When former problem drinkers are socializing, they use a number of methods to let others know they don’t drink, a small new study finds.
Researchers interviewed 11 former problem drinkers who had been sober for between one and 19 years.
Many of the study participants said they tried to avoid the issue altogether. Methods included posing as a drinker by holding a cup but not drinking, or simply refusing offers to drink without saying why.
If asked why they were not drinking, some cited health problems or said they were taking medications that couldn’t be used with alcohol. Some used humor to change the subject, the researchers found.
A few of the former drinkers said they were open about their history of problem drinking, particularly if they thought it would get them out of a situation that threatened their sobriety, or if they believed it would help other problem drinkers.
Most of the participants said they made sure to tell others it was OK to drink around them, according to the study published Sept. 22 in the journal Health Communication.
“The findings tell us that former problem drinkers can find it tricky to navigate social situations where alcohol is involved, and makes clear it’s important to support those who aren’t drinking and not push nondrinkers to disclose their reasons for not having a drink,” study author Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., said in a university news release.
“We found that former problem drinkers still want to be social, of course, but that they had to find ways to determine whether to disclose their nondrinking status to others,” Romo said.
“Study participants said they felt the need to weigh how much they should tell other people. Essentially, they assessed the risk of being socially stigmatized if they were open about not drinking or about being in recovery,” she added.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol use disorders.