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Why I Don’t Judge People for Drinking Because of My Sobriety

“Are you judging me?”

This is the most common thing I hear when I am at a party and every darn chance I have, I am at some kind of social gathering. Yes, there is often drinking, and I don’t dislike this; I love this. I love watching all you people light up the world with your silliness.

I love being around people who like to have fun, and I am just not really worried about what that looks like for you. If you have fun by having a couple of drinks, I don’t silently wish you were not drinking, nor am I telling myself that you have a problem. Of course, though, I do know if you remind me of my former self. It isn’t a judgment, it’s just recognition.

When I quit drinking the booze, I didn’t quit being a lighthearted, life-loving, free-spirited person. I am still all of those things; I just quit drinking and I grew up a bit. OK, a lot.

In early sobriety, I fed myself a story that goes like this: I am sober and I make responsible life choices. I am so much better off than everyone else because of my sobriety.

Now, with a few years under my belt, I wonder: who am I to wish my life onto others, or to believe that somehow, my life is better than anyone else’s? My choices are just that: mine.

When I was drinking, I didn’t know what life looked like sober, and although I didn’t care, a part of me wished for sobriety when I would see it. I knew I wasn’t making great life choices and I could be better, but I didn’t want recovery. I didn’t see any reason for it; I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

When I think about some people who have a perceived problem with alcohol, they seem happy. They don’t know sobriety; they may want it because all anyone with a problem wants is peace, but in those moments of drunken stupor they seem to believe, in some way or another, that they are happy, and their life is one worth living.

I know that while drinking or using drugs, some people are escaping themselves and their mistakes or hardships. I know it is often an act, a pretend display of happiness, peace and true joy. They are seemingly proud of the life they are living; the vicious spiral of waking up hungover covered in their own urine, vomit and sweat, and then doing it all over again.

A life believed to be well-lived, albeit a hard one. The hardest.

All these folks are really left with is some really wild stories they only remember from their perception, and which they have been reminded of by the many people who say, “man, you were wasted last night.”

My biggest realization in sobriety is: although my choices don’t look the same anymore and hopefully never will again, my life isn’t any better or worse than any other person struggling within the grips of addiction. The life they have created is just one of their choosing, and the one I am gratefully living is what I chose. I do wish I could help people make a different choice, a healthier choice but I can’t, and it’s not my choice to decide what will make someone happy. Someone engaging in the hard life of drugs and alcohol doesn’t necessarily wish for my life. They might one day, when they are ready, but right now they are living a totally different experience.

Who am I to tell them it is not right? Who am I to decide what anyone’s life should look like? Who am I to tell them it is time to get sober, and who am I to judge them, one way or the other?

I don’t know anything about this “always drunk” person’s life experiences, other than the wild stories they have told me. I have no idea where they have been and what they have seen outside of those stories. I don’t know what caused them to choose this life; I don’t know how much it hurts them to face it. I don’t know their mistakes. I don’t know what brings them joy. I don’t know what their childhood looked like.

The “always drunk” person, who I believe to be living with alcoholism, believes me to be suffering without alcohol.

It’s an unbelievable disease.

I could very easily think to myself, “why would you want to live your life that way, drunk out of your mind?” The truth is I did live that way and when I was in the thick of it, I didn’t wish enough for something better to make a different choice or recognize I even had the power to make a better choice. I didn’t realize I was in the middle of addiction. That’s why so many people who are addicted to a substance will deny that they are. It is not that they are not willing to admit they are addicted — a part of them likely knows — but it’s simply that they don’t recognize it as this.

Life and its hardships are all about perspective and the ability to see it from someone else’s point of view.

I know I love and accept people regardless of their sobriety, and that when I give them my attention and love, when I engage in conversation with them and I treat them as I wish to be treated, they give that love and acceptance right back to me.

I too just want to be loved without judgment.

Yes, I am sober, and this is my world. This is my choice.

I will do everything I can to help you if I see you struggling. I will share my story with you, both addiction and recovery. I will shine my light even when it offends you and your life choices. And I will try to provide you with the hope you so much need. I will engage with you and plant seeds of recovery. I will tell you how good life is and can be, in a humble way. I will remind you that you are worth it, and I will accept you with every single mistake you have made. I will advocate for you in any way imaginable. I will walk with you one step at a time, to a life that is not necessarily better than what you are living now, but could be.

The only thing I won’t do is judge you, no matter who you are, and what you have done or are still doing.

Because I have been there, I understand this troubled life, and all I really want for you is peace, whatever that looks like.

So no, I’m not judging you. I am accepting you this way, that way, whatever way you are, and giving you all the love, even if it is from afar. Keep Showing Up.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash