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So I've said similar things in other ways, but I really think this needs to be said, especially for anyone who has (only) joined a large Sober Community Tribe and who's not necessarily found anyone who sounds like them or looks like them. We are out there. We are here. We love you, and we're waiting for you. Come find us.
Hi, loves – from Day 390
Hope you’re all doing well on this Friday night. I just wanted to come and talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, and that came up both in a podcast I recorded this morning (HAHAHA I AM TERRIFIED) and also in an episode of the new season of This Is Us (if you’re not watching it, drop EVERYTHING and go find it immediately). Community, change, comfort.
Randall (a Black character in This Is Us) says to his (white) therapist: “there are things that I don’t feel comfortable talking to you about. There’s stuff I put away when I enter your office, and … that doesn’t help me get better. And there’s nothing you can do to help me feel more comfortable, I just … I need something different”. I have to admit – I bawled when I heard those lines. They felt so familiar, and like words were put to a feeling I haven’t always been able to verbalise properly.
We often expect so much out of our safe spaces, our tribes, our harbours, our retreats. And so we should! We build them and invest in them and maintain them. We *are* them. And often … it can feel like they’re everything. I know I lived in my first sober support group for my first weeks and months, I lived, breathed and ate the tribe and the group, giving and getting SO MUCH. And we’ve had conversations (a lot of them outside the tribe, as those conversations within the space were closed off in order to not detract from the #1 purpose, accompanying people who want to change their relationship with alcohol) about how to make spaces more open, more diverse, more inclusive, more welcoming, but I think Randall’s point says it all. “There’s nothing you can do to help me feel more comfortable, I just … I need something different.”
There are lived experiences as a minority that just cannot be understood by the majority. There are multiple experiences that I can’t understand, and some personal experiences of mine that many/most others wouldn’t understand, unless they went through the same thing. It is not my job here to get others to understand my lived experience. There are things which I “park” before coming into the tribe. Elements of me and my life that I put aside – not because I don’t necessarily trust you all with them, but because bringing them up and out, as a minority lived experience, no matter how related to my problematic relationship with alcohol, that doubles my workload. It’s explaining (and often re-explaining, and sometimes defending) to people who will struggle to “get it” because it’s not their experience and it’s hard. This is not a “woe is me” post – I am lucky to have done a LOT of work in therapy and in my background as a coach. I know how to separate things. It’s annoying to have to, but it’s just one more annoyance, one more brick in the handbag to carry round.
The purpose of this post is to say to anyone who finds themselves in the quote – that they’re not getting everything they need from one particular source – di. ver. si. fy. Diversify your sources and your tribes and your safe spaces. If you feel safe and happy to do so, stay where you are for the good things that you’re getting there, but don’t hesitate to bring in help from other sources, to reach out to other spaces. I have needed, at times, to reach out to sober groups specifically for the queer/trans community – they’re not as big, they don’t have the same resources, I don’t have the same feeling of a huge loving family around me … but they also get the shorthand. I don’t need to add educational work to my interactions there.
Finding people to talk to who look like you, sound like you, have lived through the things that you’ve lived through … it’s not a bad thing. It’s good for everyone to be mushed up together, unless it ends up delivering one specific narrative (in order to be Successfully Sober you need to be money-driven, white, cishet, middle class, middle aged, fairly sporty or sporty-able, and anglophone. Yoga or marathons, that’s your diversity <== this is how A LOT of Sober Spaces tend to look from the outside).
Your narrative is your narrative. It is valid and valuable. It has its place in big tribes, and it has its place in littler ones, too. Do not be afraid to diversify your sources, to find an additional happy space where you *don’t* have to park a lot of yourself or your experience at the front door. Literally nobody is saying you can’t have both :D
And as a final point – the question of “getting help” comes up regularly. As if there is something to be ashamed about for needing a tribe, a program, a coach, a facility in order to change a relationship with alcohol. When a child is born, we don’t expect it to be able to do everything perfectly right away. When we’re teaching a new language or a new skill, we don’t expect the person we’re teaching to be able to do everything perfectly right away. When we’re recovering from an illness or disease, we don’t expect to be able to do everything perfectly straight away. We need help. We need time and books and training and advice and encouragement and space and love and support. It’s the same for getting sober, except with the added difficulties of multi-billion-dollar industries using every marketing trick in the book against us, societal norms, traditions and cultures working against us, and often many years or decades of our own ingrained habits and thought-processes working against us.
OF COURSE we need bloody help and support – it’s a miracle we’ve even made it to the point of recognising that! So please NEVER feel ashamed about bringing in outside help – it truly is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Have yourselves an evening and weekend that does you the most good.