An article came out this week in the NY Times that was titled “The New Sobriety,” in which the subheading “every one is sober now, even if they drink a little?,” took on a life of it’s own, negatively impacting the views of the article.
While I do think the article and it’s attention is a net positive, I also think it was written by a man who is not sober and doesn’t quite understand what it means from a personal level like I or most other people in this space do.
I’ve been sober since 2008 and writing about it since 2012 on this blog. When I started out, there weren’t options for me like there are today. The options at the time were: AA, rehab or die, to put it quite frankly. None of which I did.
I was addicted to both cocaine and alcohol for years alongside being diagnosed with anxiety panic disorder and needless to say I was headed down a bad path fast.
If you have been following along for a while, you know that getting sober for me was a spiritual experience where I found myself on my knees one day after a bit of a bender, begging for a miracle from God and my life was changed in that moment. I never drank or did cocaine again from that day forward and shortly after started writing about my journey, which was very non-traditional at the time since I didn’t go to treatment or AA.
So What Is New About Sobriety?
As you can see, sobriety is not this “new” thing that’s happening all of a sudden. It’s a viable movement that has been happening for many years.
What’s new about it is it’s becoming something people are moving towards more and more as a result of different modalities becoming readily available with the rise of the digital space and the brave people who have been talking about being sober for a long time publically as a result of it.
What’s new is that we no longer have to feel like we have to hide in church basements or identify as an “alcoholic” to assess and change our relationship with alcohol.
What’s new is that AA is no longer the “only” way to quit drinking. With that, what’s also new, and perhaps most exciting, is there is becoming less and less stigma attached to what it means to be sober or a person with a problematic relationship with alcohol.
What’s new is that we are moving in the direction, a good one btw, of making sobriety a much less shameful experience for people. We are moving out of the old model of thinking we have a disease if we can’t drink moderately and into a new paradigm of thinking where sobriety is a lifestyle choice that saves, and elevates, people’s lives from the shackles of alcohol’s grip.
What’s new is that while going alcohol free is extremely hard work, it’s becoming more accessible to people, which is NOT to be confused with easy. There are more programs, books, podcasts, social events, beverage choices and people at all ends of the drinking spectrum who are focused on displaying and demonstrating the alcohol free lifestyle they are living, myself included.
Sobriety is no longer about people who can’t handle their liquor, but rather people who find value in not handling it at all.
The Sober Curious
Some are at the early stages where they are curious about sobriety and in question with alcohol’s effects on their life. In my opinion, this idea of being ‘sober curious’ is a great place to start.
I find it to be helpful because it means you’re toying around with the idea of sobriety, but haven’t fully embraced it yet, likely because of a multitude of fears or a lack of acceptance that alcohol is not serving you anymore, trying to moderate is exhausting or a marriage of both. It’s an entry point that most people who are not daily drinkers will enter the gates of sobriety through.
While I understand some who lived inside the daily struggle of addiction to alcohol and drugs like I did may take offense because their entry to sobriety was a much harder battle, a valid point btw, I think every entry point is necessary as we face off with a seething epidemic.
No matter the entrance, if someone quits alcohol and gets sober, their sobriety deserves reverence.
The person who went to treatment, medically detoxed and works a vigorous recovery program daily deserves respect.
The person who quit drinking on their own before they hit a bottom deserves respect.
The person who went alcohol free for their health and well-being also deserves respect.
The Term Alcoholic Needs An Upgrade
Personally, I wish the term ‘alcoholic’ would just go away as I find this label does more harm than good. It categorizes someone at likely the lowest point of their life and becomes a thing they have been programmed to think they have to identify as for the rest of their life, which comes with a host of mostly negative meanings attached to it.
This is a barrier to entry for a lot of people for fear of what ‘being an alcoholic’ will mean to and about themselves both inwardly and to others. Every single one of my clients comes to work with me with this paralyzing fear because of what we have made it mean over the years.
We can and should identify as sober or alcohol free instead of continuing to use the A word, a stigmatized label that was invented almost a century ago and has served its purpose, but desperately needs an upgrade.
Sobriety is not limited to only people who get the shakes if they don’t drink or for those that had to quit. It’s an umbrella encompassing people who have questioned their relationship with alcohol at some point and changed it by eliminating alcohol from their life, plain and simple.
Sobriety is not a life sentence to a person who can’t handle their liquor or has failed at not getting addicted to an addictive substance. It’s a magnificent lifestyle for anyone who’s caught on to the diminishing effects alcohol has on them and now abstains from drinking it for their own personal reasons, not just what a textbook says.
Sobriety Is Being Revolutionized
Sobriety, the act of being alcohol free (and drug free for most), is changing as we know it.
Sober is becoming cool, but this is not to be confused with it being easy, a “fad” or anything less than the hardest & most incredible lifestyle change ever made for those brave souls who have courageously chosen to live a life outside the norm.
Being sober is not a craze that just popped up on the scene, nor will be it be short lived. It is an innovative lifestyle. For some it is life or death.
Sobriety is life-saving in an array of ways – whether a person is drinking daily and can’t quit without medical detox or a person drinks often enough that it could cause health issues such as Alzheimer’s, cancer or dementia down the line of their life.
It is grueling work to change your life from one that is laden or even dependent on alcohol to a life where you stop drinking ethanol, a poison that literally kills people. At minimum, it leaves people feeling depleted, anxious, shameful, hung over and lacking confidence – all feelings that are not easy to flip around.
