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Recovering Alcoholic Balks After Brother Buys Him Expensive Bottle Of Whiskey For His Birthday

Man holding a bottle of whiskey
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Anyone who has ever struggled with their relationship with alcohol and meaningfully worked on it understands that sobriety is no joke.

But some people do not take it seriously and judge others for choosing not to drink, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

After six years of sobriety, Redditor Throwwway987 was ready to celebrate his fortieth birthday with his loved ones.

But when his brother presented him with a bottle of alcohol and started to make a scene, the Original Poster (OP) started to discover harbored feelings his family had.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for throwing away the expensive whiskey my brother got me for my 40th birthday?”

The OP was a recovering alcoholic and repairing his relationships.

“I’m 40 (Male), just turned forty last week. I’m divorced and have two teenage kids with my ex-wife (17 Male and 14 Female).”

“My whole family came to my and my girlfriend’s apartment last Saturday for my birthday party: my parents, some aunts and uncles, some cousins, my three brothers with their families, my two kids, and my girlfriend’s 15-year-old son who lives with us.”

“I am a recovered alcoholic. I’ve been sober for six years now.”

“Alcohol absolutely ruined my life, it destroyed my marriage and nuked my relationship with my kids for years.”

“I don’t allow alcohol in my home now, for anyone. It just isn’t served or tolerated here. My entire family knows this very well, as they know my entire history with alcohol.”

But the OP’s brother didn’t think the rule applied to the birthday celebration.

“For my 40th, my brother bought me a very expensive bottle of whiskey. It had writing on it, a very heavy bottle, and very old whiskey, so it probably cost him a couple of hundred bucks.”

“When he gave me the bottle, I was shocked, and said I don’t drink, but thanks for the gift.”

“He then opened the bottle and started pouring shots into plastic cups for everyone.”

“My daughter had a panic attack at the smell of the alcohol (which I am painfully aware is my fault and I will never forgive myself for it), so I told my brother to take the alcohol out on the balcony and just leave it there.”

“He wouldn’t do it and took a shot of the whiskey.”

The moment immediately escalated.

“I told him to seriously stop it, and he proceeded to pour the whiskey. He then said I am acting like a sober saint now when I ruined everyone’s birthdays for years with my drinking.”

“I told him to come to the hallway with me and talk it out.”

“He refused and put a glass of whiskey in my hand.”

“I took the trash can, threw the whiskey bottle in it and the plastic cups, and took the trash out.”

The family accused the OP of ruining the celebration.

“My brother then stormed off and my mom followed him. She later called me, demanding an apology for disrespecting my brother like that.”

“My dad said I was being overly sensitive, and some of my other family members also agree.”

“AITA here?”

The OP clarified his daughter’s reaction in a comment.

“My daughter has panic attacks at the smell of alcohol. I caused that by being a terrible person and father who left alcohol lying all around the house and yelled and threw s**t around.”

“It’s the very main reason I don’t allow any alcohol in my household.”

“But also yes, it does trigger me. For many recovered alcoholics, the smell of the booze is enough to throw you off the wagon. I can’t drink alcohol-free beer or cocktails for that reason. The smell alone messes with my head.”

He also confirmed in another comment that he contacted his sponsor.

“I did call my sponsor and went for a meeting later that evening.”

“My kids chose to sleep over at my place though. Which, after all these years, feels better than any birthday gift I could have gotten.”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some were appalled by the brother’s thoughtlessness at the party.

“NTA. What your brother did is really, really awful and cruel. Possibly the worst gift I’ve ever heard of someone giving another, especially as he is aware of your struggles and recovery.”

“Congratulations on recovery and standing up for yourself and your family.” – AbroadTemporary5359

“This makes me really grateful for my partner in this aspect of life. I’m just under a month sober (which feels like a huge accomplishment for me even though it doesn’t sound like much! I’ve never made it this far).”

“My partner very quietly gave up cigars in solidarity, and a week or two into it came home with pizza and craft NONalcoholic beers for me.”

“He knows how much I’ve been agonizing over my cravings… I can’t even imagine being presented with wine (or in my case more likely a nice beer) to ‘celebrate’ my success so far.” – Maxwells_Demona

“My grandmother used to do this to my grandfather. Every time he managed a week or two of sobriety, she would buy him a six-pack of beer ‘as a treat’ and would nag him to drink it because she paid good money for it and he should appreciate what she did for him.”

