supporting your sober friends

How to Support Friends Who Don’t Drink

Drinking is pervasive in our society. We drink on happy occasions, at weddings or when we are celebrating a friend’s job promotion. We get together with friends after work for drinks. If we feel sad, we might go to our local bar to “drown our sorrows.” We drink at holiday dinners. We drink when watching the big game with friends.

With all the different occasions many drink alcohol, social situations can be a little tricky for people who don’t drink. However, you can support people who don’t drink. If you would like to support a non-drinking friend, try out some of the suggestions below.

Ask Them What They Need From You

It may seem a little simplistic, but you could just ask your non-drinking friend how you can help. If your friend is newly sober, they might need you to not drink around them. If a friend who doesn’t drink asks you not to drink around them, honor their request. If they have been sober for a long time or abstain from alcohol for medical or religious reasons, they may not care if you drink around them.

In social situations, don’t make a fuss about them not drinking. Receiving unwanted attention or a negative response to their choice not to drink could be hurtful. They could feel socially isolated or unwelcome. They might stop seeking support when they need it or start drinking again when they don’t want to. Depending on why they stopped drinking in the first place, the results of them drinking again could be concerning.

When Planning Events

If you are the person in charge of planning an event for an organization, make sure that a selection of non-alcoholic beverages is available and that they are served in attractive glassware. Part of what makes a festive occasion feel special is presentation. If you are hosting a party or a dinner at home, again, make sure that you have a couple of non-alcoholic choices available, attractively served. Learn how to make a few tasty “mocktails.” Find out what your friend drinks instead of alcohol and have some on hand. For example, one couple with a non-drinking relative might keep sparkling cider and water on hand as an option during Thanksgiving dinner.

Avoid Assumptions

Don’t make any assumptions about the beverage choices of people you don’t know well. People choose not to consume alcohol for all sorts of reasons, and it isn’t any of your business. If you ask someone what you can get them to drink, and they request tonic water with lime, get them tonic water with lime without making a fuss or asking personal questions. If they want you to know why they aren’t drinking, they’ll tell you.

Remember that no means no. If you ask someone if you can get them a glass of wine, and they reply that they would like sparkling water, don’t insist. It’s perfectly fine not to drink. If someone tells you that they don’t drink, don’t respond by telling them that just having one drink won’t hurt. You don’t know that. One drink might hurt a lot.

Be a Good Listener and Source of Support

If your friend who has stopped drinking tells you about their experience, listen to what they have to say. If your friend is active in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), ask if you can go to a meeting with them. Anyone can attend meetings designated as “open.” You will learn more about what your friend has been through.

Celebrate their successes and triumphs with them. If they are happy because they have been sober for a month, a year, or a decade, be happy with them and for them. Tell them what a great job they are doing and what good things they are doing for their health. Tell them that you are impressed and inspired by their strength. If they have lost weight, compliment them. If their skin looks great, tell them.

Fun Without Alcohol

Find activities that you can do with your non-drinking friends that don’t revolve around alcohol. Meet for breakfast. Go out for coffee or tea. Get together and bake elaborate desserts. Instead of going to happy hour after work, go out together for a walk or run. Find places in your community with hiking trails. Go to the beach. Meet in the park and play tennis.

In a society where a lot of socializing revolves around alcohol, it can take a little more effort to think of activities that don’t. If you put a little effort into this, you may find that you enjoy these alcohol-free activities just as much as your sober friend.

In a culture where alcohol is so pervasive, it can feel daunting to contemplate not drinking. At Enlightened Solutions, we understand this. The goal of treatment is to free people from addiction so they can live a fulfilling life. We are a co-occurring treatment center located near New Jersey’s southern shore. In addition to substance use disorders, we offer treatment for the mental health issues that frequently go along with addiction, like depression and anxiety. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We customize a treatment plan for each client, and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating an addiction. In addition to traditional talk therapy, we offer a range of holistic healing modalities, including yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, family constellation therapy, and equine-assisted therapy. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, please call us today at (833) 801-5483.

