How can you support a friend or family member who is trying to quit alcohol so that they can also keep their confidence level up with even greater chances of staying sober?
Celebrate ALL the wins – no matter how big or small
Have they been sober 1 day? A week? Perhaps a year or two? Great! Congratulate them! Quitting any habit is difficult, but one that involves so much of our self-esteem and sense of “fitting into society” is much harder. As with any change, the beginning can be very difficult. This is a key time to make a big deal of the wins. If the person has relapsed, remind them that it is part of the journey and with the lessons learnt, they can keep going. This support goes a long way in helping people stick to making a change.
Acknowledge the losses
For anyone to have quit alcohol, they have made MANY sacrifices along the way. There are friends and family members that distanced because they no longer fit in. There are people in their work and social circle who made them feel like absolute sh*t for choosing not to drink at the Christmas party, Bar Mitzvah, Birthday party, you name it. They probably had to change their routine and follow the strict guidelines they imposed upon themselves in order to avoid exposure to temptation. For example, they might have avoided going to the pub as they often used to with their mates and learnt to say “no” to things that are not good for their wellbeing for the first time in their life. Understand that these are all big things to deal with. The easier option is to give in and have a drink, but they didn’t and stuck their ground.
Commend them on the changes in their health and personality
When people make changes in their lives, parts of their personality begin to shift as well. Over time, quitting alcohol means no more hangovers, no alcohol-related blackouts or acts of violence, no bouts of emotional upheaval and depression caused by alcohol, no turning up to work late, and a general sense of a better way of living. These changes reflect upon the person’s behaviour and attitude. They might be more attentive, they might remember things more readily, and they might become healthier. These are all important things to appreciate and acknowledge.
Don’t make their sobriety about you
Sometimes when someone close to us decides to make a change, we can’t help but compare ourselves to them. Quitting alcohol is a personal choice. Your friend or family member choosing to quit is doing it for their wellbeing. It is not a reflection on you or your personal relationship with alcohol. Questions like, “how much did you used to drink” or “did you drink alone or with a group” are unhelpful because their intention is for you to compare to yourself and ultimately, to judge. Don’t do it. It is not helpful for you or the person who is trying to quit alcohol.
Listen to them
When we embark on a change, we learn many things about ourselves and the world around us. Your friend or family member is experiencing an array of emotions about the world right now. For example, why is it that you can get alcohol on tap in some countries, but you have to pay for another glass of water or soda? Why do they have “drink packages” for alcohol in fancy restaurants, but not for non-alcoholic beverages such as mocktails? Why are mocktails considered cheesy and childish when they can be a much healthier alternative to alcohol? These are real and serious revelations for the non-drinker because they impede on their ability to fit in. It can even feel discriminatory to them, and rightfully so.
If you wish to add more to this list, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments or review box below. I read all comments and reviews and will gladly add your point here if it is relevant. And remember, your support might be the one helping hand that keeps your friend or family member achieve their goal of sobriety. Be that person for them.