a hand holding a small clear glass of water to represent a healthy sober lifestyle

The conversation takes a strange turn

The conversation took an interesting turn a couple of nights ago when my friend asked me if I ever worried that I was making other people feel uncomfortable because I wasn’t drinking.

I was a bit taken aback by the question, as she’d just asked me if I missed drinking alcohol and I had replied, “No, not at all” and had gone on to explain how much better my life was now I’m sober and how much enjoyment I get from evenings out, meals, parties, events, etc when I’m 100% there and connected with what’s going on.

We were actually on our way to a restaurant at the time and she and her husband had had 2 or 3 large measure gin and tonics before we left and I had had a sparkling water with ice and lime. I had offered to drive so they could drink whatever they liked.

When she asked me if I worried about making other people uncomfortable by staying sober, I was a bit astonished by the question and I told her absolutely not. Why should anyone feel uncomfortable because I’m not drinking? Why would me not drinking affect them? If it does, it’s their issue, not mine. I don’t want to spend energy worrying about other people and how they feel about me being sober – I want to get on with living my life in a way that’s healthy for me and why should anyone else be bothered by that? I ranted on in this vein for a while before suddenly thinking, “Hold on a minute… does she feel uncomfortable because I’m not drinking? Is that where the question came from?”

So, I asked her if she felt uncomfortable, and was dumbfounded when she said yes. I asked her where the discomfort came from and she said she thought it was because she likes to know people (especially her guests, which I was at the time) are having a good time. I reassured her I was having a good time and she said that made her feel better.

But, this left me questioning what she’d said. In my experience, people who have a perfectly healthy relationship with alcohol don’t give two hoots whether you’re drinking or not. Only people who have an issue themselves care about whether or not you’re drinking and how much you’re drinking. It helps them feel better about themselves if you drink to a similar level as them – it helps them “normalise” their behaviour (I used to do this myself!). And, I didn’t trust what how she’d explained her discomfort away.

The following morning, her husband was driving me to the airport and he said he was glad she’d cut down on her drinking as she can sometimes “get on another planet” when she’s had too much. He hinted that he’d been concerned about her drinking without overtly saying anything.

This explained her question – if she has an unhealthy relationship with drink and is giving it so much thought, maybe it makes her feel bad about herself when someone around her isn’t joining in… I used to feel very uncomfortable when I was around normal drinkers – in fact I couldn’t wait to get away so I could indulge without feeling self-conscious. The number of social events I left early so I could go home and drink alone! Seems crazy now but at the time, it made complete sense.

Have you ever had any of your friends question your sobriety and either tell you it makes them feel uncomfortable or try to pressure you into drinking so they can feel better?

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