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Let’s normalize…

NOT asking people why they don't drink! It’s not officially summertime until you hear

Many people here in the United States note the start of the summer season on Memorial Day. This day of remembrance is often accompanied by cookouts, pool parties, and marks the beginning of graduation season (as I type this I remember that 6/6/2006 was the day I graduated high school).

For me, summertime is also filled with many social drinking memories. I always controlled my drinking in social settings for fear of becoming too intoxicated and creating a drunk story that everyone else would tell until the end of time and that I wouldn’t remember. Be mindful this summer season (and beyond) when someone declines a drink. “No thank you.” is a complete sentence. No one owes you a further explanation why they aren’t drinking or don’t drink. I choose to share the reason why I don’t drink. However, I did not always feel confident in sharing my reason why or even declining a drink in social settings. In my first year of sobriety, I was afraid to go places where alcohol would be freely flowing. Within my first ninety days of sobriety, I declined to attend a birthday party where I knew there would be alcohol. At that point, I didn’t know how to verbalize my reasoning, only that I didn’t want to be around alcohol (my lack of verbalization may have been a(nother) contributing factor to an ended friendship). I held a social gathering at my house within my first six months and explicitly stated on the invitation that the event was alcohol-free. I’ve been pressured once to take shots at a restaurant, but just kept saying, “No thank you”, which eventually turned to me flat out saying, “I don’t drink”. I’ve been to one wedding in my recovery, at the wedding there was an open bar. I was asked why I’m not drinking and everyone thought I was pregnant. When I told them I’m not pregnant, they asked “So why aren’t you drinking?” I flat out told that person “I went to rehab back in March.” That was literally a jaw-dropping moment for them. I’ve been in other social settings where drinks were being made and I pull out my phone and text my friends and tell them what I’m feeling. The slippery slope of being around alcohol and people around you not knowing about your recovery is, “If I have one drink nobody would know.” Widespread accountability was one of my factors in deciding to recover out loud.

To date, I haven’t stepped foot inside a liquor store. I don’t sit at the bar. I avoid the shoppette and have changed my route of browsing the Exchange. I’ve never kept alcohol in my house—that was always an invitation to challenge myself to drink it all in one sitting. People who don’t drink still want to be invited to the cookout. We will bring a side, instead of a bottle. Just let us live with our Liquid Death or soda. However, don’t be offended if we slip out early if the cookout gets too boozy. No hard feelings, we’re just protecting our sobriety.

How do you handle being asked about your decision not to drink? Do you think people ask why a person doesn't drink out of curiosity, peer pressure, or in your opinion, is asking why in this case flat out rude?

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Jun 09, 2022

I think there's a mix of reasons why people ask. Drinking is seen as a normal activity, like drinking water (sadly), so saying you don't drink is like whaaattt? Me personally, I might ask out of curiosity because I'm interested in hearing people's stories and opinions. I think a lot of people do it to pressure though. But I say that based on their tone and how they respond...

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