Are other people sometimes “a bit much”?

Do you ever feel like “they” are more trouble than they’re worth?

Yeah, me too… been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

Dealing with others can be a minefield in early recovery. Like navigating a hazardous maze. 

With this in mind it’s an honour to feature yet another special guest author to the site. Kelly, or Sober Sister, hails from down under, or Auckland, New Zealand* to be precise, and has crafted her thoughts on this very subject.

Our experiences of early recovery are all different, as are the ways we deal with the complexities of our journeys. But reading Kelly’s words is an entertaining and enlightening way to spend some of your time. Honest!

So, have a gander, and if you’d like to see more of what Kelly has to offer, you can check her website out when you’re done! Simples.

Kelly, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It’s been great working with you! We look forward to hearing more from you soon

*For the resurgent flat-earthers amongst you, New Zealand is over on the far left, near the edge of the world. [Ed]


How to deal with other people in early recovery from alcohol.

By Kelly Simkins


Dealing with other people when you first enter alcohol recovery can be tough.

  • Your family may try to push or cross your boundaries and want to control the situation.
  • Your friends might question you about your decision to ditch the booze and may appear to not be in full support of you straight away.
  • Everyone will have an opinion about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and how you’re doing it.
  • There will always be someone who just doesn’t get it and pushes their judgements on you: “Life without drinking? Screw that!” “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t drink.” “Life without alcohol would be sooooo boring – URGH.” I’ve heard all of these and many more.
  • You will also hear a lot about why other people don’t have a problem with drinking: “Drinking doesn’t affect me like it affects you.” “It doesn’t make me depressed at all.” “I can always stop after a couple.” Uhuh!
  • You may also notice that you’re not getting invited to some events, or that some friends are becoming more distanced than usual.

Of course, not everyone is going to give you a hard time. In fact, there WILL be people who will be in full support of you no matter what and that’s awesome because they are your people. But I want you to also be prepared to experience some flack, because unfortunately, it is part of the reality of getting sober. There will always be someone (or many someones) who will have some kind of problem with the fact that you are making this decision.

It’s soooo hard to take ourselves out of the equation too. We often see other peoples’ objections and issues as a reflection of ourselves and our own “shittiness”. The real truth though is this: other peoples’ reactions to your decision to quit drinking has nothing to do with you. What’s that saying? Other peoples’ opinions of you are none of your business? YEP PREACH! It’s all about them baby, and simply by being aware of this one truth will change the way you deal with other people in your recovery forever. But that’s not all I’ve got for you today…

Here are 11 TIPS to help you deal with other people in early sobriety (or at any stage of your journey):

1. Clarify a rock solid WHY – if you are sure about your decision to quit the booze, others are more likely to be too.

Do not underestimate the POWER of you feeling amazing about being sober. Why? When it comes to dealing with other people (especially those who may give you a hard time) it’s ALL about the energy that you are putting out. If you are feeling down in the dumps about it and rock up to your regular girly get-together, they are going to sense it like a shark smells blood in the ocean, right? However, if you know exactly WHY you are quitting, WHY you are gifting this opportunity to yourself, WHY you are determined to make this shit happen, then you are more likely to be walking into that room with your head held high and feeling fucking proud of yourself, and that will be noticed! You deserve to be more than fish-bait my dear.

2. Set clear boundaries in terms of what you will and won’t do in your recovery.

OK so, this is really really really important. So important, I’m going to put into caps: YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO IN YOUR RECOVERY. OK, I’ll settle down now, but serrrriouslyyyyyyy Girl! You do not have to go to rehab. You do not have to attend AA if it’s not your jam. You do not have to stop eating sugar straight away. You do not EVER have to stop eating sugar!!! Or coffee. Or Coke Zero. You do not have to go out on the weekends until you feel ready to. You do not have to attend all the bullshit things you said yes to before you quit. The VERY BEST thing that you can do when it comes to dealing with other people in your sobriety, is to develop some crystal clear boundaries for yourself early on. DECIDE on how you are going to move forward with this thing, and how you are going to make it work for you. You want to develop a holistic recovery plan? Do it! You want to spend your weekends watching Netflix for a while? Go lay on that couch! You want to eat up all the sugary goodness in your pantry? YES GIRL! You get to decide the how and what and when – always.

3. Build up your MINDSET so you can feel awesome about being sober.

Developing a rock solid mindset is the KEY to developing that genuine, positive energy that I mentioned in point 1. It also means that you are more likely to recognise when someone is being negative, when someone is saying something that you don’t need to take on board, and with practice it will be so much easier for you to stay in your lane and stick to your guns. Tony Robbin’s states that success is: “80% mindset and 20% action.” Getting your noggin’ on your side is the first step to dealing with any challenge you will face, including dealing with other peoples’ crap.

4. Practice turning the conversation to something more positive.

When someone is saying something negative about your drinking, or about their drinking (or about anything in general), practice turning the conversation around to something different and/or more positive. This is so effective because a) you are not going to buy into their shit and internalise it, and b) you send them a very clear message that you are simply not interested in talking about this topic, but you are doing it in a way that isn’t confrontational. They may get a little weirded out if you change up the conversation abruptly, but that’s OK, they will get over it – I promise.

