I’m in recovery and my office just moved above a bar

A reader writes:

I recently quit drinking and I am four months sober. It’s been going well for the most part, but my job has just relocated to an office space that is directly above a bar. Upon signing the lease papers, our very small office (less than 10 people) went down to the bar during work hours to “have a beer” to celebrate. I was extremely uncomfortable and a little bit triggered. Apparently this will happen frequently, as well as meeting with clients and vendors at the bar.

I have been able to be out with friends and family who are drinking and not be super triggered, but this was different, and I think it’s because not everyone knows my situation at work. One or two coworkers know that I am sober but my bosses do not know yet. I keep declining offers of alcohol and getting seltzers or water instead. I feel like I should be clear that I don’t drink but I also don’t want to make it “A Thing” either. My company is wonderful and I don’t think it would change how they feel about me, but I’m paranoid about the bias some may have regarding alcoholism, and I don’t want this to hurt my career. It’s complicated by the fact that they have seen me drink before I got sober, so I’m not sure what I should say to explain why I’m now not drinking. (Especially because I am a woman and I got a few “Are you pregnant?” comments when I first told people I had quit drinking. Ugh.)

How do you suggest I broach this topic without it being awkward? Furthermore, how do you suggest I deal with the rest of the company constantly having meetings or doing workplace socializing in the bar? I don’t want to miss out on career advancements or team camaraderie so I kind of feel like I have to just suck it up and deal with the discomfort of being around a booze-fueled atmosphere.

If this were just a matter of not drinking, you could just make an appearance at these events and order something non-alcoholic. If asked, you could simply say, “Oh, I don’t drink” and in a decent office with reasonable coworkers, that would be that. Loads of people don’t drink for all sorts of boring reasons and it’s not A Thing. They just don’t.

And in that case, for people who know you did drink pretty recently (and who remember and ask about it, which will be a smaller group), you could go with “not in the mood” or “cutting back” or “just don’t feel like it!” I’ve turned down a ton of drinks with “eh, don’t feel like one” (because I truly just don’t feel like one). Anyone who pushes back on that has weird issues. And if someone pries into why, you could go with, “Wow, what a question!”

But you’re recently sober and having meetings in a bar is a problem. Showing up and ordering something non-alcoholic isn’t going to cut it — you want to not be in the bar at all, and that’s very reasonable.

Given that, and given that your office appears poised to conduct a lot of business in this bar,it sounds like you do need to say something more. If you tell your boss you’ve quit drinking and as part of that you need to not be in bars, your boss is very, very likely to help arrange things accordingly. You could simply say, “I’ve recently quit drinking and to stick with that I need to not go to bars. Since we moved, we’re scheduling a lot of meetings at the bar downstairs. For meetings that I should be at, I’d. need them to be here in the office, like we used to do in our old space. Can you help me with that?” You could add, “I’d of course also prefer that celebrations not be held there because I’d like to be able to attend. I don’t expect that to be possible every time, but I’d be grateful if that can be factored in when those are planned. And if not, I want you to at least know why I wouldn’t be able to attend.”

If your boss is at all reasonable, you’re going to get a good response to this.

Not all bosses are reasonable, of course — but you said your company is wonderful, so you’ve got a good shot at a reasonable response.

And yes, there can be bias and misinformation about alcoholism, but in a work context that’s typically more geared toward people with active drinking problems than it is about people taking responsible steps to remain sober. I wouldn’t worry about explaining you’re sober unless you’ve seen really troubling info about your company that’s not in your letter.

But I would speak up now, before these new habits about meeting places get more ingrained.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 367 comments… read them below }

    1. Lynca*

      I’m sending the OP all the good vibes. I want this to work out well for them and for them to be supported by their workplace.

    2. Consultant Catie*

      Here to say the same thing – congratulations OP, and best of luck in your recovery! I’m sure you already have, but this might be a good time to check in with your sponsor as well. And good for you for recognizing this as a potential issue, and doing something about it!

  1. Princesa Zelda*

    OP, I just want to say congratulations and good luck. Recovery is a brave choice to make and I wish you all the best!

  2. Holly*

    This is tough. When my dad first got sober my family couldn’t go to the same restaurants we used to because it was triggering to him and he’d want to have a drink if we went there – we pretty much stopped going out to dinner as a family entirely for a period of time. My mom had to stop drinking any alcohol at all since it would be in front of him. Now he is sober 9ish years and is way more comfortable being around alcohol, and can be at a restaurant and enjoy himself and my mom and I can have a glass of wine with dinner while he has his favorite juices/seltzer etc. But it takes time. So don’t be hard on yourself or fear that you will never be able to be in a bar situation ever again – one day you may be comfortable enough to be in that environment. But for now you need to accept your triggers and be honest with your boss for your own health.

    In addition, alcoholism is protected under the ADA as a “disability” and your request to not have meetings that require your presence at bars could be a reasonable accommodation – so you do arguably have legal protections if you’re afraid of how your boss will react.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Only one note here.

      The company has less than 10 people in the office, so I don’t know if it’s a tiny company or just that their office in that area has few people within it!

      Sadly ADA only covers employers with 15+ employers. So you may not be covered under their regulations but states also sometimes have their own statues in place that may help you, ours covers anyone 8 employees or more!

      1. Holly*

        Thanks for this – I totally missed that piece of info in the letter. I agree to check your state’s law on this! In New York the Human Rights Law currently applies to workplaces with 4+ employees, and as of February 8, 2020, will apply to all employers in the state regardless of the number of employees.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Finally! I wish that others would jump on this.

          I’m personally enraged by the fact that there are companies who don’t have to comply with things like ADA and ADEA.

          Like IDK how 15 or 20 employees is a threshold amount to make discrimination illegal. Just gotta keep 14 employees and the Feds are like “Do what you waaaaaaaaaaaaaant to the 40+ and disabled! But you gotta keep it at 14!!!!!!!!”

          1. Close Bracket*

            Yeah, a big problem I have with supporting local or small businesses (which are typically part of the support local movement) is that they don’t have to support me by complying with a variety of federal worker protection laws.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              But a ton of large businesses get away with breaking laws all the time and laugh in the face of federal regulations. Proving discrimination is a difficult task, despite the laws in place.

              So instead you are choosing to only frequent places that have to abide by these laws that are important…only you don’t know that they’re not breaking the laws and abusing their employees.

              Large chain restaurants and retail establishments are vile to their employees despite technically having laws in place. Laws that are not able to be utilized by vulnerable populations that are typically the ones to take jobs at these places.

              1. Close Bracket*

                A. There are more types of businesses than retail and restaurants

                B. Your argument that some business don’t comply with laws that cover them is not compelling enough to make me patronize businesses that don’t comply with laws bc they aren’t required to.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  And how do you even know if they comply? That’s a rather large assumption being painted across a very large subset of businesses. But hey, it’s your money, I suppose.

                2. Bigglesworth*

                  I would say look at your local and state laws. I worked on a research project this spring as a legal intern at the EEOC compiling information from state and local jurisdictions that have more stringent employee protections laws in place than the federal laws. For example, although there is the Federal 15+ employee requirement, some cities have a requirement that you have to abide by ADA standards if you have just 1 employee. Instead of writing off small business entirely, might be worth looking into to see if there are other laws that apply that provide the same or similar amounts of protection.

                3. MCMonkeyBean*

                  There are large business that have to comply but don’t, and small businesses where it is not legally required but they do it anyway. If you don’t have any actual information about whether they do or do not treat their employees well then it’s very odd to just base all of your assumptions of how people are treated on the size of the company.

            2. Niedźwiedź*

              Many small businesses don’t have to comply, but do. My company is technically exempt from many of these protections. They are part of our employee policies anyway because the owners want to treat staff with consideration and respect. No one outside would know this. Some employees don’t realize it.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            I agree with you that it often results in extremely toxic small workplaces, but my understanding is that the exception is because it’s proportionately more disruptive to small businesses–Wal-Mart can absorb a lot more fines and lawsuits than Joe’s Hardware Store can. Whether or not that’s a good enough reason is up for debate, of course.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              (Or rather, I should say, I agree with you entirely that it should be compulsory for everyone, but I dunno how to do that in a way that doesn’t prioritize Starbucks over TinyTown Coffee.)

            2. Close Bracket*

              You are presupposing that paying fines is an acceptable alternative to complying with worker protection laws. Sticking with ADA, what is “reasonable” for Starbucks might not be “reasonable” for Tiny Town Coffee, and that is exactly “reasonable” is part of the standard.

              1. MayLou*

                This is a major problem with UK disability law too – there’s no enforcement other than people suing for breaches, which requires the person who has been mistreated to bring court action. If someone does, companies can just settle out of court with a non-disclosure agreement, and merrily carry on not meeting their obligations under the Equality Act until the next disabled person with access to resources sues them for not making reasonable adjustments.

                It astounds me that companies think it’s okay not to make reasonable adjustments because they’re not legally obligated to. Fair enough, not every business can afford to rebuild their entire premises or employ a full-time sign language interpreter or whatever big thing you could imagine might be a large burden, but who doesn’t at least want to try their best to be reasonable?! It’s hardly an onerous threshold. The fact that people have to be compelled through the threat of lawsuits and fines seems like a red flag in itself.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                I don’t think it *should* be, no, but as things go, it often is. It’s not uncommon for large businesses to consider it more efficient to pay the fines than to fix the problems; small businesses can’t do that and therefore have a competitive disadvantage. (I don’t think that’s how it should be, but it’s how it often is.)

            3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              My understanding wasn’t fines, but at some point as your number of employees goes down, an accommodation that a larger company would be able to absorb just isn’t feasible for a small operation. If you’re a store that only has one employee who needs to be able to lift 50 pounds for stocking or something and that employee becomes disabled, how are you going to accommodate that?

              Obviously reasonable employers can and should accommodate employees whenever possible and I definitely don’t think the ADA goes far enough, but it does make sense to me that smaller companies wouldn’t be held to the same standard.

          3. Ralph Wiggum*

            I don’t know the answer, but I speculate that it’s based on statistical variability and risk mitigation.

            Given a large enough sample size (enough employees), you’d expect the percentage of employees requiring an accommodation to be reasonably fixed. Employees can cover for each other, the business can plan for the costs, etc. But with only four employees, having three employees unavailable due to disability could have a significant impact, possibly one which the company is unable to handle.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yes, that’s usually the justification process.

              It’s due to the fact that lawmakers also just know they’ll get better backing if they target specific size organizations, it’s the politics part of things in the end.

              I’ve worked in small organizations my entire life and believe me, it’s easy to comply with ADA requirements and hiring people based on their abilities not their age.

              In the end, if someone needed an accommodation that wasn’t affordable to a company, that’s enough to deny it! Sure you’d have to prove it but anyone who isn’t a snake could easily do that. This is my bottom line and I don’t have the reserves to spend 10k on this work around so that you can do the job kind of thing.

              There are some laws that a minimum employees required option does make sense though. Like you mention the issues if multiple people are out due to disability at the same time. That’s the exact reason behind the 50 number for FMLA.

              1. Thornus*

                And piggybacking off of this, sure, the ADA can be a financial burden. So I can understand why some would be concerned about not wanting to apply it to a 3 employee company (even if I disagree). But what about the other forms of discrimination covered by Title VII (15 employees) or Age Discrimination in Employment Act (20 employees)? The “but it’s too expensive to comply!!!!” defense doesn’t fly with those types of discrimination, especially when USERRA is sitting right there applying to employers of all sizes (which is good!).

          4. Bagpuss*

            The way it works in the UK is that all companies have to make reasonable accommodations for people (employees and clients), but what is reasonable depends on the size of the company.
            One example – my company used to own an office building which was built in 1810 and was not wheelchair accessible. To make it wheelchair accessible would have cost well over £100,000 (just to make the ground floor accessible, and far more to make the other 3 storeys accessible ), and the actual cost would probably have been a lot more, as that doesn’t include the cost of lost business / hiring alternative premises while the work was done etc.
            We are a small company and it would have been ruinously expensive . We were advised that it would not be considered ‘reasonable’, and that offering other accommodations such as home visits, would be a reasonable alternative option (for clients)
            However, the bank which owns the building next door did carry out work to make their premises accessible – presumably at a similar cost, but given that they are a multi-national, multi-million pound business, it was reasonable for them to do so.
            It’s similar with employees. Whether or not allowing someone to move to part time or flexible hours to accommodate a disibility might be a lot more reasonable if they are one of 50 people doing the same job in a large company, than if they are one of 2 people doing it in a small company.

          5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            This always makes me think of the episode of King of the Hill where the boss fired one person so that he didn’t have to comply.

          6. wittyrepartee*

            Okay, so… I think part of the reason there’s a threshold is that sometimes in a really small company a “reasonable accommodation” might be too expensive. Like, hiring a ASL interpreter is not a big deal for NYC city government, but I do imagine that it would be hard for a smaller company.
            On the other hand, maybe we should just require companies to show that they can’t afford an accommodation in cases like these, and make the law apply to everyone.

            1. Natalie*

              I believe it’s already the case that cost can be weighed as a factor, and whether or not the cost is considered reasonable is going to be evaluated based on that specific business.

            2. Holly*

              That is already the law – a company can show that the accomodation would be an “undue burden.” The issue is that argument would be made in litigation – litigation is likely what makes the liability exposure expensive to small businesses.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                Oh! That makes a lot of sense. It does seem like that could be fixed by having a process where you show a few quotes from contractors to a judge and the judge looks at your taxes and decides. Maybe with fixed brackets depending on the amount of money that the person works with. Then you’d just have to litigate edge cases.

          7. designbot*

            I totally see why this feels that way, but want to offer an analog from the building industry (where ADA is a HUGE thing). When you remodel an older building, you can get out of certain ADA codes if it ‘poses an undue burden.’ That basically means that if ramping up to your building would take up the whole floor plate of the building, you won’t have to. Or if installing ADA restrooms would mean you basically wouldn’t have space for any restrooms at all. Or the financial hit would be greater than the value or your whole building. The idea is that there are some conditions in which there is not enough slack in the system to be generous with accommodations, and that sucks but you do what you can. So I try to remember that that’s true with people too—some businesses don’t have enough slack in terms of money, time, space, whatever, to handle anything but the bare minimum to keep themselves running. Basically what constitutes a ‘reasonable accommodation’ gets smaller and smaller depending on the scale of your business, until it is basically nonexistent.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        It does? Washington right?

        LOL I have “make sure we’re legal” people so I’m not personally up on all the rules.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    When we make a change and cut something out of our lives for any reason [due to addiction in this case but for a personal choice, like going vegetarian because you’ve found it to be a healthier alternative or you took up being involved in animal rights, whatever the reason is], it’s best not to deflect just on a case by case basis. “No thank you, not today.” conveys that they should ask you the next time around.

    So if you don’t eat meat anymore [putting into a different perspective than yours because it may help frame it differently from your current thought process], you say “Oh I’ve made the decision not to eat meat anymore!” and then make it a clear “not now, not ever again.”

    This will help you in your recovery as well, to get at least a few people off your back and offering you drinks if they continue to remember you do not drink anymore, it doesn’t matter that you used to, people quit things all the time!

    You could use the age old trick of “health reasons” if they push.

    But also as you go through recovery, I hope you learn that being truthful is key in the end. It keeps you truthful to yourself, along with others. But it’s only natural to worry about letting people know something so deeply personal to you. Again, if you’re working the steps, this is something you may need to grapple with one way or another. Or if you’re doing it with another system, then still, not being ashamed in the end is a freeing moment that everyone deserves.

    Congratulations on 4 months, I know this letter may be kind of old, so I hope that you’ve continued your success and are doing well.

    1. Close Bracket*

      “Oh I’ve made the decision not to consume alcohol anymore!”

