How do you improve relationships after drinking?
April 25, 2021 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I've been an off again on again drinker. Details inside but my parents moved in with me. I have not been drinking, they don't want me to leave my house. My friends are casual drinkers and as we're all adults not drinking in front of them is not an issue. Last night I went out for the first time in a long time. I did not drink but came home late, apparently I was supposed to call them if I went out late though this was not discussed. How do I rectify this without being a shut-in?

The story is a bit complicated but i admitted I had a problem and they moved in with me. I have not left the house without them for weeks. For context both of them are teetotalers. It was a friend of a friends birthday party and they were the young side of the group and were taking shots, etc. I had a diet coke and an O'Douls. The decision was made to the casinos and I stayed up until 2AM before coming home. I told my friends I wasn't drinking so when birthday drinks came around, etc. I was not handed anything. We're in our 30s so it isn't a thing to not drink. Not drinking was a non-thing for me to be honest and I enjoyed being sober.

Fast forward today and my parents read me the riot act, did not believe that I'd be up late not drinking and that I "should have called them." They said I have not been sober long enough for them to trust me to be out on my own around alcohol, though I'm sure whatever amount of time they had in their head will change continuously. They said my eyes were blurry and bloodshoot but that's most likely gambling for that long in a smoke filled casino. I did not gamble really I just was along for the birthday party.

1. They absolutely do not believe I can be around liquor, they have some odd ideas about addiction and if I wanted to drink I'd probably sneak it around instead of going out to a birthday party. I did not notify them as I'm in my 30s and didn't occur to me that a change of plans was warranted.
2. Obviously being out late is a sign that I'm doing something, anything wrong. I'm a night owl.
3. They believe O'Douls is drinking as it has liquor in it. I probably had 3 O'Douls because I do like the taste of beer but absolutely did not get a buzz.
4. I did have a glass of champagne as a toast for the birthday party but this did not lead to more drinking, etc.

I felt given the circumstances I did good and while my parents want me to do nothing but hang around with them that's not feasible. My friends are supportive so not drinking was a non-issue. I will admit i had alcohol problems in the past and took steps to rectify those. I have no urge to drink anymore, but not showing up to birthday parties and other social functions are taking a toll on my social life. I went to therapy with an addiction counselor and they among other things thought I need to learn to be social without imbibing.

Frankly I felt I hit a big milestone, I went out I didn't get trashed and I didn't feel the urge too. Sure plans changed we stayed out later but I'm again an adult and didn't drink. I realize my parents idea of addiction is that if I'm around it i'll consume it, but that's not how it works at least for me.

They've stated the only way to gain their trust is to hit some sort of not-drinking milestone they can't define and not go out until 2AM as there's nothing good that happens then. I get they're conservative, have no friends, and don't get that things change. They lived blocks from where they grew up, I lived all over the country.

Has anyone dealt with this? I'd rather not kick them out but I can't wake up and be read the riot act like a teenager when I did nothing wrong and made good choices. I do have a sponsor who commended me, but my parents believe the sponsor is "just another drunk." I know me and if I stay under house arrest I'll go stir crazy. I was thinking having my parents here would help but I'm beginning to think they're counterproductive. They're not gaslighting, they literally think if I don't do their activities with them I must be getting loaded.

Any advice is helpful. To be clear I never did anything bad drunk (jail, hurt someone, etc.) I just went out too much,
posted by geoff. to Health & Fitness (38 answers total)
That is exactly how my abusively strict parents treated me when I was a teenager - I wasn't allowed to do ANYTHING social, ever, because of the off chance that I would be in the vicinity of some kind of vice which I would clearly be powerless to resist.

I was not able to make them leave and stop abusing me because I was under 18 and they owned the house we lived in. This isn't the case for you. Tell them to leave.
posted by cilantro at 7:56 AM on April 25, 2021 [18 favorites]

1. You are an adult. Your parents do not get to dictate your life or your choices.

2. Beyond, your parents do not appear to be supportive, quite the contrary. Referring to a sponsor as "just another drunk" lacks both compassion and a basic grasp of addiction recovery. These mindsets and attitudes are not helpful to you in recovery. (Which, by the way congratulations!)

3. You need to set boundaries for your interactions with them. They will attempt to ignore those boundaries. It is significantly more difficult to maintain boundaries when they live in the same house as you. Being able to physically separate from them will help you.

4. You should probably see a therapist to work through the above issues and have confidence in your choices. I strongly suspect your parents will be against this. Ignore them. You're inside of a warped perspective of the world that they've created. You need to get out of it.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:09 AM on April 25, 2021 [18 favorites]

It's your house, and while you understand they can be worried, you did NOT drink, and they are NOT allowed to control you like this.

The sticking point here is you invited them in by admitting you had a problem. Do you still have that problem?

If you REALLY want to hurt them (and yourself) with words... Don't they trust you? They raised you, so what does that make them? I don't recommend this route, as it burns bridges and all that.
posted by kschang at 8:10 AM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Frankly, unless I am misunderstanding your arrangement, it seems odd to me for your parents to be living with you for the sole reason of policing your drinking.

