Other people's drinking
I was talking to someone in early recovery and they mentioned they were under a lot of pressure from their drinking friends. They had quit drinking about six months ago and felt fantastic. However, it seemed that none of their friends could accept this change. They were constantly being told that they “couldn’t have an alcohol problem,” that “one won’t hurt,” and that “sober people are boring.”
The constant prodding was getting them down and they were beginning to wonder if their friends were right, Maybe they didn’t have an alcohol problem after all?
This is a very common situation for newly sober people. In fact, unless you were a rock-bottom, drinking-in-the-gutter type drunk, I would venture to say that most people go through this when they first quit.
An alcohol use disorder is widely misunderstood in our culture. We have in fact normalized abnormal drinking. Abusive binge drinking is so acceptable in our culture that we have lost all perspective on what a drinking problem is and isn’t.
Drinking to black out is a perfectly acceptable activity in most peer groups, and I’m not just referring to teenagers here. Binge drinking is normal among adults as well.
If your drinking is a problem, what does that say about their drinking?
When a group of people drink together, they tend to have the same, or at least similar, drinking habits. When a member of that group decides to stop because they believe that they have a problem with alcohol, it holds up a mirror to the rest of the group and what they see is often uncomfortable. If your drinking is a problem, what does that say about their drinking?
They may not be ready to answer that question, so they would prefer for things to be as they were, thus the constant badgering for you to drink.
The truth is, people who don’t have a drinking problem will simply not be bothered by someone else’s sobriety.
Someone said this to me in my early recovery:
People with an alcohol problem drink. Think about drinking, and think about not drinking.
I thought that was very revealing.
Up until then I hadn’t realized how much alcohol occupied my life. I hadn’t realized how much space it rented in my head.
Then I realized people who don’t have an alcohol problem simply don’t think about drinking. Ever.
They enjoy alcohol as it’s meant to be used, stop when they’ve had enough, and don’t give it another thought, because alcohol doesn’t dominate their life.
This just wasn’t the case for me.
If I wasn’t actually drinking, then I was spending a lot of time getting over the effects of drinking. I believed this was normal because I was certainly not the only person behaving that way.
It’s important to bear in mind that other drinkers are the last people to have any expertise on what a drink problem actually is. I mean, think about that. When did they get their qualification in addiction counseling?
They may be your friends, but they may not have your best interests at heart right now.
Sobriety can only improve your life, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this huge change can be uncomfortable in the beginning. Negotiating the world without booze is a whole new experience.
Get sober and find out who your real friends are
The good news is that in time, people will adjust and get used to the new you. Your true friends will support you and love you no matter what you do. Sobriety may give you a different perspective on some friendships, and with clarity you may discover that they are actually fair-weather drinking buddies, not real friends at all. Being sober gives us a chance to embrace things we never would have done before. New people will come into our lives who will support us for who we really are.
All that really matters is that you know whether you have a drinking problem or not. It’s your truth that matters, not other people’s.