      I like this wording in response to the pregnancy questions. It leaves the pregnancy issue unanswered, as it should, and addresses only the alcohol issue.

      Or they could respond the way someone did to me when I joked about drinking a beer on the couch, which was, “I don’t touch the devil’s nectar!” A little strong, but it did shut me up and make sure I never made a reference to drinking around them again!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I only drink when I want to, so I have had incidents where people question me “why”. My response in those times depend on who’s asking.

        Are you my friend? I’ll tell you it’s because I’m having a bad day and I don’t have any desire to drink when I’m in a cruddy mood. Yes,being out is enough to hopefully lift my spirits. Alcohol amplifies my feels and if I’m grouchy, I will be that cantankerous drunk that nobody wants to be around ever!

        Are you my colleague? I’ll say no and then change the subject.

        Are you a stranger who is trying to buy me a drink when I’m not interested in you let alone your drink offering? I’ll probably come up with some awful story about how my great auntie Nelly once fell into a bonfire after engaging in to much of the drink. And I have promised my family I would never touch the stuff.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Stealing the great auntie Nellie story.

          People just can’t seem to understand that there exist people who are just not drinkers…

        2. Scrooge McDunk*

          I’m laughing so hard at your Aunt Nellie story because that actually happened to my terrible, terrible prom date in high school. A bunch of us went camping after the dance, he engaged in too much of the drink, and fell into the bonfire. (Don’t worry, he was fine. Although he did burn his pants off.)

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah, this is probably what I’d do- but it takes a certain level of comfort and charisma to pull off.
        The devil’s nectar. I drink, but I’ll use that on a day I’m not feeling it or if I’m deflecting for a friend. That’s great.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      To keep up the vegetarian metaphor – people LOVE to ask me why I’m a vegetarian. And in our “wellness culture”, I’m sure that people will love to ask OP why she quit drinking. Is it a new diet? Is there a new study that shows you’ll live forever?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        People think that meat is “healthy” and “necessary” though, so that’s one reason they do that…they’re totally mind ef’ed by the fact that yes, I’m getting plenty of protein, SIT DOWN.

        But with drinking, everyone who drinks knows it’s not good for you, even in moderation. Unless they want to play into those “a glass of wine!!!!” kind of study but they really do know that alcohol is the first thing most people cut out when changing their overall lifestyle!

        1. wittyrepartee*

          As a public health person, I’m going to bet that a small glass of wine is good for some part of the population, and bad for some other part of it. It’s probably why those studies keep bouncing back and forth.

          Do you flush because of an alcohol dehydrogenase mutation? Definitely bad for you, all things considered.
          Do you have certain types of predispositions to heart disease? Glass of wine might be good for you!
          Do you have a familial pre-disposition to the above mentioned heart disease AND a predisposition for liver cancer? HAH! WHO KNOWS! But you should probably just exercise and drink less.

          1. Bilateralrope*

            The most detailed study on the ‘one glass of wine’ I saw concluded that it reduced your risk for some things, while increasing other risks.

            1. embertine*

              I had understood that this slant on it mostly comes from press reporting, rather than the researchers themselves. Moderate consumption of alcohol, in a culture where drinking alcohol is very socially acceptable, correlates strongly with being moderate in other areas of a person’s life: exercising moderately, eating a balanced diet, having a decent work/life balance etc. It may well not be the alcohol that’s giving health benefits at all, but the lifestyle choices associated with moderate drinking.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                This usually get controlled for as well as possible in these studies. Standard controls are: amount of money made in the household, sleep habits, other food habits, education level, age, race, ethnicity, marital status, amount the person exercises. Then you run a regression that tries to pull out something that resembles the actual effect of the alcohol. This of course assumes a well run study.

                That said, I’ve collected data for food studies, and I don’t trust them at all anymore. Unless it’s based on a food diary, that data is really suspicious. I suspect that there’s a lot of variance in what “one glass of wine” a day looks like to different people (like- strictly one glass? one glass average? a maximum of one glass? how big is the pour and how good is the person at conveying that information to the surveyor?). So, the data on what people are eating and drinking is quite noisy, and with something fraught like alcohol consumption people are likely to lie.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              Yes, and your risk of the things that it reduces and increases will change the calculus on whether one glass of wine is beneficial for you.

    3. Lyudie*

      Along the lines of “health reasons”, I wonder if wording like “I’ve found I feel better when I don’t drink” is an option, it’s likely true and should shut down any pushy people.

      1. annony*

        I do like “I feel better when I don’t drink.” I know a lot of people who seriously cut back on drinking for non-serious health issues. It just made them feel like crap so they mostly stopped. It was thinks like acid reflux and headaches. Often they deflect with something like “I guess I’m getting old. Can’t party like I could in college.”

        1. Helena*

          Yep – I do still drink but have cut way back for exactly that reason. One glass of wine just sends me to sleep these days. So that would be an entirely believable excuse for not drinking that nobody reasonable would question (certainly nobody has ever pushed back when I’ve said it).

          It wouldn’t explain the avoidance of the bar itself though, so it may not be as effective for the OP as the truth in this particular situation.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This does help as well!

        I have seriously cut down on my drinking as I age because seriously, it makes me feel like garbage and isn’t worth it. So I only drink on special occasions and now even on special occasions I’m not always in the mood.

        So much sugar, so sluggish.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          That plus personally I don’t like being not fully present. Alcohol, pot, whatever… not for me.

      3. Super Admin*

        As someone who often suffers with migraines, I find using them as an excuse for not drinking tends to work well. Alcohol can trigger migraines, no one needs to know that it doesn’t really often trigger them in me.

        Also, I am the lone driver in my household and I like to stay sober in case I need to drive <- another valid reason people don't tend to question.

    4. Missy*

      I don’t drink because of a family history of alcoholism. It is also not something I want to announce to people when I’m out with them and don’t know them well. I tend with “I can’t drink” instead of “I don’t drink.” I rarely get a follow up with can’t. I think because don’t has some sort of connotation of judgment. I can’t eat peanuts vs. I don’t eat peanuts. The first sounds more medical and the second sounds more like personal preference. It’s just worked for me.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The problem with this is that they have seen her drink before, so “I can’t drink” is going to make people say “What changed?” if they’re the meddlesome type.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, the tricky bit is that most, if not all, the people in my life have seen me drink before. With strangers I’ve kept it vague, “It doesn’t agree with me” or the aforementioned “Health issues”, but in a situation like this I feel I’ll need to have a backup since they’ve seen me drink before.

            1. LadyGrey*

              If you want an excuse for a sudden change, claim you can’t drink because you’re on antibiotics for a vague yet minor aliment. Change to ‘I felt/slept so much better when I avoided alcohol, so I’m sticking to it!’. Best for people you don’t want to explain to or who would accept “I wasn’t comfortable telling many people the full story then” if you do decide to explain later.

              1. Flash Bristow*

                Then you get into the fact that there are only a few antibiotics where drink is a risk, and which types they are, and how modern studies have disproved issues with the rest and if you read the leaflet you’ll see they’ve removed the “avoid alcohol” bit…

                … Aren’t you glad I shared all that? So g’wan, now you can join us all in a drink!

                Honestly – it’s a nice idea but I don’t find it works.

                Also OP is trying to avoid being in the bar at all, right? Rather than being in front of all the drinking people, even if they are on an orange juice?

                Oh god that reminds me, I was having a tough day at uni, many years ago now. Went to the only bar / cafe on site, ran into some mates, got talking. One offered a drink, I chose an OJ, and thank you.

                They returned and after I’d started to sip and the taste was a little odd, I got “oh yeh, you looked really down so I popped a vodka in it!” and then looked all proud of themselves…

                So yeh if they’ve seen you drink before then they need to know you really don’t want any alcohol now, and ideally confide in management about not going in the bar at all, as Alison suggested.

                Well done OP4 on your sobriety. I’ve seen a very close relative have to do it (ok it was my dad, he ultimately died of liver failure 8 weeks after he turned 60…) and I know it was hard, but doable. I truly envy your determination and wish you all the best. I hope management understand and sort things for you.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              I think you could do a variation on the theme with your coworkers, “I’m finding it doesn’t agree with me anymore.” So, yeah, you did drink before, but now it’s not agreeing with you so you’re not going to drink for a while (or ever).

              It’s pretty common for a lot of folks to not be able to process milk or alcohol or sugar (or all kinds of other things) in the same ways as they age, so this shouldn’t be all that surprising an answer to all but the most nosey. Plus the insinuation that it may be a gastrointestinal thing will put a lot of folks off asking for more information right away.

            3. PromotionalKittenBasket*

              I had to start a new, very common medication and need to limit alcohol now (a lot of folks on it stop drinking altogether). You could easily say something like that! “Oh, I’m on a new drug so I can’t drink anymore. But anyway…”

            4. Filosofickle*

              My partner quit drinking two years ago, soon after our relationship started. It’s been hard for him to figure out what to say to people who knew him before. (New people are easier for him.) Like you, he fears judgment. OTOH, I know a bunch of people who don’t drink for lots of reasons — some I don’t even know — so it doesn’t seem as loaded to me but it does to him and that’s what matters.

              We talked about sort-of-true things he could say — cutting back, don’t feel like it, health reasons, etc. He didn’t feel comfortable fudging it, even if it was an easy out. For people who drink a lot “i’m on the wagon” worked; they don’t assume it’s permanent and get needing a break. Most of the time he would say something like “I’m not drinking right now” which was technically true. Over time it became “I don’t drink”. If he worked in your situation, he’d have to have said something like Alison’s script. Being in a triggering place is so not helpful, and facing that straight on is probably the only realistic path. Otherwise, your friends and colleagues don’t even realize they’re undermining you. Most of them — not all, but most — want to support you.

              It’s gotten a lot easier with time and especially with being more straight about it.. Always wondering what to say, dodging questions, trying to change the plan without saying why, was clobbering him. Owning it has truly freed him. It has simply taken it off the table. He so did not want this to be part of his identity…but, you know, it is. But only part. :)

              Good luck! It’s wonderful that you’re doing what you need to do.

            5. wittyrepartee*

              Hmm, so are the people at your work generally a little pushy? I get the discomfort, but it’s useful to know if it’s probably coming from inside you or from outside you.

              If you’re not sure, and you’re not in an obviously gossipy office- give people the benefit of the doubt. One’s health changes through life. You can be like “nothing serious, but there’s a health concern that I don’t really want to get into” if they push. If someone’s rude enough to keep going, that’s when you roll your eyes at them and tell them you’ve developed a condition where alcohol gives you explosive diarrhea a few hours after drinking.

              This is a really interesting discussion for me, because my work is so diverse. In the worldwide view: not drinking is super normal! It’s at least as common as being a vegetarian! Just so you know- there’s people like me out there who drink, and would mostly just be like “oh, gotcha!” and scan the menu for virgin drinks. If you can find the me at your work, they’ll run interference for you.

              Or jump up and sing this song from crazy ex girlfriend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iKx5xA49GM

            6. CircleBack*

              I just want to reassure you that you probably don’t need a back-up. 99% of the time, you’re thinking about your drinking habits and the reason for quitting much more than anyone asking you about it. Most conversations with well-meaning people who know you would go something like:
              “Do you want a beer?”
              “No thank you. I’m not drinking anymore – health reasons.”
              “Oh wow! Is everything OK/what’s wrong/[question about health reasons].”
              “Eh, I’d rather not talk about it. Anyway, I’m going to have a seltzer/I’m going to drink my seltzer.” And then redirect to an innocuous topic.

              This has the benefit of: 1) not making a big deal about your not drinking, 2) making it clear to polite people that they shouldn’t offer you any alcoholic drinks and 3) being totally honest! Alcohol is bad for your personal health, and you would rather not get into it. Anyone who pushes you beyond a conversation like the one above has bad boundary issues.

            7. VictorianCowgirl*

              “It doesn’t agree with me” still works really well for people who have seen you drink. So does “I’m getting old, I can’t party like I used to” which is mentioned above. But OP, please don’t worry too much about what people think, it’s none of their business, and don’t be shy to tell people not to try to peer pressure you into drinking if they are trying to. Or, pointedly don’t answer the questions and have 3 or 4 subject changes memorized and practiced.

              People who push others to drink are rude boors. If they push beyond your polite answers or deflections, don’t feel bad about shutting it down, “Please don’t attempt to peer pressure me into drinking at work”.

              Whatever responses you take from this thread, I suggest practicing in front of a mirror or with friends until they are second nature.

              I’m sorry your office moved above a bar. Best wishes on your continued recovery.

      2. Sparrow*

        Huh, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone frame it this way, but it’s an interesting option for making clear this isn’t a one-night-only thing without jumping straight to “I’m in recovery.” If someone said, “No, nothing for me. I can’t drink,” I would assume it was something like a medication that can’t be mixed with alcohol or perhaps a family history of alcoholism and leave it at that.

    5. BigLo*

      I’ve noticed a lot of celebrities and numerous peers of mine have started cutting out alcohol either significantly or altogether. I mention this to give you some encouragement, OP, that I think the social stigma of being sober is changing for the positive and you may not end up facing the judgment that you would’ve faced even 5 years ago.

      Obviously you will know your office culture better than we do, but I think casually commenting “Oh, just trying to be healthier!” is both factual and easy to answer if anyone asks why you’re not drinking and you don’t feel like diving deep into it. I wish you the best with your continued strength in sobriety!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It really depends on a lot of factors too of course. As you get older, a lot of times you stop drinking as much in general. With family and just desire to be in bed earlier than before, lol. My brother is a heavy drinker and every year, there are less and less of his old buddies that are around to drink with. They’re having babies. They’re having jobs that require more focus and more sleep and more travel or whatever.

        It depends on the region as well. We’re heavy into the brewery culture around here and I hate it. First I don’t like beer. Second I don’t like watching people’s children run around while they’re drinking beer…in a brewery that doesn’t even have food served but yay food trucks, I guess.

    6. Creed Bratton*

      Jim Gaffigan has this funny bit about when you don’t drink, people always need to know why. “They’re like, ‘You don’t drink? Why?’ This never happens with anything else. ‘You don’t use mayonnaise? Why? Are you addicted to mayonnaise? Is it OK if I use mayonnaise?” (you really need to hear it with his inflection)

      Congrats OP – we believe in you :)

  4. Phil*

    I don’t drink either. I have a family history of alcoholism and could see myself teetering over the edge so I stopped drinking 35 years ago. I don’t think I had a problem but I could see that I could so I stopped. And I just say, “No thanks”. I don’t have triggers to drink so that’s good.
    I would approach this as bar meetings not being businesslike.

    1. valentine*

      I would approach this as bar meetings not being businesslike.
      Bar meetings are likely one of the perks and reasons for choosing the space.

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      For this LW, it makes sense not to meet in bars, and I hope her company will support her in making that simple accommodation.

      But meeting in a bar could be appropriate in general; “businesslike” is not the only acceptable vibe for a meeting.

    3. Consultant Catie*

      Just wanted to jump in and say that I really like your “No thanks” answer. That’s worked for me so much more effectively than trying to figure out the impossible phrase that connotes “don’t ask me any more questions but also don’t worry about me and please don’t think I’m weird.” I like the, “oh no thanks, I’m good!” And if you’re not comfortable getting into the whole big discussion about getting sober, you can always have a quick lie handy, like saying you’re on antibiotics or trying a new diet. I know this doesn’t address the longer term issue of “please don’t ask me again,” but sometimes a quick little excuse is easy to keep handy if you need it.

    4. Lime green Pacer*

      Not a drinker, and I don’t feel that comfortable in bars. I would suspect that OP’s business has some coworkers or clients that feel like I do, and would also be glad to have at least a few bar-free meetings or events.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Quite. I remember having to reorganise the venue for a work Christmas party so a Muslim colleague wouldn’t feel uncomfortable.

