How it Feels to Be Something

By: Jeremy Enigk

When you’re a person who drinks, coming across a sober person is often a novelty. Usually, it’s the cranky designated driver, or the well-behaved friend of the group, or someone who’s taking the night easy after a particularly terrible hangover. When you’re a person who drinks, coming across a sober person is often a novelty. Usually, it’s the cranky designated driver.

What’s rare is to find a person in recovery out at the bar, or nightclub, or in the midst of any kind of social gathering in which most (or, typically, all) of the other attendees are drinking. When I think back to my drinking days, I might have come across someone who wasn’t drinking once or twice, but I never stayed around long enough to figure out why, or what motivated their decision. Was it recovery or a one-day thing? To be honest, sober people scared the crap out of me.

Sober? How weird, I thought.

When I stopped drinking, I became that sober person I was terrified of. Five years into sobriety, and I’ve learned that the chance of being the only sober person in the room is pretty high no matter where I go. Unless I’m attending a get-together organized by my sober friends, it’s pretty likely that I’ll be the lone sober wolf.

This used to bother me—it made me feel alone and different. But the reality is, most people drink in a social setting. It’s how our current social world works. Although that mindset is definitely changing, slowly but surely becoming more accommodating to non-drinkers, sober folks need to have the tools to deal with being the only sober person in the room.

And with these tips, who knows—you might even enjoy it.

Own Your Sobriety

Few things feel better, especially in sobriety, than being authentic.

For many of us, lying is something we left behind with alcohol. I like being honest about my sobriety. There’s no greater power than owning who and what you are. Generally, when I’m in a room full of drinkers and I say I don’t drink, I’m met with surprised eyes and confused faces.

Owning it allows me to feel empowered. I no longer care if my sobriety is “surprising,” or makes other people feel uncomfortable. It’s mine and mine alone. When I own my sobriety, I stand strong in it.

For many of us, lying is something we left behind with alcohol. I like being honest about my sobriety.

Be Prepared For Questions

Along with their confused stares, people might get curious. Remember—people who drink don’t tend to surround themselves with a ton of sober folks, so you’re kind of a rarity! People might want to know why you are the way you are, especially if you’re willing to open up about why you don’t drink.

The first question I always get is, “Wow, were you really that bad?” I never know how to answer this question since the scale of how “bad” your addiction was is incredibly subjective. My answers differ. Sometimes I say it could’ve been worse, while other times I say, “Yes! I was bad enough I needed to quit.” Both of these answers are true.

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  3. With ordered list numbers

Other examples of questions I’ve gotten include, “You mean you’re never going to drink again? Not even sometimes?” or “Don’t you miss it?” and “Are you an alcoholic?” It might feel like people are looking for any reason to rule you out as a scary stereotype in their mind. We have the media to thank for that. They’ve done a great job of making non-drinkers and hard drug users look like bad people with whom you should never associate.

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The point is that you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to, but if you do want to, have fun with it. Just be honest.

Wherever You Are, Make Sure You're There For A Reason

I can’t stress this enough. Although I think it’s silly to tell sober people to avoid bars, nightclubs, and happy hours altogether, I do think it’s important to make sure that wherever you do end up, there’s something there for you.

What do I mean by that? If you’re going to be the only sober person in the room, you need to be at a gathering with friends you love, or a club with music that makes you want to dance your ass off, or a bar that has mocktails that are to die for. Don’t just go to an event to go.

I don’t do that in sobriety. I do more of what I want, and I pick and choose the alcohol-infused events I go to. If there isn’t something fun for me there, like, say, at a brewery that doesn’t have food or games and only water? I’ll pass. The more comfortable you feel, and the more you feel like you’re actively choosing to be in a situation, the easier you’ll find it to be the lone sober person in a room.

Want to keep exploring? We don't blame you.