I may not always take this stance, but this is where I am today and that is what I go by.Christina Lindvay
I’m not an authority but I am in the community. And it’s a community that at its best can be uplifting and cohesive. A community I will praise over and over.
But it’s not that right now and perhaps never was.
To my sober folx and those listening in, I believe people when they say they’re hurt. And because I call myself in this community, I call myself into this conversation.
Harm has been committed and we cannot let that go unchecked. I do not believe this is just an individual issue but one for the whole collective.
And I say this even more because I have benefited from both Sober Mom Tribe and A Sober Girl’s Guide. Last summer I had the opportunity to write for Sober Mom Tribe. It was such an important moment for me and one that I’ll forever be grateful for. I had been longing for sober connection, a sisterhood, a tribe, and a place to express myself. And then I found Sober Mom Tribe on Instagram and it felt serendipitous. Shortly after, I answered a call for bloggers, and again, it felt so much was aligned. It wasn’t too long after those pieces were published I remembered something! I felt embarrassed and awkward for forgetting about the potency of the word “tribe.” Thanks to a friend’s teaching and my own research I learned about how this word is like a slap in the face to Natives and Indigenous People; it is a racial slur. I knew it but forgot all about it at the time of the writing. Once I remembered, it was also hard for me to separate my good intention over my unaware, but harmful impact. No one was actually calling me out on it but I knew. For me, it wasn’t so much that I contributed to a community that used this word, but about what happened after, that is to say, what I didn’t do.
I didn’t know what to do. I wish I could sit here and say that I reached out to SMT and shared what I learned, but I felt caught. Caught in the “I just did a thing that felt so liberating to me” and “shit…this doesn’t feel right.” Since this time I’ve examined and noticed my own people-pleasing behaviors and what in particular made this so hard to say something. I’m not saying that as an excuse, but as a fact. All the while I also recognized my own privilege in not speaking up. That is something I’ve had to own. I’ve tried to give myself grace in not doing it perfectly, and to recognize I, too, am in process. Yet, I kept in mind that the longer I waited or didn’t feel ready, the more people were put at harm. I tried to justify it by saying that when I wrote those pieces I wasn’t aware. However, that didn’t last long because once I remembered my learning, I remained silent. Yes, I gained personal knowledge which changed my outlook. Yes, I cringed anytime anyone would use it. Yes, I felt disappointed with how prevalent it is (which, if you’re not sure, happens A LOT, not just in the recovery community but elsewhere–everywhere). But it never felt comfortable to say something directly. I wasn’t sure it was even my place.
Privilege is meant to keep you comfortable. That is what it is.
And, maybe this is what it’s all been coming to.
Over these past few months, as I’ve examined my own white supremacy, I’ve checked myself more and more. I’ve honed my vision for the world I wish to see, and in this case, the recovery spaces I wish to exist.
And I say all this because we cannot let hurt go unchecked.
People have been speaking up. Our BIPOC community members have been saying they feel harmed. They don’t feel safe or welcome and they are concerned our language and behaviors are alienating and oppressive. And I understand that we are not necessarily responsible for others’ feelings. But, folx, we do not live in a vacuum, especially not in Recovery Rooms or the bubble that is Sober Instagram. When people tell us factually, from their lived experience, that we caused harm, we must listen, especially, especially, when those people are in our community. We apologize and try to make it right. And we further listen when they tell us it wasn’t enough. We must forgive ourselves, yes, but we work for their forgiveness. We work to make amends.
Furthermore, if people in recovery meetings can speak to how codependency or childhood trauma has led to their addictions, then folx–BIPOC folx–must be able to talk about how racism has contributed to their addiction.
If people can talk about near-death experiences of their or their children’s lives (often without trigger warning, btw), BIPOC MUST BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT THEIR NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES OF RACISM.
If people in recovery can talk about the chaos of their lives contributing to alcohol and drug use, BIPOC MUST BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT THE CHAOS OF RACISM.