        We all understood, nobody minded, it just hadn’t been considered until he mentioned it.

        You don’t want to organise a meeting in a bar unless you know ahead of time that everyone is comfortable with it.

      2. VictorianCowgirl*

        Absolutely, especially if the bar allows smoking. I wouldn’t even be able to enter it, and probably not work above it either.

  5. KitKat*

    OP, I invite you to join the subreddit /r/stopdrinking . I think you could get a lot of support there.

    1. I Like Math*

      Came here to comment this. I’ve read this question and seen many helpful replies there. It’s a great group of people.

    2. Collingswood*

      Very timely question for me. Working on sobriety and back to 3 days. But everyone at work asking why I don’t drink at events (when I used to), and the guesses about pregnancy, etc. are definitely draining/frustrating. I’ve historically suggested we do a few non drinking things to be more inclusive of another employee who is openly sober, but no luck, since she seems to handle them okay. Hope things go better for you.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I do not understand why people say anything about pregnancy when someone chooses not to drink. I understand thinking it, but you don’t need to express every thought that comes through your head!

        1. Helena*

          I have the best comeback to that. Somebody asked me why I wasn’t drinking and was I pregnant, and my husband took my hand, took a deep breath, and said “Everyone, I have something to announce. Helena’s…. driving”.

          (We live in a city with good public transport, most people would not drive to a bar, but we were going on somewhere afterwards).

  6. Molly*

    I worked in the music industry when I got sober and had to be in bars for work daily. Here are some tips:
    1. Always have a (non alcoholic) drink in your hand while in the bar. Whether it is Diet Coke or Cranberry and Seltzer, that thing in your hand will keep you from accidentally reaching for a drink and provides a reasonable excuse why you don’t need someone to buy you a drink

    2. Go in with an exit strategy. For example: I am going to leave as soon as I feel uncomfortable and my excuse will be that I have to get up early/walk the dog/check in with my sick brother on the phone/expecting a package. Or whatever you feel speaks to you. Then as soon as you’re uncomfortable, for real, just go.

    3. Have an ally. I do not recommend blowing your anonymity at work. For real, depending on your field you may be judged and you can’t un-tell someone. But having a friend who you know you can chat casually with is a great distraction. If you have a sober buddy in the office, great, but honestly would not recommend sharing your struggle.

    People at your meetings may have other advice. One day at a time!

    1. Malter Witty*

      4. Morning meetings. If you can , see if you can work an early morning/late afternoon schedule.
      5. See if you can work from home on Fridays.

      1. 10YearsSober*

        I used to be lucky enough to have a noon meeting really close to my office, so I’d take a long lunch a couple days a week, it was so nice. There are also online meetings and lots of recovery podcasts that you can listen to at work/in the car, I do that sometimes when I am in an especially rough mood.

    2. Malter Witty*

      4. Morning meetings. If you can , see if you can work an early morning/late afternoon schedule.
      5. See if you can work from home on Fridays.

    3. CheeryO*

      You can’t just leave a meeting because you’re uncomfortable, though. That’s why Alison advised being upfront with the boss, since there’s a good chance that disclosing would result in the meetings being moved, or some other form of concrete accommodation.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Re: the ally

      This is going to be one specific bar, not multiple bars. The OP’s team will be “regulars.”

      What about making that ally be the bartender(s)?
      Could the OP ask the bartender to always make “her usual” mocktail when she arrives?
      I don’t do bars, so I don’t know, but I have known waiters, etc., who were really helpful like that.

      1. Anon Here*

        I have a lot of bartender friends and they’re usually great about that. You would think that they would want everyone to drink because alcoholic drinks cost more and, in theory, buzzed people leave bigger tips. However, bars tend to appreciate having some sober people around because it keeps the atmosphere healthier and they can (should they choose to, if the need arises) help the drinkers stay safe – convince people to call cabs, etc.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        My local brewpub, at which I am a regular, knows that my regular drink is their non-alcoholic ginger beer. This tactic can definitely work. My only suggestion is that OP be ready to answer a casual “Oh, that looks good, what are you drinking?”

    5. Natalie*

      For #3, a supportive friend or a sponsor (if that’s part of your recovery setup) that you could text/gchat with briefly might be helpful.

    6. banzo_bean*

      I usally get bitters/seltzer (I just don’t like to drink). I know bitters have alcohol in them but its normally only a drop or two for a whole glass. Garnished with a lemon wedge it looks like a very fancy cocktail.

      Again since it is a drop or two of alcohol it’s not the best choice for recovering individuals but if you just prefer not to have an alcoholic beverage I highly recommend it.

      1. J*

        I do tonic with bitters when I’m out. I’ve been sober for four months, and don’t feel that the occasional bitters compromises my sobriety. (But then I don’t subscribe to AA, which has a rather more… stringent… view.)

        1. raincoaster*

          Fee bitters are glycerin-based and contain no alcohol. Most brands are alcohol-based though, so always check the ingredients.

          The alcohol in bitters, however, is going to be undetectable to you, your brain, and your breathalyzer. It’s so minute that you can drink soda and bitters all day long and it still won’t give you a buzz or even be detectable in blood tests.

          1. banzo_bean*

            Some bitters are as much as 45% alcohol. It’s that you’re most drinking a dash or two that means you won’t get drunk off them. So I’d be careful telling people they’re undetectable.

            1. raincoaster*

              You’re correct, I’m assuming they’re not drinking them like regular alcohol. For one thing, the cost differential is like 10x.

        2. banzo_bean*

          Oh it definitely won’t get you intoxicated in any way but I hesitate to recommend it to people because my old roommate who was in recovery didn’t even use vanilla flavoring. She just needed that all or nothing mindset for a while. I think both approaches are valid and fair.

          1. raincoaster*

            Totally fair point. I’m actually working on a book about doing a Dry 30 and there’s a whole section about bitters and basically I say it’s up to the individual and where they feel “sober.”

    7. Anon Here*

      I wonder if you could convince the bar to stock some nice non-alcoholic drinks like gourmet sodas or juice. I’ve pretty much stopped drinking and I’ve been really appreciating the non-alcoholic beverage world. Spicey cider this time of year is so amazing.

      1. Not All*

        Shrubs!!! I was so excited when shrubs started becoming a thing again! I cut way back on alcohol for assorted reasons but I like the feel of having something ‘fancy’ and shrubs fit the bill. They are relatively straightforward to make at home too. (One part fruit, one part sugar, one part vinegar. Age on counter in covered jar for several days. Mix to taste with seltzer individually. Experiment wildly with types of fruit & vinegar and even fresh herbs.)

      2. Media Monkey*

        so weird to me as a british person that cider is a non alcoholic drink! in the UK it is very much a alcoholic drink and often stronger than beer!

        1. Librarian1*

          Alcoholic cider isn’t’ super common in the US, although it’s become more so over the past two decades (some of that depends on where you live, too). But non-alcoholic hot apple cider has been a fall staple for ages!

          1. Helena*

            We do have hot spiced apple, but we wouldn’t call it cider. We would call that “apple juice” – cider is specifically the alcoholic version (and often 7-8%).

    8. mf*

      Yes to always holding a non-alcoholic drink. People won’t ask why you’re not drinking if it looks like you *are* drinking. If I’m avoiding alcoholic, I order a tonic and lime (looks exactly like a gin and tonic) at the bar and then carry it over to the table where I’m meeting other people.

    9. wittyrepartee*

      Don’t be hungry or thirsty when going into a bar. A lot of times when I drink too much, it’s because I was SUPER thirsty going in. I get that the advice might be different for alcoholics, but having one’s needs met can really help keep the body from craving things.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Being hydrated won’t keep an alcoholic from cravings, but it’s a good idea to stay hydrated anyway.

  7. Data Analyst*

    Congrats OP! And agreed that it’s good to bring it up now – I think it’s common among groups where most or many people are drinkers to just assume everyone is, so of course it would be great to have a meeting in a bar, when in fact plenty of people would NOT like it, regardless of whether they are in recovery. So it’s good for them to get the reality check and remember that not everyone is on the same page re: bar.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I seldom drink in bars, just because of the cost and the usual “sports noise” atmosphere.

        Regular meetings in a bar would annoy me, just because of the expense. I bring my own lunch, and I certainly don’t have the budget to buy even sodas in a bar. Plus, I drive home, and no business meeting is worth a DUI.

        I second the “uncomfortable” here.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Ahem, if you ever come to NYC, go to the bar Burp Castle. They shoosh people there. It’s glorious.

    1. iantrovert (they/them)*

      I’m not religiously observant, but my understanding is that there are some religious people who also don’t drink alcohol. Those folks might not be comfortable having meetings in a bar either–the appearance of wrongdoing can be almost as bad as the actual wrongdoing for some. The company may find they’re self-selecting for drinkers–and losing qualified non-drinking people–due to that fixation on the convenient bar. Like the startup that has all young white men who think the same. Or alternatively, the dog-friendly office who hires someone who’s allergic to dogs and that person is blamed for losing the perk.

    2. raincoaster*

      I’m kind of surprised the company can’t seem to imagine having Mormon or Muslim clients.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Or evangelical clients, pregnant clients, strict hindu clients, clients in recovery, clients on antibiotics, clients with hearing problems, clients who feel weird talking about sensitive issues in a public place…

  8. Tinybutfierce*

    Congrats on your four months so far from a fellow teetotaler!

    I’m coming up on four years sans-booze myself and have had blessedly chill interactions about it the few times it’s come up at work. My own default response to anyone asking why I don’t drink has generally been “I used to do it too much, so now I don’t do it at all”; I just say it pretty casually, like it’s something as routine as the weather, and everyone has reacted in kind, so it’s never become A Thing. I’ve generally found that people will respond to something like that with the same level of seriousness you initially give it, so however you reply to anyone asking why you’re abstaining, try just delivering it as though it’s a normal, boring, everyday fact, and they’re pretty likely to respond similarly.

    Sending you all the good vibes & best wishes on your continuing journey! You got this, OP.

    1. LawBee*

      That’s a really good response. I think most people understand overindulging and needing to dial back without OP needing to out herself as being in active recovery.

      Also, maybe something like “I’m not as sharp when I drink, so I’d rather stay focused for work meetings” – switching the focus from “I’m not drinking” to “I’m not drinking HERE and NOW”?

      Ugh, it’s tough.

      1. Zephy*

        Also, maybe something like “I’m not as sharp when I drink, so I’d rather stay focused for work meetings” – switching the focus from “I’m not drinking” to “I’m not drinking HERE and NOW”?

        That’d probably invite OP’s colleagues to invite her out to happy hours and social stuff like that, which she may not feel up to doing at this point in her recovery.

      2. Tinybutfierce*

        Thank you! And exactly, it gets across that it’s a choice made for a Reason, and it’s one that most folks will get, without having to go into detail or make it super serious or anything.

        Seconding your suggestion, too. When I was very early on in my abstaining and not as comfortable as I am now with it, framing my responses as “oh I’m just not drinking in This Specific Situation for Reason” was definitely a helpful deflection.

    2. OP*

      I love the “I used to do it too much, so now I don’t do it at all” line!

      When I first told friends/acquaintances and I didn’t really want to get into it, I would say “It was an all or nothing thing for me, so I had to pick nothing”.

      Thank you for the kind words and advice!

      1. Tinybutfierce*

        I’ve definitely used something similar to the “all or nothing” line more than a few times, too. Simple and true!

    3. Health Insurance Nerd*

      That’s kind of my response when people ask if I smoke pot/offer me a joint “no thanks, I smoked my entire lifetime allowance of pot the summer before I turned 20”. It’s incredibly effective…

    4. Filosofickle*

      Right-o on the “level of seriousness”. My partner is sober and in the beginning more he tied himself in knots trying to explain himself or evade, the more weight it took on. Now that he can lightly say none for me or i don’t drink it’s all good. No one asks any follow up questions of him. (But they do sometimes ask me follow-ups instead. Still working on my own lines!)

      1. Tinybutfierce*

        Mmmhm, I definitely gave myself a lot of unnecessary anxiety early on by freaking out about how I was going to explain myself to everyone for the rest of my life. But really, it’s my decision and one just like any other: the only folks who need to know the specific nitty gritty are those close to me I choose to share it with, and everyone else is only entitled to whatever I choose to share with them (which can be nothing!). I’ve only ever had one ding-dong in four years be a bit rude or invasive about asking about it, and they were a general jerk anyway, so no loss there .

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      this is an excellent response and very close to the one a very dear friend who battled for years and has now been sober for quite a long time uses when people are nosey ”ooh, I would, but I’ve had allll the booze anyone could want for one lifetime”, and his delivery is really funny. It’s serious, as in, he’s not kidding, but it’s light enough that the conversation moves briskly on and thus it becomes known that he doesn’t drink alcohol, but isn’t A Thing.

      I’ve watched him deploy it a couple of times and it hasn’t failed him yet.

  9. 1234*

    While I do drink sporadically and only socially, I decline drinks pretty often. Some things that work:

    “Interferes with medication” (Shuts it right down)

    “They don’t have any cocktails that I am interested in trying.” (I don’t drink beer and am not a big wine drinker, see next reason)

    “I have allergies to certain fruits which makes drinking wine a risk. I’ve found some wines to make me overly red and itchy and that’s no fun! I’d rather not risk it.”

    1. ...*

      Your second one is so true for me. Allergic to beer and very picky about wine, so if there isn’t an interesting and unique cocktail I want to try I probably won’t get anything. Don’t really care to have a well vodka and soda for the 1000th time in my life. “Just don’t want to right now” is what it boils down to haha!

    2. JSPA*

      “I gave up the beer for the gluten, the realized the real problem was the alcohol” is one I’ve heard more recently.

      But none of that explains why it’s not OK to be IN a bar for a meeting, sipping seltzer.

      OP needs something explaining that the not-drinking isn’t optional, and it’s also not easy. Either “in recovery” or “exactly like being recovery.”

    3. knead me seymour*

      If you don’t want to discuss it, you can always be vague and say you can’t drink because of a health condition, or on your doctor’s orders. But in order to get out of meeting at the bar at all, I think the LW will have to be willing to disclose to her boss. Fortunately it’s not a new workplace, so hopefully she has a sense of whether the boss will be reasonable.

  10. GreenDoor*

    I live in Milwaukee – known as Brewtown – because of all the breweries. Beer drinking is VERY much a part of the culture here. Like you can go to church festivals and win a six-pack as a game prize. But even here, when someone says, “I don’t drink” its….not a big deal. I think you’ll find that most people aren’t going to bat an eye if you say “I don’t drink.” It’s probably a bigger deal to you because you’re the one working through recovery and having to recommit to sobriety on a daily basis. But to people who don’t know this about you – clients, random coworkers, the bar workers- the non-drinking is really going to be a non-issue. I also like Alison’s suggestion for how to request more in-office meetings so that you’re not in a triggering environment more than you need to be.

    1. K*

      I slightly disagree that this is what the OP can expect. I don’t drink and have lived in a lot of different places (including multiple countries) and I have never NOT been asked why when I’ve stated that I don’t drink. My friends who do drink are often shocked when they’re with me to see how readily people ask this–they haven’t realized that this is an issue because a) they drink and b) they personally would never ask someone this. However, I would say that, though I’m always asked why I don’t drink, the majority of people let it go after getting an answer (even a non-specific one) or realize immediately that it’s an awkward question to ask and change the topic. I think the OP should be ready to have a few answers they’re comfortable giving in case they do get asked why they’re not drinking (which I think is not unlikely). It’s better to be prepared with answers you’re comfortable giving than to convince yourself that no one will care or notice and then get caught out if someone asks.

