Ok. So this has been a long time coming. What I have to say may make some people angry. It may give some people hope. It may bring some of us closer together. It may have some feeling further away – and that’s ok.
First of all let me make something clear: ONLY talking about sobriety as a flavour of the month or a cool thing to do is harmful.
This one is for the platforms, the media, and those in positions of influence and ability to make change. We have a responsibility to use platforms of influence to tell the TRUTH about things which means – yes sobriety is awesome. Yes people choosing to be sober is awesome. Yes having more sober solutions is awesome. Yes sobriety is cool. Yes mocktails are delicious. Yes it is a relief to be able to go SOMEWHERE that booze isn’t at the centre of it all. But alcohol alone kills 2.8 million people a year. And making sobriety look like a simple flip of the switch can perpetuate the shame surrounding addiction and substance use disorders.
Let sobriety trend the hell on but we gotta tell the whole story if we want to make a change and save lives.
For many, sobriety wasn’t a lifestyle choice. It was about life or death. It took more than a simple switch from a highball to a mocktail for the health, fun, and challenge of it. It took everything they had (and even more of what they didn’t) to live breath by breath, second by second, one step at a time to escape the debilitating grips of alcohol or drugs.
Addiction. Is. Real.
Addiction is a devastating disease that WILL rob you of anything and everything until you are left with nothing but desperation to survive (survival being the highjacked brain obsessively searching for more high. More drunk. More of everything that is an escape. More of anything that even if just for a moment masks the debilitating shame that lies beneath).
Stigma is also real. The stigma of addiction (and recovery) is still so pervasive in our culture to be someone who suffers from a substance use disorder is somehow viewed as something to hide at all costs. Something so rooted in shame many will take it to their grave.
Early Intervention. Is. Also. Real.
For many people, early intervention is a part of their story. They didn’t reach the depths of addiction that others did – for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it was capital (more on what that means another time). Maybe it was reading an article about sober curiosity, or attending an alcohol-free event that sparked their curiosity. Maybe it was finding a community that embraced a sober lifestyle and modelled courageous vulnerability. Whatever the case, this curiosity lead them to leaving the booze or drugs behind. Maybe for them, an early exit was the direction they took because sobriety as a lifestyle choice and deeper connection with themselves and others was more attractive to them. If someone doesn’t have to lose everything in order to find recovery, that IS something to celebrate. Early intervention is possible and has the potential to save lives.
Also sobriety as a trend is not dangerous. It is helpful.
The way we smash the stigma of recovery and living sober is by having more people on our team. It makes it easier to be a person in recovery when you are surrounded by other people who have chosen a similar path.
However – Sobriety as a trend WITHOUT acknowledging the PRIVILEGE it is to “choose sobriety” IS harmful. Sobriety as a trend without talking about the powerlessness of addiction IS dangerous.
Which is where my story comes in. Hi, my name is Lisa Nixon and I am an “early exiter”.
I am a person in recovery primarily from codependency and workaholism with some moral injury, body shame, and trauma in the mix – And I know MOST PEOPLE reading this can I identify with at least one of these things.
I also had a complicated relationship with alcohol. I am one of those people who had the privilege of choosing an exit plan. It was easy. Simple. I made a decision to stop and that was it. But how I got there wasn’t.
The first time I drank I blacked out. I got sick. I ended up in the woods alone. I woke up with permanent marker all over my face depicting something we will call “the opposite of feminist art”. I boarded a bus the next day full of people slowly clapping for my performance the night before. We were on our way to band nationals in another province. I wasn’t proud – I was ashamed.
This pattern continued. EVERY TIME I drank I suffered negative consequences. Suicidal ideation. Waking up in my own vomit with no recollection of the night before, so grateful I somehow managed to end up on my side and not die from choking. Breaking things. Feeling alone and misunderstood. Blackouts. Broken friendships. Being violated and taken advantage of. Spiked drinks, and a shameful trip to the doctor.
And I stopped.
I first reserved my drinking to once or twice a year for times when it would be more socially acceptable to accept a drink – birthdays.
And then after my 30th birthday, in solidarity with my partner I quit for good. And I never once have had a craving.
Essentially I just never crossed the pickle line. It is said that once you cross the pickle line with alcohol or other substances you can’t go back to being a cucumber.
I have a history of addiction in my family and I chose to remain a cucumber. I am someone who chose a sober lifestyle. Who could be classified as someone who subscribes to the “trend” of sobriety.
And you know what – I’m ok with that.
But I do believe if I continued without addressing underlying issues of co-addiction or codependency or shame (its all the same to me) I could have very possibly turned into a pickle.
So I suppose what I want to say to other sober trendsetters, influencers, and sober curious people – use your influence and privilege to share your story, advocate sobriety AND help give a voice to those for whose life depends on it. Great – it’s fun for you. It’s a lifestyle shift for you. Feel proud about your accomplishments AND take time to listen to those for whom it was not so easy. Who are in the trenches of addiction without a voice to ask for help. Be grateful for the gift of choice because for many choice is just a fairytale.
But also know your choice of sobriety doesn’t take away from the person suffering from a deeper compulsion to use – as long as you are on their team. Your influence is needed. Let sobriety trend the hell on because goddess knows we have much stigma and patriarchy to smash and we’re stronger together.
Side note for the codependent workaholics – don’t kill yourself advocating for others in the process. Going at this alone is a burnout path – take it from me. If this concept seems completely foreign to you please message me. It is possible to find balance.
Sometimes the pendulum just has to swing to the edges first before we can find the middle.