Racism is a lived chaos. And if we are new to hearing this, new to learning about it, it is not the fault of BIPOC. It is the default of white supremacy. It is not at the expense of BIPOC to teach us each time injustice occurs. They should not endure retraumatization because of our own unawareness. And yet that is what’s happening. This is why we’re in the middle of another cultural uprising.
Yes, it is a personal choice whether to engage with social media content or not but we cannot pretend it doesn’t affect us or influence us if we choose to consume it.
I’ve struggled with why these recent online conversations have been weighing on me and it’s because they’re not just online, as much as I wanted to believe that. As Britt Hawthorne, a nationally recognized anti-bias, anti-racist educator, says, social media is a reflection of and contribution to our culture. It’s a reflection of how we show up in real time, in face to face time. And so remembering that, one of the refrains I’m telling myself is that “this is not ‘just a social media space.’” The time we spend anywhere is important and meaningful. I spend time here and this is important. And because these spaces mean something to me I wish to come with my full self, including a self that is inclusive and safe for others. I know my social media presence doesn’t fully represent me but it is a representation of who I am.
And so it is that this turns the language and belief of “just a social media thing” into desiring a socially-just media space.
These spaces matter.
BIPOC Lives Matter.
I say all this not to blame, not to shame, but as an education. I know where I’ve been and I know where I stand now. And I understand that my choices have consequences quiet and loud. I am no better than anyone here; but I am here, like you.
My ask of you is that we recognize the impact of our presence here and that we stay in motion.
As we think about making our spaces welcoming and inclusive, and doing the bigger work of dismantling white supremacy, there comes a time when you make a choice. You either sit on the teeter-totter of learning and unlearning, willing to take the highs and the lows. You probably bump your ass on the ground more times than you can count but you do it for the soar of getting people closer to liberation. OR you watch on the sidelines, in silence, crossed arms, perhaps refusing to even get on the ride, and bemoaning anyone who does.
And maybe you want to get on the ride, but you’re not sure how, but you’re kinda willing to take baby steps.
Or maybe you’ve been on the other side of the park and didn’t even know this ride existed but now that you see it you can’t look away.
Or, again…you see it, and look away anyway, and don’t really care, because you’re having too much fun on the slides. That’s an ‘other side of the park issue anyway.’
Where do you find yourself?
I hate to say there’s a wrong place in this situation, but there kinda is (particularly if you say you’re in support of people’s recovery).
And, psst…it’s not in trying and messing up. It’s not in being scared and choosing to dive in anyway. It’s not even in being unaware. We all start somewhere. It’s in seeing and refusing. Seeing and doing nothing.
And I get it. I do. Hell, my ego has an ego! It doesn’t want to change and it certainly doesn’t want anyone else to tell it to change.
And I understand there must be a balance at times. It gets tricky when you need to weigh and discern when to follow your lead and intuition and when to budge.
This is a budge issue. This is a change issue. This is an at-least-be-willing-to-get-on-the-fucking-ride issue.
This is a harming-others-and-calling-it-individual-freedom issue. This is actions saying Black Lives Matter…until they don’t. Until they brush up against me and want me to change my ways and rhetoric.
Which, if you’re not sure, is really a not-so-subtle way of saying, “No, I don’t think BIPOC lives matter.” Because if you did, if you truly did, even when you’re not sure what that looks like or are scared of the changes that may need to come, you are at least willing to see it out, to start.
You are at least willing to say, “I messed up. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I don’t have all of the answers right now but I am willing to learn.”
And you are willing to listen to the lived experiences of others and believe them when they say they are hurting. You’re willing to say, “I can change for more than my own benefit.”
But nothing prolongs this period of inaction more than sitting in privilege–in not wanting to change when harm has been done; in refusing to believe harm has been done; in harassing and antagonizing people who are courageously calling out misbehavior and labeling them as aggressive when they are the ones who’ve been harmed.
