Intentional sobriety in our society is still weirder than it should be. Some people unfortunately think there is something wrong with you if you don’t drink. Like they are confused that you can be sober and still have a good time. Or they automatically assume you’re an alcoholic and therefore a bad person.
I know it’s a crazy concept that someone can still go out and party, start up and hold conversations with strangers, or put themselves outside of their comfort zone intentionally. So if you come across a wacky person like that, here are some suggestions on how you can respond so you’re not caught off gourd and don’t accidentally say something insensitive.
What not to say (and these are all responses that have been said to me at some point):
“I don’t drink.”
- Ya it’s probably better that way.
- Congratulations (if someone doesn’t drink because of their religion, you wouldn’t congratulate them on being that religion…)
- Not even just a little?
- Wow that sucks.
- Why not? (We will come back to this)
- How do you still have fun?
- Are you, like, an alcoholic or something?
- Oh I’ve tried being sober too. It lasted 14 hours and… (then they launch into some version of a pointless story where they drank too much tequila one night on spring break and woke up with *the worst* hangover and they swore they were never ever going to drink ever again. Until that night when they did it again. Or whatever.)
- I’m sorry
So as you can see, I’ve received responses that were clueless, insensitive, and downright rude. However, sometimes people truly don’t know what to say, and in that case, it’s ok. Whether the non-drinker in question is sober, just taking a break, or just doesn’t like the taste or effect of alcohol (you don’t have to be an alcoholic to not drink) there is nothing wrong with them. You don’t need to walk on eggshells, but be cautious. Each non-drinker is different and you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable about their non-drinking. I am very open about my sobriety, others are not and that’s ok. That’s why you should be careful if you ask ‘why’. If someone would prefer to not share why they choose to not drink, don’t press it. They could be very new in their sobriety and not be ready to share and now you’ve unintentionally put them on the spot. If they choose to share with you, they will on their time.
So what do you say then when someone tells you they don’t drink? How about, ‘oh, ok’. (Depending on how well you know the person or how the conversation flows, you could follow up with ‘can I ask why not?’)
The moral of the story is that alcoholics are normal people. We are actually tend to be happier because we have recovered and have been given the power to help people. “We aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” (Big Book pg. 132). Cheers to that!