5. Don’t buy into other peoples’ reactions (none of it is about you!)

I remember distinctly one evening in early 2017, in my first real attempt at sobriety, going to a friend’s house for a get-together which was definitely a very boozey affair. I found myself at one point in the evening being completely mocked by said friend about the fact that I was sober and “embracing sobriiiiiiettttyyyy” like it was the most UNCOOL thing to have ever happened in the world. This was in front of loads of her work friends who I didn’t really know and a couple of cute guys. It was totally humiliating for me and I immediately felt pissed off about it. I recoiled into my hermit shell and stayed there for the rest of the evening. It was hard to not take it personally. But reflecting back on this event now, I can see that this had NOTHING what-so-ever to do with me. Why? Because we see everything in this world as we are. We all have our own values, beliefs, and experiences that shape our perception of the world we live in. For my friend, drinking alcohol is important to her: she values it and she wouldn’t go a weekend without it, and that’s OK. But it doesn’t mean that I have to feel like shit, because I choose differently.

6. Be prepared for your relationship-scape to change.

On that note, one very very hard thing to realise and prepare for is that your relationships will evolve and change. Some will stay and get stronger, and some will not. You will have to come to terms with letting go of some people – perhaps many people – who no longer align with your new set of values and beliefs. This shit is probably the hardest stuff you will deal with in your early sobriety. It’s hard to feel good about this empowering choice you have made for your life, when all it seems to be doing is destroying relationships you once really valued. BUT here’s what I know that I want you to know: this phase will not be your forever and by letting go of everything and everyone that no longer aligns with you, you are creating space for MORE of what and who you really want and need in your life. You will create a vacuum in your relationships which, as the Law of Vacuum dictates, will be filled with new amazing people for you to get to know and cherish.

7. Be selective in terms of the invitations you accept, and say no when you need to!

We are circling back again to point 2 here: you do not have to do anything, or go anywhere that does not feel right for you. But of course, this means that you will have to get good at saying that dreaded word: NO. Like everything else in this list, this will get better with practice, but you will have to get comfortable with the discomfort of saying no. Like my mentor Kathrin Zenkina says: “If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a FUCK NO!” This philosophy has seriously changed the way I do things because I now know that there is only so much that I can actually say yes to (without killing myself in the process) and the same goes for you. You simply cannot do it all and you don’t have to either. Make your sobriety the priority and do only what supports you to keep going.

8. Use positive language when talking about your sobriety.

The language you use both with others and with yourself is everrrrrything. Your words have the power to both reinforce existing negative beliefs you may be holding onto, OR grow a whole different set of beliefs and possibilities into existence. If you are telling others that you are feeling shitty about being sober, then you will feel even more shitty about it. But if you are telling others that you freaking luurrrrve being sober (even if you don’t quite belief it yet) then you will feel more empowered and positive about it as each day passes. You don’t have to be 100% behind your words to start speaking what you want to be your truth so start today!

9. Let people come to you with their curious questions.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation about why you’ve decided to quit either, and you don’t need to be advertising your reasons for all to see. I’m obviously pretty public about my decision because writing and expressing myself is something that works for me, but I’m still not going around telling everyone I’m sober and why. Tell those closest to you, and then let others come to you first with their curious questions. If you go to a work function and find yourself ordering a soda and lime, and not the expected wine or martini, people will notice and the questions will come one way or another. Let them ask, let them be curious. You don’t need to impress them. You don’t need them to agree with you. Your only job is to be as yourself as you can be and stay steadfast in your choice to not drink.

10. Be straight up and tell people what you need from them.

In addition to point 9, if someone really levels up with you and respects you enough to ask you what you need from them, then don’t be afraid to tell them straight up like: “I need you to not make a big deal out of the fact that I’m drinking a soda and lime today,” or “I need you to not yell at me, and tell me that I actually should be going to rehab if I have a real problem,” or “I need you to give me a hug every time I see you because that’s what I need.” And if you find yourself doubting what it is you think you need, then I recommend that you create some white space for yourself in your schedule and ask yourself that very question in your journal: What DO you need and want right now from others? Because you deserve THAT and more.

11. Forgive forgive forgive.

Forgiveness is so important when it comes to dealing with other people in our daily lives – whether sober or not! If you are anything like me, you have a tendency to hold onto even the tiniest of annoyances with gritted teeth, but honestly, it’s not worth it. You are much better off practicing letting go of all negativity each and every day, and practice cutting those negative energetic cords to anything and anyone that does not serve your highest good.



About our author:


Kelly Simkins – Founder of Sober Sister – is a recovery mindset coach, teacher and writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. After 20 years of alcohol abuse, she has finally ditched the booze for good and is now dedicated to facilitating a new, positive conversation about womens’ alcohol consumption and promoting sobriety as an empowered choice, both in New Zealand and across the wider global community. Asides from being obsessed with not drinking, she also loves journaling, animals and lots of ice cream!

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