Can You Tell?

Used 2013-01-20 Can You Tell al k hall anonymous alcoholism recovery sobriety

In social situations, i’m very upfront about being in AA.

At the office, my coworkers and boss know i’m an alcoholic in recovery. When we get new employees i usually keep quiet about my situation but when the subject of drinking comes up (and in my office it always comes up), i have no qualms whatsoever fessing up to my disease and the cure.

The weirdest thing, though, is that when i meet a new client i feel driven to tell them i ‘m a teetotaler. i explain that about 2 years ago i had health problems and was hospitalized and that the doctor said i could drink specific quantities of alcohol over a specific time frame. (All of this is technically true.) i go on to say that this method was too inconvenient for me so i opted to simply quit outright. It would be more logical for me to shut up about it, but i don’t seem able to.

So i have a poll and a question for you.


What do you tell your entourage about your drinking? Please leave a note in the comment section, i’d love to hear what you say!


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on January 19, 2013, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. No, you aren’t a wimp. I hate yes no questions bc.many of them come in that shades of gray area. BTW, never read that and never will. You arent lying and they don’t need to know your life history, no?

  2. Drinking? I guess I had always been in control but in my opinion, it is more important to have control over alchohol than to have control over people’s impression. When you are strong enough to handle it, you would be strong enough to refer to your past as “past”.

    • Hi TeeCee!

      Very astute point. Maybe the reason i feel compelled to tell people i’m a teetotaler is that i haven’t put my drinking behind me… Food for thought!.Thanks for the observation!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  3. i know you said you were inspired to write this post based on mine… but i’ll chime in here anyway. as for what i say or don’t say, I don’t lie, but i don’t explain more than necessary. partly because i don’t feel like it’s any body’s business, partly because nobody gives a rat’s ass, and partly because i want to tell better *stories* about myself going forward. I want to be who i am NOW, not who i was before… and thanks for commenting on my blog too!

    • Belle!

      Thanks for the visit and the comment, and for the post that inspired this one! i guess i do explain more than necessary as i volunteer the information even before anyone asks me about it. Maybe i feel i have to preempt them to ward off any questions… The more i think about it, the more i feel that’s what ‘s happening. Thanks for helping me get to the bottom of this!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  4. There are tons of people who don’t drink for any variety of reasons. It’s none of my business why someone only drinks soft beverages or water, so I don’t expect them to tell me and more than likely I’m not going to ask.
    I don’t see how in the world not telling someone upon your very first meeting that you have an alcohol addiction is wimpy. If they ask, and you want to tell, then tell. Or if you don’t, just say “I don’t drink anymore” or “it’s for health reasons” and leave it at that. There’s no right or wrong answer answer—it’s all what each person is most comfortable with.
    I usually don’t volunteer that info about myself; Belle’s right, most people just don’t care. If in some situation I am asked if I want a drink, I just say, “no thanks.” If in a rare situation I am asked why not, I just say that I don’t drink.

    • Hi ROS,

      i think what i meant by being a wimp is that i should be more courageous and tell them my story, which, now that i think about it, is a pretty whack idea. So i’m not a wimp for concealing my true story, even if it may not be what the Big Book calls brutal honesty, but now i need to get deeper into the reasons i feel compelled to explain anything at all. As y’all point out, most people couldn’t care less if i drink or not.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Great observation about digging deeper to understand the root cause of your concerns. Sounds like this was a really enlightening and helpful post for you–I love when those things happen!
        Keep in mind that not drinking is just one aspect of you. I mean, do you tell someone you just meet every little single thing about yourself? No of course not, you haven’t the time and most details just really don’t matter, right? Same thing with the drinking. 🙂

        • Lol! As i mentioned in the comment to BBB, i am a little more open than i should be with people i’ve just met. And in the past it’s even put me in some uncomfortable situations. So, i’ll be working with new clients all week and i’m meeting them tomorrow morning, so i’m challenging myself to keep the subject of my drinking to myself!

