Is Sober the New Black? Some in Recovery Say “Get Real.”
A past issue of Details magazine was largely devoted to addiction and recovery, and I was drawn to it. First, someone compiled a timeline of moments in sobriety. It’s riveting. Do you remember when warning labels first started appearing on alcoholic beverages? How about the first celebrity to publicly enter rehab? The year Cocaine Anonymous was founded? (Answers at bottom.)
Especially interesting is the partial history surrounding alcoholism. For those who don’t remember, the first AA meeting was held in 1935. Alcoholism was declared a personality disorder by the APA in 1952. In 1956 it was classified as an illness, and 10 years later, as a disease. In 1979 a World Health Organization recommended the phrase “alcohol dependence syndrome.”
Another article in the issue asks “Do You have a Case of Recovery Envy?” The author is quick to say he doesn’t abuse drugs but that like others he knows, he has “recovery envy.” OK, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, novel approach to talking about sobriety. He quotes one person who says that being able to say you’re a recovering alcoholic is cool.
You can argue that in one sense it’s cool if you mean that it’s smart. It’s choosing health, and life, and sanity. (The writer also points out how the media readily pounces on a story of debauchery, but I’d argue that just as many writers look to write about stories of recovery.) And I suppose you could argue that it diminishes the hard work of recovery to attach a label like “cool” to sobriety, meaning that it’s fashionable or trendy. But if, within reason, a headline calls attention to the topic, it’s actually helpful.
Some substance abusers in recovery who commented on the article were not pleased with the author:
As an addict, my family and friends do look up to me now that I’ve trudged through hell and came back. It takes, time, though and it shouldn’t be talked about in a joking matter. I take my sobriety very seriously.
This was just another article written with the lack of knowledge or consideration to obtain such knowledge which glamorizes addiction and recovery. Addiction is a deadly disease, not a game. Recovery is a lifeline that some of us are lucky enough to be able to hold on to and pull our lives out of the gutter. Be homeless, go hungry, be sick because you haven’t had a fix, sell your body to be able to buy said fix, steal from those you “love”, and wind up in a prison/mental facility then tell me how glamorous and trendy it is. Do some (*&^% — censored by Pat) research and write an article with some substance about how devastating addiction is and then maybe the public won’t be so jealous.
One comment was so graphic and vulgar I couldn’t include it.
And finally, a third article I’ve chosen from the issue is the one alluded to in the title of this post: Sober is the New Black. It begins by introducing the third annual California REEL Recovery Film Festival and mentions numerous recovery films, like Down to the Bone. Then it lists several actors who have recovered after some serious drug use, all of which everyone has undoubtedly read about. A college professor is quoted as saying, “The recovering alcoholic is sort of the paradigm of the model citizen.” And then, the author of this article says, “sobriety actually bestows social cachet in certain quarters.” As the two people who commented on the previous article might say, Recovery is hard work. And once you’re on the other side, you’re probably not going to be feeling trendy. Happy and relieved, yes. Proud, surely. But a certain cachet? Not likely.
Answers: 1990, Bela Lugosi, 1982