The Worst Questions You Could Ask Your Sober Friends

Two years ago, at the age of 27, I made the decision to end my relationship with alcohol. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, as we’d been good friends for years. She helped me make new friends when I was 13. She helped me talk to boys when I was 14. She was my partner in crime at every party, bar or club I went to, so I was never alone. She gave me the courage to act outside my comfort zone. She was available to give me advice at all hours of the night. And she would always hang out with me, no matter what mood I was in: rum came home with me when I’d had a bad day, tequila invited me over when a boy broke my heart, dry cider came out if I wanted to dance and two bottles of white wine appeared when I wanted to go all night.

See why it was hard to say goodbye? Alcohol and I, we had history.

Like any toxic relationship, though, we weren’t destined to last. Alcohol was the most selfish friend I had. When we hung out, I had to give all my attention to her. She didn’t care how I felt or what I wanted to do; she was the boss. And she didn’t care how I looked or what foolish things I did, so long as my friends always thought she was cool. Just being near her, I felt like I wasn’t good enough. She pretended to care about me and told me what I needed to hear, then, overnight, made me feel absolutely worthless. She stole my best memories and refused to return them. And worst of all, she manipulated me to believe that this life with her was the one I was supposed to live, so I wouldn’t grow up, change or— worst yet — leave her.

For all those reasons, I’m proud I finally got the courage to end things.

Since kissing alcohol goodbye, I’ve become a much better version of myself. I’m a better friend, a better partner, a better family member and a better co-worker. I’m more thoughtful, loving and kind — to others and to myself. I’ve matured and grown as a person — especially on an emotional level. I respect people’s time and spend mine with those I care deeply for, and who care about and respect me in return. I’ve found the strength to change a number of other bad habits, and have built a new life full of healthy routines. And I’ve even had the courage to end other toxic relationships. Overall, the decision proved that I’m in control of my life, and I love the direction it’s going. That’s why it hurts when people look disappointed and ask:

“Are you really never going to drink again?”

which is usually followed by

“Don’t you miss it?”

Would you pose these questions to a friend who finally had the courage to get out of a toxic relationship with a man or woman? Who had given up their hopes and dreams (and money) to make that person happy? Who constantly felt inadequate and was manipulated to believe they couldn’t do better? And who had spent months thinking about ending it and being too scared to try, before finally taking the leap? If that were the case, would you ask your friend, “Are you really never going to go back to him/her? Don’t you miss them?” It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? So why would you ask these questions to a friend who had ended their relationship with alcohol? Or with any other substance they felt could no longer be part of their life?

To answer your questions…

No, I’m never going to drink again. And no, I don’t miss it. Do I think about it sometimes? Of course. You can’t end a 14-year relationship with someone or something and expect it to never cross your mind again. There have been a few times where I’ve wanted to hangout with alcohol, or when raw emotions hurt so much that I wished she could make me feel better. But I know she’d do more harm than good, so I steer clear. And no matter how many times I’m tempted, I know I’ll never give in. Ending my relationship with alcohol was the best decision I’ve ever made. I love the person I am today and the life I’ve built for myself, and I wouldn’t have any of it if I’d stayed with her. So whenever someone asks these questions, I wonder:

“Why would you want me to drink again?”

Sobriety is full of enough self-consciousness. You constantly wonder what people think of you, whether or not they like you, if someone will think you’re weird for not drinking and if you’ll be able to keep up with your friends at parties. You worry that your family worries, that you’ll never find a partner who is supportive of your choice, and that your current relationships will somehow change once alcohol is removed from the equation. You have to feel things alcohol never let you feel before, let your anxiety settle naturally and control your self-doubt. And when someone you care about asks if you’ll really never drink again, and seems to almost hope that you miss it, it hurts — and that hurt can quickly send you into a tailspin.

So, if someone you know has recently ended their relationship with alcohol, or any other substance they felt could no longer be part of their life, don’t ask if they’re really never going to consume it again. Chances are they think about it often, and already worry what other people think of their decision. And, yes, there may even be times when they miss it. But if you truly care about your friend, don’t ask questions that remind them of this. In fact, don’t even bring up the topic of sobriety at all. The decision to end that toxic relationship was so deeply personal, you should let your friend decide if they are comfortable talking about it or not. And if they do bring it up, just listen and say you’re proud they’re doing what’s right for them.

