“Supportive Normies” are the people in our lives who can drink normally but support our recovery. I highly recommend enlisting one or two “normies” in your life to be trusted insiders. You may be finding a lot of support in meetings or recovery groups, but as this time of year closes in on us we may find ourselves adrift in a series of family gatherings and social events with nothing but normies (and likely a smattering of active heavy drinkers). Your sponsor and supporters are likely only a text message away, but it can also be very helpful to open up to a few choice others who are part of our daily life.
I’ve created a “Do’s and Don’ts” list that you can print for or email to your Supportive Normies. First though, think carefully about choosing your confidants. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to bee-line for the usual suspects (your sister, bestie, or spouse), but the best choices may be someone you spend less time with. If you are new to recovery, you may have surrounded yourself with drinking buddies and enablers. Certainly there could be true gems among this group, but also consider a favourite aunt, neighbour, or other person who has become peripheral in your life because they were not part of your drinking structure. Give this some quiet thought.
Once you have chosen a supporter or two to confide in, you may want to share this list with them. It can be used to spark discussion or to avoid it, whichever you need at the moment. You may want to create your own version of this list, adding and omitting as needed. The main goal is to create awareness for your needs, and to help you ask for support.
Here is the list in both text and graphic form. You will also find it on my “Graphic Quotes” section:
TOP TEN DO’S AND DON’TS FOR SUPPORTIVE NORMIES
- DO keep my sobriety confidential. I am still deciding when, how, and with whom to share this information so it is a vulnerable time for me. Sometimes I may seem comfortable speaking about it openly and sometimes I may seem unnecessarily guarded. This is part of my learning curve so please be patient, even when it is awkward. If someone should ask why I am not drinking, tell perhaps I am a designated driver or on medication. Your inside knowledge of this situation is proof that you are a trusted person in my life.
- DO have some safe alternatives for me on-hand if you are hosting a gathering. I can let you know my preferences, or you can have fun looking for gourmet sodas in the store. I will likely arrive at your home with my own beverages, as well. I feel gratefully supported and cared for to know you have a back-up.
- DON’T think I am judging you if you drink. My decision to avoid alcohol is in reaction to my own experiences.
- DON’T blow off my efforts. Please understand that I have kept my struggles private out of shame, so you may not be aware of the impact alcohol was having on me. Even if you are uncertain that I need to fully abstain, please be supportive anyway. You may think that cutting back makes more sense or that my drinking wasn’t that bad, but hearing this is not helpful for me. I do not have the ability to cut back or I wouldn’t be abstaining, and it is important to me that you understand and support this.
- DO invite me to all the usual events, and let me decide if I feel comfortable attending. Please be patient with me if I decide to accept an invitation and then realize it was not a good idea. I may leave early or arrive late or disappear mid-evening. I am not being dramatic or disapproving if I depart suddenly; I just need to follow my instincts while I get used to a new normal.
- DO know that our relationship may change, because I need to change myself. We may have to meet for brunch instead of cocktails, but we can still be involved in each other’s lives. I am excited to strengthen our relationship in new ways that will support positive changes in my life.
- DO be my secret supporter. We can have fun subversively protecting my glass at events, or chatting up bartenders for mocktail creations, or dancing together like the craziest pair in the club. Ask me what I need at the start of the evening (because each day can be different) and let’s make a plan.
- DO know that if I drive you to an event you may have to take a cab home. We can discuss this beforehand, but having the freedom to escape quickly is vital to my safety.
- DO ask me questions. I think about my decision a lot and I don’t mind talking about it. My answers may change from day to day, because I am constantly learning new things about myself.
- DON’T ask me when if or when I plan to start drinking again. Just support my decision of being alcohol-free for today.