5 Helpful Tips For Hanging Out With This Alcoholic

Recently a friend of mine, who was a prominent figure during my drinking days (but not an alcoholic himself), asked me: “So, like, what are we gonna do when we go out now? Do we always have to go get coffee?”

Um, no.

But it’s actually a very fair question, as I’m sure it’s hard for my friends, who all know I’m now sober but who also know that my favorite pastime — for many, many years — was drinking.

Happy hour? Check. Karaoke 2-for-1 night? I’m there. Super Bowl party? You’re goddamn right (even though I hate football). And so on and so forth.

When I first got out of my third rehab in April 2012, I stayed on the down low for quite a while. Because at that point, I couldn’t be around alcohol at all. I literally did not trust my arms; I feared they might come to life on their own, grab the first open bottle they saw and slam it to my lips.

TN170_advice_susan_720 Sober karaoke? It’s shocking but true — I (far right) can do this now!
(Photo Courtesy of Andy Kropa)[/caption]

Then I got to the point where I knew I could control my arms, but was miserable around booze — jealous, angry, and overcome with obsession anytime I smelled a glass of red wine or saw a beautiful martini with big fat olives floating around in the glass.

So I stayed on the DL. I was patient. That’s what people told me to do, and to my utter amazement, it worked. Because eventually, my obsession was lifted, and I began to be able to enjoy myself at dinners or parties despite the fact that alcohol was all around me.

I also started to notice how little drinking mattered to some people, which was mind-boggling to me. WTF? I never realized that some (actually MOST) people could take it or leave it; that it wasn’t integral to having a good time. Because when I was active, nothing was fun unless drinking was included in the mix.

So it took me a while to come out of my safety shell and start to enjoy life as a sober person. To see people again, in the “going-out” kind of way. No wonder my friends are confused. They probably have no clue what the hell to do with me. Or what’s appropriate and/or safe to say around me. “Can I order a drink when Susan and I have dinner?” “Can Susan be in a bar?” “Should I clear out my liquor cabinet before Susan comes over?” “Am I allowed to ever ask her these things?”

Yes, you are absolutely, 100% allowed to ask, and I welcome it. Even my amazing co-workers struggled at first with how to act/what to say around me when it came to alcohol. I mean, I was writing a column about being an alcoholic, I don’t blame them — it’s a tricky (and often uncomfortable) thing to bring up.

So, my friends, here are some answers for you, as of this date (because it truly is a one-day-at-a-time thing for me, so set in stone these are not). Plus, it’s in a simple-to-follow, top-five format. Questions, comments and even snarky remarks (as long as they’re funny) are wholly encouraged!

1. Yes, I can go to bars now. I quite like them, in fact, especially because I usually get free refills of Diet Coke. I don’t make it a practice to go to a bar if the sole purpose for going is to drink, but if there’s a birthday party or a going-away extravaganza, I’m there. I’m also there if you don’t feel like getting a coffee and just want a place to sit and chill and talk. You enjoy your beer, I’ll enjoy my soda. However, once the frat boys start to play beer pong, or the flaming tequila shots start coming out (all dependent upon venue, of course), I’ve gotta go. And all I need is for you to understand that this could happen at any time (though usually it’s during the 11pm-12am timeframe, I’ve learned).

2. Yes, you can have a drink in my home. I want people to have fun and feel relaxed when they’re invited over to my apartment. If you’re a normal social drinker, alcohol is a fun and very pleasant thing to enjoy while playing Beatles Rock Band or watching the Oscar Awards. So if we say BYOB on our invite, we mean it. If you want to drink (and you might — for some people playing the Wii guitar goes a lot smoother after a few cocktails), then BYOB! We only ask that you take any leftovers home with you. Who knows — you may even end up going home with a lovely unopened bottle of wine. Because what I HAVE learned is that I can’t have alcohol in my house under any other circumstance. I can’t risk ever being alone with it.

3. No, I can’t bring a bottle of wine or booze over to your party. I haven’t been in a liquor store since December 1, 2011. I know this is the exact date because when my husband informed me I was being sent off to rehab the next day, I didn’t put up a fight, but I did buy the biggest bottle of Svedka on the shelves in order to obliterate the reality of what was happening to me.

But now, I can’t imagine what it would be like to set foot in Montague Wine & Spirits. I mean, think about it — it’s a store FILLED the very thing that could and almost did kill me. But that thing is placed in such pretty bottles, put in such lovely arrangements, and advertised in the most cleverest of ways. Not to mention that there’s always a free tasting, with small cups of my personal poison sitting out on a table, whispering at me to take a little sip. That’s too big of a minefield for me to manage right now. So while I’m happy to bring a delicious dessert or a six-pack of Reed’s Ginger Brew to your gathering, spirits I simply cannot.

4. Yes, you can drink your wine during our TueNight Google Hangout Editorial Meetings. (I’m looking at you, Adrianna and Margit!) No need to hide it behind a “prop.” I can still see it. And I honestly don’t care. It’s 8:30 at night and we’ve all had long days and we’re talking about the editorial calendar and content strategy — you SHOULD be drinking! I beg of you to drink! I’m getting loopy on Diet Coke in my own way, believe me. Cheers, you guys! It’s all good.