That’s what you’d say if they broke up with their crappy ex, right?

*Note: I was scared to publish this here – so much so that I originally shared it on another platform. But it doesn’t belong there. It belongs here. Thanks for the push, Sean.

  • I appreciate your post and can agree with you. I often play the role of DD and take my friends and I out, and it’s annoying how many people approach me and ask me why im not drinking, if I want a drink, and why I would choose to be a DD. They just look so confused ….but the truth is that there is more to life and I’m happy with hanging out with my friends whether I drink or not. I enjoy my time spent and why would they complain, my friends get home safely and I feel fabulous the next day.
    I think if you are happy with your life and your decisions, others peoples opinions about such “norms” is irrelevant.
    Good job!

    • Amen to mornings without hangovers. I’ll cheers you with good coffee to that, Ashley. :)

  • That is a very inspiring piece. Something i can relate to A LOT!
    Stay strong & your bank account will look very healthy as well! :)

  • Cait–

    What you shared here today was very brave. I could see in your writing that it took a lot of courage to write it and I am glad that you shared it.
    I have struggled with an eating disorder for more than half my life and have always wished that I had a different problem–like an alcohol problem–because it seemed easier to avoid alcohol than it was to avoid food. But…you really don’t know someone’s demons until you walk a mile in their shoes. What you wrote is giving a glimpse to those who don’t understand, but they might try now.
    I applaud your choice to get sober and your two years of sobriety!! :)

    • Thank YOU for sharing that with me, CQ. I wouldn’t wish what either of us has on anyone, but find strength in solidarity.<3

  • Hey Cait

    I think you are very brave to share this.
    Congrats for giving up a very expensive and potentially self-destructive relationship. It’s amazing that people are more supportive of giving up cigarettes than alcohol.
    I hope you’re very proud of all that you have done and accomplished in such a short time.

    • “It’s amazing that people are more supportive of giving up cigarettes than alcohol.” Your comment literally blew my mind, Jenn. I’ve never thought of it like that before, but it’s so true. Alcohol, of course, is more socially acceptable than cigarettes; it’s one of those things that “everyone does”. So I totally understand why people think it’s abnormal, when someone says they don’t drink. I just don’t think it needs to be made out to be a big deal. I can still dance until 3am with the rest of them. Isn’t that what counts? ;)

  • Another great post, Cait! Thanks for having the courage to write and tell us about it. Whether people say things related to drinking or other tactless stuff, never let yourself feel hurtful. It’s their problem, never yours. You don’t ever have to please others, you know, just yourself deep down. And finally, please: don’t ever feel scared to publish stuff here to us. If you wish to keep it private then, by all means, don’t publish it all. Everyone is entitled to their own personal life. But if you should like to share some of yourself with others, whether here or with a select few of your close friends (via private one-on-one email), then go for it! You’ll find a lot of good feedback and support. You’ve come a long way, friend.

    • Thanks, Rob! It’s “scary” because this is the one topic that feels more vulnerable than all the rest… but that also makes it one of the most important to talk about. And not just for my sake, but for everyone who drinks too much or knows someone who does. Onward and upward. :)

  • Well said! I recently cut back drastically on alcohol for medical reasons. One of the quickest ways to cut back on sugar intake is cutting out alcohol. I haven’t given it up completely, but I also never felt I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol aside from the that first year in college, as I feel is the case with many. However, I now maybe have ONE beer every fifth or sixth time I go out, and I get weird looks and comments from people I hang out regularly with, and even bartenders at the bars I still frequent. I guess they assume club soda w/ lime = terrible tipper/cheapskate. I always still manage to have a good time like my friends, but unlike them, I am able to get up and go about my business as early as I want the next day! You do you!

    • Oh yea, I totally get that look you described. Like you just grew a third eye or something, haha. But walking up without a headache is worth it, as you know. :)

  • Kudos to you Cait, for sharing such a personal experience. You can consider yourself one of the lucky ones, you recognised your problem *before* it ruined your life. Many don’t. I’ve seen that first hand with a close family member.

