When you have a history of alcoholism or addiction, staying sober is typically a huge challenge. The challenge becomes that much more difficult when you belong to a social group in which everyone else likes to drink.

Knowing how to avoid alcohol when all of your friends enjoy alcohol is a practical issue you have to be proactive in tackling.

Staying Sober When Friends Drink

Our society talks a lot about peer pressure with regard to high school and college students, but the problem doesn’t end with school. Peer pressure doesn’t simply melt away when you graduate. Sometimes, the pressures become even stronger and less avoidable.

When you’re an adult, trying to maintain sobriety while all your friends and peers are consuming alcohol is a difficult task. If you try to ignore the problem until you’re in the moment, you’re only setting yourself up to go along and give in.

Instead, you need a proactive plan in advance that will protect you from making unhealthy emotional decisions. Here are a few practical suggestions.

1. Set Clear Expectations With Friends

The first step is to be upfront and honest with your friends. Talk to them beforehand -- that is to say, when they’re sober -- and give them the firm message that you won’t be drinking.

It can be useful to explain the “why” behind your choice and to ask them to respect it. A good friend might not agree with your decision, but he or she ought to support it.

It’s also worth noting that you need to be honest. An excuse -- such as a pending doctor’s appointment or bad allergies -- might get you off the hook for one night, but you can’t keep raising those week after week. Be forthcoming about why you’re making sobriety a permanent choice and request some understanding. 

The key is to focus on yourself and not make a big deal out of your choice not to drink. As women’s health coach Ezzie Spencer writes, “Drawing attention to your decision not to drink, or getting on your soapbox about why drinking is bad or ‘unspiritual’ is pretty much guaranteed to annoy friends and family. People generally don’t like it when someone is judging them or proselytizing.”

2. Be on High Alert in This Situation

You’re more likely to be tempted by alcohol in certain situation than in others. Vacation is one. When you’re on vacation, you’ve been removed from your normal routine. Vacations create downtime that must be filled with activity, so they tend to foster the mentality that you can make mistakes and forget about them when you go home.

Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case. “By planning a vacation activity strategy in advance, it’s possible to avoid prolonged periods of ‘nothing much happening,’ ” His House Rehab explains.

“Whether it’s a high-energy activity or an hour or so of sunbathing, having a scheduled event acts as a stepping stone from one hour of the vacation to the next. That reduces the time spent wondering what to do.”

3. Offer to be the Designated Driver

One of the best ways to go out with your friends and not feel pressured to drink is to offer to be the designated driver for the group. This provides a tangible reason for your sobriety and prevents your friends from asking why you don’t have a drink in your hand. You might become a lot more popular because you’re looking after their safety and needs.

4. Drink a Soda and Lime

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to carry a drink in your hand … just not the alcoholic variety. If you’re out at a bar and don’t want to walk around empty-handed, ask the bartender for a soda and lime.

This can readily be taken for a vodka tonic and will discourage other people from having to ask you why you aren’t drinking. In addition, at least some of your friends will become buzzed enough not to even recognize you’re sober.

5. Bring an Accountability Partner

If you don’t want to be the only sober person at an event, bring an accountability partner with you. Having someone else to talk to and support will help to keep you on the right track.

6. Decline the Invitation

You never want to ignore your friends or burn bridges, but there may come a point in life when you have to start forming a new social group that doesn’t put alcohol at the center of its activities. It’s perfectly fine to decline the occasional invitation from a friend and choose to do something else.

Practice Extreme Caution

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been sober for three weeks or thirty years, you’ll always have to be careful when you find yourself in a social setting where alcohol is available.  The above tips should give you some practical advice on how you can place yourself in smart situations where there’s less of a temptation to slip up.