The A Word: Seven Months Sober
Following last month’s article, and my celebration at being “SIX MONTHS SOBER, BABY!”, I got my first very weird reaction to my sobriety. Someone I don’t know very well but am friends with on Facebook challenged me on my use of the word ‘sober’, claiming that to use that word and celebrate ‘months sober’ if I wasn’t an alcoholic was offensive to those who are addicted. I briefly engaged in a conversation about this, trying to explain that alcoholism is complex and does not exist on a binary where one is either addicted or not, that my choice to use the word “sober” was reflective of my own personal journey, and that celebrating each month as a milestone was a huge part of what maintains my sobriety. I tried to explain that part of the problem with support around recovery and sobriety is the language used, because people feel alienated by it. He didn’t ask any direct questions and used quite combative language, saying things like “it’s called teetotalism” and “I know perfectly well what alcoholism is and is not” which effectively shut down the conversation. His language made me feel cornered and shamed, trapped into either admitting I was an alcoholic, or admitting that I was appropriating the identity of alcoholics. There seemed to be no negotiation for the nuances of alcohol-related behaviour, nor any room for discussion about the reclamation of language or my personal relationship to it. I have so far avoided talking about the word ‘alcoholic’ very much, other than to say I don’t identify with it, but the time has come, so here we go.
What is an alcoholic?
According to dictionary.com, alcoholism is:
characterized by dependence on alcohol, repeated excessive use of alcoholic beverages,
which applies to most people I know, and 27% of adults in Britain,
the development of withdrawal symptoms upon reducing or ceasing intake,
which is what happened to me when I stopped drinking,
morbidity that may include cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased ability…