    Hopefully others will take courage from your experience and make the same choice for themselves.

    Thank you for your bravery.

    • I’m extremely grateful to have a wonderful role model in my immediate family who quit drinking 19 years ago and has never looked back. I find strength in his openness and honesty. Thanks for the kind words, Diane. :)

  • What a well-written post explaining this. And well done on 2 years of sobriety. That’s about when I started reading your blog and I remember how brave I thought you were to openly discuss your relationship with alcohol.

    I do not personally have trouble with alcohol, but those close to me do, and as a result I’ve decided alcohol isn’t worth it to me. Alcohol is no longer tied to those early happy memories because I can see what it does, and is, to others. I might have a glass of wine every 6 months in certain social settings (everyone at a work function orders a glass), but I do understand being the one not partaking. As a result I try to be understanding, and empathetic to those fellow “tea-totalers”… most of my acquaintances don’t know my reasons for not drinking, and I don’t assume to know theirs. So I just don’t discuss it, or make a big out if it.

    • Everyone’s reasons for not drinking are their own, you’re right. If no one makes a big deal of it, then that’s all the better. :)

  • Thank you very much for sharing your experience. Your explanation of the situation was so well done!

    I wasn’t able to stop drinking until I was in my forties. (I’m seventy two now).

    • Thank you for sharing that with me, Virginia. And I’m glad I was able to capture the situation right. I don’t write about it often, but do keep a journal of my thoughts on it, once in a while. It’s nice to be able to share my thoughts here too, on occasion. <3

  • This is a wonderful piece, thank you for sharing! Everyone has feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, etc. It’s normal! And that’s why so many people drink! They drink to numb out those feelings, deal with stress, escape what can be challenging. I often think that’s why there’s such a problem with drinking on college campuses —kids are anxious, stressed, figuring themselves out — it’s hard work! Escaping with alcohol is a socially-acceptable, easier way to deal with it all, and honestly, that’s what many have seen their parents (and their parents) do — I think it becomes a habit and many people are not even aware that drinking has become the subconscious go-to way to handle those difficult emotions.

    • I 100% agree with your comments re: why students drink, Jill. It’s the same reason people drink on first dates, at networking events, at parties or weddings where they don’t know many people, etc. It soothes our anxieties and gives us a boost of confidence. But yes, it can very quickly turn into a habit for many. And I don’t think most people realize they are doing it to mask the things they don’t want to feel.

  • This is lovely, and a great reminder for those of us who have sober friends/family members to respect everyone’s personal choices. I’m glad you shared this, as you never know who else you’ll inspire to make a life-changing decision like you did.

  • I commend your courage to share your story. May you be blessed by sharing this. May people who need to read this be blessed when God leads them to read it. Keep it simple. Let go and let God.

  • Thank you for sharing this! I love everything you post, but this is exactly what I needed to hear today.

  • Love this Cait. Though i never really had a bad relationship with it, I don’t really enjoy it and it took time to realize i was only drinking for other people. It wasn’t until i was pregnant that i was finally able to just say no and almost 4 yrs later I’m still saying no. there is a very strong history of alcoholism in my family. I’ll have an odd glass of wine but i don’t think i drink more than a bottle per year. Do what makes you happy ;)

    • I’ve met (or “met” online) quite a few people who have consciously chosen not to drink much because there’s a history of alcoholism in their family. I believe it’s a little bit genetic + a little bit environmental. But either way, it’s extremely smart to be wary. Saying “no” tastes pretty good. :)

  • It’s been over 23 years since my husband and I stopped drinking – he had a problem with alcohol, and I wanted to support him. Life is so much better now! Your article is fantastic, and I’m glad you shared it. When we used to drink, we thought it made us brave . . . for example, my husband would have to drink quite a bit before he would get on the dance floor. A few years ago (with all the extra money we’ve saved because we’re not buying alcohol) we decided to take dance lessons. Now we drink soda water and get up to dance at the very first song, and we usually dance all night away . . . sober . . . no hangover the next day . . . and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime! One little word of advice for those who want to stop drinking but still find themselves at weddings or parties where alcohol is served: grab a pop or soda water and make sure your glass is always full – no one will bother you about ‘getting you a drink’ as long as they see your cup is full. Works wonders, and you get to stay sober and enjoy the event to the fullest!

