Ask an Expert: How Can a Sober Person Date a Social Drinker?

By Stanton Peele 01/08/15
Today's question is on how to manage a relationship with someone who drinks while staying sober.
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I have been clean off drugs and alcohol for over three years. I have been dating someone very seriously for almost a year who is a social drinker. He will go out with friends and all they do is drink and that is the only thing he does. When he goes out I am sometimes invited and when I go. I get the want to drink because I feel left out of what they're doing. 

When I do not include myself with the group because of that, I feel like I'm missing a huge portion of his life. I don't  know what to do or what to tell him because when I say I feel left out, he stops going out because he feels bad. I have the feeling sometimes I shouldn't be with him because of these feelings. Please help.

Stanton Peele: May I ask you about your situation, you values, your sobriety?

1.  Your boyfriend's life.

You have a boyfriend who, when he goes out with friends, "all they do is drink and that is the only thing he does." From your description, this isn't a very interesting man. He has no other recreation with friends other than drinking?  They never go to ball games, the movies, go to the beach, throw a frisbee in the park, do any political, charitable, or community work?  Does your boyfriend have family?  Does he do anything with his family besides drink with them? Is he involved in his work? What's he do at home?  What do the two of you do when you go out, or stay home?  Do you share interests and activities and enjoy talking and your time together?  

2.  Your values.

You don't describe anything positive about this man or about being with him, only that you are serious about him. What do you like about this man?  What do you find interesting about him? What do you admire about him?  Why have you become involved with him?  Does he represent a real life choice you have made?

3.  Your sobriety.

What is going on in your life? Do you have work, friends, activities? Do you exercise and look to your heath?  Do your care about others and yourself?  Do you have some purpose? I wonder if your sobriety is rooted in a substantial and meaningful enough life to allow you to make a serious personal commitment to a relationship. 

Sobriety is about more than steering clear of drugs and booze, as I describe in my accompanying blogpost, "The New Recovery."  It is built on four pillars: health, home, purpose, and community. So if you are feeling vulnerable, if you have chosen a man ultimately not likely to support your changed life, or to be good for you, it may be due the lack of substance to your life. Do you feel up to this? Because your choice of a lifemate can only be built on this foundation, just as your sobriety must be built on it. My book, "Recover!" is about how recovery can only be achieved in this way.

With good wishes for you and your recovery.

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Stanton Peele, PhD and attorney, is an innovator in the field of addiction, beginning with his breakthrough 1975 book, Love and Addiction (written with Archie Brodsky) and followed by 11 others, most recentlyRecover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. He has created his own rehab program (The Life Process Program) for individual substance abusers. See www.peele.net and his Facebook and Twitter.  Full Bio.

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