If that is the only reason they are there, it may be time to have them move out. As a person in your thirties providing your own roof over your own head and currently handling your own drinking behavior to your own satisfaction, you seem more than capable of handling yourself on your own without their interference and demands creating annoyance and frustration for you.

If I misunderstood and they are living with you for other reasons that make it difficult for you to ask them to leave, I still think all the above still stands but you need to let them know that part of the deal of them getting to live with you is that they need to mind their own business about your comings and goings.

As long as you are not drunkenly abusing family members who depend on you and are unable to live on their own, they do not have the right to harass you about how you choose to manage your drinking or your social life.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:11 AM on April 25, 2021 [9 favorites]

It sounds like your parents are concerned about you not making the same choices they did, and are probably reflecting some of their feelings about their own choices in how they are reacting to this out of fear for you. Maybe the logic is that if it were them, they would be lying about having not had anything to drink? They seem well-meaning but maybe scared for your well-being, and possibly over-zealous.

What do you think would help you to stay sober, if not having them live with you? Is staying sober your goal? I noticed that even though you say numerous times in your post that you didn't drink, you did have a glass of champagne. Good on you for not drinking more than that of course, but it seems a bit contradictory.

I think you should take a deep breath, as you seem really upset about the situation, and then give some thought to what you honestly think would help you in this situation. You're an adult and you are perfectly entitled to tell your parents to leave, but having a clear idea about how to move forward first is probably a good idea. If you have a plan in place to move forward that includes support from others, not necessarily your parents, maybe it would help to be able to demonstrate to them that you are taking steps to meet your sobriety goals even if not with them living with you and help smooth things over if you do ask them to move out.
posted by knownfossils at 8:18 AM on April 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

Kick them out. You’re an adult.
posted by rd45 at 8:20 AM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah I'm going to have to have the difficult conversation with them tomorrow. Bringing them here was not just because of drinking they never visited me or called when I lived in NYC (they have images of when they visited in the 70s), nor did they approve of me living in SF. So I was hoping to reconnect and also maybe having them around would stave off the loneliness I've been feeling since Covid.

I'm well aware I'm an adult and can kick them out but was hoping there was maybe a less harsh way of going about it. I'm beginning to see now that's not the case, they'll treat me like a child and will assume anything not involving them involves drinking. Right now they're going out to buy some urine test to make sure I didn't drink. I'm not going to take it simply out of principle, even though they'll play the 'if you have nothing to hide card."

Really hard to argue against the "all drunks lie" and "even if you did drink you'd tell us you didn't," or the worst "I can see it in your eyes." I need to trust my therapist and sponsor and people who have actual experience in this. Again, I'm well aware I can kick them out and I will at this point, but parents aren't as easy to kick out as a random roommate.

I did try to get them to go therapy with me to help smooth things over but they were insistent they didn't have a problem and didn't need to go to therapy. As someone up thread noted they did not like what the therapist said,

I'm fairly private about things and I thought opening up to them would help our relationship and what I'm going through, but it completely backfired. I really don't think they have a concept between drinking anything and being on skid row.
posted by geoff. at 8:30 AM on April 25, 2021 [8 favorites]

If you got them in specifically to help you kick an alcohol problem, and they give you a serve when you get home in a state that looks to them like you still have that problem, then they're doing exactly what you asked of them. I can't see how you could reasonably ding them for that.

But it sounds to me like they're not actually in a position to offer useful, actionable help; there's too much baggage here to allow for a productive communication style. So in your shoes I'd be negotiating a re-separation of living arrangements starting ASAP.

If you should ever again find yourself needing somebody else to hold you accountable for managing a potential addiction, get a friend in rather than your parents.
posted by flabdablet at 8:33 AM on April 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

First of all, let me congratulate you. It’s pretty wonderful that you were able to do all that and not feel any temptation. Obviously alcohol problems are tricky and one night won’t put you in the clear, but you should be feeling pretty good right now. Don’t let other people take that from you.

I will say, as a teetotaler myself, that most teetotalers don’t seem to believe in the concept of responsible drinking or drinking-adjacent social activity. For a lot of people, it’s just axiomatic that alcohol is evil, and it’ll be hard to convince them otherwise. There are exceptions (e.g., me), but for seemingly a lot of us, the presence of alcohol is a symptom rather than the disease itself. I’m making an assumption here (on preview, I think I might be onto something), but the reason they’re upset about you staying out until 2am at a casino is because you’re staying up until 2am at a casino, not because you’re drinking. Two sides of the same coin. You’re still swimming in the sea of immorality even if you’re sober.

With that in mind, the conversation you have with them shouldn’t be “but I stayed sober”. It should be “I need to be able to make my own decisions”. From everything else you’ve posted here, you’re wildly successful. You obviously can make good decisions. You may have had some trouble with alcohol in the past, but you’ve proven you can resist, and you need them to trust you. That’s a harder conversation to have, and I’m sorry I can’t be more specific. But that’s the framing that needs to happen, not the narrow “I did ok one night” conversation.

