This post was originally published on The Fix.
For many newly sober individuals, one of the hardest parts of sobriety is telling others why they are no longer drinking. Though it’s not necessary to provide any details to strangers, it may feel like friends and family are owed an explanation of sorts.
At least this was the case for me. When I stopped drinking, I knew people noticed. I thought about saying I just didn’t want to drink anymore, but that wasn’t the truth. I did want to drink with everyone, but I knew I couldn’t. Lying just didn’t feel right to me. So instead of acting as if I simply didn’t desire to drink, I came up with some go-to responses for inquiring individuals, whether they be nosy strangers or friends and family who really did care to know.
1. Tell them the straight-up truth. This is my favorite response for people who really want to know why I stopped drinking, especially if they are intrusive strangers. I find that if I tell them the honest truth, which is that I ended up in the hospital with a near-fatal blood alcohol content, their questions stop somewhat quickly. Usually an honest response like this catches people so off guard that they simply accept it and move on. Though this type of response isn’t for everyone, I recommend it if you’re comfortable talking about your sobriety. This way everyone knows the whole truth up front, which really leaves them with no more questions to ask.
2. “I don’t like the person I am when I drink.” Before I was comfortable telling people the truth about why I stopped drinking, this was my go-to response. In my first few weeks of sobriety, a family friend who is also sober recommended this be my response if people asked why I was choosing not to drink. And when you think about it, this is a pretty good response that people can’t question too much. Not to mention, it’s true. I hated the person I was when I drank, yet I continued to do it. It was like I lacked all control when alcohol entered the picture, and when I drank it, I became this person I no longer recognized. I’ve used this response a few times, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone push the topic after using this as my response. Most people respect my answer, say “good for you,” and move on with their night.
3. “I’m better at drinking than I am at being drunk.” I only heard this one for the first time recently, but I love it. In fact, I think it may be my new response to all questions about my drinking habits (or lack thereof). It’s a tiny bit humorous, but also really true when I think about it. I was awesome at drinking. I could drink all night, and drink a lot. What I wasn’t good at was the being drunk part of drinking. As soon as I got drunk, I’d get sloppy and say and do things I wouldn’t have done sober.
4. “I’m driving.” I like this one because most times, no one will question this response at all. If you are around people you don’t know well and you’re not in the mood to talk about being sober, this is a good response. People who are drinking love sober cabs because sober cabs are the ones who make their drinking habits possible, oftentimes. Plus there is truth to this. If I am in a situation where people around me are drinking, then I am likely the designated driver so that everyone with me gets home safely.
5. “It doesn’t mix well with my medication.” I don’t use this one anymore, as I no longer take the specific medication it applied to, but this statement is true in many cases. A lot of medications have warnings against using them with alcohol. When I was on my antidepressant, I found that I felt drunk more quickly and I was more emotional with alcohol in my system. Stating this when someone asked why I was not drinking seemed to be a satisfactory answer. Another thing I like about this response is that it doesn’t give too much away, including what medication you may be on. Even some basic antibiotics are not recommended to be taken with alcohol, so that could be the worst conclusion someone jumps to.
6. “I’m an all or nothing person, and nothing is easier.” I only heard this one recently from a group I belong to. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I plan to in the future. It’s a pretty solid answer and carries a lot of truth. I am an all or nothing person, that’s one thing I have realized based on my past experiences with alcohol. I don’t do moderation, so I either don’t drink or get wasted. There is no in between. So now I choose not drinking, simply because it makes my life easier.
7. “I couldn’t deal with the hangovers” or “I’m trying to treat my body better.”Again, true. Near the end of my drinking career, my hangovers were debilitating. I would spend the entire day after drinking trying to recover from drinking, puking or feeling nauseous. I realized that alcohol made me feel less hungover, and then was introduced into the cycle of drinking to cure a hangover. Needless to say, that didn’t go very well. Without alcohol in my system, I look like a happier, healthier version of myself. I lost water weight and gained the light back in my eyes. My life is 100 percent improved when I don’t feel sick, bloated and nauseous multiple times in a week. Usually when I tell people this, they accept the answer and move on.
One of the most impactful things I have learned in sobriety is that most people truly won’t push a topic if you sound confident in your reasoning. So find a few responses that work for you when it comes to questions about why you no longer drink, and practice saying them with certainty.