How to support a friend when they give up drinking
If your friend tells you they want to give up drinking, here is how you can support them in their decision
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
For some people, the decision to give up drinking can be a difficult one. They may be experiencing addiction or dependency issues, or may otherwise feel their drinking has become problematic. For others, it may be a lifestyle choice that is right for them as they do not enjoy being drunk or the side effects of alcohol. Regardless of their reasons, it is important to be supportive of your friend’s choice in whatever way you can.
Ways to support your friend when they give up drinking
Let your friend know that you are there to support them and that you will try to help them to stick with their decision.
Respect their decision
If your friend has given up alcohol, avoid trying to tempt them into drinking. You might just think you’re having a laugh, but they might not see it that way. They will have their reasons for not drinking, so respect that.
Talk to them about their reasons for giving up alcohol
There are many reasons someone might give up drinking such as the negative effects on their health or on their fitness. Talk to your friend about theirs. It might help you better understand where they are coming from. By talking to them about it, it shows you are interested in their decision.
If they are giving up alcohol because they are experiencing a mental health illness or addiction, they might be grateful to have someone to talk to about it. By starting the conversation, you give them the opportunity to do this.
Go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with them
If your friend does think that they have a problem with addiction, you could suggest that they attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is an international organisation where people who are addicted to alcohol can meet up regularly to support each other. There are open and closed meetings. Open meetings are open, to everyone so you could go to one of these with your friend if they were nervous to go on their own.
Closed meetings are just for alcoholics. Your friend might start going to these on their own when they are more comfortable there. Find out more about what happens at an AA meeting.
Look out for them so that they aren’t left out
Alcohol often plays a huge role in social events. If you are at an event with your friend who has given up drinking, try to be aware of them and make sure that they aren’t being left out. Get them a soft drink or alcohol free beer if you’re getting a round of drinks or check in and see if they are having a good time. If they experience social anxiety they might find it difficult to socialise without drinking. Knowing that you are there for them might really help.
Do things that don’t involve alcohol with them
If you find that you only see your friends when there is alcohol involved get proactive and organise to do other things. Have a look online for ideas. Depending on where you live, you could go for a hike or another outdoor activity, organise a game of football or a round of pitch and putt, go to the cinema, go to an exercise class or even just go to someone’s house for a movie or video games evening.
After talking to your friend about why they gave up alcohol, you might be feeling inspired. You don’t necessarily have to completely cut it out you could try to do a night out every now and again where you don’t drink, or try to give it up for a month. If you think strength in numbers would help you, you could do Dry January, Sober September or another time-linked challenge.