The first thing I say when I get this question or when working with people is: You do not owe anyone an explanation beyond your comfort level. Meaning… you do not owe anyone your story, your explanation, your drinking habit log, you get to pick who knows what details, what you feel comfortable talking about, and when. It is not your job to make anyone else comfortable with your decisions. We often feel like we need to explain or rationalize ourselves so people feel don’t feel uncomfortable or take our decisions personally. But that is not your job. Your job is you and any little people you are responsible for. That is it.
That being said, I think being as honest as you feel comfortable being with a partner (especially one that you live with) the better.
So, literally, what should you say? One of my favorite lines is, “I felt so great after Dry January (or taking a month off or drinking less) that I am going to keep it going for a while.” I love this line because there is no end date on it, we all have that friend that will remember and ask you about every end date you set (ahem, that would have been me). There are no emotional details, you aren’t alluding to a big secret problem, AND you are sharing some of the positives. Plus it shuts down a million follow-up questions. If you lead with something like, “I didn’t like the way I was drinking” or something similar, be prepared for a conversation and lots of questions. If you want to go there with people…go for it! But that conversation can wait or never happen or only happen with one or two super close friends.
Some other possible lines:
- The vaccine is coming so I am cleansing my liver of my quarantine life…it might take a while.
- I needed a challenge so I am going to see how long I can go alcohol-free, I am on day 33 and going strong! ( extra credit: Anyone want to do it with me?)
- I read the book This Naked Mind and my mind was blown. I am going to quit drinking and see how it goes!
- Brene Brown is my superhero and she is over 20 years sober.
Lines I have heard that I don’t love:
- I am on antibiotics so I can’t drink. (you aren’t on antibiotics forever and you will get a bunch of medical questions that you will have to make up lies about.)
- I am tired so I’m not drinking tonight. (anything that relegates your decision to one night just invites even more questions the next time.)
Pro tip: I learned this one from personal experience and coaching many people through conversations with friends and family. Prep people. Give them a chance to process away from you and then have a bigger convo if needed in person. Example: Every time you meet up with Lola you meet for dinner and it involves several drinks or you have a standing Zoom cocktail hour with friends. Send a text beforehand that is simply, “Can’t wait to see you! I am extending my dry January into dry February, I just feel so good I decided to keep it going! Did we decide on a meeting time yet?” This just gives the other person time to process a bit AND takes the in-person/ in-the-moment pressure off of you. This does not need to apply if you are meeting a large group or even several people but if it is more intimate, it can be super helpful for them and for you.
Extra pro tip: If you get to a point that you are all in with not drinking and DO want to let everyone know exactly why and hear your story. Still prep people! Imagine meeting up with people that think your marriage is totally fine and you sit down with them and blurt out, “I’m leaving Lola!”. Reactions: What?! Why?! I don’t think you need to be that drastic, everything seems fine! Your marriage is like my marriage and I’m staying married. Calm down a little before you tell everyone, what if you change your mind? Something had to have happened that I don’t know about. I love being married, I would never want to do that. (substitute drinking for married and those are all very real reactions I heard). Prep text: “Hey, I quit drinking! I feel so amazing, I am excited to fill you in on the details!”
The reason I keep adding in the “I feel so amazing” piece is that we trained to believe that choosing not to drink is sad, shameful, a dirty secret, when you frame it positively, it changes the tone of the conversation.
If you have any other good lines you have used, let me know!
Tomorrow’s Q/A: What do I do at 5pm/2pm/10am/10pm now?