If you’re in recovery for alcoholism, congratulations! Being sober is no easy task, particularly in a country where “being social” is almost always tied to drinking.
It can be tough enough always being sober in any circumstances, but what if you’re living with roommates? These folks aren’t your family (who in ideal circumstances are totally supportive), necessarily friends, or even people you might choose to have in your life if you didn’t need some help with rent and utilities. This makes being in recovery particularly difficult because you can’t ask or count on roommates to help you stay on your sobriety journey.
It’s obviously ideal to only live with folks who understand and respect your decision not to drink. Many alcoholics who live with family or supportive friends can create a home environment that’s alcohol-free so there’s never any temptation. Keeping alcohol cravings in check is just a little bit easier when nobody is bringing it into the home.
You might be able to find roommates who are also in recovery, and this can be helpful. Many in recovery actually find these roommates in support groups, and if this is appealing to you, the group organizer can help you determine if this is a good idea.
Otherwise, if you have no choice but to live with roommates who drink and bring alcohol into the home, there are some steps you can take to minimize risk.
Create a System that Works for Everyone
At any stage in your sobriety journey, you might be tempted. This is especially true in the early stages. If your roommates bring alcohol into the home, ask them to keep a separate mini-fridge or locked cabinet that only they have access to. It might be helpful if it is in their room and not a common area. Out of sight, out of mind can help to distract you from knowing alcohol is in the home. Of course, a lock that prevents easy access can also help!
If you’ve been in recovery for some time and no longer have a sponsor (or pursued sobriety in an avenue where you never had a sponsor), right now might be a time to reconsider. Alcoholics can receive support, whether it’s through a sponsor or a professional, at any time in their sobriety journey. Even if you haven’t slipped up, simply being worried about roommates with alcohol in the home is reason enough to get a little extra support.
Institute House Rules to Keep You Safe
It’s certainly not right to ask your roommates not to drink in the house at all, but perhaps asking them to only drink in their room and when you’re away can be helpful. In the early stages of sobriety (and later in some cases), it might also be reasonable to not allow house parties that include alcohol and drinking. A no-party rule isn’t unusual in roommate situations even when sobriety isn’t a priority for someone in the home.
You can also discuss rules regarding proper recycling and disposal of alcohol containers. It can be difficult for those in sobriety if you regularly see (and smell) empty cans and bottles in the shared recycling area. Immediately disposing of these bottles after use, such as taking them to a separate outside bin that you don’t see on a daily basis, can be helpful.
Remember that the health of everyone in the home is an utmost priority. Don’t feel like you need to “let them” keep alcohol in common areas or have parties because a roommate situation has to be based on mutual respect. Everyone has their needs, and for those in recovery, that includes creating a home space that isn’t unnecessarily risky or filled with temptation.