I got sober and now everyone should be happy. Look at me, I'm awesome. This shit is hard and I deserve support. Sound familiar? I think we have all gone through this stage at some point in our sobriety. And if you haven't yet, chances are you might.
When I got sober I thought everyone would be happy for me and support me, but that was not the case. Not everyone understood my decision to get sober. Some people's reactions surprised me, some did not, and some just couldn't deal with seeing me sober because that would mean they would need to look at their own drinking and using habits. It's hard not to take these factors personally. It's also hard to believe anyone wouldn't want to support you on making a healthy life decision, like choosing not to use drugs or drink anymore. But it still happens.
I've received some messages and emails about this subject lately and wanted to address the question:
So how do you deal with people who aren't supportive of your sobriety?
Here is my advice:
1. Are they harassing you to drink?
It's not uncommon for me to receive messages from people who say they don't know what to tell their friends about not drinking. Let's face it, the peer pressure to drink in social situations is real and the last thing you want is to be put on the spot in public by someone you know. If your friends are harassing you to drink, let's take a step back and look at this. Do they know you quit drinking? If they still harass you when they know you've quit drinking that seems extremely insensitive to me. I had a good friend who offered me wine when I was 7 months sober. I declined and was a bit surprised since she knew how hard I was working at being sober. She then proceeded to try to sway me by telling me about the anti-oxidant effects and other benefits red wine can have on the body. What?!? I was insulted. It was imperative for me to separate myself from this person because she didn't understand the importance of sobriety to me.
2. Check your interests. Do you really have anything in common?
I've found that the people who are unsupportive of my sobriety aren't necessarily people I want to be around. Some of them were people I only drank and partied with and once that common interest was taken away, we didn't really have anything in common. Others were people I thought were good friends, but once I had a clear head and my morals and values became clear to me again, I saw that ours didn't really line up. It's hard to justify being around people who do illegal things, are unsupportive, or are just all around jackasses once you're sober. In the beginning I tried to continue to be friends with everyone, but after awhile I couldn't keep it up and it didn't make sense to.
3. Don't take it personal.
I know, this is hard. I used to take EVERYTHING personal and I still consider myself to be a pretty sensitive human being. However, you must remember that if someone chooses to be unsupportive of a healthy decision you've made for your life, something is wrong inside of them, not you. It's not uncommon for people who are jealous of your new found lifestyle, or uneducated about it, or are wrapped up in drugs and alcohol themselves, to be unsupportive. This has nothing to do with you. These people are fighting an internal struggle. This is often the case for any person who outwardly acts mean, angry, or like a dick. We never know what's happening on the inside, some people are fighting a battle we know nothing about. I try my hardest to view these people with compassion.
4. You don't need their approval to be happy and sober.
Please remember this! Your sobriety is no one else's but your own. It can be hurtful and discouraging to experience criticism or disregard, but in the end you are doing what's best for YOU. Self-care is important, especially in sobriety and this includes cutting unsupportive people out of your life. I know sometimes we can't cut people off completely, and there are some we probably shouldn't, but you can limit contact with them. The only person that needs your approval to be sober is you.
5. Be honest.
I am a firm believer in honesty and authenticity. It's why I started talking about my sobriety in the first place. The trip I took where I had my last drink was with my group of high school girlfriends. We've been close for years and shortly after the trip that changed my life, I had to go home to Philly to attend one of their weddings. I was a month into my sobriety. I sent them all a group email a few days before the wedding apologizing for how I acted on our trip and I shared with them that I made the decision to abstain from alcohol. I was terrified sending that email. Luckily, they were all completely supportive, proud, and encouraging of me and my sobriety. I'm glad I was honest and told them that I had a problem with alcohol and was doing something about it. There's vulnerability in being honest, but there's also power. Some friends of mine made comments in the beginning that weren't completely supportive, but once I explained to them what I was feeling, they understood and changed their mindset. Maybe it's as simple as sending a short message or email.
Being sober is your own personal journey. If someone is putting something that important to you in jeopardy, it's time to think about releasing the toxicity and drama in your life, the same way you got rid of alcohol.
You deserve peace of mind. You deserve tranquility. You deserve sobriety.