It can be a deflating experience: building up the courage to tell a close friend about the decision to part ways with alcohol, only hear “That’s ridiculous. Don’t be so dramatic.”
Here are some of the more awkward things people have said to me personally:
“Great! Now we’ll always have a designated driver!”
“You can have a drink now and then. It’s not like you’re a raging alcoholic like my brother.”
“It’s okay with me if you don’t drink, but you probably shouldn’t go telling people that.”
“If you were able to just quit, you probably weren’t an alcoholic.”
“I don’t really know if I believe in that.”
Have you seen this too-true video Frankie Norstad a.k.a “Little Miss Addict” made for YouTube called “Sh#t Normies Say to 12 Steppers”?
Anna David wrote a great article for The Fix about how to answer such clunkers. You can read it here: http://www.thefix.com/content/shit-non-addicts-say91717
What’s really behind these questions? What are our friends really trying to say? Why are their words so hurtful?
In early recovery, we are sensitive. We worry so much about what others think, and are coming to terms with our inability to control that very thing. Words do hurt, but compassion lessens the sting.
Here are some common douche-y things normies say and the insights to help you be less affected by them:
Normies say: “Are you going to stop coming out with us now?”
We hear: “You’re ruining our fun.”
It likely meant: “We still want to spend time with you. What’s the best way to do that?”
Normies say: “Did I do something to make this happen?”
We hear: “Your recovery is about me.”
It likely meant: “I would never knowingly hurt you” (or…”I feel guilty for something I’ve done.”)
Normies say: “Do I have to quit drinking around you?”
We hear: “I don’t want to be with you now.”
It likely meant: “I am not ready to face my own issues around alcohol.”
Normies say: “What are we supposed to do after baseball now?”
We hear: “I only want to be your friend if I can drink with you.”
It likely meant: “Is this going to change our relationship? I like things the way they are.”
Normies say: “It’s no big deal. I don’t care if you’re drinking or not.”
We hear: “Don’t expect me to do anything differently to accommodate you.”
It likely meant: “I’m acting nonchalant to show you that I’m supportive.”
Normies say: “My cousin was in rehab and it made him worse. Stay away from recovery programs.”
We hear: “All alcoholics are the same. I know more about this than you do.”
It likely meant: “I don’t know what to say so I’m relating the only thing I know about recovery.”
Of course, while friends can say stupid things there is also the possibility that this person is, in fact, an asshat. How do we tell the difference between friends and asshats? By forgiving the occasional awkward comment while paying attention to actions. Friends will treat us with respect, enjoy finding new ways to connect and grow the relationship in situations that don’t involve alcohol. They will show interest in our wellness, and they will buffer us in social situations.
Asshats and douchbags will reveal themselves through selfishness, disrespect, and a willingness to endanger our sobriety. Allowing ourselves to remove these types from our lives is an important act of self care.
There’s no need for a dramatic blow up. No “friends off” speech required. Just know that we’ve shown them a better way to be, and that for now the friendship has run its course.