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Sober Is Chic: Eliminating the Stigma of Being In Recovery

Many of us became acquainted with Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter in high school (most times in conjunction with Romeo and Julietor another tale that fifteen-year-olds seem to loathe). We’ve seen the story portrayed time and time again in popular culture, and its message has found its way through centuries.

Addiction was once a scarlet letter for countless individuals affected by stigma and cultural perceptions. The fact of being in recovery was kept secret, hushed into the background of society. Getting help was an admittance of failure or inadequacy—and being sober was something that was simply kept in silence.

Today, with more than ten percent of American adults identifying as being in recovery from addiction, facts reveal a different story surrounding sobriety.

Celebrities and public figures are coming forward on a daily basis, admitting to their struggles and giving hope to the 23 million Americans who are still fighting a similar battle with drugs or alcohol. Recovery is celebrated with marches, national months of commemoration, and varied forms of media and art. People in sobriety are making enormous contributions to the world around them as they prove through their resilience that recovery is possible.

Today, sober is chic.

Stanford Professor of Psychiatry Keith Humphreys spoke of the millions across the US experiencing life in recovery and the associated stigmas, stating that, “Every American is acutely aware of the negative impact of drug and alcohol addiction; it’s impossible to ignore. Yet we have somehow missed a very positive story about addiction that is right in front of our nose: Tens of millions of our fellow citizens come out the other side to live substance-free, healthy and productive lives.”

Humphreys’ observation is an important reminder to us all. There are great things being done in the world of addiction treatment that have led to countless individuals sustaining themselves in long-term recovery. Being sober is no longer a secret kept in darkness; it is a story of strength and tenacity that is meant to be shared and celebrated.

Life in sobriety is full of possibility.

But how is it “chic”?

Simply put, chicness is confidence.

It is a “smart elegance,” by definition, though it means so much more.

Life on the other side of addiction to drugs or alcohol is life unfiltered. It is happiness; it is struggle; it is contentment. It is raw emotion, and it is the platform for growth.

As the body recovers from substance use, life transforms under a different lens. Your mind is clearer, and you once again have the opportunity to design the life that you want , rather than the pieces of life that addiction has shattered.

Stars like Keith Urban, Macklemore, and Jamie Lee Curtis—just to name a few—have spoken out over the course of their careers, advocating for the availability of addiction treatment and the awareness that must continue to grow. The list of famous figures in recovery goes on—as does their willingness to share their stories publicly.

Reflecting upon his struggle with addiction, Macklemore stated, “I wanted to get clean. I knew that my highest potential, the place that I was most spiritual, the place that I was the most rich in terms of my life, and my livelihood, and my art and my creativity, was when I was sober.”

His commitment to advocacy has continued to speak volumes within the music industry and beyond. While he has documented his fame for the world to see, he has confessed his darkest moments, too.

He—and dozens upon dozens of others—are a testament to the courage and well-being that is uncovered in embracing sobriety. No matter if we are a celebrity, or a next-door neighbor, or someone’s parent, child, or friend, we are all affected by addiction in some way. It is a disease that we must all work together to combat, just as recovery is a process that we should honor and celebrate with gratitude and respect.

The “scarlet letter” of addiction has begun to fade. Stigma certainly continues to exist—though as more and more individuals thrive in recovery, doing wonderful things within the world around them—we move forward with the hardy hope that this progress will continue.

Sober is chic; living life in confidence and health will always be “in.”

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