How Recovering Alcoholics React to Normal Alcohol Use

September 24, 2015 Becky Doyle

You might want to consider how recovering alcoholics react to normal alcohol use, if, indeed, you choose to drink alcohol. If you have loved ones who are in alcoholism recovery, be aware that a recovering alcoholic's reaction to your alcohol consumption could change day by day. As I continuously grow and adapt to life around me, my tolerance for alcohol and sense of security evolve as well. I am my own best advocate for my sobriety, but I'm also the only one who truly knows where I stand in my recovery process. Here are some things for friends and family to keep in mind with regards to how recovering alcoholics react to normal alcohol use.

As a recovering alcoholic, I must pay close attention to how I feel before I'm going to be around people who are drinking. By making honest self-appraisals of my spiritual condition and knowing when to set functional boundaries, I have stayed sober through weddings, birthday parties, job changes, and deaths. I have discovered how supportive my friends and family are by learning to set boundaries and ask for help.

Recovering Alcoholics are Constantly Evolving in the Way They React to Alcohol Use

There are times in sobriety when I have absolutely no problem being around people who are drinking. Then there are times in my sobriety when I am extremely uncomfortable Ever wondered why recovering alcoholics react differently to alcohol? The same person's reaction could change every day.  Here's how to support them.around people who are drinking. Don't be mad at your loved one if they appear to change their mind about what makes them uncomfortable; we are not doing it to be difficult, this is just how life is for a recovering alcoholic. Every day is different and brings new challenges and requires fresh tactics.

When I am not taking care of myself, am stressed out, or depressed and it's much more difficult to stay sober (The Difference Between A Suffering And Recovering Alcoholic). Other than the quality of my mental and emotional state, there is no rhyme or reason as to why my comfort level changes regarding being around people who are drinking. Sometimes it becomes uncomfortable for me to be around alcohol even when I am rigorous about my recovery.

Recovering Alcoholics Have Needs and Boundaries When It Comes to Being Around Normal Alcohol Use

Time and time again, I have committed to attending a party or event where I knew there would be alcohol, only to find there are no non-alcoholic beverages being served. This is one circumstance in which I need to do a better job of setting boundaries and advocating for my own needs. It may be a small detail to you non-alcoholics, but for me, as a recovering alcoholic, it's actually very stressful for two reasons:

  1. Those are the kinds of parties where I would have been smashed out of my gourd during my drinking days, and attending them sober is an awkward walk down memory lane. And while someone else's drinking may trigger my desire to drink on any given day, those people and their behaviors are not to blame. It's not their responsibility to keep my desire to drink (or lack thereof) in check. When I find myself at these events, I often have to rely on advice I give to people in early sobriety, no matter how long I have been sober.
  2. It's difficult to be surrounded by that much alcohol as a recovering alcoholic, period. I have a natural desire to drink because I am an alcoholic, and sometimes just being around alcohol is a trigger for me. Since I am the only person who can identify and react to my triggers, I am my own best advocate for my sobriety.

If I am feeling triggered by either of these stressors, I need to set a boundary and get out of the situation. Sometimes this is simply a matter of excusing myself from the party where alcohol is being consumed.

How to Support a Recovering Alcoholic Around Normal Alcohol Use

The best thing you can do as a friend or family member, is to keep a safe space when a recovering alcoholic comes to talk to you about his or her needs and boundaries. Be compassionate and understanding if he or she needs to change or cancel plans with you because of his or her changing comfort level around alcohol use. Unless he or she states otherwise, all the recovering alcoholic wants is to get your support.

All alcoholics are different, so how all recovering alcoholics react to normal alcohol use varies. However, I have received overwhelming concurrence when I shared these thoughts with other recovering alcoholics. What are your experiences?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user arvind grover.

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APA Reference
Doyle, B. (2015, September 24). How Recovering Alcoholics React to Normal Alcohol Use, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Becky Doyle

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