by Joichi Ito

Stigma

in Psychology / Social Issues

Thu, 01 Jan 2004, 18:35

I think one of the interesting points that Jonas made to me was that when AA was founded, there was a great deal of stigma associated with being addicted to alcohol or having an "alcohol problem". I think this has changed. There is obviously still a stigma, but it is not nearly so bad. I don't look down on anyone who has chosen to be anonymous about their problem, but I'm actually proud of myself for recognizing the fact that I need to deal with this. I think that supporting each other in this effort and making the process interesting if not down right fun may be one way to approach it.

I make a point of telling people that I've just quit drinking and starting most dinner conversations about how interesting and wonderful it has been since I've quit. It then makes it quite difficult for people to pressure me into drinking and gets the awkward moment of telling people that I'm not going to drink out of the way up front. On the other hand, I'm new to not drinking so I guess this tactic won't work as well in the future and the novelty will wear off.

Do you think it is possible to wear the "I'm not drinking" think proudly, or do you think that after the novelty wears off, it will end up becoming a lonely effort?

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Jan 1, 2004 7:04:33 PM

The novelty wears off for sure, but only in that it's no longer a topic of conversation. I can't tell you the last time someone I know offered me a drink. The last time someone who I didn't know offered me a drink was the other night and a simple "no thanks" pretty much ended that and we moved onto the next topic.

People who know you will know you don't drink and, if they are your friends, won't push it. With the ones you don't know, it doesn't really matter, you might be on some medication that you can't mix with alcohol, you might be the designated driver, there's countless reasons why someone wouldn't be drinking one night, and for people you meet in passing there's no reason (after a while) to explain anything more than that to them. You aren't drinking that night, that's all.

For anyone who pushes it, that's a whole different story. They aren't your friends, they are being selfish and should be told that.

The major change, which admittedly I don't have a lot of experience with is that if one of your hobbies was going drinking with friends, that probably will change a bit. Going drinking is no fun if you don't drink, so basically you don't go drinking. But there's tons of other things to do, so no worries.

Jan 1, 2004 7:17:01 PM

When i did a 1.5 year no-substance cleanse (i.e. no caffeine, no tobacco, no alcohol, only aleve when absolutely necessary), i found myself wanting to explain what i was doing for the first few weeks. Here's why i'm not having XXX. After about a month, i just politely excused myself from coffee offers (just as i do now) and went out of my way to order my drink before anyone else ordered for the table. If i needed to make a clear point that i was explicitly not drinking, i would order a Shirley Temple (the classic kid fake drink substitute - grenadine and Sprite). It's funny how often that got the point across without anything further needing to be said.

I agree with Sean - the novelty will wear off and people will get it. Those who don't, in my experience, are dealing with their own demons.

As far as the "going drinking" process, i don't know if it will be less fun. Personally, i had a grand time going out drinking and downing OJ after OJ. Then again, i love watching people make fools of themselves and i always remember it far better sober. Back east, i used to hang out with this crew of folks that was a mix. 2 were on the AA plan, 2 had chosen to not drink for whatever reason and a whole lot more drank at varying levels. We never had a problem going out to bars, shooting the shit and having a grand old time regardless of people's tastes.

But these are all lessons to be learned personally....

Jan 1, 2004 7:18:36 PM

j.,
i have been reading of your decision and its impact in your life with some interest. i have been in recovery from addiction for over thirteen years while i have only been blogging for a few months. in the time of my recovery (which i choose to practice in the framework of 12 step groups), i have noticed a pattern in myself and among others that have decided to undertake the life change associated with giving up our favorite chemical friends. As the process begins, there is a euphoria associated with finally being on the other side of that decision and a fascination with life seen from a new perspective. Many people mistake this 'pink cloud' for a new reality and assume that all spaces of sadness, despair and isolation are behind them. Oh were this the case! Unfortunately, getting a respite from addiction or alcoholism is not a reprieve from the human condition, and many have been shocked and dismayed when they found themselves face to face with the very demons they thought themselves free of. It is here in this second phase, when the novelty of change has worn off, that the supportive nature of friends, a meeting or this blog can make a crucial difference.
And while i think it healthy that your are open with your decision to stop drinking, i wouldn't be too sure that the stigmas have disappeared - perhaps it is just that the social expectations of how to express one's opinions about other's behaviour that have changed.
congrats on your not drinking by the way.
~William

Jan 1, 2004 7:48:20 PM

Zephoria makes a good point, when I have a group of friends who go drinking (my wife drinks so this actually happens from time to time) and I go with I always have a great time. What I meant was that if the "drinking" part was what made it fun for you, and it was something you did all the time, that would probably change a bit.

Jan 1, 2004 9:59:09 PM

Yes. I can imagine how saying "no" is probably not as hard as I think it is and how the novelty will wear off.

At a recent party where I was sober, I didn't get direct pressure, but I did see the sad face of someone who is used to seeing me all goofy and drunk and I was looking a bit tense and sober. I guess people will get used to me looking sober, and I'll get used to having fun sober.

I guess the main situation where I will miss drinking is when there is excellent wine being served. I had recently fancied myself becoming an amateur sommelier. I guess I can divert that energy to learning more about Chinese teas or something.

Jan 2, 2004 1:22:12 PM
6 - don

Ahhh, the wines are the one thing I truely miss. I can forgo the hard liquors, but every now and then I'll be eating some succulent morsel, and think "this would go incredibly well with this or that bottle of wine"

Jan 2, 2004 2:09:07 PM

I'm going to have a LOT of extra time and cash on my hands now and will need something to throw myself into so I'm going to learn how to fly this year. That and writing a LOT more software. Coding is about the best distraction for me when I start looking at the bottle.

