Article by: Adam Cook
Overcoming addiction is a daily battle, and it completely changes the way we go about our lives. For those trying to remain sober, socializing may be the greatest test to our willpower. It’s no secret that socializing and drinking go together for most, but for those in recovery, they must be kept separate. It’s not always reasonable to expect friends or family to abstain from alcohol all the time. However, events such as birthday parties, family reunions, and other obligatory gatherings can be made much easier for someone in recovery if the other participants can abstain from drinking or at least act in moderation. Here are a few things to keep in mind when socializing with a loved one in addiction recovery.
(Photo via Pixabay)
Don’t Make it Awkward
At social events and gatherings where alcohol is being consumed, the sobriety of one or more participants can be a sort of elephant in the room. This does not have to be the case.
Begin by avoiding certain questions that will make a recovering addict feel uncomfortable. Maintaining a sense of normalcy and treating them like you would any other friend or relative is key to avoiding feelings of guilt and discomfort that may drive someone back into their addictive ways. The Huffington Post notes some things you should NOT say to a loved one in recovery:
‘I didn’t think you had a problem’
‘So-and-so is in recovery too!’
‘How long have you been sober?’
Quite simply, avoid making their recovery the topic of conversation. If they are comfortable bringing it up, they will.
Let Participants Know in Advance
Sacha Scoblic is the author of the book Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety. As a sober person, shedetails how events that are centered around drinking lead an alcoholic to focus on what they can’t have, instead of what they do have. Scoblic adds that non-sober friends cannot expect to maintain a friendship with a sober friend if they are unwilling to engage in activities without alcohol. Therefore, gatherings where an addict is going to be present should never be rife with free-flowing alcohol. Plus, a responsible approach to alcohol dispersion and consumption will make it less likely that teens or younger kids will have access to beer, wine, or liquor. Secure any alcohol that is present from the reach of youth; studies have shown the age that a person first uses alcohol may determine their likelihood of developing a dependency, so don’t create temptation for your sober guest(s) or your kids.
When possible, let attendees know that if they can abstain while at the event, it will help the recovering addict to feel more comfortable. But it’s not always going to be feasible or even fair to expect everyone to abstain, particularly during the holidays. Smart Recoverypoints out that those in recovery may not feel comfortable with the idea that alcohol is not being served solely because of their presence. Plus, learning to remain sober amidst drinkers is a necessary step for many. As long as an event does not take on a frat party-like level of boozing, and other guests maintain a reasonable level of moderation, the recovering guest will likely be fine.
Consult Well-Respected Resources
Socialize Soberlists several resources for friends and family members of those in recovery. These resources can provide valuable insight into interacting and connecting with a sober friend or family member, and even offer advice on helping facilitate their sobriety.
Time conducted anilluminating interview with the aforementioned Sacha Scoblic, and it allows non-sober friends and family a look into the way their sober acquaintance may see many issues pertaining to socializing and sobriety. Some may feel it necessary to announce their sobriety to friends, as Scoblic did, but others may not be comfortable, using other explanations for why they are not drinking. The interview provides great perspective into behaviors that make addicts uncomfortable, such as the feeling that they are being handled with too much care. It is a must-read for those who want to learn about socializing with a sober friend or family member.
Staying sober is difficult, and re-establishing a social life as a sober person can seem nearly impossible. Relaxing and letting loose are synonymous with drinking for alcoholics, and re-orienting this mindset is more than daunting. Socializing can also be fraught with questions about why you are not drinking and the answering these questions can be understandably uncomfortable. To negate these hurdles, friends and family who are aware that someone is sober should not make drinking the center of gatherings. Treat the recovering addict with a sense of normalcy, and do your best to drink moderately, if at all. These steps will help facilitate a friend’s sobriety while creating a healthy social environment.