There are numerous parts of getting sober and living in recovery that can be intimidating and scary for those who are new to it. A common one is how to address your sobriety and tell someone you don’t drink. How do you turn someone down when they offer you a drink? What explanation, if any, do you provide? Do you even need an explanation? These are all questions that people in recovery face at one point or another.
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The truth is that you don’t have to explain or justify your choice to no longer drink. Some people like to have a response when others ask, and that’s perfectly OK. Over the past four years of sobriety, I’ve found there are a number of ways to respond in this situation. Here are a few of my go-to ways to tell someone you don’t drink:
1. “The truth is, I had a problem with drinking.”
If you’re comfortable telling people the whole truth, this is the best response. Four years into sobriety, this is the response I most often use because people tend to just accept it and move on. If you admit to having had a problem with alcohol, there isn’t much left for them to say. Sure, they may ask questions, but this is usually out of curiosity rather than malice. People genuinely wonder about recovery, what it’s like, and how you got to that point. Of course, I recognize that not everyone who is sober is ready to talk about it so candidly. For some, getting to that point takes time, and that is understandable. There are plenty of other ways to respond when people ask questions.
2. “Drinking wasn’t doing me any good.”
This is another simple, honest approach, without going into too much detail. If you got sober, it was probably because drinking was taking a toll of various aspects of your life, whether it was your relationships, your job, or your health. Rather than explain all of the ways alcohol negatively impacted these parts of life, just communicate the fact that it didn’t enhance any of it. Say that when you really sat and thought about it, you couldn’t figure out what alcohol really added to your life. People typically respect it when someone is trying to better their life, as long as you’re careful not to put them down in the process.
3. “I didn’t like the person I was when I drank.”
Again, a truthful response. Most of us who get sober do so because we’ve screwed up and made mistakes time and time again. This can take a toll on self-image and self-perception, no doubt. Towards the end of my drinking, I didn’t even recognize the person I was when I drank. Not only that, I didn’t recognize myself even outside of drinking. Alcohol had changed me in many ways, and very few of them were positive changes. Ultimately, I wanted to love myself again. That played a large role in my choosing recovery.
4. “I’m driving.”
Everyone loves a sober cab! (Really, though.) This is a good excuse for not drinking if you’re not quite ready to say much more. If you’re at an event where people are drinking and you are the sober one, chances are you probably really are the one who will be driving. At least, that was the case for me. When people offer you a drink or question why you’re not drinking, just say it’s not something you want to risk when you are the one responsible for getting people home later. Most people will respect this and not make it into a big deal, and you avoid going into any deeper detail about why you’re not taking part.
5. “It doesn’t mix well with my medications.”
I’m not encouraging blatantly lying here, so only use this one if it’s somewhat true. Many medications do have certain warnings about taking them when drinking. When I mixed taking my antidepressant with drinking, I felt like I got drunk faster, and my behavior was also more unpredictable. It also seemed to affect my memory, as I more often had blackouts when taking the medication and drinking. Of course, you don’t need to go into that much detail. Most people will simply leave it alone if you say you can’t mix drinking with your medication. Most people understand the potential dangers of doing so.
When it comes down to it, you are the one who needs to be comfortable with what you tell people about your decision to no longer drink. While these five ideas are a good starting point, they aren’t the only valid responses. You need to think about what you are comfortable telling people and develop your responses from there.
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