Many people have been to a party or bar and decided to stick to water. As soon as someone notices the lack of alcohol in your cup, it’s a common reaction to start asking questions: Why aren’t you drinking?

For the 18 million Americans with an alcohol use disorder, and an estimated 22 million in recovery, having to muster up a response to these questions can be painful and uncomfortable. American Addiction Centers put together a list of questions to stop asking around alcohol consumption. This is for the well-being of everyone in recovery, but also for those who decide to be sober for an evening.

Unlike other highly addictive substances, alcohol is normalized in society. Its use is widely accepted. This makes it harder for people to take its misuse as seriously as other addictions.

For that reason, it’s important to stop asking these questions:

1. Why aren't you drinking? Do you have a drinking problem?
Someone might not be drinking due to pregnancy, diet, health concerns, their faith, or they may be in recovery for alcohol or drugs. The problem is that it’s so normal to drink that people think it’s abnormal not to. Why is that? Try asking yourself this question instead of asking others why they chose club soda that evening. If someone does have a drinking problem, putting them on the spot to talk about it might be upsetting.

2. Can you hold my drink/Can you pour me a drink?
The seemingly simple act of holding and smelling alcohol can be a trigger for those in recovery. People don’t want to be rude or make a scene, so this puts someone in recovery in an awkward spot. Keep your drinks to yourself and pour your own drinks to avoid putting someone else at risk.

3. What’s the harm in just one drink?
We all learned in middle school that pressuring people is not appropriate. For those in recovery from alcohol or drugs, one drink could lead to a full-blown relapse. Addiction often stems from some type of pain and sometimes you can add to someone’s pain by asking insensitive questions that can push someone backwards in their recovery. It’s important to accept someone’s decision not to drink at first mention and leave it at that.

4. Don’t you think you’ll have more fun if you drink?
There is a common misconception that in order to have a good time, you must be under the influence. This is false and many who are sober know that. It’s important people recognize addiction for what it is: a brain disease. It deserves to be treated just like any other disease—no social stigma, embarrassment, or punishment attached. Your reaction should align with that truth. Treat alcohol addiction the same way you would for any other illness.

These are just a few examples of questions to stop asking at your next party or bar outing. This list could go on, but the key is this: don’t grill or pressure others who live a sober lifestyle. If anything, we should be supporting them for their choices. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, call 1-800-ALCOHOL for support.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Lawrence Weinstein was appointed chief medical officer of American Addiction Centers in August 2018. He is an accomplished physician executive with more than 20 years’ experience in managed behavioral healthcare. In addition to his extensive senior leadership background, he also delved into private practice, where he provided individual and group diagnostic psychotherapeutic services, family therapy and addiction psychiatry.