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Living a Sober Lifestyle: How to Tell People You’re Sober

Written by Melissa Carmona

& Medically Reviewed by Eric Patterson, LPC

Medically Reviewed

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Last Updated - 06/17/22

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Making the decision to become sober takes bravery and determination, especially since it can disrupt relationships. Practice healthy communication to ease the process.

You’ve made an important life decision to give up drinking or end drug use and complete your path to sobriety. On the surface, this seems like a choice that would be received in a universally positive light. However, when other people come to depend on your substance use for reasons like having fun, feeling superior or maintaining the family dynamic, your sobriety could be viewed negatively. In these conversations, assertive and clear communication paired with attentive listening will increase your chance at a successful and positive relationship.

Talking About Sobriety

You have something important to share with your friends, family, and coworkers, but you have no idea how they will react. Will they readily accept you for who you are now and embrace your differences, or will they reject what you have to say? Will you feel happy and relieved after the conversation, or will their response breed feelings of shame and guilt that make you question your stance?

This dilemma will sound familiar to many, but it has nothing to do with sexual orientation this time. It has to do with sobriety.

After years of frequent substance abuse, people’s expectations and opinions of you could be largely influenced by drug use. The person you are sober will be different than the intoxicated version of you, and this change needs to be addressed.

Not only will a conversation about sobriety let people know what is happening in your life, but it will let them know your feelings, your thought process, and the notion that they need to shift their expectations of who you are now and how you would like to be in the future. Perhaps most importantly, it will let them know that they should consider adjusting their interactions with you to avoid relapse.

How to Tell Others You’ve Quit Drugs or Alcohol

Quitting drugs and alcohol is a healthy, life-changing decision that affects everything from work and school to finances and relationships. You may be tempted to keep your choice secret or hidden away from others, but telling them that you’ve chosen recovery over addiction is a great way to improve relationships and maintain sobriety.

To effectively communicate serious and sensitive material, people need a plan. Regardless of who you’re talking to, you need: 

  • A firm understanding of your goals. Before you can explain yourself to others, you need to know what you want and why you want it. Decide what sobriety will look like for you and what they can do to help.
  • A captive audience. Trying to have a serious conversation while people are distracted or disinterested is impossible. Let them know you need some of their time and all of their attention to state your case.
  • Clear communication. With sensitive information, people tend to dance around the topic, rather than being direct and clear. Tell them about your sobriety, including what you expect of yourself and what you expect of them.
  • Conversations, not lectures. Telling people about your recovery should be a conversation full of back-and-forth communication, not a one-sided lecture. Ask them questions and let them ask some back to improve understanding.

Telling Family You’re Sober

Telling your family of your sobriety is often welcomed news, but some family members may be confused, frustrated or even disappointed by your decision. Be sure to tell them why the choice is best for you and how they can support your sobriety.

Along the way, let them know what may happen if they begin to sabotage or disrupt your progress. This is not a threat, but a hope that they’ll work with you. However, when people do not support your health, you may have to exclude them from your life.

Discussing Sobriety with Close Friends

You don’t get to pick your family, but you do get to choose your friends. Choosing friends with similar views on substances will be essential.

Chances are good some of your friends are people who you used to use drugs or alcohol with, so you may have to end certain relationships. Don’t discuss your sobriety with anger, guilt or passing judgment on your friends. If they choose to continue using, you cannot control that, but you can accept them with love when they find sobriety.

Mentioning Sobriety to Acquaintances or Work Colleagues

Telling casual acquaintances and coworkers about your sobriety is a less challenging situation because it may not be necessary. If people did not know about your substance abuse, they probably don’t need to know about your sobriety. Rather than going out of your way to mention it, consider only stating your preference if asked. It is always up to you who knows about your personal life.

Sober Dating

Sober dating is going to look, feel and progress differently than dating with addiction. The good news is that preference for drinking and substance use is a fairly common topic on dating sites and first dates. It can also help to have first dates in places that aren’t associated with alcohol or drugs: coffee shops, parks, libraries, movie theaters and skating rinks can be good options.

Tell your date about your sober status, and check-in with theirs. When views on substance use are not compatible, it could be time to find another date. If you’re searching, sober online communities and dating apps like Loosid can help you find like-minded people.

Broadcasting Sobriety on Social Media

Deciding to become sober is a monumental step, and many people want to shout their recovery from the rooftops and across social media. The process has risks, but it comes with many benefits. Sobriety and recovery are often misunderstood, so some people may judge you harshly or mock you for choosing sobriety. You cannot change others’ opinions, but you can enjoy the empowerment that comes from advocating for yourself. In the best situations, other people will support your decision to improve your health and lifestyle. You may inspire others to see sobriety as a possible choice for their future.

Preparing for a Shift in Relationships

Sobriety is always the best choice after struggling with addiction, but it may not feel that way during the early days of recovery. Your friends, family and loved ones could treat you differently, and your relationships could shift. The person they knew during your substance use is gone and replaced by someone different.

This new person has made big changes. You could act differently, speak differently, hang out with new friends and eat new foods. More importantly, if substance use and addiction were having a negative impact, you aren’t allowing these negative influences into your life anymore. Even though this stranger is a better version, some people in your life may reject you.

The pain of rejection is often enough to relapse and return to substance use, but restarting the pattern of addiction only makes matters worse. Though difficult, understanding and expecting certain relationships to end at the outset of your sobriety could help you prepare for the inevitable.

In the end, those people will miss out on the physically and mentally healthy person your sobriety creates. The people who support your sobriety will get to enjoy a relationship with the new you. Meanwhile, the recovery community often brings new sober relationships to fill the void.

Sober Connections

One of the greatest aspects of sobriety is your newfound access to sober friendships. Support groups, rehabilitation treatment and 12-step programs create a new sense of community and engagement that most people cannot find elsewhere.

With a little research, you can find gyms, social clubs, sports leagues and other activities built on a foundation of recovery. Sobriety will change relationships but, in many cases, it will make old ones better and welcome new ones into your life.

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol use and want to enter a sober lifestyle, rehab treatment is often the first step. Clients at The Recovery Village at Baptist Health make lifelong memories with their peers in recovery through group therapy, recreational activities and our alumni network. Contact us today to discuss treatment options that can meet your needs and learn how to begin a life in recovery.

Related Topic: Am I an Alcoholic

View Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Use.” June 2019. Accessed October 7, 2020.

Mayo Clinic. “Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder).” October 26, 2017. Accessed October 8, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.” January 2014. Accessed October 8, 2020.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders.” October 7, 2020. Accessed October 8, 2020.