      1. whingedrinking*

        The first time I met my friend J, my boyfriend had brought him over to my home. I was cooking dinner and asked him if he’d like a beer. He said, “No, I don’t drink”, and I said, “Okay, there’s orange juice or water if you’d like something else”. According to him it was one of the only times he’s said “I don’t drink” and the response from the other person wasn’t to demand a reason, get defensive or say in tones of constipated seriousness how much they admired his principles.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Yes, I’ve seen a few comedy bits on this. John Mulaney’s is about how people have no idea what to offer him when he goes to parties. “There’s beer in the cooler and bar over there – oh, John. I think we have an old turnip in the back of the fridge.”

          1. Alli525*

            John Mulaney’s stand-up bit about why he’s sober is so great for so many reasons, and that’s definitely one of them. A NuvaRing!!! I died.

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Hah, so I have two friends who are muslim. I always try to get them something non-alcoholic and bubbly and yummy when they come over for an event, and then have to fight the drinkers off from it. I always misjudge how much to get too. *facepalm*

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Guys! None of you drink soda or juice normally! Why are you drinking all of ___ and ___’s sparkling cider now?!

            2. Ella Vader*

              I love that kind of non-alcoholic not-too-sweet fizzy festiveness too!

              And also, just like the phenomenon of not having enough pizza for the vegetarians, I think there’s some muddled intent of good manners like the apocryphal story of Queen Victoria drinking from the finger bowl – I want to help the non-drinkers feel comfortable and not stand out in the crowd holding beer glasses, so I’ll take a non-alcoholic drink in solidarity.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                Yeah! A lot of my friends don’t drink very much either (like, one of them splits a beer with me at most events. I have a beer and a half and she has the half.) But normally they’re all tea drinkers. I should just stock up on festive non-alcoholic fizz, but I don’t really have space and don’t want to be left with the extra. Maybe kombucha for the non-muslims (and maybe for them, I should ask what they think of very mildly alcoholic stuff)? I like kombucha and wouldn’t mind leftovers.

                Yeah, I can imagine that it’s trying to make them feel comfy. I’ve just started hiding it until my friends come over. “Oh! Look what I found in the fridge!”

        2. K*

          Yes, people are so curious! I will say that I’ve never been pressured to drink and have rarely been judged for not drinking, but I am always asked. And I have also gotten the “I admire your principles” thing, and sometimes had people worry that me not drinking meant that I would then judge them for drinking. I would hope that people would be less likely to question the OP in a work context (I’ve not yet encountered drinking in a work context) but I wouldn’t bank on it!

        3. knead me seymour*

          I know a lot of people who don’t drink for one reason or another, and so these responses are a little baffling to me. Is it really that uncommon to meet someone who doesn’t drink? Or are some people just so fascinated by it that they’re willing to spend tons of their time badgering everyone they know about their drinking habits?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I think there may be some situational sorting to this – people who are drinking are often in places where drinking is the point (bars, certain kinds of parties), so in those situations, it is rare to meet someone who does not drink. I know that I got a lot of ‘so, why are you *here* if you’re not here to drink’ kind of questions. (Answer: to dance! duh.)

          2. K*

            I think some of it might be that I am still in my 20s and am usually around other youngish people (university, graduate school, jobs that skew young), and, at least where I have lived, it is fairly rare to meet young people who don’t drink at all. I would assume that as I get older, there will be more and more people who don’t drink–whether because of alcoholism, medication interactions, other medical conditions, or just personal choice, etc.–and that as I become less rare, the number of questions will decrease. I hope, at least!

          3. pancakes*

            I don’t think it’s at all uncommon to not drink, but prying & general rudeness are never going to be eradicated. When this topic comes up I always think back to a needlessly awkward conversation I overheard at a wine tasting at a shop in my neighborhood. There was a guy who started asking the woman doing the pouring about working in the industry, trying apparently his best to turn the conversation personal to aggressively flirt with her, and when she said something about her boyfriend, he made a weird little dig about how great it must be to have a girlfriend in the wine business. “He’s an alcoholic in recovery so he doesn’t drink with me, actually” finally shut him down. I admired her so much for being direct & polite about it, but that absolutely did not need to happen. The guy was being a self-regarding jerk at every turn before that. Some people are just pushy, even when there’s no chance of it getting them anywhere fun.

        4. Lavender*

          Whenever I have guests and offer them a drink, I’ve just realised that by default I always offer a few different drinks which are alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Like ‘what do you fancy to drink? We have wine, lager, orange juice, soda water, coffee…’ and kinda keep going until they stop me at the drink they like the sound of haha.

          It means someone doesn’t even have to make a point of saying whether they drink or not, overall or for that evening, they just choose what to drink.

          It’d never enter my mind to query why someone is or isn’t drinking alcohol, I find that so bizarre and sad to read of so many people who can’t go anywhere and ask for a non-alcoholic drink without being quizzed, maybe I’m in an area where alcohol isn’t seen as the default (North UK).

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Kombucha has become my go-to for effectively non-alcoholic drinks (like, it has alcohol from fermentation, but you have to drink like 3 glasses for it to be equivalent to a beer). Some people think it tastes gross, but I think it tastes like juice and beer had a very low alcohol baby.

            1. raincoaster*

              Speaking as someone who is cutting down, and also as a kombucha brewer, kombucha to me has enough alcohol to satisfy the “I need booze” thing, but not enough to get you buzzed or in trouble. So it’s sort of a sweet spot. Your brain can detect the alcohol, but not enough for it to be “moreish”. Also, if you have too much kombucha you basically shit yourself to death for the next two days.

              So, it’s something I wouldn’t offer a recently recovering alcoholic, because of the physical triggers inherent in it, but it’s something I might consider six months in.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I don’t drink and never have, and I’ve literally never been questioned on it or pressed to do it. I have had some friends ask if I had moral objections or would be bothered if they drank, so I’ve told them why I don’t (my dad was an alcoholic and I don’t want to risk it myself), but it was more because they were afraid of offending me than because they were pressuring me.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think this is hugely variable depending on the circles you travel in. I’ve only been asked about non-drinking once in multiple decades.

          1. banzo_bean*

            Yeah, but I’m guessing if OP runs in a “we have meetings at the bar downstairs” circle, it’s likely to get asked.

      3. Quinalla*

        Yes, many people question when someone “doesn’t drink”, it sucks. I like to drink alcohol most of the time, but have been on medication or pregnant or trying to get pregnant in the past, and people will ask, not everyone, but a lot of people and it is weird and awkward.

        I make it a point to have a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at my parties and work events where alcohol is appropriate and will make a point to ask all people their preferences ahead of time to try and have at least one thing they really like. I also crack down on ANYONE who tries to pressure someone to drink, I even make a point of offering alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to people unless I know them well so there isn’t even a hint of pressure. Drinking culture is a thing and it can be quite uncomfortable for people not drinking.

        I would probably disclose to work in your situation LW. For casual acquaintances or whatever, just say you don’t drink and if they press, I’ve found “I’m on a diet.” works well for a fairly neutral response that most people will take as an “acceptable” answer. And it isn’t lie really, your diet does indeed not include alcohol anymore. I used this when trying to get pregnant and when pregnant prior to disclosing.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Heh, when my sister in law have up alcohol as a new year resolution, we all knew they must be trying for a baby.

          Obv we didn’t say anything, but it was kinda obvious.

          But OP, I wonder if there are any excuses you can hang it on… Sober October / Stoptober? (I think it’s a UK thing, but you’re allowed to like the idea wherever you are!) And you felt better and decided to make it permanent? I mean, nobody can argue with that and technically you *did* give up in October…

          1. raincoaster*

            Sober October.

            Dry January.

            Dry February (for the cancer society)

            Dry July (nobody knows why this exists except rhyme)

      4. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

        Yah, I think it really depends on the crowd. I joined the board of my son’s soccer league and we went out for a board dinner – when I declined a drink people demanded a reason, and when I said I was diabetic (usually the fastest shut down in the world) they demanded details of my disease, how the alcohol would affect me, etc.

        At first I thought they were just boors, but then they all proceeded to get shit-faced, up to and including ordering rounds of shooters (it’s a bunch of 40 year olds) so I think they were just feeling defensive.

        1. RUKiddingMe*


          I think I’m going to start telling people I’m pregnant. I’m 56..,57 in February. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


          I’ve also experienced a fair bit of pressure in the past, although less so in recent years as I’ve settled on an established friends group. My non-drinking is for religious reasons, and I had people in the past get incredibly weird over it.

            1. Scrooge McDunk*

              Welp, somebody’s going to have to tell my 72 year old mother that she’s not a grownup, and it ain’t gonna be me.

              1. Flash Bristow*

                Heh, similar with my in laws who make their own damson gin… Which helps the family Christmases and compulsory games along. ;-)

                … But my own grandparents used to think they were being terribly daring if they had a can of shandy *to share*. Always made me smile.

                Still, that’s different from a) being unable to have ANY alcohol, including mouthwash etc, and b) not wanting to be around temptation.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        I get asked every time someone new sees me not drink. It has changed a lot over the last three decades, though – people pushed more when I was younger, but that probably was ‘more new people seeing me not drink’.

    2. Monica Bird*

      I’m also from Milwaukee, and I agree with you that most people don’t bat an eye here if someone says “I don’t drink.” But I think that is because drinking is such a big part of the culture that most of us know someone who had problems with it, which is why we don’t dig further. If someone tells me they don’t drink, I assume it’s for a very personal reason that is not my business and my Midwest Polite tells me I can’t ask (esp if this is the first time I meet them). If someone says they don’t want to meet in a bar, I won’t bat an eye (though I will admit that it does make some hangouts a bit harder to schedule). I also know several people, myself included, who went through periods of self-enforced sobriety for various reasons.

      Some people are going to be nosy, though, and act like it’s a big deal. My solution to someone saying “What, why?” was normally just raising an eyebrow and going ‘Why do you think?’ and then leaving it at that.

    3. Allison*

      In an ideal world, people wouldn’t ask, but the truth is, sometimes they do. My husband doesn’t drink (he has a history of alcoholism in his family, was sort of heading toward being a problem drinker himself, and thankfully recognized it in time). His work culture is alcohol-centric, and people ask him why he’s not drinking fairly often. He usually goes with, “I just don’t like it,” which shuts down most questions, but some people can be really persistent, especially those who knew him in his drinking days and don’t insert the reason for the change. It’s not cool, but it does happen.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        It can be useful to ask a little, depending on the circumstances. I quiz people partially to see if they care if I throw a little wine into soup. Same as I might ask a vegetarian the specifics. “Do you eat eggs and/or dairy? Given that you don’t eat eggs, should I try to substitute for this cake I’m making?”
        Some people care, some people are fine with incidental contact.

  11. AA Anon*

    Simply saying ‘no thanks’ is enough.

    And I agree with Molly 100% – as someone who’s been sober for 27 years I am VERY choosy about who I out myself to in the workplace.

    1. Is it Friday yet?*

      It’s surprising how many people don’t accept that answer and will INSIST you partake if you just say “no thanks” or “I’m not drinking.” etc. I’ve heard all kinds of things along the lines of, “Come on man! You’ve earned it. We’re all having one. It’s almost 5.” etc. To these people, they don’t know any better, because you haven’t come right out and said you’re an alcoholic. I think this is a much bigger issue to someone who is newly sober because it’s easier to bend to peer pressure. It’s great that “no thanks” works for you, but I’d recommend OP have a back up plan for when the peer pressure inevitably happens.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Too true Friday.
        I’m not a big drinker myself. Like, one or two is my limit and sometimes even one is too much (gives me upset stomach or headaches). Some people just won’t take the ‘no thanks’ no matter what you try to tell them and they get offended you won’t join the (alcohol) drinking. I’ve even been accused of being stuck up, snobby, or have a stick up my ass, because I won’t partake of the drink. Some will even make a scene and call it out if you order a soda. Don’t know why some people ‘gotta be like that, and insist you drink with them, but there are people like that. My husband says it’s a trust thing, but it makes no sense to me.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Don’t know why some people ‘gotta be like that,
          Oh, oh, I know this one! It’s because they’re jerks.

        2. Tinybutfierce*

          I’ve been sober for nearly four years and one weird thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes people get bizarrely defensive about their own drinking when they find out you don’t/won’t/can’t partake, as though your abstaining is somehow a judgment on them.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            I imagine there might be an element of envy.

            I’ve been reading this thread, seeing sober people pop up, and thinking “I wish I could do that.”

            (No advice needed please. It’s just an observation on any apparent defensiveness.)

    2. Joielle*

      That’s good advice for a social occasion, but since the OP says they’re planning to hold work meetings in the bar, she needs to do more than that. She can’t say “no thanks” to a meeting invite, so a bit more explanation is necessary.

  12. AppleStan*

    A couple of things…

    First and foremost congratulations your decision to stop drinking and your commitment to see it through. I know each day is a challenge, some more than others, and you should proud of the work that you’ve done.

    Next, I do want to make sure caution you that while I agree with Alison’s very sound advice, if you choose to go speak with your boss (and I totally agree that you should), I don’t think it’s inappropriate to also mention that you’re not ready to have this spread around the office (because it doesn’t sound like you are).

    Of course a good boss or manager wouldn’t dream of just immediately running out and blabbing, but from all indications, your office is smaller (you said less than 10 people) and sounds like everyone is interwoven enough that some boundaries might feel more relaxed – so I can see an accidental slip of the tongue.

    You might say something like “If anyone asks why my meetings aren’t at the bar but always in the office instead, I plan to say I simply prefer the office setting” or you could even ask your boss for her suggestions on what you could say if that comes up.

    I would just rather you be prepared for that eventuality to happen sooner rather than later, given the dynamics of your office…

    I suspect more people will support you rather than judge you, but I understand not feeling ready to run that risk.

    You’ll make the decision that works best for you.

    Congratulations again on your sobriety.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I second that the OP should say something sooner than later. It’s a conversation that needs to be had and you want to avoid the awkward interactions. Although we are focusing on the OP’s side, I’m sure the manager will be horrified reviewing every time she said “Hey! I’ll buy the next round! What do you want?” and “You don’t want a drink? But I’m buying?”..and all the other conversations that could now be interpreted as inappropriate.
      If it really is a good group, then I would let them all know so everyone has the chance to be respectful. But at the same time, I can see why the OP wants to keep it private.

      1. Weighted Owl*

        Unless the work they do is hospitality or entertainment focused in a very specific way, it’s probably going to look weird to clients that meetings with this company are so bar focused. It’s fine to occasionally socialize. But I’d eventually question the judgment of a company where “let’s head down to the bar” was the standard for meetings. And of course, there might be non drinkers among the clients too.

        1. Alli525*

          Yeah, I agree, and I’ve worked in some VERY casual and/or “work hard play hard” industries. A business meeting at a bar should be a rare occasion, like a wrap-up meeting after a successful project.

  13. Treats for Shelby*

    You have to tell your boss, or else tell everyone. This isn’t something to try to handle delicately. Be direct and tell them what you expect from them. Take control, for your own sake.

  14. Amber Rose*

    The problem with saying “not this time” or “don’t feel like it” is it suggests people should offer next time and you probably don’t want that. The problem with “I don’t drink” is that people get really weird and argumentative about it.

    Try “I’ve decided not to have alcohol any more, it would really help me out if you wouldn’t offer it to me.”

    When you make it sound like people are doing you a favor, they are less inclined to be annoying about stuff. It’s really helping me with giving up donuts and cupcakes and stuff at the office. People hardly even come by my desk anymore.

    1. OP*

      I like this! I think the reason why I have to keep declining booze at work is precisely because I politely decline instead of saying, “Actually, I decided to stop drinking alcohol”.

