Sobriety no longer equates to doom and gloom with so many new options for support
Since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935, two main groups existed when it came to the consumption of alcohol, the stereotypical alcoholic — and everybody else.The stereotypical alcoholic was described as a person who could not control their drinking, could not hold down a job, had excommunicated all loved ones, was in poor health, saddled with financial troubles and had reached rock bottom. They were doomed to eventual death from drinking, probably in a gutter somewhere.
Or if they managed to quit drinking, the rest of their life would be spent in recovery, where “treatment” for their disgraceful affliction was subjection to dingy, smoke-filled church basements, countless Styrofoam cups of stale coffee and endless working of the twelve steps.As a member of this group, quitting drinking meant that you were judged, labeled weak and defective, and life as you knew it was over.
Because I didn’t believe that I fit the stereotypical alcoholic mold, I made attempt after attempt to stay in everybody else group — to my own detriment. I didn’t want to wear the alcoholic label, which to me was as bad as having a scarlet letter on my chest, so I kept on drinking to avoid the shame and judgment of being in recovery. My self-sabotaging thought process was perpetuated by a few options for support.
However, when I started my journey to sobriety in 2014, by making my first of several attempts to quit drinking, the sobriety support landscape had begun to shift. New thought leaders and sober influencers emerged, and options for support other than AA became mainstream. As time passed, with each Dry January or Sober October, it became easier for me to picture myself in a sober lifestyle.
There are now many support options other than AA. There are numerous sobriety support blogs, Facebook pages, and Instagram influencers. There are also dozens of memoirs to read, many of which alleviate the common fears that a sober lifestyle is boring and crappy.A simple web search reveals several support groups — a few notable options are SMART Recovery, Woman for Sobriety and Secular Organizations for Sobriety. There are also new apps and online support groups. This is a great article about the numerous sober communities available.
If you can combine support options with other tools for recovery, you can surround yourself with support. Not only that, but there are now sober bars and clubs popping up in the larger cities.
Additionally, the fact that drinking problems exist on a spectrum and true stereotypical alcoholism is the exception, not the norm, is becoming common knowledge. New terms are coined regularly to describe different stages of drinking problems such as gray area drinker, problem drinker, binge drinker, sober curious, moderate drinker, a person with alcohol use disorder and my personal favorite, the high functioning alcoholic (but that’s another article topic altogether).
With all of the new support approaches and options for labeling our drinking issues, it may be easier to face the prospect of quitting. The fear and shame that wearing the alcoholic label brought forth in the past have been replaced by empowerment. We don’t HAVE to quit drinking, we CHOOSE to quit drinking, and life can still be full and rich (in fact it really is better) without alcohol.
I was fortunate to finally reach the point of facing my fear of judgment and took my serious dive into sobriety. In one of my first blog posts, I wrote about listening to my intuition that I had a drinking problem and not letting the naysayers talk me out of quitting.
Since posting that article, I have told a few more people that I quit drinking, including one of my good friends who was also one of my best drinking buddies. When I told her, she said something along the lines of, “You quit drinking huh? Maybe I need to quit.”
Surprisingly, that was quite a different response than I expected, but not the only one of its kind. This leads me to believe that the new influencers and new support modalities may also be reaching the drinking community, resulting in less entrenchment in judgment.
I have to admit, I have some great friends who don’t judge and who have not given me the standard lines that I used to receive, such as “I don’t think you have a problem, everyone drinks too much from time to time, you’re not an alcoholic.” However, I haven’t really received congratulations either, at least not from current drinkers — but I envision it in the future as more people become educated about the varying levels of alcohol addiction.
So, call yourself what you want to, a problem drinker, a gray area drinker or in my case now, a teetotaler. Or don’t label yourself at all. But know this. There is support out there in many forms. You do not need to be ashamed or fear judgment. Stand up and do what you need to do to make your life your own. You can get sober, stay sober, be proud and be supported in your efforts.