The Break-Up: Leaving Your Drinking Buddies Behind

I have long had a complicated relationship with booze, one that was extremely bad for me. Once I started, I didn’t stop. One drink became three, then three became seven, then seven turned into even more. I would get cocky and act like a jerk, and my moral code — which was loose to begin with — ceased to exist entirely. I would mess with people’s heads and get into fights. I’ve been arrested for OUI (operating under the influence) and have gone home with women I didn’t know and then crawled out of bed at 3 in the morning to go home to my girlfriend.

At some point, my relationship with booze had transformed into something complicated and dark. What was once exciting had turned destructive and sad.

Although I fooled myself for quite a while, I wasn’t cool when I was out drinking. I wasn’t fun. I was out-of-control and the people in my life were suffering because of it. It became time for me to break up with binge drinking, and with that it was time to break up with some of my friends too.

Drinking Buddies

Before that happened, drinking and male friendship had always gone hand-in-hand for me. Pretty much every close male friendship I ever had was based around alcohol. Many of the friends that I thought had deep and meaningful relationships with were, I found out, nothing more than drinking buddies. When I wanted to spend time with one of my friends we didn’t go for a run or out for breakfast. We went out drinking. And we didn’t just drink a little; we drank a lot.

I’d had friendship break-ups before, but I was always on the receiving end. For example, I had a friend I used to hang out with a lot. He was my age, funny as hell and we were going through some of the same stuff in our lives. We both were glib and liked to party and neither one of us had anyone else in our lives who would pretend that we weren’t screwed up.

So it began. Night after night, we’d hit the bars and drink. It started off fun, of course, but as time went on it became apparent that my friend was even more messed-up than I was. He started missing work and on our nights out he began doing coke and put himself in some terrifying situations.

So he stopped. No more booze, no more drugs. I was happy for him — I really was. But when he stopped, our friendship did too. He got into surfing and began hiking a lot.

I found someone new to drink with.

For a long time we would text each other, saying we were going to get together. I would say lunch; he would suggest going for a hike. We never did hang out, not even once. He, like so many other people in my life over the years, left that life, and with it left what seemed to be a close friendship with me. I still like him. I kind of even love him, but the whole of who we were as friends was based around booze and debauchery.

My Turn to Give Up Alcohol

The Break-Up: Leaving Your Drinking Buddies BehindTwo years ago, when I first quit drinking myself, I had one friend I hadn’t seen for a while. He is a day drinker, which for me is the most dangerous time to start boozing. Before, we would start at 11:30 in the morning and have three or four drinks and then he’d go home; I couldn’t comprehend how that could even happen.

This friend and I had spent a lot of time together over the previous few years, drinking, cracking each other up, honing our relationships with bartenders and drinking some more. He is married, with two young kids. At night he would go home to them, while I would find someone else to meet me out and continue on. He would pretend to his wife that he hadn’t been drinking all day while she would pretend she couldn’t tell.

But I had to stop. I had to. It just wasn’t fun anymore. The thought of getting drunk didn’t even sound fun. Drinking all day sounded painful, irresponsible and dangerous. When I stopped, this guy — who I thought was one of my best friends — was immediately gone from my life.

I soon realized that all of my friends were like this. Every one of them was someone I drank with and that was all that they were interested in doing.

Starting Over

After years of building relationships that revolved around alcohol, I had no idea where to even start looking for friendship. As I began figuring out how I was going to build a whole new social life from scratch, the dread and panic of being totally lost was daunting. I had a girlfriend, but if I had been single I would have been left without a way to meet women. The only place I’d ever met a woman was at a bar or a party.

Like everything else in sobriety, this, too, got easier with time. There are places like AA to find male friendships, but even without that friendships can be made and a social life can be had. It is like learning to walk all over again; thinking of things to do socially that don’t involve getting drunk is not easy at first. But after a period of being a hermit, I started to realize that there were a lot of things I enjoyed doing sober and I soon began to make new friends. And while I might not have the same number of “friends” I once had, the ones I do have are real and that more than makes up for it.

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