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My tips for supporting a friend who does not drink

Chloe has some practical tips for supporting your friends on a night out if they're not drinking


Written by Chloe Boland and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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People might not be drinking on a night out for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re driving, maybe they’re on antibiotics or maybe (and here’s a wild one) they just don’t drink. Many of us choose not to drink for a variety of different reasons and it can be frustrating if we’re constantly being asked why we’re not drinking. So if you’re on a night out with a friend who isn’t drinking, here are some things you can do to support them and make everyone’s night better.

Offer to do other things on a night out

Personally speaking I do enjoy going out. But sometimes I do just want to go for dinner, or the cinema or do something where alcohol isn’t involved. Being around people when they’re drinking is different to when they’re sober, naturally enough, and it’s nice to spend time together where everyone is sober.

It’s nice to hear “Want to go for dinner/ to the cinema etc?” and not “Want to go out?” every once in awhile and I love when my friends take the initiative to arrange non-alcohol related nights out. There are so many things you can do without alcohol: cinema, dinner, bowling, a play/musical, movie night. The list is endless and these activities are just as enjoyable as going out.

Look after each other

Everyone wants to have fun on a night out so it’s best not to assume that your friend who is not drinking will look after everyone for the night. I look after my friends when we go out to make sure they’re all safe and they do the same for me, that goes without question but it’s nice that my friends don’t expect me to give up my fun to look after them them every time we go out.

Share driving duties

I think that just because someone is always going to be sober, it doesn’t mean they should always have to drive. I think that's an unfair expectation. I think this role should be split equally like it would be in a group where everyone drinks. Some people might not mind being the driver but it’s nice to offer to drive sometimes and let them have a night off.

Respect their choice

When I first started going out, or even when I go out with a new group of people, there’s always that moment where people realise I am not drinking and suddenly there’s a million questions coming at me. It can be really annoying to have to explain yourself just because you don’t have a drink in your hand.

Some people will have no problem talking about why they’re not drinking but for some people it can be a sensitive issue and not something they want to talk about at all. It’s good to be aware of this and think before asking people about why they’re not drinking. Whatever a person’s reasons are for not drinking, it’s their personal choice, so it’s important to be understanding of this and respect their decisions.

If someone isn’t drinking it’s for a reason and probably means they do not want to be drinking. In this case it’s good to avoid asking them if they “just want one drink” or trying to persuade them that they should be drinking. In my experience, “Ah go on” isn’t really something people like to hear, even if you are just trying to be sound. It’s much easier to just respect that a person is not drinking. Trying to encourage them to drink might make them upset or annoyed. It can be awkward enough being the only one not drinking.

Check in on them

My friends and I do this anyway, regardless of who is/isn’t drinking, but it’s good to check on your friends and make sure everyone is having a good night! Be supportive of your friend’s choice

Honestly the best thing I think you can do when someone isn’t drinking is just not make a deal out of it, no questions, no fussing. Just treat them the same as everyone else going out. It will probably make for a better night out for everyone.

This is all based on my personal experience of going out and not drinking. Everyone is different and may have had different experiences to me. I think it’s always important to be conscious that alcohol and drinking can be a sensitive issue for some people and being around alcohol may not be safe/enjoyable for them at all. Whatever a person’s reason is for not drinking, it’s important to respect and support their decision.

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Published Sep­tem­ber 30th2019
Tags opinion alcohol drinking night out
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