I stopped drinking three months ago – it’s not as simple as the internet makes it look | Ashe Davenport

Posted by

At a glance, sobriety looks pretty on social media – and relatively simple to achieve. A quick search for sober motivation will send you off on a stream of brightly coloured listicles that advise making plans that don’t involve alcohol, spending time with friends who support your choices, trying new things (like mocktails!) and going for a walk to combat alcohol cravings. The posts are often accompanied by a white-toothed influencer who is standing on a mountain in a bikini.

The internet paints a picture of sobriety that has been smoothed around the edges, with an occasional snag of vulnerability; a woman pushing her toddler on a swing with the caption “I was buzzed on vodka here”; a word tile that reads:”I realised that inebriated women are easier to control.” The darkness creeps in, but then it’s back to normal programming; memes and hashtags and journalling at sunrise.

I stopped drinking three months ago under the illusion that it would be as simple as buying leggings with the offer code sobergalclub. But I have not yet enjoyed better sleep or higher productivity. I do not look back at my years of drug and alcohol use “with zero regrets”, as one influencer who had been 30 days sober mused. I have infinite regrets. My cup runneth over.

Though I did go on a hike, which is new for me.

Since becoming sober, I’ve been busy addressing my previously ignored gum disease and a thyroid condition that I’d been masking with alcohol. I’m in bed by 9pm, which the sober internet insists should be my new happy place, but I struggle to ‘“url up with a book” with a “cup of something yummy” due to a paralysis-inducing pressure to become the optimised version of myself overnight, my bikini laid out for the following morning’s photoshoot.

Addiction hardship is noted among the online, but generally not dwelt upon. There might be a before-and-after photo reveal – here’s alcohol-addicted me, now here’s sober me. Or a post that alludes to past struggles with addiction before ultimately finding bliss in sobriety. There is a sense that sobriety is the answer to all of life’s problems.

It is a world where addiction is history and sobriety is a finished product. Sober influencers have pulled themselves from the pit of addiction and emerged frolicking beneath a waterfall at golden hour. They have arrived at their destination and are now sharing their experience as a way to inspire others to follow a similar path.

I’m happy for them – but it’s all too neat. I’m left craving messy, intimate details about their struggles with alcohol so I can feel less alone in mine. But they don’t owe me anything. I wouldn’t expect a stranger in the supermarket to step me through her darkest hour.

I recently attended my 20-year high school reunion, where I learned that nine of my peers had died since graduation, most from drug and alcohol abuse. A boy I played basketball with had a drug-induced heart attack in Mexico. A girl from my English class became addicted to ice.

Sobriety is a “lifehack” in that it might keep you alive.

I shared my decision to stop drinking on social media. People liked my post and sent me DMs about their own experience quitting alcohol or wanting to. There is a sprawling community of sober people online, but ultimately we are sitting alone.

I’ve joined a local amateur choir, because there’s only so much gratitude journalling I can cope with in my spare time. We meet weekly and practice choral arrangements of Crowded House songs. I have to listen closely to the people on either side of me to find their voices and tune mine with theirs.

It requires delicate concentration, like threading a needle. If I am louder or softer than the group, I am doing it wrong. During the break we drink tea and eat biscuits someone has brought from home. We talk about our days. It’s peaceful.

There’s an AA meeting near my house tonight, but I don’t think I qualify. I don’t think I had an addiction to alcohol, but when I drank I often made really bad decisions, the kind that jeopardised my safety.

For now, I’m grateful for the quotes and fine editing skills of the online sober community, and for my weekly singalong. I’ve taken down the details of the AA meeting, though I feel a lump in my throat at the thought of attending. I’m glad to know it’s there.

Ashe Davenport is a writer and author