Nothing prolongs this period more than sitting in privilege and not wanting to change because it’s a risk to us, because we worry we will lose something in the process. And again, I get it. I’ve been there. I’m still here. And that’s something I’ve had to reconcile and learn for myself. I will not get it perfect and I will mess up, too. I have. I continue to. We make mistakes. We’ve made mistakes. We will make mistakes again. We can honor our own forgiveness so that we do not live in shame and paralysis. But in times like these, with the situations as they are, we need more than our own forgiveness.
We are working to honor those people who have called out misbehavior by committing to righting our wrongs. We are actively working to question and understand how and why harm has been done.
I want to be clear that what Murdamex and karla_is_sober did and said was courageous. They risked vulnerability and isolation. I do not believe this writing is courageous or brave. I am not absolved of anything. Nor do I believe that Jess should have received applause for her apology. I, too, am not a martyr or at risk for sharing this. Perhaps if I would have said something before, maybe, but now it is merely a reflection and a call to do better.
And I say this specifically about A Sober Girl’s Guide because this was another place where I existed. Jessica’s podcast made me feel connected to a community I longed for. I didn’t realize how badly I had wanted to hear these conversations. When I moved to Vancouver I got the opportunity to attend her Sober Mixers. They were a missing piece I needed. Even though I am not as active in the community it is still one I benefited from, and frankly, if it weren’t for the pandemic probably would still. I believe in what ASGG can be, but I do not condone what it has been. I believe many who follow that account enacted more harm by their comments to these posts in question. I cannot be in a community like that and so my call to Jess is that as the owner and leader of that business, she address, check, and change the group’s dynamics. I am willing to still show up for Jess as a person and am trying my best to see she’s in her own process. Much like I am. This is not an ultimatum at the hinges of cancelling her but a commitment to my own values. I do not agree with the things that have transpired but I am willing to see her in her growth.
So, again, for those of us in sober, sobriety, and recovery communities, know that harm has been committed and will continue to exist until we are clear about fighting for inclusive spaces. I understand how difficult it feels when you have messed up. At first it feels embarrassing and you just want to go on the defense and hide. And I say “at first” because that is our reaction. Your ego is bruised. It’s murky and unclear. There are many unknowns. But let us not forget that this discomfort is because of someone’s pain. So when we take the time to listen, when we take the time to examine our conditioned beliefs, our privilege, and our white-supremacist culture, we can finally see truth. We can finally see love.
Because that is what’s happening here. It’s not hate. It’s love. It’s people who desire to be in community and want to feel loved. Want to feel seen. Want to feel heard. Want to feel connected. They simply want to be.
And that is what a community should be about.
You can read more about ways to support Native American Indigenous People here, which includes phrases, actions, and practices to change written by Simon Moya-Smith.
You can read more about the difference between Intent and Impact here.
You can learn more about Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist work from Britt Hawthorne. She also has an active Patreon to further support her work. She recently was part of a PBS Teachers Panel titled, “Using Media to Know Better, Teach Better.” One big take-away is asking yourself, “Who am I affirming? Who am I othering?” You can catch all four parts at Tools for Anti-Racist Teaching.
You can follow and tangibly support First Nation and Indigenous people by finding those local to you. Remember that you are on colonized land. I am on the traditional, unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. Here, one organization to support is Decolonize First, which showcases the work of Ta7talíya Michelle Nahanee. They can be found on Instagram or their website: www.decolonizingpractices.org
And lastly, but truly firstly, thank you to Crystal (@Murdamex) and Karla (@karla_is_sober) for your courage and commitment to yourselves and others. It is far more risky to call out oppression than to apologize for it. And thank you to others in the community who’ve made posts, videos, etc to bring more awareness to this issue, not just in the sober community, but the greater wellness arena.
When we are more willing to see what can be gained from change rather than fear what we may lose, we make space for ourselves and others.Christina Lindvay