Good job again, though. Proud of you.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2021 [14 favorites]

Did you tell them, "I know me and if I stay under house arrest I'll go stir crazy. I was thinking having [you] here would help but I'm beginning to think they're counterproductive. [You're] not gaslighting, [you] literally think if I don't do [your] activities with [you] I must be getting loaded."

Yeah it's your house and you're an adult but they supposedly know that. They don't trust you yet, and maybe that makes sense from their perspective. I see your new comment. If the issue is trust then maybe reconsider not taking the urine test? If you want them to trust you to make good choices then proving they can trust your word is a logical step in that process. Idk it depends what you want here. If you want them to be allies this is a valid option. This is what happens a lot within families fighting substance overuse. Refusing the urine screen is a little similar to a person caught in an emotional affair, and later their partner sees them laughing on their phone and then refuses to show them what they were laughing at. If you're caught up on the parent child dynamic I see why you wouldn't want to.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:37 AM on April 25, 2021

Response by poster: Perhaps I was overreacting to the urine screen as I was the one who offered it when they moved it and accused me of hiding liquor in the house (I never kept alcohol in the house). Given their past behavior on not believing the therapist and wanting me to find a therapist that I guess fills their narrative, I fear a urine test that shows up negative would lead to accusations that I cheated it or who knows. Maybe I was being a bit heated but sure I'll take it on second thought.

in any case I know plenty of recovering alcoholics that go to bars, socialize and did exactly what I did. Sure a glass of champagne is not completely sober in the strictest sense, but it didn't lead to 5 shots and 8 beers.

Yesterday was a birthday party so it was boozier than usual amongst friends but even in non-boozy situation there usually always be a beer or something and while my parents don't socialize, my therapist has encouraged me to slowly integrate back in. My friends know I don't drink so when they were ordering rounds they specifically did not get me a beer. It was a non-issue.
posted by geoff. at 8:47 AM on April 25, 2021

This sounds really tough - I've been through the whole cycle so many times of wanting to be open and have a real connection with my family. My mother had a brother who was a terrible alcoholic (the whole "lost job, lost family, lost house, sleeping rough" thing) and thought that having more than about one drink a month = same as him.

I'm afraid to say that distance, both emotional and physical, and presenting only highly edited facts and trivial snippets of my life was the only way to maintain any kind of civil relationship.

I doubt their presence would be enough to stop you drinking if you had a mind to, and I also doubt their absence would start you drinking.
posted by ElasticParrot at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

I will gently disagree with taking the urine test or trying to placate them or let them think that YOU think they are in any way being reasonable or helpful. They are not. This isn't healthy. If you can't "kick them out" immediately, you should be very clear that you are unhappy with their behaviour and that you won't be engaging with it.

I also want to add that (though many people may disagree) there are many, many degrees of alcohol problem. Lots and lots of people are able to drink problematically at some point in their lives and end up with a healthier relationship with alcohol that doesn't mean 'tee-total'. Don't let your parents (or anyone else) guilt-trip you over a glass of champagne.
posted by cilantro at 8:51 AM on April 25, 2021 [14 favorites]

I don’t know what your triggers are but in your shoes I’d be concerned that being around parents like that would literally make me want to start drinking again. It sounds very stressful and counterproductive to say the least.

Can you have an honest conversation about the kind of support you need? I think you’re doing an amazing job staying sober in social situations but maintaining sobriety is a hard enough job!

In their quest to support you, your parents have just inadvertently made it that much more difficult now you have to mange their emotions as well. If it’s at all possible I’d thank them for their help and tell them you can take it from here and that it’s time they went home.
posted by Jubey at 9:05 AM on April 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

It sounds like your relationship with your parents has been difficult for a long time (maybe always?) based on them not visiting you OR EVEN CALLING YOU when you lived in NYC. I mean, really? My kids could live in the scariest, most dangerous, disgusting place and I would drop everything to see them. Because I love them unconditionally. I mean, I guess I could see them not wanting to visit but not calling you? That's awful.

So you're not starting with a healthy relationship with them, and then they move in. It seems like asking them to do that was a mistake. That's okay, everyone makes mistakes and we learn from them. Now you've learned that your parents can't be trusted with information that can be used against you. Sit them down, thank them for coming to stay with you, and tell them that it's time for them to go back to their lives. They will resist. That's okay. Give them a timeline and then repeat the conversation a couple days before the deadline. They'll probably still resist. Stick with it, DO NOT WAVER. If you give them an inch, they'll stay forever.

This isn't about your drinking. These problems with your parents go way back and might not be reparable. If they won't meet you halfway, they've made their choice.
posted by cooker girl at 9:09 AM on April 25, 2021 [11 favorites]

You are doing a great job. Keep the therapist. Keep the sponsor. Tell your parents to leave. If I was in this situation with my folks I would fall off the wagon just due to cabin fever and being infantalized. They are not helping you.
posted by nayantara at 9:16 AM on April 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

I don’t understand why there was a conversation about what you need to do to gain their trust. Who cares? A) They will clearly never truly you anyway, and B) What do you need their trust for? You’ve been living without their approval for some time and life goes on. They aren’t providing you with anything that would be devastating if it was withdrawn. You can choose not to discuss alcohol or your sponsor with them. I know it’s hard to change that parent-child power dynamic, but it either needs to change or they will have to go.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

I feel like the parent issue and the drinking issue are really separate and it's important to treat them as such.

As others have said, you're a grown adult, it's your place, and the way they are policing you seems unhelpful and isn't something you have to tolerate. I would guess that most people would not.


I've known quite a few alcoholics, including a family member, an ex, and a dear friend, who sound similar to you when they are rationalizing drinking.

In your question itself, you say you weren't drinking. But a ways down in the question, it comes out that indeed, you were drinking. O'Douls does have a small amount of alcohol in it. Champagne has alcohol in it. The fact is, you were drinking. You lied in your initial question. You lied to your parents. You may be lying to yourself.

A pee test soon after you came home would find that you were drinking. Because you were. Issues of privacy or what's reasonable to expect your parents to demand are separate and you may be focusing on them to obscure the bottom line: you were drinking, and a pee test would catch that.

Sure, a small number of alcoholics find that they can hang out at bars, and even drink a small amount, without relapsing. Most can't. And the way you're talking about this episode makes me think you belong to the latter category. I recognize the rationalization talk.

What would you think of a heroin addict who still hung out with junkies, and who shot up once in a while? What are their chances of beating their addiction vs. relapsing? It's honestly no different with drunks, alcohol is just more normalized in most societies.

AA doesn't work for everyone, but there's a reason they emphasize honesty with one's self and others. Most addicts are lacking in that department, and it is one reason they stay addicted.

Regardless of how you handle the parent situation, I think you're going to need to change your approach if you truly want to stop problem drinking. Maybe you don't want to and aren't ready.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 9:36 AM on April 25, 2021 [17 favorites]

Your situation isn't all that crazy or unusual, unfortunately. It's extreme, yes, but many people who quit have loved ones who are trying to get them to quit.

Paradoxically, quitting can be threatening to close relationships. I can't speak for you, but for me, my loved ones were confused about what to do with me when I wasn't a shit show anymore. They were in the habit of cleaning up after me; even today they still think that had they taken care of my life more effectively, my 20s would've gone much better than they did.

We've had some unpleasant times over their viewpoint. I've learned to live with the fact that this is how they view things. I work around it, and I don't let it get to me anymore. They've got their own stuff to work through, I guess.

I recommend that you stay in touch with trusted counsel who you keep apprised of all this stuff in person or over the phone/video conference - maybe that's your sponsor, maybe it's someone else - and focus on taking the right action that's presented to you rather than try to dream up a plan of action to fix this circumstance. The situation will evolve on its own; if you cannot live with your parents, then the day will come where that will become clear. You won't need Ask MeFi to tell you so, but talking to someone may clarify your own feelings. If it comes to that, you'll find a way to make it work. If it doesn't, you'll also find a way to make it work.

Just be honest and focus on each day as it comes and it'll be fine. Even if that means telling your sponsor that you had a glass of champagne.
posted by billjings at 10:09 AM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

O'Douls is 0.4% alcohol, which is slightly less alcoholic than commercial-grade kombucha (0.5%). Champagne is certainly a drink, congrats sticking to just one.

Anyway, I'd firmly tell your parents that they are not responsible for your recovery. Nor will they be responsible if you relapse. It's not that they need to trust you so much as they need to accept that they are ultimately not in control of your actions, and that's not their job. I'd also try and be empathetic to them- it's scary to have a family member with an addition. You might research what Al-Anon meetings are available to them.
posted by coffeecat at 10:17 AM on April 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Last night I went out for the first time in a long time. I did not drink but came home late, apparently I was supposed to call them if I went out late though this was not discussed. How do I rectify this without being a shut-in?

I agree that this is about two things

1. Your relationship with your parents and how much it's appropriate for them to make decisions about your life

2. Your relationship to drinking and how much of it is okay for you and how honest you are being about the situation.

Like, I had a parent who was a problem drinker and, with kindness, my reaction was exactly the same as Flock of Cynthiabirds. Your story on how much you drank changed within the question you asked. You did or did not have a brithday drink? You had one ODouls or multiple. I 100% understand how not getting shitfaced during an "ample opportunity to get shitfaced" situation is a win for you and congrats, that's a big deal. At the same time it doesn't really shift the fact that you seem to still have a difficult relationship with how you talk about alcohol and how you react to people expressing concern about it.

I agree, your parents are being over the top. However, there's a long span between "Let them know if you're going to be out super late" (kiiiinda normal in some types of roommate situations) and "They are forcing me to be a shut in" so maybe explore that energy a little? Because, you're an adult and it doesn't actually matter if your parents are being ridiculous about things, they can't force you to do anything, just be pains about it and try to guilt you into stuff. It's serious boundary time with them "No we're not doing that" but at the same time, maybe trying to be more communicative about things (how late you're going to be out) might help build up trust and keep them from jumping all over you.

At the same time "learning to be social without imbibing" isn't drinking three O'Douls and a glass of champagne, it's learning to be social without imbibing and that's not where you're at right now. No shame in it, it's a difficult path, but maybe opening up to some discussion about that--with someone NOT your parents--may help you get to a place where you're more comfortable and so are they.

Above all, remember that issues with alcohol, whatever they are, don't tend to show up in a vacuum. Often there are family issues and or personal neurochemical issues involved and so the fact that your parents are being extremely difficult about this is a part of it, not a totally separate issue. And if you're working on your stuff, and it sounds like you are and things are trending in the right direction, you can put up some boundaries that will help you work on your stuff while still understanding that your folks are 1. part of it 2. unlikely to change dramatically 3. not in charge.
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2021 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Really O'Douls are bad? I get the champagne, I should not have that regardless of the fact it did not lead to more. I honestly thought that was the non-alcoholic beer that was safe to drink. I was drinking coke up until then but was afraid I wouldn't get to sleep. I'm being serious I didn't know this and I'll talk to my therapist tomorrow but I thought O'Douls were okay, and frankly they tasted pretty much like real beer.
posted by geoff. at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2021

It's definitely not that they're bad! It's just, they have a little bit of alcohol and depending on how totally serious you are about this, drinking 3 things that taste like beer and that are not devoid of alcohol may not be meeting the spirit of "going out and not imbibing". Personally, I was more pointing out that in your first section you said "I had a diet coke and an O'Douls." (i.e. one) and then later you say it was, in fact, three. Again, no big deal and I am not judging you for this, I'm just saying it's the sort of thing I think people who are used to talking to or interacting with people with alcohol problems are kind of used to seeing/hearing/managing, and so it might be worth examining the way you talk about alcohol as part of examining your relationship to it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2021 [15 favorites]

It's not that they are bad or good, it's that they have alcohol in them. Many problem drinkers who are trying to quit find that drinking any alcohol (yes, including something like kombucha) ignites the same cycle of relapse as drinking "just one beer" would.

Many former problem drinkers who stay sober for a long time also find that they needed to acquire a new social circle to do so. There are other options for you besides being a shut-in or socializing in bars/around drinking. Why not volunteer, attend meetups, take a class?
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 11:00 AM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

So a child expects their parents to know what to do and to meet their needs (appropriately). A grown up expects their parents to provide moral and sometimes practical support, and eventually- to be the person with the answers and support for the parents.

When you asked your parents for help, which is fine, you entered into the realm of the first. How have you communicated to them about what you need and don’t need? Did you tell them you don’t expect to be fully abstinent? Did you share with them your plans (which seem to have worked) for your birthday? Have you told them specifically what you need from them and what you don’t?

If so, then it’s their issue (and they do sound over the top. Mine would be which is why I do not ask for help.) But if you’ve been expecting them to just know what to do - time to take the lead.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:05 AM on April 25, 2021

I hear you that it felt like a big milestone for you, and was, but also I hear you saying "I had a diet coke and an o'douls" when in fact you went to a party where alcohol was big part of the focus, stayed there until the wee hours of the morning, drank a diet coke, three o'douls, *and a glass of champagne,* and didn't contact your folks whom you apparently asked to move in to help you stay sober.

If I were your folks I would also be both mad and distrustful. I get that you're making progress -- the progress appears real -- but the behavior you engaged in isn't actually the behavior of a person who is abstaining from alcohol. (And maybe you are thinking you don't need to abstain from alcohol, that you can make a harm reduction approach work -- and maybe you can, but that's not what you asked your parents to help you with, here.)

Whether you tell your folks to move out or not isn't really the issue. Defining what sobriety means to you and what kind of relationship you can have with alcohol -- and how much and what kind of support you want from others at this really early fragile stage -- is the issue.
posted by shadygrove at 11:08 AM on April 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Why not volunteer, attend meetups, take a class?

Well there was nothing for a long time because of Covid and I kind of holed away in a bar/restaurant I owned managing the delivery services. But yes, I'm planning on seeking other activities now that things are opening up.

Personally, I was more pointing out that in your first section you said "I had a diet coke and an O'Douls." (i.e. one) and then later you say it was, in fact, three.

Slip of the tongue! I can totally see how probably drinkers, and I do know them beyond me, exaggerate and lie about drinking. This is probably why my parents did not believe me. They had an alcoholic in the family (I did not know about) that apparently had similar behavior then would hit the bar. I've taken positive steps to make sure this doesn't become a problem: therapy, I'm having coffee with a sponsor/friend who is going through similar issues today, etc. I'm actively looking for social outlets but things like beer league baseball have been cancelled due to Covid still so I'm still grasping for social outlets.

