This post was originally published on October 3, 2014.
If you’ve been in recovery a while, you get pretty used to the fact that non-sober people seem to come to a lot of conclusions about “what sober people are like.” And, bless their concerned hearts, many of these conclusions are woefully inaccurate. I’ve gathered a few of the more common misconceptions below.
1) We’re Not Cops
You may not believe me but I swear to you that we are not out to bust people for drinking too much. Unless it’s Halloween, we do not tend to be wearing police uniforms nor do we often have breathalyzers on us, but most importantly, unless we are in fact cops, we’re not in a position where we could issue any arrests. We’re also not counting your drinks and then running off to other members of the Sober Police Squad to gossip about how you need to quit drinking too. The main reason for this is that many of us are profoundly self-absorbed still and are therefore unlikely to be thinking about your drinking at all. Even when we don’t care simply because we don’t notice, our collective philosophy tends to be that we’re the ones who lost drinking privileges as a result of the fact that we simply couldn’t handle it; you didn’t. So when you’re trying to get away from us at a party because you feel like you may have had a few too many or you wait until we leave the bar area to start pounding shots, you’re wasting your energy. We don’t want to bust you! We want you to have a good time and drink as much as you want. After all, we would too if we could so we get it better than anybody.
2) If You Put Alcohol near Us, We’re Not Going to Ingest It and Destroy Our Lives
Here’s the thing: we’re around booze all the time. Some of us go to bars and parties and clubs and concerts and weddings where it flows freely. Even those who don’t see alcohol whip past them or rest just a few inches away from their plate at restaurants. And a lot of us stay in hotels where there are mini bars with those cute little bottles lining the shelves. There are also a few (million) potentially tempting alcohol ads out there. So why would you placing your half-filled wine glass nearby cause us to go into some sort of a state where we wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves from pouring it down the gullet? I think your concern here is quite sweet and I understand how the confusion has come about; you really don’t get the alcoholic thing and that’s okay; we didn’t either until we had no other option. But you can rest assured that your drinking near us will not push us over the edge.
3) We Don’t Secretly Wish You Wouldn’t Drink
If I had a penny for every time someone sat down with me, looked at the menu and then back at me uncomfortably before awkwardly asking if it would be okay if he had a drink, I’d probably have…well maybe $200. Which is a decent amount of money! My point is that almost all of us beg of you: Please take that drink. In the beginning, I’ll admit, I did not feel this way. I was so new to the sober way of life (and still so singularly self absorbed) that I didn’t think you should drink at all. After all, look what I was going without! Couldn’t you give it up for one simple meal? But after a few months of sobriety, I didn’t think my not drinking was a sacrifice you should have to bear alongside me. The absolute last thing a sober person wants is to hang out with people who want to drink and feel like they can’t because it would bother Susie Sober. Still, there is a caveat here: I’d love for you to have a drink or two or three or whatever. But when your teeth get that red wine glaze and the slurring starts, I’m probably going to start making moves to leave—not because I’m tempted to start tossing them back myself, mind you…just because drunk people, when you’re not drunk, are intensely boring.
4) “Drink” Isn’t Actually a Four-Letter Word
I’ll never forget the time when I was in my first year of sobriety and a publicist who was pitching me something for the magazine where I worked said, “We should meet for drinks.” Her brain synapses clearly then connected the fact that she was talking to me and I was sober—and then those synapses had a breakdown. “I mean, coffee!” she added. A quarter of a second later, “Water! Water’s a drink!” erupted from her lips. Yes, water is a drink, as is coffee as is ginger ale as are many, many beverages offered at many, many establishments. I meet people for drinks semi regularly and don’t tend to clarify ahead of time what it is I’ll be drinking. So feel free to suggest that we get drinks any old time; we’ll just each order what we want, okay?
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