I am astonished by the amount of positive feedback I receive about the idea of label-free sobriety, but I am even more astonished by the negative feedback. In a community where service and support are paramount to success, how is it possible for people in this community to actively engage in disparaging comments about another's successful journey? It seems counter-intuitive to me. I'll keep writing about my positive experiences and continue to support everyone else's successful journey because that's what we should be doing in a community where support comes second only to action.
Let's talk a little about this word we all use and can't help but use, for the most part, due to it's obvious attachment to those who have quit drinking. As I have spoken to before, words are just words, and their definitions are used to communicate information back and forth between people. Can we exist without them? Well, certainly we could, but in today's world, that seems pretty improbable. I am more concerned with how we choose our words and why. There are always multiple words for pretty much any scenario and they all can have drastically different connotations. So, why do we choose the words we choose?
I have used the word sober and sobriety repeatedly since I started writing my blog, hell, my blog is called Sober Militia. I have used those words mostly because they were the most obvious words to use in reference to what I am doing, quitting drinking. I never really put much thought into the words. I just used them as they are intended to be used, as a literal reference to someone who does not drink. Okay, that works, let's go with that. Thankfully, as I evolve as a person and grow away from my addictions, I am learning that the words I use to describe me and my journey are more important than I first realized. It is time to start thinking more about who I am and the way in which I view myself and my journey.
Am I sober?
No. I posted the following post the other day and I was pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback it received, not because I needed the validation, but because it made me realize that I am not alone on my journey away from addiction and into life. The post: "I have decided that I am no longer sober, in recovery, or in sobriety. I am just me and I do not drink." Most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and it felt good to be heard and understood. One comment stated that the person felt sorry for my family. Really? Why? Because I have found a strength on my path that has allowed me to see past the stereotypical belief that I will always be an addict and in recovery. Please, do not feel sorry for me or my family. We are doing just fine.
What does it mean to be sober, anyway? It means to be not drunk. Okay, yes, technically I am definitely sober. It also means to be controlled, abstaining, and temperate, but show me a context other than alcohol where the word sober is used. We do not generally use the word sober for any other context than in relation to alcohol. This brings me back to my original thought about how labels can be detrimental to our successful path away from alcohol. Using the word sober to define ourselves only reiterates on a daily basis that we believe we have a problem with alcohol. We are putting energy into this fact every day. Is that the best use of our thoughts and energy? I don't think it is. I believe, when overcoming something as powerful and life-altering as alcohol, it is in our best interest to focus on what we want rather than what we don't want. By saying I am sober, I am saying I can't drink alcohol because I have a problem, and that is what the rest of the world hears too. Think about advertising. The basis of advertising is that a person needs to hear something repeated a certain number of times before it is seated into a person's subconscious. Once it is seated into a person's subconscious, that person will remember it the next time a specific context comes up. The same can be true for alcohol. If I continue to pelt myself with the idea that I have a problem with alcohol I am also pelting myself with the memories of why I used it in the first place. As long as I continue to hold on to those memories, I am virtually ensuring my susceptibility to falling back into my old ways because I have been reminding myself every day of that fact.
Choosing to not drink is different than not drinking
There are a lot of ways to successfully negotiate the path away from alcohol, but the strongest and most profound way is by shifting our mindset completely. If I negatively associate my self with alcohol, I will be negatively affected by alcohol. What I mean is this: the way I associate myself to alcohol, determines what kind of effect alcohol has on me. If I miss it, think about it, want it, wish I could have it, or any other association that gives alcohol power over me, I will struggle to stay away from it. The more energy I put into the negative association, the more power it will have over me. Conversely, the less energy I give my association to alcohol, the less power it will have over me.
The choice is up to us. Interestingly, some people choose to hold on to that association because it reminds them of something or makes them feel they have some control over their decision. If that works for you, then more power to you. For me, I like disassociating myself from it as completely as I can. The further I walk down my path the more I want to fully remove my associations with alcohol. Granted, I am writing about it twice a week, and am fairly involved in the community, but I am writing and talking about my experience, not my identity. There is a difference. As I said in my post, I am beginning to realize that when asked, I will no longer reply that I am sober, in recovery, or in sobriety; I will simply respond I just don't drink. It is the same way I respond when asked about meat; I don't eat meat. One of my readers had a problem with my relating not eating meat to not drinking. The reader thought there was no comparison between the struggles of not drinking and not eating meat. Are you sure? Because that is why I used the analogy. I put about the same amount of energy into both, and both are pretty easy to maintain because that is who I am.
I don't drink, and I don't eat meat.
If we know we don't drink like we know we are a good partner, parent, or friend, then that is who we are. The choice is truly up to us.
Know, that you don't drink.