5. Yes, you can ask me anything about my alcoholism. I may not able to answer your question(s), but I’ll try my best. Obviously, I’m very open about it, and I want people to understand what this God-awful illness is all about (from my perspective, anyway). I also believe that it’s so terribly misunderstood, so I’m happy to share the experiences I’ve had, the things I can or cannot do, the information I’ve learned as a result of three rehabs that were filled with educational classes. That’s what I love the most about writing this column. Addiction is such an insidious disease, and the more people know about it — especially the fact that it plays tricks on your mind; that it’s not just about what it does to your body — the better, I believe. So ask away!

In the meantime, I’ll keep on writing.

Sound good?

Tell Us in the Comments

What do you think?

16 Responses

  1. Susan_Linney

    alisongroves That is one of the BEST compliments I’ve EVER received, Groves. Ditto times a million.

  2. StephRoberts

    Great post. I’m like you, very very open about my sobriety. I have a few 24s, and I’m going to shoot you a message on FB. 😉

  3. Susan_Linney

    StephRoberts Please do!

  4. Joyce_Holly43

    Brilliant post, Susan! And I love the checklist format. Amusing but totally helpful. One thing – and I know you make this very clear, that this is YOUR POV and not everyone is as open – but I’d be careful just asking anyone in recovery these questions.

  5. Susan_Linney

    Joyce_Holly43 Absolutely. This is all about ME. THIS alcoholic. I just happen to be very open, however I totally respect the decision (and in some places, especially small towns) and need to be anonymous. Everyone is different and I by no means want people to think this is a list to print out and use as a guide to talk to every alcoholic I know. That’s clear, right?

    This is MY OWN personal FYI to everyone, nothing more.

    Thanks for commenting Joyce, and for sharing your concern!


  6. Cheryl Botchick
    Cheryl Botchick

    How interesting this is to me, Susan, because I have the opposite-yet-same problem: I’m a total non-drinker. Not for any reason. I just never started, I guess? Didn’t even drink in college. My mother never bothered with more than a once-a-year glass of wine with a fancy meal. Is it genetic? I like to think that whatever funky DNA an addict has, I have the opposite of that. I just couldn’t care less about drinking.

    Would you believe that I have roughly the exact same set of problems? “Would you go to a bar?” “Can we bring beer to your house?” “Is it OK if I get some wine with dinner?” Plus, everyone is weird about asking me “why” I don’t drink, even though it’s a totally uninteresting non-secret in my case. The only exception is that when it comes to bringing alcohol to a get-together, I beg off in favor of food, just because I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m buying.

    Not sure what this means, other than that we as a culture are bonkers bananas about alcohol. Really weird.

    Also, Diet Coke FTW.

  7. Susan_Linney

    Cheryl Botchick  That’s SO interesting! But you know there are a lot of people that just don’t drink. For no reason other than they don’t like it. I’m learning this more and more the longer I am sober, since before that, why would I EVER have hung out with a sober person? 🙂  

    One of my closest friends is just like you and she’s thrilled now that I’m off the sauce, but she has admitted she’s jealous she can’t make up funny remarks about what would happen if she DID drink something (I do that a lot — humor seems to alleviate the awkwardness sometimes). But like you said, people ASSUME she has a problem. That’s their first go to. Why isn’t the first thought just simply that she might not like it? The same way she might not like pickles or grapefruit juice?

    Thanks for sharing that, Cheryl. We should meet up for a Diet Coke or five sometime soon (I think a may need a support group for that. In the past few months I’ve become, I hate to say it, addicted.)

  8. StephRoberts

    Totally clear, Susan. I might take out the single ref to the program … 11th tradition … I personally don’t take issue with it but some… elder statesmen…. have with take it up with me in the past. 😉

    still really impressed by this post in every way. sobriety is a wonderful gift and we now have so many ways to give back what has so freely been given to us.

  9. gloclar

    Love this Susan, I may have to borrow. I have a few rehabs under my belt and a couple bouts with long term sobriety, currently there. Yes, and Love it. I can relate with everyone of your Top Five, probably experienced everyone of them, very straight forward, I like that. I know everyone that isn’t an alcoholic that loves me has struggled with these questions. Do we hide all the liquor and put it under lock and key if Gloria’s coming over and there was a time when the answer may have been YES!  I also remember discovering not everyone drank, every day totally unfathomable to me. So CHEERS to you and your friends and co-workers, please enjoy your beverage and I of course will enjoy mine.

  10. Susan_Linney

    gloclar Thanks for your comment — I’m so glad you can relate! It’s tricky and often I find most people are more uncomfortable than I am, so I just like to get it out there in the open. ANd congrats on your sobriety! Took me a long time to get there, too, but I now know I needed that time to truly “get it” and understand what I was. Thankfully, I lived through it!

    All the best,

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  12. Annie Mous

    A friend of mine just linked me over here and I’m so glad she did. Loved this column and your take on living sober in a drinking world in general. I’m a second timer – 12 years the first time around and now I have 7 months. Rehab… IOP… the whole nine yards. Great to discover a writer who can mix humor with recovery! I’m not out of the closet yet (ergo the anonymous name) but inching my way there.


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