One of the hardest parts of early sobriety was learning to navigate familiar social events as a sober person. In my party days, whatever the occasion–wedding, work happy hour, baby shower, you name it–if there was booze, I was drinking. Then, sobriety came along and smacked me upside the head, and I had to figure out who I was and how to go about living my life without liquor.
In my recovery groups they had suggestions for what I could say:
- I’m allergic to alcohol (my former drinking buddies would have a heyday with that one)
- I’m in recovery (and too scared to tell people what I don’t understand myself)
- I’m an alcoholic (and terrified to admit what I can barely accept myself)
As a fragile alcoholic in the beginning stages of recovery, I sure as heck wasn’t ready to come out and announce my alcoholism...I had barely crawled out from under years of denial. As for having an allergy, I knew there was no way that my friends or acquaintances would buy that one after seeing me drink with no (allergy) problems for years. The last two statements are awesome and honest, and if they work for you, use them!
But if you’re feeling shy about your new and hard-won sobriety, perhaps these alternatives will work for you. They did me well for my first two years of sobriety. I’m now well into my fourth year of clean living and I no longer feel shame or discomfort about not drinking. I can navigate any social situation with ease and without drinks or drugs. Until I felt confident, these lines helped me on dates (yes -- you can have a lot of fun dating while sober!), at work events, and family reunions.
One important part in all this to remember: no matter how vulnerable and exposed you feel, no one is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about yourself. Happily, you are not the center of the universe! I am most anxious when I assume that everyone is watching my actions under a microscope. Remember that most people are wrapped up with their own lives and concerns, so any reason you give them for not drinking, they will take at face value.
Explaining Sobriety at Social Events
Easy lines to explain why you’re not drinking:
- No thank you, I’m not drinking (so simple and honest, it’s almost criminal)
- I want to make sure everyone gets home safe (take the hero’s credit for being designated driver)
If someone is insistent, and asks why you don’t drink:
- I used to drink, but I don’t anymore (this is the total truth and should satisfy 99% of people)
Unless they’re really pushy and press you for WHY you don’t drink anymore:
- I drank for a long time, and it was really fun. Then it wasn’t fun anymore, so I stopped (Clean, clear, direct, and great conversation stopper. If they ask anymore, you really shouldn’t feel bad about dismissing yourself from the conversation.)
Those are all the tools you need to get through any party situation! It may sound too good to be true, but all you need is to be honest, kind, and act with integrity. If you have questions about getting sober, or are worried about a loved one, contact the Pat Moore Foundation. All you have to do is one day at a time!