And maybe you are thinking you don't need to abstain from alcohol, that you can make a harm reduction approach work -- and maybe you can, but that's not what you asked your parents to help you with, here.

I absolutely am not doing harm reduction. I tried that and it didn't work for me. This social outing was advised by therapist who specializes in addiction with the caveat I write everything down (I did I have no reason to lie to him as I sought him out), and we talk about it on Monday. I can see how my parents would be upset, I guess in my mind 6 months ago I would have been plastered. Now I didn't even feel the urge to drink, I had a celebratory glass of champagne which didn't lead to more but I am willing to concede that was a bad idea.

and didn't contact your folks whom you apparently asked to move in to help you stay sober.

I told them where I was going and it lasted longer than I expected but I kept sober, around alcohol, which i thought was the point. Perhaps expectations need to be realigned.

I guess what I'm seeing is that when I talk to friends who have become sober or are in the process of becoming sober, and my therapist their expectations are that I did not fall off the wagon and that I'm reintegrating to society. And frankly, I'm an adult and if they decided to move to the casino it isn't like I have 2AM nights more than once a year or so, the important part was I didn't get trashed or feel the need to. I am not claiming I'm cured, I just felt a personal victory and was shut down by them.

To answer the original question, I'm moving whenever Covid restrictions are over for a job. I'm going to leave them my house and have a frank discussion about how I don't need or want their help anymore that I have a therapist, and friends working through the program. I made a mistake telling them everything thinking that if I was honest they'd believe me, that backfired horribly. I really wish they'd go to therapy too and listen to things they might not like to hear, but I can't control them.

Looking back, as someone said upthread they didn't contact me for the ~7 (?) years I lived in NYC, didn't visit or even offer. Not to minimize or say drinking is not a problem but I believe it is their way of expressing that I don't live the college -> marriage -> house lifestyle they were expecting. Living alone for so long I didn't expect the need to tell them hey we're done here going to the casinos (again last time I went to a casino had to have been ten years ago).

TL;DR: Continuing to take advice of professional help, lean on my support group, have a frank discussion with my parents that the simple fact them being there keeps me from wanting to come home trashed and that our living situation will be ending. They're obviously not equipped to deal with this but I woke up feeling great and they just squashed it all.
posted by geoff. at 11:34 AM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Added irony: I went to go talk to my mother about what happened and apparently she went to the casinos... so there's some dysfunction there.
posted by geoff. at 12:17 PM on April 25, 2021

I think one thing that’s happening here is that you and your parents are using different definitions for what sober means. It sounds like to your parents sober means ‘no alcohol.’ And to you, sober means ‘not drunk.’

FWIW I think that for most people in recovery sober means no alcohol. Like for most people trying to quit drinking, they would turn down the glass of champagne, because their goal isn’t to not get drunk, their goal is to not risk being in a situation in which they might end up getting drunk. It sounds like you took that risk and didn’t end up getting drunk. That’s better than getting drunk, so in that sense it’s definitely a win. But my guess is your parents would prefer you not to drink at all, because they don’t want you to risk drinking to excess. And maybe they are alarmed by you describing yourself as sober when in fact you did have one drink, because that’s not what the word sober means to them.
posted by Susan PG at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

It does sound like your parents are uncompromising - not to contact a child because they disapproved of where they live? What did they object to so severely? What did they imagine in their isolation? What could possibly make a parent cut off a child? (And I've thought hard about this, having a grandmother permanently cut off a child who married into the wrong strain of Christianity (!), and another relative who made her children choose which parent they would live with at her divorce (another !) She never saw her eldest child again, who chose her father, never communicated, and in the process scarred and alienated her 2 remaining children, who never saw their father or sister again. This really happened about 50 years ago. So it can, actually, be worse.) That thread stuck out to me as setting the scene for judgmental behavior and a lack of compromise in general. Unfortunately they now have new ammunition to threaten you with, and they appear no more willing to compromise now. It may well be that separation is the only way to deal with this and keep your autonomy and sense of self.

I think you should be kind to yourself. You've done a very difficult thing in stopping drinking in the first place, and deserve hosannas for being able to do it inside the bar/restaurant business. It's so difficult in that environment, and if the friends you gathered with are from that milieu you all get high-fives, them for not pressuring you to drink with them.

It is very, very difficult to keep friendships that have always been smoothed by drinking when someone in the group becomes sober. The ritual of an after-shift drink is tough to skip when there is so much shooting the shit after-service socializing that's practically mandatory and deeply entrenched in the culture. The night-time schedules of most kitchen workers also narrows the pool of people willing to socialize when people like your parents are sound asleep. Your parents seem to have a very narrow definition of what is right and wrong, and to them even being out of the house socializing at 2:00 AM probably seems sinful in itself. Add in their fears about alcohol and they know no other way to react than to criticize and revert to high-school era criticism. I just don't see, without a lot of work on your parents' part, how this relationships can move to mutual respect and acceptance.