    2. Batgirl*

      I don’t drink for health reasons and if I say happily “I don’t drink alcohol! At all! Haven’t for a couple of years!” It’s accepted like the weather (You may get a teeny why – but they’re just checking on you, not pushing or prying). On the other hand, if I say “Oh no thanks”, or “not for me” the chorus of “Oh go on, treat yourself, one won’t hurt you and live a little” is never ending…

  15. Librarian of SHIELD*

    OP, congratulations on your sobriety. I’m so glad for you.

    When you talk to your boss about meeting in places other than the bar, are there other places nearby you can recommend as an alternative? If there’s a coffee shop around the corner or a diner down the block, can those places be used for meetings instead?

    And if it turns out that sometimes meeting in the bar is unavoidable, definitely ask for any agenda items you’re involved with to be placed at the beginning of the meeting so you can leave when you’re finished and limit your exposure.

    We’re all pulling for you, OP.

  16. Allison*

    You could also just say “Alcohol doesn’t agree with me.”. That could mean any number of things. I use that in work situations because it’s true – I’m a huge lightweight and I sometimes get very tired and a headache with only a little alcohol. I also get stomach aches on occasion so the physical discomfort when I’m in a professional situation isn’t worth it. Hopefully that shuts it down.

    1. pancakes*

      That’s a good response. It covers all sorts of reasons, and only the pushiest of the pushy will try to keep going.

  17. 10YearsSober*

    This is a really hard situation OP, I’m sorry. Normally I would say it’s best not to be out as an alcoholic (recovering or not) in the workplace or in public in general- especially as a woman if you have kids. The stigma against mothers with addictions is particularly bad. If it were just occasional after-hour events/parties it would be a lot easier to avoid them, but since regular meetings might be held there, in this case it’s probably best to talk to your manager. Ask him to be discreet and not share the information with your colleagues. It will be hard and scary but it will be so valuable to your sobriety. Best wishes.

  18. raincoaster*

    You can also go to the bar manager, explain you work in the building (ie can bring them business), are sober, and are hoping they can make a “Dry List” of non-boozy drinks.

    No or low alcohol drinks are one of the fastest growing parts of the bar business. Bars make good money on those Virgin Marys.

    1. ACDC*

      True but OP isn’t at a place yet where they can even be around alcohol. For many alcoholics (myself included) just being in a bar is a trigger, not to mention the smell of alcohol that will ultimately exist when the people you are with are drinking.

      1. raincoaster*

        True. I’m just thinking long-term. Bars are transitioning from places to consume alcohol to places to meet up. There are even sober circles that meet in bars. If there’s a snug, you can make it a sober snug and not have to look at or be around people drinking alcohol.

        Short term though, there are some good strategies above. Also, perhaps cultivate a local cafe, one that’s not too loud, for your meetings. That way you leave for meetings same as everyone else, you just don’t end up in a triggering situation.

        1. ACDC*

          I like the local cafe idea. Way more professional for client meetings IMO, but I suppose that’s a battle that OP will have to take up with their boss.

  19. NW Mossy*

    It definitely takes courage to push for changes that will support your sobriety, just like it takes courage to start down the path to start with. It’s hard work, and it brings up a lot of the emotions and thoughts that got themselves entangled with the desire to drink. But in taking the small steps of asking for what you need, you add blocks to the foundation that can make sobriety sustainable long-term.

    If it helps to boost your courage, asking for these changes can benefit many people other than you. Plenty of people have reasons that they don’t drink and/or aren’t comfortable conducting business in bars, and it’s good for every organization to recognize and accommodate that. At my very first adult job I drank more than I should have at a work event, and while nothing bad happened to me or anyone else, the experience of being drunk on a public bus going home was enough to Never Again me on mixing alcohol with work.

    1. Tech Lead to the Stars*

      I agree with this and would like to add that you might find you aren’t the only one uncomfortable. I’ve often acted as an ally advocate for people who didn’t want company events at work because I didn’t feel as vulnerable for expressing that preference.

      Your company will definitely have candidates who won’t accept an offer because of this. You might have colleagues that will leave.

      I’m hoping you end up with a good response if you bring this up with your boss.

  20. LawBee*

    I don’t like to be tipsy or drunk at work functions (including the end of year party which tends to be a bit of a rager), and I have a really low tolerance, but MAN people get really pushy about drinking. I have found the glass of sprite with a lemon wedge and a stir stick is a great decoy. It doesn’t help the problem of being in the bar, but it’s something to keep in your back pocket for when you’re able.

    I don’t have any other advice for OP, but all the encouragement and best wishes. Getting sober seems to be one of the hardest things people can do, and this random woman on the other side of your computer screen is really proud of you.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      No, really, you should leave that glass of sprite in your hand! Otherwise when you sit down you’ll spill it all over your clothes and get all sticky. Bleah!

      (I’m another person who doesn’t care for alcohol – not clean & sober but meds don’t mix – and I really notice places that have nothing to offer me aside from the Coke/Pepsi families, and they get all the demerits in my head.)

  21. ACDC*

    I posted a question to the open thread last week with a very similar theme. Beer is basically part of the office culture where I work and it is really hard. I frequently feel alienated from the team as every celebratory thing is a happy hour that I don’t attend. What worked for me was confiding in a coworker about my addiction/recovery and he has served as an ally for me in these situations. Many of my coworkers don’t stop when I say “I don’t drink.” I always get the “but why not?! Oh my god what do you even do in your free time if you don’t drink?!?!?” Coworker has jumped in a few times saying “wow guys you are that un-creative that you can’t come up with other activities to do in your free time?”

    Good luck OP, you’re not alone in this struggle.

  22. Daisy-dog*

    Congrats OP! That is such a great accomplishment!!

    Do you have a sponsor? Or are you interested in getting one? Because sponsors come from all kinds of backgrounds and you should be able to find someone with experience in your industry who can give some tips & real-time advice.

    Also, because I worked in substance-abuse treatment, some of contacts on LinkedIn share posts from individuals in that community (lawyers, recruiters, CEOs) who just talk about their lives being sober! You really just need a great support network even if you’re not actively participating.

  23. Crivens!*

    This is timely, considering just this morning I was printing out and outlining key parts of “To Employers” (from the AA Big Book) for my husband, who has concerns about an potentially alcoholic supervisee.

    Lots of great advise here so far, and congrats on your recovery, OP! If you have a sponsor, I also suggest talking this over with them. They’ll likely have some other good strategies to suggest to you both to avoid temptation and to broach the subject carefully while protecting yourself, if you decide to do so.

  24. Sharikacat*

    Could you cite “health reasons” for why you quit drinking? Beyond that, maybe speak with the bar manager and see if they can make any drinks you have non-alcoholic. Bartenders do the same thing for themselves when a customer buys them a drink, and they aren’t allowed to drink at work. Granted, there’s a risk one of the bartenders screws and up accidentally gives you alcohol, so that probably wouldn’t be a good option.

  25. Morning Glory*

    Having first-hand experience with several alcoholics in my family, I wouldn’t call concerns about an active alcoholic colleague a ‘bias.’

    1. ArtK*

      Alison was referring to bias *against* the recovering alcoholic. There is a tremendous social bias against people who don’t drink, no matter the reason, and an even worse bias against alcoholics.

    2. VeryAnon*

      I think you just demonstrated why LW is worried. Also she’s not an active alcoholic, she’s in recovery. Thirdly? Doctors and counsellors don’t use the term alcoholic anymore. It’s outdated and inaccurate.

        1. TomorrowTheWorld*

          I’ve heard “substance abuse disorder” and “alcohol use disorder” used in place of “drug addiction” and “alcoholic”.

      1. Molly*

        As a sober healthcare provider, this is news to me. Would love to know your industry/region out of curiosity.

          1. Molly*

            I cannot recall anyone other than talking about which code to use for reporting purposes using that term in speech. What I am asking Morning Glory is in what region do healthcare providers regularly not use that term, not what the DSM says. But thanks

          1. remizidae*

            The comment was about scientific terminology, not colloquial language. AA isn’t known for its scientific grounding, to say the least.

            1. ACDC*

              Sure but VeryAnon was correcting Morning Glory’s use of the word – there is no context to suggest either of them are healthcare professionals who would need to be concerned about using specific scientific terminology therefore VeryAnon was judging Morning Glory’s use of “colloquial language.” Not sure why this is the nit-pick battle you’ve chosen to start today friend.

              1. VeryAnon*

                Because Morning Glory was counter productively picking on LW due to their own personal experiences.

                There is a systematic prejudice against people who used to abuse alcohol. It is not necessary or helpful to tell someone in recovery (who is concerned about admitting it due to that prejudice) that the prejudice is correct.

                Not all alcohol abusers are the same. Yes, I’m well aware that AA teaches that all ‘alcoholics’ are the same. They are also a non scientific religious fellowship with a success rate of 5%.

                Yes, this is a bugbear of mine, because language and treatment are both important when it comes to treating what is effectively a dopamine dysregulation issue. One that often has genetic, environmental and situational factors.

                We don’t tell depressed people that they are irredeemable, morally deficient and will never get better unless they pray – so it baffles me that we continue to do that with people who abuse substances.

                1. raincoaster*

                  Very well-said. If the nomenclature is a barrier, then the nomenclature needs to be changed, because the actual result we want is more people having fewer problems with alcohol.

      2. ...*

        I don’t think that’s true across the board. Some places may be doing that, but in my experience working at a substance abuse facility many people refer to themselves as alcoholics/addicts and the term is still used by counselors and directors. Mileage may vary. We tried to use whatever term the client wanted. Some people are like “don’t baby me I’m an alcoholic and I know it”.

        1. VeryAnon*

          That makes sense, it depends on the methodology you use and where you are. In my opinion the term is disempowering and applied over broadly. E.g. I don’t think it’s helpful to label an over indulging 17 year old an alcoholic, and I think AA should be last instead of first resort. Whereas I have a colleague who agrees it’s over applied but thinks the term is useful for dealing with the small minority who absolutely cannot stop.

          1. ...*

            Oh YES the labeling of everyone who makes drinking related mistakes drives me BONKERS but I had professor who really emphasized that a 17 year old who got wasted a few times is not an alcoholic and if they want to stop drinking then fine…but its not the same as a long term pattern. I definitely get that. Some of the rough around the edges people at the place I Worked would just be like yeah im an addict and we all know it! Which I get wanting to be that blunt about it too.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              Ohhh we had this argument when I was in college and everyone was taking Psych 101.

              The arguments got way out of line really quick, and additionally, they were all clinically incorrect if you applied basic common sense to the chapter in the textbook. But 19 year olds are not known for that kind of levity so instead we got name calling and “diagnosing” over dinner.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            I called AA once. Obv your mileage may vary…

            … But they asked me why I’d called, and clarified by asking what my crisis was: had I lost my job? House? Husband? No? Then I didn’t need them as AA was for people at rock bottom, and I wasn’t there yet.


            But if it works for others then great. But it clearly isn’t for everyone. Hey ho.

      3. Phoie*

        Alcoholic is the correct term for someone with an alcohol addition. Heck, even in recovery it’s normal continue to identify as an alcoholic whether one day sober, 100 days sober or years sober.
        I’m also interested in where you’ve heard these other terms used! I don’t think alcoholic is inaccurate or outdated at all. I also don’t find it to be offensive or shameful! It just is!

        OP, congrats on your sobriety! I hope everything works out well for you and your company is understanding and accommodating!

        1. VeryAnon*

          The correct term that I’ve heard is ‘person with substance use disorder’. Partly because, despite pop culture, not all alcohol problems are the same and not everyone has an extreme problem. I personally (plus several studies and figures in recovery) think the emphasis on AA, the word alcoholic, and on abstinence as the only goal is unhelpful. E.g. if we said, hey you’re not an alcoholic but you are abusing alcohol, maybe get help *before* you’re drinking multiple bottles a day and getting duis.

        2. J*

          Those are the terms used in my recovery circles. I am not an alcoholic. I never was. I wasn’t diseased, and I wasn’t weak. The language of alcoholism (and its attendants, such as rock bottom) keep people mired in addiction. The term is outdated and I’m grateful to see it dying, even if slowly.

    3. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Having had several first-hand experiences with alcoholics in my family with friends, I would definitely call judging or treating a coworker or employee in recovery differently because of your own assumptions and preconceived notions “biased.”

      1. JSPA*

        They’re not talking about people IN RECOVERY though.

        “Active alcoholic” = “alcoholic who’s drinking.”

        Not, “alcoholic in recovery.”

        Is this a local term, only???? I’m not getting why so many people are missing a key word in such a short post.

    4. CC*

      It’s their personal medical condition, which is apparently being treated. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with members of your family, but like any illness, you should do your best to be professional and separate the person from the illness.

      1. Ellen N.*

        I agree that addiction is a medical issue. I believe that someday there will be a medical solution.

        However, addiction is not “like any illness”. It’s the only illness I know of that causes the sufferer to lie to, steal from and endanger their loved ones.

        1. Ermine*

          It’s not an illness per se, but medications to treat illnesses can cause those behaviors as a side effect. Many medications for Parkinson’s have the side effect of compulsive gambling, sex addition, compulsive behaviors, etc.

        2. Aquawoman*

          So, that is the bias that the OP is talking about. Some alcoholics do those things; attributing that behavior to all alcoholics is bias. Depression made my mom not able to go to work for months, but to say that “depression makes people unable to work” is not a correct statement. There are functional alcoholics.

        3. Snark*

          There is! In Scandanavia, many active substance abusers are prescribed dopamine blockers that interrupt the neurological response to the addictive substance – you can have the drink, it just doesn’t seem pleasurable or rewarding to do it. It’s been very successful.

          1. animaniactoo*

            I was just listening to a thing about this last week!

            There appears to be a pretty decent success rate with it, but it’s not often offered as an option to people struggling to get/stay sober. I think it was on NPR, I’ll see if I can find the link and post as a reply. It had other really fascinating info about some of how and why we learned to treat addictions as a separate subject rather than a medical issue.

          2. fposte*

            There was something on NPR today about that beginning to be used with meth in the U.S., in fact. (I thought they said it was naloxone, but I’m not sure.)

            1. animaniactoo*

              Yeah, I just posted the link to it in reply to myself above and it’s in moderation. There are actually a few different ones that they’re working with in different programs/areas.

              If anyone doesn’t want to wait for the link to come through, you can Google “Radiolab A Simple Fix” to find it.

            2. OP*

              I tried this stuff! It was a while ago, I want to say like 4 or 5 years. I knew I was struggling with alcohol and a doctor prescribed me these pills that were supposed to essentially make me lose interest in the booze and block it from doing its thing. I think they worked. Which is why I stopped taking them :/

              I got serious about quitting this year but I forgot all about them as an option. I’m doing okay on my own with a sober online community now though!

              1. JSPA*

                NPR said about the same: it works fine for the direct physical cravings, but does nothing to change the urge to feel a certain way or be a certain version of yourself.

                People with blocker-only treatment can find themselves in a tense, “dry drunk” state, feeling virtuous but fake / shallow / not in touch with themselves (nor the universe). Makes sense: if some substance has always been their coping / relaxation / friend-making / dance-and-music-deconstraining tool, then all the rest of their coping mechanisms, relaxation rituals, friend-making patterns etc can be dramatically underdeveloped.

                They get to go back to whatever developmental stage they stalled out at, and re-tool from that point. Doesn’t help that, at the same time they’re learning how to relax within their own brain and body, success can trigger a wave of anxiety; there are a lot of entrenched patterns equating “loose” and “drunk,” so loosening up can (legitimately) feel like a frightening first step to falling off the wagon.

