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Drinking Around a Loved One in Recovery

By Comments off By the Numbers: Drinking Around a Loved One in Recovery

As an opiate and cocaine addict in recovery I sometime think, “Oh, those poor alcoholics. How do they do it? Their favorite drug is right in front of them all the time! Billboards on the way home from work, sporting events, TV ads, pictures in magazines and the inevitable social event where everyone else is enjoying a drink.”

I wonder what life would be like if that were the case for me. I feel pretty safe and pretty sure that today, almost 27 years in to my recovery, grateful to be here and having the obsession to use lifted, I’d be okay. In early recovery? I don’t know…

This is why it becomes an important question/issue for many recovering alcoholics, and especially for their families, to consider: What’s okay in front of the alcoholic that I love? Can we still have wine at Thanksgiving? Can we still go to the ballgame? Do I order a drink at dinner?

It’s different for everyone and it’s different for any individual as time goes by and recovery progresses. I have friends in long-term recovery who chose to not put themselves in situations where they would need to decline an invitation to have a drink. And I have a friend with 30-plus years sober who tends bar!

My wife is in recovery and she was very uncomfortable with the fact that her family did not drink when we visited them for the holidays. They just unilaterally decided not to have alcohol at dinner after decades of wine on the table. The absence and the reason for it was obviously her sobriety—and nobody in her family said a word to her or to me. My wife expressed her frustration to me a few times, but declined to talk to her family about it.

Before the holidays the next year I casually mentioned to her brother that Jackie felt strange about the sudden absence of alcohol at dinner and didn’t want to say anything, so I did. On Christmas Eve, her brother came in with his family, announced the arrival of the usual Christmas wine and all was well! This included the absence of a reaction from her father, which clearly indicated a previous discussion about the upcoming return to wine on the table.

It’s wonderful for the family or a friend to respect the recovery of a loved one. This is true whether it’s wine at dinner or the use of recreational drugs in front of a recovering addict or placing a wager on a ballgame in front of the compulsive gambler. You think alcohol is a complicated affair in this regard? Think about dinner time in a family where someone has struggled with overeating or restricting food!

I believe the best policy if you are facing this dilemma is to ask the person, straight up!

“Honey, how would you feel if we ordered drinks at dinner?”

“Would you be uncomfortable if we had wine at grandma’s?”

You care enough about this person to ask the question, now ask yourself: Am I comfortable ordering the drink or having the bottle on the table? How do I feel about keeping alcohol at home? You might be in a position if they ask, to say, “It’s not about you! I’m uncomfortable.” The more we can be honest with each other—and ourselves—the better off we are all served (pun intended)!

To talk with us on this subject or other recovery related topics, please email us at or schedule a consultation.