It’s not just about you anymore.
I wouldn’t talk about sobriety when I first stopped drinking because it seemed like I was admitting a dark secret. And that feeling would be validated often. It would cause people to stop in their tracks and visibly make an assessment about me in the moment. This caused talking about it to make me feel insanely vulnerable and equally pressured to keep up with sobriety. But it was a long time coming and I knew that even if people didn’t say it out loud, they would remember the hot mess I was when I had been drinking.
There were a few months of flirting with sobriety before I actually took the plunge. I had a fitness account on Instagram that I started following sobriety accounts and looking at the #sobriety tag in the search tab. The /r/stopdrinking subreddit was my spot to lurk and soak up all of the stories of people going through sobriety. It felt like I was exploring a piece of society that was looked down upon, I was feeling so much guilt relating to all the stories and feeling better about myself now that I could see I wasn’t alone in how I was using alcohol to cope.
The first step is the hardest
I took the plunge after a particularly horrible night of drinking. My fitness account became a sobriety account, I started posting more about how it was a problem that I was drinking. I wanted to change and I wasn’t ready for people in my life to know yet so I turned to the internet. A reddit account was made so I could post on the /r/stopdrinking subreddit and get a flair next to my name to show how long I’ve been sober. I wanted accountability where I felt I couldn’t get it in my day to day life.
Each day being added to the counter for my flair gave me hope that I could actually make it this time. Hearing all of the nice things people had to say on Instagram made me feel less like I was entering this dark community but entering a place where I was accepted no matter what I did or went through.
It was nice to talk to people online and be going through something together. I didn’t know anyone going through sobriety when I first stopped drinking and it was nice to talk to an online community.
I knew the next step would be to talk to the people in my life about quitting and I knew it would be hard.
Current drinkers don’t take you seriously
I was at two weeks when I told someone at work that I stopped drinking. They noticed that I hadn’t been going to happy hours for about a month and were curious about what I was doing instead.
So I admitted I quit drinking and happy hours were too hard for me currently.
Queue the questions about if this was just a dry month, or if I was pregnant. Asking when I would go back to drinking and if there was something coming up in my life. How long had I stopped drinking? I would go back to drinking after 30 days, right?
If you say anything less than a month, people don’t take you seriously. Not at first anyway. I said I wasn’t going to go back to drinking at all, I was done but the response was disbelief. It increased that pressure to keep up with sobriety. If I were to stop at any point in the first month or two, it would solidify the belief that people had that I was going to give up and drink again. Even when I went to 30 days, I was still getting questions about when I’d go back. It wasn’t until 60 days that people started believing that I really was quitting alcohol for good.
Being more upfront about sobriety will alter peoples’ perspectives of you, it’s just a fact. But you get to choose how this new perception of you is shaped. If you spend your days working on becoming a better person, being more active- people will see that. It’s when you choose to act like sobriety is a disease that you give power to the perception that you were afraid of.
You’re not an expert until you’re a year into sobriety
Even in the sober community, there is this idea that you don’t understand the ins and outs of sobriety unless you’ve been sober for longer than a year.
If you try to give advice or be someone that newly sober people can ask questions about how to handle sobriety, there is hate on the internet if you haven’t met yet. I’ve seen comments and posts saying that if you haven’t made it a year, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
With how different sobriety is for everyone, your year’s worth of sobriety may not click with a newly sober person. Maybe they didn’t have another addiction on top of it or maybe they didn’t have a major life changing event. The only true thing for everyone is that we’re all handling our addiction to alcohol the best we can so we need to be more supportive of others. If someone wants to give advice or try to relate to the sober community, we shouldn’t shun them. It looks bad on the community as a whole and it might scare a newly sober person away from speaking up about their own experiences.
If you’ve made it even a day with no alcohol, that’s no simple feat. In one single day you’ve done what most people wouldn’t dream possible. You are valid and there’s no reason why you can’t share how you accomplished it. It might help someone who feels like they can’t connect with the majority of the sober people they see; it could be what keeps someone sober.
You are more exposed
Being public and vulnerable about sobriety is one of the reasons that I’ve stayed sober for so long. Knowing that if I were to relapse and drink alcohol again, I did everything in my power to stay away from drinking.
Having an Instagram account and a blog about sobriety makes me feel responsible for helping others go through their own sobriety. If I were to go back to drinking, everything I’ve built around this new lifestyle would go away. Being online and having even a small presence, it’s not just about me anymore. As much as you would like to believe otherwise, there are people who now look to you for a source of inspiration. There might be people like me in the beginning who lurked and looked for people that could convince them to go sober with how they turned their lives around.
I couldn’t be someone who gave up, even if I don’t outwardly see who might be looking up to me. And since I choose to speak up about mental health and the actions I’m taking outside of sobriety to be a better person, it’s important to keep being vulnerable.
Choosing to be vulnerable is terrifying. Having my life displayed through words and pictures is something I would have been against before sobriety. Now that I’m public about my experiences, I feel it’s important to show all sides of my life-the good and the bad.
It’s how we decide to live our lives that’s important when being so open about sobriety and mental health. Having the confidence to be exposed and learn from it is something that’s valuable. Showing that sobriety is about taking that first step to taking better care of yourself is what that sober curious person needs to also take their first step.
We can end the stigma that alcoholics are people who have given up on life or are diseased in some way. It needs more conversation and we need to be upfront about what sobriety and living a better life means to us.
When you open yourself up to the public about sobriety, it’s not just about you anymore.