11 Things Sober People Want Normal Drinkers To Know

By Beth Leipholtz 01/27/16

We hate when you ask, "Are you sure you are an alcoholic?"

11 Things Sober People Want Normal Drinkers To Know

One of the first things I stumbled across in sobriety was that I would need to learn how to say “no” to a drink—something I had never turned down before. The problem was that saying “no” seemed like such a loaded statement. In declining a drink, I felt like I had to tell the person my life story as to justify why I no longer drink. I didn’t want to be judged or given sympathy. I didn’t want them to look down upon me or think I was a charity case. I just wanted them to say “Oh, OK, cool,” and move on. 

At 2.5 years sober, I no longer come across this awkward exchange as often (most people I spend time with know I don’t drink). Still though, on occasion I meet someone new and have to tell them I don’t drink—but now when that happens I don’t spend as much time dwelling on it. I can’t tell everyone my life story, and I shouldn’t have to. 

However, there are still certain things that I think sober people wish normies knew right off the bat. Here are a few. 

1. We don’t want you to feel bad for us. I hate when I tell someone I don’t drink and they say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” It’s just like, “Oh, you are? But why?” It’s awkward all around. I don’t want sympathy for the choices that I’ve made to better my life. I’ve made those choices for a reason and you telling me you are sorry about that feels like a discredit to my sobriety. Just say, “Oh, good for you,” and move along. 

2. We don’t want you to pressure us to drink. “Come on, just have one,” is one of my least favorite lines in the world. Do you not realize that having one defeats the whole purpose of being sober? Not to mention that if I could just have one, I wouldn’t be in this position to begin with? It’s just common sense and common courtesy to respect someone else’s choice. 

3. We can still have a good time. Maybe even a better time than you. Once when I was with a group of girlfriends, I shotgunned a huge 20 oz Redbull and did a striptease to the song “Ride” on a dare. Stone cold sober, might I add. I don’t think anyone actually thought I would do it so wholeheartedly, but I did. And I had a blast. Just because I don’t have alcohol in my system doesn’t mean I can’t party. It just means I’m smarter about it. 

4. We don’t know if we’ll ever drink again, so don’t ask us. One of the most common questions I get is: “So do you think you’ll ever drink again?” I mostly hate this question because I never know how to answer it. Clearly, I wouldn’t be sober for 2.5 years just for shits and giggles, but I also don’t know if I’ll ever pick up a drink again. Asking us this is like asking us to predict the future. It’s impossible. All we can do is say we’re not drinking today, and hope that continues. 

5. There’s more to recovery than sitting at a meeting with other alcoholics and feeling sad. Really though, this is how the media so often portrays sobriety. The truth is that this is such a minimal part of it. I rely on things other than a 12-step program to keep me sober, as do many people I know. While I do sometimes go to 12-step meetings, they are often filled with happy, grateful people who know how to laugh. Being sober isn’t depressing. It’s enlightening. 

6. We hate when you ask, “Are you sure you are an alcoholic?” The last thing we need or want is someone who makes us doubt our life choices. Just because I am A) young and B) in college does not mean that I cannot be an alcoholic. Alcoholism and alcoholic tendencies do not discriminate. There is not a certain age one must be before becoming an alcoholic, nor is there a list of things they must lose in their lives before qualifying. If someone says they are an alcoholic, then trust them. 

7. If we are around people who are drinking, then clearly we are OK with it. In fact, seeing people be a sloppy, drunken mess just solidifies my choice not to drink. So please stop asking if we are OK being at this house party or this bar. Your drunken concern is well-meaning, but we know where we are at in sobriety and what we can handle. You just worry about enjoying yourself. 

8. Please don’t assume we are the designated driver. Sometimes this is totally fine – if you ask us in advance and we OK it. But simply assuming that because a sober friend is around, they are carting your drunk asses around…that’s not cool. Of course I will be there in a heartbeat if any of my friends need a safe ride somewhere, but I typically don’t stay out until 2 a.m. anymore, so I’m not your ride home from the bar. It’s hard to stay awake that late while sober! 

9. We aren’t judging you. Seriously. Stop drunkenly worrying about that. I do not think you are a “total mess” or “an alcoholic.” I think you’re someone who can drink like a normal person, and I usually enjoy watching that unfold because it’s entertaining. So just worry about you and have a good time.

10. Just because we have a DRINK in a BAR does not mean we relapsed. I’m a huge fan of Shirley Temples, which can resemble vodka cranberries. When I walk around the bar in my college town drinking them, I tend to get a lot of concerned looks. While I appreciate people looking out for me, I wish they understood that not every pretty looking drink is alcoholic. Sometimes we just want to blend in, and having a drink in hand is a way of doing that. 

11. We are most likely perfectly content with our decision to be sober. Seriously. You don’t have to question it or sympathize or even discuss it. It’s a part of our lives and we are used to it. It’s as normal for us as drinking is for you. 

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