Many addicts or alcoholics experience early struggles in recovery with nearly every social encounter. It is normal to worry that people will make a big deal if they are not drinking or participating in the partying activities. They may worry that they will press them to accept a drink or feel nervous about how to interact without their typical social crutch. Or, in a bar situation, they may feel anxious about what to order.
There are two major problems that an alcoholic in recovery may face when it comes to ordering the first few times at a bar. First, there may be nothing they really desired and craved the way I had their drink of choice, and secondly, they may feel conspicuous and out of character requesting a non-alcoholic drink.
They may detest using the word “virgin” to order a non-alcoholic drink. It may feel juvenile to ask the bartender for a “virgin margarita.” “Mocktail” may not feel any better. They may just want the entire awkward situation to go away entirely.
The best solution to this quandary is to keep it simple, cool, and honest. Practice aloud, in privacy, speaking key phrases key phrases in the mirror saying things like, “No vodka for me thanks, but I would love a club soda and lime,” or “Water would be great!” and “Cranberry juice in a tall stem glass, thank you!” This may feel silly initially; however, with practice these words will come with ease. Soon without even thinking about it these moments will no longer be awkward, but well rehearsed and enjoyable times.
Keep in mind that those who drink will be shocked by the recovering alcoholic’s decision to not drink and will not understand it initially. They may press the recovering alcoholic to drink at first, so the alcoholic will need to be prepared with something positive to say such as, “I do not need it, I do not miss it, and I am happier without it!” No one can argue with that!
When it comes to restaurants and banquet diners, one should get a hold of the water pitcher immediately and pour water into their wine glass. As long as their wine glass is full, the temptation for the real thing is minimized, and if they are offered it, they can cheerfully respond, “I am fine with water, but thank you very much!”
One of the most difficult parts of going out during one of the first few times is when the server offers the drink menu. Uttering the words, “I do not drink” can be especially difficult. It seems like a very easy opportunity to drink and get away with it. After all, who will know? An alcoholic in a moment of weakness, at any stage of recovery may think that, “My sponsor will not know,” but they must stay vigilant because they saying holds true that one is truly too many, and a thousand really is never enough.
Many alcoholics hit their rock bottom by not being able to stop at just one. They had one more, then one more, and then another. Before they knew it, they had had a bottle, or two. A case of beer or a blacked out on tequila. Whatever their drink of choice was, they knew what it was to have it in excess, and it was not pretty or something they desired again. They must keep this in mind when temptation strikes at a restaurant, party, liquor store, bar, or club. Early in recovery, it may be a better idea for recovering alcoholics to avoid such places whenever possible until they are more comfortable and stable in their recovery and have mastered coping skills.
This is not to say that those early in recovery should have no social life whatsoever; on the contrary! 12-step fellowships have committees devoted to activities and social events that promote sobriety while having fun. These events are designed to teach recovering addicts and alcoholics how to have fun in recovery. Then, when the strength has been gathered to go into the real world and face the restaurants, bars, and clubs they will possess the skills necessary!
The reality is, that most party hosts and restaurant waiters do not care what we order. They have one job: to bring what we order and to keep bringing it. As long as we are clear about what we want, we can both make our objectives accomplished. That way, both parties can enjoy themselves. That is the real goal!