Low-key sobriety support that's not annoying
June 13, 2005 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I've learned that a new friend/co-worker is several years sober. She's a confident, no-nonsense kind of chick, and she is not uncomfortable with drinkers or in the presence of alcohol. That said, I'm still looking for do's and don'ts (that go beyond common sense of um, not offering her a beer, and not calling attention to her non-alcoholic thirst-quencher of choice or protectively fawning over her.)

I haven't found any guidance for more casual friends of people who are already sober and stable. I'm not going to have to convince her not to take a drink, I'm not anticipating drama, I just want to know a little more about what makes a situation a little more comfortable for someone in her position, both when alcohol is mentioned and consumed. And what's appropriate/helpful from a me, as new friend, if she's having a bit of a stress-moment.
posted by desuetude to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A good buddy of mine is a year and a half sober. Like you're friend, he's no-nonsense and not uncomfortable around alcohol, etc.
It's perfectly fine for me to have a beer or a glass of wine around him. He knows how good his self control is and he's thrilled to be sober.
What would likely make your friend uncomfortable would be to either invite them to a bar or if you got really wasted in front of them.

It sounds like you're already pretty considerate about it. As long as you don't base the majority of your conversations or activities around how much you like to drink, it'll be fine.

Also, include your friend in activities that REQUIRE sobriety.
For instance, my buddy and I go to the shooting range together. It's something that we can enjoy ONLY because we've got our wits about us. We play a lot of chess, too. He seems to be happy to be able to participate in activities that take advantage of how sharp his sober brain is.
posted by Jon-o at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Why not ask her?

Particularly if she's the one who told you about her accomplishment (staying sober). Amount of support needed varies from individual to individual, but without her asking you for help, I see no reason for you to treat her any differently because of this revelation. She's not any different than the person you knew last week, no?

But mostly: Ask her. Only she can know what she does or doesn't need and want.
posted by raedyn at 2:31 PM on June 13, 2005

It seems to me as if you have more of a problem with her not drinking than she does. Her not drinking is not your problem, nor is it your problem if she only has one eye and a hare lip. You should just treat her as you would anyone else and not make any type of deal about it, big or otherwise. And in case you ask I've been sober for somewhere around 15 years - it isn't important enough for me to count anymore.
posted by adamvasco at 2:31 PM on June 13, 2005

While it's nice of you to care, I'd bet that there's really no need to go beyond common sense. It surely depends partly on the individual, but for some people, "not-drinking" is just a choice, which doesn't need to be acknowledged or dealt with at all by other people. You wouldn't ask for advice upon finding out that someone had not drunk, say, rum, in several years. Just because the choice extends across all alcohol doesn't necessitate that it's something that needs attention.

on preview, if your circle is especially focused around drinking-as-entertainment, perhaps it's useful to be more aware, but I often go out to bars and don't drink, and don't feel excluded or uncomfortable (but I don't have issues with alcohol; I just have what seems to be a comparatively moderate appetite for it).
posted by mdn at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2005

As someone in the same position, I've found that when we go to the pub for someone's birthday, I order a coke or sparkling water and people don't usually bat an eyelid.

Just add what she orders into the round without comment or emphasis:

"Okay, two beers, a white wine, a coke and a g&t".

In my experience, most people don't take much notice of who's drinking what, as long as they get what they want.

I'm sure your friend's used to fending off the 'so you don't drink?' questions from people who don't know the reason why.

Er... do I detect a little bit of a crush on her ...? :-)

[if so, good luck]
posted by essexjan at 2:33 PM on June 13, 2005

(oop - the on preview was regarding jon-o - this is moving fast...)
posted by mdn at 2:35 PM on June 13, 2005

Call her the DD and buy her sodas or whatever. Don't make it into a deal, and realize that she's not gonna be impressed by your keg stand stories. Remember, nearly everything fun that you can do drunk, you can do sober. You just might not want to make a drunken ass out of yourself, as she's unlikely to be sympathetic.
posted by klangklangston at 3:32 PM on June 13, 2005

There is a fellowship for friends and relatives of alcoholics very similar to aa called alanon and a lot of people find it very helpful indeed , maybe if you had a wee chat with someone from there they might give you some really good advice on what you can do for your friend.
Cause sober or otherwise , alkies can really kick your ass if you don't have enough info.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:42 PM on June 13, 2005

Do NOT call her the DD.

I'm in the same situation. I'm OK grabbing a coke while everyone else drinks, but nothing pisses me off more than assholes who automatically assume that I want to be out with a bunch of people drinking (while I'm not) just so I can drag their drunk, belligerent asses home at the end of the night.

