One of the harsh distinctions you will learn soon after becoming sober is the dividing line between a friend vs a drinking buddy. While being an active alcoholic you surround yourself with people who have the same hobbies as you- which just so happens to be drinking. Once becoming sober you can feel alienated and lonely. The people you used to spend time with are now more scarce and even if you do hang out there is one less thing for you to connect with. While it may be troublesome at first- you will find the distinction between who was a drinking buddy and who is your friend.
A drinking buddy can be dangerous. Someone who you mainly only related to over alcohol. Oftentimes a drinking buddy will try to coerce you into making decisions against your sobriety. You’ll hear phrases like “Let’s go have a beer- one won’t kill you” or “Your life seems pretty good- REAL alcoholics are homeless and beg for change”. Sometimes there will be more subtlety to it like “Why don’t you just try to moderate. Have two beers and then stop- you’ll be okay.” For me, it never stopped at two beers- but people saying stuff like that was incredibly persuasive to me. Oftentimes they do not realize that saying those things can be dangerous to you and your new found will to fix your life. Sometimes your drinking problem is a mirror of their own drinking problem and they need to fight to not have that thought projected on them. That is a sweeping generalization but one I have found to be true in many cases.
On the other side of the coin you will find out who your “true friends” are. (I like to use that term lightly because there are different types of friends and different ways to value a friendship) Your friends will be happy for your decision- they will want to support you. A healthier friend is a better friend. They want you to get better and to be healthier because you will be a much better friend, a more reliable friend and the both of you will have a stronger friendship. A friend will support you the best way they know how but unless they have experience dealing with alcoholism or an alcoholic in their life then maybe the most they can offer is verbal support. Even that is humongous when first getting sober. This sounds very Kumbaya-ish but it’s true.
When I attempted (poorly) to get sober 2 years ago I lost a lot of friends which I now consider “drinking buddies”. Most of the friendships I had built were centered around going out drinking. Once I took that away, even for just 30 days, my friends dropped like fat kids in a 21k marathon. It was incredibly depressing and overwhelming to me at the time- I felt alienated and alone. However, what I was left with was the friends that were there for our relationship not our hobby. While it was disheartening at first I can tell you that I have missed 0% of the friendships I lost in that period. They weren’t friendships of value they were friendships of convenience.
So two years later when I decided to finally get sober I sent out a text message to my friends & family that simply read “In an attempt to get healthier both physically and mentally I’ve decided to refrain from alcohol from the foreseeable future. ”. I am pretty sure I copied this verbatim off of a “stop drinking” board. I have found it’s always good to imitate those who were successful before you. Despite this being an intimidating period of my life I can say that this time around I had a 100% support rate. My friends were incredibly supportive. Even the friendships I felt might suffer became some of my strongest relationships. I was incredibly shocked when my biggest drinking buddy pre-sobriety was the number one guy calling me up to see if I wanted to hang out- even going so far as to change our existing plans to be non-alcoholic events. I use that as an example of drinking buddy vs friend. Would that guy have stuck around if he was simply a drinking buddy?
While this period of your sobriety may be lonely, intimidating and difficult- you will have a lot of silver lining moments. Your drinking buddies will fall to the wayside while your real friendships- those friendships of value and substance- will grow stronger and be way more fulfilling. You’re going through the tough times now in order to get the rewards later on. And without the bitter the sweet isn’t as sweet.