5 Tips for Maintaining a Sober Social Life

If you used to struggle with your alcohol consumption, or if you’re in recovery from any substance disorder, then you’ll understand the time and hard work it takes to achieve recovery. You’ll do everything possible to avoid a relapse.

However, relapsing is very common for people early on in recovery.

In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of individuals who are in recovery for a long period of time have experienced at least one relapse in their lifetime [1].

Despite many people’s beliefs who have never had a substance use disorder, it’s not as simple as just never drinking again.

For lots of people who have struggled with an addiction, it’s a lot more complex than that; staying sober isn’t a straightforward process.

Many people have different triggers that make them want to drink. However, a trigger that a lot of people struggle with is going out with friends.

Many people have the following concerns about going out whilst trying to stay sober:

  • Will I still have fun if I don’t drink?
  • Will it look strange if I don’t drink when everyone else is?
  • What will my friends say?
  • How will I have the confidence to dance or talk to strangers without a drink?

Social life often involves drinking, whether you’re 18 or 60. Nevertheless, staying sober doesn’t mean you have to give up on your social life.

If you’re able to understand your triggers and manage your social life, you can have a good time whilst also staying sober.

Below are 5 tips for maintaining a sober social life, whilst having fun too.

Have an Open and Honest Discussion with your Friends

Some people might not feel comfortable sharing information about their addiction with their friends, and it’s always up to you just how much information you share with them.

However, if your friends are aware and truly understand your previous addiction, then they’re much more likely to support you on a night out.

It’s a good idea to let them know what they can do to help you in a social setting.

For example, you could suggest that you team up with a friend or two, and they stay sober with you throughout the night. This might help you feel more comfortable staying sober.

Additionally, you could suggest hanging out somewhere that doesn’t involve alcohol, such as an outdoor setting like a walk, a hike, watching a film together or having an alcohol free games night.

With a good set of friends around you, they should listen, understand and support your decision to stay sober.

Be Prepared for Other People’s Reactions

Hopefully, all of your friends will be helpful, understanding and supportive. However, others may respond with lots of questions, or in a negative way. It’s a good idea to be prepared for this.

This could happen for a number of reasons. Firstly, they might not have ever experienced a friend in recovery before, and they might genuinely have lots of questions and be intrigued.

They might also feel uncomfortable socialising sober themselves, and will therefore feel uneasy or slightly jealous that you feel that you are able to.

Watching you in recovery might also hit home just how unhealthy their lives and drinking habits are.

Here is a list of possible reactions that friends, or sometimes family members might have when you tell them you want to socialise soberly.

1. Friendly Teasing

Some friends might tease that you’re no fun anymore or are now ‘boring.’ If you don’t mind some friendly teasing, you should laugh it off all in the name of good banter.

However, if you feel that it’s become more than just friendly teasing and banter, then you should confront the individual and politely ask them to stop.

3. Confrontation

Some friends might react by confronting you and might insist that you’re not drinking or other reasons, possibly because you no longer want to socialize with them.

You should be open and honest with this friend about the severity of your situation.

4. Cajoling

If they don’t understand the severity of your situation, some friends might buy you a drink as a ‘favour.’

They might even suggest that one or two drinks ‘won’t hurt anyone.’ Again, you should be open and honest with this friend about the severity of your situation.

5. Nagging

Some friends might start to nag you in order for you to ‘loosen up’ or ‘chill out.’

You should explain to them that staying sober is the best way for you to have fun right now, without you putting your health at risk.

6. Grouping up and Exerting Peer Pressure

You should be prepared for your friends to gang up a little in teams, in order to exert your pressure.

Long-term Consequences

Some reactions of friends and family members can be more long term. Some of the long term consequences of people’s reactions might include:

1. No longer being invited / Being Phased Out

You should be prepared to get fewer invitations to social events. This often happens when certain friends realise that your sobriety is a long term plan.

2. Being Labeled as ‘The Sober One’

If lots of your friends drink alcohol, then you should prepare yourself for being labelled as the ‘sober’ or ‘boring’ friend.

3. Playing the Designated Driver Role

You will often find that you’re constantly asked to be the ‘designated driver’ for many social events.

As hard as it might sound, a change in your friendship dynamic might not always be a bad thing.

It might identify holes in your friendship group, or that certain friends are more supportive than others.

Ways to Motivate Yourself to Stay Sober

Below are some tips you may want to use to help motivate yourself to stay sober when socialising with your non-sober loved ones.

1. Plan a Productive Day or Morning the Next Day

If you know you’re going out, and there’s likely to be alcohol present, it might help to plan a production morning the next day.

This will make you more likely to stay sober, as you won’t want to waste all the amazing plans you’ve made for yourself the next day.

After all, there’s nothing worse than a wasted day feeling hungover.

You should plan something fun that you’ve wanted to do for a while. Or, you could plan something really productive that will encourage you to stay motivated and sober.

Some examples might be meeting up with other friends or family members you haven’t seen in a while for a coffee or food, going for a run, cleaning the house, or running that errand that you’ve been meaning to get done for ages.

2. Try New Things With Your Friends

If you’re bored or fed up with only ever going out with your friends to places that involve drinking, you could always make some new suggestions.

You could suggest going to a park, for a walk, a hike, to a new class or to the gym.

You’ll probably find that socialising in a situation and environment that allows you to talk more and bond, that you get to know each other on a new level.

You’re also much more likely to create more lasting memories and could also gain a joint hobby together.

3. Have a list of Go-To Responses on Hand

Despite the best of attempts, you’re unlikely to be able to avoid alcohol environments for the rest of your life.

Lots of social events such as weddings, shows and christening involve alcohol.

Therefore, it’s important to have some go-to responses on hand when people question why you’re not drinking.

Here are some useful, go-to responses:

  • “Thanks for the offer, but I gave up alcohol a while ago.”
  • “I decided to stop drinking for a while.”
  • “I’m on a health kick, I’m trying to avoid drinking for a while.”
  • “I’m not actually interested in drinking tonight.”
  • “I’ve decided to cut back on my drinking for a while.”
  • “I’m driving tonight, so I can’t have a drink.”

Needless to say, you don’t need to justify yourself and your sobriety to anyone, but having these responses on hand might make you feel more comfortable if someone were to question you or ask.

It may also help you to know what effects alcohol can have on your body, which you can read about here.


[1] Moos RH, Moos BS. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Addiction. 2006;101(2):212-222. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01310

[2] Karriker-Jaffe CJ, Witbrodt J, Mericle AA, Polcin DL, Kaskutas LA. Testing a socioecological model of relapse and recovery from alcohol problems. Subst Abuse Res Treat. 2020;14. doi:10.1177/1178221820933631