So Time magazine recently wrote this article, 4 Excuses to Stay Sober at the Holiday Party. Given that we are in the addiction treatment industry, this article and articles like it often catch our eye as we review the news, studies and content that discuss drug and alcohol addiction.
I figured that this article had some useful information for someone who is in recovery – perhaps a lesson on how to say, “No, thanks. I’m not a drinker,” to establish boundaries for the non-drinker in this type of social setting. A sort of, How to Remain Sober, Now that You Are Sober – kind of thing. And the fact that Time magazine is writing about this sort of topic is always a good thing because at Vertava Health we feel like the media does more work covering Ebola – a disease that has so far taken 2 U.S. lives rather than prescription drug addiction – a disease that takes 100 lives a day.
So good on ya, Time magazine!
This article almost makes a mockery of addiction recovery by offering up such tips as:
1. “Not drinking is my secret to weight loss.”
2. “It’s that pesky toe fungus again.”
3. “Sorry, I’ve got a marathon.”
4. “Ugh, migraines.”
The suggestion to say such things like, “No, thanks. I have toe fungus,” as an alternative to simply saying, “No, thanks, I’m in recovery,” is offensive, stupid and immature. Being in recovery is NOT, I repeat, NOT worse than telling someone who’s simply offered you a glass of wine that you are taking medication for toe fungus. Marathons, weight loss and migraines are all legitimate excuses not to drink – but only if you are telling the truth. Otherwise, leave the lies at home. And if you feel like you need to lie – you’re not ready to be around alcohol. Sit this party out and try again next year.
While it’s true that there is pressure to drink at holiday functions and particularly at work parties – this article does state: “No one should have to explain why they don’t drink, but until that day comes, here are five health-related excuses, all from the study participants, to forgo that next drink.”
That first part – read that part again. No one should have to explain why they don’t drink. From the staff here at Vertava Health, we agree wholeheartedly! No one should! But we are also not naïve in thinking that this is always an easy task. We know that saying, “No, thanks,” to a libation can bring furrowed brows and the response of, “why?” But we also know that someone can just say, “I don’t feel like it,” or even *gasp* “I’m in recovery,” and the record player doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt.
Is it easy to say, “I’m in recovery,”? Because I’m not in recovery, I asked my co-worker Brian Hicks. Brian has been in recovery for 8 years and is often my go-to resource when I have questions about how it feels to be in recovery. Brian tells me that in the beginning he simply avoided the people, places and things that would have triggered the habit. But soon after that, Brian felt strong in his sobriety and felt healed from addiction. So he would attend parties and functions where people were drinking and simply say, “No thanks, I don’t drink. I’m in recovery.” He said rather than feeling uncomfortable with this declaration, he found that it was the people he shared that with who felt uncomfortable. He found that they didn’t know what to say or how to behave.
So rather than tell the person who is in recovery how to act, here is a tip for those of us who encounter someone in recovery and inadvertently offer them a drink:
Apologize, congratulate on good health and offer another drink. Surely you have soda, flavored water or even just water on hand. Offer that and move on.
It’s that simple.
And as for you Time magazine and your horribly offensive toe fungus, weight loss, marathon, migraine suggestions – writing articles like this merely perpetuates the stigma that surrounds addiction. For the millionth time, addiction is a disease. A real disease. If someone with Crohn’s disease came to your party and politely refused your offer of mixed nuts or popcorn are you telling me that instead of simply saying, “No thanks, I can’t eat that because I have Crohn’s disease,” that they should say, “Oh sorry, I have ear wax and back acne and the meds I take interact poorly with popcorn,”??? In fact, I am lactose intolerant. I can’t eat anything creamy. When offered something creamy, rather than simply tell the hosts that I am unable to eat it because of my lactose intolerance, should I instead lie and respond, “Oh, can’t have that! I’ll get migraines, I’m running a marathon, I’m too fat and I have toe fungus,”?
I can’t even believe I have to slap Time magazine on the wrist for this poor excuse for journalism, but I have to.
So let’s review:
It’s okay to be in recovery and to say so. If you think you’ll be too embarrassed to say so, then skip the party until you’re ready. There WILL be a time that it won’t be difficult to tell the truth.
If you’re hosting an event and you offer an alcoholic drink and are met with the recovery response, apologize, offer another option and move on.
Don’t read Time magazine. They know nothing about addiction recovery.