    • Oh yes, I have definitely used that trick, Heather! Keeps all the comments at bay. Here’s to more nights on the dance floor. :)

  • I can relate 100%. One year sober here and my how my life has changed. It’s amazing how alcohol holds us back and keeps us from becoming our true selves. I’m on a minimalist path now and reaching towards my dreams and goals that once seemed impossible. Thanks for the inspiration! <3

    • Congrats on your first year of sobriety, and on taking yourself down a new path, Nello! Your comment made my day. Write me if you ever want to chat. :)

  • Congratulations on your choice to give up alcohol. I come from a family who rarely drank alcohol and married into a family where alcohol was consumed daily. I have been a part of that family for more than half my life now and I have seen the problems it causes, in almost every area of their life. I really cannot handle more than a drink, which I rarely have. It has always been such an issue for those who drink. They just don’t understand why I wouldn’t drink. You know, just put some vodka in that iced tea, just one glass of wine, a little something in your orange juice. Since I don’t care for alcohol, I just ignore them. It would be much more difficult if I did enjoy it.

    I think it is awesome that you are so strong in making these positive changes in your life! You should be very proud of who you are as well as the role model you are to so many through your blog!

    • Oh man, yes, that’d be tough (for me) to deal with. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kim. And I appreciate all the kind words. <3

  • Thank you for being brave enough to share that part of your journey. As a society we create weird expectations and have put a lot of value on this acceptable drug.

    My parents are actually disappointed I didn’t marry a guy who drank beer. My mother actually said that. I think that me being an occasionally drinker who doesn’t like beer either is a disappointment. My husband and I have a 0 tolerance policy if we are driving. The driver doesn’t have a drink, at all. People can be very rude about that. Why do we put some much value on drinking?

    We need to look at our values. If you don’t want to ever drink again, I say, good for you! We should all be supporting you instead of judging you.

    Congrats again for being honest.

    • “Why do we put some much value on drinking?” That’s a really good question, Kristen. I wish I had the answer. My first guess is just that it’s seen as normal. So it’s not so much that we value it, but it’s just a normal thing for everyone to do, so it’s weird when others don’t (or don’t drink at the same levels as everyone else in the room). I think it’s great you have a zero-tolerance policy on drinking before driving. I did not, and even though nothing bad ever happened, it’s the one bit of shame I still hold onto. Best to not ever have to wonder “what if”.

  • I choose not to drink, because I feel like I can have a fulfilling life without it. Thanks for being so brave to share your post!

    • You absolutely can, Bailey. Thanks for being one of the people who proves that theory right. :)

  • Love this!!!

    Though I do feel awkward reading with a beer literally in my hand, haha… But I gotta admit – I have def. asked some of these questions without thinking first and now know it’s probably wise to try and catch myself :(

    My friend Nate St. Pierre will appreciate this as he constantly gets asked the same (again, sometimes by me!) though his reasons to no drink are quite different. In fact, I shall go share this with him now!

    You never stop impressing me, friend. Takes major heart to put this out there.

    • Haha, never feel awkward about finishing a long week with a cold beer, friend. If I could only have 1, I’d join you in that! Thanks for all your kind words, as always. Happy weekend to us! :)

  • Congrats Cait and, I think it’s wonderful that you posted this here. I think it takes great strength to do what you’ve done and great courage to share it with the world. I’m so impressed by how well you know yourself and what you want out of life. Kudos to you for your sobriety and for writing about it in such a thoughtful way–I think this will inspire others who are in a similar relationship with alcohol.

  • Went thru all that almost 29 years ago and people still ask why I’m not having a drink…as if water or soda were not a “drink”.
    I don’t miss hangovers and I own my own home. Things I could not say when I was pals with alcohol. Enjoy the freedom you have found!

    • Thank you, Jean – for your encouragement and for sharing your experience here. <3

  • Cait,

    This is an incredibly powerful piece. Thank you for sharing a part of you that you even felt too vulnerable to potentially post. I know I have only recently found your blog & started following, but I have respect for you! It’s inspiring to see you had the willpower to give up something that was so toxic, even better – taking that first step to acknowledge it’s effects. Thank you for sharing this piece!

