How to Make Sober Friends
One of the questions I get asked most about not drinking is how to make sober friends. When I was drinking a lot, drinking a lot became my identity. I was a party girl, known for liking a drink and so my relationships reflected this.
I’d meet friends for drinks, we’d go out to eat and drink bottles of wine or arrange to meet for cocktails or a bottomless brunch. You name it, there were almost always drinks involved.
The most alone I have ever felt was when I was beginning to question my drinking habits, when I started to think that I was drinking too much.
At this point, I hadn’t realised my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy, but I had seen the impact it was having on my mental health and productivity levels every Dry January.
By the end of 2016, I had stopped drinking but at the beginning of the year it was just an idea. I did an almost 90-day stint at the beginning of 2015 when I trained for a half marathon and I felt so good for it. It was when I started to try and stop for good that I realised I was much more attached to alcohol than I had ever realised. And beyond that, I was attached to my identity as a drinker. The aforementioned bottomless brunches and cocktails and Friday night drinks were my idea of a good time.
I had no idea what a good time looked like without my good friend pinot grigio.
The enormous amounts of money spent on alcohol marketing does a very good job of persuading us that we need alcohol to have a good time, we need it to relax and to celebrate. Alcohol is built up as a privilege for adults, drinking is seen as a right of passage, and much of alcohol marketed at women is built up as a glamorous, fabulous accessory. Think Carrie Bradshaw with a Cosmopolitan, Olivia in Scandal with a large glass of red; and for men, James Bond with a Martini. Alcohol is positioned as sexy, fun and glamorous. So when faced with the idea of never having a drink again, when the drink was tied up into helping me feel sexy, fun and glamorous (the way the alcohol industry want me to feel so I keep buying it) I was SCARED.
At the beginning of 2016, all my friends drank and I didn’t know one sober person.
I had no reference point. One day, whilst surfing the internet at work hungover, I chanced upon an article on Mind Body Green that was written by Andy Ramage from One Year No Beer. It sold the benefits of life alcohol free to me, but I still had no sober reference points. I just found the article again, Taking A Break From Booze? 7 Tips For Actually Sticking With It, May 2016. I joined their Facebook group though and began to find people like me, who also were stopping drinking and experiencing the major boosts that alcohol free life delivered. Finding this community was my turning point.
Brought to popular attention by Johann Hari, the Rat Park experiment by Bruce Alexander found that when rats where placed in a large cage with free food, access to sex, toys and play mates, they refused the drug cocktails they were offered and instead opted for water. Conversely, their solo-caged study mates opted for the drugs time and again. The conclusion, it’s not the drugs that are the addiction but rather the environmental stressors that are placed on the rats that were being studied. Eliminate the stress and you get rid of the addiction.
Johan Hari said: the opposite of addiction is connection. If only it was this simple. There are many factors that impact on how much we drink, and why we’re drinking. But it does provide food for thought and can highlight the importance of building community and having people around you.
Over the last two and a half years, I’ve met a lot of new people.
Deciding to start writing this blog and talking about my sober journey on instagram has opened me up to a lot of opportunities to find community and the connection that I craved in the early days.
Back then, I was so scared of meeting new people. I’ve learnt that after the first few times it becomes second nature. Like the saying goes, a stranger is a friend you’ve never met. There will no doubt be people you don’t click with, just because you are both sober doesn’t mean you’ll immediately be best mates. But you have to give yourself the opportunity to find connections and make sober friends by getting out there.
Below I’ve compiled resources that I have found helpful in my sober journey.
It is by no means an extensive list but they are the groups I have used, events I have attended and/or people I have met and trust. I am based in the UK so the in-person events are predominantly UK based.
If you host events or have a group that helps people make sober friends, please send me an email and we can chat!
Ways to Meet Sober Friends
Sober MeetUps and Events
Sober Girl Society
Millie runs meet-ups in London and is expanding further afield to Manchester, with many more planned. Keep up to date with meetup’s via SGS instagram and sign up for their email list. Millie’s also written a book: The Sober Girl Society Handbook: An empowering guide to living hangover free, which is now available for pre-order.
Sober and Social
Run by Emily, Sober and Social hosts alcohol-free bar crawls and booze-free brunches across London. In her own words: Sober & Social provides fun, support and exciting, alcohol-free events at some of London’s premier venues for people living or exploring a teetotal lifestyle. Check out Sober and Social here.
This group does what it says on the tin: meet-up’s that connect sober millennials! Run and hosted by Kate, these meet-ups are affordable and run in London. Follow here to find out about the next one.
Bee Sober Manchester
I met the people that run Bee Sober at an event I hosted with my friend Cath in Manchester. They’re building a community there with events in the city and surrounding areas. I was very jealous of the flower arranging course! Check out their eventbrite page for latest events and follow their Bee Sober Manchester instagram page for updates.
Sam run’s events in the South West. So far this year she has paddle boarding, a Sunday by the seaside and Christmas wreath-making planned. Keep up to date by following here.
Online Sober Groups, Programmes and an App
Club Soda (also do meetup’s)
Club Soda run the Mindful Drinking Festival, host meet-up’s across the country and have a number of very active facebook groups. The go-to place to find people all over the country, online and offline. Laura and Jussi who co-founded Club Soda do so much great work in the alcohol-free and mindful drinking space, it’s well worth checking them out!
Stop Drinking and Start Living
Run by Stephanie Chivers, a life coach and addiction specialist, the Stop Drinking and Start Living Course is £49 and includes access to a private Facebook group which connects you to sober (and trying to be sober) women all over the world.
The Alcohol Experiment: Control Alcohol
Run by Annie Grace (author of This Naked Mind), the Alcohol Experiment is a 30 day challenge that teaches you to control alcohol. You can also connect with the This Naked Mind community during it.
One Year No Beer
An online coaching programme. One Year No Beer run 30, 90 and 365 day paid alcohol-free challenges, with a focus on exercise and improving your wellbeing. I’ve also found that there are more men here if you’re finding the sober friend suggestions so far female heavy!
Bumble’s BFF filter enables you to search your local area for new friends (it’s not just a dating app!) They have a sober filter – select ‘never’ drinks in the advanced filter section – so you can find new local people in your area who aren’t drinking.
I have said it before on the blog, instagram is a great way to find sober friends. Search the various #sober hashtags, and generally hang out and you’ll find like minded people. Millie @sobergirlsociety regularly shares ‘Find Your Sober Sister’s’ posts, and I have made friends this way (as I know other’s have too!)
Based in Canada and the US, She Recovers host retreats, online programmes and a US based conference for women in recovery. They also have online yoga programmes and have been travelling the US with their Creating Connections tour. You should check them out because they’re doing lots of awesome stuff.
Alcohol Free Holidays
We Love Lucid
I haven’t personally been on a holiday run by We Are Lucid, but a few of my friends have and said it was awesome!! They curate alcohol free-adventures in the Spanish sunshine attended by fellow alcohol-free people. Sounds like my idea of heaven!
A final reminder on how to make sober friends. (If you made it all the way to the bottom of this post …)
Just because someone else is sober, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become mates. (Similarly if someone else is single, you don’t necessarily want to date them). I learnt this the hard way after a few awkward sober coffee dates. Don’t let this dishearten you. You will find your sober circle. It just might take a few awkward conversations first!
Lots of love, as always, L xx