Whether the entry point to being alcohol free is out of a dire need or because someone ultimately just wants to feel better and looks at the change as a step in the direction of better health, I’m all for it and I see more and more people questioning this relationship in direct correlation with the increase in those becoming sober.
Things Are Just Getting Started
Cutting alcohol out of our lives isn’t something that’s going to lose momentum. It’s just getting started as a pervasive culture and, quite frankly in my opinion, can’t be stopped.
People are wising up to the harmful effects of alcohol on their body, mind, health, and overall wellness. Just as with cigarettes, we will hopefully start to see warnings about consuming alcohol on packaging to expose the price we pay for doing so, which is not just monetarily.
More and more research studies (that are not funded by big alcohol to paint a false and pretty picture) are starting to surface with real results about the damages alcohol creates.
Alcohol is an addictive substance that, in the past, big alcohol and media conned us into thinking we need for all the things. BUT WE DON’T.
Sobriety Is A Lifestyle
The reason I love that sober is becoming cool is because it stops making people feel like there is something wrong with them, when really going alcohol free is choice to be extremely proud of.
Being alcohol free for any reason is an incredible feat and a courageous lifestyle to lead. Again, I repeat: It’s a lifestyle that isn’t going anywhere, not a fad.
Just like people don’t eat meat for various reasons, there are more and more people not drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons. The population of alcohol abstainers is growing just like the population of veganism and vegetarianism.
Maybe instead of being called “alcoholics” we should be called “abstainarians” because we are choosing, for whatever reason, to refrain from drinking alcohol just like others are refraining from eating animals.
No matter how you accomplish becoming someone who doesn’t drink alcohol or why you decided to take up this bold lifestyle, I salute you. It is not an easy path and takes consistent effort, day in and day out.
There has been an intersection with wellness and sobriety. I’m of the mindset that wellness, self-care and self love are all foundational to sustaining a life free from substances. When you quit drinking, you really have to learn how to nurture yourself in ways you may have never known before because checking out of your life is no longer an option, but I digress.
WE, The Sober People
In any regard, let’s not forget that we are all in this together. And by this I mean, being sober and being a stand for one another. It shouldn’t matter what your agenda is or if you did AA or not or if you’re grey area or a daily drinker. What should matter is that you feel better without alcohol and your community is growing by the masses instead of dying by the masses. (Alcohol accounts for 88,000+ deaths per year in case you didn’t know according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.)
Overall, I’m a fan of the NY Times article that went viral because it captured modern sobriety culture and acknowledged sobriety as a viable lifestyle with growing options exposing that we don’t need to be ashamed of being a sober person anymore. I think it’s a step in the right direction.
The article did paint a picture that going sober is easy or that perhaps you can claim sobriety but still drink, which I don’t agree with at all. Sober is sober. However, I say we practice gratitude over complaining and keep evolving the alcohol revolution that is happening despite what the differing lenses of it may be.
I say we show people what a sober lifestyle is actually like, which has always been the mission of my work and especially my Instagram page. I want people to see you can live a colorful, adventurous, joyful life without booze. You can be sober, not boring.
We don’t need more people *talking* about being sober. We need more people proudly living and *BEING* sober, no matter how we came into it.
There is not one person pioneering sobriety. There are many. We are all at the forefront of protesting a society in which we’ve been told we need to drink a lethal substance to be part of and if we can’t handle the addictive part of said substance that there’s something wrong, even morally, with us. This narrative doesn’t work anymore and it’s fantastic we have finally shifted the conversation and options surrounding sobriety.
Just as addiction doesn’t discriminate and no one is off limits to it, neither should sobriety. All admission tickets, no matter the price paid, should be welcomed and accepted.
It is a bold move to live life outside of the norm no matter who you are or what your story is. Which is to say it is a bold move to just be who you are and realize you don’t need a liquid (or should I say drug) to make you more of it, enough, worthy or cool. It is a bold move to realize alcohol is a lie we have all been sold in a pretty Rose all day, wine o’clock, mommy juice culture that profits off making us feel less-than without it.
Being Alcohol Free Is A Way Of Life
Sobriety isn’t a punishment. It is a privilege and way of life. It’s a call to our greatness. Because when you remove alcohol from your life, you start to move in a different way. Your clarity shoots through the roof, your authenticity begins to really take shape and you step into more of yourself as you start really looking at your life from a new perspective.
The act of being alcohol free is so much more than not drinking. It’s an act of establishing your true freedom. You don’t just become free from alcohol; you become free from the illusion that you needed it.
I started drinking when I was 14 and I thought I needed alcohol to be cool, confident and calm. When I quit drinking in 2008, after putting in the hard work to move myself into sobriety, I realized that being sober was my own personal revolution and it helped me become who I am today, which is who I’m meant to be and, to me, there is absolutely nothing cooler than that.
So, wherever you are in your journey with alcohol, keep doing your part to be a voice by showing your sobriety to others and living your best life as a result of it. You, my friends, are part of an important revolution.
While sobriety may be trending right now, it is not just a trend – it is a lifestyle.
It’s time to fly our sober flags high knowing that it’s no longer a freak flag, but a flag of honor.
If you need help changing your relationship with alcohol, check out my courses in the Learning Center, designed to teach you how to quit drinking by creating a life you don’t want to escape using a proven, holistic methodology.
I’m a seasoned Sobriety Expert, certified in life and sobriety coaching, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, This Naked Mind and Trauma Recovery. I’ve developed all my courses from my knowledge, experience and from working with people one-on-one since 2013 with an extremely high success rate.