Increasingly younger Australians are choosing not to drink, or to drink more moderately than older generations. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, from 2007 to 2019, the proportion of people aged 14 to 17 who abstained from alcohol increased from 39 percent to 73 percent. There is also a growing sobriety movement, which aims to treat sobriety with a more positive and celebratory tone than it has been previously treated. And for good reason, alcohol has many negative impacts. Over the longer term, harmful drinking may result in alcohol dependence and other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, types of dementia, mental health problems and various cancers.

Here in Australia, drinking is a normalised and even celebrated part of our culture. Tired after a big day at work? Have a glass of wine! Celebrating a special occasion? Pop a bottle of champas! Getting together after sports practice? Head to the pub for a beer! It’s not unheard of for alcohol to be present in workplaces, children’s parties and even breakfast (Brunchtime Bloody Mary, anyone?)!

So let’s talk about how to manage your decision not to drink (congratulations!) in social situations when we’re immersed in a pro-drinking culture.

Social resistance

Many people who take time away from drinking, or quit alcohol completely, find that their decision is met with a lack of enthusiasm, resistance or even outright criticism from those around them. This is especially true if your social circle sees drinking as crucial to connection, relaxation or celebration. Your decision not to drink can often be interpreted by others as a judgment or criticism of their continued drinking. In response to this, they may try and induce you into drinking (“just have one!”) or act as though your decision is somehow punishing the group (“oh come on, we all want to have fun”).

How to manage

1. Have your response ready and firm. For example, you could try saying “I’m not drinking right now”. If they express frustration or sadness, just say it again, friend! “I’m. Not. Drinking. Right. Now” If you need to, you can provide more reasons (even if you’re stretching the truth!), such as waking up early or feeling unwell.

2. Be the designated driver! A sure way to get others on board is to be the MVP of the night and ferry your friends to and from your destination – no uber necessary!

Distance in friendships

Some friendships, especially of the “drinking buddy” variety, feel like they might not survive your sobriety. That person might find it difficult to connect or feel anxious or judged if you’re not both drinking. You might also find that you aren’t invited to some events as others assume you don’t want to be a part of it.

How to manage

1. Talk to them! If the friendship is a substantial one, they will listen and take on board what you say. Tell them you’re feeling more distant from them and work out how your friendship will survive it. This might mean finding some non-drinking activities to do together, or asking that they continue to invite you to events even if you’re not drinking – you can choose to say no if you’re not interested!

2. Your chat might bring up some insecurities from their side: feeling judged or vulnerable around you when you’re sober, sadness or anger about your decision not to drink meaning that you want distance from them. If this is the case, let them know why you’re choosing not to drink, the positive effects you’ve experienced from sobriety and how much their support would mean to you. A good friend will be on board.

Boredom and alienation from other drinkers

The funny thing about being sober is how not funny your drunk friends are when you’re not drunk. An event involving heavy drinking usually hits a tipping point (tipsy point?), where the conversation is suddenly less stimulating and more repetitive, ranty or emotional (depending on your crew!). You might even find that you’re not wanting to attend events with drinkers because of this.

How to manage

1. Leave early! Get out of there (or go to bed) when you notice this shift. Very little will be gained by staying on once the tipsy point has tipped!

2. Create opportunities for non-drinking hangs. There is a world of opportunity for socialising that doesn’t involve drinking, believe it or not! Get together to exercise (walk, hike, jog, swim, bicycle), have a picnic or another outdoor activity (frisbee, cricket, kubb, slacklining or golf), see a movie or go to an exhibition at a museum or gallery, have a games night or do a puzzle, meet for a meal or a coffee, have a study group or go on a roadtrip!

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Article written by: Kate McLisky

Image credit: Fred Moon on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Did this answer your question?