How to be Sober-Friendly

The exact number of college students in recovery is not known. In 2019, it was estimated approximately 840,000 full-time student attending college would be in recovery. Community and a support system are incredibly important to the success of an individual in recovery. If you would like to help those in recovery, there are a few things that you can do!

Don’t be weird about it.

Don’t be awkward. There’s no need to draw attention to what a person is consuming (or not consuming). Unless it applies to the situation, don’t bring it up! While it’s important to ask a nondrinking person if they mind you drinking around them, don’t keep asking to “make sure”.

Provide alternative drinks.

Not all nondrinkers like nonalcoholic beer and spirits! Try keeping some soft drinks, juice and water on-hand for those who are choosing not to drink. If you don’t know what they want to drink, try asking!

Choose activities that aren’t centered around drinking.

Consider planning some nondrinking outings! If you and your friends find yourselves going out to wine or beer tasting, bars, or parties, try going to a movie, bowling or a nice hike. See more sober-friendly living activities.

Be mindful of how you talk about drinking.

Talking about your latest win at a drinking contest or a night of drunken escapades can be annoying or distressing to someone who’s in recovery. If your friend tells you outright something is making them uncomfortable or if you get the feeling they are becoming annoyed, simply apologize and change subjects.

Avoid asking probing questions.

While some close friends might be comfortable talking about their history with substances, others (like acquaintances) may not. Avoid asking about the rock bottoms or their certainty of addiction.

Listen closely and be patient.

If a nondrinker does decide to confide in you, listen and be patient as they navigate through some hard topics. Recognize that for people who have an alcohol use disorder, abstaining from alcohol can be difficult — even if they’ve been sober for years.

Let nondrinkers decide for themselves if they want to come.

For some in recovery, being around alcohol is not triggering. However, some may prefer to avoid it entirely. If you are having an event that includes alcohol, let nondrinkers make the decision to attend or not. Remember some of the previous tips to support those who decide to attend!

Sober-Friendly Activity Ideas:

  • Try a new recipe
  • Go camping
  • Go on a photo walk
  • Go for drive
  • Host a game night
  • Go to the movies
  • Go bowling
  • Try out some karaoke
  • Volunteer
  • Try an escape room
  • Go to a Sober Bar. Find some at Sober Bar Finder.