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SYG Podcast: Telling Friends and Family You're Alcohol Free

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Feb 24 2021

One of the hardest things about going alcohol free is telling your friends and family about it. How do you deal with the questions and the pressure?

In this episode I will share my timeline from Day 1-Day 90 around how I told my friends, family, dates and acquaintances that I was no longer drinking.

Here's the episode.

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Full episode


Intro: Welcome to the “Sober Yoga Girl Podcast” with Alex McRobs, international yoga teacher and sober coach. I broke up with booze for good in 2019 and now I'm here to help others do the same. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show you how.

Hello, welcome back to another episode of Sober Yoga Girl with Alex McRobs. Today, our topic of conversation is going to be telling family and friends that you're alcohol-free. So, someone recently reached out to me on Instagram Messenger. And what they asked me was, I'm currently keeping it to myself that I quit alcohol because I just don't know how to talk about it. When you quit alcohol, how do you tell your family and friends? So, the truth is that it feels so long ago that when asked on the spot, I honestly couldn't remember, right? It's almost been two years for me. At this stage in my journey, pretty much everyone knows that I no longer drink. I've been alcohol-free for almost two years, and I'm pretty public on social media about it, so I barely ever have to break the news to people. And I forgot how hard it was in the beginning. In the beginning it was really, really hard. If you come from a culture like I do, where drinking is common and it's almost socially expected, telling people that you don't drink any more can be really difficult. People will be surprised by your new sobriety and they might pressure you to drink. They will probably ask you if you're pregnant, which happened to me, as a female, even though I did not have a boyfriend at the time. And saying that you're on antibiotics might only work for so long. By sharing the news with people that have been your drinking buddies for a long time can be quite daunting. So, I thought a lot about this and I kind of reflected on my own journey. And I figured if one person was asking me this question, then others were probably wondering it too. How do you tell your friends and family that you're alcohol-free? Now, the first thing I want to say is that everyone does it differently and everyone has a different experience with it. For anyone who's sober curious and worried about the conversations, this is how I personally navigated it. So, from the first week, I kept it completely to myself when I was going alcohol-free. I didn't share it with anyone. And I also decided to cancel all of the social events that I had planned where I was supposed to be drinking. And that was so I didn't have to explain myself. So, on the Thursday afternoon of the first week, which is like the Friday of the Middle East, because our weekends are Friday and Saturday, there was a work social in which the first round of alcoholic drinks were free. And the usual topic of conversation at work that week was, Are you coming to the bar on Thursday? And I was three or four days alcohol free at this point, and I told a few friends when the subject came up that I just wasn't sure if I'd come because I was trying to cut back on my drinking. And everyone kept saying to me, Can't you just come and have wine? It's free. Just have the free wine. And the thing for me was I knew that if I had the free wine, then I would just drink all night. And that's when I realized that it was going to be best for me to avoid the bar altogether. How do you rationalize and justify not drinking that free drink? It's free, right? There's no reason not to. So instead, I spent the night at the gym and I think I went to like three exercise classes in one night. I think I went to a bar and spinning and like a shape class, which is like a circuit workout class, which is so unlike me. It was a bit excessive, but it was also necessary to keep me busy and tire me out so that when I came home, I wouldn't have a drink. So, I would recommend that you do whatever you need to do to keep yourself busy and away from people in the beginning that know you as a drinker. If you're not ready to tell people, you don't have to, but just kind of create space and distance from those situations, so that you don't feel pressured to drink when you end up there. I also had a birthday party planned for myself for the first weekend and before I quit alcohol, I love throwing parties. I was the host of the year. I would have a fridge full of beers. I would have a cupboard full of wine. I was constantly saying to people, Hey, have another drink, have another one, stay longer. And so, I, altogether, canceled my birthday party. Because first of all, I wasn't up for entertaining. And then second, I didn't want people to show up for it and expect all of the drinks in my usual hosting style. I pride myself on being this friend that never canceled plans and never backs out on something that I say I'm gonna do. But this was really important to me. This was really hard. But it sucks to cancel a party and it sucks to be that friend who backs out. But it would have sucked more if I put myself in a situation where I felt pressured to break my sobriety. And I'm so glad that I did this. So, when I later