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Anxiety Changes Your Attention Span

Anxiety creates what is known as attentional bias. The brain creates all kinds of biases. There are long lists of cognitive biases which are the brain’s way of essentially getting lazy. Cognitive bias is the way the brain skips out on thinking more than it has to. Attentional bias, on the other hand, results in a change of what we pay attention to. If that seems obvious, the actual occurrence is a bit more obscure. On the sly, anxiety shifts our attention beyond what we are even aware of. By creating a change in consciousness, anxiety has the power to change our reality. How we experience reality is a debate usually left up to philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists alike. Simply stated, the way we think decides our reality. If our thinking, and attention span, is being skewed by the onset of anxiety, then so is our reality.

To someone with anxiety this may not be so scientific. Experiencing an anxiety attack is definitely a reality-jarring occasion. As the heartbeat starts increasing and the thoughts start running, there is little other reality left than the blatantly obvious and undeniable: I’m having an anxiety attack.

The repercussions of being focused on an anxiety attack might seem inconsequential. After all, if one is experiencing an anxiety attack they should probably be attentive towards it. However, the way that anxiety interacts with attention has more effect than just that. According to BBC, “anxiety’s effects on attention my shape worldviews and belief systems in specific and predictable ways. It can even affect our politics without us knowing.”

Attention has a primary purpose rooted in survival: helping us survive. By paying attention, we can be open to seeing what might be out of the ordinary or threatening. BBC writes that. “...anxiety causes this quick and simple threat detection system to become hypersensitive, changing the behavior of the attentional spotlight in a way that does harm.”

Learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety comes with treating anxiety. Untreated mental illness is one of the leading contributors to the development of addiction. Abusing substances only makes anxiety works, though it might seem like it is helping to take focus away from it.

There is a way to treat both substance abuse and anxiety.

Enlightened Solutions is a certified dual diagnosis treatment center offering comprehensive care programs for substance abuse and other mental health disorders. Recovery starts today, with you. Call us for more information 833-801-5483.

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Is “Neediness” Really Emotional Starvation?

In a letter to an anonymous note, Dr. Jonice Webb answers a very common question in psychology: is there such a thing as a needy child? Dr. Webb answers: No.

The anonymous author explained that her mother repeatedly informed her that she was a needy child often wanting to be held, was dramatic, and shy in school. Many children and adult children of alcoholics or dysfunctional families face such criticism from parents. Typically, the parent’s accusations are meant out of malice rather than to be constructive in any way. Children, especially young children, are inherently needy. They are in need of parental love, attention, affection, and support. Unfortunately, not all parents are mentally well when they decide to have children. They take their own childhoods and mental illness out on their children in damaging or destructive ways. “Many parents don’t realize that their job is not simply to provide for their children an raise them,” Dr. Webb explains, “they’re also supposed to respond to their children’s emotions.”

As an addict or alcoholic in the recovery process can relate, there is little responding to emotion when you are so disconnected from your own. Mental illness, and the presence of harmful substances, skews the mind from functioning normally. Spiritually speaking, the mind becomes occupied with matters of the self, leaving little room for divine intervention or empathy for other people.

Dr. Webb immediately explains that there is no such thing as a needy child, but there is such a thing as a child who is emotionally starved. Needy adults are characterized by their driving desire for those same things a neglected child is- that same love, affection and attention. “Growing up emotionally ignored results in growing up with a tendency to ignore yourself,” she explains. “How can you know yourself when your parents never knew you? How can you feel that you’re lovable when you didn’t feel love from those who brought you into this world and are supposed to love you first and best?”

Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction often includes recovering from a painful childhood and past. Through the therapeutic process of recovery, the underlying issues which led to addictive behaviors are discovered. For adult children of emotionally void homes, drugs and alcohol provided a solace and access to feelings of love. Additionally, substances also provided an escape from the emotional pain.