I've Been Sober For 4 Years: Please Never Ask Or Say These Things To Me Again

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
This week, I celebrated four years sober!
Isn't that bananas? I mean, not really, no: I know how time works, and I know how it passes, and the difference between 2017 and 2013 is night and day and a bunch of other overused sentiments. I don't recognize the person I was then, much like four years from now I probably won't recognize the person I am now. Time is weird and fickle and fleeting and constant and sometimes the only assurance that things are changing, so when I think about that first week of not-drinking, I feel exactly as uncomfortable as I probably did then, only this time it’s because I know how totally fucked up quitting something you really like can be.
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You know what else is fucked up? The ridiculous things other people say to you when you don’t drink. So in the spirit of four years and more celebratory sparkling water than you can possibly imagine, here are the statements and questions I, a sober person, hate being asked by people who are not. LET'S LAUGH TOGETHER.
A version of this essay originally appeared in Anne T. Donahue's newsletter, That's What She Said, which you can subscribe to here.
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"Oh my God, is it okay if I drink?"

"Oh my god, is it okay if I drink?"

They say, usually immediately after ordering a drink. AND LOOK: I get it. You are trying to be accommodating. And thank you! I know you are trying to make drinking in front of me not weird by drinking, but now you've actually made it weird by, well, making it weird. Because first, it will be weird if I say, "No, it isn't okay." (It is okay, BTW — your cab-sauv is not going to make me break my streak and leap over the table and chug it down in front of you.) Second, now I feel hyper-aware that I'm not drinking, and you're hyper-aware that I don't drink, and I will inevitably have to make a joke to put everything back at ease. IT IS 2017 AND OUR CULTURE IS ONE IN WHICH ALCOHOL EXISTS. If I really wanted to drink, I would walk into any restaurant, bar, liquor store, or supermarket and buy alcohol. I am 31. It's only not okay if you drink if you turn into a total freak in front of me.

Though I will say, if you are a person who drinks and you're hanging out with a person who isn't drinking, it is very annoying for us if you get completely shit-faced on, like, a Thursday evening while we're three bites into our apple crisp. Relax, man.
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"You're still not drinking? Good for you!"

"You're still not drinking? Good for you!"

There are a shit-ton of reasons why people stop drinking. I stopped drinking because I am addicted to alcohol, and one drink will become all the drinks, and then I will get behind the wheel of my car and go home and take a bunch of whatever-I-can-buy-at-Shoppers that makes me sleepy, and TBH I will say I am a little surprised I am here and alive, typing this to you right now. But okay!

So look: I know you are being supportive by trying to seem supportive, but for the sake of me not having to unpack the history of why I don't drink or take particular brands of cough syrup/cold medicine/sleep aids anymore, stop. Just assume that I am always not drinking. Because when you ask if it's "still a thing" it trivializes it. And when you follow-up with a congratulations, I don't really know how to respond, because you just trivialized it. So say nothing. Let me order my Perrier. It's very cold and refreshing, and I am happy with it.
3 of 6

"Why don't you drink?"

"Why don't you drink?"

Because fuck youuuuuu are you kidding. Don't ask me or anybody this, please. No one's reasons are the ones you want to hear. Someone asked me this at a party a while back and I was like, "Uhhh..." but now I just say, "Oh, I'm an alcoholic," and then everything gets a bit strange and I REVEL IN IT because are you SERIOUSLY asking me this question at this party, you strange freak. Also: What if I was pregs? What if my liver was failing? What if I have a stomach situation where I will immediately shit my pants upon taking a sip? What if someone I knew JUST DIED because of something alcohol related? My new official answer: I don't drink so I can make you uncomfortable when you ask me that question. NEXT!
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"Do you miss it?"

"Do you miss it?"

UGHHH man, I don't know. Sure? Can I be honest? It's been four years and I forget what it's like to drink at this point. I also went off and on for years before realizing I had an actual problem, so there's a lot at play here. Do I want to drink when something terrible has happened? Yes, I would love to have a wine. But I would also love to have an entire tub of cookie dough, and I don't do that either, because it's not actually going to make anything better.

That said, the first year was very hard and the first week I ended up at a party where everyone was doing shots except for me and I do not recommend that to anyone because fuuuuuck.
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"Do you think you'll drink again?"

"Do you think you'll drink again?"

This is a weird question because it implies you don't know how sobriety works. I mean, some people do drink again, sure. But… what the fuck? (And imagine I said, "Oh absolutely!" What would you do about THAT?)
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"I could never quit drinking!"

"I could never quit drinking!"

Cool. I could never go deep sea diving, so look at us!

Honestly, please JUST BE COOL.

I know the presence of a person who doesn't drink can make people who do drink feel awkward. I hated being around sober people when I drank, because I felt like they were judging me, and honestly they probably should've been, because there were certainly a few times when I most certainly acted like an absolute idiot. But I am also hyper-aware to a fault, so maybe this was just my #journey.

But the thing is, as a sober person now, I really don't care if you're drinking. I'm used to being the only person who doesn't drink at a party, so I know that around midnight everyone moves on to another level, and I start to get annoyed, and it's usually time for me to go home. (I kid you not: At one point at every event that involves alcohol, you can feel the energy shift, and everybody starts becoming very revelatory and sharing their secrets — which is fun for maybe two minutes before you're like, "AHHH NO I DON'T WANT TO KNOW THIS.") And then I do go home, and it's great because I've had a nice time and I am home early enough not to feel like doom the next morning.

But the other thing is, if I am making you uncomfortable by not ordering a beer or whatever, that really isn't my fucking problem. It's truly not. I don't care. I think it's weird that you need me to drink so that you can have fun, because I don't remember ever asking anyone not to drink to help me have more fun. It's not my job to make someone feel comfortable about their choices when their choices have nothing to do with me. And I'll say that while 95% of everybody I know truly don't care what I do or do not partake in, the 5% who've been bothered are people I have absolutely no desire to be around. It's not my job to make them feel okay about who they are or what they're doing. It's up to them to figure out what their issues are.

So there's that! Four years! We did it! Guys, what will FIVE YEARS (HALF A DECADE!!!) bring? A present? From myself to myself? Absolutely. Because if there's one thing I know for sure in this world, it's that I will go shopping for absolutely any reason.
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