5 Things Sober People Should Not Say

5 Things Sober People Should Not Say

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This post was originally published on June 30, 2014.

Spend time in a recovery program of any stripe and you’ll soon start hearing wise words from regular folks about life, love and the pursuit of a happy, substance-free life. But prepare yourself, friend, because you’ll also soon start hearing really annoying things out of the mouths of sober-ites who simply…shouldn’t be talking, whether it’s because they’re judgmental know-it-alls or run-of-the-mill everyday assholes. Here are a few of those obnoxious expressions you should watch out for.

1) “Being on X medication means you’re not sober.”

There’s little worse than a Judgey McJudgerson, especially when it comes to something as personal as your sobriety from a medical point of view when they are not in fact doctors. That level of irritation just gets amplified to the 100th degree when it’s someone talking about your mental health woes. Your depression, anxiety, or any other meds you take are absolutely no business of anyone around you. Unless you’re popping Valium like candy or throwing back Percocets just to get through your day, don’t pay any mind to folks who like to analyze your medication needs.

2) “Birthdays/anniversaries are really hard.”

People love to complain about their sobriety birthdays being somehow difficult and triggering, as if getting sober was some horrible traumatic thing that they can’t bear to relive again. But…aren’t they happy they got sober? Why not celebrate a sobriety birthday and be genuinely excited and proud of yourself for how far you’ve come and everything you’ve accomplished? People who bitch and moan about their sober birthdays don’t mean any harm, they’re just…kinda annoying. Ignore.

3) “If you’re having a using or drinking dream, you need to up your meetings.”

Okay, here’s the thing—everyone has dreams. Sometimes we remember them, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes they’re fucked up or disturbing, sometimes they’re not. But call me old-fashioned; I don’t truly believe that using or drinking dreams are meant to be taken literally. Our dreams are generally made up of weird-ass symbolism and bizarre childhood issues, or else they’re just totally random and scattered. The alcohol you’re chugging in your dream has nothing to do with your current sobriety. Don’t pay attention if someone gives you this advice, because it’s dumb.

4) “You can’t get sober without a Higher Power.”

This is another judge-y one that thumpers and God-freaks enjoy spouting off at newcomers or atheists to try to scare them into adopting their singular way of thinking. It has no real merit. Sure, God or a Higher Power is emphasized throughout 12-step and the Big Book in AA, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the sole way to get or stay sober. Tons of atheists and agnostics the world over manage to enter recovery and stay there. Some rely on the larger community as their Higher Power, some don’t have an HP at all. Don’t let the God thing freak you out too much.

5) “Not sure you’re alcoholic? Why don’t you go out and try some controlled drinking at the corner bar?”

I haaaaate when people say this to other program folks when someone expresses doubt about their “credentials” in AA. People have cravings—we’re alcoholics. It’s only natural. It helps absolutely no one when a complaint about wanting to drink is met with a sanctimonious, ill-informed suggestion to go out and “experiment” with drinking again. It’s obnoxious and presumptuous, not to mention the opposite of compassionate. When I have a drinking urge, I much prefer having a friend commiserate or offer advice, like “I hear you, we’ve all been there—why don’t you do something mellow and fun for yourself?” This definitely beats, “Yeah, go get drunk!”

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Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.