explained to my friends why I canceled this party without explanation, the friends that were important to me completely understood. The earliest days of sobriety are the hardest ones, and I would recommend that you just be selfish. Don't go to the bar, don't go to the party, because when you're only four days alcohol free, it can be tempting to just have one. You can just say, you know, I'm going to day one again. So, try to get away from anyone and anything that might trigger you. And don't worry about telling anyone in the beginning. You do you. Just focus on you. So, during the day, eight to twenty one. So, the next couple of weeks, I started by telling people that were closest to me. So, I remember calling my mom on my ninth day, which had completely surprised her since nine days earlier. It had been my 27th birthday and we were drinking together in Morocco. But that night, what she didn't know was that I was completely fixated on, and focused on whether or not I'd be able to have a drink on my birthday. We hiked up to this homestay in the High Atlas Mountains, which I talked about in a previous episode, and I literally hiked up the mountain with a bottle of red wine on my back. And I remember telling my mom, you know, Don't offer a glass of wine to anyone else at the homestay or we're going to run out. So, when I called my mom a week later telling her I quit drinking, she was totally surprised. But she was also completely supportive. She asked me questions about my choice and I spoke honestly. I told her that I was drinking too much and that I just didn't want to anymore. And she said that she was proud of me. So, with this momentum, I told other people and most of the people I told during this time were extremely supportive. I was selective. I continued to only call an approach and the people that I knew, 100% would have my back. The others could wait until I was ready. So, I told my sister. I told my nanna. I told my family. I messaged a few, very close friends from my childhood and high school. I chose some people at the gym, and some yoga-related people. And I continued to keep myself away from social situations where drinking would be involved as often as possible. For me personally, it honestly felt really good to tell the truth. Once I shared my habit change, and my reasons, and my intentions with others, it also made me feel more accountable to my goals, right? I told all those people that I was trying to take 30 days off drinking, and if I didn't make it to day 30, I would be kind of embarrassed about it. So, telling people really helped me stay committed. So, for day twenty one to forty-ish, that was around the time that I felt ready to enter the party scene. I was really worried during this time about arriving at parties of social situations and being pressured to drink. So, every time I RSVP to a social event, I made sure to make it clear that I wasn't drinking. And, you know, people have mixed feelings about this. I work one-on-one with coach and clients all the time and some people don't want to make a big deal out of it. So, it's honestly a personal choice. But for me, what felt best was really telling people the honest truth that I wasn't drinking anymore. So, the first thing I went to was an event called "Thirty on Thursday". And since I wasn't drinking, I didn't really read the event description before saying yes to it. And all I did was send a quick message. I said, I'm not going to be drinking, is there a separate ticket price for no alcohol? And I said this to the entire WhatsApp group, so that everyone knew that I would be sober that night. And the point of that message was less about getting a discounted ticket price. I didn't really care about the price. It was more about indirectly telling everyone I wasn't drinking so that no one expected me to. When I showed up at that event, it was really, really scary. Thirty on Thursday meant that it was an open bar and you had a choice to sample 30 different kinds of alcohol. And I did. I had to end up having a ticket that included alcohol on it. There was no separate alcohol-free ticket. And with that ticket, it would have been so easy and tempting to drink since I paid for it. But because I sent a message to everyone ahead of time indicating that I was sober, it made everything easier. I just want to make a little side note here. If you are someone who plans events, someone who works in hotels in the UAE, in particular, this is really common thing that I have experienced, which is these all inclusive events where there are no tickets that are alcohol-free. This can be a really triggering situation for someone like me who is recently sober and trying not to drink. If you end up in a situation where you have to pay for a ticket that includes alcohol, you've already paid for it. It is so easy to then have a drink. So, I just want to mention and to advocate for, if you are someone who works in events, hotels, any of these situations where expatriate, I would highly encourage having an option that is not inclusive of alcohol, so that someone like me can buy that ticket and then not feel at all like, Okay. Now that I've paid for this, I'm going to have a drink to get my money's worth, you know what I mean? So, that is just an issue that I've come along and I would highly recommend considering that. Another thing is, you know, these events where I went to where your first round of drinks were free, but it only included alcoholic drinks. And if you're someone who plans events like that, please have a menu option