To celebrate being nearly 18 months sober, I am writing my first “listicle” – reminiscing about the weird shit people have said to me because my not drinking makes them feel super awkward.
I would like to make the disclaimer here that most of these were said by friends who I love and also love me. I don’t intend any malice, neither did they intend any to me. I just thought us sober people could chuckle at the weirdness we sometimes bring out in those who still drink – apparently our NOT consuming this addictive, carcinogenic drug can make people talk complete poo at us. This ranges from plain awkward through just funny, to at times seriously endangering our newly hatched, fragile sobriety.
1. “I gave up meat to become a vegetarian, so I know how hard it is for you to not drink”.
Perhaps before you went vegetarian, you woke up every morning with a cow hangover from eating a whole cow the night before and every night for the past few years, hating yourself because you hate eating cows, and eating cows makes you act like a total bitch, but then by 4pm you feel like you will explode if you don’t eat a steak. Just one steak. But then you accidentally eat the whole cow. Again. And perhaps your obsession with eating cows nearly ruined all your relationships and finances.
Perhaps it was like that for you. If so, empathise away! Otherwise, be quiet and eat your bean salad.
2. “You used to drink a bottle of wine a day? Sometimes 1.5 bottles, occasionally 2 bottles? That’s not THAT bad. Like, I had an ex girlfriend that drank 2 bottles every night.”
Oh- I’m sorry, do I not fulfil your expectations of a recovering addicted drinker? I wasn’t aware this was an interview to see if I qualify to join the “fucked up shady drinking in the past” club. Go away.
3. “You obviously weren’t that much of a drinker- you’re far too slim”…
Ummm…. what are you talking about? No. I had actually weighed 25lb more when I was drinking, but that’s beside the point. People with drinking problems come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s not unusual for alcohol abuse to reside alongside an eating disorder, be it anorexia/bulimia or compulsive eating. Once again, I’m sorry that I fail to present as your stereotype of an alcohol addict. If it helps you, picture me 18 months ago, slightly fatter, miserable as fuck, loathing myself and contemplating suicide. I hope that helps. You’re welcome.
4. “Oh my God- I’m sorry Violet – but this wine tastes absolutely delicious!”
This one was said to me by a close friend when I was about 3 months sober. While I wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at this comment now, in all honesty, at THAT POINT I was teetering on the knife edge of relapsing into drinking during my first sober holiday. This was the last thing I needed to hear, as the voice of addiction roared in my ears that “COME ON it’s weird not to drink on holiday. Have one, go on….!”. It was nearly the straw that broke the sober camel’s back. Don’t say that shit to newly sober people, people! Zip it!
5. “People that don’t drink are boring. I don’t trust them.” Oh good. Well, thank you for showing me you are a tit so I don’t need to waste time talking to you. Bye.
6. “Becoming teetotal is quite extreme. You are quite “all or nothing”, aren’t you? Why not just …..cut down?”.
Aw, thanks! Genius. I’ll just cut down on the substance that I’m addicted to that I’ve been trying and failing to moderate since I was a teenager. Thanks so much for intelligently shedding light on my problem! Oh, did I mention, it was my doctor that said this to me when I told them I was becoming teetotal because I couldn’t moderate my drinking? Hmmm.
7. “It’s fine to drink alcohol with these antidepressants” (same doctor as above).
It wasn’t OK. I became suicidal, self harmed and blacked out every night for six months. It was possibly the worst advice I’ve ever been given, and nearly cost me my life and marriage.
8. “Who wants some champagne! Bubbles make everything better for everyone! Oh dear- except poor old Violet!”
Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this one! The thing to remember here is that there is a huge difference in feelings around alcohol for sober people in recovery, depending on how long they have been sober, and of course on their own personality and past relationship with alcohol. This was said to me quite publicly last week when I was 17 months sober. I found it a) funny (as in, I was laughing AT the person that said it) b) ridiculous c) felt embarrassed for the person who said it. I was able to laugh and say, “Hey, what’s with the “Poor old”? I’m super happy. I love being teetotal. I did not love being hungover every morning. I do NOT feel deprived. However, 17 months ago this would have been difficult for me for sure”.
Yeah. People say weird stuff. But I mainly forgive them because:
a) I get the major social awkwards myself and say all sorts of weird stuff
b) I acted like an unmitigated bell-end for years whilst drinking, and my friends are still here for me
c) we’re all learning. And I’ve learnt now that if someone says something super weird, it’s possible to gently point them in a less weird direction (see No. 8 above).
But that doctor needs to sort their shit out, right?