Social Media Invincibility, Real Life Vulnerability

My One Year Alcohol-Free is over. I am still taking it all in (and going strong – 371 days and counting!). The simple fact that I did not drink alcohol for one full year is still settling itself contentedly into my brain. At the same time, I am emerging into the world as a non-drinker. My legs are a bit wobbly but I can feel that they are strong. I’m ready to stand, to walk, to run into this new life I’ve created for myself. What I’m finding, though, is that toggling between social media and real life is raising my vulnerability to a simmer.

After I posted on July 4, I celebrated Independence Day (both the national one and my own) with my clan and our extended family in New Hampshire. I took a couple of days to read and respond to the comments that were left on my Connect and Instagram posts, both of which had trended for a hot second. Thousands of strangers (and a handful of IRL friends) took the time to read my words and hundreds wrote messages of support and celebration. I was just chuffed. Weeeee! I did this amazing thing and all these people are so excited for me!!!

Toggle.

When we got back to New York on Sunday, I went to the grocery store and ran into two friends, each of whom congratulated me on reaching my one-year milestone. These congratulations felt different from what I’d received online. I may have blushed. I stifled the urge to downplay my achievement or dismiss their compliments, instead blurting out “Thank you so much!” Inside, I was not doing the happy dance brought about by strangers’ praise on social media. Inside, I was flailing, trying to hold onto my pride and confidence as these face-to-face interactions kicked up a gnarly dust cloud of insecurity.

Toggle.

Yesterday, the social media maven from my kickboxing gym messaged me on Instagram to ask if she could repost my photos from days 364 and 365. I replied, without hesitation, “Yes of course!! I’m proud of it! Thank you for asking!!” Once again I felt the chuffed butterflies in my stomach. I was being recognized and celebrated for accomplishing an awesome goal. Good for me!

Toggle.

When I arrived at my kickboxing class today, my first class since before the 4th of July, my instructor came over to give me a hug. “I’m not much of a social media person,” she said, “so I had no idea what you were doing. But I saw your post on our Instagram. Huge congrats to you, girl! That is amazing!” A few minutes later, after our warm-up, one of my classmates also complimented me, having seen the Instagram post as well. Fluster, flail. “Thank you so much!” was again my canned reply. Before I could stop myself, I added something like, “You know, my son is getting on the school bus in September and so I just felt like I wanted to achieve something big, something for me, before both my kids are in school full-time.”

I’m not sure what babble came out of my mouth. What I really wanted to say – to her, and to my instructor, and to my two friends I saw in the grocery store, and to my extended family with whom we spent the 4th of July – is “I SWEAR I’M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC! I DID NOT HAVE A SERIOUS DRINKING PROBLEM WITH A CAPITAL ‘P’! I WAS JUST A WINE MOM! NO BIGGIE! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!”

Except: it is a biggie. And I do want people to see me and know about my accomplishment. It’s just easier to put myself out there in front of strangers instead of family and friends. It’s easier to throw a selfie and some deep thoughts into the void of social media, where I can ignore or delete comments that I don’t like and bask in the glow of the ones I do, than it is to explain to a table full of my family members why I decided to embark on a year without booze and how I benefitted from it. No matter how proud I feel, talking about my journey in real life to friends and family is still hard. Alcohol is a fickle fiend that ingratiates itself with everyone differently. Alcohol is a loaded topic, and I feel a lot less in control and a lot more vulnerable when I talk about it in real time to real people.

Quick! Somebody call Brené Brown! I need to feel good about being so damn vulnerable!

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
-Brené Brown

Phew. Ok. That’s better.

People, whether online or IRL, are going to think what they are going to think. I cannot control what others will infer from or project onto me. All I can do is own my truth and share it.

I have chosen to share my story because it keeps me accountable and because I want to help others. I never want another mom to feel as broken and shame-swamped as I did. If reading my words gives one person the nudge he or she needs to commit to making a positive change, that is well worth putting myself out there – both online and in real life.

8 thoughts on “Social Media Invincibility, Real Life Vulnerability”

  1. So true Jen! I am right behind you – 18 days away from my OYAF anniversay. I STILL have not come clean to my best friends that we (my husband and I) don’t plan on ever drinking again. They think I will be back in action after my “break”. It is so hard IRL as you documented so well in your post. Eventually I will have the conversations but no matter what other people think about my choice it can not influence how amazing I feel every day as a non-drinker.
    Congratulations to you! – timetogoJC

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jen,
    I really needed to see this post today. I’ve followed your AF journey and started my own in November. On July 4th while visiting my 34 year old son I noticed he wasn’t drinking. I don’t know how long it’s been but I can estimate a few months. While I wanted to connect with him on a path we have both chosen, he clearly did not want to elaborate. While I wanted to compare notes on weight loss, better sleep and overall feeling amazing, he pretty much shut me down. I know now that I just have to give him space. Maybe some day he’ll want to talk. For now it’s a booze break and I’m ok with that.
    Congrats to you on such great accomplishments this past year. I am forever grateful for your willingness to share all you have been through.

    Best to you,
    Vicki

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vicki, Your son is so lucky that you are so thoughtful in your approach! You’re right – the fact that he is taking a break is great, and if he’s not ready to open up about it that’s ok too. Wishing you and your son all the best as you continue to navigate and enjoy (!!!) AF life!

      Like

  3. Jen, I’ll leave my comment here rather than on Connect. You are getting closer to the ultimate truth that will set you free and allow you to face those face to face encounters with calm, humor & wisdom. You are so very close. You already know. I hate being so obtuse, but it’s your story, not mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s interesting you bring this up because I do stumble when talking to folks face to face about living sober and they say I didn’t know you had a drinking problem. Like you though even as uncomfortable as it can be those conversations are necessary. What – you mean there are people out there who don’t drink? Hmm…interesting😊

    Like

  5. I have been known to have a large glass or bottle after a long stressful day. In the past my drink of choice was vodka but I would only drink on the weekends (that was my way of proving I had no problem) if I only did it on the weekends it doesn’t matter how much because it wasn’t everyday.

    Like

Leave a Reply to aleaseworld Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s