Sober Instagram reduces the stigma surrounding addiction

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Social media can get a bad rap, but I’ve been a fan since Myspace, where I’ve spent hours curating my top 8 to perfection. Today, social platforms occupy another special place in my heart.

When I decided to quit drinking in 2018, Sober Instagram caught my eye. This corner of the internet helps people assess their relationship with alcohol and connect with others who are doing the same.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a drinker with no off switches. Sure, I could have a drink or two, but I didn’t see the point of it. After four and a half years without alcohol, I still don’t. That’s how my brain works.

In 2018, after another night of drinking too much, my husband told me I could no longer drink alone with our son. Two days later I found myself in the midst of another emotional hangover at work, the part of my hangover that would come after my physical symptoms subsided. After reading a blog on Scary Mommy about a mom who didn’t drink, I was intrigued. I messaged the author on Facebook and haven’t looked back since.

This person gave me many recommendations and I totally immersed myself in the online non-alcoholic space. Along the way, I received a suggestion to look at sober Instagram and think about creating my own account.

So I did.

My first sobriety account was private. I didn’t show my face or name and unsynced my contacts. The stigma of quitting drinking made me want to remain anonymous, and Instagram gave me that option. That helped a lot, especially at the beginning.

I started following other sober accounts and searched for 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.

As I celebrated a year without alcohol, I decided to stop posting about it on Instagram. I felt that my account had served its original purpose. It was time for me to find out who I was without alcohol.

What I didn’t know was that I would come back.

At the end of 2020 I decided to create a new sober Instagram account. Oddly enough, it was Tropicana that got me started. The orange juice brand’s #TakeAMImoment campaign used celebrities to encourage stressed parents to drink.

Molly Sims was one of the celebrities who took part in the campaign. On Instagram, she posted a video of herself sitting in her closet next to her incognito mini-fridge. Disguised as a gift basket, the refrigerator is filled with Tropicana orange juice and champagne, the ingredients for a mimosa. “So that I can be a better mother. The best mom,” she says in the video.

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

Like many others in the sober community, I was angry. I’ve posted about the campaign on my personal accounts, but I didn’t want to stop talking about how much alcohol is being encouraged in parents. I wanted to spread the word and share more without feeling like annoying my family and friends. This prompted me to create a new Instagram account: Sobriety Activist.

Since then, my non-alcoholic Instagram account has grown to over 16,000 followers in less than two years. That rapid growth alone shows that many out there are still struggling. I keep getting messages from people asking for help. I know from experience that you only need one person in your corner. For many, I am that person.

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

A lot of people, myself included, don’t have a lot of people around who don’t drink. Sober Instagram fixes this problem.

It also acts as a diary where you can document what is going on. Writing down things you struggle with and getting support from others is therapeutic. I went back to my original sober Instagram account to read my old posts. It reminds me how far I’ve come.

Being open about my past mistakes and my decision to stop drinking not only helps me but also others. That’s why I’m doing it today.

Having conversations about our drinking and how it has impacted our lives is crucial to helping others and reducing the stigma. The more we talk about difficult things, the easier it becomes. Sober Instagram is helping us normalize not drinking. It helps lower the barrier for people. And it shows people that there’s more than one way to stop drinking.

In the past, 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 possibilities seem endless.

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

I know from experience that when we hear others share your story, we feel less alone. If telling my story shows another person that their struggle is not unique, then I’ve done enough. And I know that at least I have already done so.

My alcohol-free Instagram has connected me to a diverse group of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Some I consider my close friends. I’ve done Instagram LIVEs with people from all over the country and have worked with big brands and companies.

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

When I was three years alcohol free I got my own blog which was published in Scary Mommy. Now I’m pursuing my passion for writing and have shared so much about my journey through words. I started Assignable AFa non-alcoholic newsletter to help people and share resources I find useful.

Throughout my time sharing my story on Instagram, I have come to realize that social media gives you back what you put into it. Unfollow accounts that annoy you or drain your energy. When we use social media for good, it becomes the good we want to see.

Social media is not a substitute for professional psychological care. If you are physically dependent on alcohol, please talk to your doctor before you stop drinking. If you need additional resources about substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


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Jaclyn Diaz

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