  • Well done, Cait. And well written. My story is similar to yours, but also very different. I never drank a lot in my young life, but at age 60 I did give up all alcohol as I have gout, and a half glass of wine will give me 5 days of extreme pain. So it is not worth it.

    But I understand the questions and the looks from people who do not understand. I met a young man in an airport, and we talked about alcohol. He said he would rather die than give up drinking. I doubt that…but he has not yet faced that decision, and may never do so.

    Your life will continue to be better for your decision, and writing about will certainly inspire a bunch of people…many of whom you will never hear about.

    • I would say most people have the same thought as the young man in the airport – and not because they are alcoholics, per se, but because it’s “normal” to drink. If only we could show people that you can have just as much fun when you’re sober. :)

  • AS someone who has never drank before…I feel your pain. At the age of 32 the stupid comments never stop but what I have realized is who you hang out with makes all the difference in life, love and happiness.
    Not drinking is one of the best choices we could ever make, it’s too bad most don’t see it that way.

    • Wow, I have a few friends like you, Angela – who chose to never drink for various reasons. I wish I could say I’d done that, but I suppose I’ll just have to be grateful I got it over and done with at an early age! (But it’s crazy to think the comments will never stop…)

      Who we spend time with definitely makes all the difference. <3

  • This is a lovely, well-written article. Good for you for ending something that didn’t work for you!

    I watched a group of co-workers peer pressure a 50 year old man into having a drink last year at a company event, and it was the weirdest thing to see. I think maybe seeing someone make a different choice makes people feel like they are being judged for their own choices – seeing it as a Right and Wrong scenario rather than a Different Things Work For Different People scenario.

    I don’t drink myself, so I’ve got all the strategies down for when people get insistent (and almost distressed sometimes) over my failure to “have a drink”.

    Step 1: Oh, it’s not my thing, but thanks!

    Step 2, for those that persist: Alcohol is just not my thing, but thanks! Actually, I don’t usually drink pop, so this Gingerale is a big treat!

    Step 2 has never failed to completely distract them from the alcohol to the pop. ;) And pop doesn’t have any of the social/historical/religious weight behind it, so it seems to be seen as more of an amusing personal quirk rather than a Disapproving Judgement Of Who They Are. LOL

    • The thought of seeing that man get peer pressured into having a drink made me feel icky… but I’m guessing/hoping he didn’t have a problem with it, only just chooses not to have it? Either way, I’m sure he went home feeling weird about that interaction. :(

      I use #2 sometimes, too! I never drink pop (except for ginger ale when I’m sick) so I always say it’s a treat… and a very bad one, hehe.

      Thanks for sharing your stories here, Anna. <3

  • Your post has given me something to think about, because I have definitely asked a version of “are you really never going to drink again” in the past. But there are different theories around dealing with an alcohol-dependent past, and people are questioning whether permanent abstinence is really the best method.

    So, when I ask that question I’m not casting doubt on you or your choices but asking whether you are following that method for recovery. Does that make sense?

    • Yes, it definitely makes sense! I just think (and am only speaking from my experience) that it’s extremely personal and people who are newish in their sobriety may not be comfortable answering it (and could quickly feel like they were being attacked). If someone asks me that now (I wrote this post 3 months ago), I’m more comfortable answering because I feel better and better about my sobriety every day. But I’ve had it followed up by “I wish you still drank” or “remember when you used to party and we’d do this or that?” so I always wonder what people *really* think when they ask.

      I guess what I’m saying is just that sobriety is FULL of insecurities… so it’s hard when people point out this new thing that makes you different because you already feel delicate.

  • Amazing post Cait. I know posting this on your blog wasn’t easy, but I know it will inspire and help a lot of people are in and want to end a similar toxic relationship with alcohol. It’s not easy ending a toxic relationship, no matter what kind, but I’m so glad you did because you deserve more and you’re just such an amazing person.

  • Thank you for this post. It has definitely made me think. I know that I have perhaps been one of those people who ask the questions, but I have never asked with any sort of judgement, only out of pure curiosity. But of course, I don’t know if it would always come across that way, so I will make an effort to stop asking those questions, and I apologize to anyone to who I may have unknowingly hurt.