that is alcohol-free and something that's not just coffee and tea. Right? I don't want to sit with a coffee or tea. I would love to actually have, like, a nice mocktail. And I can't tell you the number of times I've ended up in social situations where there isn't an option that's suitable for me and, you know, now I'm used to it at this point, two years later. But definitely in the beginning, you don't want to stick out like that, sort of like that sore thumb. So, highly encourage that if you are someone who plans events, you think about how you can make it inclusive to sober people. So anyway, at that night, Thirty on Thursday. My friends were quite supportive, but they were also quite curious about why I'd gone sober all of a sudden. And at this stage, I kept it really brief and to the point, I was drinking too much, now I don't want to do it any more altogether. I also remember about that night was that, I started speaking in past tense, which was really, really cool. I would say I no longer drink anymore, which was amazing. So, this was a hard event to go to sober, but I did it. And then, the next major thing that terrified me during this time was my first sober date. And I was so worried about being sober and that it was gonna narrow my dating pool and that I'd never find anyone. So, my first sober date was really, really scary. And I end up, I've written about this on Instagram posts and blog posts, and I will probably do another episode where I go into more detail. But basically, the gist of what happened was I got set up on a blind date. We set our date for Friday night of weekend three. I was so terrified about telling him I was sober. I honestly thought about it all week. How am I going to break this news? I was so worried that he would show up on the first date, find out I didn't drink, and then just want to go home and not want to go out with me anymore. And I decided to use the same strategy that I use with my friends. So, I texted him ahead of time and I let them know that I was taking a break from booze and this didn't eliminate him pressuring me when I showed up for a date. But it did make it easier for me to say no. It was a really, really hard night for me. He was clearly very uncomfortable with the fact that I was sober. And I totally understand it because I think I would have felt the same way if I was on a date with a drinker. Sorry, if I was on a date when I was a non drinker with someone who was a non drinker, I didn't say that correctly. I would have felt the same way when I was still drinking if I ended up on a date with a sober person. There we go. And he ended up saying to me at the end of the night, I'm worried it's a red flag that you don't drink, which was really funny to me because honestly, I bet if you asked my previous partners, like I was married for a short time when I was twenty five, and I bet if you asked my partner at that time, he probably said that it was a red flag how much I drank. But what came from this night was two really incredible things. And the first thing was this strength and resiliency. I realized that if I could sit through a date with a guy one-on-one trying to pressure me to drink, then I could literally do anything. And the second thing was I had a realization. And the realization was that being sober was gonna narrow my dating pool, but in the best way possible. I don't need my future partner to be a non drinker. But what I do need is someone who will have my back and cheer on my sobriety. And I have met people, believe it or not, ever since that guy, that have supported me. And while they have not ended up being long term partners, I just want to say that, trust me, there are sober people out there. And often, the people that we surround ourselves with, our friends, our family have similar interests, similar norms. So, if you're a drinker, then you probably hang out with other people that are drinkers. And if you live, surrounded by people that drink, you might be like me in thinking that sober people don't exist out there, but trust me, they do. And as soon as I started advocating about my sobriety and being open about it, so were people just started popping up in my life everywhere. So, it can feel scary and it can feel daunting. But trust me, you will find a sober partner or someone who supports your sobriety. So, hold out for them. Anyway, so, I had this realization that being sober was going to narrow my dating pool, but in the best way possible. Right? I don't need my partner to be a non drinker and people ask me that all the time. Would you ever date someone that drinks? The answer is yes. Every single person that I have dated since I got sober has been a drinker. But I need to date someone who is gonna have my back, who's going to cheer me on. Telling a date that I'm a non drinker is now like, my favorite thing, because if they are not very nice about it, then I know right away that they're just not the person for me and I don't have waste any more time figuring that out. So, during the time of day 40, today 90, I got really comfortable going to parties and being the designated driver. It didn't bother me anymore. When asked why I didn't drink, I started to toss in a lot of humor about my sobriety. So, for example, if we were out at a bar, I would tell a story like the last time I was at this bar. This is what happened. And that's why I don't drink anymore, and people found that really funny. Drinkers love these stories because it makes you relatable, and you're not like holier than thou person that thinks