For years, I refused to use the word “alcoholic” in reference to myself. Today, I use it openly and freely. I love sparking dialogue about addiction to minimize the stigma attached to the disease. This conversation evolves identically every single time and I was wondering if other open alcoholics/addicts have parallel experiences. After dropping the A-bomb (or the “S” word), the sequence of responses goes something like this:
1. The person demonstrates a look of utter confusion.
2. The person pronounces their pride and happiness for my fateful decision.
3. The person finds it obligatory to inform me that they are “not a big drinker.”
Why is this? Why does every Tom, Dick, and Harry all feel the necessity to tell me about their own [lack] of drinking habit? Perhaps, they feel like I’m judging them? Or maybe they’re trying to establish common ground. I don’t know, but it’s annoying.
Three weekends ago I was on a boat with a group of people and I got into a conversation with a girl about alcohol. We were talking about our past alcohol-drinking experiences when I casually dropped the bomb that I was sober. She congratulated me and then proceeded to delineate that she “really doesn’t drink that much.” She disclosed that she “just holds a cup to make it look like she’s drinking.” I got the vibe that she was attempting to relate with me.
Back in the day, I used to secretly judge people who didn’t drink at the party—They must be uninteresting dull and dry, literally. Now, I feel like strangers think that I am that lame non-drinker who is conservative and strait-laced simply because I do not drink. This assumption is actually the contrary. In fact, I relate more with people who are avid drinkers. By that I mean, people who are over-indulgent, risk-takers who live in the moment. I connect with both binge-drinking, attention seekers as well as reserved and, more reticent individuals. One thing is for sure, I do not judge people for drinking and I certainly don’t care whether someone values alcohol or not. Just because I choose not to drink doesn’t mean I only connect with people who don’t drink. I could care less whether you finish your drink or not, and I don’t understand why other’s find it obligatory to validate their own neutrality for alcohol in that moment that I unveil my sobriety.