A comment, I found to be incredibly condescending and offensive, was made on my Ditched the Drink Facebook page, by an acquaintance of mine.
The post was about me wearing my sobriety out loud.
The picture was me (literally) wearing the words SOBER AF on my shirt.
If you follow me, you might recall this post.
The whole post was about how private and scared I was when I started this journey.
I shared how I didn’t always feel comfortable with my sober identity.
I didn’t always wear it so loud and proud.
I evolved into a sober advocate after many, many secret Day 1’s and “failed” attempts, that no one knew about.
The intent of the post was for me to give compassion and encouragement to anyone who is sober today and not yet announcing it.
Or maybe never announcing it, but quietly remaining sober.
Thankfully, my message was received.
I believe stories heal.
I appreciate people that recover out loud, but it is not necessary for sobriety.
Anyone who is fighting their cravings and staying sober today, even if it is not out loud,
and it is only in secret, is still doing the hard work of staying sober.
I applaud each and every one of you.
The post said:
“You might be sober and outloud someday too. It’s ok if that is not today. You can not drink today and it can be our secret.”
This acquaintance commenter incorrectly read this to mean that I was encouraging people to keep drinking today.
She went on to say she has an ex spouse that has an alcohol problem and he is reaching his longest sobriety time. This is causing her and their kids to potentially have the biggest heartbreak, when he fails and starts drinking again.
She was cautioning me about my words and said I need to consider “a family's point of view”.
I have immense compassion for her, her family, and her situation.
I already forgive her for making this mistake, by not reading what was written and instead hearing something entirely different, and commenting on that.
I forgive her for publicly criticizing me, by way of caution and education, for what she was thinking vs what was actually written and the intention in my post.
The caution and critique however, pissed me off.
I was so offended that I left the start of my yoga class to reply back.
I gave a polite, diplomatic response that she misunderstood my words, and also that my Dad struggled with alcohol too, so, I am the family’s point of view.
Then I went to yoga.
When I got out of yoga, I was naturally at my most Zen Self.
The comment was still on my mind.
I realized my response was reactionary and after further reflection, her comment continued to piss me off so I deleted it, along with my response.
(I am not an actual Zen Master)
After deliberation and consideration, this felt better much to me.
I know it was the right way to proceed.
I normally don’t give energy to such things, especially after yoga.
I can take feedback.
I appreciate other points of view.
Not everyone has to agree with me.
I don’t shy away from debate.
Different experiences, opinions, and viewpoints are welcome and valued, in my book.
I deleted the comment after much thought, because it does more harm than good for me and my clients.
This isn’t about winning an argument or tending to a bruised ego.
This hit a sensitive nerve for me, and it inspired a flurry of thoughts.
My whole purpose in starting ditched the drink for myself and for others is to show that you can learn to love yourself towards healing on an imperfect path.
Shame, blame, criticism, condescending language, and guilt do not heal.
My first response to anger has always been to try not to feel it.
Be nice to the other person.
See the other point of view.
Assume I am wrong and someone else is right.
Thank God for my growth through sobriety, because I can honestly say no, being nice with an appreciative and diplomatic response to this comment is not top priority for me right now.
The most important person to be nice to right now is me, the person in recovery.
The most important voice to hear on my page and for the people reading it, is mine.
The voice of a person who has successfully ditched the drink, and is willing to share her struggle with honesty and vulnerability.
The voice of a person who is angry at her ex spouse for his drinking problem, while he has been sober longer than ever before, and the voice of someone telling me how I should have a different point of view than my own lived experience, is not the voice I want to hear.
I am not wrong for feeling mad.
My emotions are calling me to speak up.
The comment wasn’t helpful to anyone, especially me.
How dare she put me down on my own page?
My page was created to help people, mostly loving parents, like myself, safely cut back on their drinking and stop living in shame.
I wanted to give my feedback to this commenter privately and directly.
My vulnerability wasn't an invitation for her judgment.
