As a recovering alcoholic, I’m happy to see many sober seekers on social media platforms. People are reaching out for support and as a result of the pandemic, they’re finding more and more of it online. And while the internet can be a great way to find help by reading other peoples’ stories, it can also feel isolating.
For one, online help can’t really replace in-person support through group meetings, one-to-one sponsor meetings, and other face-to-face therapy. Secondly, and more importantly, people often search for sobriety stories online, hoping to relate. And while this can seem beneficial, no one’s unique story will hit home for everyone.
The truth is, the process and path towards sobriety are highly unique. In fact, I think it’s supposed to be unique. And although it’s very supportive to read about others’ struggles on social media and writing platforms, we can’t follow the same path.
The more we try to emulate someone’s process, the less supported we end up feeling. This is because the path to sobriety is fraught with contradictions and things that don’t make sense for everyone. Some supportive strategies that work for some can actually be dangerous for others.
For instance, current sobriety supports are often geared to white cis-heterosexual people. People of color or queer and transgender people don’t always fit into sobriety supports, which can have a dangerous effect on their health and sober path.
I never accessed sober groups because I knew I wouldn’t feel safe in a group that isn’t queer-friendly. Back when I first got sober, the only queer-related sober group was an hour bus ride from my house, which would have been too stressful for my delicate nervous system at the time.
Also, traditionally based on religion, AA groups are not always welcoming to others who have different religious valuesor can’t handle the strict no-substance rule. I know of many people who felt really put off by AA’s Christian component as the underlying message was that one must surrender to a higher power, which is heavily weighted on Christian-only values. Also, some people will plummet into worse addiction when forced to comply with AA’s strict rules about substances.
Another danger of following another person’s sober path is that the process becomes inauthentic or gets caught up in dogma. For instance, some people use cannabis to stay sober from alcohol or other heavier drugs. However, many sober folks look down on cannabis use as they feel it isn’t “true sobriety.”
Another example is when other people promote a marital relationship breakdown simply because the spouse of the addict refuses to quit drinking or drugging. While it’s challenging to remain sober when your partner uses alcohol or drugs, it’s not impossible, and many people have found a way through.
The point is, every person has a very unique path towards sobriety, and these paths need to be honored as they are. My approach probably wouldn’t work for someone else, and frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it for many people.
I chose sobriety after many years of working with Ayahuasca, which is a hallucinogenic medicine that promotes visions, strong emotional and physical purging, and a high likelihood of revisiting previous traumatic experiences. The process was complicated, very demanding, and quite terrifying. For me, it was what I needed at that time of my life. But for someone else, it could actually propel them deeper into their addiction if they’re not ready for what Ayahuasca brings them.
So although reading other people’s stories can be really supportive and uplifting, remember that your story is not going to look like other people’s. In fact, it really shouldn’t be like other people. The more we try to emulate, copy, or force a path that doesn’t comply with who we are, the less authentic our sobriety will be.
Many of us turn to social media and writing platforms to find ourselves in other people’s stories. This can be super supportive, but it does have a downside. Because although many people may find themselves in another’s story, there are just as many people who do not. Those people often become more depressed and isolated than ever if they can’t find someone with a similar story.
However, the more we talk about how unique each sober path is, the better. When people search for sobriety support platforms, they will know that “not” finding someone like themselves is normal too. Instead, they know that no matter what they’re going through, the fact that they’re trying is good enough.
People who are authentically committed on their own without anyone or anything telling them what to do or not to do, tend to have a more significant commitment in general. Then, coming to social media is adjunct support and not the only support they have.
The only thing you really need to get sober is yourself, your unwavering commitment, and your personal reasons for getting sober in the first place. As long as you have that, everything else is gravy.