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Can This New Trend Kill the Stigma of Sobriety?

stigma of sobriety

Can This New Trend Kill the Stigma of Sobriety?

Stigma. It’s gotta be one of the most ridiculous burdens we face. It’s also one of the most dangerous. Or it can be anyway. Especially when the stigma surrounds sobriety. See, the stigma of sobriety isn’t simply some ho-hum bias. It’s a veritable health threat. A threat to both the mental and physical health of those being stigmatized, as well as that of society itself. Because when you sideline a large part of the population, the whole world loses out.

And sobriety does indeed represent a large part of the population. In fact, a 2019 National Recovery Study found it added up to be an estimated 22.35 million Americans. That’s right. 22.35 million Americans in recovery. Or around 9.1%. If that’s not large, well, we don’t know what the word even means.

The Stigma of Sobriety

Okay, say you’re one of those 22.35 million sober Americans. And every time you’re at a bar to catch a ballgame or having dinner with friends, someone raises the subject of sobriety. It usually comes right after everyone’s ordered beers and cocktails, and you’ve ordered soda pop or water. But it could come later on. Whatever the case, it shows people are clocking your abstinence. It also shows some level of bias, even if they don’t say the words.

Chances are good that no one intentionally means any harm. Chances are even better that you try not to care much one way or another. But no matter how much you try, and how long you’ve been sober, there’s still discomfort in being the odd man out. After all, humans are social beings. And even the strongest and most resolute loses strength and resolution when denied the company of other humans.

So what to do? Do we grin and bear it in order to enjoy the company? Or do we shutter in place and miss out on all the camaraderie?

Well, we now don’t have to do either, because there’s a third option. We can sidle up to the bar or face the harried server with an actual order or our own. No, not water or soda. But beer or spirits. In other words, an adult-sized order. Only in this case it’ll be either non-alcoholic or zero proof.

Yes, indeed. These days the sober can order their own brands of adult beverages and forever forget about getting the side-eye. Better still, we can order knowing we’re supporting an exciting new trend in business; one generally run by indie Mom & Pops in which the sober are giving priority. In fact, many of these brave new concerns are founded and run by sober folks. If not, they at least err on the sober side of life.

Non-Alcoholic & Zero Proof

Healing Properties has been eagerly hyping this new trend. We’re glad to do it too. Damn glad. Because every new non-alcoholic beer brand or zero proof spirit puts sobriety one step closer to mainstream society. It also places us one step further removed from yesterday. After all, we may have been on the outs as addicts, but we don’t need to be on the outs in recovery too.

Enough about us though. Let’s get into these new brands. There are a lot of them. More every time we look up. So we’ll have to keep things brief. But brevity will in no way diminish the enthusiasm we have for the brands, or for the folks behind them.

Non-Alcoholic Beers

We got one to the non-alcoholic beer bandwagon after reading New Yorker ace John Seabrook‘s sobering account of sidling up to a bar and re-experiencing all of its joys with none of the traditional consequences. Seabrook’s been sober for five years, so his perspective was not without considerable depth. It didn’t come without definite risk either. And his subsequent account — “An Ex-Drinkers Search for a Sober Buzz” — ends up being all the more elucidating as a result.

Here are some of the beers now being offered Seabrook and the rest of the sober drinking crowd:

  • Athletic
  • Bravus
  • BrewDog
  • Golden Road
  • Gruvy
  • Partake
  • Special Effects (Brooklyn Brewery)
  • Surreal
  • WellBeing
  • The major old line breweries are also in on the action, of course. In fact, Heineken O.O and Busch NA are even scoring big taste points. But we prefer to throw our support to those whose visions and dreams and efforts launched the trend in the first place. They’re generally of the same kind of mind as the craft brewers who preceded them; they’re of the same kind of integrity too. And after too many years running with the bad guys, it feels fantastic to be on the side of the good. Supporting sober indie businesses helps keep us there.

    Zero Proof Spirits

    These Top 10 zero proof spirits come courtesy of the good folks at Town and Country. They’ve had impeccable taste with everything else over the years; there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue with zero proof spirits too.

  • Aplós
  • ArKay Alcohol Free Vodka
  • Fluère Spiced Cane
  • Ceder’s Pink Rose Gin Alternative
  • Ghia
  • Lyre’s White Cane Non-Alcoholic Spirit
  • Kentucky 74 (Spiritless)
  • Monday Zero Alcohol Gin
  • Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative
  • Sexy AF Amar-oh
  • NC State & the Stigma of Sobriety

    Healing Properties got on to this subject after reading Matt Shipman‘s revealing report of a North Carolina State University study authored by Lynsey Romo and Mary Obiol. The study, which begat the Health Communication-placed paper “How People in Recovery Manage the Stigma of Being an Alcoholic”, focused on the coping mechanisms recovering alcoholics employ when facing the stigma of sobriety.

    “There is a stigma in the United States associated with not drinking socially,” said Romo, who’s an associate professor of communication at NC State. “There is also a stigma associated with problem drinking. We did this study because we wanted to understand how people negotiate this double-stigma socially in order to stay sober.”

    The authors also wanted to outline the participants’ coping strategies so others in recovery can better grapple with shame and other issues associated with these stigmas.

    Here are the six prevalent strategies:

  • Accepting the stigma: i.e. self-deprecating humor
  • Evading responsibility for the stigma: i.e. “it’s in my genes”
  • Reducing offensiveness of stigma: i.e. “maybe so, but consider the alternative”
  • Avoiding the stigma: i.e. doesn’t apply
  • Denying the stigma: i.e. “you’ve no idea…”
  • Ignoring/displaying the stigma: i.e. rising above
  • The entire paper can be accessed here.

    A New Way to Rise Above

    Healing Properties wholeheartedly thanks Lynsey Romo and Mary Obiol for performing such an essential study, and Matt Shipman for bringing in the report. We further thank North Carolina State University for creating the climate where such keen-minded studies can be performed. It’s efforts like these which will help eliminate the stigma of sobriety. They’ll also give sobriety the opportunity to take its rightful place in the world, right alongside every other life-affirming way to live.

    We’d also like to thank all the new entrepreneurs who are providing sober folk safe and engaging ways to re-join the crowd, wherever that crowd may be. Raised eyebrows and sideways looks may not sound like such a big thing. But when you’re on the other side of them, you can really feel the implicit bias. And it never feels good. It’ll be great to have such disparaging distractions wiped right off the table.

    It’ll also be great to be able to explore a whole new world of adult beverages. Like the alcohol-based craft beer and neo spirits before them, these exciting new offerings are created by brewers and distillers who are serious about their calling. And they’re consequently creating some seriously groundbreaking brews and spirits. Being presented with such a bounty will be a downright pleasure.

    Going back into the bar is not without its risks, of course. Neither is drinking a beverage that tastes suspiciously like its alcoholic counterpart. And we advise everyone to tread with real care. Bring along a sober buddy if possible. Or at least start with just the one for the first few visits. Whatever it takes to keep you from slipping. Because there’s no sense in rising to an occasion that’s only going to provide a fall.

    Otherwise rejoice in this brave new world; a world in which sobriety is merely part of a vast and colorful landscape. And there are absolutely, positively no stigmas required.

    How about you? How’s your world? Suffering the stigma of sobriety? Just suffering period? We can help you know. No matter what you need. All you’ve gotta do is call. And if we can’t get you sorted here, we’ll let you know where to go. So long as you’re on the road to recovery.

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