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

  5. I’m guessing your work involves some sort of social schmoozing where alcohol with a meal would be the norm? Otherwise I don’t know why a client, even in casual situation, would press you to say more than “Just a diet soda, please” or “I’m fine with water” or “Nah, I’m driving”.

    But to be honest, in general I’m always surprised at how often perfect strangers/mere acquaintances/people we don’t know well at all require explanations rather than just accepting “No, thank you” as the answer to whatever the offer was.

    • Hi Luddy!

      Definite social schmoozing at work, including all the wine you can drink at most business lunches. (In fact today, i poured a glass of wine for two of the clients who asked, then poured one for myself without even thinking!!! Of course i didn’t drink it but shocked myself by pouring a glass after 2 years of sobriety. Old habits die very very hard. And this after i’d explained i was a teetotaler!)

      The odd thing is, the situations don’t press me to “confess” i don’t drink, but i feel i need to. Commenting here is helping me see that i do this because i want to preempt any questions about it. Maybe the next thing is to try and shut up about it unless someones asks!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  6. You do not have to tell them anything and probably shouldn’t volunteer that information to a client. If pressed, a simple “I don’t drink” should suffice. If pressed further, it should be a forceful “I don’t drink. Personal reasons.” If pressed any further, then you should walk away.

    • Hi Boat!

      You’re right, i shouldn’t volunteer the information. My new goal is not to say anything unless i’m asked. Of course, i’ll have to start that tomorrow, as i’ve already told two groups of clients that i’m a teetotaler today (and one of them was Bacardi-Martini!).

      Thanks for your advice, ITSB, and keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  7. I have a lot of things I don’t do, like eat “normal” foods, and I choose not to drink because I feel gross when I do and have bad feelings about drinking in general, so I don’t so that, either.

    Most of the time, I find when I try to explain anything, people’s eyes glaze over. I find that 9 times out of 10 it is just unimportant and/or people don’t give a shit. The ones who do sometimes ask me more about it, if I refuse a food because it has wheat or dairy, for example & they want to know why. But even then, they really don’t want to know the details, not unless they have the same problems, too, or are truly curious about why it is that I don’t eat those things (<— rare).

    I voted "No." You are not a wimp at all! But I do find this curious: “when i meet a new client i feel driven to tell them i ‘m a teetotaler” and “It would be more logical for me to shut up about it, but i don’t seem able to.”

    Sounds like there is a driving issue inside, like you are trying to tell yourself something about this. Maybe a question to ask yourself is, “Why do I feel so compelled to explain?” Like, those ideas of “I feel driven” and “I don’t seem to be able to shut up” are clues to something, right? Like it’s a compulsive thing… Why is that there?

    The answer(s) might lead you to a new understanding about how you are coping with yourself and with your recovery and what new thing there might be to discover. (I’m not at all insinuating I know the answers. I just have been in therapy enough to recognize when there are good questions to be asked and know enough from my process that the answers are often enlightening in self-growth. That’s all.)


    • Hi babe!

      You hit the nail on the head! The real question in the post is why i feel compelled to tell people when they don’t even ask. From answering comments here, i think the answer is that i want to tell them before they ask, to prevent them from asking. This dates back to my early weeks / months in sobriety when i’d meet clients who already knew me and i had quite a reputation for drinking and i wanted to cut them off at the pass concerning booze by explaining i’d quit and telling them why. Then it became kind of a habit, but as it’s no longer necessary, i think i’ll make a concious effort to keep it to myself.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

      Keep coming back,

      AL K Hall

      • inthesameboatla

        Yeah, I can understand that.

        In a social situation there are three issues: 1) you don’t want to feel pressured to drink, 2) you don’t want others to feel like they CANNOT have a drink in front of you and 3) you want to talk about it as little as possible, and have a pleasurable social experience on a topic that does not involve alcohol.

