drinking days? Do you have to give up these friendships if they continue to drink? There is of course no rule that says you can only hang out with people who have all the exact same habits and behaviors as you. Still, you might find navigating these waters a little tricky. Here are some tips to identify which relationships can be sustained and which may no longer be serving you:



Avoid people who may try to pressure or criticize you about your drinking choices.

If you have friends or family members who are judgmental of others’ choices, they are probably not supportive of your efforts. Avoid them if possible, at least while you are newly sober. If it’s unavoidable, be prepared for them by having responses ready in case they ask why. You can give them any reason you want (e.g., “I have an early morning” or “I feel better without it”). If someone continues to press you, try being firm but not rude with a simple: “No thank you.”


It’s also okay if you don’t feel like explaining yourself at all–you don’t have to justify anything! Instead of trying to explain yourself over and over again, focus on finding new people who appreciate what matters most: that YOU are happy and healthy!


If it feels like others are trying to convince you that what works for them should work for everyone else too, remember: everybody’s different! Some people might find success with one approach while others need something else entirely. What matters most is finding what works best for YOU personally so that YOU can feel good about making healthy choices in YOUR life. If you’re worried that you’ll be judged by others for not drinking, remember: they may not actually know what’s best for you. And even if they do have some good suggestions, none of them are experts in your life. Only YOU know what kind of lifestyle is right for you and no one else can tell you otherwise.


And once the event has ended, or if you’re too uncomfortable, leave quickly. I’m personally a big fan of the Irish exit–simply slipping out the door without saying goodbye.



Maintain the connection with your supportive friends.

Accepting and warmly embracing sobriety doesn’t necessarily mean burning the bridges that connect us to those still on the other side. It’s about finding a way to maintain the balance, while staying true to our new choice. Here are some core principles that have helped me:


Honest Communication from the Heart

An essential part of this journey is expressing your new-found road to sobriety and detailing your personal reasons for turning away from alcohol. Trust me, I have found that true friends are quick to understand and support your decisions. When you do, make it more about sharing than justifying. You don’t need to defend your decision. Just be honest and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Also be understanding of your friend’s choices. Your decision to stop drinking is not about them and vice versa.


Set and Respect Boundaries

Respecting your decision means finding the courage to say no. When it feels like alcohol is the event’s main course, it’s okay to decide not to attend. Ensure that both you and your friend feel comfortable when spending time together, whether it involves alcohol or not. Remember, it’s your sobriety and it’s worth protecting. Respect your friends’ choices; don’t aim to change them. Know your limits and don’t cross them to please others.


Create New Shared Experiences

Some friendships might need a little reinventing. Waking up to a whole new you could leave your friends a little displaced. To make it easier, suggest some activities you both can enjoy sans alcohol. You’ll be amazed how much genuine fun can be had without the aid of alcohol. As you try new things, you will make new, happy memories together that will make your bond even stronger.


As we navigate our friendships, remember this isn’t about judgement or standing on opposite sides of a divide. It’s about understanding, empathy, and embracing the beauty of diversity in our human experience. Keep your spirit empowered and continue this liberating journey towards the healthy, sober life you’ve chosen.



It’s totally possible to build and maintain a supportive network of friends.

In the end, it’s important to remember that socializing is an important aspect of mental health. If you don’t currently have a supportive network of friends and family, it’s never too late to start building one. Getting involved in activities that bring people together can help keep you focused on the here-and-now and strengthen your commitment to this new way of life.

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Ready to find freedom from alcohol?
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I am a Certified Success Coach and I am passionate about helping women let go of limiting beliefs around alcohol and themselves so that they can create the lives they’ve always dreamed of.

Marci Rossi

Hi ! I'm Marci

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