I don't plan on telling everyone I quit drinking in social situations. If they know me they'll already know and if I'm meeting them for the first time it's none of their damn business. My club soda bills are going to go thru the roof :-)

Jan 2, 2004 8:06:42 PM
8 - Drew

I agree heartily with everything William said. I have not had a drink in over eight years, and am active in AA. I do not believe that AA is the only way, but it is the only way that I know of that has had consistent success for a multitude of individuals for over 50 years.

When I was newly sober I told everyone, which is what I needed to do at that time. Now that I am sober a bit longer, I only tell those people that I think may be helped by my experience, or people who become close to me and should know in order to understand what I am about.

I think that one of the main reasons I have been able to not drink (and be happy) for over 8 years is that I have surrounded myself with other people who no longer drink - but not to the exclusion of those who do. My sober friends A) remind me that I have lost my right to drink B) understand issues and feelings that I sometimes have a hard time putting into words and C)act as my "group conscience" - I am answerable to my friends as well as myself for staying sober, since they are as dependent upon me as I am upon them. Part of my life is lived in a wonderful sober community - a second family for me (and in many ways more loving than my first). Being sober, I am especially lucky to live in Los Angeles - LA is generally very accepting and accomodating to being sober.

I have been very happy to see Joi get started on his journey - it helps to keep me on mine.

Jan 3, 2004 7:34:57 AM

Some people tell everyone, some don't. Whatever you do you have to live with. It is easier to not advertise and not be around alcohol unless you have a legitimate reason to be there (it is in the Big Book how this works).

The 11th and 12th Traditions of AA speak of Personal Anonymity.

11. Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We think A.A. ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There is never need to praise ourselves. We feel it better to let our friends recommend us.

12. And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of Anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

Jan 3, 2004 5:44:03 PM
10 - Joi Ito

Thank you for this Johnny Anon, I have always wondered what was so important about being anonymous. Is it the humility? I had a feeling that part of it was the stigma. My uneducated mind thinks that having our real names on this blog help others who are suffering quietly, but is this not the case? I can understand why some people would choose to be anonymous, but I'm not yet sure exactly why this has to be part of the "rules". Can you ellaborate on why anonymity is necessary for practicing "genuine humility"?

Jan 4, 2004 6:39:12 AM

I was a terrible Big Book type alcoholic. I had a "Road to Damascus" type experience that changed my life. I practice the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions as they are written or interpreted by group conscience. If it says anonymity at the level of media, and it does, that is what I do. If a General Service Conference said use last names at meetings so newcomers don't get confused, and they did, that is what I do unless the local group decides otherwise. I can tell you from experience humility is something that if you think you have it you don't. The key to humility is understanding the depths of our arrogance. The key to understanding our arrogance is forever keeping principles before personalities. This is a confirmation that I am not God and I am willing to learn. There is an old saying in AA: "Look out for the almighty I and the poor me. Learn to think small and walk in the middle." I hope this helps, volumes have been written about this but the experience is elusive. The Prayer of The Heart is simply "Lord forgive me, a sinner."

Don't get to caught up in this stuff now, there is plenty of time later. Do you know about all those damn slogans yet?

Jan 4, 2004 8:33:16 AM
12 - Joi Ito

"I can tell you from experience humility is something that if you think you have it you don't." Does that mean you don't feel you have it and therefore you are humble? Doesn't that mean you feel you have it?

And this humility. Where does this tie into dealing with alcoholism? Is primarily to support the way that AA works? Is it necessary in order to be able to quit drinking?

I'm sorry if I sound negative. I'm not. I'm VERY curious about how all of these things relate to each other. I'm trying to tease apart the elements of AA. -- the management of addiction, the organizational issues and the spiritual issues and what each of these slogans and principles are supposed to support.

Jan 4, 2004 6:55:54 PM

That means that when you are experiencing true humilty you aren't aware of it. If you feel or think that you have acieved it you have reached past it. Where does it tye in with not drinking? It is a goal to strive for. Anyone can stop drinking. Staying stopped is really the problem. The collective experience of the largest number of people who have stopped for the longest known periods of time and are happy living sober is that humility is neccessary. Remember AA just puts out a lot of recomendations and suggestions as defined by a collective group conscience. Everyone is free to pick and choose what to believe or not to believe, what to do or not to do. The people there who are happy with their lives and have been sober for appreciable lengths of time say to not drink one day at a time, go to meetings, and work the steps. The traditions provide a framework for working together. Acceptance and humility surface as part of the package.

To learn about AA you really should go to some meetings and see for yourself. It should be seen alive. Look for people who have been sober an appreciable amount of time and are happy and comfortable with their lives. Reading about it just isn't the same as experiencing it.

Teasing apartthe elements of AA could be a lifetime job. The spiritual issues, slogans, and principles have but one purpose, to help each member of the fellowship who wants to, not drink one day at a time.

Jan 5, 2004 3:04:56 PM
14 - william

while i agree the comments above regarding anonymity and humility i would like also to note that the anonymity points toward a communication based on what is shared (the desire to quit drinking/using) rather than other attributes which may be more easily perceived (wealth, religion, etc). When i walk into a meeting i am not male, female, white, black but only a person seeking assistance to stick with my desired goal.

Apr 1, 2005 2:01:14 AM

Propecia Propecia

Aug 7, 2007 2:06:21 PM
16 - ro617ck

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