The month of October has taken on new meaning with people looking to adopt or at least examine a lifestyle of health and wellness. “Sober October” began in 2014 as a fundraising campaign for people living with cancer, but more recently has taken on a different meaning with a focus on health, wellness, healthy decisions, and an opportunity for people to examine, or perhaps reexamine, their relationship with alcohol. Over the last few years, Sober October has become a more general movement for people to take a break from alcohol and take a look at the role alcohol plays in their life.
With that being said, it is also important to talk about the role of alcohol in society. It is a normalized part of everyday interactions and is rarely looked upon in a negative light other than in tragic or difficult circumstances. Someone has a DUI or DWI, or a person is killed in a drunk driving accident; someone is labeled an alcoholic who has obvious difficulty in their life due to the effects of alcohol; someone loses a job or a relationship due to alcohol; these are the times when society look negatively towards alcohol. However, in most other cases, alcohol is normalized or even encouraged. Social functions, a drink after work, a glass of wine at dinner are all times when few people would even think twice about alcohol and its place in society.
But Sober October asks people to take a different view. It asks people to think less about what society and the collective whole thinks about alcohol, and instead asks those participating in the month to examine their personal relationship with alcohol. Perhaps it is not as healthy as they thought? Perhaps alcohol is used more often as a crutch or a social lubricant than initially expected, used due to its social acceptance but because of the effect it has on the user? Perhaps, when examined, there are more consequences than initially thought?
Another major point of Sober October forces us to examine sobriety, and why the thought of sobriety is difficult for many people to accept. This is another point regarding the social acceptance of alcohol in society. People have a difficult time thinking about living a life that doesn’t include alcohol, however, when asked how not drinking and spending a month sober makes them feel, more often than not people report that it makes them feel much better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
So, what are ways in which sobriety can be normalized so that more people won’t think of sobriety as difficult, it could be more socially accepted, and it would make not drinking not such a big deal? How can we destigmatize sobriety and make it more socially acceptable? These are some ways in which sobriety can be more normalized:
- Talk about it openly and authentically. There is a major stigma towards addiction and alcoholism, but there is also a stigma towards sobriety. Talking openly and honestly about sobriety helps to take away any shame or stigma that may be associated with it. Talk about why you are sober, or at least why you are currently staying sober. Talk about previous or current struggles with alcohol or addiction. Talk about the benefits of sobriety you are getting from staying sober- this can include health benefits, physical benefits, emotional benefits, mental health benefits, or spiritual benefits. Discuss the decision-making process you had in terms of choosing sobriety for the short- or the long-term. Talk about it…then talk about it some more.
- Create healthy, sober connections. Hanging out and spending time with other people who are sober will strengthen your sobriety, but also help make being sober more normal. Find sober people that enjoy the same interests as you- this will help you socialize while sober and make non-sober social gathering less awkward or difficult.
- Create meaningful activities that value connection over consumption. This might mean being purpose-driven and finding things to do with people you want to be with, rather than shallow social activities like drinking at a bar or going to a club. You will find that human connection is key to both sobriety but also life in general. Choose to spend time with family and friends that is deep and meaningful, and less about social networking.
- Learn to have fun while sober. This is a difficult piece of the puzzle for individuals that are finding recovery and sobriety after a long period of active addiction or alcoholism. This is because they find that they don’t truly know what they like to do for fun, and are not yet comfortable with themselves to learn to have fun and find enjoyment without drinking or using drugs. However, this can also be a difficult thing for individuals just exploring sobriety for a short period of time. This is for the same reasons; that they have only learned to have fun while drinking or intoxicated. Therefore, it is important to explore activities and hobbies that you find fun and doing so while sober. You may find that there are many more things that you like to do while sober, that you never even attempted while drinking.
The important thing to focus on is the normalization of sobriety. Sobriety should not be something anyone is ashamed of or afraid of discussing. For many people, drinking alcohol comes without issues, but for many more, there are major issues and consequences associated with their relationship to alcohol. For another section of the population, alcohol may not be harmful, but a life without alcohol (either long-term or for short, intermediate periods) may go along way of supporting a self-directed life of health and wellness. Regardless of where anyone falls on that spectrum, it is important that sobriety come without stigma and that we may sobriety, in all its forms, available and accessible to all who want it and need it.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.