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Dear Captain,

I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.

Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.

I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.

So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?

Thanks for any help,

Sober in South Florida (she/her)

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Hello,

My close friend from childhood, “Jake,” is a kindhearted person with a drinking problem. I have learned that his drinking problem is not something for me to either fix or enable, so I do neither. Most of the time I simply hang out with him before he starts drinking for the night, and then excuse myself once he begins, to avoid being around him while he is drunk. This works 9 out of 10 times and has kept our friendship intact for fifteen years now.

My question is not about my relationship with Jake, but about how to deal with other people affected by his out of control behavior on the rare occasions that I am present to witness to it.

I invited Jake to my recent birthday dinner. My work colleagues were there. Jake, who is gay, made unwanted (verbal) sexual overtures to my straight male coworkers. He made loud, explicit and insulting observations about my female coworker’s outfits and bodies. I was fairly mortified and also speechless when it happened, cringing silently in disbelief. (He would never have said anything like this while sober, of course. When I asked, he told me he doesn’t remember the evening at all.)

What does damage control look like in a case like this? What do I say to these people now? Is there a better strategy than “sorry my friend harassed you, he’s an alcoholic”? I know Jake’s comments are not my responsibility, but I feel like I need to let my acquaintances and colleagues know that I don’t condone the things he said. I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence.

Thank-you!

I think an apology will definitely go a long way to mending fences with your coworkers. I would keep Jake’s good qualities and non-drunk self out of it. Be brief and don’t make excuses. This isn’t about rescuing his status in their eyes, this is about repairing your relationships with these people.

Coworker, my old friend Jake was drunk and extremely out of line the other night, and I’m so sorry about his behavior toward you. I’m also sorry I didn’t do more at the time to put a stop to it. I was so taken aback and mortified that I froze.

And then, if you really want to make things better for those folks going forward, I have two suggestions:

1) Practice speaking up more in the moment to curb the bad behavior and shield your guests.Jake – that’s enough!” “Not cool, Jake.” “Jake, I’m gonna call you a cab. Time to go now.” You aren’t responsible for his behavior, but if you’re hosting events you are taking on some responsibility for other people’s comfort. Jake’s targets were likely also speechless because they had no basis for anticipating his behavior or knowing how to react to it in a way that wouldn’t make everything worse for you. If you don’t feel up to redirecting him or shutting him down in public, I understand, but that makes suggestion #2 even more important.

2) Don’t cross your wider social streams with Jake again, especially not when it involves people you work with. That means Jake might get excluded from things like intimate birthday dinners in the future, not because you are a bad or disloyal friend, but because he can’t hang. 

Think of all the letters here from people who are like “I love (friend/relative), but seeing them means I also have to see Drunk Mean Asshole, and I worry that if I tell them that I don’t want to hang out with DMA anymore that they’ll disown me, but DMA is ruining all the time I spend with them.” I’m sorry, but you are That Friend now! If you enjoy Jake’s company when he’s not drinking, think about enjoying that solo and keeping group events for people who can behave themselves. If Jake protests not being invited, tell him exactly why: “You were such a jerk to everybody at my birthday, I don’t want to cross those streams again. We’ve made a way to make our friendship work despite your drinking problem, and let’s stick with what works.” Please don’t make your wider social circle absorb his bad behavior for your sake. You can’t fix him, you don’t want to enable him, so what’s left is shielding the other people you care about when Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffy flirting with Xander as a "joke."

Sport-flirting with a friend you *know* has feelings for you is bad, bad manners.

Hi Captain:

There is this totally awesome and beautiful girl in some of my graduate classes. I sat next to her and before I knew it we started texting a lot and it looked like it was leading to something more. I tried taking her out to dinner but once she had something come up and then we never got definitive plans after that. One night she started drunk texting me and she expressed that she wanted me. The next morning she appoligized for her texts. I total her don’t worry about. A couple days later the she started drunk texting me again. This time she expressed a stronger desire for me. The next morning she appoligized again.

Later that day she said how she was embarrassed that she wanted me when she was drunk. I told her I liked it because I like her. She then responded with “I thought we were just friends,” “I’m glad I know this now,” and “I hope this doesn’t make things awkward” I tried to get a clear answer about what this meant but was left under the impression that she just wanted to be friends.

Later that night, she started texting me again. This time it became full on sexting. During which she said how much she wanted me. Then the next morning she appoligized again. This time talking about how embarrassed she was and how she gets crazy when she’s drunk. I told her how confused this all made me, but that I like her and she responded “I like how we are now ya know?”

First What the HELL does this all mean?

Is there something I can do to piece this together and go out with her?
Should I wait this out and see what may happen?
Or should I just cut off communication and move on?

Thanks
Too confused to pursue

Dear Too Confused:

I think that you handled this beautifully when you asked the lady out. Straight up: “I like you. Let’s have dinner.” That was cool and confident. And when she said, “No thanks,” you backed off and respected that and tried to keep it strictly friendly & professional. Also cool.

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This is a very smart post on moving on and setting boundaries with an ex from Jenn Vicious at In Our Words:

“There’s this thing that sometimes happens when people break up but still care about each other: they want to continue working on things that were problems in their relationship. Don’t do that. My opinion on it is that if you break up with someone, then you are done working out the problems in your relationship. You are more likely to get to a place where you can genuinely care about each other as friends if you actually stop relying on each other for the same support you provided when you were together. You have to change your patterns of behavior, change the expectations you have of each other when you interact. It isn’t easy, but if you didn’t know that you needed to do it, you probably would have stayed in the relationship.”

(Bolding mine) That’s my opinion, too, which is why I say to not use the moment when you break up with someone to critique everything about them that you don’t like. You don’t have to make a case to someone about why your heart moved on, you just have to tell them your decision and then figure out how to live with it. Also, it’s true that when what someone wants (you!) is fundamentally different from what you want (not them!) there is no magic way to extricate yourself without hurting them.

And now, a letter:

Hello Awkwards:

I’m a 22 year old single female student studying library and information science. I’m a gamer, computer – roleplaying and boardgames it’s all the same.

I also don’t drink alcohol. My family thinks it’s a bit weird but prefer it to an extreme in the other direction and don’t bother me about it anymore, strangers and friends however are a different story. Most assume that I’m either religious (in some strange way), on a cleanse (HA!), a recovering alcoholic or even pregnant.

The thing is that I just don’t like the taste and if/when they find this out it’s no longer accepted for me to abstain. It’s always just this one beer or drink or wine that is going to convert me. And I like hanging out with my friends when there’s drinking. I can watch out for everyone and still have an awesome time with just soda. Still someone always asks and I always have to explain and then be pestered.

“It’s to bitter” I will say and they will reply
“Ah but this drink/beer/wine is different, try it”

and no it’s not it maybe sweet compared to other but that doesn’t make it actually sweet or remove the aftertaste of alcohol.

And I never send out the signal that this is something I want solved. I don’t desperately want to get drunk, I’m not in dire need of a drunk Yoda to guide me in the way of the drink. And not to make light of others problems but when I have to compare to trying to convert others to your faith/sexuality just to make them stop trying to enrich your life it’s gone to far- can someone give a way I can try to convince people to leave it alone without referring to these sensitive and more serious issues?

Please help a frustrated absolutist

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