The Vine: September 18, 2013
I have recently (six months ago) stopped drinking. I stopped because I am an alcoholic.
I have attempted sobriety many times throughout my life (I'm in my fifties) but have always eventually relapsed. The longest period of abstinence that I have attained is twelve years. I slipped after I stopped attending AA meetings and stopped keeping in touch with my AA friends. I am doing well, doing everything that I need to do to stay sober and am more committed to my sobriety than I have ever been.
While I was drinking, I made a group of friends who all drink. Some of them socially, some not so socially. I really enjoyed this group of friends and thought we had a lot in common — until I stopped drinking. I then realized that while a few of these friends are still interesting and fun to hang out with, some of them were no longer fun once the alcohol was removed from the picture. I realize that basically they were drinking buddies. Most of my friends who drink totally understand, respect and support my decision to abstain, however one person in particular, R, does not seem to get it.
I have explained to her that I need to avoid bars and parties that are centered around drinking — at least for now, maybe for always. She continues to invite me to activities that would not be healthy for me to attend. Like a wine-tasting tour (yeah, that would be fun for a recovering alcoholic). I continually turn down these invitations and explain that they would not be a good idea for my recovery. At this point I feel like I need to distance myself from this friendship but in doing so I don't want to hurt her feelings.
At first I thought that we could do activities that don't center around booze, but now realize that every activity that she participates in is surrounded by booze. I'm not exaggerating — she does not like any type of outdoor activity, doesn't like to go to plays or museums or really do anything that I am interested in. She likes the night life and parties and bars. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
My question is, do I just keep turning down invites until she gets the hint? Do I sit down with her and again explain the situation? How does one gently exit a friendship without hurting someone's feelings?
Sober for today
Good for you, first of all. Second of all, it's nice of you not to want to hurt her feelings, but I don't know if R would even notice. A wine-tasting tour is pretty oblivious.
Continuing to turn down invitations is plenty gentle; either R will stop asking, or she'll comment that you never want to hang out with her. If it's the latter, you can inform her neutrally that she only ever suggests "activities" that involve drinking, and as much as you'd like to spend time with her, you can't endanger your recovery that way right now. Then suggest an alternative: a walking tour (not one of the pub-crawly ones, obvs), an art gallery, whatever. Maybe, if you explain it again, she'll make an effort with an afternoon at a museum…because people sometimes don't get it re: recovery, specifically that every addict's experience of it is different, everyone is triggered differently, and when there is a timeline for feeling comfortable around booze, it's unpredictable and evolving, et cetera and so on. We have movie-ish ideas about sobriety, sometimes, and it isn't your responsibility to educate R, but you and I happen to know dozens of people who chill with Bill. R may only know you, and need that reminder that you don't hang with the hops anymore.
Maybe she won't get it; maybe you don't actually want her to, because it's becoming clear you have nothing to say to her that isn't about bourbon or you feel like she's undermine-y maybe a little bit, and in that case, just keep declining. But, you know, decide which it is first. If you'd like to try to keep her as a friend, it might require a teaching moment, but it's okay to feel done, and to kindly but firmly beg off places that aren't good for you.