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Ditching the Shame When You Go Sober
When I was drinking I lived in a cloud of shame. I had no idea how heavy that cloud was until I stopped drinking. I self-medicated stress, and anger, loneliness, and simple boredom with alcohol. I drank to celebrate and drank to socialize and felt shame that I lost control of how much I drank. I think that the reason that I felt ashamed, was that I thought I was choosing to get drunk. I thought that I was choosing to be an occasionally irresponsible parent, impatient wife, and unsympathetic daughter. I thought that I was choosing to put everything that I’ve worked for and everything that I’ve been blessed with at risk. In the process of slowly losing control over years of how much, and how often, I drank – I began to feel like the situation was hopeless. So I felt stupid and guilty and ashamed.
If you spend any time on social media you’ll most likely notice that people see alcohol as a panacea for stress. Especially now, during the lockdowns and economic turmoil that have followed the pandemic, people are using alcohol to self-medicate depression, anxiety, boredom, and loneliness.
During periods that are more stressful, or when there’s a sudden relief of stress, you tend to see [alcohol] consumption go up,
Compared to a year ago, we’re seeing astronomical growth for all [alcoholic] beverages
There is no shame in talking about getting drunk on social media. If you lament your massive hangover people will commiserate. They’ll congratulate you for toughing it out and they’ll offer their favorite home remedies. They will almost never ever suggest that maybe you should stop drinking. If on the other hand, you brag about being sober on social media or attend an event and politely refuse the drinks because you are sober, suddenly people are concerned that there is something wrong with you. They might even suggest that you try to drink moderately. Alcohol-Free? How? WHY!
The word alcoholic is often used as a slur. There should be no shame in being sober!
I often think I need to put on my big girl pants when talking about my sobriety with family and friends. Luckily I have a couple of very close friends, that I know are also sober. One of my friends was a tow truck driver when he was in his teenage years, and the sights he saw as a young boy convinced him to never drink a drop. He knows that over the last 5 years, I have struggled between moderation and sobriety. Once I had 6 weeks of being sober under my belt, I made sure I had my big girl pants on, and I told him my deep dark secret.
His response was
“I am so proud of you.”
That simple response from someone I admire and love meant more to me than the Facebook friends who would give me grief because I chose to kick the drink.
It takes a very adult sort of courage to talk openly about my sobriety. But when I could not control my drinking, the shame I felt took me back to simpler sensibilities from my childhood. Sin, shame, and redemption. I remember as a child taking the idea of sin very seriously. If I sinned I was terribly ashamed and knew that redemption would most likely come after a sound spanking. As an adult, I remember praying to God to help me stop drinking so destructively. My drinking felt like a sin but praying for redemption did not solve my problem.
What finally did solve my problem was understanding that I did not want a drink because I was tired or stressed or weak-willed, I wanted a drink because I was addicted. Understanding how my addict brain worked and that I could change it, I could bypass and re-route it by consistently saying no, is what finally helped me stop drinking and stay stopped. Because part of understanding that was understanding that if I did drink again I would be right back on the front lines of the battle and I might not make it the next time.
No one can do this for you. It is very hard work for a while to stay focused absolutely on not drinking when your addict voice calls. You really do need to make staying sober your first priority and say that no matter what happens, you will not “ medicate” or celebrate with alcohol, something that you know has become poison to you.
If you have figured out that alcohol is the problem rather than the solution for you and have committed to stop drinking stay focused and BE PROUD! You are on to some serious truth there! I listened to a Podcast last night from the Naked Mind, where Annie Grace was interviewing Laura McKowen. They discussed the word alcoholic, and how it is often used as a slur. It was a very interesting discussion to listen to, because I realized last night that there should be no shame in being sober!
Self-medicating with alcohol, as we are often encouraged to do, leads to addiction for far more people than fit under the umbrella of what we normally think of as alcoholic. The life of a drinker, even a drinker who would be considered High Functioning, is taken up with regret, shame, hiding, feeling guilty, feeling bad. Taking care of ourselves–REALLY taking care of ourselves and not rushing for the odd mani-pedi or hairstyle, or cramming down another drink because we deserve it, or eating something we know is “bad for us”–is very different.
Self-care does NOT come in a bottle that is beautifully packaged and seductively sold. Self-care comes in truly paying attention to what your mind and body are needing at the moment. That freedom to just sit, if that’s what’s needed. Or to walk and enjoy nature, if that’s what’s needed. Or eat something high-carb and delicious, and really appreciating it before, during, and after. Or going to bed early, if that’s what’s needed. Eating dinner at 4 in the afternoon, if that’s what’s needed. I don’t know that I’ve ever truly checked in with myself to see what I NEED at that moment. It’s been a huge revelation to me. Even today, when I’m going 100 mph, it’s a choice and not something I’m being drug backward into.
It’s a whole new way of thinking.
A beginning, and not an end.
Did you know that alcohol related deaths have risen 100% in the last 20 years? If you are drinking too much don’t feel ashamed! Stop and feel PROUD to be sober. We’ll help. BOOM Community Rethink the Drink
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