            3. Natalie*

              Probably naltrexone? That’s one of the common medication-assistance drugs for alcohol and opiates/opioids, I could imagine it might have some utility for methamphetamine as well. I think it’s still fairly uncommon in the US as the medical treatment model doesn’t have a lot of traction here, but I think it’s growing in popularity.

                1. Natalie*

                  For whatever it’s worth, if you think it would be a useful safety net for you, no harm in seeing if your doctor will give you another scrip. My recollection is that it’s a fairly low risk medication and it’s affordable (I took it for a time when working on my own unhealthy relationship with alcohol). I’m not sure what approach your using, but IMO there’s nothing wrong with combining medication assisted, social support, individual therapy, etc. (Although I have heard anecdotally that some 12-step folks really don’t like the medication assisted therapies, so YMMV I guess.)

            4. raincoaster*

              Yes, it’s VERY interesting. Usually it’s a daily pill, but the Sinclair Method is one pill, an hour before you plan to drink. If you’re not a daily drinker but a binger (which is actually more common) it means you take fewer pills AND fewer drinks.

        4. Molly*

          As a side note, there are numerous medical solutions for alcoholism/addiction. If someone reading this suffers from these conditions your doctor should be able to refer you to a Medication Assisted Treatment program or other non-medication solutions.

          There are also many illnesses that can cause lapse in judgement. Not throwing shade to Ellen N, just as information to folks reading this.

        5. Daisy-dog*

          I disagree. It’s really complicated and I’m not going to explain here, but I would suggest looking into the work of Johann Hari and the drug war.

        6. Observer*

          That’s actually not true. Some alcoholics do that. Some don’t. Alcoholics in recovery / former alcoholics generally do NOT do that.

          Also, there are other illnesses that cause people to do these things. By and large, they are mental health issues, but they most definitely ARE illnesses.

        7. neeko*

          Plenty of addicts never did any of those things. And plenty of nonaddicts do. Your bias and unkind comments only perpetuate an unfair stigma.

    5. Crivens!*

      She’s not an active alcoholic. She’s in recovery. And even if she weren’t, alcoholics have a disease and there’s a difference between being wary about harm that may cause you directly and judging people for the simple fact of having a disease.

      Source: am an alcoholic.

    6. JSPA*

      1. “Bias” doesn’t actually have to imply “irrational” or “unfair.”

      2. It’s possible to have both a rational concern and an irrational bias against the same person, and concerning the same problem.

      For example, let’s posit a coworker with an active drinking problem, such that they come in late or hung over several days a week, and once showed up unfocused and smelling like booze and yesterday’s sweat for an important client meeting, but they’ve never been aggressive or harassing. It’s a rational concern to expect that absent some drastic change, they will continue to come in late or hung over several days a week, and might again be unsuitable for a client meeting, sooner or later, and that the problem may well get worse over time. However, it’s a bias to say, “they’re probably going to get violent or harass someone or steal the computers sooner or later.” Or worse, to argue for their firing largely on that unsupported supposition, on the basis of “I know drunks, that’s what they’re all like.”

      Alison was saying that even a minimally healthy workplace won’t discriminate against you for being an alcoholic who’s on the wagon on her own recognizance simply for being an alcoholic.

      That said, they could try something like:

      “in the context of some red flags and a problematic family history, after consulting with my doctor, I made a commitment 4 months ago to avoid alcohol for life. It’s been just challenging enough that I feel super thankful for reaching this choice early in the process, before things got messy. I need you to consider me in the same way you’d consider any alcoholic in recovery.”

      And if there’s any push-back: “I assume you don’t actually believe that I need to flame out spectacularly in public and do damage to work and client relationships first, for my employer to respect the fact I need to avoid alcohol?”

      That may feel less exposed than, “I’m an alcoholic in recovery.”

      There’s sometimes an aspect of people wanting to know what finally dit it for you / looking for a salacious story to gossip about. Letting them know there’s no gold to dig for can really deflect further inquiry. And honestly, alcoholism is common enough that almost everyone has some family history they could point to.

      1. IT Guy*

        I would be concerned in telling my employer I couldn’t do something because I have an issue being around a [blank] without something negative occurring. Replace blank with any environment or substance. Work is an act, much like an actor, to get a job done. Going to a bar to be social with a client doesn’t require drinking on your part.

        In the end, only you know what’s best for you, but I find separating work and friends/family time into different compartments allows me to be in situations and act in certain ways that I would avoid in normal circumstances.

        1. JSPA*

          Eh, I’m answering the specific question OP asked. How to broach the topic. Not, how to get good with being in the bar.

          More generally, I don’t buy that mentioning a negative aspect for you brings up the bugaboo of there potentially being a directly negative / problematic aspect for the business.

          As with someone who’s got bad celiac issues not wanting to be in, say, a pizza place that’s got a lot of flour in the air…or a recent ex-smoker avoiding smoky bars…someone can reasonably opt out of a place that doesn’t just have alcohol, but is permeated through and through with the smells, sights, and general awareness of alcohol.

          That’s quite different from, “they keep a couple of beers in one of the work fridges.”

    7. Lynca*

      Well thanks for confirming the OP’s concerns that people will have an unfavorable opinion of them just because they are an alcoholic. This is really an unkind thing to say. They’re in recovery and trying to navigate a very difficult work situation.

    8. knead me seymour*

      It is a bias if you only have those concerns after finding out about your colleague’s addiction. If any of your colleagues are causing problems at work, you can address those problems without needing any of their private medical information.

    9. OP*

      As others have pointed out, I do not consider myself an “active alcoholic”. I am in recovery, and it is going well. I’m not running through the office waving around a whiskey bottle and rummaging naked through coworkers’ desks like Gollum looking for his ring.

      I am sorry you have had painful experiences with alcoholics close to you, but I was 99% more likely to hurt myself than anyone else when I was drinking.

      This is an example of the bias I am worried about.

      1. JSPA*

        I’m not even sure whether that warning is meant to say, “people who have been burnt by active alcoholics will be less worried if you draw a harder, clearer line”


        “people who have been burnt by active alcoholics will fail to believe in recovery as a thing that people succeed at, and will therefore work against you, regardless, if you disclose.”

        IMO, like any health problem (or any problem more generally), the public are naturally going to be most aware of people whose symptoms and side effects are most dramatic. The one person waving the bottle and running around with their pants on their head? Noticed by all, and remembered. The person who looks a bit clammy and unfocused some mornings and seems like maybe they’re having a rough patch (details unspecified)? Barely noticed, never categorized.

        There can be two dozen people who are quietly afflicted (or who continue to compartmentalize their lives) for every person who has a dramatic meltdown in the office. If you have three relatives who are charismatic, dramatic, dangerous-to-others drunks–and all sympathy, it’s a terrible thing to deal with–you may also have any number of other relatives with private-yet-desperate alcohol problems. (Or if your family are generally drama-prone, maybe the quiet ones are the family of your friends and neighbors.)

        Yet if people are asked to describe “an” alcoholic, a disproportionate number will default to the loud, messy variant.

  26. blackcatlady*

    I’m coming up on 20 years sober and HELL NO I wouldn’t go to bar meetings. It’s just not fun to be around people that are a few drinks (or more) into a ‘happy state’ – to put it kindly. I also question how effective bar meetings will be. Sounds like a poor excuse for happy hour on company time. A big part of successful recovery is changing habits/mindset so staying out of bars is one of the best things you can do right now. Keep working recovery and best of luck. Life is so much better now.

    1. JSPA*

      There’s also the possibility that part of what drew OP to the job was the acceptance of alcohol. And that there are other people at the business with a less-than-healthy attitude towards alcohol.

      Some romantic relationships don’t survive sobriety (if it turns out that enjoying the same (or compatible) inebriants was a major part of what the couple had in common, or that their sober selves are not particularly compatible, or that they’re each others’ triggers to use). I suppose it’s the same for some workplaces.

      I suppose it’s possible that nobody else there tends to put alcohol too far front and center, and in fact, the move above a bar could just as easily have been a move to a stationary store or chiropractor or recliner showroom. But it’s also (clearly) possible that others have an incipient problem of some kind. And that makes the politics around not-drinking somewhat more complex. People in a denial phase (or the dreaded, “I never drink alone, you must therefore drink with me because that’s my touchstone for not having a problem” phase) may be a lot touchier than the “reasonable” workplace, boss and coworkers Alison’s assuming, for her answer.

  27. Hmmm*

    I want to extend my support to the LW. Your recovery is more important than their desire to have meetings in a bar.
    As Alison said, there are many people who don’t drink for a variety of reasons. A professional will respect your wishes and do what they can to accommodate. Plus, there is a reason why most companies/industries do not have the majority of their meetings in a bar. What you are asking for is trying to bring them back more to standard practices. It isn’t an unusual request, their change to bar meetings is what’s unusual.

    If you belong to any support groups online or in person, consider reaching out to them for any tips or tricks for how best to take care of yourself. Though they most likely have not encountered this situation, they can offer you a level of emotional support and understanding that you may need both before and after you speak with your boss. Kudos to you for the strength and determination you have already shown.

    1. raincoaster*

      I have a feeling the workers are enchanted with their new pet bar, but that the gleam will wear off in a few weeks, once productivity takes a hit.

  28. Ellen N.*

    To the original poster; I bet many if not all of your coworkers will be happy to have meetings/socializing moved away from a bar. Many people who drink don’t enjoy going to bars.

    I drink, but I dislike bars. Drinks in bars are hella expensive compared to drinking at home. I don’t like being around drunk people, so bars aren’t fun for me. I live in Los Angeles, CA where public transportation is inefficient. This means I have to drive everywhere. I don’t drive if I’ve drunk even a sip of alcohol.

    1. CheeryO*

      And then there have to be plenty of people like me who do drink and enjoy bars but would NOT enjoy navigating a bar meeting with clients in the middle of the day.

      1. Joielle*

        Same! Even beyond the OP’s specific concern, there’s so much potential for awkwardness. Like who’s paying for these drinks? If I’m a client, I’d assume that I don’t have to spend my own money to meet with your company… and if I’m an employee, I’m not spending my own money on client meetings… so is the company paying for drinks for every meeting? What if someone orders too many? What if the bar is busy and there’s no table available when the meeting is scheduled to start? What if a server spills something on a client’s laptop? Why invite these issues unnecessarily??

        1. AndersonDarling*

          And what about the loud group watching the game a few tables over? Or the obnoxious mom’s having a Girl’s Day Out?
          You just don’t know who will be at a bar and what atmosphere they are creating. Even if it was the hippest, straight-laced brewhouse in the area, you still can’t ensure a workable atmosphere for a meeting.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I daresay that this is the sort of company where they throw down someone’s company card and party’s on the CEO! Woo!

          I worked for a startup like this for ten minutes, this is verbatim how they were in the under ten employee stage. Everything’s on the CEO including the 50 mile Ubers home for people too drunk to drive themselves.

        3. Coffee*

          Agreed. Plus I don’t like drinking when I’m working. It is an unpleasant mix of work and recreation.

    2. knead me seymour*

      Yeah, I like to occasionally drink in my spare time, but I wouldn’t appreciate the pressure to drink at work. If I’m going to do something that I know isn’t good for me, I’d like to at least enjoy it. I feel the same way about dry office sheet cakes.

  29. TootsNYC*

    I avoid alcohol lately for acid-reflux reasons. So there’s that.

    And I like “anymore”: “I don’t drink much anymore, thanks anyway.”

    Also: Consider having a chat with the bar folks, and asking them to create a “regular” for you–I’ve heard that bartenders sometimes get customers who really want the bartender to drink with them, and pressure the bartenders. So the bartenders fake like they’re making a mixed drink, but it has no alcohol. Maybe they can help you come up with something that can be your substitute.

  30. Spek*

    As someone newly sober, be sure to examine every treatment and support option. AA is touted as the end-all, be-all for recovery, but their methodology is not for everyone. More and more treatment programs are shying away from the 12 steps, so if you are having trouble, be sure to keep trying until you find the kind of support that works for you.

    1. raincoaster*

      There are some great, meditation-focused groups, and even some sober running groups. There’s a far bigger variety of options out there than people think.

    2. Tinybutfierce*

      Hardcore seconding this. Four years sans-booze here and 12-step programs decidedly weren’t for me, for a number of reasons. I really liked SMART Recovery (science & evidence-based and constantly updated), especially because they offered online meetings for those who didn’t have a local, in-person one. Hip Sobriety (now known as Tempest, I believe) was also a pretty great resource in finding tools that worked for me to build my own sobriety toolbox, so to speak.

  31. sfigato*

    And reminder, if someone refuses a drink, for the love of god don’t push it on them and don’t make it weird! and have non-alcoholic drinks at functions!

    1. Ellen N.*

      A thousand times yes to not pressuring people to explain why they don’t want to partake of what you’re offering.

  32. Kourei*

    Client and vendor meetings, too?? Even if every single person in the office was fine with the bar, why on earth would a business assume clients and vendors want to meet there?

    1. OP*

      The city I live in has an extremely prevalent drinking culture; it’s an issue. So it’s not uncommon for businesses to have meetings, happy hours, and even hold interviews in bars. I personally think it’s bonkers, but it’s not unusual in this city.

    2. raincoaster*

      Some places are like that; it’s part of the culture. I’ve had more than one job interview over drinks, and one interview question was “gin or vodka martini?”

    3. ...*

      I don’t think its that crazy? Its a normal place to meet especially a nicer or more upscale place or a place that serves food. I’d totally be cool NOT meeting in a bar and coffee shop is usually my default but I dont think meeting in bars is so odd. Meeting in a bar can mean getting 1 drink or 1 person gets a drink and another gets say, a coffee. I think it totally depends on the city too. In Chicago it would be super normal to meet a bar, but people don’t typically drive to and from that location here with public transit and uber. Also there’s just a ton of bars around and some of them have cool and interesting stuff to offer. I truly enjoy going to bars but I rarely have more than a drink or two at them. (Drink slowly and just space things)

  33. Rugby*

    Even if you didn’t have a personal reason for not wanting to go the the bar, it’s perfectly reasonable to push back on holding meetings in the bar, especially if those meetings would include external clients and vendors. So many people have so many reasons for not going to bars, I can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea.

  34. copier queen*

    If I was in your shoes, OP, I would bring up another point — what about clients who don’t want to meet in a bar? Maybe for religious reasons, maybe smoking is allowed in the bar and they can’t do cigarette smoke, maybe the bar is loud or crowded, whatever. I think there are a ton of reasons not to hold meetings in the bar…and three cheers for your sobriety. Keep up the good work!!

    1. Carlie*

      This was my thought – the company doesn’t realize how many cans of worms they are about to open. People who drink tend to think that everyone drinks, but this is not the case. And depending on the person’s personal and/or religious beliefs, even being in a bar can be uncomfortable or problematic. This could be one or two of the other employees, clients, other outside people coming in for meetings… if it is required to meet in a bar, a lot of people will choose to do business elsewhere. And that’s not even to speak of loss of productivity if everyone has “just one” beer with a lunch meeting, or leaves “just a few minutes early” to head downstairs, how much extra it will cost to drink with meetings, etc. I think without even mentioning their own history with alcohol, the OP can push back on this from a professionalism standpoint. Go ahead and have get-togethers there, but not business meetings (internal or external).

      1. Grace*

        My manager has hearing troubles even in a moderately loud room – we’ve had social interviews/lunches out in pubs (usually with most people opting for non-alcoholic drinks) and he’s been very open about the fact that people sometimes need to repeat themselves when another table is getting rowdy. If someone is less open about their hearing loss and doesn’t feel comfortable doing that? In a meeting?

    2. Observer*

      This is a good general point, but a lot of it is environment specific. For instance, in NYC the smoking thing would be a non-issue as smoking is barred in Bars (and restaurants).

