It’s possible to live with a drinker when you’re sober but you must prepare

I do not drink alcohol ever. In fact, I have not had an alcoholic drink in over 13 years. Alcohol was not my drug of choice, but nevertheless, it had horrific consequences on my life – even as a minor player. For whatever reason, the obsession to drink alcohol was lifted years ago for me and never returned. Occasionally, I fantasize about a Pina Colada with a rum floater or a nice hot toddy when it’s cold out, but that’s about it. Oh, I do miss Sake… Anyway, the point is alcohol is not super tempting for me, which is useful because I live with a drinker. That means I’ve had to figure out how to be cool about this.

First, for the love of God, stay out of their drinking

My partner is not an alcoholic. He drinks, but it has no adverse effects on his life. On the contrary, he runs marathons and is in great health. But, he loves wine. He reads about it, talks about it, and cooks food to pair specifically with his wines. Wine truly is a beloved hobby, and because I’ve never seen him hungover, have a mood change, or do anything “alcoholic,” it’s none of my business. That’s how I feel about it. If you have a person who becomes nasty, abusive, or dangerous in an ANY way, that is very different and should be taken very seriously. This is a story about someone who ended up with a nice wine collector and didn’t want to be resentful about it.

Second, I am responsible for finding my own pleasure

There is nothing more irritating than watching someone delight in something you can’t have. Seriously, it will make your head explode to live with a drinker if you’re resentful about it. So, I had to find things to bring to the party that works for me. I love sugar. I love pastries, candy, cake, pies, cookies, chocolate, ice cream…did I miss anything? If I did, I’m sorry, and I love it too. At first, my partner would comment on the sugar consumption. After carefully explaining that he receives his sugar from wine and this is none of his business, he stopped. I get myself treats all the time. I look forward to it, I think about it, I plan for it. It makes it easier when he drinks at night. I have something I love too, and I’ve created a little night ritual around my desserts.

Third, boundaries are your friend when you live with a drinker

I have my own space in our home, and it’s filled with my stuff. No one goes in there but me, and it is my refuge. I have everything I need in my office, including a TV, computer, space to work out, do yoga, meditate and rest. Often, after dinner, we have different things to do, and I return to my space, which is also helpful because I get a break. Basically, we’ve found ways to live together where the drinking isn’t in my face if I don’t want to see it. The truth is, when we weren’t together much, it was less glaring. Now that we’re together all the time, we retreat to separate places sometimes. But, these boundaries feel really respectful to me. He can do what he wants, and I can use my tools whenever I need them.

Fourth, talk to someone about it regularly

Luckily, one of my sober sisters is in the EXACT same situation, so we can talk about this regularly and privately. I once had a friend who said, “Save the drama for your mama and the crazy for your sponsor.” Don’t make your boyfriend your girlfriend. My boyfriend definitely doesn’t need to know my every thought. I barely want to know my every opinion. One of the things I’ve realized in cohabitating is that my sense of righteousness is often disturbed, not his. Taking these issues to a sober friend who understands is very helpful. She has no judgment that I’m in this situation, and I have none about hers. We simply support each other in this area of life. Both knowing that our recoveries are our responsibility.

Fifth, if it becomes problematic, get professional help or go to al-anon

If you’re living with someone whose drinking scares you or whose drinking/behavior is detrimental to you in any way, seek professional help and go to al-anon. The only person you can control is yourself. Enabling or criticizing someone is not going to end well. The most important thing you can do is get support to help you decide what the right actions to take are. There is plenty of help available. There are addiction counselors, 12-step groups, therapists, clergy, and so many more trained to help. Talk to someone who knows what to do and how to help and follow their recommendations. What if you want to quit drinking yourself?

Sixth, make non-alcoholic drinks fun

There are tons of great non-alcoholic drinks out there. There are all kinds of new mocktails created especially for sober people that are really good. You can even make your own syrups. If not mocktails, find other things to drink that you enjoy. Trust me, even looking forward to a delicious Coca-Cola will make you feel better. Well, it makes me feel better.

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.