Do you care what other people think?
You might say no, but chances are you kind of do. Right?
In the third part of our series on stigma, No Left Turn, Gayle (aka Sober Bliss) talks about how she navigated the preconceptions of others as she broke free from the alcohol trap.
It’s time to turn your back on the negative assumptions, seize your sobriety and live the life you truly deserve.
Just like Gayle.
(As always, a massive RWX thank you to Gayle for taking the time to write for us – not least because shortly before she started she nearly cut one of her fingers off cooking! Go Gayle!)
NO, I DON’T DRINK, SO DON’T JUDGE ME.
Just over a year ago I quit drinking, for good.
At the time I didn’t know it would be for good but as the days, weeks and months crept by I grew stronger and felt more amazing every day that I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that again, least of all alcohol. Now I rarely think about having a drink which is quite awesome considering that it used to be on my mind all the time.
What I do think about from time to time is how other people see me. In fact, those four little words, “What will people think?” is what kept me living in secrecy for so long.
Obviously I hid the extent of my drinking from everybody, I hid the fact that I was worried about it, I hid the fact that I was scared that I couldn’t stop drinking, I hid my fear for my health, my guilt about my kids and my shame.
This fear kept me stuck in an unhappy cycle of drinking for so long and the same fear kept me from being open and honest about my sobriety too.
Why? Because I care what people think about me and I know the standard opinion most people have about someone with a drink problem and about a person who is sober.
Sober people are perceived to be dull, boring, and living in constant fear of temptation. They are afraid to do anything. These are just some of the images that come to mind. I know this because that was my opinion too. But, it is not until you reach the other side that you realise that this couldn’t be further from the truth. However, this belief is so strong, so ingrained that I was terrified of being stigmatised in the same way.
Shame and stigma keeps us from asking for help, we fear we will be judged, looked down on and put into the same box as the stereotypical image of the alcoholic on a park bench with the bottle wrapped in brown paper.
Shockingly, the same shame and stigma keeps us from sharing our story, from admitting that we are going through a ‘thing,’ getting sober and trying to do the best that we can for ourselves.
For me sobriety is a positive lifestyle change, admittedly more tricky to navigate than giving up carbs, going sugar free or trying veganism etc (I can only imagine, as I’ve never done those things but I can’t imagine being ashamed to ask for a vegan dish in a restaurant or not being scared to tell the woman down the road that I am struggling without my caffeine intake for example.)
But the distorted view of sobriety by some folks made it difficult for me to speak out, or to live my truth beyond the safety and understanding of my family and closest friends. In fact in the beginning I didn’t know any other sober folks except for one now quite famous and ‘out there’ author and blogger.
As I slowly delved deeper and began reaching out, I discovered a whole world of like minded people. Happy, healthy, fun, interesting, sober people.
It was a revelation, it all made sense and reading their stories and sharing my own filled me with confidence.
What I did notice though is that the majority of people in this fabulous, hidden, sober world still keep their sobriety a secret from the outside world, and if, God forbid, they post something by accident on their personal profile there is panic, self doubt and an anticipation of the backlash and negative comments.
There is also the fear that someone in ‘real life’ would find out that we’d quit drinking, well, that would just be the worst thing ever. They would judge us, they would whisper and wonder if we have a problem. All of the negative assumptions, visions and stereotypes would pop up and you would almost be able to see their brains thinking or wondering where to put us or what label to give us.
Almost immediately, they would shift their opinion of us.
They will imagine us sitting in a 12 step meeting, calling a sponsor, contemplating rehab or forever counting the days, being scared to go anywhere or do anything for fear of temptation. That is not me incidentally, and even if it was I would appreciate a bit of support instead of judgment. One good friend of mine waited two years –TWO YEARS, before making anything public simply because of that same fear: “What will people think?”
There is the assumption that you are either an alcoholic or not when it comes to drinking, but there is a whole grey area in between in which I found myself and where the majority of us problem drinkers are.
This is where the issue of stigma comes into play the most I feel. I was stuck in this grey zone, this unhappy cycle, but because I was terrified of being labeled an alcoholic I just carried on. In some ways I was waiting for something terrible to happen (which it very nearly did) in order to justify my giving up.
Happily I didn’t wait much longer, I faced my fear, took that step and I am so glad I did.
I still feel sad though that on top of everything that sobriety brings we have to face that issue of being judged and stereotyped which makes the business of quitting drinking harder than it needs to be.
When I speak to people and work with Mums in my program, the one thing that has held them back or put them off is ‘other people’
So, ‘other people’, let me tell you that you can have struggles with alcohol and not be an alcoholic and you most certainly can be sober and not be dull and boring. In fact of all the sober people I know, there is not one of us who is dull and boring. I have never met such a wonderful, grateful, fun loving, warm, adventurous or open group of people in my life and I am proud to be part of the sober revolution.
Being sober is a lifestyle choice, yes it takes courage and strength but so does training for a marathon or quitting smoking.
If anything, those of us on the sober path should be applauded for our decision, you should envy us because we know that there is a better way. In fact, you should join us and you can see for yourself just how beautiful life is on the other side.
About our author, Gayle:
Gayle is passionate about helping other Mums transform their lives and the lives of their families by choosing to live an alcohol free lifestyle, through self awareness, self care and self discovery. Being a sober Mum is the best thing that she has ever done and has led to so much freedom, peace and clarity. Gayle’s mission is to help women just like her see that living an alcohol free life is wonderful, empowering and liberating and should be celebrated.
If you need help with your planning, intention setting and how to make those changes stick then let me guide you through your first 42 days with the Sober Bliss.