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Justifying My Sobriety

Trying to talk to friends—even close ones—about my addiction and recovery has proven one thing: a lot of people out there just don’t get it.

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By Randi Newton

11/13/12

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When you’re a recovering alcoholic or addict, you quickly discover that a number of people out there in the world simply do not understand addiction. Unfortunately, you will find that some of them are your friends.   

I’ve encountered this attitude quite a bit during my three years of sobriety and I’ve just had to assume that these people have never had any drama with addiction in their own lives—which is surprising, considering that many of them are part of my drunken past. But I was always the one instigating and encouraging: doing shots, buying rounds, chugging bottles. My drinking would then continue once I got home, and would linger on into the next day. It was something I tried to hide from them.  

I realized that’s perhaps why she felt I could have “just that one” drink: it helped to justify the path she took.

They are people who can handle occasional boozing and partying and I support their choice to keep doing it. But the truth is that I don’t envy social drinkers. I marvel at them—I simply don’t understand how they can stop after just a few drinks—but I don’t want to be them.

The conversations tend to go something like this:

ME: Yeah, I’m three years sober this Saturday.

THEM: Oh that’s great, are you going to go out and celebrate?

ME: Yes, probably dinner.

THEM: Are you going to have champagne? You really should! You should have a glass of champagne, just one glass! That’s so cool!

ME: Well, why would I drink alcohol to celebrate the fact that I stopped?

Awkward silence. Conversation over. If it’s a woman, she will often later bring up the idea that she wants to come to AA meetings with me because she thinks it would be a great way to lose weight and meet hot guys. 

Getting sober was a major decision for me; it had essentially come down to whether or not I was going to live or die. I went to extremes to make sure it would work—we're talking outpatient detox and rehab to the tune of several thousand dollars. But I didn’t flinch at the bill; I hazily threw it on my credit card, knowing on a certain level that I was paying to get my life back. No one was making me pursue recovery; I wanted to. 

When I called my close friends and family to share the news, they were all supportive but mostly confused.

“Can’t you just drink Monday through Friday?” I heard. “Maybe take weekends off?”

“So if you go to an AA meeting, it’s okay if you want to have drink after, right? Because going to AA makes it okay?" 

“Why do you have to get medicine to stop drinking? Can’t you just stop?”  These were people who thought delirium tremens were a myth and easily solved by mimosas.

“I think this sober thing is really great, but I don’t understand why you have to make it such a big deal about it.” A family member actually said that to me.

“Oh you’re not gonna drink anymore? That’s cool. Maybe a beer at Christmas though right?” That was another family member.

Then there were the very few who simply said, “That’s great and I’m here for you.” Or: “Yes, I knew you had a problem but I didn’t want to say anything.”

I've always felt like I had an amazing support system when it came to career and other matters, so it was a shock to discover that the same was not true when it came to alcoholism and addiction,. But nothing could have prepared me for the conversation I recently had with one of my college friends.

She started talking to my fiancé, Eric, who has been sober for 10 years, about one of her co-workers who had crazy emotional outbursts during happy hour after work each day. Then the discussion turned to the subject of drug use and alcoholism—about how some people can just stop after one drink and others cannot.

"Oh, Randi can take or leave alcohol,” my friend said. “I think she could have just one glass of wine every once in a while."

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