Sobriety: Own Your Own Story!

MocktailsA recent article at The Temper, penned by Molly Ruggere, highlighted how ‘fashionable’ media interest in sobriety may be a double-edged sword…

Yes, this new-found media interest is driving valuable conversations about drinking alcohol or not,  as in this case.

This ‘new’ interest is mostly helpful however; it appears that some people in ‘recovery’ (those with lived-experience of problematic alcohol consumption) are also concerned about… “about how sobriety should be portrayed in the news — and whether or not recent stories should be celebrated, criticised, or both.”

The Temper: Conversations around the issues these stories have brought up are important and something we should keep having. Those in recovery have a right to speak up about how sobriety is being portrayed because they are the ones in the field, inspiring the media coverage, and staying alcohol-free in a world that pushes booze on us from all angles every single day. (Read more)

An important aspect in the concept of ‘sobriety’ that always concerns me is; we always seem to espouse binary thinking around the subject. We have this inherent and predominant black or white thinking around those who drink, and those who choose not to drink. To my mind, this only serves to water down the value of developing our own capabilities around personal decision making. That empowerment that comes from exercising our own individual choices, in and for our life.

In my experience, truly successful long-term and sustained recovery is more likely to be realised when, as individuals, we make our own choices on that pathway. Recovery is not a process that can be delivered (or dictated) by someone else on your behalf. Either you want it or you don’t. Believing that your problematic behaviours are as the result of someone or something outside your control is fraught with problems.

That thought process has a tendency to provide you with convenient excuses about why you might have (so far) failed on your journey – “it wasn’t my fault” or “i’ts my disease” – Wrong! But this is something I’ve discussed before (see here), and on numerous occasions.

Learning how to effectively address our problematic behaviours, helps us to sustain our long-term goals. I believe that ‘sobriety’ for many, usually equates to that binary choice of drink or total abstinence. In many respects ‘abstinence’ is another one of those unhelpful labels. Just like alcoholic or addict, the narrative has a tendency to undermine your own capabilities as a thinking and functioning human.

You are not your past behaviour. You may have had a previously unhealthy or problematic relationship with alcohol (or drugs), that you want to change but the total abstinence target is a goal too far for many, at least in the initial stages of their recovery. It is seen as an unrealistic target for many, despite the fact they often achieve and maintain that original goal.

An individual’s recovery from their past addictive behaviours is not a set of simple mathematical equations;

  • addiction + sobriety = recovery
  • addiction – substance = recovery
  • recovery = substance / behaviour + sobriety

I believe that, just like the past addictive behaviours which people might be trying to escape from and change, the process of recovery should always be examined along a spectrum. Not presented as (or measured by) a binary decision making process of black or white, bad or good, fail or pass… at any stage in that process.

Adopting this all too common virtue signalling approach to change is puerile, it has roots in puritan prohibition thought process. It is also unproductive in many cases.

This spectrum of recovery dovetails with wellness, mostly defined as; a dynamic process of change and growth. Or, a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

There is so much more to recovery than sobriety. If you decide to make that choice, why would you want others to dictate how you should achieve your goal? Sobriety is merely a constituent part of your overall ‘wellness’ – all be it a common factor after addictions and increasingly, being chosen by many not in recovery.

Recovery is an ongoing active process. One that includes developing a far grater personal awareness of yourself, your surroundings, your thoughts, your feelings and your behaviours.

That process provides you with new/renewed skills that can help you to make your own choices; helping you move forward towards living a more healthy and fulfilling life. Once you are able to realise those often latent but important personal choices, you can also unlock doors towards new potential and opportunities in your life!

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