Want her to never go out with you again? Call her the DD.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

As someone who doesn't drink often but hangs out with those who do, I agree with NotMyselfRightNow. Just because someone chooses not to drink (for whatever reason) does NOT mean they automatically want to be responsible for hauling everyone else's drunk ass around. If she volunteers for the job, fine, but don't volunteer her for it yourself.
posted by geeky at 4:44 PM on June 13, 2005

We already had a chat -- she and I are cool. (essexjan -- not a crush, but happy-new-friend-yay, y'know?)

I thought to ask because while I have non-drinking friends (of sundry reasons) and I have common sense, not all of our co-workers do. There's already been a little over-doing it out of the mouths of well-meaning but un-subtle colleagues. Am i concerned about her ability to handle this? Nahh -- she's got her act together.

On the other hand, I figured I'd check in with MeFi -- in the event that she does need to give me the agreed-upon "please, rescue me from this conversation" raised eyebrow, I wanted to double-check my instincts.

(To Notmyselfrightnow -- well said, and totally agree. I hate that attitude even though I do drink.)
posted by desuetude at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2005

part of recovery from addiction is being honest with oneself ... and it seems that she is ... and it also means watching out for situations where you're tempted to put the responsibility for actions and situations you're in onto other people

meaning that if she's in a situation where the "triggers" of people drinking or being pushy about drinking start making her feel conflicted or tempted, it's her and her higher power's responsibility to recognize this when it happens and do something about it, such as leave, or tell someone that she's uncomfortable with what's going on ... they're her boundaries to set ... and that would go for well meaning people who are sympathizing too much, also ...

you can be understanding and responsive to her when she gives you that signal ... but do not start thinking that you are responsible for her staying sober or comfortable in any way ... that's not good for either of you

i'm sure she knows this, too ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:08 PM on June 13, 2005

Not meaning that I'm her self-appointed protector. No no no no. Nooooo. Didn't mean that at all.

Just being proactive and doing a little curious research.
I'm not unfamiliar with alcoholism -- I have a close friend in rehab, we obviously avoid drinkers when we hang out. My new friend who has overcome a problem with alcohol yet is able to hang with drinkers is a less common situation for me. I was just checking for any common social thingys that I may have missed that are annoying. Like NotMyselfRightNow's point about NOT assigning her the DD title by default.
posted by desuetude at 7:17 PM on June 13, 2005

Sorry. My alcoholic friends and family have no problem being called the DD. Perhaps they have a (darker?) sense of humor about it. And since it's rare that any of us have more than three beers in an evening, we don't actually make 'em shuttle us around.
posted by klangklangston at 11:06 PM on June 13, 2005

You say: "What can I get you?" or "What would you like to drink?"

You don't say: "Can I get you a soda or [insert brand name or other non-alcoholic drink]?" or "I know you don't drink, would you like a soda?"

The difference is: it refrains from making alcohol central to the issue of socializing.

This is especially so when in company. It will allow her to frame a response in her way. Maybe she'll say something like:

"Oh I think I'll just have a coke tonight" or if she wishes to hide it, which is her prerogative of course, she might say: "I really don't feel like drinking tonight, how about a soda water" or "I'm pretty tired, I think I'll stick to soda" or "I'm driving so best if I settle for coke" or "I'm on medication, so I can't drink thanks anyway. How about a coke?"

That way, your friend doesn't have to be freaked out by people framing their questions or deferring to her in pseudopatronizing ways in a misguided (even if well intentioned) attempt to ameliorate what they see as a potentially uncomfortable scenario.
posted by peacay at 3:36 AM on June 14, 2005

I salute your intentions, so don't take the following as an attack. I offer it to be helpful, although as you'll see, that's a loaded phrase.

An observation: Getting involved--even slightly, even under the guise of being proactive--in other people's stuff is *sometimes* a sign of codependency. Meaning that you feel a strange satisfaction when you have someone else to worry about/take care of. It can be an ancient pattern you learned from a parent or grandparent, or it can be a habit you picked up from your last SO. Further, addicts and codependents have a magical ability to find each other and begin the dance, with bad results for both. (I know whereof I speak on all these points.)

Something to think about. Melody Beattie's "Codependent No More" would be a good source of more information.

I don't know you, and frankly, my offering this information is in itself exactly the kind of involvement-in-the-lives-of-others that I have to avoid like the plague, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
posted by harrietwrath at 2:52 PM on June 16, 2005

Along the lines of what peacay said above - as a non-drinker, it's nice if you're not the only one not drinking. Consider, without making comment on it, ordering a soda/non-alcoholic drink/juice some nights.
posted by whatzit at 4:01 AM on June 19, 2005

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