#161 – Episode 161 – What Happens to Friendships When We Stop Drinking


You may have noticed that when you stop drinking your friendships change. In this episode, Chip and Veronica talk about how and why friendships change and how to navigate those changes.

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about this episode

Getting sober has a massive ripple effect.

We think we’re the only ones that are going to be affected but everyone around us is affected by it and in a big way.

Today we’re talking about how friendships change when we get sober and what happened to our friendships when we stopped drinking

Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes it’s for the worse but either way, it’s a game-changer.

key highlights

We don’t expect it

People talk a lot about how great your sober life will be but they hardly mention the problems you’ll face.

That makes them even harder to handle because they hit us out of nowhere.

One of the biggest challenges that comes up once we get sober is re-learning how to navigate relationships with our family and friends.


People who drink don’t have dealers. They have people they drink with.

“What will they say if I tell them that I’m going to stop drinking?”

When we drink a lot, we gravitate towards people who behave just like we do. That comes with the territory of dependency – we need people around us who legitimize our behaviour.

That dynamic changes dramatically when you get sober.


There’s a lot of discomfort in this for everybody

When I stopped drinking I had a lot of fair-weather friends and they all kind of fell away immediately.

The few good friends I had, I pushed away because I was just so uncomfortable.

I didn’t know how to be in the world, and I didn’t know how to socialize or see people so it was easier to hide.

Before Chip went to rehab he made the mistake that a lot of people make, which is to try to keep his friendships exactly the same. That didn’t work out very well. Once he became sober, it became obvious to him that making a decision to stop using and drinking was a deal-breaker with his friends.

For some people, drinking is a core part of family activities which brings a whole new level of difficulty. Family patterns and roles are so entrenched that it makes it very difficult when someone stops drinking.

The bottom line: It’s very difficult to maintain your past relationships once you’re sober. You may be able to keep some of them, but they’re going to have to radically change.


As impossible as it seems, it gets better

“The idea of making new friends and getting to know people was very frightening to me and yet, of course, I’ve developed incredible friendships over the years.” – Chip Somers

Like Chip, it may not be possible to hold on to the friendships from when you were using.

Making the decision to choose your sobriety, knowing you may lose friends is really scary. The idea of going out and meeting new people and making new friends can feel just as daunting.

In those times, it’s hard to have faith. As impossible as it seems, it gets better.

Joining support groups and finding your people has been a great source of lifelong friendships for both Chip and me.


Good friendships will be strengthened

Early in my recovery my best friend came to visit.

We always drank and partied and before she came I agonized over whether or not I’d drink with her when she came.

I felt guilty like I’d be letting her down if I didn’t and dooming her to having a bad trip. I bargained with myself thinking, “Maybe just a couple days?”

In the end, I decided to tell her why I got sober and she was completely supportive. We had a great time without drinking and I saw just how strong our friendship was.


Friendships are important for your sobriety

Connection is one of the five pillars we need for sustainable sobriety.

The friendships I’ve made in sobriety have allowed me to be vulnerable and totally myself because we’re all working on ourselves and on personal development journeys.

It’s okay to recognize that you’re growing and someone else isn’t and the friendship naturally ends.

We often need a renegotiation or re-navigation when we stop drinking but please know that stopping drinking doesn’t mean you won’t have any friends.

If you feel like you don’t have anyone around you, the place to start is sober support groups.

Be patient and take your time to find your people. It will be worth it.

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