        The first point should be pretty clear.

        The second point is a bit sticky. First, there are those sensitive souls, who out of courtesy and respect for your issues with alcohol will abstain. You need to make them feel free to go ahead, that their drinking won’t tempt you, and move forward with the socializing. But there are also those hard core drinkers (and you were probably one of them) who dislike people who abstain while they are drinking because they know that they are vulnerable to you remembering their lapses in judgement. I.e, those who follow the “drinker’s code” which says that a group is free to drink and do whatever they please during the gathering and nobody will remember: What happens in the bar stays in the bar. There’s nothing you can do about those types except avoid them.

        The third point is also clear but it is worth saying that you have plenty of outlets to discuss your problem with sympathetic people who are willing to listen. There is no point in dwelling on it with people who don’t want to hear about it. If tales of recovery were that exciting, people with no drinking problem would be crashing AA meetings for entertainment. And my guess is they don’t. (Unless it’s a meeting in Hollywood that celebrities attend…).

        • Thanks for the input, ITSB.

          i especially like what you said in the last paragraph about sharing about my (not) drinking in the appropriate places. Very astute and i’ll start acting on that tomorrow morning, when i meet some new clients!

          Keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

  8. Any time I’ve offered up why I don’t drink, I’ve felt vulnerable afterwards, like I shared more than I intended, somehow. These days I usually don’t offer up anything, though I will still address it if asked directly.

    Honestly, no one has asked me in a long time.

    Next time it comes up, I think I will say “it just doesn’t agree with me.” It does feel unfortunate to have to keep it a secret, but too many folks don’t understand alcoholism and aren’t looking to. I like to think I would recognize someone asking because they’re looking for help.

    • Thanks BBB!

      Yeah, i definitely need to keep things to myself. i’ve always been kind of an open book, more or less (there are some big things i keep to myself), but i’m working on tuning my squelch and not pulling other people’s noses into my business!

      Keep coming back, my friend,

      Al K Hall

  9. When I made the decision to become totally abstinent from alcohol, I “told the world about it”. When the people I knew, realised how serious, and committed I was, the amount of support and respect I was given was overwhelming.

    When I became a volunteer IT instructor at “R” Hub, I had the option whether to “disclose” or not, to the service users. I chose to be completely honest and open about my past. That creates a rapport with the service users and puts me in a position where I can impart with some of the knowledge I gained from my years of sobriety.

    Any time I am in company with people who do not know me, and alcohol comes into the conversation (which it quite often does because of my position at the Hub), I always tell them alcohol became a problem for me so I gave it up. Some people want to know more about it, others are not bothered.

    I am not ashamed to admit to being an alcoholic. I actually feel quite proud admitting to it at times, because of the praise and respect that I am given for being abstinent.

    I have been told that people respect me more for being completely honest about being an alcoholic, partly because I am deemed to be more trustworthy, because of my openness.

    Of course it is up to each individual whether to share their alcohol status or not. A common concern is the ignorance of alcoholism, and the misperceived and stereotyped view of an alcoholic in general. So when dealing with people with a lack of knowledge and understanding, it might be prudent to have some caution when disclosing personal information.


  10. Great topic! When I was first getting sober, it was really hard for me to tell people that I was an alcoholic and in recovery and in AA! But as time went on and I was more confident in my sobriety things changed, I was no longer ashamed or afraid to tell people, I also realized that most people do not have an issue with it, most people are supportive, and those that are not, well what they think of me is none of my business! There are also 2 definite times that absolutely feel like I have to tell people is when, my sobriety is in danger – as in someone is pushing a drink on me (it has happened!), and when another person struggling with alcoholism needs help. And really, all should be proud of our sobriety! Congrats!

    • Hi NSL!

      i really appreciated what you said about the 2 times you feel you have to tell someone… This made a lot of sense to me and sounds like a good rule of thumb to keep about when to share.

      Keep coming back,

      AL K Hall

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