Some of you know me and you may have even followed me for a bit. Some of you do not know me. For almost two years, I wrote and podcasted prolifically about my journey living alcohol-free. I did videocast interviews with others in the alcohol-free community. I organized a sober summit, which did not do well, but the positive intent was there. I spoke with many, argued with some, and generally tried to be a positive voice in the community. I even published a book on my sober journey titled, "Alcohol-Free; Straight Up with a Twist." One day and some of you remember exactly when this occurred, I realized what I was saying and who I was trying to reach was not coalescing. I realized those who "got" me, didn't need to hear from me, and those who did not "get" me could not hear me. Once this realization occurred, I could not un-realize it. So, I decided to take a break from my involvement in the sober and alcohol-free community.
For those of you who do not know me, let me explain a little further my stance on living alcohol-free. Over the past couple of years, I made statements such as; sobriety is easy, I am not an addict (anymore), recovery is not a lifelong sentence, counting days is counterproductive, addiction is a choice, alcoholism is not a disease. Now, if you do not know me, many of you are already tense and bristling at the before-mentioned statements. And that, my friends, is the point. I had people call me names, boot me from groups, tell me I did not know what I was talking about, and the list of negativity goes on. For those of you who do know me, you also know I try to avoid negativity as much as possible, which is why I will not dwell too much on those unfortunate occurrences. Nevertheless, those occurrences are also what led me to the realization I was not reaching my intended audience.
You may be asking, "If that is the case, why are you writing again, now?" To be honest, I am not fully sure what drove me to want to write today or if I will continue to write in the future. I will say that even though I took a break from my involvement in the sober community, I still follow some sober-related social media. I do this because the psychology surrounding sobriety fascinates me. Even though I struggle with much of what is put out through these forums, I cannot help but continue to watch, read, and absorb the way we portray addiction and sobriety in society. In a way, it is like watching a car crash, I just can't look away (even though I actually despise that part of humanity and I do my best to avert my eyes from car crashes, fights, and any other reminders of the depravity inherent in the human condition). To be clear, comparing sobriety to a car crash is not my point, but the inability to pull myself away from the popular views on the subject is. Here is why.
If I was asked to sum up MY perception of the popular sentiments of sobriety from MY experience over the last couple of years, I would be able to do so in one word. Before I do that, however, I want to explain why I wrote, "MY" in all capital letters. I did this because, in all my writing, podcasting, and interviewing, everything I had to say was MY opinion. You can, of course, disagree, but you cannot say I am wrong. It is MY belief, MY experience, MY opinion. Now, if you want to try and sway my belief by using intelligent and respectful conversation, I am all ears. I will even go so far as to say, I encourage you to do so because I would invite a new, fresh, and sound view of sobriety into my life with open arms. But, to say I am wrong, to say I don't know anything, to block me, or to kick me out of a group without any intelligible offerings of evidence as to why is simply incredulous. And, by the way, you're wrong is not a valid argument. To be fair, here is my evidence to support my beliefs: everything I wrote, talked about, or said was one hundred percent from my experience and one hundred percent from my perspective. It all happened, it is all true, and it is all right: to me, anyway.
My reasoning for putting my beliefs out there was two-fold. First, it was important for me to pass on my sober journey in the event someone out there related to my beliefs, thoughts, and experiences. Second, it was important for me to try and change the rhetoric surrounding the sober experience, which brings me back to the way I would sum up my experience with the popular sentiments surrounding sobriety today. The word I would use to describe the verbiage most commonly used to portray sobriety is, "struggle." I have so many problems with this I do not even know where to begin. But first, as I have always done in all my writings, I want to be clear in stating my beliefs and experiences are not meant to discount the experience or beliefs of others. Your experiences and beliefs are yours and they are as valid as mine. I express my beliefs in the hopes of offering a different perspective to the sober curious person who is just beginning to look into the idea of living alcohol-free. I express my beliefs with the intent of saying, "Hey, it does NOT have to be so hard." In MY experience, it was not a struggle because I did not believe it to be as such, to begin with.
A good friend of mine, Bobby C. said something to me in the very early days of my sobriety that still sticks with me to this day. He said, "You weren't tainted by the negativity of sobriety." In other words, sobriety was easy for me because I did not go into it with the negativity that commonly surrounds recovery. I was not involved in groups, social media, or even AA. My partner and I knew we had to make a change, so we did, together on our own. It was not until after I started writing about my experience and then joined the social media sober community that I learned sobriety sucked, for most people. It was then I decided to try and make a change. The change I most vehemently wanted to enact was the common rhetoric surrounding sobriety. The negative verbiage used in the sober community bothered me because I know, had I joined the social media groups before I quit drinking, I would have had a much more difficult time. I know I would have struggled too. I know this because I am human. I know this because as a human, I am susceptible to the power of suggestion. If I hear something enough times, I too will begin to believe it. I am human, and so too are the many sober curious people out there leaning toward an alcohol-free lifestyle.
What would happen if there was more positive rhetoric surrounding sobriety? What if the power of suggestion we are so susceptible to suggested sobriety was easy? Don't argue it, Don't fight it. Just ask yourself, what if? Could it change the experience of someone beginning their journey? Could it invite more people to want to begin their journey? Could it? I believe it could, which is why I wrote about it for a couple of years. My blog, Sober Militia, focused mostly on this idea. I say, "Sobriety is easy." Guess what? It was, for me. If we say, "Sobriety is difficult." Guess what? It will be. I say, "Recovery is not a lifelong sentence." Guess what? It isn't, for me. If we say, "Recovery is forever." Guess what? It will be. I say, "Addiction is a choice." Guess what? It was for me and so to was my sobriety. I say, "Counting days is counterproductive." Guess what? It was for me. I counted for the first 101 days because that was the title of my blog. The day I changed the title of my blog, I never thought about it again. Did you ever hear me proclaim my one year, two year, three year... anniversary? Nope, and you never will because I am no longer in recovery. If I say, "Addiction is NOT a disease." Is it? Now, this is a highly debated and contentious statement. Does it need to be?
Whether you agree with the above statements or not, the point I am trying to make is this. The way we experience the world, our lives, our relationships, and our addictions, is what we believe it to be. It is a choice. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that changing our beliefs and perception of things can feel incredibly difficult, but that does not mean it is impossible unless we believe that to be true, too. In all the blogs, podcasts, interviews, my book, conversations, and arguments I have been involved in over the years all I have really been trying to say is this. Be positive. Give a wholly positive testimony. Don't make light of your downfalls. Focus on your strengths. Talk about the benefits of sobriety. Post about what works. Comment with ONLY positive remarks. Support everyone in sobriety, even if you don't understand them or their journey. Be a part of creating a one hundred percent positive, supportive, and wholly encouraging sober rhetoric. What if... it changed someone's perception? What if... it changed your perception, too?