You’ve decided to get sober, either as the result of an internal or external desire to turn your life around. Perhaps you were in danger of losing your job, family or freedom. There may have been a compelling thought that “enough is enough.”
Your first time out with friends has you in a familiar setting and they are about to order a round of drinks. When you turn down their offer to buy you a beer, the response is, “Oh, come on, one won’t hurt you. What are you, a lightweight?” They may even question your manhood. There you sit with your non-alcoholic drink, perhaps feeling diminished, still wanting to fit in.
When James Swanwick, an Australian-American investor, TV and podcast host, former SportsCenter anchor on ESPN, and Hollywood correspondent voluntarily became sober, he was confronted with that type of feedback from his friends.
He says: “For many guys, drinking is considered a badge of honor. In many cases, it’s how men feel like they can bond. Drinking beer or getting drunk together. So my not drinking posed a threat to some guys. They’d think I was ‘soft’ or ‘weak’ or something like that. Women, on the other hand, were mostly impressed. I think they were thinking, ‘Here’s a man who’s got his life under control.’ They seemed to like that about me.”
Swanwick’s perception is that “if one member of a tribe does anything other than the rest, that person may be ostracized. It’s kind of like, “if you’re one of us, you’ll drink.” To be clear, none of my friends were honestly going to un-friend me because I wasn’t drinking. But my actions were remarkably different from the rest of the group. And so maybe they felt threatened or that I was doing something to disrupt the status quo.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Men are more likely than women to drink to excess. Excessive drinking is associated with significant increases in short-term risks to health and safety, and the risk increases as the amount of drinking increases. Men are also more likely than women to take other risks (e.g., drive fast or without a safety belt), when combined with excessive drinking, further increasing their risk of injury or death.
A study examining the connection between consumption of alcoholic beverages and the response level of men to the smiles of peers was highlighted in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Said lead researcher Catharine Fairbairn: “We wanted to explore the possibility that social alcohol consumption was more rewarding to men than to women — the idea that alcohol might actually ‘lubricate’ social interaction to a greater extent among men.”
See your sobriety as a well-earned, if hard won, badge of honor.