When I first started my sobriety journey seven years ago, I kept the news pretty close to my heart. It took me a few weeks to even share with my spouse, let alone with the outside world. While there were plenty of positive reasons to stay quiet, as it allowed me to keep my journey private and wouldn’t lead to any unwelcome issues at work, I also realized I didn’t want anyone to know I had quit drinking because then I might be judged if I decided I wanted to start again. I didn’t need the additional accountability or pressure, and I knew I had to be sober for myself — not because of what anyone else thought.
The thing is, I was already a somewhat public person; I’d started my blog in 2004 and, by the time I quit drinking, I’d been writing about my life for over eight years. I was part of the original online movement of women writing honestly about the difficulties and challenges of motherhood, such as Glennon Doyle and Heather Armstrong. This was before the prevalence of social media influencers and people sharing their “highlight reels” on Instagram. Back then, the online platforms for sharing weren’t as accessible and blog/influencer advertising collaborations weren’t as common, so more writers were sharing their honest struggles as opposed to cultivating their writing or imagery for an audience. I had a reputation for sharing my real struggles online, including writing candidly about my unplanned pregnancy at 22, subsequent marriage, and my struggle as a lonely young mother. I had a wonderful community of people who followed my life story.
That’s why, when I quit drinking, I felt a real pull to share about the transition because it was a HUGE part of my life. It felt so odd writing blog posts and sharing wisdom that helped me be a better, more honest writer and parent, which I had gained in recovery, but not sharing how I acquired it. I felt inauthentic, like a phony, and eventually, I stopped writing altogether.
Around my one year sobriety anniversary, I realized how much I missed authentically sharing with my community, and I thought about sharing the news with a wider audience. But even though my one year of experience felt like a lifetime, I realized I was still a baby in terms of my time in recovery. So I reached out to a few women I looked up to who was publicly sober and asked for their guidance. I am so grateful to them for mentoring me, most especially Andrea Owen, a badass sober writer and podcaster, who told me that when she stopped drinking, she had a deep feeling inside that she HAD to write her sobriety. Andrea advised me to wait until I felt calmer and had less anxiety about it — she told me I’d know when I was ready. My one year anniversary came and went, and in the end, I decided to keep my recovery private.
In the next year, though, as I become more comfortable in my own sobriety, I widened my circle, slowly sharing my story with friends, family, and some of my colleagues. The longer I stayed alcohol-free, the more I realized how incredibly positive this life change was for me and my family. And the better my life got, the more I naturally wanted to share the good news. I attended happy hours and instead of simply saying “not tonight” or “no thanks,” I started saying “Actually, I don’t drink.”
I never set out to be a sobriety evangelist but here I am.
I found myself eager to share that I was sober, and I rarely had a negative response. Most of the time, people found it interesting and wanted to learn more. The fear I had about being judged melted away with each positive interaction, and as I became more secure in my decision to not drink, the less I cared what anyone else thought of it anyway. I was making a healthy choice and I was so proud of myself!
I never set out to be a sobriety evangelist but here I am.
As my two year anniversary approached, I felt confident that it was time to share my journey with a wider audience.
Andrea had advised me to make sure I had a couple of people lined up to support me the day the post went live. She also encouraged me to remember that, in sharing my story publicly, I could be of service to others. I’d been so focused on people who might judge me that I hadn’t thought much about those that might be helped by my story.
On April 16, 2015, I posted about it on my blog and shared it on social media. I was full of fear before it went live, and then I felt a rush of relief as I hit the publish button. Most of the people I cared about in real life already knew about my recovery and I felt confident I had their love — but I worried about some of my work colleagues, parents at my kids’ school, and people I hadn’t seen in years who followed me online. I wondered if they would read the post and then try to remember the last time they’d seen me drink or if they’d wonder if I’d ever been drunk around them or their kids. I even worried about the community of sober people I’d met in AA, who were adamantly against me blogging about recovery due to AA’s stance on anonymity.
I’d been so focused on people who might judge me that I hadn’t thought much about those that might be helped by my story.
In the end, my fears were mostly unfounded.
Along with the online comments of support, the outpouring of private support was overwhelming. I still receive weekly emails from across the US (and some from as far as Australia and Ireland) from women who have read my posts or heard me on a podcast and felt like someone finally understood what they were going through.
As I’ve grown in my recovery, my sobriety story has been shared on bigger websites like Scary Mommy and is one of the most-read blog posts ever on the Kansas City Moms Blog. The whole thing came full circle when Andrea interviewed me on her Kick-Ass Life Podcast Recovery Series. Every time I mention my recovery or an interview gets reposted, women reach out, and every time I am grateful to be able to help others feel less alone.
I’m not advocating being public about your sobriety one way or another — only you can decide if that’s the right choice for you, your family, and your life. But I’m here to tell you, if feel the pull to share your story, it’s something to consider.
You have no idea who you might be able to help with your words. I learned that the embarrassment and shame I was afraid of actually lifted once I was public with my journey. Once my story was out in the world, I was able to fully own it and be proud of all the work I’ve done to change my life for the better.
The freedom I’ve felt since going public has been liberating, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.