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Sober Instagram is reducing stigma around addiction

The community helps to normalize not drinking and to decrease the barrier for people seeking help.

 

Blair Sharp

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 24, 2022   Updated on Aug 25, 2022, 3:56 pm CDT

Analysis

Social media can get a bad rap, but I’ve been a fan since Myspace, where I’d spend hours perfectly curating my Top 8. Today, social platforms hold a different kind of special place in my heart. 

When I decided to quit drinking in 2018, I was introduced to sober Instagram. This pocket of the internet is helping people assess their relationship with alcohol and connect with others who are doing the same.

Ever since I can remember, I’d been a binge drinker with no off switch. Sure, I could have one or two drinks, but I didn’t see the point. At four and a half years without alcohol, I still don’t. That’s just how my brain works. 

In 2018 after another night of drinking too much, my husband told me I couldn’t drink anymore while alone with our son. Two days later while at work, I found myself in the middle of another emotional hangover, the part of my hangovers that would come after my physical symptoms wore off. After reading a blog on Scary Mommy about a mom that didn’t drink, I was intrigued. I messaged the author on Facebook and I haven’t looked back since.

That person gave me lots of recommendations, and I totally immersed myself in the online alcohol-free space. Along the way, I received a suggestion to check out sober Instagram and consider making an account of my own. 

So, I did. 

My first sobriety account was private. I didn’t show my face or name, and I unsynced my contacts. The stigma around quitting drinking made me want to be anonymous, and Instagram gave me that option. This helped so much, especially in the beginning. 

I started following other sober accounts and searched hashtags like #sober #sobriety and #alcoholfree. I made friends with others who had stories similar to mine. I felt like I was part of something. 

When I celebrated one year without alcohol, I decided to stop posting about it on Instagram. I felt like my account had fulfilled its original purpose. It was time for me to figure out who I was without alcohol. 

What I didn’t realize was that I’d be back.

In late 2020 I decided to make a new sober Instagram account. Oddly enough, it was Tropicana that gave me the push. The orange juice brand’s #TakeAMimoment campaign used celebrities to promote drinking to stressed-out parents. 

Molly Sims was one of the celebrities who participated in the campaign. On Instagram, she posted a video of herself sitting in her closet next to her incognito mini fridge. The fridge, disguised as a hamper, is filled with Tropicana orange juice and champagne, the ingredients to make a mimosa. “It’s so I can be a better mom. The best mom,” she says in the video.

The Tropicana campaign ceased shortly after Page Six published an article about the poor taste of the brand’s choices. Sims and other celebrities involved in the promotion took down their videos shortly after the article was published.

Like many others in the sober community, I was enraged. I posted about the campaign on my personal accounts, but I didn’t want to stop talking about how much drinking is promoted to parents. I wanted to get the word out and share more without feeling like I was annoying my family and friends. This led me to create a new Instagram account: Sobriety Activist.

Since then, my alcohol-free Instagram account has grown to over 16K followers in less than two years. That quick growth alone shows that there are many out there still struggling. I get messages all the time from people reaching out for help. I know from experience that all you need is one person in your corner. For many, I am that person.

Instagram as a tool for sobriety

Connection is key, especially when you feel like you’re the only one going through something. Drinking alcohol is normalized, and it feels unnatural to say no to a drink or turn down a booze-filled event invitation. We’re told from a young age that alcohol solves a problem. It’s just “what we do.” 

Many people, including myself, don’t have a lot of people around them that don’t drink. Sober Instagram fixes this problem.

It also acts as a journal for you to document what’s going on. It’s therapeutic to write out things you’re struggling with and get support from others. I’ve gone back to my original sober Instagram account to read my old posts. It reminds me of how far I’ve come.

Talking openly about my past mistakes and my decision to quit drinking not only helps me, but it helps others too. Today, that’s why I do it. 

Having conversations about our drinking and how it has affected our lives is crucial to helping others and lessening the stigma. The more we talk about hard things, the easier it gets. Sober Instagram helps us to normalize not drinking. It helps to decrease the barrier for people. And it allows people to see that there is more than one way to quit drinking.

Historically, 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous were one of the only ways to find other people who didn’t drink. Now that the internet can connect you to someone with one click, the opportunities seem endless.

Building a supportive community

I’ve found that sharing my story on Instagram has given me more than I could have ever asked for.

I know from experience that hearing others tell your story is what makes us feel less alone. If telling my story shows another person that their struggle isn’t unique, then I’ve done enough. And I know I’ve already done at least that. 

My alcohol-free Instagram has connected me with a diverse group of people I otherwise wouldn’t have met. I consider some my close friends. I’ve done Instagram LIVEs with people from all over the country, and I’ve collaborated with major brands and businesses.

There’s something different about a person who seems to “get it” the way you do. Social media allows us to find our people. 

At three years alcohol-free I got a blog of my own published in Scary Mommy. Now, I’m pursuing my passion for writing and have shared so much about my journey through words. I launched Relatable AF, an alcohol-free newsletter to help people and share resources that I find useful. 

Throughout my time sharing my story on Instagram, I’ve realized that social media gives you back what you put into it. Unfollow accounts that make you upset or drain your energy. If we use social media for good, then it becomes the good we want to see.

Social media is not a replacement for professional mental health support. If you’re physically dependent on alcohol, please talk to your doctor before quitting drinking. If you are want more resources on substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


In Body Image

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*First Published: Aug 24, 2022, 6:00 am CDT