their body is their temple, which, trust me, I'm not. And it shows that you're a human, just like them. So, day 90 onwards, believe it or not, the best thing I ever did was post on social media when I was 90 days alcohol-free. This was terrifying. I was so scared that people would judge me and I felt like it was something personal to post so openly. But after I made that post and the subsequent posts, pretty much no one ever pressures me to drink or asked me why I'm not drinking. It was like one big public announcement that solved everything. Since then, when people make plans with me or invite me to meet up, they often will preface it with, I know you're not drinking anymore. And then in brackets, that's awesome. But let's meet up for a meal without drinks. Some of my friends from high school brought alcohol-free sparkling wine and they made us non alcoholic mimosas. My first summer alcohol-free, which I will remember that forever. It was so meaningful and inclusive to me. So, thank you, guys. You know who you are. And my mom often stalks the fridge when I'm home in Canada with alcohol-free beer. So, if you ever do feel ready, I highly encourage you to make a social media post like this. And my sobriety being public knowledge has made social situations so much easier. There is the occasional time when someone will ask me questions. But generally, it's someone that does not have me on Facebook as a friend. Like, for example, I went out to a pub with a few of my dad's friends and my dad, and they had questions for me, but, you know, they didn't have me as a social media friend. And other than that, generally, everyone knows. So, the other amazing thing that being open on social media has done is that it's connected me to so many people all over the world. Friends, acquaintances, strangers who are embarking on this alcohol-free journey as well. People have messaged me that my posts and stories have inspired them. People have messaged me asking for questions and advice. And it made me realize that I am not the only person on planet Earth who has gone through this. And when it was first happening, I literally felt like the only person in the world who ever had a problem with their drinking, ever felt a need to quit. And once I became public about it, I realized that it's actually really, really common. And there is a sober revolution happening right now and you just need to find it. So, going onwards, after that first 90 day chunk, the social media post, after and ever since then, sometimes people will sort of joke to me or say, like, You're amazing. You're the queen of how someone said to me once, You're like a Mother Teresa. And I always like to kind of joke back with them, you know, like ten years of wild nights just flashed through my head, or someone said to me, you're the queen of health. And I said to her, No, I'm the queen of I can't moderate anything, and that's why I quit everything. And so, my point is, when I'm talking to people about my sobriety, I really try to use humor and I still try not to act like I'm holier than thou, because I'm not. I drink a lot for ten years. I ate bacon and steak for twenty seven years. I am the kind of person who will open a big bag of chocolate chips and I will eat the whole thing in one sitting. So, I am 100% not the queen of health or like a Mother Teresa or anything. I'm literally just a human and I am sharing bits of my story because I hope that it will inspire others. So, no matter how much I want my friends and family to experience the joy of being sober, I try really hard not to preach and I just try to tell my own story as it pertains to me. And when we hear other stories, we listen and we take from it whatever we need to. I love this quote. I came across it in my first life coaching course. It says, The human soul doesn't want to be advised or fixed or saved. That's Parker Jay Palmer. So, I'm now two months alcohol-free and I have never wondered if I made the right decision to go sober. I know I did. There are times when I wonder if I have made the right decision by being so open about it, starting a blog about it. I get scared that, for example, I'm a teacher and I get scared that the parents of my students will come across it, and they won't get it, and they won't respond to it well. But I remember myself that our story is what we have to offer the world. Right? And someone can hear my story and it could change their life. And so, that is why I continue to tell it, despite the stigma, despite the fears, despite everything else, because I know that it can help others and it can maybe light a match and someone else can begin their journey because of hearing about mine. So, that is how I communicate about my sobriety in a nutshell. I hope that was helpful for you. And this is one of the most common topics that I deal with, with my life coaching clients. So, if it is something that is overwhelming you or stressing you out. Please book a free call with me, a clarity call on my website, and we can touch base and connect and see if some one-on-one coaching would benefit you. I hope you have a beautiful, beautiful rest of your day. Thank you so much for tuning in. Don't forget to like and share and subscribe. And I'll see you next week. Bye.

Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Sober Yoga Girl with Alex McRobs. I am so, so grateful for every one of you. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next one and leave a review before you go. See you soon. Bye.

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