A major hallmark of And Just Like That (and the rebooted show’s predecessor, Sex & The City) is the value of friendship; the characters relentlessly support each other through life’s highs and lows — dating, careers, marriage, kids, affairs, divorce and death.
One plot point of the new series revolves around Miranda’s struggles with alcohol. (Tip off: Charlotte discovers a bunch of empty mini-bottles of booze in Miranda’s bag.)
When confronted, Miranda downplays the problem and explains that her drinking habits heightened during the pandemic — a common occurrence, with alcohol consumption up 14 percent for those over 30 during the height of lockdown. This phenomenon was particularly prevalent among women, who reported seeing a 41 percent increase in heavy drinking.
Though fictional, the scenario of worrying about a friend’s drinking is very relatable. With Dry January over, many people are going back to drinking — and many others never bothered to take a break.
If you fear a friend may be imbibing too much, here’s how to approach them using insight from Holly Whitaker, author of Quit Like a Woman.
Warning Signs That a Friend Might Be Struggling with Drinking?
It can be hard to tell whether a friend is just indulging or genuinely struggling — the lines are pretty blurry, so to speak. As Holly Whitaker writes in Quit Like a Woman, her group of friends once joked about calling stressful, heavy-drinking periods an “alcoholic phase,” all breathing a sigh of relief that they could indulge in a way that felt culturally acceptable.
“When you’re terrified that maybe your drinking has gone off the rails, nothing will rein in that hysterical, ridiculous thought more tightly than a group of successful, intelligent, attractive ‘together’ women who normalize your affliction with a new term: Alcoholic phase!” writes Whitaker. “This scenario is only one of a few hundred examples of why I couldn’t figure out whether I really had a problem with alcohol, or if maybe I was just going through a little ‘thing’ that would straighten itself out.”
"We live in a culture that normalizes drinking, and we are taught from a young age that it is the appropriate choice to cope with difficult emotions such as grief or anxiety, as well as the perfect way to celebrate."
Whitaker went on to get sober — and create Tempest, an online addiction treatment program.
Tempest Recovery Coach Ana Price-Eckles echoes Whitaker’s sentiments. “We live in a culture that normalizes drinking, and we are taught from a young age that it is the appropriate choice to cope with difficult emotions such as grief or anxiety, as well as the perfect way to celebrate,” says Price-Eckles.
Since there are many factors that can affect our behavior, Price-Eckles says to avoid making assumptions about someone else’s drinking and focus on their well-being instead. “Given your knowledge of this friend, what are some signs that they are struggling or need extra support?”
How to Approach a Friend About Their Drinking Without Being Judgy
First, Price-Eckles says, look inward.
“It can be easier to notice discomfort with something when we see it being reflected in others,” says Price-Eckles. “Ask yourself how you feel about your own drinking? Is your relationship with alcohol serving you? Start with yourself, then others will see you as someone they can go to when they are questioning their relationship with alcohol.”
From there, avoid unsolicited advice — there’s a difference between expressing concern and providing an uninformed diagnosis.
“Offering unsolicited opinions often doesn’t land how we intend it to,” says Price-Eckles “Passing judgement often causes folks to feel defensive and so the message of your concern isn’t heard.”
Two keys: Avoid labeling and ask a friend if they’re open to hearing your advice or concern — framing those worries from your perspective. “If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of your friend, try being honest about how their drinking is affecting you personally,” advises Price-Eckles. “This is what you have expertise in and the ability to advocate for… refrain from making judgements about what is a ‘healthy’ amount to drink or shaming them.”
Ways to Support a Friend’s Sobriety
Start by learning what your friend’s goals are in exploring sobriety.
“The best way to support someone with their sobriety or recovery is by learning what their goals are in their relationship with alcohol, and asking them how you can support them on their journey,” says Price-Eckles. “From there, you can decide what needs you are able to meet for your friend, and explicitly agree to be accountable to them.”
And reminder: Be gentle.
“While drinking may not be the best long-term strategy to cope with a dysregulated nervous system or trauma, your friend has been doing the best they can to support themselves with the tools and knowledge they have access to,” says Price-Eckles.
If you’re hoping to lend support, one place to start is by learning and, subsequently, reframing what you may think you know about sobriety.
“Educate yourself on the history of alcohol, addiction, criminalization and recovery so that you are able to dismantle antiquated, stigmatizing beliefs,” advises Price-Eckles. “For example, a lot of recovery modalities push an all-or-nothing approach, when harm reduction can also be a transformational tool for many.”
There is no one-size-fits all solution, so recommending a linear approach (like going “cold turkey”) isn’t necessarily productive. One example: Alcoholics Anonymous.
“The truth is, A.A. may be the foundation of global recovery, but it wasn’t made with everyone in mind,” writes Whitaker to the New York Times. “It’s a framework created in the 1930s by upper-middle-class white Protestant men to help people like them overcome addiction. Its founders believed the root of alcoholism was a mammoth ego resulting from an entitled sense of unquestioned authority.”
Starting point: Decolonize your view of recovery, whether for yourself or a friend.
“Nothing about recovery (or any other kind of healing) is linear,” says Price-Eckles. “Whatever the dominant narrative may be, there is a rich history of marginalized folks (often LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC) creating other pathways where they can be seen and supported in community… We can create empowered, individualized, holistic approaches to recovery that meet our own unique needs.”
Resources to learn more about Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD):