As I approach fifteen months of kicking the booze, I have to admit, I’ve had a bit of a wobble lately. It just goes to show that ditching ingrained habits is a long road and one to never take for granted. The FOMO can creep up on you when you are least expecting it; hearing a banging tune at 7.30 on a Tuesday morning on your way to work, or feeling like people are avoiding you because of your new found sober status.
So, as I bumble along with determination of steel not to look back with rosé tinted glasses, here is how you can help someone on the road to alcohol free life, by (please) not going there…
That’s in capitals to reiterate the fact someone is probably shouting it in a condescending way right at you. Also presented as “Oh don’t be so boring”and “You used to be such good fun”.
Let’s face it, those who know, know that one of the hardest things about accepting a sober lifestyle, is coming to terms with the fact that alcohol free life does not equal boring life. So please, please, don’t knock us back.
I do sometimes wonder though, that for every time someone says this to me, it’s penance for the time I said it to someone else, many moons ago. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“You weren’t that bad”
No Karen, I probably wasn’t when I was great fun on the dance floor or ammunition for people to have something to talk about the next day. But then again you didn’t see me fall through my front door crying, shouting at people I love, being unable to tell a taxi driver my address, being helped home by a kind and caring stranger, vomiting for 12 hours straight, descending into deep despair of ‘why’ and trying to piece back together exactly what happened the night before time and time again.
Perhaps I wasn’t always that bad. But the times I was, they were bad enough.
“You could just have one…”
No shit Sherlock, yes I could. But I have made a decision not to, so please respect that.
Moderation is after all an easy place for some to reach; happy drunk or tipsy may be the place many people know when to stop; but for me one drink leads to two, to three and a thirst that needs quenching until the bottle is empty or the bar is dry. I, like many others have reached a place that one drink neither cuts it, nor necessitates it. Because when you have learnt to enjoy life without alcohol, there really isn’t any appeal in that one glass to make your head spin any more.
After all would you ask a vegan to just have one sausage? Or tell a recovered heroin addict that one hit wouldn’t hurt? Nope, but the psychology around alcohol seems to be totally different.
“I could give up drinking really easily too…”
Really? Go on then…
But seriously, this is probably my most common response, usually said with the perpetrator knocking back their third large glass of wine. Often paired with “I hardly drink at all”.
The thing is, I said I was good with quitting drinking – that it was working out better for me. That the sacrifice was worth the benefits, and that perhaps the sacrifice wasn’t so much of a sacrifice after all?
But easy? I never used that adjective.
“Are you an alcoholic?”
Woah! Go right for the jugular why don’t you.
In all honesty, I’m never quite sure to be horrified or respectful of this direct approach. Perhaps it’s my own discomfort at labelling my dysfunctional drinking as ‘alcoholic’. It’s a complex one and one I’m not sure I want to be having to explain to anyone other than a therapist, and definitely not in the canteen at work or over egg sandwiches at Isabellas third birthday party.
So what should you say?
I realise random, unexpected conversations about someone changing the habit of a lifetime can put you on the spot, and we aren’t always gifted with the blessing of timing. I also know from my own experience that four drinks in the alter ego staring you in the face can invoke quite a defensive reaction. But just for reference, here’s a little bit of help to store in your back pocket.
“Good for you”
“That can’t have been easy”
“I’d like to drink less too, I’d love to hear how you did it”
“Let me buy you a drink” (A grown up non alcoholic something spesh obviously)
“I thought there was something different about you – you look amazing for it”
“You seem so much happier”
“You don’t need to drink, you are always good fun to be around”
You are welcome.