You hear it more and more from people in recovery: I was quiet about my sobriety. Was, past tense. I was quiet until I needed more support to keep going, from friends, doctors or peppy strangers on social media. Until I felt like I truly owned the accomplishment of recovery. Until I saw a politician insult people who’ve struggled with addiction. Until I watched someone in my family wrestle with a pain that was very familiar to me.
There are plenty of prudent and personal reasons to keep your recovery to yourself — and that, unquestionably, is your prerogative. Recovery is yours, and you’ve more than earned the right to cherish it however you like. But there are reasons, strong ones, to openly celebrate it as well. To be proudly, candidly sober.
Every step toward long-term sobriety should give you a sense of accomplishment for the time and energy you’ve put into building a healthier future, no matter where you are in your recovery journey. And showing the people who want you to succeed that you’re doing just that feels good, in general! According to the American Journal of Public Health, “a sense of agency … fosters self-esteem and self-worth as part of an identity about which a person might be proud.”
Recovery is most definitely something about which to to be proud.
What Does It Mean To Be Openly Sober?
Choosing to be openly sober means being transparent, honest and confident about your recovery, and it comes with some choice benefits. Your openness might help you express when something is triggering or uncomfortable, for example, or when someone is acting ignorant or disrespectful. You certainly don’t have to tell everyone in your life everything about your situation or answer all of their questions.
But people who are openly sober generally …
- Inform friends, family and others about their sobriety
- Go prepared to events with alcohol or other substances — or freely express why they don’t
- Let people know if topics related to alcohol or other substances cause them discomfort
- Actively participate in a sober community
- Choose to share their experiences and lessons learned from addiction and recovery with people who are still struggling to figure it out
You don’t need to bring up your sobriety all the time, nor do you need to make recovery your whole identity — though by all means, be as vocal as you want! You should never feel pressured to speak up or defend how you live your life; your recovery does not belong to anyone else.
Being open about sobriety is simpler than all that: It just means being open to sharing your experiences and thoughts about your recovery when you feel comfortable doing so.
But Why Should I Be Open About My Sobriety? It’s My Business
If you’re open about your sobriety, others can and will make accommodations for you, and they will support your continued recovery. Friends, family and other people in your life can become sober allies — to you and others in recovery.
No doubt, being candid about your situation with loved ones and less-loved ones might make you feel vulnerable at first. The difficult conversations you may need to have might feel awkward. But the payoff is worthwhile, and the reception you get might surprise you. When people who care about you are aware of your ongoing recovery, they’ll usually be glad for the opportunity to help you and show their support.
Support from loved ones and peers (people who are also in recovery) is one of the most reliable ways to maintain long-term sobriety. Letting friends and family know about your situation eliminates some stressors and keeps you feeling more engaged in your recovery.
Some other advantages of being open about your sobriety include:
- More accountability for your actions
- Access to, and chances to bond in, local or digital sober communities and groups
- Becoming a positive role model, motivator and source of inspiration for others, whether they’re still grappling with addiction or in recovery
- Correcting misconceptions or ignorant stereotypes about addiction and recovery, which erodes some of the stigma that still surrounds the subject
The communities that form around celebrating sobriety are a beautiful thing. Sobriety can sometimes feel isolating, and you may have moments when you feel like no one understands what you’re going through. But if you’re part of a sober and proud community, you’ll have resources and peers to help you feel less alone. This is one of the many, many upsides of belonging to a sober community. Note that you can usually be part of one while still keeping your sobriety private outside the group.
In a support group setting, showing peers that you are proud of your decision to become sober can inspire them to maintain their own sobriety.
But if you choose to wear the badge of sobriety more publicly, you might also reach people who need someone to talk to and don’t know where to turn. Most people don’t beat addiction and maintain sobriety alone. If that’s true of you, you may wish to help lift someone else up now. Perhaps you become a sober sponsor or mentor in a group setting, but simply making it known in your circles that you’ve overcome addiction can also be a great service.
Someone you know who’s silently struggling might see you as someone they can talk to, and that’s a conversation that can change a life.
Joining a Sober Community!
Joining a sober community is very easy in today’s world. All it entails is finding an online or in-person group that supports recovery. We have one such community and a number of more specific groups right here at All Sober, but there are also:
- 12-step groups with regular meetings, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
- Spirituality-based support groups at churches or religious centers
- Sober groups that play sports, go hiking, do yoga, volunteer or engage in just about every other imaginable activity as a form of fellowship
Peer support can be a big part of your support system. You’ll also see, in sober groups, lots of happy, fulfilled people living confident lives that fit their own definitions of success. The power of example is strong. You can learn from it. And when you’re openly sober, you can be it.
Choosing To Keep Your Recovery Private
Ultimately, you should get to choose who knows about your recovery and what they know. Some people embrace open sobriety as a part of their lifestyle and find it helps them feel more positive about their recovery. Others may only want to share their experiences with the people closest to them.
Over time, once you feel at home in your sober life, you might change your approach and open up more with strangers and people you don’t know very well. Or you may decide your sobriety is indeed your own business and no one else’s.
Finding the Balance
At All Sober, we do encourage people to celebrate and share their sobriety through pictures and personal stories on our site and social media platforms. We do think recovery is a triumph, and we want people to have the chance to be proud and loud in their sobriety. We’d love to have you join us.
But our philosophy about this may diverge from yours, and that’s OK too. Your recovery journey is unique, and you know what is best for your emotional well-being.
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