    • Don’t feel too bad! It hurts me more because I’m really open about the fact that I used to drink/felt I drank too much/had to quit. So they know the answers should be “no”! If someone hasn’t revealed that about themselves, I can see why people are curious. I’d just be extremely supportive about whatever they tell you. :)

  • If it makes you feel better, I get the same reaction from people because I can’t certain foods due to allergies and sensitivities. No, I’m not some health fanatic trying to convert you, I’m not a fussy eater, and I’m not on a diet. My choice to not eat these things is not a reflection on your choices.

    The question that annoys me the most is “surely a little won’t hurt?” I laugh it off with things like “I wish that was the case, that dessert looks lovely” but I really want to say “I’m a grown up and I’m fully capable of making decisions about my body and my health.”

    The silver lining is that I can look at my eating habits and think “If I’ve got the will power to tackle this, then I’ve got the will power to tackle other difficult things too.” Giving up alcohol is an example of how you’re strong, not how your delicate or different.

    • Oh, I remember that well from the 4 years I didn’t eat meat. It seemed to somehow bother everyone. I literally ate EVERYTHING else… should’ve been a non-issue. So, I feel your pain, Elizabeth! Keep doing what makes your body feel good. :)

  • Hey, I have just recently found your blog from another FI/frugal blogroll and I must say this post really addressed a lot of issues I have with drinking. I keep thinking of all the money I’d save, and how differently my time would pass if I gave up alcohol.

    What you’ve done is extremely brave in my opinion. Whenever someone goes against the grain, whether it’s giving up alcohol and becoming sober, or attempting to save XX% of your income, or even abruptly changing career paths, people can balk and question you. It’s different, and strange and changes like that can confuse or frighten even the closest of friends. A lot of the times, it comes from a fear of change, and not necessarily condescension, but I’m so glad you eloquently addressed it here.

    I don’t know if I can or want to give up alcohol all together but I can say some of my friends have questioned, and balked at me stopping at just 2 or 3 drinks in a night while out. This post has helped me realize that I know what is best for me better than they do. If I want to have 0,1,2 drinks while out on a weekend, that’s OK no matter who entices to partake in another, even if they insist on paying.

    Thanks for posting this, if you keep being the best you can be, it means you will be the best for other people too

  • It really bugs me both that people disregard other adults’ autonomy to make their own decisions, and that they do it for reasons that aren’t even important to them, not considering how significant it is for the other person.

    If you go to a party and the host offers a glass of wine, is it any skin off their nose if you say no? More wine for them, right? MAYBE they feel like a poor host for not offering you something that you like. MAYBE it’s a long walk over to the sink to get you a glass of water. But other than that, how does someone not drinking affect them? And how can it compare to how it affects someone who has been strong enough to deal with a problem like alcohol dependence?

  • I read this blog a couple of months ago. Although I have not quit drinking, this article serves as a reminder that it IS possible to stop over indulging on alcohol. I am a binge drinker, and in the last couple years I have noticed it takes a smaller quantity of drinks to get myself to the drunken, stupor stage. My husband says that I don’t have an off switch. He gets frustrated when I drink (too much), and he hates it when I don’t drink at all. It seems as though I can’t win.

    I live in a small town. Everything we do, that is “social”, involves drinking. If I decide not to drink during one social encounter, I get harassed. Friends will say, I’m lame or I’m no fun. The truth? I probably am a little more lame! I don’t want to hang out as long because I’m watching everyone else drink and be silly. I get bored and I get frustrated.

    I commend you for taking a stand on quitting. I know how hard it is. I have quit in the past for a couple months here and there, but I have never been strong enough to say I will never have another drink again.

    I do hope that one day I will quit forever. I think that would be one of my greatest accomplishments. Drinking keeps me from attaining my so many different life-long goals. Alcohol is like a vortex that keeps sucking me down.

    • Dear Phedra:
      You can’t decide to quit forever. You can only decide not to drink today. I have been deciding not to drink every day since October 1986. If you only concentrate on today, it is not so overwhelming and totally worth the effort.

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