How you decide to proceed in your relationship with alcohol is probably something you should work out with your therapist rather than your parents, as it does sound like your goal (being able to drink a little bit without going overboard) is incompatible with their teetotaler ethic. And it is very true that many drinkers try valiantly to drink "socially", and many come to the conclusion that this is too difficult a needle to thread. They decide instead that total abstinence is more workable. In truth, this is your decision and your decision alone. Best of luck to you.
posted by citygirl at 12:54 PM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Respectfully, I think this discussion is getting away from the original question. The OP isn’t asking about how to manage alcoholism. They have a therapist specializing in addiction who is better qualified to answer questions about that than any of us. Nor are they asking about whether O’Doul’s is an acceptable choice for non-drinking. It’s clearly marketed toward people who are trying not to drink, and that’s obviously why the OP chose to drink it. I realize why the “I had one” vs “I had three” thing is important, but if you’re under the impression it’s non-alcoholic, that’s not something that the OP would have considered. It’s not substantively different than the Diet Coke in this case.

What the OP is asking about is how to manage the relationship with their parents. And I don’t think “just do everything they say” is a helpful answer here. The reason the OP is asking the question is because that option is no longer possible. Even if the OP is, in fact, an active alcoholic who is completely lying to us about everything they did last night, they still don’t want the pattern of doing whatever their parents say to continue. Isn’t that what we should be focusing on?
posted by kevinbelt at 1:02 PM on April 25, 2021 [9 favorites]

To add onto what others are saying, it sounds like both you and your parents have pretty absolutist thinking about your habits and lifestyle and without some overlap or give on either side, that is going to lead to continued conflict. I'm sure that you are disappointed that they do not see what you did as "progress" but I also think that your parents do not know you or your life well enough to be supportive or to understand the process you are going through.

I saw this situation with my father and his own mother -- he would live with her to try to stay sober, but she found that his lifestyle (staying out late; hanging around other addicts; closing any conversation expressing concern with he is an "adult and can make his own decisions") did not align to her standards; in turn he found her lack of trust (manifesting as controlling, critical behavior, going through his belongings, and arranging interventions) to be triggering.

I'm trying not to project my experience onto your question, so I'll leave it at this:

My advice is that you separate the drinking problem from the relationship problem. I do think that means that your parents should not live with you or be involved in your recovery but I also really think you have to figure out what, if any, relationship you want to have with them going forward. You may need a different therapist for working through that.
posted by sm1tten at 1:15 PM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

geoff.: Added irony: I went to go talk to my mother about what happened and apparently she went to the casinos... so there's some dysfunction there.

Every relationship -- whether it's a relationship between friends, siblings, business partners, spouses/romantic partners, etc -- is affected when one of the people in the relationship decides to work on their stuff regarding booze.

I kind of agree with jessamyn on this: You're definitely moving in the right direction, but you're not abstaining. That said, whether or not your definition of abstaiining accords with mine, jessamyn's and/or your parents', getting and staying sober is something you have to do for and by yourself. Your parents aren't going to be velcroed to your side for the rest of their lives. Thus, they are going to have to work on trusting that when you are not in their presence, you are capable of eschewing mind-altering substances.

If I were you, I might acknowledge to your parents that this is a big change for all of you, and that while you love them, it's hard for you to map out and explain something that you're going through as you're going through it, and that it might benefit them to be around people who are in the same situation: i.e., Al-Anon meetings, as coffeecat suggested.

Assuming that your area has opened up enough that meetings are occurring in person, your parents can go but they don't have to talk! They can just listen! If they don't feel comfortable with the people at one meeting, try another. Different meetings have different styles. And if in-person meetings haven't resumed, Al-Anon groups meet online and by phone if your mother and father are comfortable with that.
posted by virago at 1:16 PM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: but she found that his lifestyle (staying out late; hanging around other addicts; closing any conversation expressing concern with he is an "adult and can make his own decisions") did not align to her standards; in turn he found her lack of trust (manifesting as controlling, critical behavior, going through his belongings, and arranging interventions) to be triggering.

This hit home for me. I was hoping having someone to go home to would curb my behavior, like instead of the "just one more" I'd see my parents for dinner. I noticed this is what keeps my friends with kids in line. No judgment on other people with substance use disorders but the sheer lack of nothing to come home to do or do was a large driver when in a room full of friends.

That and as others said upthread the definition of sober I didn't really realize it. To me if I were to have O'Douls or even a glass of champagne that's not alone leading me stumbling home, hangovers, or the negative effects of alcohol. I do get that for some it leads to "just one more" but that's not me. Over the year I've banned employees from taking shots with regulars, and gotten rid of the shift drink. I've compensated them with cash for it so if they want to use it to buy a drink they can but at least it isn't part of the culture. Some younger employees complained but actually have lead to lower turnover and more reliable employees.