I looked in my friend’s list to send her a private message but it turns out we are no longer connected, or maybe never were?
I looked for our common connection and they are no longer connected.
I looked at our mutual volunteer group from the past, and couldn’t find her there either.
Perhaps, I can just let it go now, after I post this public service announcement blog.
Turns out, we are not that close.
This whole thing has nothing to do with her anymore and everything to do with me.
The intensity of my emotion over this, is likely not her comment at all, but it brought up something that struck a chord in me.
I thank her for throwing the spark on this fire inside of me.
It reminds me of my greater purpose.
We do recover.
I don’t expect this commenter to understand what it is like to be addicted to alcohol, but I cannot allow this very wrong and outdated view on alcohol addiction to continue.
I won’t allow it on my page.
I get to make my own rules and delete anything I want on my page.
I can create a supportive community.
I have not walked in her shoes, and I won’t pretend to know her story, but her remarks and attitude toward someone working towards sobriety struck something in me that won’t go down easy, so I am letting it roar.
If the caution and education she sent my way is something she values, perhaps this will be a boomerang learning opportunity, and a tale of warning back to her.
The way I received her comments was perpetuating a very inaccurate and outdated idea.
This idea that we, as humans, who have used alcohol as a solution, and then became dependent on the addictive substance that alcohol is, have two options:
We should be able to quit drinking on our first try...
...just give up and keep falling farther into the hole of addiction forever.
That people are addicted to alcohol and will always be...
...people are not addicted to alcohol and will never be.
This is what prevents many people from trying to quit in the first place.
The idea that if we haven’t done it yet, we can’t do it...
...the idea that if we don’t consider ourselves an addicted alcoholic, we shouldn’t try to help ourselves.
That’s a hopeless thought, and not at all helpful.
I don’t know anyone who was able to make a change built on hopelessness.
I know hundreds of people that I work with who are 6 months sober or more, in part, because they learned they could believe in themselves along the way.
In my own experience, after every single sober experiment/attempt of my own, I fell farther and harder into my addiction, when I went back to drinking.
A loved one actually said to me:
“you shouldn’t even try to keep quitting, because it’s obviously only making it worse. You can keep drinking, just drink less.”
My sober experiments did make my drinking worse.
Until they made it gone.
I am working towards my 4th year sober.
I no longer have the desire to drink, and I can’t imagine that will ever return.
I understand that relapse can be a matter of life or death for some.
More certainly, death is guaranteed by not trying at all.
If we tried to quit drinking and went back to drinking, what are we supposed to do?
Lose all hope at a chance that maybe the next time will be the time we can learn something new, add in more support, and go farther, maybe quit forever and also just for today?
If we keep trying the worst case scenario would be to die knowing we were trying instead of giving up.
I have never met anyone that quit drinking on the first try.
I don’t find any of the people in long term recovery to be failures because of it.
I know thousands of people that have continued trying and have successfully quit drinking.
This narrative that continued trying is failure is so defeating.
I don’t want to hear it, especially from someone who doesn’t have personal experience with alcohol addiction.
I hear there is pain as an ex spouse and co parent of someone who struggles with alcohol.
I get that because, that is the story of my childhood.
I don’t need a lecture, a comment, or a cautionary word that I should consider the family’s point of view.
I know how addiction hurts a family.
My Dad struggled with alcohol.
Anyone who knows anything about me, my history, or alcohol in general, knows it is often passed down through generations.
I am a child who experienced trauma as a direct result of alcohol.
I don’t need to be told what it’s like for families when a parent has an alcohol problem.
I am that family, I am that child, I have that parent.
I am also a parent who had an alcohol problem.
Those are my children.
I not only know how addiction hurts a family, I know first hand how addiction hurts the person addicted.
I know how alcohol hurts me, perhaps the most painful of all, is knowing that my alcohol problem hurt the people I love most.
I am so sorry.
You would have no idea how sorry I am.
Changed behaviors remains my best apology to everyone.
