Socializing Sober: Tips for Surviving Ignorant Remarks

When you first get sober, you may avoid attending weddings or other social events where people may be drinking or drugging. But sooner or later, you attend one of these events, knowing that picking up a drink or a drug to be sociable isn’t an option for you. Some people choose to preserve their anonymity. If you’re like them, you may not even tell anyone you’re in recovery. There can be pros and cons to that. If you’re surrounded by friends who are supportive of your recovery, you may be able to attend events like this without a great deal of difficulty. But if you’re with people who are accustomed to seeing you as the life of the party, you may encounter some resistance, whether they are aware you’re in recovery or not. When people do know you’re now sober, it can be pretty surprising to hear some of the ignorant remarks that they make. Here are some examples. “Oh come on. You can have just one drink.” This is a common misconception among people who are not in recovery. Just one drink is all it takes to set off cravings. When you admit you are an alcoholic, you have admitted that you can’t drink in safety. Not even one. “A little sip won’t hurt you.” When you refuse to have just one drink, you may be encouraged to have just one sip. Particularly at a wedding, when it’s time for the toast, people may encourage you to take a single sip of champagne out of “respect.” You don’t need to take a sip. If the champagne has already been poured, you can lift the glass as if you’re going to drink it, but not actually sip it. It might help to hold your breath so you aren’t attracted to the smell of the alcohol. If that’s too uncomfortable for you, you can put water in your glass and take a sip of that. But remember: it’s OK to simply say no. “You don’t look like an alcoholic.” Many people are under the impression that an alcoholic is a skid row bum who lives under a bridge drinking bottles hidden in brown paper bags. A good way to answer this is, “What do you think an alcoholic looks like?” “Your drinking was never that bad.” This one is usually said by someone who likes to drink heavily and can’t understand why you’re making a choice not to drink today. You don’t need to justify your decision to give up drinking or drugging. You can say “Trust me—it was that bad.” Or you can simply ignore the comment. “Aren’t you cured?” People sometimes are under the impression that if you have spent time in a treatment facility, you will come out cured of addiction and be able to go right back to the way things were without the consequences. A simple answer is “not yet” or even simpler, “I’m choosing not to drink today.” “You’re no fun sober! Come on, loosen up!” This is another remark that is probably said by someone who really does need to keep drinking to relax and be sociable. Chances are this person isn’t going to change his opinion. Simply smile and walk away—you’ll find someone that is comfortable hanging around with a sober person. It’s important to keep in mind that those who are the most insistent that you drink or drug probably have a problem with substance abuse themselves. However, your job isn’t to worry about them or to take responsibility for their recovery. Your job is to stay sober for this 24-hour period. If you aren’t able to bring a sober person with you to an important social event, someone in recovery is only a phone call away. If you do experience craving, call a sober friend, step outside for a moment or if you have to, leave the event. Do what you have to do to get through this one day. Living without alcohol or drugs doesn’t mean you can’t attend social events where alcohol is present. It just means you have to remain vigilant and keep your desire to stay sober up front.    

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