But as stated above, the question I originally had was not so much my alcohol use as I have an addiction counselor and support group that I lean on for that. They're a lot better in helping me realize that I'm making progress, doing good and I didn't even realize for some people, sobriety was complete abstinence even if you do not experience of a "buzz" which is why I discounted a champagne toast.

That said, this thread has made me come to the realization that my parents are not a good influence on me and coming clean about feeling I needed to stop drinking gave them ammunition they needed to be more controlling and micromanaging. Since they refuse therapy by themselves or group therapy with me there's not much I can do but cut them off. I should have realized this when I moved to a city they didn't like and they cut me off.
posted by geoff. at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I personally don't drink, but I also don't buy into "I can only criticize if I had experienced it" thought camp.

Here are my thoughts.

* Teetotaling -- total restraint from alcohol is not necessary, IMHO. The main problem is... how do you decide how much is "enough"? Who will keep YOU accountable?

I am not going to get into the founding of AA and how it's just substituting addiction to (insert item) with addiction to Christianity (yes, I'm aware that's a very cynical view). I do agree with their tactic of having someone who can talk to almost 24/7. People are more accountable toward someone they can see or talk to at any time. I believe there's a non-religious AA around somewhere.

* Clash of absolutes -- someone who won't change their mind no matter what is called a zealot. And your parents apparently made up their mind about you and won't change no matter what. They are zealots. And they are annoying as heck. In fact, they may be actively sabotaging your life and causing you grief, all in the name of love.

I am afraid the only way to limit their damage is to get them out of your life. Clearly, your attempt to reconnect was regarded by them as your "cry for help and redemption". If they will NOT listen to your explanation and do not trust you to make your own decisions, you will have to leave or force them to leave.

My religious parent is still asking me, at my age of 50, about when will I find Christ and the Way, every once at a while. Though she's mellow out about that by now. She used to try to get me to change my English name. It wasn't until a bit later that I realized she tried to name me after one of the Saints. :D We live many states apart now. So we tolerate each other fine. I do get a bit tired that last time I visited her she dragged me to church a couple times. :-\

Unfortunately, that leaves you with the toughest job... How to tell your nosy parents how to get out of your life and leave you alone.
posted by kschang at 1:41 PM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

^^^But as stated above, the question I originally had was not so much my alcohol use as I have an addiction counselor and support group that I lean on for that. They're a lot better in helping me realize that I'm making progress, doing good ...

That said, this thread has made me come to the realization that my parents are not a good influence on me and coming clean about feeling I needed to stop drinking gave them ammunition they needed to be more controlling and micromanaging. Since they refuse therapy by themselves or group therapy with me there's not much I can do but cut them off.

Exactly. You've done and are doing are doing a lot of hard work on yourself, with the help of a support network that your parents aren't a part of. Moreover, because they don't think they have anything to learn from other people (judging from your description), they'd get nothing out of my Al-Anon suggestion.

Let them purse their lips and wring their hands from a distance. They're not helping you where they are now. In fact, they seem to be bent on undermining you.
posted by virago at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

That said, this thread has made me come to the realization that my parents are not a good influence on me and coming clean about feeling I needed to stop drinking gave them ammunition they needed to be more controlling and micromanaging. Since they refuse therapy by themselves or group therapy with me there's not much I can do but cut them off. I should have realized this when I moved to a city they didn't like and they cut me off.

Holy cow, OP. I've read through this whole thread and just want to add my support to the conclusions you've drawn here. If a little external validation helps, your parents sound incredibly controlling - what parent refuses to communicate with their child because the child has moved somewhere they don't approve of?? And the urine test, argh, I really hope you stick to your guns and pass on that. Agreeing with them that they are right to police you is not healthy for you or them, even if that's what you asked for in the first place.

As someone whose father was an alcoholic, I totally get your parents' mindset when it comes to your drinking. There were times when as a child I was convinced that if only I bore down on my dad hard enough - went on sickening "easter egg hunts" for any booze he might have hidden in the house, carefully examined his eyes for that telltale look, tasted whatever he was drinking to make sure it wasn't booze - if only I could scrutinize him carefully enough, he would "know" there was no getting away with it and so of course he'd stay sober. Problem is, that's not at all how alcoholism works. I could no more have stopped my dad's drinking by trying to control it than I could have stopped dead meat from rotting by squeezing it tightly in my fists. Your parents are participating in a sick dynamic, and in my experience, having a penitent alcoholic who allows this kind of policing only feeds in to the dysfunction by sharing the illusion that this kind of control is possible. It isn't and it never can be.

I'm saying all this in case it helps when you confront your parents and discontinue living with them. Setting boundaries and recognizing that they cannot control your drinking is truly the only healthy move here, and it's healthy both for you and them. Wishing you health and peace.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:46 PM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Look at the events you described from your parents' perspective: They moved in to support your newfound sobriety, you left them for the first time in weeks to go out with a group of drinking friends, and stayed out much later than they expected, until 2AM. They were no doubt worried. They shouldn't treat you like a child, but they do deserve some clear communication about your intentions.
posted by MelissaSimon at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

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