I betrayed myself more than anyone.
I tried my very best to protect my kids and hide my alcohol problem from them as best I could.
I am not that person anymore, I have changed.
I had to believe in myself before anyone else could.
90% of my clients are parents struggling with alcohol.
Every single one of them loves their children as much as I love mine, and you love yours, Commenter.
My page was created for me and others like me, who are seeking to help themselves, and prevent further harm to ourselves and our families, by working towards ditching the drink.
Commenter, you apparently do not have a personal struggle with alcohol addiction or dependence.
You have a problem with an ex spouse who is also working on his longest sobriety record ever. You are perhaps protecting yourself and your children by preparing for his failure.
He hasn’t proven he will be sober for the rest of his life yet.
How could he?
How could anyone?
Maybe this is the reality for you, your family, and your pain.
Maybe you have to plan for failure and defeat and not get optimistic about any progress made.
I am sending love for this potentially very sad and difficult circumstance.
I hope you have lots of support.
Anyone in this situation needs it.
As for me and my page, we are a group of imperfect humans that are learning to respond to ourselves with love and compassion.
We are allowing ourselves to make mistakes in our imperfect practice of ditching the drink.
Attempting to walk the tightrope of perfection, is part of what landed us with a dependence on alcohol in the first place.
Listening to the critiques of others without defending and caring for ourselves first, has kept us in a drinking loop.
Not allowing ourselves to be angry when we feel an injustice has occurred feeds our dependence.
So by writing this blog, I am practicing my sober skills.
Perfection and judgment like yours, didn’t work so me and my client’s are trying something new, and it looks like this:
Permission to use our voice
Allowing ourselves to be mad
In our efforts to drink less we might have a drink again and that doesn't mean we’ve failed, that means we learned where and when we need to add in more support.
So we keep adding in more support.
It usually starts with privately following Alcohol Free Facebook or Instagram pages and blogs, like Ditched the Drink.
And then reading comments from others (like yours before I deleted it) for added support, inspiration, and encouragement.
Maybe then we order books to learn about our addiction from experts and people who have experienced it (not from people on the internet that have never been through it).
We listen to podcasts from others who are living happily alcohol free for inspiration.
We find resources they used and see if they will work for us.
When we need more support we invest in a coach or a therapist.
We show up to sober group meetings, either online or in person.
We keep our camera on or off.
We are scared as hell to be there either way.
We use a fake name.
We are shaking with fear.
We might talk to our doctor.
We might tell the whole truth or just part of the truth.
We might start meditating, running, or a yoga practice.
We keep trying.
We keep learning.
We keep adding in more things to help ourselves.
We f*#k up a lot.
We start over again.
We are trying to get away from alcohol's grip.
Our brain and our bodies have been hijacked.
It's the work of a lifetime to get them back.
We keep working on it.
We address our anger, our shame, our guilt, and our resentment too.
We find the strength to face our families and make amends.
It is not an easy road for us.
It’s not easy for our families either.
Addiction is a family issue and when we start changing, even when it’s for the better, our families, in turn, are forced to start changing too.
Even when it’s good for us and them, it's still hard.
None of us need anyone who isn’t in the ring with us, to caution us about the family view, or to suggest that continued trying isn’t good enough.
It is for that reason that I deleted your comment.
It was a simple misunderstanding, I know that.
You didn’t actually read the words I wrote.
You read what you thought you saw.
This is also a big overreaction on my part. I know that too.
I would never suggest someone keep drinking, but I would also never suggest that just because someone hasn’t quit yet doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.
I believe we can.
It was my relentless belief in myself, even after all the previous tries, that has gotten me to this point.
I am rooting for your whole family system, Commenter.
Thank you for lighting this fire within me.
It gave me an opportunity to practice my own sobriety by writing this blog and expressing my offense to your comment.
It ignited my mission to change the conversation, stop the stigma, and share continued education about alcohol awareness.
The result of your now deleted comment is this blog that will be helpful to those who read it.