you tell who you want, when you want, what you want

from my inbox:

Potato Girl (day 158):

HI Belle, I have a question that I have gotten advice from out-patient recovery support groups, and my therapist, yet I a still struggling with. I am having a hard time telling friends that I have quit drinking … over the last 2 years I progressively isolated myself because of drinking. I told myself friendships change because of marriage, kids, jobs etc which is true but ultimately I know I have hurt friendships and I am scared to talk about it. I realize I am still feeling a lot of guilt and shame and to be very honest it scares me to think of never having another drink with these friends. One of my friends that I have been texting with wants me to visit next summer … she texted “we can drink A LOT of wine! I need a break!”  I know she will be supportive of me but I am really avoiding telling her. After discussing this in group therapy I learned that I have way more anxiety about this than others in the group … I feel like my recovery is going really well in most other areas, but this honesty with friends is really holding me back. Have you come across this issue with others in the challenges? Thanks for listening as always. I know I have said it before but I truly wouldn’t be over 5 months without you, your blog, emails and podcasts. THANK YOU!”

me:  I’m not a therapist or a counsellor. i’m not your sponsor, and I don’t know you IRL 🙂 but here’s what I’d say: you tell whoever you want, what you want, when you want to.  you tell any version of the story that suits you. I have long-time boozing friends that I haven’t seen since I’ve been sober.  One friend in particular that’s just like your friend saying “we’ll drink a lot!” … I haven’t told her anything yet. I’m not in her daily life and I’m not visiting tomorrow. If I was visiting tomorrow, I’d say beforehand, by email or text, “can’t wait to see you tomorrow, I can stop and pick up some some wine for you – I’m not drinking these days so I’ll bring tonic for me.” and then when I arrive, she’d ask and maybe be mock-disappointed. and I think I’ll say something like “I’m doing a 100 day leave of absence from alcohol to see how my life is different.” … And then, only if she asked how far into the 100 days I was, only then would I say “I’m on day 600 … turns out I like being sober more than I thought I would.”

that’s it. I, personally, don’t feel that telling anyone that I had a ‘problem’ is useful. instead I say things like “I found that when I drank, I slept badly. and once I quit drinking I slept through the night. my doctor had even put me on hormones to try to fix the sleep. So with all the catering I do, it just doesn’t work out even having a bit of wine.” and most people leave it at that. really.

I talk about this more in my jumpstart class (it’s audio #3) and i’ve written about having a “yeast infection” on the blog. hope that’s helpful 🙂 hugs from me

Potato Girl: “You really have helped me to realize I have the power and control to tell who I want, when I want and how I want. I was feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure from group discussions telling me differently. Telling me that I wasn’t being completely honest if I didn’t share this info, or that I was hiding it so I could drink with these people someday. Well, I know that neither of these things are true. I talked with my therapist more about it and between what she said and what you have written and your blog posts I feel much better about this. I don’t need to broadcast how many times I was hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal, or how I would take shots of vodka at 7 am, etc etc. I have different relationships with each friend and a couple close friends I can share a little more because I am closer, and I want to make some amends for my absence over the last year and a half and hopefully work towards a stronger friendship. For new and casual acquaintances I don’t want to share that I had a ‘problem’. Thank you for pointing that out and helping me see that I can trust myself and my instincts with this.”


update she’s on day 742 today. and i’m on day 1202 🙂




I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Excellent post Belle! Excellent advice to “tell whoever you want, what you want, when you want to . . . . tell any version of the story that suits you.” And no need to tell anyone you have a “problem” – so true! This has been what i have been doing – sharing more with very close friends but sharing minimally or nothing at all with acquaintances and people I see less, including family, about why I am drinking sparkling water or non-alcoholic ginger beer.

  • What a great post! I’m on Day 62, and not a ton of people know. I just didn’t want to have Big Conversations about it. But recently I asked a coworker who doesn’t drink if he was a lifelong teetotaler or if he stopped at some point. (It was the latter for him.) He asked why I quit, and I just said, “Diminishing returns,” and he nodded and smiled.

    Some people get (a LOT) more of the story — like my fiancé, whom I didn’t know during my super-drunky-drunk years — but I usually only elaborate to people whom I know are also sober. It’s weird. I say just go for what makes you comfortable. And don’t forget to have fancy, grown-up drinks — garnishes and nice glasses are your friend. 🙂

  • Thank you so much for discussing this! I have had anxiety around this too. Oct 22 will be my day 100 and I haven’t told anyone. So many positive health changes have happened for me that what I have ended up telling people are things (all true) that after my emergency appendectomy in July wine wasn’t very appealing so I don’t drink much anymore. I sleep better, have lost 11 pounds, have more energy, etc. It’s even worked with my co-workers and you’ll get a laugh over this, I work at a winery! I was drinking a bottle of wine most nights and knew I was in trouble. I found Belle’s blog and challenge while recovering from surgery and feel like it’s saved my life!

  • I’m kind of in the “it’s nobody’s business” frame of mind. If and when I see people I used to drink with, I just say I don’t drink anymore. Most are surprised – I was such a lush – but then drop it and talk about something else. Seriously, no one cares as much as we think they do!

  • Thanks for bringing this topic up.
    It’s the things I am not aware of, that often “trap” me.
    It’s good to be prepared. That it is not just something “in the back of my head” but an issue everyone, who is quitting alcohol, experiences.

  • I just came back from a convention where there’s always drinking and partying. I used to do it too. I told my close friends I stopped drinking, that I’m feeling better. They were very supportive. Others, I didn’t say anything and I don’t think they noticed.
    Funny story about this all, the whole group was at a luau, and the mai tai’s were flowing, so I went up to the bartender and asked for a “virgin” mai tai. She said, “you want pinapple juice then.” Yep! just pineapple juice, and I enjoyed it!

  • I need to hear this today. I have been struggling about what to tell people and I think I am making it bigger in my head than it needs to be. I’m just going to be me and not feel like I have to over explain.

  • I just feel excited about telling people I don’t drink if they ask. I feel in control over something that controlled me for many years.

  • Thank you again for this… These posts are so helpful. In isolation myself from a couple close but also old drinking friends and feeling really sad. I’m not initiating any conversation with a lot of people at this point. Also made me realize how often I used to have a glass of wine and call people up to gab… Now none of those people call me. On day 116 and much better for it.