How to Explain Recovery to Family and Friends

With the holiday season approaching, you might start seeing family and friends that you haven’t seen in a while. While it is great to see everyone, there is something new about you this year — you are sober. They might wonder why you are not partaking in wine or spiked eggnog at holiday events, so it’s important to have a plan in place and know how to explain recovery to family and friends when these questions arise.

Keep It Positive

Now that you’re sober, your life has improved in so many ways. Chances are your health has improved dramatically, your relationships are getting better, your life is more fulfilling, and you just feel better. Getting sober has been one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, so be proud of it!

By saying, “I don’t drink anymore because I had a bad problem and needed to go to rehab”, you might be putting a negative spin on it in some people’s eyes. Instead, by saying “I am sober now, and I feel great!” you will leave people feeling proud of you, and possibly even envious. This can further lead you to shift the conversation from not having a glass of wine in your hand to how much better your life is, and what types of positive experiences you have encountered since becoming sober.

Be Prepared to Say No

While you should keep it positive, there might be some instances where you need to give a firm “no”. Sobriety is difficult for a lot of people to understand, especially those people who have a history of drinking or partying with you. They might try to break your sobriety, or try to convince you to have “just one drink”. Be prepared to say no and to leave if the situation gets too overwhelming. Relapse is a very real part of addiction recovery, which makes it very important to check in with your support system during these hard times.

Post About It

It can be hard for some people to tackle this issue in person with family and friends, as it can leave people feeling awkward and cornered. That’s why many people have turned to posting about their newfound sobriety on social media. Not only is it therapeutic to write about your experience, but you are also letting everyone know that you are sober in one fell swoop without having to repeat yourself over and over to everyone you come across.

You’re also able to totally control the conversation by saying what you need to say without interruption or judgement. You can also control who sees the post by making a list and posting to only that group, excluding coworkers or the general public. This way, you are only letting people who need to know, know. You might also be surprised to see how supportive all your friends and family are, who is willing to share their struggles, and who is also sober.

Give It More Time

Just because someone asks why you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you are required to give a truthful answer. Maybe you are early in your recovery and you aren’t ready to talk about it, or you’re just not ready to “go there” yet with your family. That’s okay! It’s your life and your recovery, so give yourself as much time as you need. If you need some ways to back out of answering questions, here are some tips:

  • “I’m on medication.” As people know, there are many medications that should never be mixed with alcohol. By saying you’re on medication, you’re allowing yourself a quick out and an end to the conversation.
  • “I’ve got a big day tomorrow, and I get hungover too easily.” Everyone experiences hangovers differently, so just say that yours have gotten worse over time. Most drinkers understand this feeling and usually back off.
  • “Not tonight.” There’s no requirement to give any sort of actual excuse — a simple, firm “no” is effective, as well.
  • Hold a mocktail. A club soda with a lime wedge usually does the trick here if you’re not totally ready to talk about your sobriety or open the door to questions.

About Cliffside Malibu

Recovery can be an extremely personal thing, one that not everyone is excited to talk about in detail right away. Whether you are open about your struggle with addiction or if you aren’t yet willing to talk about it yet, there are many ways you can explain recovery to family and friends. Above all, keep it positive and share when you are ready to share.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for every client. We are committed to providing evidence-based treatment through a continuum of care model including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program also includes family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are structured to create a supportive environment where healing can begin.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, and meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit