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High-Fiving on the Ground Floor

SMS Member Submitted Essay

My inner critic is a champ. She’s been with me a looong time. She’s been trying to save me from embarrassment since I was a tween. She’s been urging me to do more, do better, and “go big” for years.

She sounds a bit like my late mother and a little like all the girls who’ve ever been mean to me. She sounds a little bit like my own scared child self.

But my inner critic is also the queen of judgment. She is analytical, so the fuse can be short when things are not adding up. Why would you do it that way? Is that the best way? Did you do your research? Well, how did you think this was gonna go?

She turns that critical eye on everyone. When I’m stuck in traffic, “Ugh, all these other drivers are a bunch of morons!” And when things are not going well for me at home, it must be me. I must not be doing enough or the right things, and don’t I know better than this? How did I get myself stuck here again?

In sobriety, the voice of the inner critic has not gone away. But I’m learning to change my relationship with her. I can tell when she’s wound up, and I’ve got compassionate friends there with kind words and counterexamples.

Some of these new friends are the voices of women I’ve met in sober circles like Sober Mom Squad. They are gentle and courageous. They bring unique stories but common goals. Like my inner critic, these voices also want things to be better—and they are convinced that there’s more out there for each of us.

But they have somehow managed to drop the judgment.

Being with other women in a sober community has broadened my perspective. I didn’t know there were so many ways to do this work until I met people doing it so many different ways! It may sound overwhelming, but each of us does have to figure it out for ourselves. We walk our path, and we have to experience things and do our learning and growing.

But—but!—the affirming warmth of the group helps make sobriety a safer place to do that learning.

Turns out cruelty is not a great motivator in the long run. Compassion is.

Cruelty is piling on. It’s the psychic version of knocking back a drink in the face of life.

Compassion is one of the most effective motivators we have. A lot of us are just not in the habit of using it.

One way to adopt a compassionate approach is to think about what you might say to a friend in the same situation. Being in a sober community means practicing what I would say to a friend… by connecting with my sober friends!

I know exactly what I would say to almost any situation: “You’re on your way. Congratulations.”

I don’t want to get smug or complacent, so I know my commitment to these things is long-term. These tools will continue to save my life as long as I practice with them.

But my ego also loves the idea that we’re ahead of the game, that there’s a day when people will look back and see that this humble virtual mom group had something figured out way back when. That there are scientific studies to come about groups like ours. That our kids and their kids and their kids could grow up with a different understanding of alcohol—and what’s possible for their lives.

It’s coming. And we’re already in, high-fiving each other on the ground floor.


Instagram: @caitieleibman

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