    3. Anon Here*

      Clients could be in similar situations to OP – sober, possibly triggered in bars, and on the fence about what to say. So it would be more considerate to meet somewhere else or give them options.

      But I get it. I also used to live in a very bar-centric city.

  35. The Happy Intern*

    Congrats OP, taking the steps to change something like drinking, no matter how serious it was before, is really brave especially as alcohol is such a common thing in our society! If this ends up being an issue at work, you at least have the benefit of it being a recurring location and so there is a possibility that you may be able to just take yourself there (maybe even with someone close to you) even for just a few minutes to stop in, so that you can acclimatize yourself to the place so it’s not as triggering. It’s just a thought from someone who hasn’t gone through this but it may be one way to help if your job isn’t as accommodating as you need?

  36. Lemon Squeezy*

    No advice, but congrats, OP! Four months is nothing to sneeze at, you should be proud of yourself! (And even moreso for realizing this was a dangerous situation for you and reaching out for help in how to address it)

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    “For health reasons I’ve stopped drinking”
    I know a LOT of people who had to stop drinking due to health related reasons: heart issues, stomach issues, mental health issues, etc… I even have a neighbor who is allergic.

    If you get follow up questions, just vaguely mention some issues (acid reflux as someone mentioned, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, etc…) you’d been having and your Doc recommended cutting out alcohol and its been helping but going to the bar every other day for a work thing is hard.

    Lots of ways to convey this without going into detail about addiction if you choose not to share.

    1. Essess*

      Exactly! A lot of medications require that you don’t drink. I wouldn’t even blink if a co-worker said they can’t drink any more due to health reasons.
      And to the OP, you need to shut down the pregnancy comments. If someone asks you that, give them a look and say “that’s really not an appropriate question to ask a woman.”. You don’t owe them a yes or no.

    2. Lulubell*

      I’ve told people that I quit for health reasons – my mental health. I’m much more grounded and less anxious without it. It’s the truth. Not exactly why I quit but the result is 100% truth.

  38. animaniactoo*

    OP, among other things, I would also look at whether having meetings/drinks at the bar on a regular basis for internal meetings and those with vendors is a company culture they want to cultivate.

    Like, right now, everything is new and hey, here’s this nice casual kind of perk of being here, and check out that we can do this…

    But on a regular basis? Does that help or harm the future culture that the company wants to cultivate? Not just for you, but for clients, etc. How will your company be perceived if meetings are so often at the bar? Will employees be able to keep themselves professional when they’re so frequently at the bar – and not just any bar, but the SAME bar all the time? Is it reasonable to expect employees to hold that line if the company is going to be so relaxed about taking meetings in a bar?

    It’s one thing to go to a restaurant – even a casual one – for a meeting, where alcohol would be available and might be consumed. But in a bar, the focus is on the drinking and the bar food is an add-on. And for a lot of people, mid-day, even if that’s mid-afternoon, is just too soon to be drinking at all when they have other work or stuff to do afterwards. As a one-off, probably fine. As a regular thing, it’s fairly likely that you’ll have at least a significant majority of people who will not want to be doing that every time they have a meeting.

    While I agree with the advice to advocate for yourself and ask for accommodations, it’s also worth pushing the leadership to take a look at the future impacts to the business of allowing the freehanded use of bar for company business.

    1. Observer*

      In a way, the client meetings are an especially big issue. Your management can tell themselves that they would know if someone has an issue, and would never push someone to drink if it did come up, which is a huge mistake but very, very common. On the other hand, you simply cannot say the same about your clients. You’ll never know if a client backs off from your firm because of it, or if you’re creating problems for staff at a client. It’s just not the kind of information most companies would share. So it’s worth pointing out that client meetings in a bar might not be a great idea to institutionalize.

  39. Driveby (Sober) Lurker*

    LW, congratulations on 4 months of sobriety. You will find that as your sober time adds up, it will continue to get easier to navigate a culture awash in “drink now” alcohol messaging. In the meanwhile, things to say about not drinking: “I have to run/exercise later,” “I have a thing to do later and have to stay sharp.” “I think I’m coming down with something.” “I still have work to do.” “I’m doing a cleanse/detox/health challenge thing.” “I gave it up–didn’t agree with me/messes with my sleep.” “I’m not sure what I want, I’ll start with water/seltzer/soft drink and let you know.” “I have to be up early.” “I’m taking some medication.” It does seem ridiculous having to offer excuses for why we are not drinking, but the point is to deflect the inquiry so that you can continue on in sobriety. I have found that pretty much no one is interested in another person’s sobriety beyond the first moment and they will move on quickly. Before you know it, people will identify you as a non-drinker. The only people who will give you flak are boozers and you should stay as far away from them as possible.

  40. RD*

    Hey OP. I noticed that you don’t specifically say you identify as an alcoholic or as in recovery in your note. If that was purposeful, I’m in the same boat, and I think that makes you situation difficult in a different way. For me at least, I have a hard time saying that I’m in recovery or asking for accommodations. People quitting alcohol before they reach rock bottom or before it becomes a HUGE problem is not the norm. Our society doesn’t understand a sober person who once drank but is not an alcoholic. This has caused some minor hiccups for me at work as it relates to events, but I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be if our office located to above a bar. Trying to explain it really gets into my personal identity which I’m still not ready to share (at seven months alcohol free) and might not ever be ready to share with some people.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any ideas other than embracing the terms to help you as it relates to this situation.

    So, if that’s you too, I just wanted to say you’re not alone!

    1. J*

      You might find Jolene Park’s TEDx Talk about gray area drinking helpful. For a while she also co-hosted a podcast, Edit, about the sort of drinking and sobriety you’re talking about. Congrats on seven months alcohol free!

  41. Youth*

    This is timely. We just did a big launch at work today, and there was champagne to celebrate. I don’t drink, which I don’t bring up a ton, but my team remembered and provided a bottle of non-alcoholic beverage for me.

    If your work environment is healthy, your colleagues will both want you to feel comfortable and support you in your non-drinking journey.

  42. Mama Bear*

    They may find that as they grow, it’s less advantageous of them to have so many meetings in a bar. I’m sure there will be times when you need to give a formal presentation and a meeting room with a projector will be much better. It will also keep you from sharing proprietary information with folks that just happen to be in the bar – it is, after all, a public space. That would be another reason to not use the bar for a lot of during the day client meetings. I suspect that some of it is the novelty of the bar, but I’d mention something now before it becomes a habit. Professionalism is still important, even when you work above a bar.

  43. Observer*

    It’s one thing to discuss with your management – there if they are good it may be worthwhile to spell things out. For everyone else, I would think a vague “I stopped drinking to make my doctor happy” would work. I mean you obviously stopped drinking for yourself, but this indicates that your under medical advice on the issue and that you don’t really want to discus it, but it’s also not an “OMG OP is having a full blown health crisis” type of situation. Polite people will have all the information they need (ie you stopped drinking, you don’t want to discuss it and you’re ok). Rude people may push but then you stick to a couple of meaningless scripts like “Oh, you just health stuff”. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  44. Sarra*

    Congrats on 4 months! almost 17 years over here.

    My office has a definite “casual drinking” atmosphere – friday afternoons, we have a little social gather in one of the conference rooms, and there’s free beer/white claw/wine/cider/whatever. Whenever someone is moving on to another job, the office will sponsor an off-site happy hour.

    I’m really open about not drinking, and the office has been really supportive (even though most of my coworkers are moderately heavy drinkers) and have made definite efforts to make sure that there’s non-alcoholic beverages of my choice on friday afternoons and having our ‘happy hours’ at places other than bars sometimes.

    I really do recommend talking to your boss about this! I spoke up, and I’m a lot more comfortable because of it. :)

  45. Blue Eagle*

    A friend recently stopped drinking and when asked about it would say “the president doesn’t drink and if is good enough for the president of the united states it is good enough for me.”

  46. JustAWafer*

    I’ve had to basically stop drinking completely because it turns out that alcohol makes me physically ill. It might help, for a quick explanation to anyone questioning the change (which, really, why do people do this? There’s a weird “thing” where some people are really invested in getting you to drink with them), to say something along the lines of “I’ve realized that alcohol doesn’t agree with me.” (Which it doesn’t). For me, this mostly results in sympathetic murmurs.

    That doesn’t help that meetings and workplace events are likely to be held in a bar, though. I think Alison’s advice for that seems spot on.

    I also want to say that when friends or acquaintances express that they aren’t comfortable around alcohol, my reaction (and the reaction generally) is to do my best to make sure they are accommodated. Because people are more important than the availability of alcohol. Which is to say, if people give you grief, that’s about their issues around alcohol, not about you.

    That said, I fully understand not wanting to be out about this kind of thing at work. I’ve struggled with mental health issues, and disclosure has always been an interesting game of “can these people be trusted, even in their unconscious biases/if I don’t disclose and have an episode, will it look bad that I haven’t disclosed” because stigmas do exist, unfortunately.

  47. Food Sherpa*

    O.P.- Congratulations!! 13 years here, and it does get easier with triggers getting fainter and easier to work through. It’s really important to listen to the triggers, though. I threw away an 18-year chip by ignoring mine; climbing back on the wagon was not fun. In my case antidepressants helped tremendously. You will know what works best for you. Trust yourself.
    If this helps, I tell people that alcohol doesn’t mix with my medication. (Routine antibiotics all warn not to drink alcohol with them, it’s a white lie that keeps your business private.) It normally stops the discussion. Occasionally I have to follow it up with a – “Really, it isn’t pretty and I don’t want the celebration/party/evening to end early because of me.” Only the truly rude push me after that. Good Luck! I believe in you:)

  48. Lady Heather*

    I like the “I feel better when I don’t drink.” It has the benefit of making the other person look bad if they press, because you just said that you feel bad when you drink.
    Others – “Health reasons.” If you want to clarify: Small amounts of alcohol causes diarrhoea, large amounts cause constipation – google it if you like. Alcohol interacts with certain medications. Alcohol has a lot of beer in it.

    Unfortunately, none of these reasons will get you out of going to the bar.

    “My doctor has recommended I stop drinking for health reasons, and you understand this is difficult! (chuckle, as your manager also likes beer and can’t imagine going without!) I’m trying not to tempt myself – because even one drink can be a significant threat to my health. – No, I’d prefer not to discuss my medical conditions at work. However, I’d like to – I need to – stay away from bars for the foreseeable future.”

    Something like that?

    1. Lady Heather*

      Er – I’m not sure if that sounds the way I want it to. I meant it in a ‘congratulations’ and ‘take it one day at a time’ kind of way.

  49. MistOrMister*

    OP, congratulations on your sobriety, and I hope this gets handled in a way that allows you to continue on your path to recovery.

    One possible addition to Alison’s script might be to add “for my health, I can’t drink anymore”, or something along those lines. That wouldn’t automatically indicate alcoholism and it’s 100% true.

    Also, maybe point out that always going to a bar can be exclusionary. Besides people recovering from alcoholism, what about people who don’t drink for relgious reasons and wouldn’t be comfortable in a bar? Or someone who’s lost a relative/friend to drunk driving and can’t stomach bars? It’s not quite the same, but when I was vegan, my dept at the time always went to the same Italian family style restaurant for celebrations. They would order for the table and, of course, every dish had meat and/or cheese. So I would sit there for an hour or two going hungry because I wasnt going to order my own meal (I was making peanuts at the time) and the bosses only once offered to buy me a salad. It was awful and I hated going anywhere with them. Having every event at a bar would drive me nuts…I rarely drink because I don’t really enjoy it anymore and just don’t want to constantly be at a bar. Maybe the boss will figure out that this is not the best practice. It really isn’t just people who don’t/can’t drink who would find this off-putting!

  50. Lishie*

    I made an account so I could comment!

    First, congratulations so much on 4 months sober.

    I’m almost 8yrs sober myself and I quit drinking at 22yo. I was 6 months into my career and my coworkers were total frat bros. It was hard at first. Hard to say no. Hard to navigate the reasons why I no longer drank. Hard to keep repeating myself.

    About 8 months ago, I found The Temper on IG and read stuff from their website. I wish I had that as a resource when I was newly sober on how to handle this. So i pass it on to you and anyone else who needs it. Its all about being sober and having these hard convos. I also preordered her book as well.

    1. OP*

      I love The Temper! I actually have found that IG has a HUGE and extremely supportive sober community; it’s been so helpful in my recovery process. Thank you for your words, and congratulations on the 8 years you have yourself!

      1. J*

        Temper and Holly are great resources! Laura McKowen, whom Holly ran HOME podcast with for a few years, is another wonderful sober voice on social media. The two of them, and Hip Sobriety School (what’s now Tempest Sobriety School), started me on the path to sobriety. Laura has her first book coming out right around the same time as Holly’s. IG does have a great sober scene.

    2. Tinybutfierce*

      Yes, fellow sober person and Temper fan here! Holly’s original Hip Sobriety blog was seriously the best resource for me when I first stopped drinking several years ago and was struggling with how AA/NA wasn’t for me and feeling that I didn’t really have a place in the recovery community at all. Not everything suggested was for me (because duh, everyone’s journey with recovery is different), but the things that did work for me were seriously invaluable. My own recovery became very much centered on educating myself as much as possible about the science of alcohol and addiction, how our society treats and mistreats it, how it intersects with mental illness, and so on, and toooons of her book recommendations are now part of my personal library that I’ve repeatedly come back to. I really, REALLY love what she and everyone have done with Temper so far, and how much more of an inclusive movement she’s made it, as well. <3

  51. 868-5309*

    Hey OP, just past six months here. If you aren’t already, you might look into AA. I’ve done it this time around (I had previous stints of sobriety) and honestly, it helps. You can grab a meeting to give you strength and you’ll find a sponsor who you can call anytime. Alcoholism is a progressive disease and if we don’t put sobriety first then someday we’ll lose the job and things we love, if we haven’t already.

    I’m pretty open about not drinking and most people have been incredibly supportive. My coworkers just know I stopped because my personal life went to shit and it felt like the healthy choice, and now they accept I just don’t drink. It should be a non-issue for most. One thing helping is the sober-curious movement happening across the U.S.

    This early in sobriety, I wouldn’t chance trying to be around people who are drinking, especially in a bar. The smell, the atmosphere, all of that is going to slowly crack away at the good work you’ve been in to get and stay sober.

    Best to you!

  52. Anon Here*

    I’ve gradually given up drinking over the past four years. I was drinking too much for a while because of the fields I was in and where I lived. I moved, changed directions, and didn’t have time for it for a while. And I felt a lot healthier.

    Since then, when I drink, I notice that it makes me more emotional and puts me in a bad mood. It’s not as much fun as it used to be. Taking a break made the negative side more obvious. It tends to inflate your ego and create a lot of delusions. Without it, I’m more productive and realistic about life. It’s been a good change.

  53. LGC*

    Well, reading it…that’s awkward, and I can see why you’re feeling a bit wary about telling them you’re sober! But as a lot of people noted, even if your employer isn’t covered by the ADA, they may be covered by local equivalents. So legally, they do have to work with you on this if they’re covered. I’m not sure how

    That said, if it’s your style, you can shut down unwanted lines of questioning with humor. (Like a lot of people noted, not drinking alcohol is not unheard of, and people stop drinking as often all the time.) You can also play it off as something you’re doing for your health – which you are, but people refrain from alcohol for dietary reasons as well. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t question your decisions, but…I think that the more that you act like it’s not this shameful thing that you don’t drink, the more people will take your lead.

    Congrats on your sobriety, and good luck!

    1. 867-5309*

      Humor is a good suggestion, if it’s OP’s style. When I tell people I don’t drink, and they ask why, I usually joke that I “liked it TOO much” with a laugh & they get it right away.

