Many of our Daybreak members find that, surprisingly, talking to those around them about their decision to have a break from alcohol, is difficult. It may be that drinking to excess is part of their identity, or their social life involves drinking and drinking related activities. It might be because they know that those close to them might be disappointed that they’ve decided to make a change, and might react negatively or with judgement. For some people, this concern about others’ reactions actually prevents them from making important changes, and they can go for years before they get to the point where change is possible.
Sometimes this fear is justified – we know that people don’t like change, especially change that they don’t understand – but the good news is that if these people care about you and your wellbeing, they will come to understand and accept your changing relationship with alcohol. In some cases, people have reported their friendships and relationships getting even better after cutting back on drinking, since conversations and activities can open up when alcohol is taken off the table. With this in mind, we’ve put together some tips for you to consider when starting that conversation with those close to you.
1. Choose a good time
Look, midway through a champagne toast at a big celebration is not the best time to tell your friend that you’re not drinking. Some people find that it is helpful to let people know ahead of an event, so that expectations are set and you can have your conversation in private. This is especially the case if you’re attending an event, so the hosts can arrange some alcohol-free options for you. This is also helpful for people to get used to the concept of you not drinking, so they don’t respond emotionally if you were to tell them in the moment.
2. Explain your decision – don’t ask for permission!
It often surprises me that people have such strong opinions about whether someone is drinking or not! If you’re feeling awkward about it, remember that this is pretty personal information – its like questioning someone’s decision to buy a certain type of toothpaste, or their holiday destination. We don’t interrogate pregnant women or people in training for marathons why they aren’t drinking – so why do we feel it is ok to interrogate someone who has made a positive decision for their health?
If you are a bit lost as to what to say to someone who offers you a drink, or asks why you aren’t drinking, some useful phrases are:
‘I’m focusing on my health right now, so taking a break from alcohol’.
‘I realised I feel much better without alcohol, so I’m not drinking tonight’.
The good thing to remember is that your decision to have a break from alcohol is a personal one, and based on a number of factors, and you don’t actually have to explain this to anyone if you don’t feel comfortable.
3. Normalise reactions and stay focused on your goals
With Australia’s intense drinking culture, we can expect a few less-than-supportive reactions if we let those around us know we aren’t drinking right now. One thing that many Daybreak members find is that a person’s reaction often speaks to their own relationship with alcohol, and your decision to change might trigger an overreaction in them, especially if their own drinking is on the excessive side. If you’re finding this, and noticing some resistance from those around you, it is best to focus on your own goals and try not to pay too much attention to the reactions of those around you.
If there is one thing we know at Hello Sunday Morning, it is that each person’s relationship with alcohol is individual and unique, and we each have to figure out what this is for ourselves – it is no use listening to others telling us what it needs to look like. Setting realistic goals for yourself, and being curious about your relationship with alcohol, will help you to make progress toward a relationship with alcohol that works for you.
If you’re thinking it is time to make some changes to your relationship with alcohol, I’d recommend you visit the Daybreak app at the link below. You can get the help and support you need from a community of people with similar goals to you, as well as extra support from our Care Navigators. Changing your relationship with alcohol doesn’t have to be drastic or involve huge changes to your lifestyle – it is more about figuring out what is going to work for you.