If your social life is built up around drinking, it’s hard to imagine what it will look like if you suddenly cut back or stop.
Will I have any friends anymore?
At the time, this thought truly worried me.
Let’s be honest. Not everyone thought my decision to stop drinking was a great idea. Some of my friends were really proud of me. Others wanted to know how long my status as a non-drinker was going to last.
In the beginning, I interpreted anything even remotely questioning as unsupportive. I wanted everyone to be 100 percent on board, and not everyone was.
Here’s what I learned.
Wanting the entire world to support my decision not to drink was not only unrealistic, it pointed to a deeper issue. The truth was I had doubts. Was stopping the right decision? What would it mean about me if I didn’t drink? Could I even do this?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but wanting the entire world to support my decision was my way of protecting myself. I wanted their complete support so I could avoid the hard work of facing my doubts.
I was obsessed with what people would think of me. At first, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was terrified how they might interpret my decision to stop drinking. What if they think something is wrong with me? If I tell them, will they think I’m an alcoholic? What if they think I’m no longer fun? The list of fears went on and on.
At some point I had to start practicing not caring. That’s right, practicing. When you’ve spent your whole life really caring what other people think, it takes practice to learn how to value your opinion of yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight and for me it’s still a work in progress.
There was one friendship that needed some serious work: the one I had with myself. I was so worked up about losing friends, yet I paid almost no attention to the relationship I had with myself. There was no one I spent more time with. No one who had my attention the way I had my own. Yet if people could see how I treated myself, they would see a pretty terrible friend.
When I looked in the mirror, my critiques of my appearance and my body were relentless. I was constantly berating myself for not working hard enough and not living up to the imaginary standard I had created for myself. My self-talk was way more bully than buddy, and frankly nothing was going to improve if that didn’t change first.
It’s easy to get caught up in worrying how your friends will take the news. But by taking a closer look at your expectations and fears of how your friends will react can point you in the direction of the real work ahead.