  54. Chronic Overthinker*

    Just leaving a comment of congratulations on four months of sobriety! One day at a time and speak up about your triggers. Before long no one will question why you don’t drink.

  55. Engineer*

    I have a close friend who recently stopped drinking. His company and coworkers are very much a work hard/play hard mentality, like there is a beer fridge in the office for Friday afternoons. I was recently at a fundraiser event his company participated in, and a couple people asked him if he was still on the ‘no drinking thing.’ He said he was, and that was that. There wasn’t any awkwardness or anything. If people are pressing you, one thing you can say is that you are currently taking medication that can’t be mixed with alcohol.

  56. Shadowbelle*

    I am a non-drinking alcoholic*, and I have been dealing with the demon for over 30 years. Here’s my two cents’ worth:

    Stay the hell out of bars. It’s easier to avoid temptation than to resist it (check all the recent research). Also, alcohol is volatile, which means that if you are with people who are drinking alcohol, you will be inhaling alcohol. Some people are extremely sensitive, and this will be enough to set them off.

    Develop a cover story. I suggest having allergy to alcohol and its fumes. This will keep you out of the bar. Surely someone has a decent cell phone so you can be conferenced into a bar meeting (and if the bar is so noisy that a conference call won’t work, the meeting wouldn’t be very productive anyway). Definitely enlist your boss and ask her/him to support your tale. A cover story of an adult-onset allergy makes it easy for both you and your boss.

    Escape the prodding to drink by using the standard Miss Manners script. “No thank you.” “Oh, have something.” “No thank you.” “Why not?” “I prefer not to.” “But why not?” “Because I prefer not to.” No one is entitled to any explanation. (Having a cover story with your boss’ connivance is a different thing.)

    Do not let anything endanger your recovery. Seriously. “Team camaraderie” in a bar is a strong source of peer pressure, and I don’t mean that people will push you to drink. The human instinct is to conform to group behavior. This isn’t just discomfort. This is serious risk. If you want to socialize with the team, make a point of going out to lunch (not to bars) with team members, or have the occasional coffee house run. Find a substitute. Stay out of bars.

    I learned a lot about addiction and recovery from watching the series “Elementary” (available on Hulu).
    *I use the expression “non-drinking alcoholic” because I think most people don’t “recover” from alcoholism any more than they “recover” from being allergic to strawberries. (Yes, I know about the desensitizing shots, but I don’t want to ruin my metaphor.) The trick is not to drink (or eat strawberries).

  57. CS*

    I wonder if there’s a cultural aspect involved. In my native East/Southeast Asian culture, they’re less respectful of boundaries where not drinking with colleagues is concerned, whereas I’ve found that in the U.S., colleagues do not bug you when you said you don’t drink. Obviously, different industries and organizations have different subcultures, but OP, if you see this, are you in the U.S.?

  58. neeko*

    Congrats on 4 months! As another sober person, it’s taken a lot of time and work to be comfortable around drinking and I still have times when I opt out. I would definitely try to gage the culture of your job. My job is very cool about my sobriety and it’s been a relief to be open about it. I know others that feel more comfortable keeping that their recovery separate from their work life. There is a bias about people with addiction. There just is. But you never know, maybe you are working with someone who has seen their sister get 10 years of sobriety. But I get that it can feel like a huge gamble. Maybe push for lunch or for coffee instead of those bar meetings. Or when there is a celebration, make a point to pop in and say hi but leave after 30 minutes. Or have a friend meet you close by so you can have an escape/accountability buddy. Good luck with this and your continued sobriety.

  59. AA Anon*

    Could it be awkward to say no thanks? Sure. Will people eventually shut up about asking? Probably. But it’s really so simple to say no thanks. Seriously. In over 27 years I’ve had one person be a jerk about it, and they were a jerk all the time. I’ve done so many happy hours, and work social events, etc. so I have personal experience with being the one asked. It’s not that complicated.

  60. Argh!*

    This is something worth risking losing the job over, or even quitting over. Your health and sanity are waaaaaay more important than the job.

  61. gsa*


    First question, are you still going to meetings? If this is the case, it is definitely something to discuss, openly at a meeting, or with your Sponsor in private.

    First comment, I know a number of people that don’t drink. I can speculate about why, but I don’t.

    I completely understand you don’t want to be in a bar, and you do not want to alienate yourself from the rest of your team.

    Side note: At my last job, no one understood why Mo, short for Mohammad, would never go eat pork bbq with us or pick up alcohol for a company event, or even pick up the empties as said event. I was like DUH, he’s Muslim.

    Go back to first question, and then rinse and repeat.

    Stay strong, and reach out to your sponsor!

    All my best,


    1. Shadowbelle*

      Just a note — I’m sure your advice is very good for anyone who’s doing AA, but AA doesn’t work for everyone, and the OP may not be using that program. Having a support system of some kind certainly does help most people, so OP can adapt the advice to their own situation.

      1. gsa*

        Hopefully the OP chimes in…

        It is more than difficult to will yourself to do anything.

        Please post up alternative programs that people get sober and stay sober.

        1. Tinybutfierce*

          AA/12-step programs don’t work for a lot of people for a variety of reasons, but there’s thankfully more and more alternatives popping up. SMART Recovery (based largely in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques) and Life-Ring (and “an abstinence-based, worldwide network”), and Refuge Recovery (based largely in Buddhist principles) all offer online and in-person meetings. She Recovers and Women For Sobriety are both large women-led-and oriented communities;  LGBTteetotaler,  r/redditorsinrecovery, and r/stopdrinking are also all great online resources. There’s more out there besides, all just a Google search away.

        2. J*

          Refuge Recovery. Buddhist Recovery Network. SMART Recovery. Eight Step Recovery. Yoga of 12 Step Recovery. She Recovers. The Sober Choice. Tempest Sobriety School. The Sober School. This Naked Mind. There are a number of private Facebook groups that I’m aware of or part of. That’s just off the top of my head rattling off programs that I am personally familiar with. There are loads more. Some are free, some are not, some are in person, some are online (and some are both). Most of the people I know who are sober used one of the above to get, and stay, there.

          1. Shadowbelle*

            There are also medical treatments such as the Sinclair Method.

            Personally, groups are highly counter-productive for me, so I did it on my own. For this to work, one really needs to be That Kind of Person. My mother was not That Kind of Person, but she quit on her own because she had a medical episode that terrified her. (She quit both smoking and drinking cold turkey, but nonetheless eventually died of the residual effects.) For me, drinking became just too much work — it was easier not to drink than to try to manage the drinking.

            1. J*

              Yes! I wish the Sinclair method/naltrexone could get more traction in the US. I suspect the ubiquity of AA/12-step philosophy here is a large reason for why it’s failed to catch on.

              1. Shadowbelle*

                A young woman struggling with alcoholism was referred to me by my best friend. Young Woman’s alcohol abuse had gotten her in trouble with the Law, and the Law mandated AA. Young Woman was finding AA counter-productive. She needed help and encouragement and, most importantly, *validation* that it was not her fault that AA was not helping. It just wasn’t a good fit for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a choice about not doing AA because, as you note, AA is ubiquitous here. I think she might have benefited from a different kind of support group, plus medical intervention. Last I heard, she was still clean and doing well.

                1. J*

                  I am glad that she is doing well! I so hate that when folks who struggle with addictive substances end up in trouble with the law, the solution is just to shunt them off to AA (or maybe to rehab; which is just super-expensive AA). In the addiction treatment environment in the US, it is VERY easy to feel that if AA doesn’t work it’s your fault for not working the steps correctly. Heck, the Big Book straight-up says so!
                  More generally, I think the idea that “alcoholism” is a progressive disease that we need to do moral work to address and that one drink will always inevitably lead to doom has become so ingrained in how Americans think about disordered alcohol use, which makes naltrexone– either the Sinclair method, where you take it daily, or the method more common in Europe where it’s taken only before imbibing–seem like the top of a slippery slope. And I think there’s valuable harm reduction work that’s being missed due to that absolutism.

                  Sorry; this is my bugbear, clearly! Stepping off my soapbox now. :)

  62. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Really proud of you OP for making the choice to go sober. Stick with it, the rewards will be worth it!

  63. Alice's Rabbit*

    The sooner you speak up, the less awkward things will be. But the longer you put off having this very necessary conversation with your boss, the more push back you’ll get. “But you just went to a meeting there yesterday, so I don’t see why it’s a problem to keep going. Just don’t order anything alcoholic.” Sadly, a lot of folks just don’t understand how hard the line really needs to be for many alcoholics. So if you don’t want a big misunderstanding, speak up now.

  64. Lulubell*

    Congrats OP! I am coming up on three years sober and, like you, did not really consider myself an active alcoholic, but I was quite a big drinker and quit for a reason. I was always VERY nervous to tell people I had quit, for all the reasons brought up here (potential for stigma, etc). But let me tell you: so few people pressed me for details. The only ones who did were the ones who have problems themselves. I was that person for a long time, asking people why they weren’t drinking (sorry!). But most “normies” won’t remember that you drank before, or think twice about why you aren’t now. For the ones that ask, you can try a version of what I say, “I just prefer being fully present.” It speaks to the business setting but also the greater decision, without making it such a big thing. Congratulations and best of luck navigating this. It’s so worth it.

  65. CalicoGrace*

    Congratulations OP! I’m coming up on 18 months sober and I’m really proud of you for taking this step.

    My go-to if I have to be in a bar is a glass of apple juice. It’s a bit less demoralising than water and people assume it’s alcohol and don’t hassle you to get something alcoholic. Fingers crossed none of your coworkers are that rude, but it’s good to have a plan.

  66. Jen Erik*


    I’m not an alcoholic, but my husband is, and my daughter stopped drinking a year and a half ago, because she realised she was unsafe around alcohol.
    My husband, who has been sober, this time, about eight years, is open about it at work, but my daughter just passes things off: “No thanks, I’m on a health kick”.
    My daughter’s workplace, however, is fairly boozy – ‘Prosecco Friday!’ – and even though she has been not drinking for quite a while, people first knew her as someone who enjoyed a drink, so she has literally come back from a meeting to find a full wine glass waiting on her desk.

    Now, for her, that’s manageable risk, but my husband couldn’t have coped. His first period of sobriety ended because he after a really long, bad day at work – long day, cancelled flight, walking for miles in the rain – someone offered him a beer. He said no, but they knew him to be a drinker, so they left, came back with a poured drink, and pressed it into his hand. He was about three months sober at the time.

    For him, he had to say to people around him, because he couldn’t, at that time in his life, cope with those sorts of situations. My daughter doesn’t have to, because she can.

    FWIW, my husband’s experience of being open at work – white male, all the privilege – has been mostly great. His last two managers were over-and-above, visiting him in rehab, supportive. (Current manager on assuming his role: “I find the best way to get to know people is to all go out and get drunk together.” )

  67. Asenath*


    While everyone is different, 4 months is still pretty early for a lot of people, so it’s quite normal to need to avoid even going into a bar at that stage. You might be able to quite happily sit in a bar with a soft drink in a year or two or three; you might not. But your problem is now, and really, your health is even more important than the team-building. If you’d been a non-drinker for a long time, well, I am too, and at this point no one questions what I drink (or asks me if I’m pregnant!!) and I’m comfortable drinking a soft drink instead of alcohol even on the rare occasions I go to a bar. I’d say that you shouldn’t worry and most people won’t care what you drink. But it sounds like your new habits are just that, new, and if your gut is saying you aren’t comfortable in a bar, keep out of bars, and if necessary, suggest another meeting place.

  68. DoomCarrot*

    I was in a similar-but-different situation in a previous job, where my boss at a tiny company liked to hold meetings in a bar around the corner, because it was one where he could still smoke. I rarely drink, and would order a coffee, but the real problem was that it set off my asthma. So I asked him to stop taking us there for mandatory meetings, and he, not being a despot, agreed, though he was slightly disappointed.

    There was some grumbling from one coworker who enjoyed the happy hour, but the other three people in the office later all told me they were grateful that I’d brought it up. The apprentices didn’t feel they had the standing to say anything, and the other woman was trying to get pregnant but not ready to tell him yet!

    So don’t feel like you’ll instantly be the office killjoy; you might find you’re not alone!

  69. Friend if Bill’s*

    , as a young woman professional in my 20s I realized that drinking alcohol wasn’t a good mix with the life I wanted to lead. It took me 5 more years to get sober. I have 29 years.
    My go to for years “ alcohol doesn’t mix with my medication.”
    It does get better but I don’t want to work, socialize or eat in bars. Exceptions are made for live music venues. My social life was going to bars.
    Meetings helped me. 7:30 am meetings, 5:30 pm meetings, lunch meetings, phone meetings, listening to podcasts. Reading day books. Making a phone call before and after events- bookending.
    Cranberry and soda.

    1. Res Admin*

      My husband is a no-longer-drinking alcoholic and has a variety of responses developed over the years to suit various occasions:
      – No thank you! I’m an alcoholic.
      – No thank you. I’m the designated driver.
      – No thank you. I’m on medications that don’t react well to alcohol.
      – No thank you. I’d rather have…
      – No thank you. I’m good.
      –No thank you. I stopped drinking a while ago.

      The trick is to be pleasantly matter of fact and move on. Avoid lying.

      At this point, he often just puts it out there that he has a bad history with alcohol and just isn’t interested in relapsing. Since a lot of people like to feel like they are “helping”, that pretty much stops any pushiness. But that is where you have to know your audience. When a former (horrible) boss decided that they were going to have meetings at various bars once or twice a week, he just stuck to ordering whatever non-alcoholic drink he wanted. With that boss, no amount of discussion was going to work–so he ordered what he wanted and didn’t leave anyone any room to comment. Literally, “Why don’t I have a beer? Because I didn’t want a beer.”

      Best wishes to you. You can do this.

  70. agnes*

    You don’t need to explain why you aren’t going to an ‘after hours’ bar social hour. You can just say that you have something else to do. People are allowed to go out together after work–on their own time–and I don’t think you need to worry about not going, If you want to socialize, you could suggest another venue. Or only stay a few minutes.

    Now, if they want to use the bar as a place to meet clients for work related purposes or to do their own work, that’s a different matter. If you don’t want to “out” yourself, I would simply say that you aren’t comfortable meeting for work purposes in a bar and can they please work something else out.? I think conducting work over drinks is a recipe for disaster FOR THE COMPANY. If I were the HR person there, I would be highly opposed. Too much opportunity for blurred boundaries, too much liability. Yes, I know people do conduct business over drinks. I think they shouldn’t.

    Bottom line, For most of us, the “triggers” pass. They go away. Think of this as something you have to do for NOW. I’ve been sober for years, and early on I had to do a lot of avoiding of certain places, people, or situations. That’s not the case today. If you aren’t going to AA I highly recommend it. People there can help you with ways to handle these types of situations.

  71. MadQ*

    You could also say health reasons. I have a very manageable heart condition that causes me to be more sensitive when I’m dehydrated and I’ve fainted a number of times. My prescription on how to manage it from my doctor has been: stay hydrated, avoid coffee and alcohol. Coffee was a lot harder for me so I now just rarely drink, if at all.

  72. Betty*

    FWIW, I don’t drink (not for any special reason, just kind of never started) and if I were a client I would be hugely put off by a meeting scheduled in a bar if office space was available. It would have me questioning the professionalism of the company as a whole. I’ve had meetings in coffee shops before, but a daytime bar meeting?! That’s just weird.

    Plus if I were an employee I sure as hell wouldn’t be spending my own money buying drinks in the bar as “rent” for the space and if I were the bar I sure as hell wouldn’t want people sat around NOT buying stuff frequently.

  73. JR123*

    Alcohol has a lot of calories! You can say you’re thinking about taking better care of your health and getting rid of the extra calories that comes with drinking is your first step.

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