Dry July – What to say to your friends who still want you to drink


It’s July, time to give your liver break and clean it out. If you’re considering Dry July, or you’ve already committed to Dry July, you may be concerned about how your friends will react when you tell them that you’re not drinking for a month.

Your friends may say things like:

  • “Come on…it’s my birthday, you have to drink one with me.” (applies to weddings, engagements, reunions, etc.)
  • “Rugby’s on…it’s not the same without a beer at the pub.”
  • “You can have just one…it’s not going to hurt you.”
  • “What’s the matter with you? You think you’re better than us because you aren’t drinking?”
  • “You make me feel awkward standing here with a drink and you not having one.”

The good news: Dry July is becoming more socially acceptable here in New Zealand, despite the historical drinking culture. “Dry July” has a nice ring to it and the 1-month time constraint gives your friends a deadline for your sudden change, reassuring them that it’s temporary.

The bad news: Some of your friends will not want to stop drinking or know how to relate to you without alcohol. This happened to one of my patients where her friend said to ‘call her back when she’s drinking again’.

The great news: Most people are supportive of Dry July, especially if you frame it to them in the right way. The key is to know how to talk to them.

A big key: make sure youre not judging them. If they still drink, they don’t want to be judged by you while you are not drinking. Their biggest fears are that they will feel judged, blamed, made to feel guilty, feel inferior, shamed, diagnosed, and that they won’t know how to interact with you (or themselves) without you drinking with them.

What NOT to say to your friends:

  • “You’re a bad influence.”
  • “I’m cleansing my liver, you are obviously toxic.”
  • “Why can’t you relax without a drink?”
    • “What, are you dependent on booze to even have a conversation?”

Instead, reassure them and enlist their support. Because drinking is so entrenched in the culture, the refusal to drink may be (mis)interpreted as a refusal of the friendship, the occasion, or of the culture itself. If you know your “Why” for Dry July, your friends will better support you because you are making it clear the refusal to drink is not a refusal of the friendship, the occasion, or the culture. Your friends are your friends because they support you. Friends want to be supportive, so let them know your “Why” so they can.

So what is your Why for Dry July? Below are examples of Why and suggested ways to enlist support from your friends.

  • To stop feeling so angry and easily frustrated.

o “I’m just feeling more stroppy than usual and I want to see if drinking is contributing.”

o “I’m not feeling well and I’m experimenting with no alcohol to see it if helps.”

  • To stop yelling at the kids (Note: This was the stated goal of one of my patients as to why she wanted to stop drinking for a time).

o “I want to stop yelling at my kids.” (Note: My patient said this was the one line that stopped everyone from trying to convince her to drink again.)

  • To help stop the pain under the right ribs.

o “I’m having pain under my right ribs…it might be a liver/gall bladder problem and I’m aware that alcohol may contribute to the problem.”

o “I can’t mix painkillers and alcohol…it puts my health at risk.”

  • To give the liver a rest.

o “I’m at risk for cirrhosis and I want to live a bit longer.”

  • To improve digestion.

o “I’m haven’t been feeling well and I wanted to give my gut a rest.”

o “I’ve noticed that alcohol doesn’t make me feel well so I’m doing an experiment for 1 month.”

  • To lose some weight.

o “I heard that alcohol acts like a form of sugar in the body and I know sugar causes obesity…so I’m trying to eliminate alcohol.”

o “I’m trying to cut down sugar and alcohol is a form of sugar.”

  • To challenge oneself.

o “I’m giving it a go.”

o “Someone dared me to try 1 month without alcohol.”

o “It’s Dry July, ask me again in a month.”

  • To make a change.

o “I’m doing an experiment.”

  • To save some money.

o “I’m saving up for…”

  • To set an example for the kids.

o “I want to set an example for the kids.”

  • To sleep better.

o “My sleep hasn’t been that good recently so I’m doing an experiment for 1 month without alcohol.”

  • To improve health.

o “My doctor told me to stop for a month.”

o “Doctor’s orders.”

o “I’m doing a cleanse program for a month and I’m not allowed to drink while on a cleanse.”

What if they insist on you having a drink? Unfortunately, there are people who won’t believe you or think it’s a game to get you to drink again. There are several ways to maintain your commitment to DryJuly while preserving the friendship and the interaction. You have to reassure them that a) you are serious about Dry July, b) you value the friendship, c) you want their support, and d) you aren’t going to shift the friendship on them because you aren’t drinking like they are. A great way to do it is to change the subject to what is going on in their life. This shows that you are still interested in them even though you are not interested in drinking with them. Examples of what to say include:

  • “Thank you for your generosity, I’m all good. It’s good to see you, how was your day?”
  • “Great to see you. I’m doing Dry July. Offer me again in a month or so. How was your day?”
  • “I’m doing Dry July, so I’m the designated driver for a month. How was your day?”
  • “Thank for the offer. I’m really sincere about my [insert your Why here]. Ask me again in a month. How was your day?”

Be prepared: you may have to temporarily walk away from a few friends…or a few friends may walk away from you. Like I mentioned earlier, one of my patients cut alcohol to stop yelling at her kids. This same patient had a friend tell her to ‘call her back when she’s drinking again’. There are some friends that have associated alcohol so strongly to friendship, that that to deny alcohol is to deny the friendship. Sometimes reassuring them it’s just for a month will help, but sometimes it won’t. These are friends you have to let go of for the month, perhaps longer. It may seem harsh, but ask yourself some tough questions about these types of friends. What is the stronger bond between the two of you: alcohol or friendship? If the answer is alcohol, they will walk away or be relentless in getting you to drink with them again. If it’s the friendship, they will support you.

Remember: know your Why for Dry July and youll have the strength and confidence to communicate to your friends.

Summary:

  • You may have friends who object or are confounded by your decision to do Dry July.
  • The good news is that Dry July is becoming more socially acceptable in New Zealand.
  • The great news is that most friends are supportive, as long as you inform them of your Why forDry July.
  • Your friends are usually afraid of being judged or they are afraid that the refusal of alcohol equates to a refusal of the friendship, the occasion, or the culture. Just reassure them that it’s all about your Why, and ask for their support.
  • Some of your friends may insist and you might have to take a hiatus from these friends for the month (if they don’t take a hiatus from you first).

Know your Why for Dry July: This is the big takeaway. If you are clear on that, then you can ask your friends for support. In fact, your friends may respect you even more as a friend because you’ve proved to them that the bigger bond you share is not the alcohol, but the friendship.

The best thing might be to ask them to join you for Dry July. Consider inviting them to join you for the month so they don’t feel left out and you can really support each other. Your friendship will only grow from the experience together.

If you want a supervised cleanse during Dry July, contact Dr. Shay here.

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