Consuming alcohol has become such a cultural norm that while there are laws about advertising, selling, and serving it to minors, alcoholic beverages are a part of everyday life. There are advertisements everywhere you look; it is readily available at grocery stores, corner markets, restaurants, pubs, bars, and hotels. Alcohol is served at most adult dinners and parties.
What if, instead, sobriety became the cultural norm? What if alcohol advertisements were rare and alcohol was only ever optional? Imagine if you could walk into a grocery store and there were only groceries. Or if restaurants, pubs, bars, and hotels only served food and non-alcoholic beverages as the norm? Imagine being able to go to work or other social events and there was no need for designated drivers? Perhaps that is asking way too much, but there is certainly a lot more we can do to move toward normalizing sobriety.
Challenging the Stigmas and Stereotypes of Addiction
One of the biggest obstacles to normalizing sobriety is first normalizing addiction itself. There are too many stereotypes and stigmas surrounding addiction, too much shame and ignorance about substance use disorders, and the people who have them.
Normalizing addiction would go such a long way in helping those actively using substances because having awareness of the dangers and the treatment options available would help those around them provide acceptance and offer help. Rather than being shamed and shunned by society, those with substance use disorders might be treated like anyone else with medical conditions, as they should be.
Promoting Acceptance and Encouragement
When people with substance use disorders are finally accepted and treated like human beings, they will be more likely to accept themselves and have the desire to make changes in their lives. According to the 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 40 million people ages 12 and over in the United States reported having a substance use disorder the previous year. That is a lot of acceptance that is needed.
When addiction is accepted as a medical condition, and those with addiction can feel normal in learning to accept themselves, those around them can encourage and help them find treatment. Imagine a world where friends and family showed the same love and concern for those with a substance use disorder diagnosis as they did with someone hospitalized for diabetes or another medical condition? That is the level of normalizing that is needed.
Normalizing Treatment for Addiction
People need to feel comfortable about seeking addiction treatment. Rather than be the person who everyone is whispering about at work, be the person who people send support while you are in treatment. Just like any other hospitalization, having people show concern and offer support for your well-being would help a lot at a time when mentally, emotionally, and physically, you are so fragile. Having people understand that treatment for addiction is medical and that there is no shame in seeking help would also go a long way in normalizing treatment.
Educating the Public About Sobriety
For people who have chosen a life in recovery, why must they keep explaining themselves or refusing offers to go to bars? Why do people always feel the need to put a drink in someone else’s hand at social events? Sobriety is difficult enough to maintain on your own; it should not be something you constantly have to defend against others.
Being aware that there are people who are sober and who are actively pursuing sobriety is just being decent. Being cognizant of others’ choices and allowing the use of substances to be the alternative rather than the norm shows that you respect other people and their physical and mental health. It is a matter of educating the public and evolving both culturally and as human beings.
Making Addiction Recovery Normal
What if being in recovery was also normal? If the general population recognized the daily efforts required and the commitment to improving yourself daily that recovery requires? In the way that people honor or revere everyday heroes, perhaps those who work every day to maintain their recovery could be recognized for how they better themselves and those around them.
At the very least, it would be helpful if people took the time to try to understand how difficult it can be to live in a society that normalizes alcohol and substance use so much that it makes it difficult for those who need to make other choices to survive each day in that culture. Every day that you survive, you are making a step toward normalizing sobriety.
In a world where the culture of substance use is so pervasive that it makes it difficult for anyone to make any other choices, it is time that we work toward normalizing sobriety. By challenging stigmas, promoting acceptance, normalizing treatment and recovery, and educating the public about what sobriety is, we can look to a future where sobriety becomes more of a social norm. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we work to normalize sobriety one person at a time. Each client who comes through our program can make a difference by intentionally choosing sobriety and beginning their recovery process. Our outpatient programs provide options for your unique recovery path that works best for you. Our sober living homes help you stay on that path as you transition into your healthy routines. Contact West Coast Recovery Centers today at (760) 492-6509 for more information.