Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Readers Respond to Party Invitation

DEAR HARRIETTE: I read your response to "Good Friend" about whether to invite a newly sober friend to a party.

From the viewpoint of the sister of a recovered alcoholic, I respectfully disagree with the advice you gave. One of the most difficult aspects of "becoming sober" for my sister was the fear that people would treat her differently, brand her as an alcoholic, etc.

Based on our family experience, the best thing to do in this situation is to invite her friend. Unless "dry" parties are the norm in her circle, which I doubt they are, the friend will know that alcohol will be served and can decide, along with his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, whether he will be comfortable attending.

My sister was advised to avoid situations with lots of alcohol in early recovery and to do so as long as her sobriety was tenuous. AA does not encourage people to live like nuns, avoiding situations where alcohol is served, as long as they have a valid reason for being there. Alcohol is pervasive in our society, and recovering alcoholics learn how to handle triggers. My sister can now go anywhere alcohol is served, enjoy herself and stay sober.

The stigma of alcoholism remains strong, and the last thing people in recovery need is to feel that their friends and family are watching over them, constantly afraid they'll go off the wagon. They need the support and company of their friends, not to be treated as "different" from others. I learned this the hard way. -- Anonymous, Ann Arbor, Mich.

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Thank you for your detailed letter explaining how to support people recovering from alcoholism. You bring up important points about how to simply be a friend.

I believe that the person in question was newly sober. In that case, I do not think it is wise to bring vulnerable loved ones into the space of a party with alcohol, which is similar to your point about how AA suggests to people in early recovery that they avoid situations "with lots of alcohol." I do not think that such an invitation would be kind. Otherwise, I fully agree with your assessment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Here's a radical idea for "Good Friend" ... if you and a few friends are honestly concerned about your recovering friend, why not have a party without alcohol? It's amazing -- there are hundreds of thousands of us nondrinkers who have discovered that it is possible to have a good time without alcohol. If you're really a good friend, how about a bit of sacrifice? -- Really Good Friend, Nampa, Idaho

DEAR REALLY GOOD FRIEND: I love your idea of an alcohol-free party. While it may not be the norm, it is a great way to include a newly sober friend without creating discomfort.

As Anonymous pointed out, since most parties do include alcohol, a host should not feel that every party he or she invites this person to attend must be alcohol-free. Instead, the host can be mindful to serve something for everyone.