“Then she would mock him that she ‘knew’ he couldn’t stay sober.”

“He got her name tattooed on him under a little devil when they divorced which she thought was funny but honestly was pretty accurate.” – SeaOkra

“You can get sober and it’s hard enough, but you can’t get rid of the addiction, so staying well away from alcohol is a very healthy and reasonable choice. What the brother did was an incredible d**k move and also overstepping boundaries on SO MANY levels.”

“Heck, OP even tried to compromise by asking the drinking to happen on the balcony. He could have insisted there, already, on his house rules. It was no surprise for anyone that OP’s home is a non-alcohol zone. Respect it, or stay away.”

“Absolutely NTA.” – You-Done

“Misery loves company, and someone else’s sobriety can make a struggling addict feel ashamed. Or perhaps the brother is holding a grudge for some other reason. Which is still 100% his own problem, and is never an excuse to pull some s**t like that.” – TheAccusedKoala

Others agreed but took issue with the entire family’s reaction to the event.

“Oh, families of sober people can be a mess.”

“I’m an alcoholic coming up on 6 years sober. My family of origin was justifiably very concerned about my crypto-suicidal, life-ruining blackout drinking while it was happening, and I also became the Family Problem, to be managed and strategized about, and infantilized.”

“It was absolutely not their job to get me sober, but their ‘help’ didn’t help a bit, and they didn’t get support for themselves either.”

“My mother went to a few Al-Anon meetings and didn’t much like their very good advice to detach, maintain boundaries and protect herself; I think she’d become emotionally attached to her self-concept as a long-suffering mom with a hopeless drunk problem child.”

“Now my entire family denies that I was ever an alcoholic in the first place! ‘So you drank a little too much for a little too long; aren’t you being just a BIT dramatic with this ‘alcoholic’ label’?'”

“At least nobody’s pushed booze on me, but family members of alcoholics often have extremely complex, overwhelming, confusing feelings about the issue, and may be more attached to the idea of the drunk family member BEING a drunk than they realize.” – Mother-Pattern-2609

“I can only think of two things reading this post: the whole family has problems or addiction with alcohol or the brother was attempting revenge.”

“The first because of the family being mad at OP for cutting the alcohol and acting like not letting alcohol inside a house with teenagers who have severe trauma associated with it and a genetic component to addiction is being a ‘prude.'”

“And the second because of the ‘You ruined so many parties with your drinking’ comment, it sounds like bitterness, so I assume the brother wanted to ruin OP’s party.” – Suitable-Ad-6366

“I read this entire post with my jaw hanging open. Who in the world would back the brother’s behavior?”

“At best, his behavior was cruel. At worst, it was massively abusive.”

“OP, you are obviously NTA and I’m so sorry your family reacts to your recovery and set of healthy boundaries with abuse and denial. I’d go NC (no contact) honestly.” – spleeshmellout

“I suspect the brother and the family have a lot of resentment toward OP for how he was when he was drinking. The brother mentions how OP ruined every birthday.”

“It sounds to me like he wanted to take all of his resentment out on OP and the family who agrees have also been really hurt and think OP deserved it. Or they think he ‘dished it’ and should ‘take it.’ That’s not an excuse for their behavior, but that was just my reading of it.” – basilobs

“OP, you didn’t become an alcoholic out of nowhere. This story illustrates a whole dynamic. People supporting your brother for ‘putting you in your place’ rather than supporting you in trying to live as best you can with a terrible illness?! Horrible.”

“All I can say is that as much as you might blame yourself for whatever you put your children through, it seems like you also ended a cycle that began well before you. Your kids are growing up witnessing recovery and integrity.”

“I hope you have a chance to talk to the kids about what happened and listen to how they felt. Use the opportunity to reiterate your commitment to them and to your sobriety. Listen to their fear and anxiety and let them know how safe it is to say it all. You’ve got them.”

“You’re NTA. You did a great job.” – Hoistedonyrownpetard

The subReddit was appalled for the OP based on what the brother had done but also what the family supported the brother in doing. While the OP likely did some terrible things while drinking, doing something in return that could cause him to relapse was inexcusable, as well.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit