We are all familiar with the concept of peer pressure from after-school specials and anti-drug campaigns directed at adolescents.  Whether these efforts to promote various kinds of abstinence had any effect on you as a teen or not, peer pressure doesn’t disappear with adulthood.  In fact, social pressure becomes more effective and complex as we age, and finding ways to resist the influence of our peers requires increasingly more creativity and conviction.  In addiction recovery, it is likely you will encounter peer pressure to use substances at some point. This is especially true for those with alcohol addictions that have continued to maintain a high-functioning lifestyle.  Alcohol addiction in high-functioning individuals is often invisible to those outside our inner circle, and many people are uncomfortable with the concept of sobriety. Learning how to quickly and efficiently shut down peer pressure is a great tool to prevent relapse, as well as avoid many annoying conversations about your choices.  Here are five ways to shut down peer pressure as an adult.

Be Assertive

Stopping peer pressure in its tracks is all about confidence.  Becoming confident in your sobriety means stating your conviction so that others believe you the first time, and you begin to believe yourself.  If you find yourself in a social situation where someone is insisting you accept a drink, or perhaps has already brought you one, it is possible to turn it down in a firm and final way without being rude.  Look them in the eye, smile, and say “No, thank you!”. As soon as you display doubt or an unsure attitude towards drinking or using drugs, those attempting to pressure you will spot your weakness and begin to push harder.  Choosing to be sober may not always feel easy in early recovery, but with each assertive decline, you will begin to empower your decision and your ability to shut down pressure.  

Don’t Engage

If you find yourself in a verbal sparring match with someone attempting to talk you into using, sometimes the best response is to simply walk away.  It’s always a good idea to try politely declining once or twice, but if the conversation continues in a direction that is causing you stress or anxiety, it is time to change the subject or leave the situation entirely.  Some people won’t respect your decisions no matter how assertive you are. In most cases, this is a sign of someone who is struggling with their own substance abuse issues or is feeling insecure about their decision to drink or use drugs.  Try not to react in anger or frustration with people who persist in pressuring you, but instead allow them the opportunity to witness your strength and success in your new lifestyle. You might even inspire them to make some changes themselves!

Keep Those Who Support You Close

It is much easier to ignore social pressure from people who don’t understand your personal struggle when you have someone who knows and supports you nearby.  You can’t expect everyone you meet at parties and celebrations to know about your history with addiction or to understand how incredibly impressive it is that you are in recovery.  Having a friend in recovery or close family member in your corner when you are offered a drink at a social function makes it monumentally easier to decline the offer, even when others insist.  These pillars of support understand your personal battle and can remind you of your reasons for sobriety if you begin to doubt yourself.

Eliminate Negative Influences

If you find the pressure to drink or use drugs is not coming from oblivious acquaintances, but from those closest to you, it may be time to cut ties.  Many people in active addiction become close with friends and family members that are also abusing substances. It is easiest to spend time with other addicted individuals when you are struggling with the chaos of substance abuse.  Once you have decided to seek treatment and have entered recovery, however, it may not be possible to maintain relationships with people who do not wish to help themselves. You don’t need to become angry or confrontational with your loved ones in active addiction that attempt to entice you into using, but it is necessary to distance yourself from them for the preservation of your own health and sobriety until they seek treatment.

Remember Your Core Values

If you have sought treatment for addiction, you have likely done a great deal of introspection and have established what is most important to you on a deep, personal level.  If you do the work necessary to remember your core values and set goals for your future, you will be able to resist peer pressure with ease. This might require regular therapy or support groups, but over time, the vision of what you want your life to become will take precedence over any social pressure you will encounter.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing.  For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.